Very sorry to hear of the death of Baroness Ruth Rendell, one of the UK’s leading crime novelist, Labour Peer ….and Vice President of the North of England Zoological Society/ Chester Zoo. Ruth first came into the zoo’s orbit when she was one of several writers known to be interested in wildlife I invited to a House of Lords reception to raise funds for Chester’s elephant conservation programme. I remember her sat in the very front row, as I nervously presented on the issue, staring at me with what seemed a very disapproving expression, and as though peering into my soul. “Oh no”, I thought, “she has seen through me and realises I am an idiot…”. Neville, our development chairman, as a wiser head, said “No, she is just thinking carefully”. As it happened, she immediately made a very generous donation, later accepting an invitation to a special visit, and thereafter, every time I wrote to her, she sent an another sizeable donation! I suggested that we asked her to be a Vice-President of the charity, and in accepting, she wrote that she had been hoping to be asked. I know, through NEZS DG Mark Pilgrim, that long after I left Chester, she continued to make major donations, host parliamentary events and support the charity in all kinds of ways. Mark also told me that she had revealed to him that it had been a toss up between attending that first Westminster event and nipping off to do her shopping! So you never know… I have read four or five Ruth Rendell novels and in addition to a really strong narrative thrust, she always seemed to understand the deepest recesses of human motivation. I happened to bump into her again just some eighteen months or so ago in London, when I was otherwise doing something for ‘New Zoo’. She still had that piercingly honest gaze, but combined on this occasion with a very warm smile. If she still knew me for the idiot I undoubtedly am, it seemed she was prepared to forgive the fact. RIP Ruth Rendell, the Baroness Rendell of Babergh.
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