by Elisabeth's neighbour Steph, posted September 06, 2013
RIP sweet Elisabeth Wynhausen
AKA Betty of Bondi
In October 2010, I exchanged contracts on a tiny but fabulous appartment on the cliffs at North Bondi. The first Saturday night I had the keys, my friend Kylie joined me and we sat on the floor drinking champagne to celebrate. Within the hour came the first of what would be hundreds of knocks on my door, as my new neighbour, Elisabeth Wynhausen burst in, bearing apple strudel and double cream, the first of hundreds of food parcels she would bring my way of stuff she had succumbed to, and knew was bad for her, and thus had to be passed on to be bad for me, and thereby appease her conscience!
I lived a joyous two and a half years next to this wonderful woman, who was super feisty and smart, at times driving me nuts with her directives, most often making me laugh, fighting my corner, and just feeding me time and time again. We soon got to borrowing cups of sugar and cloves of garlic, or passing over hot meals to the other, particularly when either of us had made a batch of her mother’s famous and fabulous chicken soup. Whenever she returned the sugar or garlic, it would come back tenfold. Every washed bowl would be full of chocolates, or fresh herbs or flowers. The woman’s generosity knew no bounds.
Mostly Elisabeth was a wall of sound. Every time I opened the door (several times a week), I would be faced with Elisabeth’s back, already several sentences into a monologue, and looking out the window behind, most likely also bearing food. Often I would be on a work call, madly gesticulating to her talking back. I became her general handyman. Smart as a whip, Elisabeth had no patience for all things technical and throughout my time there I assembled and fixed new printers, cameras, TVs, DVD players, and sound systems, all the time with Elisabeth coo-ing round me and telling me how brilliant I was (her being truly smart as a whip) thereby cleverly ensuring the future assembly of any new electrical device entering the premisis.
We shared cats for years, and she helped me with my foster kittens, even naming her favourite Schnouep – dutch for sweetie apparently, and so complicated that he has since ended up in a good home with the name Snoopy. She always found it hard to understand that his new 5 year old owner struggled with the dutch.
Despite being a few decades older than me, she fitted in to every situation. Last year I held a birthday dinner for her at my place with some old friends of hers from the Australian. I noted that we had someone there from each decade, from their 20s through to Elisabeth at 66, and it was like we were all the same vintage. In fact Elisabeth was mostly more raucous and outrageous than the rest of us.
Just last christmas she welcomed my visiting family with open arms, acres of food, and her typical warm hospitality. She was always fun, childishly naughty, (I will never forget the image of her jumping around in her PJs in her bedroom window to get me to hose down our least-favourite neighbour’s near-dry washing on our controversial washing line), frequently cheeky and often refreshingly foul-mouthed.
Whilst she would have former prime ministers over on a regular basis, she had a common touch that could relate to anyone, and her best stories are those where she enters the world of the most regular and down to earth people through her blog, and the wonderful Dirt Cheap. She truly was Everywoman, although she was noted for getting some people offside. I quickly worked out that Elisabeth’s default position was to come out all guns a blazing on every issue, but that if you didn’t return fire, you would almost certainly be invited in for coffee and fed copious amounts of food.
When I moved out in March this year, I knew that I would remain friends with Elisabeth for life. Tragically, none of us had any idea that would be less than 6 months. I didn’t get to see her through the final stages of her illness, although she did text, particularly to thank me for her ELFC cashmere socks (she was truly the last person I ever wanted as a client of this business) and to send kisses to my cat Lionel, the last of these, just 5 days before she passed away yesterday.
I will be forever richer for having known her, and for having had the singular luck of inhabiting a patch of earth next to hers for a while. Her loss is cruel, she was so vital and full of life, and should have gone on for at least two decades more. All I can say at the end of this is to live every day to the full, and to cherish those you love, as you never know if when you say goodbye, it may really be the last time ever.
Bless you and goodbye Betty Wynhausen xxx