Harold. Part One.
Harold. Part One.
The first time I met Harry he was very ill, it was at his home I had just started going out with his Brother Paul a few weeks and Paul wanted me to meet all of his family. He looked pale and gaunt I thought he looked close to death! I clearly remember looking at Harry then at Paul and thinking I have got the better of the two! They didn’t look like brothers at all for Paul is tall and had lots of thick gingery blond hair that occasionally looked red in the sun and had a young complexion and Harry has short, thin brown, bland looking hair receding at the front, he isn’t very tall and his skin is much older looking. Yes there is a 15 year difference between them which is almost like a generation apart! Harry was welcoming as best as he could he sat in his rocking chair barely able to move or open his eyes. He explained if it wasn’t for his little dog that he called Dog, the cat that he called Cat and the fish he called Fish, he would have had no reason to get up at all each day. It was a short visit but enough for him to know he was not forgotten. Paul had brought him some basic food supplies bread, milk, tea; of course, for I found out the whole family keeps the tea company going! I never drank so much tea in my life! It wasn’t normal to me.
Paul and I had a whirlwind romance and within 8 months after meeting we were married. Out of all Pauls siblings 2 brothers and 2 sisters It was Harry I saw the most, maybe because he lived the nearest than the others. He was good with cars he could fix any car! When I went to buy my favourite car, in the world, a mini a proper 1 not the huge one that they now sell, I told my children those are fake minis. Harry came with me to check the car over I bet the man selling it, his heart must have been in his mouth. Harry and I took it for a run and on its return to the man’s house the bonnet was raised and this and that was looked at, the tyres, the interior, he even checked the bit over the tyres for rust! Harry asked him how much he wanted for it he said, “£500” Harry said to me, in front of the man, “It’s worth it, it’s a good car,” he always said what he meant, he is the no nonsense Harry, he says things like they are. I told the man I would have the car and would go and get the money but when I went to the cash point I was only allowed out £250 a day so I asked Harry if he would lend me the other £250 until the following day he said, “Yes no problem.”
Having my mini was a dream come true, for I have always wanted one it’s just like a huge cute toy! It was silver in colour and I asked Harry if he would paint it green for me as this was my favourite colour, he brought some green paint for me to choose and I chose bottle green. Harry did a wonderful job on my car and I was the proud owner of a very own green mini. I remember one day going to work on the motorway I was in a rain storm in the middle lane and a juggernaut was a yard behind me, his wheel was higher than my car, the idiot was flashing his lights and sounding his massive horn for me to get out of the way! I thought, so this is how I’m going to meet my Maker! I couldn’t see through the windscreen for the amount of rain that was lashing down on us all, it was impossible to move to the left, the slow lane, but the idiot was having none of it, he was relentless and a bully but I held my ground for there was nowhere for me to move to for we all were in heavy traffic, I remember thinking, this is still a car even though it’s tiny! Eventually the rain eased and I was able to see enough to be able to get out it its way! It was a close call. When our first child was about to be born we bought a high chair we couldn’t get it into the mini others in the car park amused themselves by watching us struggle trying this way and that to get the darn thing in, but to no avail. Eventually a woman came over and showed us that the chair is in 2 parts and she unclipped it at its 4 corners and then there was a chair the bit under the chair that made it high! So sadly I had to sell my beloved car as nothing would now fit in it. Harry came with me to view other cars and if they were rubbish he would say so in front of the person selling it, he would point out the faults and say, “It’s not worth it, this need doing to it and that needs changing.” He would tell the person what he thought it was worth and sometimes he would get the price down for me and he would repair it for me and he’d tell me what I needed to get, which he would get either from a scrap yard or shop and for his labour he would say, “Just give me £20,” he saved me hundreds over the years.
He loved going to car boots and antiques fairs, he had an eye for rare old quirky things! He always got a bargain; he was SO clever no one at the car boot could rip him off; he stuck to his guns and spoke with experienced, confidence, he was respected by many many people, after he bought his prized possession, he’d sometimes tell the seller what it was but, he wouldn’t tell them what it was really worth, he kept that information to himself. He gave me a small wall plate with a little girl on and he gave Daniel an old wooden quirky toy car, the car itself was less than 1” thick and about 6” long with 4 wheels.
His house was fantastic! He’d show us the latest item he had bought we all had our own favourites, then next time I went he’d show me other item and that would become my favourite! I told him many times, “The Black Country Museum would love everything in your house.” Amongst all the wonderful items in Harries house the BEST thing for me has always been his tree house! I have never seen anything like it, my Daughter Megan and I went up the stairs to the tree and it was amazing, the one room up in the tree was kitted out like an old fashioned home with a black cast iron fire, mantelpiece, small 2 seat sofa, mirror, pretty lamp, multicoloured beautiful carpet, front door 4 walls, fitted side lights and above our heads a light bulb and Laura Ashley looking floral shade, a small table with fine bone china with cup and saucer on, with a dark wood chair with slightly padded seat, all the furniture was beautiful and old. He told us to sit down, we did and we stayed there for about an hour admiring everything. It was a privilege to have experienced it, for me, it was a once-in-a-life..... never to be forgotten.
Harry like me is unique, I remember when Paul and I was expecting our first baby, Paul wasn’t with me when Harry said, “Many years dads were not allowed to watch the birth of their children so I have never seen a baby born, please can I watch you give birth?” I was gobsmacked and said, “No way!!!!!” He said, “Please?” I replied, “Sorry Arry, no,” I mean in history how many Brother in Law has asked that question to their Sister in Law? There can’t be many! I laughed later when I told people but it wasn’t a laughing matter for Harry or me at the time.
Whenever the kids brought home a consent slip from school for parents contact phone numbers it was always Pauls, mine and Harry’s because my Mum emigrated after she retired and Paul and Harry’s parents had both past away and we needed another number just in case I was too far away at work and Paul didn’t drive and Harry did. I remember one summers day when the kids were small I was going to work and Paul would not wake up! I had woke him up but he was just too sleepy so in desperation I drove the 5 minutes to Harry’s house with bottles of milk and nappies, I didn’t bother to tell Paul where the kids were. I then drove to work at break neck speed, it was Sunday morning and the roads were unusually quiet, I made it with 1 minute to spare! So many hours later Paul rang me he sounded worried, he said, “The kids are missing!!!!” I told him I had to take them to Harry’s, as they were too young to be left on their own, he said he was, “Sorry,” he went and got the kids, Harry kindly dropped them back home. If I couldn’t take or pick up Daniel from Kickboxing Harry as a 1 off or 2 off he’d pick up Daniel from there and bring him home. One of my favourite photos of Harry is the one with Daniel when he was 1 year old it is of them looking into each other’s eyes Harry is looking down and Daniel is looking up. I call this lovely photo, which captured a lovely moment The Old And The Young. This photo was taken at a special wedding anniversary, on Paul’s side of the family, while Harry was holding Daniel he said, “I wonder what he is thinking?”
One of the stories he told us was when he had a HUGE Great Dane, I didn’t see it but had heard many stories about it, this one is my favourite, he took his pet for a rare walk for it usually went for a walk in the park at the back of his home, so here he was on the main road there was a group of lads around his age and he felt proud to have such a huge dog, and knew that all eyes at the bus stop was on him and his massive dog, then without warning the HUGE dog saw a cat!!!! The Mutt ran he held onto the leather lead but dragged him along the path; to this day he still has the scars on his chin!!
I remember when he asked, “Have you checked your brake fluid?” I replied, “You mean my breaks?” He said, “No, your brake fluid,” I told him, “What’s that, I’ve never heard of it before.” Harry rolled his eyes in his head and said his favourite nickname for me which has always been, “You should’ve been blond!!!” I liked that, it made him laugh and me too.
He had many friends who are Gipsy’s, he is so easy to get on with, that he made friends for life, I remember seeing a very long gipsy caravan in his garden many years ago, it wasn’t how I’d imagine a gipsy caravan to look like, and with SO many Gipsy friends Harry who was always busy with various projects he did at the same time, he decided to make from scratch his own version of a Gipsy caravan. It was fantastic! One of his Gipsy friends wanted to buy it off him, but he declined and kept it.
Harry took pride in his colourful chickens. They looked like nothing in the shops, these seem too nice to eat, with their bold colours, but these were not for eating but for their eggs and there were plenty of them on his window sill, in the kitchen in rows of 2.
I think the best thing we all loved about Harry’s house was his real coal fire!! It was always too hot in that compact living room, full of antiques and rare items, and the back room too. For us who didn’t see it every day it was the heart of the house! Your eyes were drawn to it; it is indeed living, and hot and comforting. Everybody in the house chained smoked, when I first went there to visit I’d cough uncontrollably every time and when the kids went they did the same! We’d come out at the end and we’d all smelt like we’d had 30 fags! We accepted their rules and Harry accepted ours when he came to our home and didn’t smoke indoors.
Many moons ago, before I got married I always said to my friends, “I want a car that will cost me £50,” all the jokes would come flying my way, “Do you want it to have tyres, windows, doors.......” And I would always reply, “Yes everything, just imagine an old person who becomes too old to drive and their car is just left in their garage and to get rid of it they sell it to me for £50.” I didn’t see that as impossible at all. Then one day after I was married Harry said to me, “Do you want a car for 50 quid?” I said, “Yes what’s wrong with it (as I was in-between cars, as mine, he knew had just failed its MOT) “Nothing’s wrong with it” he replied my good mate Ginge is too old to drive his now and it’s just there in his garage, it is in perfect condition it’s his pride and joy, he asked me to sell it for him and all he wants it £50.” Well that was within my budget. Harry told me the Make of car and it was very VERY clean! Harry said to me, “Don’t get putting empty crisps packets in this,” It was a horrible mustard colour but I didn’t care, it was the perfect car ... the insurance cost me 90 quid! I said to Paul one day I think someone is stealing petrol from my car as it had no lock on petrol cap, it simply turned to open or close but I had no proof until one morning I was walking towards my car that was parked at the bottom of the road and there underneath the front tyre was my mustard petrol cap!!! I quickly got it to Harrys who sorted me out, getting me a locked cap from the scrap yard. Then 6 months after having my lovely car I was at work and the milkman came to the office door and when the worker opened it I heard him say, “Whose is that piece of junk I just wrote off outside?” My heart missed a beat as I ran to the front door and I saw my car! I said to him, “That piece of junk is MY CAR!!!!” Details were swopped and an Inspector came to my home to look at my car which was more than drivable. He looked at it for a few seconds and said, “The car is a write off,” I was gutted, it was fixable but it would have cost too much. Harry came with me to get my next car which was a cream old BMW! Cause cars is what makes Harry Harry, he fixed his own, mine and many many others he got paid for it of course. Most people never took their cars to the garage they just took it to Harry’s who had his own vans outside the house in various colours and shapes
Fifteen years ago he met his second wife Cassandra she had 3 little girls Chloe, Skye and Amy from a previous marriage she been the innocent party. Myself and all of Harry’s friends and family went to the wedding. As we got to know her we realized she was a funny onion! But if she was good enough for Harry she was good enough for us too. Harry had 3 kids from his first marriage John, James and Ruth he too been the innocent party.
Over the years I met some of his friends, whenever I went to visit with Paul and the kids, one of his friends was called Gold! As I got to know her I realize she is Golden!
When I wanted to tease Harry I would call him Harold, his reply was always the same, “That’s not my real name, it’s Harry.”
Last year about a year ago, Harry told us he had found a lump on his chest, I didn’t think too much about it for he had told us about a lump he had on his arm a couple of years before, but this lump turned out to be different.....