My Auntie xx
I often went on holiday every Summer for one week to stay with my Auntie. I have gone all my life every single year. When I was a baby, my parents would stay at hers for a week in the Summer and then gradually I was taken the 100 or so miles to her home, by the sea with Mum and then Mum would travel back the next day and I would stay. Some one would come and collect me about 8 days later. So I grew up with 2 different ways of life, our casual, down to earth where I lived and my well heeled Auntie who was always old.
She didn't allow eating between meals! I'm a little nibbler, and had a tiny stomach. Auntie's house was perfect, every single thing was in its place, there is nothing wrong with that, just saying. She reminded me of the Queen of England and Penelope Keith! She was both of them put together, and her house had beautiful large, old, well polished wooden furniture. All were handed down form grandparents, to her parents and now to her. This included the huge grandfather clock which used to frighten me as a child.
You think I could talk? She could talk wallpaper of the wall! And I can talk! In a way I had two Mums. My birth Mum and my Aunt who I spent a week with every single year. Living with her for one week was like going to another world, it was SO different. For breakfast if it was cereal, she would always sprinkle what looked like bits of bark of a tree on it, I have never, ever heard of anyone using the product called Bemax! It was horrible, it really ruined my weetabix and corn flakes. I was used to heating my milk up to put on my cereal, Aunt had to put the barely warm milk in a jug first and place it on the table. It couldn't go from the milk pan to the dish, that was unheard off in her home. Auntie always had iced cold milk on her cereal.
The rooms in the house had different names to what anyone used who I know back home like “Drawing Room, “Lounge” at home we had the front room for guests it was always kept tidy and spotless and a living room where we lived, watched television and ate our meals.
One year when I went to stay with my Aunt she had arranged for me to stay with Nuns! It was a holiday place for kids. I don't know how long I was there, my mind has blocked out most of it, I don't remember it been awful at all. Only 3 things stand out in my mind, never to be forgotten, there was sand in the playing concrete yard and three-wheeled tricycles. that was fun. I also remember seeing a Nun standing over me while I was in bed, I believe she was waking me up in the morning, I wasn't used to seeing anyone dressed in black and white standing over me, so I was a bit startled, but OK but what really scarred me for life was something they gave us all for breakfast! It was disgusting it looked like rice pudding with seeds in or tiny mini lumps, I always tried to have the milk part and leave out the seeds, trying to ease my spoon down a little but the horrible seeds always came on to my spoon. I know I didn't eat it. This horrible food is called sago porridge! I would never give that to my kids. I have hated it ever since.
Years later when I was a poor Student. I went to my Auntie to stay for the week. We were going to Blackpool to see the Ballet, Swan Lake I was so excited. As we stood by the bus stop I looked down on the ground and there it was a £1 coin. I picked it up, greatful for it, but my Aunt said I could not keep it!! She said, “Tomorrow we will take it to the police station, as an old lady may have lost it” I was gob-smacked to say the least! She ignored my pleas and, I just thought, when I get back home I'll tell my friends, they just wont believe it.
We really enjoyed Swan Lake. My Aunt wanted to buy a coffee, I told her I know somewhere to go, for I could see it wasn't far from where we were standing. She said “OK” and followed me, it is one of my favourites places. As we walked in the restaurant, my Aunt said to me in posh Queen/Penelope voice, “Where is the tablecloth?” And before I could reply, Auntie added, “And why isn't the table set?” I said, “This is MacDonald’s! There is no tablecloth and the tables here are never set!” She made a hasty exit, and sadly I had to follow, gutted and disappointed.
She hadn't forgotten and true to her word, she took me to the police station. We went up the stairs, there was a pretty blond lady at the desk with a lovely smile. I said to her, “You’re not going to believe this!” My Aunt then explained, that “Yesterday this was found at the bus stop.” She took her note pad and pen and asked me questions name, address and “Where did you find the £1 coin?” I told her, and “At what time?” I told her that too, and when she was satisfied that she had asked me all her questions she said to me, “You can keep the money, if anyone comes in and reports it missing, I will let you know” while still standing at the desk in front of the police woman my Aunt said to me, “You can spend it at Barnardos” rebellious, I replied, “No, I'll buy sweets with it” and we left. Surprisingly, no one ever went to the police to report their £1 coin missing! Would You? A few years later I asked my Aunt if we would have still gone to the police station if it was 50p I'd found, she said, “No” I think she realized she was a bit over the top!
Speaking of over the top, I love tomato ketchup, but I was only allowed a 1” spot on my plate for my evening meal or for lunch, I mean what does that do? No more was allowed. Sometimes in my disgust I would just refuse to have the spot on my plate I have principles to uphold!! Back then, Mum would buy each week the largest bottle of tomato ketchup that they sold. It lasted one week! So on the week that I stayed at my Aunt's home, on my return home my share would be waiting for me in the bottle and Oh, would I pour it on baby!!!
Auntie should have been a doctor because her handwriting was horrendous! We would all be trying to guess some of the words and between us we got it. In one of Auntie's letters she said at the end that she had had a double mastectomy! I had to look up & and when I did I ran told Mum. That’s my Auntie, no fuss!
I remember once, phoning Auntie and asking how to spell something, I was rubbish at spelling it would have been quicker to ring her than waste time trying to find it in the dictionary! She obliged.
She gave me a tiny cutting of her lovely plant, it was called a Christmas cactus or Easter cactus, it depends when it blooms. I have now have 3 large pots of it in my house today from that one tiny cutting. It blooms every single Christmas and Easter. It's amazing when the bosom drops off, you can't see where it was while it was on the plant.
My Aunt was the first person I heard mention the stone agate. She gave me a brooch, with agate in.
She was the only person I knew who used silver a fish knife, when eating fish and a silver soup spoon for drinking soup. Where I lived we just used a stainless knife, fork, spoon and teaspoon. She also used a proper napkin and silver napkin ring.
Although Aunt didn't approve of chocolate, she introduced me to something beautiful and my kids enjoy it even now and that's Nutella, yummy chocolate hazelnut spread you put generously on fresh bread.
For the woman who had everything, I bought her many times the best lipstick I could think off, Helena Rubinstein, it was bright red, but she didn't complain and always used it, she knew I had spent lots of money on it for her, so she simply dabbed it well. That was what the posh, shop assistant suggest I buy her, so I always did.
I remember one day I was desperate for chocolate and only chocolate would do, I asked Aunt if she had any, for she sometimes had some snatched away somewhere, but she went to the fruit bowl and handed me a banana! I didn't have it. She said there was lots of sugars in there, (not quite the same).
I was never allowed to eat or drink on the street, you know how you do when you are walking now? We always had to drink at a café and there were many nice ones about.
One year, I decided to be 'clever' remember I told you, I wasn't allowed to eat between meals? I was wearing my new Olympus gray jogging top and matching bottoms, the jacket had a zip front and small pockets near the front. Auntie said I could sit in the garden while she prepared our evening meal, it was a lovely Summers day, back then we had hot Summers in the summer, every Summer, so I sneaked back upstairs, this was my first day of the 8 days I'd be here and I put in my hand one of my favourite biscuits plain chocolate McVitivies chocolate biscuits, and it still it one of my favourites, I was holding 4 of them in my hand, and my hand was in my pocket. I was about to walk to the back kitchen door to go into the garden out of view and have a good munch, when Auntie decided to tell me something, I tried not to reply as the would make the conversation even longer, than it was already! About 15 minutes or it could have been 17 minutes later my Aunt said, “Go and relax in the garden” I informed Auntie, I would just pop to the bathroom first, which was back upstairs to wash the chocolate that had totally melted into my hand and pocket! I didn't do that again!
My Auntie always recycled before it became popular today. Our Christmas paper was always used, lovely strong, well made and thought about designs not the stuff you see everywhere now. Where possible she always reused envelopes and jiffy bags too putting white sticky labels over the original address.
I remember once, I went into the garden, and what I touched just under the little shrub put me into instant shock! I rushed back inside and all I could say was “I,I,I,I,I,I,I,I,I” Auntie asked me what was wrong, and wanted me to show her, I went to the garden to near where was and pointed, she took it out it was a carcass of a chicken she's left for the birds to pick on, I was soon OK.
She is the only person I know who put white stickers on her windows at the back of the house, so the birds don't crash into them!
For one of my birthday party I had a cake bought in the shop and the shop is able to put a picture made of icing of whatever picture you give them. When I had first got engaged, I took my fiancée to meet her, she had brought as a special occasion a bottle of Heinz tomato ketchup, we only used the cheap brand at home. I got my Auntie to hold up the ketchup and as we held it together we smiled and my fiancée took the picture.
Many, Many times I would ask Aunt who was a Teacher a question, but her answers were SO long I would forget the question, but one lovely evening as we linked arms on the beach near her home, it was quiet and peaceful I really wanted to know the answer to something but I didn't want to ruin the moment, I didn't want Auntie to start talking, so I used tact and said, “I want to ask you a question, but I only want you to reply with a one word answer” She said “OK” I said, “What makes the tide go in and out?” She said “The moon” I answered, “Thank you” Auntie said, “Don't you want to know any more?” I told Aunt, “No” and we carried on in silence walking along the quiet, peaceful beach.
For about 10 years in a row we would travel to Scargill House a lovely retreat. I met many nice people there, who came from all over the world. Some of the times I was able to 'escape' while Aunt chatted, to someone else. The food was amazing, but I ate so little, I had a fear of eating in public and ate very slowly. It wasn't till I was an adult, Auntie suggested we go again, and that would be the first time I paid for myself, it was SO expensive!!! No wonder it closed down! You could go to Spain for two weeks for that.
My Auntie, my other Mum was superwoman, invincible, strong, witty …... I thought she would be with me forever. She became ill, forgetful and as she lived alone, never married nor had kids (lots of the women where Auntie lives were single), they looked after each family member, who one by one died and then she, like many others like her were on their own in a big house. So Aunt had to move into a nursing home, I went the 100 miles or so to visit her with my family, she mainly kept herself to herself and only played chess with a woman who was clever, had all her marbles and 100 years old! This is what the nurses told me! She didn't talk with the others and chose to eat her meals in her room. This posh, always smartly dressed lady, was fading but still with me. She developed a small lump on top of her head, they decided not to operate but to leave it.. …...
Within 3 months she died.
Everything reminded me of her.
I didn't think I would be able to do it, but I spoke a eulogy at her funeral, she wouldn't have wanted me to cry, as I spoke about her. So I was strong and had many there laughing as I mentioned the many stories I have told you above, they hearing it for the first time.
I bought myself Helen Rubinstein, I tried every where to get it, but was informed would only be able to buy it In London, so I got it off eBay and thought of Auntie every time I wore it, till it finished I have still kept the empty container, the lipstick was in. For it reminds me of Auntie.
I won the bid on eBay for a gray (my favourite colour when I was young) agate brooch and when I won the bid I explained to the lady who had it, that when I was young my Aunt was the first person who said the stone agate to me and gray is my favourite colour and now that she has passed away I glad I am the winning bidder, I will think of her when I wear it, I then paid for my brooch. The Sellers response was, as we had talked about loved ones dear to us, who were no longer with us, she too had cried as had I, she said , “I have refund you your money, I want to give you the gray agate brooch.”
I googled her house, a music Teacher lives there I hear, so Auntie would be pleased, as Auntie played the violin and Piano. I have driven the 100 miles or so twice, since her passing to go to the beach near her home and go out my way to pass her house, where I spent many happy memories there.
For my 50th Birthday I had the picture of me and Auntie on the cake, everyone there, family and friends had heard my many stories of Auntie and they all took photos of the cake, that was a bitter sweet moment, the tears were so close.
I was informed of a Will from a family member. She always gave to many charities, maybe 50 of them or more! They too were in her will, one of them was the Leprosy Mission. I was informed, by the family member that a male member of the family, herself and me would equally get the same. I wondered how much it would be, I hadn't expected anything at all. So for the lady who took me to the police station, for finding £1 what do you think she left us 3 in equal measure? It was £5,000! I cried SO much at work telling a colleague, who too had heard my stories of Auntie many times, and boy have we laughed through the years. I said to colleague “I wish she was still here, so I could thank her” She loved me, my other Mum. At the time, we were £5,000 in debt so it got us back our our feet. Auntie didn't know we were in need! She was able to provide for me from the grave. So.......
Rest in peace Auntie. I am glad my Husband and kids met you many, many times, the kids too since they were babies. I love you, you know that, you will NEVER be forgotten. xxx