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U3A Writing: Relations

Jennie Boothroyd recalls the joys of family life when she was a young girl.

This story is about my uncle, my great aunt and a cousin.

Uncle Alan was my mother’s brother, and they were very close. Their mother, my lovely Grandma, lived with us, and Uncle Alan lived in a big house at Dalton.

He was in textiles and was a great joker. He used to tease me and say, “How funny, Jennie, you’ve only one top lip. Legs right up to your bottom – but only one top lip.”

Joyce was his daughter. One year when I was about six I’d had chicken pox just before my birthday, and all my friends were still in the throes. So at my birthday tea Joyce was the only guest.

A couple of days after, Mum received a postcard which went as follows:

‘Dear Clara, Joyce came home from Jennie’s party with the wrong hat. She thinks it belongs to the girl with red hair who was on the third sitting at tea. I know it was busy, but you should have sent them home in batches. Would you mind going round to all the mothers to see who has it?
Sincerely, Alan

P.S. The washing up must have been tremendous!’

My grandma’s sister, Aunt Georgina, was headmistress of the village school at Carlton near Goole, a lovely little village, home to Lord Howard of Glossop at Carlton Towers. They had seven children, all of whose names began with M. The eldest, Mark I think, became Duke of Norfolk because he was the nephew and the eldest male relative.

Because we had no car ( Dad farmed – horse, no car), Uncle Alan used to fetch Grandma to see her sister, and Joyce, and I went too.

It was once on a Sunday, and at 6 pm Joyce and I were packed off to church – just over the schoolhouse wall. During the sermon she took out of her bag a bottle of nail varnish and proceeded to paint her nails. Imagine the smell, news of which eventually found its way to Aunt Georgia. Oops! I was scared.

We were at Uncle Alan’s one Christmas, and the adults were playing at cards in the lounge. Joyce, Billy, her brother, and I were playing a game when Joyce broke a vase. Hearing the noise, the adults called us into the lounge, where we had to stand until the game was over. I was so upset I wet my pants. (Yes, I was about seven, not 17.)

A few years later Mum had pneumonia, and she and I went over to Carlton for her to recuperate. It was lovely, but one lunchtime Aunty said, “Do you know the tributaries of the Ouse?”

When I looked blank, she rattled them off – “S U N W A Don Der.” I took good care not to be caught out again, and I have never forgotten them.

Mum and Dad were in our church choir, and I used to sit with Grandma and lean on her shoulder. She wore one of those long furs with a head on a tail; it was soft and tickly.

I remember the first Easter collection reaching £50. It was the Vicar’s money as a gift, and grandma was so thrilled. Uncle Alan said, “I think my mother gets some commission from the church.”

Sadly, all those have gone, even Joyce too, but family life in those days was a joy to remember.


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