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Donkin's World: Not Salmon

...Bob was quite taciturn and not given to outbursts of bonhomie. Asked a little while back whether he wanted beef or salmon for lunch, he replied: "Not salmon."...

Richard Donkin mourns the loss of a much-loved uncle.

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We buried Uncle Bob last week. This is such a northern expression, introduced, as it usually is, to combine death and funeral in one neat sentence, whether or not the recipient of the information has been appraised of the death. Northerners understand this.

The funeral was a simple affair in the church that he attended as a boy. My cousin Andrew stood up and spoke on behalf of his dad, not an easy thing to do. Uncle Bob was a railway signalman who, as Andrew said, was comfortable in his own company.

Bob was quite taciturn and not given to outbursts of bonhomie. Asked a little while back whether he wanted beef or salmon for lunch, he replied: "Not salmon."

"He was a 'not salmon' kind of a man," said Andrew. When eating a meal he would rarely finish. "Always stop when you can eat a bit more," was Uncle Bob's dictum. A "glass half empty" man he may have been, but he was an essential foil for Auntie Joyce in the double-act that constituted their marriage.

Every comic duo needs a straight man and Auntie Joyce needed the dead pan reactions from Uncle Bob to maximise the impact of her humour.

He liked to bet on horses and, as Andrew pointed out, spent a lifetime proving the rule that the punter never wins. But he never bet very much. The thing I remember most about him from my childhood was that he always liked to "keep regular" and was never without a glass full of senna pods softening in water near the sink.

He was a good looking man - kept his hair - and liked to play and watch sports. But he wasn't what you would call generous. Andrew said that his daughters could remember the time and date he once bought them both an ice cream. He and Auntie Joyce took Andrew and me all over Yorkshire to swimming galas when we were young. They were good people and I miss them both.

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