Continuing my tribute to the aunts and uncles on both sides of my family, I must mention those that were on neither side. In fact, they were not related to us at all but warranted the name of auntie or uncle.
There was Uncle Bob Bartle, a friend and co-worker of my Dad who allowed my brother and me to have a sip of Christmas “cheer” when we would visit during the holidays, and Uncle “Pin” (Mr. Pinnington), another of Dad’s friends. He was the only person I recall in my youth who had a car (other than Freddy Cook’s Uncle who doesn’t count in the list except that unwittingly, I once almost destroyed his vehicle*). Uncle Pin was generous with his car and on several occasions took the Amos family to the seashore for our annual summer holiday.
But I cannot leave the A’s and U’s without mentioning Auntie Winnie and Uncle Harry. They were our next- door neighbors, and I thought as a child that they were real relatives. Our house at Number 14 Walton Avenue was in a block of four attached houses in a large suburban estate built in the 1930s. Several of the blocks lined either side of Walton Avenue that ran from Windsor to Kingston avenues and were paralleled by Kew Crescent and the older Gander Green Road. Similar roads and avenues were replicated all around us, creating a rather monotonous and confusing network of streets named after towns on the River Thames.
Both Auntie Winnie and Uncle Harry were feared by the Amos children, Auntie Win, especially. She was a grumpy neighbor who seemingly did not like the Amos kids (there were four of us) because we were noisy, played in our back garden that paralleled theirs and often lost our ball over the fence into the forbidden garden of Number 16. It was a badge of courage to go over the fence to retrieve a lost ball. Our cats could go through the fence and often did, becoming unwanted intruders in Auntie Win’s garden.
Uncle Harry was a tall stern man who was an inspector for London Transport buses. Bus inspectors were not admired by the general public and by chil- dren especially. In their uniforms they randomly rode the double-decker buses checking on tickets and telling kids they couldn’t board a bus bearing jam jars full of tadpoles, newts or sticklebacks, spilling pond water all over the upholstery. My brother wrote this hilarious take on the song “Allentown Jail” that typified our thoughts about Auntie Winnie.
Poor Auntie Win: I did not know at the time and did not find out until I read my mum’s amazing memoir that Winnie Holt was a lifelong friend from the days when the Stacy family lived in a commercial laundry in London. So attached were they that Auntie Win followed Mum to the suburbs and bought the house next door. She helped Mum through her long and painful illness. My mum died at age 46. I wish she’d told me more (or I listened more carefully).
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I want to thank all of you who helped the Animal Rehabilitation Keep (ARK) over the weekend by buying things at the Beach Treasures Sale, especially Ed Zieglar, who made Moby Dick’s available to us, and to the hundreds who turned up to watch the sea turtles go back to the sea. I hope you got as much pleasure as I did seeing them return home. I’m especially thankful to all the volunteers and ARK workers and Lee and Xavier Harrison of Friends of the ARK who put in much hard and physical work to make these things happen.
* When I was about 9 or10, I inexplicably threw something at the car’s windshield, shattering it and almost causing an accident. I wrote about that adventure here in the South Jetty.
Tony Amos is a research fellow at The University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas and director of the ARK.