Friday, December 17, 2010

The nonagenarian - and his nephew

Great-uncle Woodrow and Uncle John shared a birthday on Monday. Uncle Woodie was 90 and Uncle John 85.
Uncle Woodie was the youngest of my great-grandmother's 8 surviving children and, while they all had their own little quirks, I can safely say that Uncle Woodie is the biggest character. He's both the stereotypical grumpy old man and a ladies' man.

This photo shows, from left, my great-uncles Bun and Woodie with uncle John. I think you can see from Uncle Woodie's face that he's going to be a charmer.
He was married to Megan until she died in the 1970s but being married didn't stop him philandering. As I child I would hear the great-aunts whispering but didn't really understand what it was about ... until one Christmas.

I lived with my mother, grandparents and great-gran so at holiday times everyone congregated in our house to party. The Honey family loved to party. It was traditional for the grown-ups to go to the Park Inn and then come back to our house where the men would be served their supper of cold meats and mash before the singing began. (I assume the women ate at some point.)

One year, in the early 60s, I was considered old enough to look after the younger children so we were all deposited in Auntie Gay's house, which was next door but three to the pub. The little ones were put to bed and I was left in the front room to read to my heart's content.

Some time during the evening I heard the front door go and, assuming it was someone checking that we were all right, expected a head to pop round the door any minute. It didn't happen. Instead the people - I could hear two voices - went into the back room.

I hovered in the front room for a bit, wondering what to do, and then - very bravely I think - went down the corridor and pushed open the back room door. Uncle Woodie and the well-endowed lady from down the road jumped apart guiltily. 'O! Elizabeth, we've just come in to ... get something. It's all right. Go back to the other room.'

I did as I was told and they left soon after.

I never told anyone about that. Even though I wasn't sure what was going on - I was an innocent child - I somehow knew it wasn't something I should talk about.

After his wife died, the grieving widower soon found solace in the arms of another who also happened to be married at the time. She's now widowed and she and Uncle Woodie are still together. She's a lovely lady and how she puts up with the old curmudgeon is a mystery to most people.

But his exploits - the ones that I know about - didn't stop there.

One of our friends is a teacher in a local school. We were out with her and her husband one evening about 10 years ago when she told us about the lollipop man at her school. He'd started flirting with her and writing her poems. She said, 'I wouldn't mind but he's about 80.'

Turned out to be Uncle Woodie. Our friend took to going the long way round to school to avoid him. This time I did tell on him: I told great-auntie Joan, his older sister. She laughed, 'The silly old bugger! Wait till I see him; I'll tell him!'

Then there was the time he tried to emigrate to USA but they turned him down because of his communist party membership ...

Uncle Woodie and his older sister, Joan, at the family gathering last Sunday.

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