Monday, 4 May 2009

My maternal Great Aunts


I knew but two of my mother’s aunts – Great Aunt Ada and Great Aunt Maud.

I first met Ada when I was eleven years old. Mum took me from Bristol where we lived to Lowestoft in Suffolk, where she had been born, and where Ada yet lived.

We went by coach (‘bus) from Bristol via London, and the journey of some 240 miles took over 12 hours. There were no motorways in 1955.

As we drove out of London a gentleman on the coach began to point out places of interest. I was determined not to like them, (after I was a Bristol boy, and what was London to me!) and I all but ignored this kind man. Mum was rightly vexed with me!

We arrived in Lowestoft to be met by Great Aunt Ada and her husband Uncle Jim. We walked to their little terraced cottage at # 13 Gun Lane. It was a very modest home, little changed since the Victorian age in which it had been built.

By now I was entranced, for after all, Mum had filled me with tales about Lowestoft, the nirvana of her childhood.

I loved the North Beach with its dunes, and a stream which could be dammed with sand.
I thought that Oulton Broad was marvellous: see

I was intrigued with Lowestoft Town buses which were painted chocolate brown and cream, not a bit like our green Bristol buses.

One Sunday evening we walked through a field of peas towards St. Margaret’s Church. We plucked (i,e, stole!) peas from the vines, and ate them there and then. Such sweet peas, the like of which I have never since tasted!)

I awoke one morning to the rich smell of bloaters (a herring that has been salted in brine, smoked, and cured) being fried on the old fashioned coal range in Ada’s kitchen.
We ate them for breakfast with bread and butter - and never since then have I had such a memorable breakfast.

Aunt Ada was the matriarch of my mother’s side of the family, and I visited her on many other occasions.

(Once, when I was 21, I hitch-hiking from Bristol to Lowestoft, and back home again. It was then that I met an African American for the first time – a US Air Force man heading back to base at Mildenhall in his big assed American car. He gave me a ride and to my shame, I was terrified – simply because he was Black).

Great Aunt Maud had disappeared from my mother’s family circle in 1946 due to a family scandal of which I know, but over which I will draw a veil of secrecy.

She had moved to Birmingham and married a man named Bill Spencer. My Mum obsessed about being reunited with her Aunt Maud. This became possible (in about 1967 – here my memory fails me as to the exact year).

By then Aunt Maud had been widowed, and she was lovingly embraced into our family circle.

She lived in a small City Council owned flat out near the old Birmingham Airport.

She was a simple soul in the best sense of those words.

She was convinced that the T.V. newscaster could see her, and she would always reply when he ended his report with “Good Night”.

My brothers and I would lovingly tease her, and she would respond with “you dick”, much to our amusement.

When I was in seminary in Nottingham (1972 -1976) I would sometimes stop by to see Aunt Maud on my journeys to and from Bristol.

She gave me the Gold Watch which her husband had received after 40 years of service at the Birmingham Small Arms Company ( - remember B.S.A. motor-cycles anyone?) and I still own it.

It's odd, come to think of it. These women were born in the 19th Century, and I remember them in the 21st Century. 'Tis one of the advantages of being born, as I was, in mid-Century.



1 comment:

  1. Some good stuff here John, we all like a mystery!! You didn't mention the BIG deal with the buses, I.E. chasis built in Bristol then driven to Lowesoft ( or there-abouts ) for the body/seating to be fitted.