Friday, 28 June 2013

Auntie June

Auntie June (bottom right with Jack) at wedding
It is Auntie June's 90th birthday today but we couldn't make it over to Sydney. As a child I had dozens of Great Uncles and Aunties, mainly from Lancashire and Yorkshire but also from Aberdeen. Some of them are in the photo of my parent's wedding above along with my two grandmas (second row left and front centre). June had been in the WRAF and she was married to my father's brother, Jack, who had been a fighter pilot and then a test pilot for the RAF after the war. Although there were quite a few family friends whom I called Aunt, June was my only real Aunt. She had style and a generosity of spirit, she came from Great Yarmouth and was always cheerful and encouraging no matter what escapades I got up to with my four cousins.

June was responsible for keeping the household on an even footing.  Regular house moves, twins amongst the four children and Jack's determination to do everything, including collecting speeding offences, at 100mph would have frazzled most mothers. June just provided an oasis of tranquility. She was always cool and calm and had a can-do approach to life which made all visits a pleasure. And she knitted quicker than Jack drove. My geography knowledge was founded on visiting them in all parts of the country in the 1950's as they were waltzed around RAF bases.  Later when Jack entered civvy street they settled in Kings Lynn, Reading and Bath before the family emigrated to Australia in 1963.

It was eight years before I saw her again when she came over for a visit to family in the UK. I was asked to drive her around the attractions in the north west including the Lake District.  We spent several days in her hired mini during the height of an unusually hot summer. I think we created the illusion that the north of England was a holiday hot spot. June lapped up every day and was always at ease and full of goodwill wherever we went stopping for ice creams, cream teas and the odd picnic.

A few years later I visited Australia with my brother over the Christmas and New Year period. She arranged our accommodation in a family flat overlooking Manly beach, lent us her car for several long trips up and down the eastern seaboard and made a Christmas BBQ on the beach that made snowmen and sledges seem unnecessary images. She filled  eskis for us to take to Sydney Cricket Ground to watch Australia versus the West Indies and arranged a series of family events at a time when she was carrying a broken wrist and in the midst of some turmoil. When we were taken by our cousin, who is slightly on the wild side, to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge and see in the New Year, we were told that the charge for this offence was six months in jail. All hell broke out with Jack but this was mollified by June: "well you didn't get caught so I guess it doesn't matter boys" was her pragmatic retort.

So June, many thanks for being that calm and supportive Aunt. You were just about the only person from south of the Trent that I knew as a child and you gave a good impression of southerners despite what those up north said! You were appreciated by all the family, everyone rated Auntie June as 'a thoroughly good egg' as you might have said.

Ninety is still young by today's standards, so enjoy your day and make sure that you have that drink and seafood that you fully deserve. And when are you next coming over?

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