Auntie Dot was a small, roundish old Brummie woman with dark hair that had been set in rollers, thick rimmed glasses, a mole on one side of her face and a hearing aid in the opposite ear. My cousin once asked me if I would go to kiss her near the mole, or to risk feedback from the hearing aid. I never came up with a good solution to that little problem.
Auntie Dot was not my aunt, but my great aunt. She married Mum’s Uncle Stan and they never had children, but loved their nieces and nephews as though they were their own.
I don’t remember much about Uncle Stan, he died years ago, but I did used to make him ‘binoclears’ made out of toilet roll tubes taped together with clingfilm around the end for Christmas. I made lots of those, and I wrapped up rolls of tape to give to Dad because it was useful. My older brother and sister got presents of things taken from their rooms, wrapped and given back to them. Anyway, Uncle Stan seemed to enjoy the binoclears. He also stuck the mirror sticker onto my ‘My Little Pony’ pink catwalk thing I got for Christmas one year and Dad got annoyed with me because Stan stuck it with a big crease in it and I should have left it for him to do. But I was small, impatient and Dad had disappeared off somewhere, so Stan did it and got it wrong. And Dad moaned.
I don’t call any of my aunts and uncles ‘Aunt’ or ‘Auntie’; they are jut ‘Phil and Jane’ or ‘Finlay and Carolyn’ but on Mum’s side of the family, Auntie Dot, Auntie Ivy, Uncle Ted, Uncle Stan, Uncle Alec and Auntie Nora all had their titles attached to their names, capital letter pronounced as well. Actually, I think I only ever called Granddad’s sister Beryl by her first name, but I only really met her a couple of times.
Uncle Alec died years ago, as did Uncle Stan. I’m not sure what it was that got them. Auntie Nora died ten years ago, I went to her funeral on the way to or from a university visit. We were a bit late and Mum drove into the crematorium a little faster than would have been good taste. We saw her brother, Phil, doing the solemn ‘Isn’t it terribly sad’ handshake as people went in. He said that we arrived in our Passat like a streak of red lightning, blurring past the mourners as we sped into the car park. It was a bit sad, but there were some amazingly bad singers in the crowd, barking out the hymns, so that gave us a small giggle. But Auntie Nora, she was old and, as I only discovered at the funeral, had lived quite a full and interesting life. I’ll have to check the details when I get back, but she was some sort of executive secretary and travelled the world. There were all these pictures up of her in the 50s and 60s, recognisable from the old lady I had sort of known, in twin sets, horn rimmed glasses and a head full of tight curls. I only knew Auntie Nora from my visits with Nan and Granddad when I would stay with them in Sutton Coldfield.
She lived in Erdington and Nanny would pick up cream cakes when we went to visit. She had patterned carpets, the type you used to find in old pubs and draught excluders shaped like snakes. There were doilies and lace over the backs of the chairs. I would sit on the floor and drink a glass of milk. But it wasn’t very good because Auntie Nora was one of those old fashioned people who unplugged everything at night – even the fridge, even when Granddad had taped a note over it saying ‘not this one’. She would push it aside, unplug it and re-plug in the morning.
Nan died about 5 or 6 months after Auntie Ivy, so Granddad lost his sister and his wife in the same year. Nan had been ill for years, but I’ll write about that another time. And about Granddad. I *think* he’s 89 this year, can’t be fully sure as I remember him being 83 for about 4 years in a row, but he still goes golfing when he can. He said they’ve started charging him the teenager rates because he’s the oldest player. But for now I’m going to focus on Auntie Dot, because after years of deteriorating health, hearing and eyesight, she died on Tuesday. From what I gather it was a release for her, so let’s not be too sad.
I don’t know a huge amount about Auntie Dot. I know that she and Nanny knitted Spitfires during the war at Castle Bromwich. I know this because she, Nan, Granddad and Uncle Ted drove down from Birmingham to Brackley to tell my class what they did in the war when I was in year 5. Someone else’s Granddad also came in, but I think my Brummie quartet were far more entertaining.
She learned to drive late, hopefully I won’t leave it that long, and probably carried on longer than she should have done, but she would drive her little red automatic to the end of the road, park it, and catch the bus.
My brother reminded me that she would give us 10p to buy a Mars bar.
But this is my favourite story about Auntie Dot. It came to me second or third hand many years ago and I have no doubt embellished it a bit but the main gist of it is, nonetheless, true.
As I mentioned before, Auntie Dot and Uncle Stan had no children, but she had a god-daughter (I’ve never met her, no idea who she is) and this god-daughter had a birthday party. She also had an older property developer boyfriend who was hosting a swanky party for her in Spain. Auntie Dot was, of course, invited and duly flew from Birmingham to wherever it was this swanky party was. (It was a while ago and the teller of the tale wasn’t big on detail, but stick with it, honestly.)
So there’s this little, old, slightly round, bespectacled, curly haired old Brummie woman sat at a table, when a good looking man (much younger) comes over to talk to her. ‘What’s your name?’ he said. ‘I’m Auntie Dot’ she replied. Well of course she did, it was, by now, her full and proper name.
‘Auntie Dot!!! I’ve heard so much about you, lovely to meet you.’ He then went on to introduce himself as the plumber and they had a little chat. After a while he excused himself politely and made his way to his friend at the bar.
The god-daughter came to sit with Auntie Dot and asked ‘Do you know who that was?’ ‘Yes,’ came the reply, ‘he’s the plumber, seems like a really nice bloke, you should get him to do more work for you, I don’t think he’d rip you off.’ ‘No, he isn’t the plumber, he’s…’ And I’ll leave the big reveal for a minute as Auntie Dot had no idea who he was even after she was told.
Let’s fast forward about 6 months, Auntie Dot is sitting with my Granddad and she’s flicking through a magazine along the lines of Hello! Or OK! She comes to an article listing the world’s top ten eligible bachelors. Granddad is sipping his tea, when Auntie Dot cries ‘Les! Les! Look it’s the plumber from Spain! He’s in the magazine!’ Granddad gets up to check what the fuss is about and reads the name of the man above the picture… George Clooney.
Bye Auntie Dot
My brothers went to the funeral and passed along the information from the Order of Service for me. It’s a little more factually accurate than mine probably is, but then mine is more the telling of the story, and they never mentioned George…
“Dot was born in Aston and shared her younger years with Rose who lived next door. She was the only child of Annie and Albert Moore. Dot showed an early aptitude for dressmaking and got her first job as an apprentice tailoress at the Co-op Department Store in Birmingham. When the war started she was recruited into the Castle Bromwich Spitfire Factory, making rudders and elevators, a cause which was very dear to her heart. In later years she and Stan were friends with Alex Henshaw, a famous Spitfire pilot. Dot had met Stan at a dance at the end of the war and again going home to meet a friend. they made a date and five years later were married. Not long after, they spent 3 1/2 years in Norway where Dot worked for a very exclusive designer dress shop. returning to England she worked for ‘Paula’ another high class dress shop in Sutton Coldfield where she stayed for 27 years…
“Dot passed her driving test at the age of 74. Dot was a very independent character who lived a full and interesting life.”
They played the Dambusters March and We”ll Meet Again.