Aunt Edna was only small, about four feet ten, but with her bright red hair, full cheek bones and pucker up lips, which she covered over whenever she went out, with bright red make up stick, well, she looked a bit like a clown. She would wear a white embroidered blouse with short elasticated sleeves, and a shortish black embroidered skirt with the same pattern as the blouse.
Mum said that she thought that the outfit probably belonged to Joyce and had come back from a holiday in Switzerland or Scunthorpe and Auntie liked it and wore it every time we went out shopping. In the Winter she wore a fur coat when out, that nearly touched the ground, but when she took it off in a cafe or somewhere, the outfit always got lots of stares and nudges.
But her heart was pure gold.
Indoors she usually wore a simple printed dress, and an apron. The apron, or 'pinny', which I think means pinafore, which I think was an apron that everyone seemed to wear in the house. It was the badge of all Mothers or Housewives during war and later. It was either worn as half apron or a full body size, and was over the head and tied around the waist. It did everything from protecting from spills and spatters to picking up hot pans, wiping steamy glasses, and runny noses.
Uncle John on the other hand was about six foot tall. Gwen and Joyce took after him.
He had a long thin narrow pale face, for all the working on the allotment, and a long thin narrow pale body. He at one time went for a swim with our dad at Clacton beach, and put his feet in when Aunt nagged him that he should go in "like Ron."
We were in the water with dad and mum when she gave a little shrill suppressed laugh, and we looked up to see Uncle's long thin pale body, wearing a black shapeless knee length bathing suit, approaching the waves. He had no muscles that you could see, which when you remembered the size of the allotment that he dug over every Winter and the swill containers that he hoisted on and off of the trailer, was surprising. He had no fat at all, but he could eat anything and often did. You looked at my dad standing in the sea, light brown hair catching the sun, tanned and all muscle. Yet my dad was spending most of his working day, at that time, down in an Underground tunnel working under artificial light.
Christopher,Mum,Derek,Uncle John, Gwen,Alan,Auntie Edna.
Uncle stood with the waves just washing over his toes, rubbing his hands together as if at any moment he was going to run and dive in. He never got the costume wet because aunt arrived next to him and they paddled off up the beach. She wasn't wearing a costume, just a dress.
To go to work as the Stationmaster at Goreham Junction, he wore a black jacket and trousers, a black waistcoat over a white shirt with a black tie, and on his head a black peaked cap with Stationmaster in gold lettering above the peak. He was completely bald except for a small patch of hair on either side that went around his ears, and which auntie would trim any time it started to show out of the cap.
When gardening, he usually wore an old pair of grey trousers, and his Army gardening boots which he usually covered in a grease that he called 'dubbin'. He wore a collarless shirt, but still kept the waistcoat on over it. On his head he wore a hat, not a peaked but a soft one like the gangsters wore in films.
They were the nicest, most generous people I have ever met, besides my mum and dad, and while we stayed in their house they were mum and dad to us.
They were strict but always fair, I believe, but Christopher and I were always taking advantage of their kindness. It was after the war when I was a lot older and living my own life and not interested in other people that I heard from mum that they had sold up and moved to America and that mum did not have an address, that a great feeling of sadness came over me that I had lost something out of my life that I may not recover again, and it suddenly hit me that they were not even family, just friends, but that I needed them in my family.
We may have made fun of Aunt Edna behind her back, and now I feel ashamed o think of her in that way, but we never did it outside the family, and I once got into trouble for kicking a boy and cutting his leg when he called Uncle John the 'swill man.'
Even so, when she had been out shopping in that outfit and was wearing that bright red lip stuff, she would get in a funny mood and grab hold of you and give you a hug and a kiss.
They were very difficult to get away from; Christopher was better than I. He could wriggle out of her grasp so quickly that she couldn't cover his face with lipstick. I was not so lucky, and everyone thought that it was hilarious. I would spend time looking for a bathroom and trying to wipe it all off!