My Auntie Babs …

Day Thirteen: Serially Found

On day four, you wrote a post about losing something. Today’s Prompt: write about finding something.

Tell us about the time you retrieved your favorite t-shirt from your ex. Or when you accidentally stumbled upon your fifth-grade journal in your parents’ attic. Or how about the moment you found out the truth about a person whose history or real nature you thought you’d figured out. Interpret this theme of “finding something” however you see fit.

Today’s twist: if you wrote day four’s post as the first in a series, use this one as the second installment — loosely defined.


My Auntie Babs …

Was not a tall woman, yet at about 5′ 1” or so, could pack a punch when she wanted. Which was hardly ever. She was our sitter, when parents were out working.

My Dad lost his father when he was not quite, 2 years old. About a week before his second birthday. This Grandfather left behind my Grandmother and her six kids, of which my father was the youngest. He died in a hole, digging out coal on the eve of the Great Strike of 1926. They lived in the town of Abertillery, Wales. The local men had gone out to dig coal from an abandoned hole. One of many. That at the time littered the Rhonda Valley in Wales. There was a cave in and it killed my Grandfather, stone dead.

The family struggled to survive. The two eldest boys Chris and Dave, left school and went to work. Eventually, the family moved to London in 1930’s. Like so many other Welshmen. They bought a small house in Colindale, North London. My Grandmother, Caroline, was a religious christian woman. A protestant, yet she confided toward the end of her life, that she would have liked to have been a Catholic. Instead she settled for what is known as “high protestant”.

After the war, WW2. My father, his sister Babs, my mother Betty and Bab’s husband Ted. Along with my grandmother, moved to the house in Hendon. That I wrote about in this earlier post.

Auntie Babs too, had left school early. Before the war, going into what was called; service. Which was being a servant in a big house, of landed gentry. Where she learned her craft of housekeeping. She met Edward Sidney, before the war and they married before Ted went overseas. Ted was a corporal in Royal Signals Corp. Rode a motorcycle, delivering dispatches. Babs, Barbara, along with her sisters and sister-in-law Lily. All went to work in munitions factories along the Edgeware Road, for the duration.

I have a few vague memories of our life in Colindale. Enough that I was always comforted by them. Obviously my parents were the primary care-givers. Yet Babs and Ted, could always be counted on to cheer me up. I used to watch Uncle Ted in the mornings. Fascinated by his shaving process. All that foaming soap. Ted used a cutthroat razor, my Dad a safety one. They both stropped the blades on a leather, hanging on the back of bathroom door. From my parents bedroom window. I could see across to the rented garage where my Dad kept his car. My Dad was upwardly mobile. He may have been the youngest of my Grandma’s children. Yet he was always organizing them all.

After moving from Colindale to Hendon in the summer of 1955. Both my Dad and Uncle Ted were busy altering and renovating the house to their tastes. Before the war, Ted who was about five years older than Jimmy, my Dad. Had been a painter decorator. He lad learned the trade, the right way. He was meticulous. Rubbing down, filling, painting, etc. Both my Dad and I learned much of that from Ted.

My mother went back to work as a shorthand typist. Although she started in a pool of fellow workers, her skills moved her up to secretary of a manager. Passap and Singer through the rest of fifties. This bought in money to pay off the mortgage. Babs used her skills as a housekeeper, that my mother reimbursed her for. For the two years after moving, I was taken to school by my mother and picked up for lunch and after school by Auntie Babs. Once in a while my Mom would be there to greet me, especially if there was something on after school. Visit to the dentist, or to buy clothes, etc.

The walk to and from our house was about seven minutes long. Half a mile or so? I had started school in Colindale, in 1954. At that time I was a bright child and went close to the top for marks earned. The school in Hendon, was part of the Parish of St. Mary’s. The next two years. Was in the Infants School, before moving up to the next Junior one. The British school system of the time.


The school was located to the right of Churchyard, pictured here. To the left was “The Greyhound” pub.

Auntie Babs would pick me up, for lunch at home and back again after. Then after school. She often had a bag for groceries. We would visit a small parade of shops in Church End. Occasionally the huge? Brent Street! I once counted the pubs in the small area. Ten, in a one half square mile.


Lunch with Auntie Babs during this time was one of casseroles. Meats, veg and gravies. Foods that today, I would not touch with a bargepole. They were however plain and unadorned except for horseradish and mustard. Common English condiments at the time. She and Ted, lived in the flat [Condo.] over my parents.

Auntie Babs’ kitchen was her refuge. It looked out onto the back garden of our house and the others of the Crescent. Her front room or parlour looked out over Sunnyhill Park and across to Mill Hill.

Auntie Babs was a smoker. From about aged eight, she would send me. Complete with a little note, down to the local post office and tobacconist for a pack of cigarettes. I was told to keep thruppence change, for candy or ice cream. In the evenings, she would sit and smoke at her front window. Waving to me below when I was out on the street playing on my skates or whatever with Peter, my pal.

Auntie Babs died a few years back. Toward the end of her life she was very deaf.

Yet she could always be found in her kitchen. A cup of tea or instant coffee bestowed upon her visitor. While she had eventually kicked the smoking habit. It had been hard on her, to do so. Yet she always had love to shower on any of her visitors, relatives and most of all toward her son and grandson.

While I’m grateful to both my Mom and Dad for the happiness of this time. It would never have been the same without Auntie Babs and Uncle Ted. For they had a tolerance and unbridled love. For all who came to visit.