Uncle Bill would have been 90 today. It is hard to imagine what he would have been like.
Bill to me was forever young. I remember it being a surprise when I discovered that he was born in January 1933, perhaps I just hadn’t thought about it. There are some people who always remain ageless in your mind. Bill and I went to the same Grammar School, Elmhurst in Street, except he started in September 1944 and I started a bit later.
Bill was far too interesting to get stuck with academic things, there was too much laughter to be enjoyed for him to be serious for too long. Bill was always at some new project. He played in a band that came second on Opportunity Knocks. They even cut a record.
Bill was larger than life, it was likely that you would hear him before seeing him. He would invite himself around the neighbours for tea (even though it was 1 o’clock in the morning). Bill oozed warmth and confidence—he would talk to anyone and everyone.When he worked at ICI he was on the committee for social events, he used to arrange parties, discos and dances, Bill was the life and soul of a party. Life for Bill was to be lived. It was about making the most of the moments he was given.
It is music that brings lots of memories of Bill back to me, including Yesterday Once Moreby The Carpenters. The song is not exactly profound – “sha-na-na” and “whoa-oa-oa” form part of the lyrics if I remember it correctly; it just has powerful associations for me.
It recalls memories of August 1973 and a holiday in Cornwall and much fun and laughter. Bill had said that he and the family would arrive in Somerset in the evening. I remember the excitement as the evening came—six o’clock, and then seven, and then eight, and then nine—by which time I was getting a little disappointed, maybe they would never come. Ten o’clock came—bedtime had been reached and there was no sign. At eleven o’clock there was a knock at the door, Bill stood there with that beaming smile of his, ‘Good evening’, he said.
Bill was never one to waste a moment. Tea was drunk and we left home at midnight. Petrol was bought at a 24-hour filling station where you put 50p pieces into the pump to get petrol from it. We spent a morning calling at campsite after campsite along the North Cornish coast to find somewhere to stay and finished on the edge of St. Ives. The sun shone, the sky was blue, the sand was a pure white and the days were long.
The holiday was full of laughter because Bill was gifted as a natural clown. He could bring laughter into the most mundane situations. My aunt used to protest embarrassment at some of his antics, but I think even she secretly smiled. Camping in a field on the edge of a small Cornish town became a magical experience with Bill .
I remember Bill buying a tinned chicken to heat for an evening meal and opening the tin to find something the size of an average pigeon, his outrage at such injustice was communicated to anyone who would listen. I still smile at the recall of such moments.
So much fun, so much laughter, so many smiles. His death at the age of 72 deprived us of many more memories.