Monday, April 10, 2006

Grand Nationals at Uncle Eddie's and Aunty Maud's

Mum!, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Mum asked me last night if I hadn't first got involved in the Grand National down at our 'Aunty' Diana's, the time I won some money in the family jackpot. This was 1978, when I was lucky enough to be asssigned Lucius, trained by Gordon Richards, who duly won, giving me something like 7 pounds winnings (I think we each put on 50 pence).

Well, this was the first time I really 'picked' a winner and was very happy with myself. But between Crisp/Red Rum in 1973 and Lucius in 1978, we spent every Grand National at out Uncle Eddie's and Aunty Maud's at their house in Hillingdon, not so far from Heathrow airport.

I think it must have been Uncle Eddie's birthday, being the reason we were always there on the first Saturday of April. I was lucky in this respect that it was always Spring holidays from school,as I always used to have to go to school on Saturdays in those days, playing games (rugby, hockey and cricket), usually in the inter-house competitions on a Saturday afternoon.

Anyway, Uncle Eddie was the eldest brother of my Granny Roffey and, in fact was eight years older, so in the mid 1970's he would have been in his late 70's. He was a tall man. Aunty Maud was his wife, also about the same sort of age. They both did seem to be old people, living in a 1930's type house, which seemed old to us, and I remember it being dark inside, with a piano, which Aunty Maud used to play, the only person I knew who was the least bit musical (except, of course my brother and sisetr, who used to play the recorder, annoyingly enough!).

Aunty Maud used to cook steak and kidney pie for us. I never liked steak and kidney pie, so never really looked forward to eating there and I would spend my time wondering how I would ever get to eat all that kidney. I think I did, as I didn't like to be rude, but it was a struggle. At the same time, my Granny Roffey would cook us fish fingers and mashed potatoes, carrots and peas, or roast chicken, when we went round, or Granny Mac would prepare a delicious scrambled egg on toast, washed down with homemade tangy lemon squash. I preferred to eat at theirs!

So, we would be there in early spring and sometimes it would be nice enough to sit outside in the back garden, where we would make our plans for the race before going in to watch. Red Rum would win in 1974, come second to L'Escargot in 1975, again second to Rag Trade in 11976 before sealing his place in turf history and the public's consciousness by WINNING the race for the third time in 1977, whilst horses like Spanish Steps and The Pilgarlic would often come 3rd or 4th.

We would have tea in the garden and then it would be time to go back to Beaconsfield, which was about 20 miles west, down the A 40.

We did not go back in 1978, because Uncle Eddie died on 14th December 1977, at the age of 80, shortly after his wife Aunty Maud. I remember inheriting a dark purple Austin Maxi, as I would pass my driving test in October 1978, three months after turning 17. I would take it down to university each term and leave it in the parking space the whole term. It didn't get looked after very well unfortunately and sort of broke down in around 1984, whereupon I left it on the side of the road until a policeman turned up at the door, a day or two later, asking me to remove it. It got moved to the local car park until it was eventually sold. I liked that car but was too young and too poor to look after it properly.

How I came to win a bundle of money shortly after the 1979 Grand National will be the story for another blog!

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