‘My Uncle Paul of Pimlico’: In my childhood imagination, this nonsense rhyme was always linked to my own Uncle Paul. This was an inaccurate linkage on three counts. 1) My Uncle Paul had never lived in Pimlico. He was a Midlander, man & boy. 2) My Uncle Paul did not have seven cats who would ‘sit at his enormous feet as he played the piano upside down, in his delightful dressing-gown’. 3) My Uncle Paul was not actually my uncle. He was married to my godmother. No blood relation. Even so, he was always called Uncle Paul.
I have numerous memories of my Uncle Paul.
1) His favourite flavour of rock was aniseed.
2) I remember going to buy a 10p mix with him in his green VW Polo.
3) He had really, really ripped jeans when such things were fashionable. As a child, I thought they were very rude. You could see his boxer shorts through them.
4) He bought me my first proper ‘grown up’ toiletries: four items from the M&S peach range, wrapped in a gold gift bag. I was about 8.
5) He was a metrosexual before anyone had even heard of David Beckham. From what I remember, Eddie Izzard was his role model.
6) He had great taste in terms of interiors. He used to have a scrubbed pine table that I particularly loved.
7) We both loved English literature & writing. We went through a poetry writing phase at the same time & would talk about poetry. In more recent years, he’d often ask me ‘Read any good books?’ & we’d share recommendations.
8) My first proper watch was a 6th birthday gift from him & my godmother. I still wear it sometimes; it was a Sekonda with a red strap. I also have an old Sekonda that was his watch, which I wear on an almost daily basis as I like gents’ watches.
9) He taught me how to pour a can of Guiness properly.
10) When he’d babysit, I was allowed to stay up later than usual. Once he even let me watch ‘Bread’. Looking back, this was probably agreed with my parents, but at the time I just thought he was really cool and trendy.
I could write so many more memories of him, but ten seems a good number at which to stop…
Tonight a group of us did Race For Life in memory of him. He died in June last year after a long battle with cancer. As one of the photographs shows, I dedicated my efforts to other cancer sufferers too, but his daughter organised us all & it was him that was in the forefront of our minds. It wasn’t an easy event for any of us. None of us are particularly fit. It was the 10km race rather than the 5km one. It poured with rain for about half of the course, complete with thunder & lightning. The weather was so bad that the event organisers allowed people to just complete half the circuit if they chose. Four of us pushed on & did the full thing. It was largely walked, with occasional spurts of jogging (like when a fizzy cola sweet was dangled a few feet ahead of me!). It was very wet & cold & damp. It was also good fun & bought us all closer together. Holding hands as we crossed the finish line seemed a fitting way to finish an event undertaken in memory of the man we had all known & loved.
My Uncle Paul never lived in Pimlico. He was not actually my uncle. He did not have seven cats who sat at his feet as he played the piano upside down in his delightful dressing-gown. But tonight he had ten women battling their way through mud & rain & their own physical limitations in tribute to him. A better tribute than any nonsense rhyme could ever be.
The photographs show:
Uncle Paul (left) & my dad (right), having completed a fun run in 1982
My mum & godmother, finishing tonight’s race
My dedications: my Uncle Paul; my friend’s mum; my auntie; my godmother’s sister
The four 10k-ers, approaching the finishing line