Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Auntie Joan's Story

The recent trog around Freshford produced a myriad photos, almost all of which made into my Facebook photo albums and those lucky few who are my FB friends can get a gander at them there.

I fear they might bore the bejaysus out of most of you lot in the cheap seats. As, indeed, they probably did to most of the FB fraternity and sisterhood. But not my old friend Naomi,  who also hails from those lovely regions and got a nostalgic buzz from the shots of the old place.

There was one shot of Freshford's "Old Manor" on the The Hill (they don't go in for imaginative names around that neck of the woods, you know) which I captioned . . .

. . . "My Auntie Joan Lived here . . . and there's a story there, too...".

And, indeed, 'tis true. She did. And so did Miss Hunt.

Back to my Dorset based old friend and relatively recent Facebook buddy, Naomi. Her response to my caption was a single word: "tease". So for Naomi's delight and delectation, and possibly the mild bemusement of Daily(ish) Millbrook readers worldwide, a slightly abridged version of Auntie Joan's Story and how my gran became most irate.

I don't have any digital or digitised photos to illustrate this, so you'll just have to read it without any pictures. Go on - you know you can if you try.

The Hunt family was of the moneyed classes and the Rev Hunt took a young Irish lass of 14 into service as maid and companion to his only offspring, Doris. I do happen to know she was called Doris but no one EVER called her that. She was "Miss Hunt" to us all. This was somewhere in the ballpark of 1920, when going into service was one of the few opportunities that an Irish lass might have to avoid penury.

I haven't a clue when Miss Hunt and her paid companion (you'll have guessed by now that this was my Auntie Joan) moved into Freshford and the Old Manor, they were there living in the huge rambling, mostly unheated, pile for all of my boyhood. By the time I knew them, the Rev Hunt was no more and, although I didn't know it Auntie Joan was now employed directly by Miss Hunt.

Auntie Joan had her own room, the run of the house and almost exclusive use of the main sitting room. If Auntie Joan wanted new clothes (a rare event), she purchased what she needed from Hunt family-approved shops and the account was paid by the family trust.

All the bills were taken care of by Miss Hunt (or more likely her trust fund managers). Whenever Miss Hunt went on holiday, she would arrange and pay for a holiday for Auntie Joan - usually in some very nice privately run hotel in the New Forest or similar. Often my gran would be invited along as company (kindly paid for by Miss Hunt).

Auntie Joan cooked every meal that Miss Hunt ever ate at home (three a day); she made sure that Miss Hunt's afternoon cup of Keemun tea was served at the perfect temperature and at the appointed minute in the drawing room. Auntie Joan did all of the cleaning and washing. Auntie Joan looked after the very large garden (with help from a part time gardener). Miss Hunt spent her days in the formal drawing room, playing her grand piano or reading.

This was the order of things and, of course, Auntie Joan was the hired help. She was paid to do all she did and all was fine by her.

As she got older, the daily tasks, of course, got more difficult and that's when my gran stepped in and she would spend three or four afternoons a week helping Auntie Joan with her chores in return for a cup of tea, a chinwag and the occasional bun. This went on for many years.

Eventually, Auntie Joan died. I don't know how old she was - but it was in the mid-late 1980s, so she must have been in her mid-late seventies, perhaps early eighties. Miss Hunt certainly couldn't cope on her own in the Old Manor, although my gran continued to pop in several times a week to keep things ticking over (just an ordinary act of neighbourliness), and she moved into a private nursing home.

And here's the crunch - well done for getting this far - throughout her life from the age of fourteen, Auntie Joan had been in service and in the pay of the Hunt family (and Miss Hunt in particular). Auntie Joan's every need had also been looked after by the Hunts, so she hadn't needed to call upon a single penny of those wages from 1920(ish) until the day she died (1980 something).

Oh no - Auntie Joan had salted every penny away and had invested it shrewdly in stocks and shares, never once withdrawing any capital at all. Her estate, when the will was read, was worth very close to a million pounds. Yep - £1,000,000. That's a shedload of moolah now - in the eighties it was almost unimaginable.

So - who do you think she left the lot to? Perhaps a small sum to someone's gran who had helped through those difficult later years? Nope.

Every single penny was left to . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Miss Hunt! Who'd paid it to her in the first place.

Nowt so queer as folk, eh?

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