Monday, January 08, 2007

La plume de ma tante - Grandepere 'Owell

More from my lovely aunt:-

Grandpa Howell

I didn’t really become aware of him until I was 6 or 7. Because he was a widower and lived in the flat above the shop in Humphrey Street he was never part of the family who cared for me while Mum and Dad worked. That task fell wholly to Mum’s side of the family. Grandpa Howell was an old man living quietly upstairs on his own after Nana’s death.

Mum would serve up lunch in the shop kitchen and put his on a tray with an inverted plate on top, which I would then carry round the corner to his front door and collect his dishes from the day before. He was a smoker, and looked like Dad did at the end of his days, rather bent over with wisps of thin grey hair. I would carry his tray into his smoky living room and chat for a while but never for long as we both had lunches waiting and getting cold.

He had a dry sense of humour, very much like Uncle Frank’s. Don said he remembers him having a condition of the hand where the 3rd and 4th fingers could not straighten and he explained,
“Your grandmother would insist on sleeping on it.”

I remember him having a rather splendid Pre-Raphaelite story-picture over the fireplace in his front bedroom. (I guess it was a print). It was of a mother wrapped in a shawl sheltering under an oak tree, breast-feeding her babe. I was a prudish child and was rather shocked.

Mum told me once that he worked as a mason and he told me he put the steeplecock on top of St Paul’s(?) church in Sketty, but it might have been one of his stories. I asked Mum why he hadn’t worked in the shop with Nana and she said that he had done once, but that had been the reason why they had lost their lucrative and reliable kosher trade, because he switched the labels on the legs of the chickens that authenticated that they had been correctly killed. This was an unforgivable act for the Jews and they took their business elsewhere. He went bankrupt at some stage in his life which was even more of a disgrace in those days than now. That’s probably why he took a job and left the running of the business to Nana. I wish I had talked to him more. He must have been quite a character and was probably lonely. Don will remember more about him than me, as he would have been very special to him as the first and only grandson. There’s a lovely photo of him with Dad and Don in one of Mum’s albums. I’ll try and find it for you

If margaret finds the photo, I'll publish it here.



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