Auntie Jo’s nine years as an Animal Aunt!
For nine wonderfully happy years I was an Animal Aunt in England, land of my birth. I still have the tiny piece of paper from Gillie’s office, suggesting that I might be suitable. As I sat on the tarmac in Auckland, house sold, no car, children scattered, life in storage, I thought I must be mad! I caught the train from Walton-on-the-Naze two weeks later and went for my interview at Hindhead – then waited – it was during Tony Blair’s first campaign, I joined two libraries, the early Spring was simply beautiful, and finally the letter came and my life-on-the-road-in-my-red-Skoda began. My first job was in Yorkshire – I never went anywhere near it again – perhaps someone had seen me leave with such a sense of relief that I drove round a roundabout the wrong way! Those were the days before September 11, and every year began with my diary almost full. I loved every moment. Sometimes I wondered how I would survive some particular job but there was always something to rescue me – for example the French woman next door who pronounced my name, Josephine, in a most beguiling way and made the best coffee I have ever tasted. The gardeners who had me in stitches – one told me how to make fritters with the flat flower of the elder tree, while I told him how to cook puha (sow thistle) with pork. I had one job which I went to often and with it, came a list of “other duties” – I waited for the cleaner to arrive, then we combined our lists and laughingly shared the jobs between us! We are still in touch. Snowed in once, a little dog died. I ran out of water in an enlarged house built over the original spring – I melted snow but then that all vanished. Luckily, when I woke next morning, I looked out of the window and there it was again, a blanket of white. “Snow!” I said aloud to myself and dashed downstairs in my nightie to fill all the saucepans. Working for Joe Cooper – do you remember him playing the silent piano in a radio quiz show – was another memorable experience. If we hadn’t finished The Times crossword by 5 pm, we had to “ring a friend” to fill in the gaps. Then it was time for my very own personal dinner music. He played most beautifully and to my delight knew the music from The Dubarry, something I had grown up with on 78’s. People I went back to time and again became homes away from home. I loved knowing where the post office was, which supermarket was in the vicinity, where the “best pies in England were made” and who of my friends I could see. At one favourite job, I found the fridge full of Marks and Spencer’s most delectable goods – “I know you will never buy them for yourself” said my employer – what a delicious week! My children came to England while I was there and we had wonderful times together, exploring parts of Europe, sharing birthdays and Christmas. My son Tim was married there to Deb, an Australian, and my first grandchild, Penelope, was born. She loves the fact that we are both English. So do I! [youtube_video]http://youtu.be/xEo2olE-YA0[/youtube_video]