Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Uncle Tony

My uncle Tony — ‘Uncle Pickle’ as many of my friends called him — died a month or two ago at an advanced age. I was — am — very fond of Tony, and not just because it is largely through his generosity that I am able to spend so much of my time in Greece, where among other things I am at last learning to play the piano.

Tony was born into a working-class family in Hull, Yorkshire, and — but — developed a passion for ‘serious’ music. He wanted to have piano lessons but his family couldn’t (or perhaps wouldn’t — perhaps there was a bit of ‘No soon o’ maan’s goin’ ter ponce abaht playin’ no pianner’) afford it. So, northerners being notorious for their love of pickles, Tony bought a sack of onions, a barrel of vinegar, and some jam-jars, and sold pickled onions from door to door to pay for his lessons.

They were very good pickled onions. Demand increased, he got a barrow, later a truck, then a factory — The Humber Pickle Company — and eventually became director of a big food ‘empire’, all the time retaining his passion for music. Sometimes one would hear an orchestral concert on Radio 3 and the announcer would say after the closing applause ‘That concert was sponsored by Hazlewood Foods’ — Uncle Tony.

His life was, as they say, not without incident. Often hair-raising, often hilarious. He would tell me about these incidents, even the most scurrilous: he didn’t give a damn what people thought of him; was never afraid of seeming as fool; a sure sign that he was no fool. I hope to relate some of these incidents in future posts.


By the way, it was on this day in 1666 that the Great Fire of London started,
in a baker’s shop in Pudding Lane. Uncle Tony had nothing to do with it.

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