Letting The Genealogy Out Of The Bottle

The Family History from the autobiography of Vince Poynter

Genealogy is a growing pastime and I am a mere amateur at it.  I have only managed to trace my paternal family back for four generations and that data came from one family Bible source.  The trail leads to a couple who were probably born around the early 1800s, a mere 200 or so years ago, still some way off William the Conqueror.  Mind you, I have no grand illusions and probably trace back to a mere woodsman rather than a King or even Courtier.

My blond hair and fair skin would suggest Germanic or Northern European roots and my accent places me square in Hampshire.

However, I never personally knew anyone that I could call great or great-great in the grandparent sense so my particular family story starts with my grandparents.

A photograph of the author's paternal grand-parents, stood, dressed formally for a wedding in matching light grey outfits
It’s all their fault. My paternal grand-parents. Blame them, not me. Planning Ye Olde Oak Ham sandwiches, no doubt

One of my fondest memories of being young is the visits to my paternal grandparents.  They lived in Bassett, a posh part of the city and it is surprising the positive effects of fitted carpet and Ye Olde Oak Ham could provide.

I recall sitting in the bay window with my brother Mark for hours on end watching the traffic ebb and flow at the junction.  It was my first taste of being a petrol head and I could name every car that passed by.  Eric, Fred, Davina, etc.  No, not like that!

This vehicular voyeurism was interrupted by the call of afternoon tea on proper china, followed by the card game whereupon the adults had to contrive to stop me winning all the cash.  As a kid I was unaware of all this blatant cheating against me but I still came away with pocketfuls of old pennies.  Financially it was the luckiest period of my life – the Pools and then Lottery never repeated this good fortune.

Grandma and Granddad were excellent in their roles.  I only knew the very nicest side of these wonderful people.  To me and my siblings they were warm, generous and funny.  We only visited once a month and at Christmases so they, like us, were on their best behaviour.

Granddad started his working life at fourteen as a cycling telegraph boy and worked hard to forge a career in the Post Office, making Manager before his retirement.  His work was not interrupted for the various wars that his generation seemed to have at frequent intervals due to being in a reserved occupation although he once recounted a journey during a blitz where the bombs obliterated each building he had just vacated.

Another war-time story saw him shoved headlong into a bunker by an enormous clump of earth that had just been liberated by a local bomb.  The earthy clump had landed square in his back.  What a sod.  The earth, not Granddad.

Grandma, to my knowledge, never worked.  She must have done something for the war effort but its significance never warranted a mention that I recall.  She did produce my Dad though so that counts and she had a smile to melt chocolate.

My father also worked in the Post Office although it had become BT, via British Telecom, by the time he retired.

His early years were disrupted by National Service where he trained, then tutored at Catterick Camp in Yorkshire.

He also changed his career collar from blue to white and retired with a reasonable pension and a lot more time for his beloved bowls.

BPhotograph of the autho's parents, sat at a meal table, father with a camera, mother with a glass of wine
It all started with a whistle. The wolf is the one on the left. My parents

Dad hooked up with my mother in the mid-fifties.  Apparently the grinning, wolf-whistling cyclist swayed her and they married shortly afterwards, bearing three children, including my older brother, the aforementioned Mark, and younger sister Dawn.  It must have been a successful whistle as they still remain together, ready soon to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary.

Mum also worked, although sometimes part-time whilst we were all young.  A series of shop, waitress and petrol attendant roles in the early years then mostly administrative roles for the NHS.  But unlike today’s parents, she was always home before her children.  Which from my side of the fence was a bad thing – no after school parties.

My mother’s father died relatively young.  A disease causing an imminent blindness gave thoughts to being unable to support his large family and in the late thirties that was unacceptable.  He elected to take a cowardly way out in the confines of his gas oven and left my maternal grandmother alone to bring up several children.  She was a hard working woman who later married the man I knew as Granddad.  A giant of a man with huge weather-hardened hands and a booming voice.

They were the chalk to my paternal grandparent’s cheese.  Hardship was a memorable feature of their lives but I’m convinced that things wouldn’t have been so bad had ‘Nanny’ not spent so much on trinkets and cigarettes.

Their home, for a large part, was a centrally located flat in a major town.  Nowadays someone would rip out the guts, call it Manhattan Loft living and charge a fortune.  In those days it was a cold, concrete, council owned property with nasty metal railings following the urine-aroma’d stairs.  I still find it hard to reconcile the modern trend of apartment living without invoking those earlier memories.

Although splendidly rich in aunts and uncles on both sides, with all their attendant siblings I called cousins, the extended family were not overly close.

A couple of times a year we would visit or be visited by my mother’s closest sister and her pack and at Christmases we did the rounds but the fact that the families roots’ stretched all across the town and my family are inherently localised meant that we never really grew up together.  For the large part family only meant the five of us in the old house at the end of ‘The Close’.

Although the three-bedroom house I called home was not my first residence [see the chapter entitled Oniscus Asellus to read about the first] it lasted long enough to remain a fixture in my thoughts where I guess it shall remain forever.  It was a semi-detached sixties built house with cold walls and horrid metal framed windows that would freeze inside on most winter’s mornings.  Central heating in the sixties and seventies was restricted, by law I believe, to my Grandparent’s house.

All we had was electric storage heaters.  Apparently, these enormous tin blocks were full of house bricks that were roasted at night when the electric bills were low and emitted their heat the next day.  Or rather the next morning.  To be precise for about six or seven minutes in some ghastly hour long before I got up.  I lived in that house during the long, hot, drought infested summer of ’76 but can still only really recall the cold.

The author sits on a bench with brother Mark to his right and his sister Dawn on his right.  The clothing is very seventies, with all wearing bell bottomed, flared trousers.  The author sits awkwardly with crossed legs and his hands clasped around his knees, rather camply
Benchmark children. Mark, Vince and Dawn. I blame the parents

I shared a bedroom with Mark, who was, and still is obviously, older than me by two years.  We shared that room for the best part of twenty years and always got on well.  Our murmuring together late into each night was not appreciated by the rest of the house and when Dad hadn’t quite got fed up with the nattering our younger sister, Dawn, in her separate bedroom would squinny until he shouted.  Girls eh.

In fairness it was always harsher for Dawn because, due to her gender, she slept alone.  The late night boys conversation was probably a sad reminder of her loneliness at night.  Not that she had a right to complain.  I spent more daytimes playing with her than Mark.  She was two years younger than me so being the middle kid I had a choice of playmates.  I would often be torn between playing toy cars with Mark or teddy bears with Dawn.  In that respect being the middle child was an advantage.  Other things weren’t quite as useful.

Because I had an older brother I often had to make do with cast offs.  Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a regular thing but enough to irritate.  Dawn, being a girl, had none of my cast offs so at times it seemed I was the only one with used items.  It may explain why I always prefer new now, from goods to houses.

Talking of new, in my family sense, the newest additions are my nephews and niece.  Mark married Alison and together they had two boys, Simon then Alex.  The niece part is Jenny, daughter of Dawn and her husband Andy.

I, myself, chose not to have children.  A choice made far easier by the concurrence of my wife, Lynda.  So the family Bible won’t be getting filled up with my descendants and in theory when I properly research the genealogy it will at least have a conclusion.

Just like this chapter.

Author: Vince Poynter

From My Poynter View, from the Autobiography section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website dated 3 Apr 2018 but first published in the website in Jul 2005
The first image shows the author’s grandparents, William and Rose Poynter, taken on the Isle Of Wight around 1965
The central image is of the author’s parents, John and Lilian Poynter, enjoying a meal at The Vine Inn, Cadnam in May 2009
The final image shows the author with his older brother, Mark and younger sister, Dawn, sat on a bench on the Isle Of Wight around late 1976 and was picked to amuse you. So feel free to snigger
All images were originally added in Version 3.00 around Mar 2010