Ken Crisp 20 July 1931 – 10 June 2020.
There was never not an Uncle Ken and Auntie May.
As a child growing up in the wilds of Wyoming and the suburbia of California, Uncle Ken and Auntie May were voices on a tape. My mother (his sister) was desperately English, and I do believe was rather a fish out of water there, having transferred from the soon to be swinging London in 1960, to a land where a having a garden was a yard, and you had to watch out for rattlesnakes.
Each Christmas a box would arrive from England full of Rowntree`s Fruit Pastels, Cadbury’s Chocolate, Smarties, Germolene, and a tape recording from The English Family. Uncle Ken and Auntie May, Nanna, and my cousins. Mum would play them, and play and play them again. I have one old tape still, that Mum put onto a cassette at some point. Their voices still fascinate me, so very BBC, “Hello Valerie, this is your Uncle Ken speaking!”
We left the Unites States in 1967 on a Pan Am jet heading to Heathrow. Uncle Ken was waiting to pick us up. I remember climbing into what seemed to be a huge black car, but surely wasn’t, and the steering wheel being on the wrong side.
Uncle Ken and Auntie May have lived in the same house in Pinner for some sixty years. It has been and still is the one constant in my life. As kids we had the best Christmases there. Well known for hosting the greatest parties, already back in the sixties, Uncle Ken would fill their huge garden with strings of fairy lights, and glowing lights that were somehow hidden in amongst the bushes. They would leave all of us kids and cousins alone as we hid ourselves in amongst the magic. And as far as I know he never electrocuted himself!
He had a great sense of humour. I would on occasion go and stay with them, and his daughter and I would go up into town for a night out, returning on the last train back. Uncle Ken would be waiting outside of the tube station with a large cardboard sign in the front of the car saying “Crisp Taxi Service.”
I left England in 1985. Out visits became more sporadic, and we entered the “cards for birthdays and Christmas” era. Scattered with the occasional visit when I went home.
Over the last ten years though, I have been going home much more frequently. I stay with their daughter and I got to really sit and talk with Ken for quite some hours, and spend time looking at old photos. Curled up on their über-comfortable sofa and eating too much cheese on toast, in the home I have been visiting for more than fifty years. Snug and secure.
Uncle Ken and Mum. 1940. St. Ives, Cornwall.
Uncle Ken passed away on the 10th of June.
Just a fortnight before I had called him and we spent a good half hour on the phone chatting about everything. For this I will be eternally grateful.
I cannot go to the funeral, thanks to the ridiculous 14 day self-quarantine rule in the UK. I am not sad that I cannot be there, I am bloody annoyed.
Rest easy Uncle Ken. Although if Mum has got a hold of you that will be highly unlikely.
With love from your favourite niece.