My Uncle Harold was responsible for many a laugh in this column. Sadly the tears of joy turned to tears of sadness when he passed away on Monday.
Sometimes Harold was the butt of the joke, like the time his new socks became an extra hazard for golfers on the ninth hole at Lurgan, the occasion when he got into a tight situation with a pair of cords in a Marks and Spencer changing room, or his bump in the night in Glasgow when he fell through a slatted bed.
Other times he was the one providing me with humorous material. When I went on honeymoon in 2008 Harold took on with aplomb the role of guest columnist. He continued to supply quality gags for Yer Man and was also the source of several big scoops in the paper.
I think the first time Harold appeared in this column was over three years ago during one of his hospital visits as he battled the illness which eventually took his life on Monday morning. The nurse, who had been monitoring Harold’s overnight progress, wrote on his chart: ‘Patient slept comfortably apart from three loud snorts’.
From then on you would have thought he’d have been more careful about what he told me in case it went in the paper. Time and time again Harold would give off about having his dirty laundry aired in public (we’re back to those socks again). Yet time and time again he would feed me with irresistible stories about his calamities and mishaps. I think he took more offense about the times he was left out of the column than the times he was in it.
I’ll never forget the day I spent with Harold at the donkey derby at Pollock Park. He spent all day studying the form, watching the jockeys and their mounts warm up and checking which donkeys had gone to the loo before the race and which ones hadn’t. So confident was he that he knew which donkey and rider combination would come first that he put £2 on it. Sure enough he was right. His winnings were a whopping £3.
We often joked Harold was at his happiest when he was moaning. His dry wit and flair for language meant when it came to moaning he was cut above the rest. Harold was the Barcelona of being grumpy.
Two of Harold’s biggest loves were sport and sweets. At the Villa Marina on the Isle of Man, when Harold was but a boy, he combined his two passions by pinging a grizzled, old wrestler on the back on the head with a mint imperial.
As a history teacher, Harold had a passion for general knowledge and loved quizzes. He was a great player to have in your quiz team and in his hey day he was rumoured to have been the target of a six figure bid by the Eggheads. When faced with a question he didn’t know the answer to, Harold always come up with the same response – “Sure, that’s a stupid question”. He reacted the same way when he hit an obstacle on the golf course - “Sure, that’s a stupid place to put a tree,” you would hear him say.
Upon retirement Harold created a certain Feng Shui to his home. This meant that if anybody touched the remote control to the TV they were likely to “get burst”. It was only very recently that Harold started using the coloured button on his Sky+ remote. My dad had encouraged him on a number of occasions to go ‘behind the red button’, but Harold put up sceptical resistance that if he went behind the red button he mightn’t be able to get back out again.
Harold was a creature of habit in the most endearing way. Once he took his shoes and socks off, that was him for the night. He made himself so comfortable on his sofa that it took on his imprint and rejected anyone else who tried to sit in it. It could be argued my uncle invented memory foam.
Foam or otherwise, I will cherish every single memory of my uncle and I’m quite sure in no time at all the tears of sadness will run dry and the smiles and laughter will live on as a fitting tribute to the man known to some as Bungee, to others as Barry Cousins’ friend, and to me as Uncle Harold.