Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My uncle was a one-armed paper hanger

Uncle Ralph was a most picaresque role model for an impressionable young lad. My earliest memory was of him living in a basement flat in Philbeach Gardens in Earl's Court (aka Kangaroo Valley on account of the number of Aussies who lived there). His lived with his girlfriend "in sin" as it was described in those days. Very exciting and risqué.

Uncle Ralph at my sister's wedding 1979
Uncle Ralph at my sister's wedding 1979

He was a qualified mechanical engineer and lost his right arm just above the elbow in an industrial accident. Interior decorator was not the obvious career switch for a man under those circumstances but so he chose.

He used to have a mechanical arm but it was heavy and he only wore it on formal occasions. The rest of the time he tucked up his sleeve as you can see. One of my more vivid memories was him driving round a corner whilst changing gear. This necessitated using his stump to steer whilst changing gear with his left hand - can I open my eyes now?

Uncle Ralph at my father's investure (MBE) 1984
Uncle Ralph at my father's investiture (MBE) 1984

It is over ten years since he died of a massive stroke which is one reason we have done several bike rides in aid of that charity.

And since you ask... He pasted the paper, concertinaed it, went up the ladder, headbutted the wall with the end piece, used the stump to hold it in place and his good arm to position the drop as it unfolded.

1 comment:

Rosa said...

Where's there's a will, there's a way! My brother is a quadriplegic and can sign his name with a pen in his mouth, could type with a mouth stick and so forth. Now there is voice recognition for computers which is very helpful! I had an Uncle Ralph also. What a name, huh.