We called him ‘Uncle Muncle’. This photo (below) was taken at my christening in 1992. When I was small he used to take me out on day trips – to a museum, or we’d have lunch. He took me to the ballet for the first time, and I cried because I didn’t want to leave. I said, ‘Can you ask them to do it again?’
He lived with us for a bit, when I was about 10. My mum and dad were always casual about breakfast and my sister Kesewa and I were left to our own devices, but Uncle Muncle took it upon himself to make feasts, which he’d get up really early to create, and he’d always make us try new things like kippers. Everything had a story behind it: so when he gave us pomegranate, he’d tell us about Persephone.
We’d sometimes go to his house for sleepovers at weekends. He was really strict about things like manners, finishing our meals, speaking in the right way, writing thank-you letters; it was annoying at the time, but everything we’ve learnt has come from my parents or Uncle Muncle. When it’s your parents you’re more likely to rebel, but with a godparent, you really want to make them proud.
He used to make us incredible outfits for every school play, every Hallowe’en. I remember being in Oliver Twist and I had the whole ensemble – ragged shorts, waistcoat. I overshadowed Oliver, and I was in the chorus! And he made Kesewa this amazing anaconda outfit, with satin snakes going all around her. We always won the Easter bonnet competition.
He was my godfather but it was as if we were both his children really, we were like a family. He went above and beyond – he wouldn’t just give me a doll, he would take me to the fabric store and then help to sew all these outfits for it. He had 13 god-children – he had to stop saying yes, in the end.
He had this amazing quality of making you feel so important and special. I’ve met so many interesting people through my mum and dad but he was magical – everything was an adventure. I learnt so much from him.
For my 18th birthday he gave me a silver and diamond heart necklace, and then for my 21st he made me an amazing piece of jewellery: an emerald, which is my birthstone, with little pearls on it. He organised my 21st birthday party, with my aunties, in Cumbria. We had an amazing tent and fireworks and he did all the flowers – and pink lighting, and incredible food.
When I was really sick he was at my bedside the whole time. I wish I’d known how ill he was; but I think he knew how much we loved him. I visited him two weeks before he died. He said, ‘You’re wearing the necklace I gave you.’ There was something different in his face; he definitely wasn’t himself. I told him about a massive charity event for Save the Children I was involved with and even from his hospital bed he said, ‘Come back and we’ll plan it all out.’ I didn’t see him again.
I feel really lucky to have been so close to him: when he was no longer there, I realised how much of my life was ingrained with him. All those moments – when he built us the wendy house, when he let us put frogs in his pond, when he made us eat hideous pumpkin risotto. When I look at his Instagram and see all those pictures of me, and of Kesewa… He was so proud of us, which is so nice to know. I was proud of him as well.