Thanks to Tony, village hall has been in safe hands for 35 years
- Credit: Nick Butcher
After 35 years of cleaning, clearing and fixing, Tony Fox has handed over his caretaker's keys.
But having looked after Blundeston Village Hall for more than three decades, friends and neighbours could not let him go without thanking him for his efforts, so they got together to give him the send-off he deserved.
The father-of-three, who has shared the role of village hall caretaker with his wife Janet, was bowled over with the surprise presentation on New Year's Day. 'I really didn't expect it,' said Mr Fox, 78.
'We just came to give the keys in and do the last bit of clearing up.'
Mr Fox and his wife, 72, took over village hall duties from former caretakers Mr and Mrs Paul.
Since then, they have kept the place looking smart and in good condition for the dozens of clubs and societies that use the building, from the Women's Institute to local toddlers' group.
Mr Fox said their time in charge had been 'a pleasure', and there had been some memorable moments.
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'The time the toilets blocked is something I won't forget,' he joked.
'We had a big party on the Millennium Green which was good fun. We filmed it and I made a DVD.
'We've done weddings, funerals, reunions. We've got good memories – 35 years' worth.
'We've met a lot of lovely people. There are some really nice people in the village.'
Not every memory is positive, though. Mr Fox recalled the year vandals smashed every window at the hall and, while they had an idea of who was responsible, the culprits were never brought to justice.
Born and raised in Hopton before moving to Lound, Mr Fox described himself as a 'country boy' who loves working outdoors. His first job after he and his wife married in Gunton in 1959 was was on the Somerleyton estate where he worked as a forester for the former Lord Somerleyton for 15 years.
'That was a brilliant job,' he said. 'We had to saw all the wood for the estate; 40 tonnes of it.
'Me and my brother, Roy, were on first name terms with Lord Somerleyton while everyone else was known by their surname. Then again, that might have been because he couldn't tell us apart!'
After Somerleyton, the couple moved to Blundeston and Mr Fox had a handful of jobs before joining Birds Eye where he stayed for more than 30 years before taking on his caretaker's role full-time after his retirement.
Even though he is due a rest and hopes to spend more time with his daughters, Michelle, Diane and Carol, and his five grandchildren, he hopes to keep busy. 'I'm sure I'll still do the odd job around the village,' he said. 'One of my daughters has a big garden that I take care of, so I'll keep myself busy. I can't be kept inside.'
The new caretaker is Ali Shelton, treasurer of Blundeston in Bloom, who has lived in the village for five years.
Like her predecessor, she does not mind hard graft – whatever the weather.
'I am a horticulturist,' she said. 'So I'm not worried about a bit of damp or cold.'