Grief is a funny thing. Initially after losing my Dad (what a silly term – we didn’t mislay him, like a missing phone or a set of keys), we were all in shock. I’m a terrible cryer at the best of times (RSPCA adverts, Cinderella Castle, fireworks, Disney songs, people singing in choirs, people singing Disney songs in choirs, puppies, sad films, stubbed toes…) so the first few days were just basically spent surrounded by a sea of soggy tissues. We would all be okay then one of us would start and set all the others off again. After a while, though, I kind of felt like I was all cried out, and we could think and talk and reminisce about him without as many tears. And then the weirdness set in. I’ve found myself obsessing about teeny, tiny details: exactly what flowers and foliage are going to be in our wreath (pale yellow roses – he loved a bit of yellow – lots of eucalyptus, please, and absolutely none of that frondy asparagus stuff) and – here’s the big one: what do you wear to a funeral? If you follow my Facebook page, you’ll know that we’ve been having chats about it online, and people have been so kind and helpful, giving me all sorts of suggestions (which of course set me off crying again), but I still can’t make my mind up.
Have you seen Trainwreck? There’s a scene in the film where Amy Schumer’s character is giving a eulogy to her father at his funeral. I watched it on a plane and laughed so hard when she said ‘raise your hand if our Dad ever offended you’ and everyone put their hand up. This would literally be me at my Dad’s funeral, I thought. Haha. You never imagine it actually happening though, do you? But then yesterday, at 10.30 am on New Year’s Day 2018, he died, peacefully, with his wife Allison holding his hand. This huge, larger than life character, such a force in my life, is no more. Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone…
My Dad’s not been well recently, so he’s not as active in his garden as he once was. He rang me last week and asked if I wanted any fruit, and Sam and I popped in to see him and to perform a quick raid of his gorgeous fruit trees. There are so many plums on the tree they’re weighing down the branches (and the wasps are having a field day), so we picked a load of those and also a load of his apples – I’m not sure of the variety but they’re somewhere in between an eater and a cooker and make awesome crumble. Seeing as we’d picked some blackberries on our walk, I thought I’d make an apple, plum and blackberry crumble. Here’s how to recreate it:
My poor Dad’s been having a really terrible time of it recently. After a horrendous biopsy to investigate a shadow on his kidney proved inconclusive, he’s now recovering slowly, with the terrible prospect of facing the whole thing all over again. He’s lost loads of weight and is feeling really rotten, so when I initially suggested a birthday dinner, we weren’t sure it would go ahead, but in true form, The Naughty One rallied and decided he’d come and celebrate with us this weekend. I cooked his favourite fish pie, and went mad with dessert: a salted caramel layer cake with a layer of vanilla sponge, one of caramel sponge and one chocolate sponge layer, all slathered in a salted caramel mascarpone cream (well it’s not every day you’re 82).
Since we’ve knocked through the kitchen/dining room, my kitchen is one of our favourite spaces. It’s not flashy (we couldn’t afford new units so we just changed the worktop, tiles and – finally this year – the flooring), but it’s so light and bright now, and along with our brightly painted, upcycled kitchen table, chairs and wall units (thanks to Mr E) it’s happy and homely too. I’m always on the lookout for cheerful, quirky things, so here’s my summer kitchen roundup, including some really rather lovely sale items!
So my lovely, naughty, silly Dad is 79 this weekend. We tried to pin him down to a date to come for dinner, but he’s such a social butterfly that he didn’t have a day free. We compromised by persuading him to pop round after going out for dinner somewhere else to have the cheese and dessert courses with us! Read more
My Dad and his wife have a beautiful garden at their lovely bungalow tucked away down a leafy lane in Hertfordshire. The garden is centred around a wide piece of lawn, is completely enclosed and private and has the most wonderful flowers and fruit trees. We were walking around talking about his plans for the strawberry and raspberry beds (dig them up and start again – apparently they only last a certain amount of years) and discussing the fact that all the plums on the tree this year have little worms in them (I tested this – they do. Ugh) when we came across the big old apple tree which is GROANING with huge apples. I obviously offered to relieve him of some of the glut (I’m all heart), and we arrived home with his strimmer, hedge cutter and a huge bag of apples!
Even though it was still quite warm, we decided that apple crumble was the only way to go. Here’s how I made it. I like oats in my crumble and crunchy brown sugar, but personalise it however you see fit, maybe add sultanas or cinnamon in with the apple, or sprinkle the finished crumble with slivers of almond.
For the apples:
6 or 7 Bramley apples (my Dad’s apples aren’t Bramleys, but seem similar)
Big splosh of apple juice or water (say 100ml?)
2 tbsp brown sugar
For the crumble:
225g plain flour
125g brown sugar (I use Demarara)
25g porridge oats
Preheat the oven to gas 6/200 degrees.
To prepare the apples, just peel and core them, then slice them into smallish chunks. While I’m doing it, I pop them into a bowl of salted water to stop them going brown. When they’re all done, drain them and put them into your pie dish. Sprinkle over the couple of tablespoons of sugar and pour over the liquid (water is fine). Give them a quick stir to distribute the sugar.
For the crumble: rub the butter and flour together (not too fine – a lumpy texture is better), then stir in the sugar and porridge oats. Cover the apples with the crumble and bake for about 30 minutes. Serve with double cream or custard. Oh, and you can’t beat a cold bowl of crumble with yoghurt for breakfast either. Yummy.
My poor Disreputable Dad’s taken yet another nasty tumble. He’s got quite a talent for comedic falls, my Dad. I wonder if he’s got some sort of dodgy centre of gravity (it could be the slight restaurant belly that’s doing it…). You may remember the case of the nuns and the travelator a while back – well, he’s had two more since then. During their honeymoon (I did try not to laugh at this one, but it IS quite amusing), he was telling me how he got up in the night (after several large ones – ‘you know how they like to cover the ice with Cointreau in the bar? Well I complained about something and got a free one too’), made a grab for the bathroom door handle, missed, and fell sideways into the bath. This would have been comedy gold on its own, had he not then made a grab for the tap in an effort to push himself upright, only succeeding in turning it on and showering himself with cold water.
This time, though, he was at the local cricket club, walking up some steps while engrossed in what was happening on the pitch. He lost his footing and managed to crack his chin, ribs AND somehow cut all the back of his hand.
‘Did anyone see you?’, I asked
‘No, I had a quick check and I got away with it’
That wasn’t quite the point I was trying to make – it was more did anyone see you so they could come and help you. What he actually did was pick himself up, stumble to his car, wrapping his hanky around the bits that were bleeding most, and manage to drive home, arriving bleeding and disheveled on the doorstep, much to his wife’s horror (‘he bled on the bloody car as well’).
So now he’s got a fetching blue bruise in the shape of a goatee across his chin, a very badly bruised ribcage, and a hand held together with stitches (he let me take this photo, by the way, because you’d never believe me about the ‘hipster facial hair’ bruise unless you saw it first hand).
‘It’s not too bad’, he said, whilst sipping his second glass of my favourite Villa Maria, ‘at least I can’t drive’.
For all the things you’ve given me:
A good example.
A hideously bad example
A love of food and wine
An appreciation of the ridiculous
A fabulous Grandfather for my sons
A hatred of politics (!)
Madame Tussaud’s, Whipsnade Zoo, the theatre, the cinema, a thousand restaurants
Paella and donkey rides of terror down precipitous mountains…
Enough ridiculous presents to sink a ship
‘I love you, Dad’. ‘Thank you’.
41 extremely silly birthday cards
A million hugs, several hundred very cross lectures
A knack for the complaint letter
Bruises from a lifetime of squeezed legs (just above the knee – hurts like a bitch)
Perfume: musk and floral and green and exotic
Enough belly laughs for several lifetimes
Curiosity about the world – a love of travel and new experiences
Airports and taxis, coaches and trains
A hatred of practical jokes (the coffee in the ear is probably a lot to do with it)
A pain in my arse… a flea in my ear…
But always a letter to the boys, an email, a phone call, a snippet from the newspaper that I’d like… a reminder that you don’t forget about us.
You make me laugh, you drive me mad…
Happy Fathers’ Day, Dad
This is an entry for Tara Cain’s gallery. For more interpretations of the theme ‘Dad’, click here
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