Monday, 2 February 2009

My Dad, my Mum the cat and the trifle.

This is a photo taken of me and my sister. I can't exactly remember when but it is at least 40 years ago and was taken in the back garden of one of our first family homes in Stoke (I'm the little flump on the right).

My sister is five years older than me. She's only small (she never grew more than about 5ft and a fag end) but she's one of the most bossy people I know - yet when I was growing up, and even now, I really wished I could be more like her.

As the oldest of the three of us, my sister always had the hardest time when it came to our Dad. He was not the easiest person to get on with, in fact, at times it was very difficult and even though he's no longer with us, the way he treated my sister and us has had a lasting effect on her because she refuses to talk about him or acknowledge his birthday or the date of his death to this day.

We look happy enough in the photo and to be honest, I was well aware of the rows that my Mum and Dad used to have and more often than not I used to feel the back of my Dad's hand when I misbehaved. However, as scared as we were of him sometimes, he was our Dad and I loved him.

This feeling however, is lost on my sister. She can't forgive him for some of the hurtful things he said to her in her youth and the way he treated our Mum throughout their marriage. He was a bully and he was hard to live with, but as I said before, he was our Dad and I loved him although at times I wondered why.

They say you can choose your friends and you can't choose your family. My Dad literally drove us all away from home as soon as we had the chance. I used to come home every weekend because of work commitments but during the week, I was allowed to be myself. At the weekends, I had to tow the line and not upset him in case he took it out on my Mum.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad all the time, in fact we had some great times as a family but there always seemed to be something that would set my Dad off and then we'd feel this black cloud descend upon us.

One of the great things I inherited from Mum and Dad was a sense of humour. Dad did have a great sense of humour and there were times when we laughed ourselves silly to the extent of having stitch in our sides. We had some great laughs and I try to keep those memories with me to delete some of the bad ones.

As well as a great sense of humour, I have also inherited my Mum's sneaky traits! She was the Queen of pulling the wool over my Dad's eyes and sometimes, she got away with the most amazing things!

I'll never forget one Christmas. My Mum used to make the best sherry trifle and we all used to wait with empty bowls pining for the best or biggest portions. It was mouthwateringly superb. Layers of cream, custard, fruit, sherry, sponge - you name it, it was included and it was like nothing I've tasted before or since.

After our Christmas lunch, Mum bought out the trifle. It was housed in a big, beautiful crystal bowl we couldn't wait to get stuck in!!

Even when all five of us had a big bowl each, there was still enough for our tea. Mum took the remainder of the trifle and put it on the kitchen table while we all helped to tidy up after dinner.

Unfortunately, Mum didn't cover it with cling film and by the time we came back into the kitchen, the family cat was licking the cream off the top!!!

I was so upset because I knew that Dad would go up the wall and if there wasn't any for his tea, we would all know about it. However, Mum being Mum and the natural successor to Henry Kissinger for diplomacy, had a grand plan.

"Only you and I know that the cat has licked the cream off the top of the trifle" she said. "I know just what to do."

She went in to the fridge and got out the remainder of the whipped fresh cream and carefully re-covered the missing bits that the cat had licked off. She then got the pot of hundreds and thousands and sprinkled them on top.

"There you go" she said "as good as new!" I couldn't believe it, was she seriously going to try and carry on as nothing had happened and bring this out at tea time?

Yup!!! However, I had a quiet word with my sister and brother and told them that if they knew what was good for them, they'd skip the trfile at tea time and have something else.

Tea time came. Turkey sandwiches with branston pickle followed by trifle.

"Mmmmm" my Dad said. "Trifle." He was extremely surprised that no-one else wanted any saying that we wolfed it down at lunchtime, but little did he know that most of the cream from the original trifle was now firmly lodged in the cat's tum.

"Please yourselves," he said. "That means more for me!"

We laughed about that act of deception for years to come and it was only much later towards the end of my Dad's life and after Mum had passed away that I fessed up about what Mum and I had done.

Ironically, he laughed about it when I told him, but I very much doubt he would have done so at the time!

That one act of blind panic to replace the cream by my Mum all those many years ago, actually gave my Dad and me one of those wonderful belly laughs later on in our lives that I remember well and for that, I will always be grateful!