Yesterday I attended an enjoyable family lunch in Knightsbridge hosted by my father on what would have my mother’s 90th birthday, had she still been alive.
It might be churlish of me to remark that one aspect of the occasion that surprised me was how little of it was spent actually paying tribute to the ‘absent guest’, or indeed recalling incidents in which she starred. That is no criticism, even of myself. It was just that in the natural flow of the conversation she didn’t feature much.
Towards the end I made a token effort to rectify the omission by asking for help in identifying some of her favourite, or most celebrated, cooking dishes. However, once we’d got past potato cakes ladled with butter, Lancashire hot pot made (incongruously) with beef rather than lamb, boiled eggs in cheese sauce with boiled potatoes, crème brȗlée, lemon tart, spotted dick with Golden Syrup and her chocolate sauce for puddings … er, that was about it.
My father was on good form, albeit I sensed that he was a little weary after travelled from the coast by train for the second consecutive day.
There wasn’t a single memory or anecdote aired that we hadn’t heard many times before, but I had expected this. Hell knows, I’m sure I trot out the few stories I can recall more often than is good for me or others – and I’m over a quarter of a century his junior!
Last night, after my father had safely returned home, I received a call from him.
He wanted me to assist him in identifying how much the meal had cost because he could neither remember paying for it, nor find the receipt. As I had been downstairs at the time the bill was presented at our table, trying to organise the summoning of a taxi, I had no knowledge of the subject and so called one of my brothers to check. He assured me that my father had paid for the meal by credit card and that he (the brother) had kept the receipt.
Such things become part and parcel of everyday life when you’ve been around for more than a short while.