Tuesday, 11 April 2017 – 9:38am
Today feels like a Sunday. Some distant memory of how Sundays used to be when I was a kid: quiet. I like quiet. There is something very comforting about quiet, or at least where ambient sounds are kept to a minimum. As a child, quiet meant that I wasn’t being shouted at for breathing; and back in those days most people got up late on a Sunday and were expected to observe God’s day of rest, at least in passing.
Sundays were for doing nothing, not even going to church. Sunday also meant a traditional roast dinner, served at lunch, and usually enjoyed with the family, sometimes the extended family if there was enough to go around. Roast dinner was an event not beholden to the usual time one might have dinner, and often, it took as long as it took from preparation to the long awaited eating. Then there would be a special dessert reserved only for Sundays, and later in the evening, supper which would often consist of leftover-sandwiches and other snacks.
By the time I awoke on a Sunday morning I could hear the familiar whir of the fan oven, and wonderful smells of roasting lamb or chicken wafting up the stairs from the kitchen. Roast lamb was my favourite. My mother always managed to overcook the chicken so that it would have the crispiest skin, but whose flesh would be as dry as bone. The roast potatoes were deep-fried rather than roasted, and were usually a tad on the burnt side. The greens were always a soggy pile of tasteless yuck, along with the rubberised carrots, who’d long been divorced of their nutrients. But the Yorkshires were my favourite. They came out of a packet so there wasn’t much to mess up, and with my mother’s deep frying skills, she nailed them. Any one who has ever made a proper Yorkshire Pudding knows that the oil has to be almost smoking hot before you pour in the batter.
My mother wasn’t much of a cook, and resented having to prepare food. Just another chore on her never-ending list of things to do around the house. But she did it because that’s what Spanish women did in her day, and she was the stereotypically disgruntled Andalusian housewife and mother with bells and whistles on. I never saw her gruntled. Although on Sundays even she relaxed her usual choke-hold on the world, and for a few hours at least I could enjoy peace and quiet, and entertain the notion that perhaps she was a decent person after all, somewhere deep, deep inside, buried beneath her many layers of contempt, make-up and jangling jewellery.
She always dressed up on a Sunday. I think there was a secret hope that my Dad, when he was still around and it was a nice day, would want to take us down to the Mayflower pub, which was only a five minute car ride away. There was a children’s play area in the gardens (that’s how I remember it anyway), which my brother and I delighted in running around, trying to get as much enjoyment out of it until the next rare occasion.
These days I barely notice the difference from one day to the next. My days aren’t as clearly defined anymore by the routines of an hourly schedule, or the observations of social norms, so I relish the quiet days, the only real reminder I have of time passing at all. A stark contrast to the usual ambient din that pervades the airwaves here, far, far away from the Thames borough I grew up in.
The hatred of my mother’s cooking did inspire me to become a good cook, if only to vindicate my poor tastebuds from the years of abuse. Indirectly, I suppose you could say my mother had some positive influence on me. Although it was years before I attempted my own roast dinner, though I never did make Yorkshire Pudding. Some things just deserve to stay in the past, where they might shine a light for further quiet days to come.