Wednesday, 25 May 2016

One man and his dog...

Cro's post about Elderflower Champagne has put me in mind of my Summer father. This one was almost the same as my Winter father, but a little more outgoing.

I never, ever, saw my father's bare legs during the whole of my life. As a result of them being badly broken in multiple places during a bomber crash over Kent in WW2, he bandaged them both every day from foot to knee. This was a ritual which - because I knew no different - I did not consider at all unusual. The long, off-white bandages would be washed in pairs and hung to dry in the bathroom until the next change.

If we went to the beach, he would sit on the edge of the sea with his usual charcoal grey trousers on (polished on the seat to a high sheen) and if the weather was hot, he might take his drip-dry, nylon, white shirt off, but leave his baggy, sleeveless vest on. I remember my mother's horror one day in Brighton, when he actually knotted a handkerchief and put it on his head. He looked like a naughty postcard, but with the innuendo.

Sometimes he would come in from the garden for Sunday lunch on a hot afternoon and sit at the end of the table in his vest which gaped horribly to us kids, exposing a white, flabby chest which glistened with sweat. The heat did not diminish his appetite and every meal involved a massive mound of potatoes - and I mean massive - so the sweating did not diminish either.

I found his body - I am ashamed to say - somewhat embarrassing as a kid, so was relieved that most of it was hardly ever exposed, but now I have inherited an identical one, so I have been punished for my youthful disdain.

The other thing I have inherited from him is/was his tendency to suddenly hit on an idea for a little project which usually involved a false economy by attempting to make things which could easily be bought, ready-made, from people who actually know how to make them.

He was, by no means, a big drinker. He would sip one glass of port or sherry at Christmas and make it last all night. On a hot Summer day, he might buy a bottle of fizzy cider, but this was more to do with a romantic notion of what a Thomas Hardy-type rustic would do after half a day's mowing with a large scythe, and he did spend some time mowing our huge, rough patch of lawn with a genuinely large scythe before he bought a petrol-mower. This cider would be accompanied by hunks of bread and cheese with pickled onions for the full experience. It made him happy, and I often do the same sort of thing. It makes me happy too.

One day, he decided to make his own beer - cider would have been too complicated without an apple press, and pre-squeezed apple juice was hard to come by in those days.

He acquired a load of large brown glass bottles with Bakelite screw-tops and rubber seals, then set to work stinking the kitchen out with the smell of boiling hops. This beer was going to be fizzy - the fizz was the magic touch which he was looking for. The brew was to ferment in the bottles and the bottles would produce the satisfying FFFZZZ when opened, and leave a thick, frothy head on the beer when poured. Well, that was the plan anyway.

He bottled the brew and screwed the tops on tight, then stacked them in neat rows in a dark cupboard near the kitchen to mature. I think they were to be there for a week or two.

A few days later, there was a deafening explosion from the cupboard, followed by the sound of broken glass falling to the floor. We all looked at each other in shock before we understood what was happening.

My mother instinctively went toward the cupboard to begin clearing up the mess, but was stopped by him. He tried to remember exactly how many bottles he had brewed, then  - over a period of about 4 hours - we counted the explosions off one by one - and out loud - before it was considered safe to go into the cupboard. We all thought it hilarious, but he didn't.

BANG! - Number 8.

BANG! - Number 9.

(Twenty minutes later)

BANG! - Number 10.

(Half an hour later)

BANG! - Number 11.

(Around the end of the day)

BANG! - Number 15! Hooray!

"Right. That was the last."

"Are you SURE?!"

26 comments:

  1. My pastey white father made his own wine in the basement from time to time. I was too young to have ever tried it so I don't know if it was any good or not. He offered it to guests. It was more like a dare. -Jenn (thoroughly enjoyed this post!)

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    1. Hmm. Wine from concentrate. Not a good idea.

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  2. An all too familiar event. My own experiment in cider making (aged about 8) went a similar way, and I remember my father very gingerly accompanying the last bottle to the bottom of the garden where it too exploded the following day. What larks.

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  3. Nicely written and remembered

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  4. I enjoyed reading this remembrance of your seasonal father very much. You do write well.

    Best wishes.

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  5. We are becoming more and more like our parents during the years,somtimes i hear my mother wehen i speak.
    You write so beautiful.

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    1. Long ago, I understood that this is everyone's fate. Everyone blames their parents, generation after generation.

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  6. I like your memories of your dad. Do he ever attempt to make more beer after the disastrous first attempt?

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    1. No, but I did. I was about 13 or so, and made damn sure it was very strong, then I drank it with their blessing and got quietly pissed without them suspecting anything.

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  7. It was a ginger beer moment for my Dad who loved a ginger beer shandy. He ended up re-papering the hall.

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    1. This must have happened in almost every household, then!

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  8. Loved this post, made me chuckle just imagining your faces as the explosions started.

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    1. We laughed, but under our breaths...

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  9. Very nice. I bet he regretted the loss of all those bottles for another go.

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    1. I think this would have been a one-off in any case.

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  10. Tom, I do like the sound of your father - so I guess I would probably like you too (although I would like to forego the view in the vest please.)

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    1. Don't worry - if we ever meet, I will be wearing a dinner-jacket.

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  11. I never imagined you with a white flabby chest.

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    1. Not a sentence that has been uttered to you either Rach

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  12. A very nice post, Tom. I think you once posted a picture of your parents; I remember a lovely couple.
    Greetings Maria x

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    1. Yes, they were. My mother was a model in the late 1930s, and my father was ridiculously handsome. They did their best to be good parents as well, which is more than I can say.

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