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Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Of puddings and floods, the rest was forgot

When I couldn’t find the recipe in the book wherein I knew that it should lie, I called my father. He had been what F9 calls “most rude, how offensive” when I had spoken to him earlier. I had rattled off the contents of my morning (collect boy from party, take boy to ju-jitsu grading, take boys to Sports Relief Mile, cancelled, go home, get camera, photograph flooded field) and he had cut across me part way between “queued in the rain” and “waited an hour” to say “Christ, your life’s dull.”

So I felt that I could dispense with pleasantries, and just launch in about the sponge pudding and which book had it been in.
Which I did.
“What are you talking about?” he sighed irritably.

This was a shock, for the making of the pudding had been a seminal episode in my life. Of a sudden, my father had announced that he would do a meal a week and that I would help him. It would be called bonding these days.
(I think E said this once, too, not the bonding, God forbid, the cooking. Though whether four chicken pies over six years, with me in charge of pastry, quite counts, I’m not too sure. I’m kind enough to leave it open to debate.)

A man pudding it was, full of the use of superfluous bowls, gusts of flour, the scrape of the spoon against a non-stick pan, and endless washing up. But delicious, too. We had crowed in triumph and chomped cheerfully. It had been followed, the next weekend, by a less successful tomato soup involving a burnt wrist, temper and swearing, and then he gave up all pretence of interest in cooking, all boiled and chopped out, and deep in loathing for both syrup pudding and tomato soup. A familiar feeling to she who stirs the pot night after night.

“Don’t you remember?” I said, astounded and teetering near devastated disappointment that it featured not even as a blip on the radar of his past.
“I think we know all about your place in the reliable memory stakes,” E muttered in passing, a low blow referencing the dull creature I had found myself to be in the diaries, and not the interruption I needed. I turned my back on him.
“It took all afternoon,” I pleaded.

I have become good at sensing exasperation down the end of a phone.
“When was all this?” he asked, for politeness’ sake, while clearly doing something else like reaching for a knife to sever the connection.
“Oh, I was about 14,” I said.
“Christ, Mill, I don’t know. I’ll get Lizzie to call you.”

My mother phoned back later, she had been out walking the dog, and was fuming at the vandalism of massive redwoods sawn down in Ashton Court to Improve Accessibility for disabled people to the Amenity that had been, but by now, thanks to the Improvement, was no longer, Ashton Court. She was all but crying at the raping of the land and the brutal destruction of ancient trees in pursuit of a fine notion which didn’t need pursuing because wheelchairs on wonky hills are never going to be much of a goer. They’ve done a similar thing round here, tightened the laws to the point that the hall in question, unable to afford the required changes has had to be put up for sale. So no one can use it. The disabled group are furious because they never wanted to go upstairs anyway, “And if we do, someone will carry us,” one old chap said more than reasonably.

She remembered the sponge pudding.
I had remembered it by then, it had been a jam pudding we’d converted to syrup which was why it didn’t feature under “syrup” in the index, and I’d lost interest in it, so we talked about trees and I told her about the planned building down the road of 400 new houses.

Much of round here is in line for so much of the same, and you wonder at the shortness of memory, even worse than my father’s for a delicious pud, for this is an area which was overwhelmed by flooding just 9 months ago. In our village, and the village to which we will be horribly closer, we are all in mourning for the imminent loss of the status quo. Somehow, the developers have bypassed the normal planning niceties which cripple the rest of us wishing to extend our houses because we can’t afford to move, and skipped straight to and past appeal.
There is no hope.
The lying swine at the environmental agency claims that the field in question floods once in a thousand years. It was puddled deep in water at the weekend, as it is every time it rains, so I took some photos and now need to work out how to get them from camera to computer to whirring out on a piece of paper and thence to Hazel Blears, she of the harsh haircut, and to whom we have all been instructed to post our objectives. A sure case of the overflowing waste bin for Ms Blears and a weasely non-response thanking us for our interest from some hunched factotum.

No wonder all there is to be sure of is driving boys around. I can no longer seek refuge in meaningful moments from my past, not now that I've found that this is not shared, not as I'd hoped. Don't look back, and don't look out the window. Neither is there as you remember it.


KittyB said...

1. Childhood puddings are never as nice when you're grown up, so you probably wouldn't have enjoyed the jam/syrup concoction anyway - it would have made your grown-up teeth hurt with the sweetness.
2. Planners should all be sent straight to Hell, without passing Go or collecting their £200.
3. Bad tempered Dads. Sigh, mine too. Why do they have no joy any more?

Zoë said...

seems the world has gone building bonkers. Do write and make a fuss though Milla, it does help.

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Berlimey Milla - you poke your dad in the eye - how dare he call your life dull - when did he give himself permission to be the benchmark of your life - especially if he can't even be bothered to remember something that featured prominently in your younger years. No wonder you were so hard on yourself as a youngster.

As for the planning permission - gawd it is all so unfair. Councils either seem to say no to something which is a good idea, or yes to something which will cause havoc to many of the people living nearby. You set them straight about the flooding.

Frances said...

Milla, please do write the letter and send the photos. Maybe do another letter, and another.

Come to think of it, you might consider being a lobbyist for your area. You do realize that you put words together with thoughts much more eloquently than the average concerned citizen!

About not looking back, etc. Folks will often advise me to stay in "the Moment." I want to be able to pick the Moment in which to stay, but that never quite seems under control. Sometimes, though, I am quite surprised to find that the Moment found me!


LittleBrownDog said...

Much better than cleaning the kitchen floor, Milla. Planners and developers (not to mention She of the Harsh Haircut and Puddings from the Past) are laws unto themselves and it's a tough lesson we all have to learn at some point that the normal Laws of Life do not apply to them - sadly. But definitely worth penning a letter of complaint - you'd do it so well.

lampworkbeader said...

Here's hoping that you'll win the battle with the developers. The swines are trying to build 1500 houses on our local flood plain. Keep those letters flying...
Loved the dad and cooking saga.

Suffolkmum said...

Yes, agree, you must become disgusted of Gloucestershire. Your Dad sounds funny and mildy explosive - mine is too. We never 'bonded' over cooking though - he's never boiled an egg in his life. It is weird when significant moments from your childhood don't chime wih anyone else's memory!

Preseli Mags said...

I haven't ever cooked with my Dad, which might be a blessing! Give the planners everything you've got, as LBD says, you'd do it so well.

nuttycow said...

Hey Milla - thanks for the visit. Luckily, I can always find childhood recipes in my cookbooks. Invariably, they're on the pages stuck together with chocolate.

ChrisH said...

Yeah, well good luck with Ms Blears - I encountered her in a previous life. Suffice it to say I am not optimistic for you.

Now get stuck into the pudding - sigh I must go back to what I should be doing.

Edward said...

As Mr Milla I can tell you that the sponge pudding episode has been a recurring theme in our marriage - not so much "those blue remembered hills", as much as "that orange remembered hillock". I suspect that Camilla's father, by some margin the most impressive male human I've ever met, has had the good sense to purge his memory of what for him was probably a horrific episode. Luckily for us such memories, in the hands of an artist like milla, become 24ct blog.

Elizabethd said...

Dull!!! Hardly!
You are right, nothing, especially childhood, is quite as you remember it. I once returned to a house of my childhood, and all I could think was 'isnt it small'!

nuttycow said...

Milla - you've inspired me. Don't you feel blessed ;)


Pipany said...

Loathe my childhood memories as the ones that stand out and leap to the forefront clamering for attention are always the c**p ones - being bullied, loneliness, shyness...urghhhh!!!! Look ahead Milla and b****r the sponge! xx

Lucy Diamond said...

Good luck with the photos, the Blears and especially the pudding... (how could he have FORGOTTEN such a triumph??)

Withy Brook said...

Memories are such fickle things, as you have found in more ways than one Milla. Something important to me came up the other day and others had no recollection of it whatsoever! I don't think he really meant your life was boring - just the series of events that had happened that morning!!!!
Best of luck with the planners - building on flood planes are red rags to a bull to me!

Moley-Bloke said...

Planners make me cross!!! They wouldn't let me raise my ridgeline by 500mm for my loft conversion... Said it would spoil the look of the area... EVERY ROOF IS DIFFERENT HERE!!! Cheeky monkeys.

Fennie said...

Oh dear! Such poignancy and sadness oozing from between the flooded paving stones of good sense. From puddings to ancient redwoods to red tape and building in silly places. But, count your blessings. The pudding has been revived and no doubt improved. You are still phoning your father, who I'm sure meant his comment kindly, even if it didn't come across that way, and the flooded field and felled woods are surely meant to be the remunerative subject for an inaugural Milla slot on Radio 4 or one of the broadsheets. After which no one would be prouder of you than Dad. And if all that fails just remind him that it will be you choosing his retirement home.

mountainear said...

Don't give up on either pudding or planning. And please let us know whether the first sticks to the spoon and is best eaten with custard!

Exmoorjane said...

Alas poor pudding. Planners need a stern dose of Angry Milla. Plain bonkers, all of them. Rage, rage, rage, my dear......or send them puddings.

Cait O'Connor said...

You could always throw pudding at the planners or Hazel come to that (can't stick the woman, me not the pudding).

A Mother's Place is in the Wrong said...

Dear Milla, that brought back memories for me too - my Dad was a great cook (much better than my Mum), but isn't around any more to get ratty with! Mothers remember while Fathers forget - is that too much of a generalisation? Probably. M xx
I agree, do make a fuss.

Faith said...

Poignant post Milla. We used to have syrup pudding and I hated it! Hope you get somewhere with the planners - keep at it. Your father might be grumpy, mine was - but its still very sad when they die. And then you have no choice but to look back - it all comes flooding back.

KAREN said...

What a great writer you are :o)

It's funny how my meaningful moments from the past are completely different to my brothers' and sister's, even though we grew up in the same house with the same parents.

Sounds to me like your dad might have been suffering from Selective Memory Loss in much the same way my grandmother used to suffer Selective Deafness. Especially when my grandfather demanded to know the whereabouts of clean socks...

I like syrup pudding a lot more than I like planning officials.

Maggie May said...

it is a pity when our parents age & I fear I might be getting like this with MY kids!

How awful being on a flood plane! You need to write & write & write to who ever & get something done. It is one of the things that makes my blood boil when these homes are put up purely for profit, without any thought at all for the residents involved.
I will blow a gasket if I think about it too much!

CAMILLA said...

Dull, No, no, you could never be dull Milla, I disagree entirely. Dont beat yourself up about it, my Father was exactly the same when I was a little girl, I was never even allowed to eat that piece of pink salmon that he so gluttonly hid away for himself.

Onwards and upwards Milla, you are a great writer and give us so much inspiration.

Best of luck with the Planners, a sticky pudding needs to be thrown in their path I think.


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