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Sunday, 25 March 2012

Mother's Day 2012 and more.....

Last weekend Dawn and I had a ride up to St Pancras and Islington Cemetery to visit my parents' grave for Mother's Day.  Even though we lost Mum over fifteen years ago, it was still an emotional occasion.  Visiting the cemetery now reminds me that not only is Mum no longer with us, but also that Dad and my eldest brother are no longer around either.

We only lost Dad and George in the last eighteen months and it's still hard to accept that they are both gone.   We had always worried what would happen to George when it was Dad's time. We never dreamt that he would go first.  I'm also sure that his heart attack also played a part in Dad's time too.  I think he stayed around to be there for George and with George gone, Dad felt he could go too. He hadn't been well for quite a while and went downhill pretty quickly after George was gone.
Our visit to the cemetery also gave me a chance to clean up my great-grandparents' grave too. I'd found it on my previous visit and it was pretty overgrown.  Clearing away the moss, weeds and even a few branches from trees close by made me think about our mortality and those we leave behind.   Over the last 15 years (while I have been in England), I have made a point of paying my respects on special occasions like birthdays, Mother's and Father's Days and anniversaries.  But what about my great grandparents?  How did their grave get so overgrown?  They had three sons who each had children.  My grandfather being one of them.  And they had grandchildren, too.
But at least there was a memorial stone for them. 
My grandparents (who passed away in 1936 and 1957 respectively) were both buried without a memorial stone. When I first visited their grave in the 80s , it came as a shock to stand over their last resting place with no visible sign that they were either buried there or had existed.  Thankfully, as their grandson, I was able to take ownership of the grave and get a small stone laid.  There was a place for Dad too, but he bought a grave for him and mum.  So when George died, it was decided to lay him to rest there and we got a new stone like Mum's.

But spending time around these memorial stones made me think about our future.  And not only ours, but others like us.  There were hundreds of graves with memorial stones completely overgrown having not been visited by loved ones in years, if not decades.  Which I found extremely disturbing.  How many generations must past before these memorials to our descendants become neglected? Visiting my parents' grave gives me comfort, but what will happen when I am no longer around? 

And what will happen to me?  I think I'll get cremated and have my ashes spread on the beach at Hayle.  This means that I'll have no overgrown memorial stone.  No grave for family to grieve over either.  I just hope this is the way in the future.  So I'd better lose some weight, get some exercise in and make sure that I look after myself more than I have been of late.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Pico de Gallo

Many moons ago the range of cuisine that adorned my dinner table was limited to meat and two veg.  Foreign food was limited to either home-made spaghetti bolognese made from canned mince meat, tomato puree and bay leaves; a pizza; or a curried take-away from the local Chinese shop.  No wonder the Brits had a reputation for eating bland food. Today my stomach cringes at the thought.

Then I met Dawn and my taste buds were exposed to pleasures they never knew existed.  In addition to Chinese, there was now Thai food with its coconut milk curries, spicy Indian jalfrezi, paellas, risottos with creamy rice, frogs' legs, raw and fried oysters, crawfish, pulled pork, cornbread, and an assortment of vegetables I'd never heard of let alone eaten. 

However, it was Mexican food that really opened my eyes to the concept that food could be pleasurable, nourishing and eye candy.  And the one dish that captures this more than other is Pico de Gallo.  This simple salad (or salsa, as it is better known) combines a handful of diced ingredients and spices and can compliment an enchilada or taco or another Mexican dish you choose. 

The refreshing tomato and lime juice bring the taste buds to life, while the red onion gives you a bite, the jalapeno adds heat, and the cumin and coriander takes you to exotic lands of warmth only dreamt about on a cold winter day in England. Best of all is that there is no cooking involved.  All you need to do place diced the tomatoes and red onion in a bowl.  Add a finely chop a jalapeno (remove the seeds if you don't want too much heat), squeeze in the juice of a lime, stir in the minced garlic and ground cumin and leave in the fridge for an hour or two (the longer the better) for all the flavours to mingle.
Credit for this recipe must be given to my mother-in-law, Brady Kerr.
6 Roma tomatoes or two large regular tomatoes diced
1/2 red onion diced
1 jalapeno pepper seeded and minced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 clove garlic minced
1 tsp ground cumin
Salt and Pepper to taste

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Paying respects

Last week while I was at home during the day on my own, I idled away some of my time watching a film on TV while our contractors got on with renovating our hallway and dining area.  Little did I realise how emotional this film would get me, or that it would lead to me going to Islington & St Pancras Cemetary in North London yesterday. The film title isn't really important, or even the story.  What is, though, is that it reminded me once again how much I miss Dad. 

Usually I jump in the car and head down the A10 and around the North Circular, give or take.  And it takes just over an hour on a good day.  But with my weight increasing with each loaf of bread and cake I bake, I thought it would be better to let the train take the strain and walk the rest. This time it took three trains to make the same journey. Hertford North to Finsbury Park and Finsbury Park to Kings Cross using the overground network and then the tube to East Finchley and 25 minute walk from there.

Arriving at Dad & Mum's grave, I was pleased to see that their stone had been put back.  It had been over a year since we laid Dad to rest and it wasn't nice laying flowers on the soil where they had been buried while the memorial stone lay five feet away.

I then made my way to my brother George's grave about fifteen feet away.  A day does not go by where I don't look at his photo next to our television set and think about about him and how tragic it was that he left us at the young age of 57.  Writing this I am just half a dozen years away from his age, which really puts it into persepective.

George's grave and memorial stone is also a reminder to the tragedy that was my own father's childhood.  My grandfather purchased the grave for three people when my Dad was just a child.  This was because his wife, my Dad's mother and my grandmother, passed away when my Dad was just 8 years old.  Married on Christmas Day, my grandfather lived for another 21 years with this festive day weighing heavy on his heart. Adding insult to injury, the family could not afford a memorial stone when either of them passed away.

How I found my grandfather's grave
Standing over Dad's grave, I remembered how he used to tell me his grandfather's grave was at the other end of Randall's Path. I'd seen it over 20 years ago but couldn't find it the last time I'd looked.  But something told me to try again from this end of the path. 

I recalled the headstone was like a bible and checked the first one I came across without success.  However, when I came across the second, I knew that this was the one.  However it was covered with moss with weeds. After a little effort I was able to scrap some of the moss off to confirm my gut feeling. My great grandfather George White.

With the moss cleared, I was able to make out the soft lead letters.  And again I was reminded of the tragedies that the previous generation of Whites had endured. 

Next to my great grandfather's name were the names of his two wives who passed away less than 3 years apart.  My grandfather's mother passed away a few years before his father and step mother within a year of him. She had inherited his estate which had included the dairy business and several houses.  However she took her own life before the estate was distributed.
As sad as this is, the greatest tragedy was for the two generations of grandchildren who never had the chance to know their grandfathers.  My father lost his grandfather when he was four.  And my brothers were 4 years, 2 years and one year old respectively when my grandfather passed.  As for me, I hadn't even been born.