Gary Strachan – "Write" Said Fred

Off The Wall Essays From Deep Within A Capricious Mind

Flashback

It was the same warm and engaging smile I’d seen my dad bequeath visitors to my childhood home in Low Fell, Gateshead. The genuine beam that left guests in no doubt they were welcome to share in the warmth, humour and hospitality of this affable Yorkshireman’s family home.

The vision I was greeted with yesterday afternoon, as my son Jonny answered the front door of the home he shares with fiancee Jenny, took me back in time to around half a century ago. A utopian era when my biggest existential conundrum was which shirt number of my footballing heroes to have transposed onto my sock tags.

A doppelgänger of my father in both looks, generosity of spirit and unassuming nature, I was momentarily taken back five decades to the company of a man who I owe so much. In my mind I was seven year old again, dressed in an all-white Leeds United replica kit with a football tucked under my arm.

A brief epiphany which, in my daydream state, nearly led me to plead to my son “Can we play football for a few more minutes, dad?” A request often aimed at the old man to delay that part of the day my brother Ian and me hated the most – The time we had to stop playing football for another 12 hours or so.

That being said, our kid and me would sometimes lessen the football deprivation time a tad by playing an indoor version of the game at next day’s reveille. Our improvisation leading to using radiators at each side of our lounge/diner as goals, along with a rolled up pair of socks as a ball. The socks soft material, we concluded, would never be sturdy enough to break our parents room ornaments. We were wrong!!

On numerous occasions one of us would send a china or pot ornament plummeting from the fireplace or sideboard to an undignified end on the hallowed turf carpet of 8 Dorchester Gardens.

Anyhow, I digress…….

Jonny and Jenny had invited us to their home for an early celebration of my eldest offsprings 29th birthday on Tuesday. The dress code*** was smart/casual, which I’d have probably breached in my brief daydream, and the food was a smorgasbord of meat products lovingly prepared by a York butcher for barbecue grilling.

*** – The dress code reference was a joke. If my son had’ve insisted we adhere to preset clothing edicts during our visit, I’d have told him to shove his chilli infused beef kebabs where the searing heat of charcoal wouldn’t be able to cook them….. Well, unless he sat on the grill!!

Like his doppelganger granddad used to provide when family/friends called, Jonny (along with Jenny) provided a wealth of menu options for the ravenous guests. Sirloin steak, fillet steak, whole chicken breast and lots of other quality meats just a few of the things my son was too bloody tight to buy.

Instead he went with the cheaper options of chicken legs in Chinese marinade, Chilli infused beef kebabs, sage and onion stuffed sausage, spicy pork ribs and a little known meat called scragget****. The latter a curious tasting carnivorous offering that his septuagenerian grandma (my mum) thought tasted like a mixture of chicken and shoe polish. I’ve no idea when my mum’s eaten shoe polish, but thought it wise not to open a can of worms by making the enquiry.

**** – The reason it’s a little known meat is that I’ve just made it up!

Seriously, though, my son grilled the splendid carnivorous cuisine so skilfully that only one of us contracted salmonella. Although, I suspect my mum’s incomprehensible nattering was more down to her being a bit mad anyway, rather than a viral intruder sourced from Jonny undercooking the chicken legs.

The sides were lovingly prepared by the lady of the house, with a little help from my germaphobe daughter Rachel. My youngest offsprings habitual hand washing regime giving the assurance you’ve no chance of contracting food poisoning with anything she prepares*****. The down side to her OCD, though, is that everything she prepares tastes of Sainsburys Anti-Bacterial Hand Wash (SAHW), which is bizarre as we shop at Tescos!!  SAHW isn’t amongst my favourite marinades, but it’s one that, along with shoe polish, works well with scragget.

***** – Not that we’ve any worries with Jenny’s food preparation regime either, I hasten to add.

We left Jonny and Jenny’s home at 5pm, stuffed full with culinary offerings the affianced had prepared for the feast. A stomach cramp contributed to from consumption of an exquisite tasting slice of cake.

On departure, feeling stuffed wasn’t the only physical sense I experienced. Whilst driving home I was overcome by a feeling of inner toastiness at how my boy had grown into a man bearing many of the wonderful personality traits inherited from his grandad. Concluding, as I drove west along the A64, my old man would’ve been mighty proud of the fine adult his eldest grandchild had developed into.

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