I started writing this blog a couple of days ago, but managed to depress myself while doing so! I am restarting, with the same title, but a couple more days of reflection have turned my sentiments around. The last few months have not been straightforward with the challenges of Auntie Aileen’s move into the care home, and Belle’s death. I have been reflecting on two very strong women who fought hard to stay alive, but then realised that their lives weren’t at all what they wanted them to be. I’ve also been thinking a lot about sorting out the flat in Edinburgh, and how sad it is to break up someone’s home while they’re still alive. This was the starting point of my last draft – yup, it was that cheerful! As my next trip to Edinburgh fast approaches, though, I was thinking of the benefits (from our point of view) of Auntie Aileen still being around so that we can ask her questions.
I do not really need to say again how many things are in that flat. We still haven’t gone through everything to sort out obvious rubbish from charity donations to what is being distributed amongst the family. That should be completed by next week. What has helped though is being able to ask Auntie Aileen what things are. Her short-term memory may be shot, but her long-term is still spot on for the most part. She was unable to see many things clearly, but she felt them and told us immediately what they were. It was quite emotional too on occasions as certain things brought back memories for her.
It did feel wrong but to be going through someone else’s possessions and dividing what we found into piles, but there were occasional joys. We found several fur hats in a wardrobe and immediately recognised one as having been Nana’s. Strangely even after 27 years, it still smelt of her, and that smell took me back to being a child, having cuddles and her sweet, sweet smile. We found more photographs than you can imagine – most of them Auntie Aileen’s holiday snapshots, but some family ones. We will take these in to show her, and hopefully with her new magnifying glass (with a light no less) she will be able to identify some of the people for us. I wonder if Auntie Aileen remembers that she was the first person to show me how to use a camera? One summer after Grandma started work, I was judged too young to be left on my own during the school holidays and so was sent to Scotland for the summer. I spent most of the time in Kirkcaldy with Gran and Pop, but had a few days in Edinburgh with Nana. Auntie Aileen took me to the zoo, and taught me how to hold the camera and position the lens. My first photograph was a black and white shot of a bear. I wonder if I’ll find that photo in amongst all the others?
Today’s recipe has nothing to do with Auntie Aileen or Nana, it’s Belle’s recipe for Old-Fashioned Bread Pudding, a recipe I brought back from London especially for you. Reading the recipe makes me laugh because Belle once made the pudding and took it with her one day to the Friendship Group at church. Everybody ate it, and everybody said how marvellous it was. The following Sunday, however, one of the ladies (who shall remain nameless) collared me in the Church Hall and gave me some of her bread pudding. “Now, isn’t this bread pudding better?” I was asked. I claimed that my mouth was full, smiled in a vacant sort of way, nodded in a non-committal sort of way, and she seemed satisfied that I was in agreement. Not a terribly friendly act or indeed Christian but the idea of bread pudding rivalry still makes me chuckle! This is a great way to use up old bread, and Belle has written on the recipe ‘An approximation of a recipe from childhood’. I have copied exactly what she wrote.
Old Fashioned Bread Pudding
- 1 lb (450 g) stale bread of any sort crusts on
- 1 pint of milk (550 ml) or water
- 4 oz butter melted (100 g)
- 6 oz soft brown sugar (150 g)
- 4 teaspoons mixed spice
- 2 eggs beaten
- 12 oz (250 g) mixed fruit and cherries or other fruit to taste
- Rind of one orange and one lemon
Soak the break in milk (or water) for at least 30 minutes and mash with a potato masher.
Preheat oven to gas 4 (180 C)
Add eggs, melted utter, sugar and mixed spice and mix in with a fork – make sure there are no lumps.
Add the mixed fruit and orange and lemon rinds.
Pour into a suitable sized tin, grate some fresh nutmeg on top.
Bake for about an hour and half.
Now I have a vague recollection that the difference between Belle’s bread pudding and the competitive bread pudding was that for the second the fruit had been soaked in rum. My memory isn’t as good as Auntie Aileen’s but even if it isn’t true, it sounds like it might be a good option.