In the orthodox Jewish tradition, the funeral takes place very rapidly after death. But mum and dad had opted out of the orthodox way and had planned to be cremated. Hence the 10 day interval between mum’s demise and her funeral.
The funeral took place at South London Crematorium/Streatham Park Cemetery at 16:00 that day. The funeral was officiated by the Streatham Liberal Synagogue’s Rabbi, Janet Darley.
As for dad, I wrote and read a eulogy which I shall upload here, with any other artefacts I think worthy of retention, such as the music playlist, when I go through the relevant papers in the fullness of time.
We, family and friends retreated to Nightingale for a reception, the centrepiece of which was the cafe cheesecake which made mum so happy during those last few years of her life.
Come to think of it; if there is one thing I do miss about that whole period it is that wonderful cheesecake.
Janie and I had visited the day before and suspected that mum was fading.
Angela Broad visited on the Monday, allowing me to try and get back into work. She called me late afternoon to let me know that mum looked very weak indeed – significant change even in the last 24 hours.
So it didn’t come as a surprise to me (although these things are always a shock) when the hospital called about 10:00 pm and broke the news to me that mum had died.
After sorting out the formalities over the next couple of days, I made the following posting on Facebook:
I also felt the hospital treated the whole matter with great care, compassion and professionalism, so I also (a few days later) published the following open letter of thanks to the hospital staff:
Those two Facebook postings pretty much sum up my thoughts at the time, really.
A large corner building marked by large burgundy awnings, Italian bar and restaurant La Cucina is a Northcote Road landmark – indeed you’ll often hear uttered locally ‘I’ll meet you at La Cucina. But the popularity of this restaurant isn’t just down to being easy to find, of course not, La Cucina is so well loved by Wandsworth locals for numerous reasons, not least the laid back, friendly atmosphere and friendly service from all Italian wait staff.
Indeed, we were happy to carry on going there because the waiters used to fuss around mum and make her feel special. They also did “old fashioned Italian-style food”, such as liver strips in sauce, that made her feel comfy.
Garry and Janice kindly came up from Southend to see her/us from time to time and this was one such occasion. Mum was really pleased to see them – she still recognised people she knew well at that time – six moths later it was different.
An enjoyable lunch indeed. I think we retired briefly to the Nightingale cafe so mum could show off her family to the visiting masses.
Late in life, mum formed an unlikely friendship with the young, extremely talented pianist, Karim Said. I can’t remember exactly how it came about.
I know I recorded some BBC4 programmes about young musicians, which mum loved and watched over and over. Karim was one of those featured artists.
I think mum then watched those programmes with Angela Broad and I’m pretty sure Angela knew Karim, perhaps because he was one of the Tabors’ sponsored artistes…so the rest is history…
…anyway, mum and Angela had been to see and had met Karim before this gig. Mum and Karim had also had some exchange of correspondence, I seem to recall.
Mum the groupie. I don’t suppose artistes at Karim’s stage have that many groupies either.
Anyway, when this concert came up, it was most fortuitously located and timed for me; lunchtime at St John’s Smith Square. As a friend of the venue, I get a fist-full of free passes for those lunchtime concerts. I was also able to organise my work around a visit to Church House that morning, which was maximally convenient.
Here’s the order of play:
Charlotte Bonneton And Karim Said at St John’s Smith Square. The violinist and pianist perform Beethoven’s Sonata For Violin And Piano No 3, Boulez’s 12 Notations For Solo Piano and Faure’s Violin Sonata No 1 In A.
My taste in music did not/does not always coincide with mum’s and Angela’s, but on this occasion we were as one. We all enjoyed the Beethoven and the Fauré; we none of us liked the Boulez, which seemed in any case to make poor Karim’s fingers bleed.
“I’m going to tell him if no-one else will…” said Angela afterwards, in the matter of the commercial sense (or lack thereof) in Karim pursuing the work of composers like Boulez.
Mum had a cracking good time. Karim was extremely pleasant and attentive after the concert. He even introduced us to his fellow musician, Charlotte, making mum ever so pleased by describing mum as his friend.
No idea where Michael and I had a drink on 10 March, but my diary simply says:
MRM fm 17:00
I’m guessing we wanted to get all the business chat out of the way ahead of the social gathering a few days later – probably on pain of nagging from both Elisabeth and Janie.
MRM to me later that evening (10 March):
Good to chat tonight over a bottle of wine. Should do it more often.
Asked about our China travel guides, apparently given away…
…Behind the scenes for Saturday – Elisabeth has NOT booked a sitter and thinks Xenia and Maxine are coming. You might want to chat with Janie. (1) If that’s fine, then we might as well meet at Hawksmoor. (2) If that’s not fine, i.e. the girls are in total female communication mode, then I’m happy to put the paternal foot down for a sitter.
Me to Michael fewer than 15 minutes later. I sound a bit stressy. Perhaps just tired and emotional:
Re Saturday, I strongly suggest you get Elisabeth to speak with Janie on this. The whole point of meeting at yours, as far as Janie is concerned, is that otherwise we won’t see the children. If I raise this matter, Janie might well go off on one!! We should either meet at the restaurant at 19:30 six strong or at your house 18:00 with sitter on the way. Leave it to the girls to decide. I’m easy either way.
Another boat worth not rocking is the itinerary for the holiday. There won’t be any holiday unless we simply close on this very soon (5th or is it 6th iteration); and believe me on this occasion I am totally cool about it, other than imploring not to pack the itinerary with so much that we don’t get any rest!! Stone Forest was inked in on first iteration and won’t budge, I’m sure.
Janie and I recall that the Saturday event ended up being deferred to 19:30 at Hawksmoor Spitalfields with the Mainelli family complete.
Hawksmoor Spitalfields was (quite probably still is) a cracking good restaurant – absolutely top notch. Janie reckoned it even topped Smith and Wollensky in New York for quality – praise indeed. The Mainelli girls were (quite possibly still are) very well behaved to the point of being good company on a grown up meal out – at that time they were 12 and 10 ish.
The Hawksmoor thing was great for family eating, as you can choose your size of steak/chunk of beef and then share.
Anyway, Saturday 13 March was an excellent evening out.
Probably the last thing Janie and I needed was a big lunch the next day but…
…14 March 2010 was mothering Sunday.
Mum was really into Perfect Blend at that time – a local eatery run by a really nice and friendly family – the son ran the restaurant/cafe, which was across the road from his father’s greengrocer shop, which had been there since the very dawn of time.
We liked the place because the staff were all very nice with mum and she felt she was supporting nice local people whom she had sort-of known for a very long time. I vaguely recall the service being a bit below the normal superb standards that day, as most places are on mothering Sunday, as the plethora of demanding mothers needing above average levels of attention spread the service capability a bit thin in even the best places.
Between all these eating and drinking activities, I would have been following the test match from Chittagong – click here. I’ll guess that we timed lunch and our arrival at the house to ensure that the cricket was over and mum therefore will have noticed no distraction on my part. Mum might have noticed a slightly hungover version of me, though, from the Hawksmoor evening – great wines.
A painful memory, this one. Not for the dinner itself, which was a culinary and social success, celebrating Janie’s birthday.
Painful, because we now know that dad only had a few weeks to live. There were just a couple of clues on the night.
Dad was just shy of 88 and was finding it harder to get in and out of the car without help, but on this occasion he needed a lot of help; far more than he had needed before.
The other clue was that dad didn’t finish his meal. He said the food was very good but that he didn’t have the appetite for any more than he had eaten. This was a very unusual thing for dad to do/say, but we thought little of it at the time.
In fact, dad was riddled with cancer by then. In early August, when he collapsed and we were given the news that he was in such a bad way, the specialist couldn’t believe that he had been more-or-less symptom free until five weeks before he collapsed.
Edwina was a GP who went way beyond the call of duty.
For example, because I was…how should I put this?…more than a little fearful of my jabs as an infant, she came round to our house to dispense the vaccinations. On one famous occasion, when I was feeling particularly averse to being stabbed, Edwina indicated to mum that my rump might make a better target in the circumstances. I worked out the coded message and tried to bolt. The end result was a chase around the room and eventually a rather undignified bot shot delivered by Edwina under the dining room table – I was, later in life, oft reliably reminded by my mum.
This extraordinary level of pastoral care and attentiveness went beyond zealously inoculating reluctant Harris miniatures – Edwina and her family became close friends with our immediate family, Uncle Manny’s branch of the family and especially Grandma Anne:
In the early 1970s, at Christmas-time, my parents would go to Edwina’s house for a seasonal party, along with many other patients and members of the local community. Naturally, my parents plied Edwina and her family with gifts…many of Edwina’s other patients and guests most certainly did the same.
A strange tradition arose around that time, in which Edwina reciprocated our present giving by handing down a generous gift she would always receive from a family of wealthy Iranian patients; an enormous jar (I think a pound; probably twice the size of the jar shown in the photo below) of Iranian Beluga caviar:
Edwina and family didn’t like the taste of caviar. Nor did my dad, as it happens. But mum loved it and I acquired a seasonal taste for it too.
Each year, mum and I would eat Beluga caviar on toast for breakfast for the first couple of weeks of the year.
Even back then caviar, especially Beluga caviar, was very expensive. Not equivalent to the “critically endangered, barely legal, hard to get hold of” price levels of today, but still very much a pricey, luxury item.
I remember mum warning me not to tell my friends at school that I was eating caviar on toast for breakfast, because they would surmise that I was a liar or that we were a rich family or (worst of all) both.
There was only one problem with this suburban community idyll; Mr Knipe. Don Knipe. Edwina’s husband.
Don liked his drink. Specifically Scotch whisky. More specifically, Teacher’s, as it happens. A bottle of Teacher’s always formed part of our family Christmas gift offering, but that sole bottle formed a tiny proportion of Don’s annual intake.
Even when I was quite little, I remember being warned that Don Knipe was eccentric, that I shouldn’t pay much heed to some of the silly things he says, etc. But I guess as the years went on, Don’s eccentricities gained focus and unpleasantness. Specifically, Don’s views became increasingly and extremely right wing. He joined the National Front, at that time the most prominent far-right, overtly fascist party in the UK.
I recall one year, when I was already in my teens, my parents returned early from the Knipe/Green party. I learned that Don Knipe had acquired a large bust of Hitler, which was being proudly displayed as a centrepiece in the living room. My mother had protested to Don about the bust, asking him to remove it, but to no avail. Mum had taken matters into her own hands by rotating the bust by 180 degrees. When Don insisted on rotating Hitler’s bust back to its forward-facing position, mum and dad left the party in protest.
Mum explained to Don and Edwina that they remained welcome at our house but that she would not be visiting their house while Hitler remained on show.
One evening, just a few weeks or months later, I think, my parents had Edwina and Don (and some other people) around at our house. The topic of Hitler and Nazi atrocities came up. Don started sounding off about the Holocaust not really having been as bad as people made out.
My father stood up and quietly told me to go upstairs to my bedroom. I scampered up the stairs but hovered on the landing out of view to get a sense of what was happening.
My father was a very gentle man. I only remember him being angry twice in my whole life; this was one of those occasions.
“You f***ing c***!”, I heard my dad exclaim.
I learned afterwards that my father, not a big man but a colossus beside the scrawny form of Don Knipe, had pinned Don to the wall and gone very red in the face while delivering his brace of expletives.
I heard the sound of a bit of a kerfuffle, a few more angry exchanges, ending with “get out of my house”. Then I heard Don and Edwina leave the house. Edwina was weeping, apologising and trying to explain that Don doesn’t know or mean what he says.
The story gets weirder as the years roll forward. Edwina remained our family doctor, although social visits were now at an end. Uncle Manny’s branch of the family and Grandma Anne continued to spend a great deal of time socially with the Knipe/Green family.
Most importantly, for this story, the seasonal exchange of gifts remained sacrosanct.
For reasons I find hard to fathom, I became the conduit for the seasonal gift exchange. Why my parents (specifically, my mother, who organised the errand) felt that I would be less defiled then they were by visiting a household that displays a bust of Hitler, I have no idea.
Maybe it shows that mum had great confidence in my judgement such that, even as a teenager, I wouldn’t be corrupted by Knipe’s vile views…or his habits. But perhaps the lure of a huge jar of Beluga caviar was so great that all other concerns and considerations went out of mum’s mental window.
Anyway, for several years I would go to Edwina and Don’s house to deliver our presents and collect the fishy swag. I think there was an unwritten rule that I didn’t go into the large living room where Hitler’s bust lived; the Knipe/Greens had quite a large house – I would usually be received in a smaller front drawing room.
As I got a bit older, Don would ask me to join him for a whisky and a cigarette on these occasions; offers which I accepted.
My diaries are utterly silent on this annual ritual, other than, each year, the mention of the word “shopping” on one day in the run up to Christmas. I vaguely recall that I would always bundle the errand with my single little shopping spree to get small gifts for my immediate family. The shopping trip provided a suitable time window; a smoke screen (as it were) and a bit of a sobering up period from the underage drinking involved.
Don never raised political topics when I made those seasonal visits. He’d make the occasional oblique reference to it being a shame that he didn’t see my parents socially any more. I can’t recall what we talked about. I think he just asked me how I was getting on and we chatted vaguely about my family and the weather.
But I do recall what we talked about on my last visit in this ritual. 1981.
Grandma Anne never really recovered from the shock of Uncle Manny’s demise and died in the autumn that same year.
By late December 1981 I had completed four terms of University at Keele and was far more politically aware/sensitive than I had been in earlier years.
Don greeted me at the front door, as usual, but this time said, “come through to the living room and have a whisky with me.”
“Not if Hitler is still in there,” I said.
“Oh don’t start all that”, blustered Don, who I think must have made a start on the whisky before I got to the house that morning. “I really want to chat to you about your late uncle and your grandma.” Don started to cry.
I relented and entered the forbidden chamber.
There was the bust of Hitler, resplendently positioned with books about the Third Reich and such subjects on display around it.
I accepted a generous slug of Teacher’s and a Rothmans; then I reluctantly sat down.
Don was crying. “I miss your Uncle Manny and your Grandma Anne so much”, he said, “you have no idea how fond of them I was. I love your family.”
I remember saying words to this effect, “Don, I understand that you sincerely love my family, but I cannot reconcile that love with Hitler, Nazi memorabilia, your membership of the National Front and you keeping company with those who hold such views. Those are antisemitic, out-and-out racist organisations and people. It makes no sense to me.”
“It’s not about Jewish people like your family. I love your family.”
“So what sort of people is it about?” I asked.
“Other people. You don’t understand”, said Don.
To that extent Don was right. I didn’t understand. I still don’t understand. It isn’t as if members of our family were so secular and Westernised that you wouldn’t recognise the family as ethnic. Uncle Manny’s branch of the family were (I believe still are) traditional, orthodox practitioners of Judaism.
So I don’t understand who or what these “other people” might be, nor why someone like Don Knipe would be attracted to racist ideologies, despite knowing (and even loving) plenty of good decent local people from diverse ethnic groups.
I think I was polite in making my excuses and leaving fairly quickly. The visit certainly didn’t end in any acrimony or hostility. But I did resolve not to run that errand again and (as far as I recall) didn’t visit the Knipe/Green house again.
All that memory came flooding back simply as a result of sampling caviar with Janie…
Anyway, the lunchtime special of the day (10 January 2018) in my client’s staff canteen was baked mackerel with onions. Very tasty it was too.
I remembered, so clearly, that my mother’s baked mackerel with onions was one of my favourite dishes.
I also remembered that it was one of mum’s “economy meals”. Times were hard in the mid to late 1970s. Mum shopped very carefully to help make ends meet. In addition, she had a routine which was to include one meal per week described as the “economy meal”.
Sometimes it would be a fish economy meal on a Tuesday. Sometimes it would be a meat economy meal on a Wednesday. Monday was leftovers from weekend roast day. Thursday was always fish day. Friday night was friday night. That’s how it worked.
Mum was almost apologetic about the economy meal, but the strange thing is, I used to look forward to them, because the economy meal was often, e.g. the baked mackerel dish, a real favourite of mine.
Thoughts of other “economy meal of the week” dishes started to flood into my head:
stuffed lamb’s hearts – might sound disgusting to those who hate offal or who can only contemplate liver from the offal department, but believe me, after slow braising, stuffed lamb’s hearts are unbelievably tasty. Here is a recipe not dissimilar to mum’s;
baked klops – or meatloaf. Economy in mum’s case because she would basically pad out cheap mince with egg and cereal. There are gazillions of recipes for meatloaf on line, but this “posh klops” recipe – click here – miles away from mum’s economy principles (veal mince…Balsamic vinegar!!) – sounds so very yummy I might give it a try;
When I got home from my meetings, I wondered whether I might have eaten that very baked mackerel dish exactly forty years ago to the day and looked at my old diary. Turns out that 10 January 1978 was a Tuesday, so I might very well have done.
I also realised that Tuesday 10 January would almost certainly have been a “caviar on toast for breakfast…economy meal for dinner” day. Bizarre, but that’s how it was.
What I also learned about that evening, after the second day of the school term, was the following:
gave talk at BBYO with Graham [Majin] on the cartoon. Went down well.
Ah yes, the cartoon. I really need to try to patch that thing together digitally. Graham’s attempt, a few years ago, to get the BBC properly to copy the 8mm film itself shredded the celluloid. Another Ogblog project to add to the list. Watch this space.
Anyway, all that foodie memory came flooding back simply as a result of tasting baked mackerel again in a style so similar to my mum’s…
I had wondered, when looking at the photo batch, whether I had got some negatives mixed up, as it looked to me as though some pictures of my dad in Brighton had got mixed up with a day trip to Greenwich.
But the diary reminds me that we went to Greenwich twice, going to Brighton on the day in-between.
That summer was the first time in my childhood that we had no family holiday.
Dad must have been very short of money at that time – the business had been doing badly for a few years by then. Dad probably couldn’t justify the expense of getting someone else to run the photographic shop for any amount of time during those commercially better end of summer weeks, even if he could have afforded the holiday itself…which he probably couldn’t.
So he/we simply took a long bank holiday weekend – I suspect he just kept the shop closed until the Thursday.
I have done this as a photo piece using the picture captions to tell the tale; I think the pictures themselves tell most of the story.
Probably we enjoyed the lunch so much so that we didn’t get to see all the things we’d intended to see in Greenwich that day.
On 30 August, we went to Brighton. Only three photos from there that day – all of my dad being blown or blowing in the wind:
We clearly decided to return to Greenwich to finish our sightseeing on 31 August. We took lunch in the Cutty Sark this time, which I don’t think we liked as much as the Trafalgar Tavern back then, if I am reading between the lines of my diary correctly.
The weather looks miserable in the 31 August pictures, as does my mum: