The buffet nearly not eaten   2 comments

This post was brought to mind by a link to a 5 year old post written by someone who’s blog I have followed for just over a year.

I guess my mother had been ill since my brother and I both graduated from University the same summer, he having done a 4 year degree at St. Andrew’s University and me a 3 year one from London. The GP, a family friend, had been palming her off with tonics of one sort or another, not really believing there was anything much wrong with her.

After a few years back and forth, and in part because she was the wife of a hospital consultant, the local consultant physician decided he should see her. He was none the wiser after the consultation so arranged for her to be seen by some chap at The Charing Cross hospital (now relocated to Fulham).

I think if my father hadn’t been a doctor, they might too have sent her packing, but instead they decided to admit her for an extensive series of tests. Imagine, if you will, my horror finding that my much loathed mother was being admitted to hospital within 15 minutes drive of the flat I had bought some 6 months earlier. Could I move I thought, to avoid being expected to go and see her. I’d really thought I was safe in London.

She then spent the lion’s share of the next four years in the Charing Cross. My father and I got into a routine, he would drive the 60 miles from where they lived on a Wednesday afternoon and I’d meet him at the hopsital about an hour before the end of visiting then we’d go for a beer then he’d drive back to Sussex. I could just about cope with my mother for an hour. Most weekends he’d come up by train on a Friday, I’d drive him back to Sussex, spend the weekend there then drive him back up to the Charing Cross on the Sunday and he’d go back by train.

My biggest problem was the Sunday. My father wanted to get to the hospital for about 3pm in the afternoon and it was difficult to get away before the end of visiting, so some weekends I had to spend 4 hours in my mother’s company as the pubs didn’t open until 7pm on a Sunday evening and my father liked a bit of a debrief after the visit.

Perhaps I should explain my mother was not a particularly nice person. Her only friends were the wives of other doctors and indeed most of those were the wives of my fathers junior colleagues. None of these friends ever visited my mother in hospital, even though a number of them travelled to London from time to time.

Eventually they came up with a diagnosis, my mother’s body was revolting (I could have told them that!!). It seems her white blood cells were attacking her body tissue and during the course of her illness she had amputations of her fingers and toes as the white blood cells killed off the blood supply. The only medication for this was the same stuff they give to people who have had transplants, which diminished the immune system and made her more susceptible to infections.

Inevitably my father got a phone call at 6am one morning. He then phoned me, asked me to call both my brothers and tell them, and then to meet him at the hospital about 11am so we coulld attend to the formalities of talking to the doctors and registering the death. They said she’d had a good night but had woken about 5am and was in distress. Neither father nor I believed a word of it of course, they say stuff like that to make relatives feel better. My mother was 60.

So, I phoned my brother, the one mentioned above who went to St. Andrews University. His wife answered and before I could say a word, she lambasted me for phoning so early and waking her up, it would now be about 7am. When she had finished the tirade, I asked her if she could tell my brother his mother had died, when it was convenient. I then put the phone down, I had better things to do than deal with a cantankerous sister in law. When it rang about 2 minutes later I ignored it, but I did answer it about 30 mins later, after I’d spoken to my eldest brother.

So, that evening, my father, two brothers and myself were at the family home in Sussex. A curious mixture of emotions, we drank champagne before dinner and some vintage Mouton Cadet with it. I suspect we partook of roast lamb, especially as at this time my eldest brother still ate meat which he was very accomplished at cooking. My father perhaps because a four year ordeal was over, the rest of us glad his ordeal was over. I think in the 4 years my brothers visited mother probably twice each at most, as I would have done were she not on my doorstep.

So, fast forward to the funeral service, the crematorium and of course, the buffet.

We had arranged for a service to be held at the local village church. Funerals are about those left behind as much as anything, and my father was very popular locally and we know a whole host of people would turn up. In fact the church was packed, latecomers had to stand at the back.

There was then to be a cremation at the local crematorium officiated by the same vicar who had done the funeral. There were 50 or so close friends invited to attend this and to come back to the house afterwards. My brother was in his element and most of the day before was in preparation of cooked meats, fish and salads, cheese and deserts, and importantly various mayonnaises to garnish the food.

So, we get back to the house after the crematorium, as we approached we could see the french windows were open, panic set in, we’d clearly been burgled, what mess might we find.

Well, None.

We were visited by the most gentlemany of burglars. A window in the study had been left ajar for the cat, but it wasn’t double glazed so could easily have been forced. Blocking the door from the study to the living room was a table laid out with glasses and several bottles of sherry. The burglars took the time to move the table without breaking any of the glasses to gain access to the living room where the buffet was laid out.

My father had a pair of silver sauce boats, which my brother had filled with various styles of mayonnaise. These were next to plates of cold meats covered with cling film. The burglars carefully emptied the sauce boats on to the cling film protected plates without making any mess at all.

Now the problem was, the burglars had taken every knife and fork in the house. So we had 40 odd people, each with a glass of wine or sherry, salivating over this top class buffet with nothing to eat it with. So various friends were despatched home to get their cutlery as the police arrived to investigate.

At this point the whole thing descended into farce. We had all these people around, not able to eat, whilst being questioned by the coppers. Coppers were busy taking nose prints off the french windows to help estimate the height of the burglars. As everyone the coppers were talking to, all pillars of the local community, had drinks and no food, we offered the officers drinks too, which somewhat surprisingly they accepted.

Eventually, knives and forks turned up and some semblance of normality returned, albeit to a situation far removed from any kind of normality.

On a final note, before my mother went into hospital my father had got a building company in to do some work, which was run by a friend of his from the golf club. As my mother trusted no one, she’d hidden all the family silver behind piles of old carpet deep in some cupboards. Some months later we found all this stuff, and so off to the bank vaults it went and subsequently sold after my father passed on years later.


Posted December 30, 2012 by bluonthemove in Family

2 responses to “The buffet nearly not eaten

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  1. That is one seriously good story! Beats any of mine hands down. When Partner wakes up I have to read it to him. Just brilliant.

    I was going to comment about illness, and medics, and family, but it takes alot to leave me gobsmacked.

    Do I need to hide my silver in a less accessible place though?

    Oh and the wine. Not fond of Mouton Cadet. At one point, we went out to dinner and my father would troll out the old refrain:

    ‘My wife likes Mouton Rothschild, my daughter likes Lafite and I like Latour. What do I order?’

    So there you have it, I am a Lafite woman. Or was. Probably couldn’t tell the difference with a Rioja these days. OK maybe I could.

  2. My father had started buying wine from the B.M.A. wine club. The Mouton Cadet would have been a 62 or 63 vintage in the early 1980s. A very enjoyable drink.

    Thank you for your comments overall.

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