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Photo Article from the Welsh Hovel – the kids and I make a cake for Dad who died three years ago today

Tom Winnifrith
Thursday 12 October 2023

Jaya never met Dad. She was born five weeks after he died. But she knows about the Grandpa who is in heaven not least because of a battered green arm chair in the corner of our kitchen where I slump between articles. It was and is Grandpa’s chair. Joshua used to visit my father with me as Grandpa lay bed-ridden in Shipston. My Dad always had chocolates by his bed so Joshua enjoyed those visits and could not remember Grandpa as anything other than a bed ridden old man being, oh so slowly, eaten away by cancer.

As a diabetic I’m not meant to eat chocolate. I found seeing the great man, who had carried my sisters and I and the suitcases up the hill at Anelion, lying helpless and wasting away in a bed watching endless repeats of Midsomer Murders, painful. But I was glad I was there in those last few weeks and at the end, able to reassure him that sister N’s plan to throw away all his books would be foiled. It was. They sit here in Wales and in Greece. When I eventually retire to goat farming and writing up my family history I shall make real efforts to read more of them.

Today we remember Dad. In sister N’s family where the kids are older they have a game of “saying sayings Grandpa said”. Beelzebub (the internet), fashionable modern rubbish (anything created after 1950), life of the mind (work involving reading or writing but not on the internet), God’s House (church), The Old Country (Ireland), The old Enemy (England), the New Enemy (Wales, after my divorce from Big Nose) etc.  Here, the kids and I baked a cake which we will enjoy tonight while watching a film Grandpa liked (The 39 Steps). The cake, like my father, is of Irish heritage, a variant of a Darina Allen recipe, Guinness and fruit cake. Yes it is non alcoholic Guiness which my father would have disapproved of massively. I bought unwisely. But I added in a few dashes of spirits to keep folks who were, like my father, “moderate drinkers” happy.

We all stirred the mixture, Jaya is pictured below doing her stint, made a wish as we will do with Christmas pudding making in a few week’s time, and tried to think happy thoughts about Grandpa.  

Still there are so many times when I really want to talk in the way I couldn’t with others except, perhaps Uncle Chris Booker, or on Irish Rugby or Northern Irish football, Chris’s widow Aunt V. Dad would have been brave enough to watch Ireland take on New Zealand this weekend. I shall hide behind the sofa but would have talked with him about the game afterwards, sharing a mutual delight or words, not truly meant, about next time it will be different. I know that this week we’d have been discussing events in Israel and he would be delighting in Joshua’s second additional lesson in Welsh, minority languages, all good as he would have said. Joshua and I can now sing Sospan Fach, albeit neither of us are great singers. But Dad was an appalling singer so would not have complained.

A kind reader noted that that now and again Dad would sit in on podcasts I do every day, the bearcast, hurrumphing audibly as I made a joke or two at his expense and says he enjoyed that. So did I.  I need to train Joshua up for that cameo role.

A bearcast without Dad has to be recorded. The cake sits on the table by my laptop. Not having a slice before tonight is a monumental feat.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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