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A Tale of Two Easters

27/3/18 · Posted in Uncategorized

A Tale of Two Easters

Gareth Griffins, Supported Employment Coordinator from Tauranga shares his usual flair for amusing kinds of narratives. This one ponders a young boy’s frustration during the Easter holiday’s in England.

As a child with parents who by some quirk of fate were both primary school teachers, one thing I was never short of was holidays. Invariably this involved a long and arduous car journey into the wilds of Wales. With all our worldly possessions, including two cats, stuffed haphazardly into a small trailer, we would w5472929829_f04882434bind our way in our trusty Lada, a relic of Russia’s no nonsense car building era; to a caravan we owned overlooking the sea.

Apart from suffering the depravations of living without electricity, running water and flushing toilets, which would be bad enough, our mental health was at risk due to a lack of forward planning and critically, my mother’s inability to bake. This hopelessness was further exacerbated by having a calor gas stove and oven which had a tendency, if left to its own devises, would cremate most dishes within minutes.

Every year a feeling of foreboding came over me with the thought of being away on holiday for so long. These brooding feelings were firmly rooted and a cause of constant anxiety, as well as embarrassment.

My first really traumatic memory related to my 8th or 9th Birthday (not too traumatic you might say if I cannot remember which, but as we know the young mind is more plastic and adaptable) when the happy day had arrived in the middle of August. I had opened my presents and suddenly noticed a shock of realisation in my mother’s eyes. I was sitting rigidly still with my arms folded at the table like some expectant hound awaiting the traditional birthday cake with additional candle to signify a growing maturity. There was a furtive exchange of glances with my father and suddenly my mother said, “Ah the cake…..well I have a surprise for you, get your coat on, we are going for a walk!’IMG_4085

With that we set off at a brisk pace. As a budding amateur detective I had already started to piece this journey together; a visit to the local shops, buying aforementioned cake and possibly candles, then return to continue the celebrations. However, there were worrying flaws in this line of thinking. Firstly the shops were miles away and secondly my Mother in her haste to exit the caravan had not shown any signs of picking up either her purse or a shopping bag.

And so we trundled on with mother striding way out in front with that exasperating spirit of adventure and determination I had known from an early age. I was sadly not to be confounded by the events that would follow. No, my mother was nothing if not wildly predictably unpredictable. By this I mean that she had an innate and long homed ability that could be relied upon to do the most head strong and irrational things. Today was to be her crowning glory, her raison d’être moment… as we suddenly reached the beach.

Once there she made her way to the tideline before her foot suddenly sank dramatically into the mud. In fact this was not mud as my mother well knew, but clay. Ever the practical, she suddenly produced a small trowel and started extricating great sodden (or sodding) lumps of the stuff, which she gleefully dropped into a plastic bag. The lingering delusion of partaking in a nice piece of chocolate cake was evaporating quickly, but what was she up to? When I did enquire she triumphantly excluded that, “I would see, have to wait and see!’ And so we made our way back to the caravan.

On our return the most bizarre realisation occurred to me as she dumped the clay out of the bag and began sculpting some sort of creature out of it. She was clearly making amends for my disappointment by creating some monstrously inedible form of cake! Horrified yet strangely enthralled, I watched on as the creature immerged. It ended up being a clever attempt of our hedge row friend the hedgehog, with rough bristles fashioned by the use of a knife. ‘Fortunately’ my mother had kept a number of candles from last year’s chocolate cake with which to festoon this weighty offering. It certainly made an impression. Sadly, cakes are usually judged for their merits of things other than shape and detailing. There is for instance sponginess and taste, or quality of the fondant filling. Aside from, use this as a door stop or object to maim, which was tempting, I could see no use for it. However, my mother seemed strangely proud of her endeavours. Maybe it was the huge amount of effort to lug home such a large amount of clay. In her naivety that she thought this would in some way pacify my longing for a chocolate version of the classic hedgehog cake. Who after all could forget the one my Auntie had lovingly fashioned the previous year? Decorated with rich chocolate fondant and adorned all over with little coloured smarties. As I watching the wretched candles flicker lightly, I resignedly started to blow them out, I longed for my Auntie’s cake to miraculously materialise before my eyes.Mary Berry - photoshoot for one of her first cookery book with helpers Annabel and William. Pictures taken from Recipe for Life an autobiography by Mary Berry, Mary Berry series selection

This brings me onto the Easter story. Having wallowed in self-pity I now feel somewhat mean spirited picking fault with my poor mother’s attempts to lighten the holiday mood with a ‘well-planned’ Easter egg family activity. However, given it was a time of suffering; I feel it only right to detail how quickly we put earthly pleasure behind us.

Easter as some may know was originally a Pagan Festival, and my mother was not averse to reminding us of the importance of sacrifice, particularly if it saved money. This may well have influenced her take on festive fun, though it is more likely the more ‘traditional’ Easter fair was simply not on her radar.

Imagine our disappointment when my mother produced four diminutive chicken eggs from the pantry. She proceeded to boil these for some considerable time. Eventually they were handed out to us, including my father, who had been happily ensconced in a particularly large, large print book he had found in the library and saved him wearing his glasses.

Having been each given the now lukewarm treats in embryonic form, we were all dispatched to the caravan garden and wild hedgerows that snaked around the country lanes. For a good five minutes I was encouraged to pick wild flowers and various leaves of green plants. We then attempt to fix them with varying degrees of success to the outside of the chicken egg with garden twine. On returning to the caravan the florally entwined eggs were unceremoniously plonked back in the water to again boil for another inordinately lengthy period of time.Vintage-Easter-1-700x500

Eventually the eggs were lifted from the pot and the vegetative mush that limply surrounded them was unpeeled, along with the string. The resulting ‘festive’ egg hardly merited a second glance, unlike the Easter eggs my young cousins proudly produced that day. The Easter Bunny had kindly seen fit to deliver them chocolate eggs. On closer examination, with a trained eye I might add, I noted the faint yellow colouration of the odd buttercup and a smudging of indistinct green from the entombed leaves that held it all together were just visible.

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After this my faith in the Easter Bunny was never quite restored. That satisfied, sickly bloated feeling one remembers from childhood after eating too many chocolate eggs, was not to be mine. Having had decorate these ghastly things our misery and anxiety compounded by having to eat the damned solid rubbery things with toast. To this day I have an unhealthy obsession with only boiling eggs for precisely 4 minutes and no longer.

The images in this article are for entertainment purposes only and in no way depict the real people or situations expressed here.

2 Responses to “A Tale of Two Easters”

  1. Barbara Gould says:

    It would be wonderful to see parents today inspiring their children to play in such imaginative ways, rather than plonk them before the television or electronic gadgets, which do not develop skills in the same way at all. I’m sure many of the younger generation would gladly give up the chocolate if it meant getting their Mother’s undivided attention as you did. I certainly wish my Mother had put some thought into school holiday activities other than polishing the brass and repairing my Father’s shirt collars!

  2. Lucy Atkinson says:

    This is brilliant. I think you should probably be published Gareth, with your flair for turning the ridiculous into the sublime, or at least entertaining your readers. Frankly I am surprised you can still look a boiled egg in the eye!

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