Frozen Memories


A tear threatened to escape whilst I went about looking for some Quorn mince to put in the veggie chilli I was cooking yesterday evening. All because of that bag of frozen runner beans you see here.

These are probably the last runner beans that my late Great Uncle Geoffrey grew in Grandad Joe’s back garden. This month it’s three years since Uncle Geoffrey died. Later this year it will be five years since Grandad died.

Even though Grandad was in a care home for several years before he passed away, Uncle Geoffrey would visit Grandad in the home. He’d also visit Gran  (who I now care for) at my grandparents’ house and, at the same time, care for the greenhouse and vegetable patch that his brother had cared for in better times of health.

Grandad had, for much of his life, been a market gardener. He’d also kept pigs for meat to sell. The pigs, I think, are what sent him to the pit of manic depression that he would continually battle (along with cancer) until the end of his days. It wasn’t the pigs themselves that caused the break but, I am led to understand, having a whole shed of them slaughtered when they caught some disease.

Out of his brothers I have had the chance to know, I suspect that Geoffrey was the only one who ever fully understood Grandad. And he’d been a mechanic most of his life.

The gardening Grandad did, (once my Grandparents moved from their small holding they had lived in for roughly 40 years), was to keep him occupied and happy. He even entered some of his produce in local summer fetes and sometimes won best in category.

I think Geoffrey kept the garden to keep his brother happy, whether alive, manic or dead. And to say “Hello” to Gran.

Geoffrey would bring his dog Ben, and later Duke, to keep Gran and him company as he laboured in the garden from late spring to late summer. Gran would bring out mugs of tea for Geoffrey, rich tea biscuits for the dog.

The tomatoes from the greenhouse were something I never cared for (I have a long running dislike of raw tomatoes). But those runner beans…

Steamed and served with a small knob of butter with them on the plate to accompany the meat and two veg meals that Gran is fond of – better than anything bought in a supermarket.

I couldn’t bring myself to throw the beans out. They’re all I have left in this world of an Uncle that I wish I’d had the chance to know better.

Such is the fate of those born to “older” families.


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