My father's menu.
Soup of the Day - the perfect way to start your meal.
The cheerful motto instructs as well as informs.There are signs here....
I am sitting with my father, sister, wife, brother- in-law, and niece.
A family tableaux, a snapshot of geniality not our acrimonious ages
A frozen moment within which we were captured and fossilised. Destiny is set, where time before will never be like time ever after. Here we can feel time, touch it as it rushes by, non-stop, it whooshes - quick quickly quicker into the distance future. It is our time. It is our history and I knew that, even as I said it ‘I love you’, time was disappearing chronologically, rushing headlong into the distance passed, hostage to some reckless joyrider, from where we saw the taillights of now, with which we had such familiarity and after which we paused to reflect, in the slow stewed midafternoon air at the bar and grill.
We wondered in shock and awe at the fusillades of recent positive emotion, almost family, and wondered how deep we had buried, at the back of the cupboard, atrophied and rotting the ingredients of our emotions. So tasteless that the-here-now pre-packed menu offered something even if little in sustenance, that was blessed and merciful - the chimera of the pleasant menu for pleasant families at the Wyke Lion, Bradford. Summer 2008.
My Father’s Menu with homemade breads: he constantly read it out, aloud sermon-like, again and again, driven to fill a hungry space to convince the agnostics amongst us of the careful veracity of the locally sourced ingredients as a fantastic range of dishes each lovingly and individually prepared, and you looked towards each of us, individually and lovingly prepared - what great care and time this must have taken as if we didn’t know what to say at this convenience of dishes. This covenant of cutlery and plates, this set. This day we were meant to be together. I can feel it. I want to spend my life here.
Why is it that when life is constantly kicking you in the bollocks your brain turns to goo, or was it incipient dementia, or even convenience? You read it again - a fantastic range of dishes and looked around.
You had always been odd, brought into the world by a mother young enough to be your sister, disowned or disowning without family, crashing your car in a just-missing two-people accident whilst waving pleasantly at them - waving and warning not waving and hello-ing, you knew them and they you, and they knew to get out of the way, walking into closed French windows, scaffolding, head- butting window-sills with trousers stuck round your ankles. It was odd, that odd upbringing, all topsy and turvy and tumbling out like a great upside-down slapstick life.
When we got to the Wyke Lion I had noticed that you moved more slowly and as we walked from the car, when I turned round to speak to you, you were no longer there but still in the distance. You were behind us, but such a long way back in the car park, small, fragile and frail against the vastness and enormity of this regulated space. Its geometry measured you out, as its distance siphoned off your energy. Was your mind the same or was it disappearing into the distance too? Was it measuring in your head, face tallowed to the end of its waxy taper, like some great imploding planet of light that distance travelled to our distance travelled to right here the last time I saw you?
The menu came in an unrepentant sleeve, its encapsulated and more importantly its wipe-clean surface does not repent its surfboard flatness waving in the air. Here in our grasp is a wafted vortex written, deleted and typed in Helvetica; unreserved joy delivered with unrepentant meaning.
I coughed; you read the menu and looked at the slow cooked cathedral-sized uselessness of it all: and why make pleasantries? When there are all the trimmings and the specials board - says that this menu has meaning, idiosyncrasy and individuality, is packed with all the goodness from a pre-packaged and pre-prepared existence. The ingredients are there and we will look after all your requirements.
‘I love you,’ he said - look left, look up, look down. ‘I like the look of the intense chocolate pudding.’
‘Is it raining where you are?’
These words, this sentence is what he said when I told him that my life had hit another bend in the river; another part of me had come unstuck and unravelled. He became all meteorological and we talked weather like the experts we suddenly became to all things atmospheric and outside. Outside, the not us and other, but clouds behind the sun, son it’s the passing of days.
Let them go. Let it go! Let it go!
I slid into the cold black river of tenderness and was held. And I wished for one moment that I could believe it and let go of the side. That the love veneer could, garnished and possibly toasted, remove that which stained our lives rather than coated it, the blemishes beneath, that pre packed chatter. We never strove for happiness but existence, the menu tells you what you will have is what you will have, is what you will have.
THE menu seems to offer, existence and sustenance, and the things we need.
Love was the fantasy that was created in all formats widescreen, Love comes in packages, is packaged in formats, visceral and joyous entertainments fudge sauce and whipped cream that come to pass to ‘the end’ a commodity. This chocolate sauce, this menu transcends our reality and it heals us.‚
Love, I tried hard to imagine as the living stitches of us pulled apart. Our director cuts to a more meaningless discussion at a family meal and you reading out the menu, Shepherds Pie slow cooked minced lamb with onions and rosemary, topped with black pepper mash.... Practically the last words you spoke to me.‚
No need for reservations. Food served hot and cold all day. No need for reservations....‚
(Food Menu, Wyke Lion June 2009 web entry all menu items correct at the time of web search, no longer available however and rest assured that all tips are (still) retained by our team members)
Images taken by my father, March 03 1997, at 27 Devon Way, Bailiff Bridge, Brighouse. W Yorkshire