Just as I find it impossible to have a favourite season, so I find it impossible to have a favourite day of the week. There are some I like more than others, and some that are almost impossible to face, but generally speaking even the less than loved ones have redeeming features. Who amongst us doesn’t know the carrot for the pain of a Monday spent at the coal face is the promise of argument and conjecture, considered reason and political spin, all deftly wrangled by Tony Jones? And while it’s no Friday, Thursday has always held a corner of my heart, due to the joy of late night shopping. That said, there really is no day of the week like Sunday. Technically, the day of rest, it’s the best day of the week for a lie in. Or for those of you, who like me, think Barrie Cassidy is the bees knees, perhaps excellent for lounging about in comfy pants, with coffee, sourdough and a spot of crochet and having our horizons expanded.
I love Sunday because it’s a day of slowing down and doing things at your own pace. Of pedalling along the river finding a shady spot, and spending the afternoon lost amongst the pages of a book. Or spending the day picking at the remains of last night’s dinner. I don’t like doing chores on Sunday, but the one thing I do, almost religiously, is change the bed linen. There is nothing like climbing into bed, with your slightly heavy heart that another weekend is over, to feel the complete joy of clean sheets, lovely fresh clean sheets. And then of course, starfishing yourself into the corners to enjoy every square inch. Sunday seems to be a day of ritual for just about all of us, for what ever reason.
When I was growing up, Sunday night was usually spent at my Aunty Irene’s house. Being an Englishwoman far from home, Irene turned the traditional English Sunday lunch into Sunday dinner. She would invite friends and family to cram themselves around her dining table. A wrist-breaking stoneware plate would be placed in front of you with a couple of slices of whatever roast Irene had done. Large wooden bowls would be passed up and down the table, containing crispy roast potatoes or mash, teeny tiny peas or green beans, carrots and gravy. And then Nana Kent, who lived in the Granny Flat downstairs, would emerge with trays of the most wonderous things in the world; Yorkshire Puddings. Us kids would be seated at “the children’s table”, and the adults would drink way too much wine and make way too much noise. There was always dessert, although I can’t recall what. I do remember lashings of custard, which I’m almost certain is a British pastime.
Gen X, or so the publishing world would have us believe, is the generation defined by their parent’s divorce. So much attention is focused on what is missing, what is lost. And for the longest time I bought into that, because, being a child of a fractured home, I felt the loss of my father. My family wasn’t the right size for him, so he up and went and had another one. Such is life. But when the world around you looks only at the negative, you find it hard to find the positive. You can’t see the good stuff for the trees.
It wasn’t until my sister’s wedding that I realised what the good stuff had been. Aunty Irene and her gloriously ramshackle, but full of love, Sunday dinners. Uncle John, who would greet my sister and I with a packet of smarties and a terrible terrible pun. Who still greets me 30 years later with a packet of smarties and a terrible terrible pun. When one door closes.
I’ve had cause of late to think about family and families; the ones lost and the ones found. I don’t see Irene and John as much as I’d like, and certainly not nearly enough as I ought. We never see our parents, real and surrogate, as much as we should. I don’t even think I’ve ever told them how much those gestures meant, how much weight they put in my ballast, how those crispy potatoes in wooden bowls and yorkshire puddings helped me navigate my way.
There really is nothing like having people you love around a dinner table; it’s one of the things I love doing most of all, and I have my Aunty Irene to thank for that. The family is still fractured, but that doesn’t mean that Sunday night can’t be about food with loved ones. As Autumn steals in and the nights get colder, and my thoughts turn to food, I’m conscious of the tradition that Aunty Irene established in my young life, just when I needed it. Sunday nights should be about food, about breaking bread with people you love, family or otherwise.