Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Happy 100th birthday

Denis Edward Ward, March 14, 1914 - March 29, 1999

Today would be my father's 100th birthday. Strangely, it feels as if he has been with me at every moment of today, propelling the forward momentum & smiling down on us all from his little perch in heaven filled with sunshine and dogs.

In honor of his birthday, here's a list of things he loved:

  • Handmade shoes from Foster's in Jermyn Street (he had odd feet, he told us, ever since he chopped through one with an axe).
  • Shirts from Harvie & Hudson, or New & Lingwood.
  • Single malts.
  • Good claret (he was extremely proud of his wine cellar).
  • Bits of orange baler twine which he kept in his pockets.
  • Rust-colored "jeans" (handmade trousers, tapered at the ankle) with practical zipper pockets.
  • A Norwegian fisherman's knife with a horn handle which he carried at all times, even in London.
  • Always about 5 dogs, usually labradors, to whom he showed more affection than anyone else.
  • Little gem lettuce which he grew and made into glorious salads with oil and vinegar and salt and screw pepper, and masses of chopped herbs.
  • Trees. He knew every one and their history.
  • Horse racing. As children, we knew his bookie by name as we were the ones placing the bets by phone.
  • Fishing. He made all the Norwegian men (my grandfather, my uncles) get up at four in the morning, after long, wine-soaked dinners, because "it's the best time to get the mackerel."
  • Brawn. Americans call it "head cheese" which he made from a boiled pig's head.
  • Bread and dripping.
  • Wheeler's and Bentley's in London, for oysters and dover sole.
  • Collecting apples. Nothing went to waste. A whole half of the cellar not dedicated to wine became apple storage.
  • Tying raspberry canes. I did this with him two weeks before he died, in the cold at dusk, at home in the Chilterns. His motto was to always prepare.
  • His Dictionary of Quotations, which never left his side. Also the Thesaurus. Things an auto-didact needs at all times. Also, anything by Churchill.
  • Scotland. Not just for grouse. Although the grouse helped. And probably the reason my brother lives there now.
  • Fried egg sandwiches, which he made for my mother at two in the morning after they'd been out dancing. They'd eat them in the kitchen, by the aga, before they went to bed.


Lainey said...

How lovely.
Am so blessed as my father is still going strong at the grand age of 90 and a half.
What marvellous men - wha's like us gey few and they're a'deid (spellcheck did not like that one jot).
Blessings on your head.

LPC said...

I am so sorry for your loss. Even now. And I love how you remember him.

Louise (aka @batpoet) said...

I love this. What a fascinating and touching portrait of your father. Really evocative, even cinematic. It inspires me to think of my parents in this form. (They're both gone now. I miss them. Life seems harder without them...) Beautifully done, Bumble. I know he loves you still.

Katherine C. James said...

Single malts, little gem lettuces (add walnuts and blue cheese and you have my favorite salad), head cheese, bread and dripping, oysters and dover sole, apples, and fried egg sandwiches. Your father had all the food bases covered. In my family love and happy events are remembered according to the places we went and the foods we ate. I love the way you remember your father here. He sounds like a complicated, inspiring man. I'm glad he met your children. Happy 100th to Denis Edward Ward, Bumble's dad. xo.

Terry said...

Such a beautiful, alive and present face!
Your father looks so engaged in life.

Caroline, No. said...

I love all of this. And am now desperately craving a fried egg sandwich. x