Missing Goes on Forever…

My Mum died five years ago today…it was Pentecost Sunday.

So it’s not very surprising that family has been on my mind recently.

I have been busy sorting through old family photos, the ones my parents had stored (some by year) in brown envelopes and shoe boxes.

I have arranged them in chronological order and begun the slow, methodical process of putting them in an album, page by page,

all the while making notes of what little I know about each picture, information I have gleaned from answers to questions I posed to my parents before my father grew testy and said,

“Who could possibly be interested in this old photo?”


Beirut Embassy Christmas party, 1967. My brother & I seated on floor, I’m looking sultry in my favorite hairband, Mummy behind me, Daddy one seat away to her left

and staunchly refused to help me any further leaving me in the dark about who the children were and what we were watching!  A skit of some sort I’m sure!

On the contrary, Daddy’s younger brother was thrilled when I sent him copies of 50 photos for him to shed some light on,

“Thank you so much,” he wrote to me, “I have never seen some of those pictures…”

He is the historian for that generation and has researched our family tree and written a few pages about his early life.  He was quite happy to walk down memory lane with me and tell me a few family stories,

“Although,” he said, “When I was young children didn’t ask questions of their elders so you may know more than I.”

I carefully wrote what I had learned on the reverse side of the sepia postcards or black and white studio portraits to make doubly sure the information I had wrought would not go astray.

Getting lost in the lives of my relatives when they were young has intensified their absence and leaves me feeling sad.

It’s high time I spoke to my parents again,

It’s been seven years since I picked up the phone to put the world to rights with them on a Sunday afternoon.

As I leaf through my father’s Lett’s diaries and enjoy his familiar handwriting…not widely present in his letters to me at boarding school because he used his typewriter…I am amused that he recorded sun-up and sun down, high and low tides alongside brief accounts of holidays in Italy or Vienna, doctor’s appointments and occasionally an event like my marriage or a mention about visiting Guernsey or America to see me.

I miss him a lot and wish I had asked more questions of his marriage to Mummy.


June 1950

He claims it was love at first sight and for almost 60 years they were devoted to one another…but for most of that time I was either too young or not present…what did their lives look like when the blush of first love faded?  Or did it fade?

I browse through my mother’s cook book, given to her as a second wedding anniversary gift.  It is very old fashioned with only a few pictures of staged dishes and immediately reminds me that Mummy was no cook, she didn’t enjoy spending time in the kitchen unless she was baking…

Her lighter than air sponges gently dusted with icing sugar,

Her melt in your mouth pastry filled with lemon curd or apples,

Her decadent chocolate cake that I mastered as soon as I left home,

And her sweet roulade, rolled as soon as it left the oven, unrolled when cool and filled with a sweet cream before being rolled up again…

All of which made her a hit at the Embassy cocktail parties.

Between the pages of her cookbook are tucked hand written recipes hastily scribbled on scraps of paper and from them I can tell that anything made with flour was a pleasant pastime,

Whereas meals were a chore.  She cooked and assembled them during a quiet part of the day and stacked them, on plates with covers, in the fridge until time to warm them up in the oven.

Her instructions were notoriously vague when it came to her signature scones (pronounced scons), rustled up at the drop of a hat, a pinch of this, a dash of that, enough water to form a large round…

I have never mastered them but I hear her voice every time I persuade myself to have another go,

“Remember Vivienne, the wetter the dough, the hotter the hotter the oven, the better the scone.”

No help at all really!

I have found I do the same when it comes to imparting my all time favorites,

“How much is ‘some’ garlic, a few grated carrots, a handful of corn?” Malia asked when I gave her the ingredients for my version of  shepherd’s pie.

I just don’t have her touch when it comes to scones and that’s a shame.  I miss her!

I miss them both.


With their guard dog, Sasha, at the Caspian, Iraq. 1973.

How long does this missing go on?


Mummy and Daddy, you will always be alive in my heart.

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