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Today would have been my Dad’s 75th birthday.
That means he’s been gone for 15 years … which seems amazing given I am just coming to terms with him passing.
As I’ve written before, for the first 10 years, I was entirely in denial … something that genuinely fucked me up and that’s why I passionately believe we should talk about death much more openly.
And then – at least in my mind – he came to visit me, putting my mind at rest for all the guilt, suffering, sadness and pain I was feeling and that led to me wanting to only focus on the good memories, not the bad.
One of these good memories happened every Saturday – around 1pm – from 1982 to around 1985.
I’d be at home, watching World of Sport with Dickie Davies.
To be honest, apart from Nottingham Forest, I never really gave a damn about sport, but around 1pm something magical would happen on the screen – it would be ITV Wrestling.
Now for the people out there who aren’t from the UK or are too young to remember the 80’s, the wrestling I encountered was about as far from the uber-slick stuff you get in the WWF today.
Oh god …
Sure, there were characters like Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks [who are in the photo above] but this was a cheap and nasty affair – followed more by pensioners than testosterone men living out their delusional fantasies.
It was entertainment pure and simple.
In some respects, despite having none of the glitz and glamour you see from the American version of the ‘sport’, it was better.
It certainly was more raw and down to earth.
But that’s not what I want talk about, the fact I was watching the wrestling only serves as a backdrop to the real memory that is etched in my mind.
You see at around 1:10pm, I’d smell something from the kitchen.
The fact I would smell the same thing every Saturday at around 1:10pm didn’t make it any less thrilling.
You see my Mum and Dad would be in the kitchen grilling burgers.
Oh my god, the smell was fantastic.
They wouldn’t be fancy burgers, they’d either be Birds Eye 1/4 pounders or – when we were a bit broke – Asda’s own brand, but it didn’t matter, because they’d be great.
Part of the reason I loved them was that it was a chilled out family moment.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t come from a formal family, but having a ritual where we would eat with our hands – something we would never normally do, especially if we had guests – meant it just felt a more informal, yet intimate, family moment.
That said, my Dad wouldn’t totally embrace the more laid back nature of Saturday burgers.
Eating food with your hands was one thing, but he certainly wasn’t going to endorse having poncy burgers, filled with pickles and lettuce and tomato … oh no, there were standards that needed to be maintained.
We lived in Nottingham after all!
The buns had to be toasted.
And they were not allowed to have sesame seeds on them.
The onions had to be sliced, not chopped and must be – much to my dismay – cooked, never raw.
There could only ever be one piece of cheddar cheese on them.
Only Heinz tomato ketchup was allowed to be added.
The plates had to be warmed.
I still remember the horror on my Dad’s face when I asked for an uncooked bun with raw onion. Christ, it was like I’d just admitted to a heroin habit … which he responded with a loving – but firm – “no”.
But that didn’t matter because regardless of only being able to have burgers as my Dad wanted, the smell as they were being cooked always made me feel good.
It meant everything was OK.
It was a Saturday.
The family was together.
Of course, it all really came together when I was told they were ready to eat.
Either my Mum would call me or my Dad would knock on the glass between the lounge and the kitchen and that would be the signal.
The moment I’d hear either of those calls, I’d rush out … pulling hard on the door handle that always stuck so I could get there as quickly as possible.
I would run into the kitchen, grab the burger and then rush back into the lounge to watch the wrestling, only to invariably be called back by my Dad to close the lounge door “to keep the heat in”.
I’d rush back to the television, desperate to sink my teeth into my Saturday treat, and end up taking such a big bite that half the cheese, onion and tomato ketchup would ooze out of the bun and land either on the plate or my t-shirt.
Seriously, if you were to see my clothes from that time, I swear to god all of them would have a faded food stain around the top of the shirt.
Anyway, within a few minutes, my Mum and Dad would join me and the conversation would go something like this:
“Mmmmmm Mmmmm” [Me]
“These burgers are really good” [Mum]
“Look at those fools, why don’t they put their handbags down and get on with the wrestling” [Dad]
It was a truly special and magical time except I didn’t realise how truly special and magical it was until recently.
After 1985, it all changed.
Not because anything happened at home, but because Mum and Dad felt I was old enough to go into Nottingham city centre with Paul where we would invariably eat Saturday lunch either at a chip shop or the hot potato stall … and while I loved that time too, I’d kill to have another burger made by Dad on a Saturday.
At the end of the day, it’s the little things that define the most important moments in our lives and I’m sure if he was around today, he’d be very happy to know that our Saturday lunchtime ritual made such an impression on me.
Happy birthday my dear Dad, I love you and miss you.
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