Sophie and Daddy
Two jars of homemade jam that I have inherited from Fraiser Smith who was my Dad.
It represents a lot of things about Daddy actually. It represents his love of making use of things that other people had thrown away, so the reuse of the jars. It represents the fact that he used to go and gather the fruit, or try to anyway. He didn’t like to buy the ingredients, he’d like to go and find them in nature. The labels are very indicative of his personality in that he used to make sure that everything was very ordered . . . in his life; he was a bit of a contradiction actually. So they, yeah, they are labelled with what they are, when they were made and also have a number on them. And my sister and I were laughing about the number cos to us it wouldn’t necessarily matter, what jar was number 1 and what jar was number 10 of the batch of jam (they came from the same pan), but obviously it did to him and that’s, that shows a lot about who he was I think.
I’m a Quaker and I started going to Quaker meeting when I was a little girl, with my Mum and my sister. And Daddy was never really that taken with the whole idea . . . of faith or God or anything like that really I think, as we, when we were growing up. So in terms of how he might have dealt with something like this, it wouldn’t have been an influence on him, but in terms of how I’ve dealt with it, I think I have actually . . . I’ve started going to Quaker meeting . . . more. I hadn’t been for quite a long time, just through sort of life circumstances I s’pose: having a young family and moving around a lot before that. Having that time at Quaker meeting to . . . relate how I was feeling about him and his . . . and losing him. I find that often in your life you don’t have a lot of time to just be you, and having that opportunity to be there as my . . . but relating it then to what I believe in and how . . . I can . . . how I would move . . . continue to kind of live I s’pose in his memory, with him in my memory has really, really helped.
That’s not to say actually that we had a particularly happy relationship necessarily, but I have a lot of happy memories. I would say I think the . . . in relation to sort of recently, it would probably be remembering how his relationship with my eldest daughter Poppy, who’s now 3, was sort of established and developed and how, having not been a particularly involved father in terms of my sister and mine’s kind of childhood really, as I understand it (can’t really remember), he threw himself into Grandparenthood with an enthusiasm that was really just surprising and refreshing actually. And he was actually the person who Poppy . . . she related to him incredibly well and he was the first person who we asked to look after her, just the two of them, while me and my husband went away for a night. And so, I think . . . just because of their relationship and that, you know, we knew that they would be fine. I mean it wasn’t a tiny baby but she was under 1, so it was quite a big thing for everybody. But the happy memories that cemented that relationship, now when she talks about him, and she always remembers him very happily and fondly because they always had things to talk about and always had things to do, the two of them, that were their own little things that they did.
I think of his complete inability to keep his mouth shut in a public place about people and their appearances! He was very, he was irreverent and he wasn’t thoughtless or unkind but he did used to say the most inappropriate things about people quite loudly, which were often quite funny. He had a very good sense of humour and he used to often make you really want to laugh and you thought I can’t laugh at that because that’s actually quite, you know . . . personal. Awful things really, like you know, if he saw someone who was quite overweight and they were eating and they got onto the bus say, he’d say, "Oh I think they’ve had more than enough of those haven’t they!?" Just like, Dad you can’t say that! And it did get worse as he got older but I think partly it was playing to the crowd cos he did know it was also quite hilarious.
Well . . . we had quite a complex relationship growing up. We felt, my sister and I, often felt that he was quite, very grumpy, very, erm . . . not really very involved in our family life. Sometimes, not all the time. For example we, my sister and I, used to gather pebbles and put them in a little box and we used to take them into him when he was in bed and we called them perky pills and we used to say to him, "You need to take a perky pill to make you, you know nicer, better" I s’pose in hindsight at the time I think we just thought ah to stop you, you know, get him out of bed and stop being grumpy. As an adult it became clear that he had struggled on and off with his mental health his whole life, and actually all of the memories that I have as a child of his grumpiness or his not engaging were obviously to do with that, but I didn’t know. And I think the culmination of that was that he did have a breakdown, and he and my Mum divorced. And it was a very tricky time because I think I felt that I just didn’t know who he was anymore. So my really difficult memory would be when I had to then confront, I felt the need to confront that with him. We had a very difficult conversation where I kind of felt, you know, I had to say to him - I don’t think I know who you are. I don’t know if I can love you, because I don’t feel that you’re my Dad. Fortunately for both of us we managed to deal with that. You know it took some time but . . . And I think from my point of view it started a completely new relationship between the two of us that was wonderful actually. So although it was a very difficult road to come to I think, really challenging time with his mental illness, we came out of it with a much, with a really strong positive father daughter relationship that we hadn’t had before. So that was great.
I s’pose the other thing about it is that they’ll be gone as well to a certain extent. I quite like . . . that probably links a bit to my Quaker faith and how Quakers feel very strongly about living their lives simply and valuing the, you know . . . kind of people and . . . rather than things. So I think I quite like the idea that although they are being photographed and will actually be there then for posterity, the jam itself will be in people’s tummies, and the jars will be recycled and, you know, that will be that and it will go on to something else then.
I s’pose I didn’t know I was going to own it . . . he did give us jam but it wasn’t something, he didn’t kind of, we often wondered actually, my sister and I, why he didn’t do, you know, he’d come to see us and he wouldn’t bring it with him. We did kind of think then - well why doesn’t he just bring some with him when he comes? Because we lived, you know, he lived in Reading and I lived in Lancaster and it’s a journey to come and be with us. And we did often think it would be something normal to bring some jam that you’d made with you, but he never really did that. When we were at his house we used to say, "Oh can we have some jam?" and he sort of rather reluctantly let it go. I think he was quite partial to it himself and actually it was . . . he liked the idea that he had this stock that would last him. So in terms of actually when he was alive, I don’t think he would have necessarily given it to us, we would have had to have asked. And in terms of his death, he committed suicide, so there was no real . . . opportunity . . . to have a conversation, like some people may have with somebody that’s died about, you know, what we might, what he might give away and what he might keep and what he might like to happen to things. So . . . that, is an odd situation to be in cos you kind of don’t really know about some of the things that he owned, and he owned an awful lot of stuff. So yeah, in terms of did we know, did I know I was going to own it? No, I didn’t know. But I’m quite glad that I do. In the circumstances, t’s a nice thing to have.
Oh gosh I’ve just sniffed! If this was about my Mum, she’d be looking down on us now cursing; she hates people sniffing!
As I said, he did have so many things that I could have chosen, and because my sister and I were the sort of soul executers of the will, we got everything to have between us. So I have talked to her about it as well and I think we both decided that there was nothing more . . . right really, than those.
If I could say one more thing it would be . . . well, I think it would be that I love you, and I miss you and . . . I’d rather have you . . . than the jam.