Family life | A great escape, India Arie and Jack’s pie
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Snapshot: My father-in-law’s great escape
Looking at this photograph of an elderly man, peacefully sunning himself in his garden with his granddaughter, it is hard to imagine that 70 years ago he was a young RAF navigator with Bomber Command.
Born in Hove in 1918, Frank Fisher lived in north London as a child. His family always holidayed in Bournemouth and he often hoped that he might live there someday.
Plucked from the safety of a job in insurance, Frank – my father-in-law – was on his 33rd mission when he parachuted out of his Halifax, after it was shot down on 16 April 1943. He was taken as a prisoner of war to Stalag Luft III, where The Great Escape actually happened, and remembers many of the characters later portrayed in the film. He said it was not at all like the Steve McQueen version.
An only child, he married Gladys, who was in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, after she fell for him – literally – when he knocked her off her bike in Wales, or so the family tale goes. After the war, he trained as a teacher, eventually becoming a headteacher, and they had two sons. The boys bucked the trend by producing three granddaughters.
Once, to entertain the girls, he decided to be a Dalek by sticking a rubber sucker on his forehead. He ended up in the doctor’s surgery with a sore head and it took weeks to heal. I’m sure his pupils would love to have known, when he faced them in assembly after the weekend, the real reason for the strange mark.
When I turned up from Birmingham to marry his elder son, he could not have been more welcoming. I always remember his kindness, particularly saying we should value and preserve regional accents (mine was quite strong then). I loved discussing current events with him, particularly on education, as we were both teachers.
After Gladys died in 1988, he was lost for a while, but Frank insisted on continuing to provide family teas on Sundays, including making the red jellies that the girls adored.
Occasionally, we could coax this modest man into talking about the war: what it was like to jump from a burning plane, finding his way in the dark (in what he hoped was France or Belgium until he found a tombstone with German writing on it); and his sadness at hearing later that many of the escapees had been shot on the direct orders of Hitler.
But Frank was happiest putting all this behind him, leading a quiet life, later with his second wife, Doreen, whom he married in 1995. When the newlyweds moved to the coast, his long-term goal was achieved – to live in Bournemouth where he had felt so secure as a child. He also acquired a stepfamily of whom he became very fond.
Frank played the piano, ate very healthily before it became fashionable, and always went for a daily walk – he could still fit into his old RAF uniform in his 90s.
He died in August 2012, aged 93. His three grandchildren and three stepgrandchildren all made it to his funeral and his eldest granddaughter, Zoe, also a teacher (pictured with him in the Southbourne garden about 10 years ago) read from his war diary, written in the PoW camp. She pointed out that, typically of his generation, “Grandad never complained about risking his life.”
I think this picture, which we keep on the door of our freezer, sums up the peace he felt to be alive and with his family on a sunny day in the garden; contentment he richly deserved. Barbara Fisher
Playlist: The awesome positivity of Demi
Strength, Courage and Wisdom by India Arie
“Strength, courage and wisdom / And it’s been inside of me all along”
My cousin Demi was a beautiful young woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer at 19. Her two-year journey battling the disease was not only astounding to our family, but also left consultants, doctors, nurses – in fact everyone she met – in awe.
Despite having to deal with all the treatments and life-altering decisions, Demi found inner peace and a deep understanding of life. That’s not to say she didn’t suffer greatly, she absolutely did. The physical and mental pain of facing this terminal illness was more than we could ever imagine.
Her wonderful character turned the extremity of facing a ticking clock at such an early age into positivity. She decided to try everything she could to fight the disease and one major part of this self-healing process was finding her true self.
She taught all those who had the pleasure of meeting and knowing her strength, courage and wisdom.
This song became her anthem as it pretty much voiced what she felt. She was a gifted person and sang like an angel. Her passion and life force came out when she sang India Arie’s lyrics.
The song was played at her funeral and the words remain in the hearts of my family and Demi’s friends as a special gift she gave us. We live by the words in the chorus, knowing that if Demi was able to get that soul connection at 21 years of age, then we surely can – and must.
I hope her story gives other people strength, courage and wisdom too. Jane Cull
We love to eat: Jack’s pie on a plate
Two large white onions
Six rashers of thick dry-cured bacon
Large handful of parsley (maybe more)
Salt and white pepper
Enamel plate – see photograph
Roughly cut up the bacon: try different kinds, eg smoked, in different pies. The pieces need to be about 1cm to 2cm, but don’t even think of being precise. Place it in a bowl.
Chop two onions finely and add to the bacon. Get a large handful of parsley. The dense, curly English variety is best. Finely chop and add to the bowl. Add salt and pepper. Mix very thoroughly. There is more onion, but the bacon should be well in evidence.
Roll out two circles of pastry roughly the diameter of the plate and slightly thicker than a pound coin. Lay one layer of pastry on the plate and evenly spread the mixture over the base of the plate. It should be about 2cm thick and slightly raised in the centre.
Moisten the edge of the pastry and place the second layer on top, gently pressing around the edges and on the top in general. Stab the top with a fork.
If poshness is required, a bit of crimping is in order and you can glaze it with a beaten egg, though Dad would have used the egg in another version of the pie, which wasn’t that far removed from a quiche – unheard of in our corner of Devon.
Preheat the oven to 180C and bake for about 35 mins. Keep an eye on it – the pastry should be golden brown. Let it rest if possible for 30 minutes. It’s best eaten when just warm.
The plate in question was one of those well-chipped enamelled things more recently available as trendy designer kitchenware, but our original, used in this recipe, was utilitarian 1940s ware. The pie-maker was Jack, my dad, a wonderful, instinctive cook who must have created hundreds of original recipes in his time.
His kitchen garden was an interesting place with the normal range of easily grown vegetables picked a few minutes before they appeared in a cooked form. The thing I had some difficulty in understanding as a lad was why some plants appeared in the quantity they did. For example, parsley. Each year, two very long rows of parsley seeds were planted and two very long rows of parsley appeared. What on earth did he want this much parsley for? There was plenty of mint but no sage or thyme. Tarragon, dill and chives were nowhere in this garden and, indeed, were difficult to come across anywhere.
This glut of parsley, though, gave rise to food containing rather more of it than any cook would normally recommend, and this led to some interesting flavours as is the case with the pie on a plate.
The dish is a simple thing and rarely survives more than a minute or two after it emerges from the oven. My dad was lucky if he managed to grab even one slice.
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via Art and design: Photography | guardian.co.uk http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/apr/27/great-escape-india-arie-jacks-pie Thanks for reading Jay
Posted on April 27, 2013, in Photography News and tagged Art and design: Photography | guardian.co.uk, arts, guardian, IFTTT, info, information, journal, news, newspaper, photo, photography. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.