Today is the eighth anniversary of my dad’s passing. It’s also, to me, the first day of summer, because it’s June and I’m sorry but I’m not waiting till the 21st to feel summery. Coincidentally, these two things put me in mind of Pimm’s, that quintessentially British beverage; why they do this, I’ll get to in a minute.
My dad was the party guy. The whole neighborhood knew it. He worked and lived abroad, as a pilot, for large chunks of my formative years, which I now realize was very lonely for him, but when he came home he was the life and soul, and the G&Ts flowed freely. He worked this far from home so that he and my mother could afford boarding school fees for us three kids, for which I am eternally grateful. It was the greatest thrill of my life to hear his key in the lock after months away. The smell of aviation fuel and the sight of pilots in uniform still makes me feel like Santa’s arrived.
My father loved to drive and to mess with machinery, and he taught my siblings how to do sensible things like change the oil (I was the snotty youngest and started rebelling right when I should have been listening, so I never learned). Still, I like to think I’m a mix of his practical, mechanically-minded nature and my mum’s cerebral, intellectual side. So I want to write books but I love doing it on the latest equipment, and also I’m jonesing for an old-fashioned typewriter right now, just like the one he had. He would have loved computers and would probably be the one person within a fifty-mile radius that understood Scrivener. He would also have loved Skype; he always told us kids not to stick around, to go and make our lives wherever we wanted, but Skype would have made it a lot easier for him to mean it.
He could make a whole Sunday dinner, and taught us all the value of a good sharp knife when carving the roast. Radio 4 blasted so loudly we could hear it outside the house. The kitchen would be a complete disaster when he was done, which was the moment we reluctantly stepped in to do the washing up, and fight over how well one of us was or wasn’t doing it.
He loved to garden. Great long runner beans, and fresh potatoes. And the apples that we drowned in every autumn. The pears I always found too hard but which my mum lovingly picked every year, promising me they’d get softer soon. Tomatoes. So. Many. Tomatoes.
Best of all, my mum won a national novel-writing competition back in the day, and it was my dad who typed up every word from her beautiful-but-inadmissible-to-publishers handwriting. Now if that isn’t loving support I don’t know what is.
He also loved his tipple. Mostly the G&Ts, not Pimm’s, particularly, but at his wake (in England that happens after the funeral), with all my good friends and family around me and with all the sad bits over with, I was able to sit back and relax and re-introduce myself to the wonder that is a Pimm’s Cup. So simple, so delicious. So many fruits stuck in it you can pretend it’s a food group. Or go hardcore and forget them all; it’s delicious anyway. Enjoy your Number 1 in the summer with strawberries and cucumbers, and your Number 3 in the winter, warmed with apple juice and oranges and a cinnamon stick. Stick your little finger out and pretend you’re at Wimbledon or Henley; intersperse your conversation with phrases like, “frightfully good” and “don’t you know.” And raise a glass with me to my old dad, who will be up there, grinning his naughty grin, and raising a glass of his own.
Kimberley Ash is a British ex-pat who has lived in and loved New Jersey for twenty years. When not writing romance, she can usually be found cleaning up after her two big white furry dogs and slightly less furry children. Her first novel, Breathe, is now available from Crimson Romance.