It was a routine, thats all, they were good people, but they’d got into a routine, and you can’t break a routine, oh no.
When my good wife’s family gathered together at holidays there was a routine to follow and it always ended with her Auntie June farting.
Let me explain,
To the North East of this country, just before you get to Scotland, there exists a barren land, a land where the Roman Emperor Hadrian built a wall in the year 120AD to mark the furthest northern extent of his empire for when he had reached the land known now as Northumberland he did not want to go any further, “Verily but this land is dreadfully wild” he is known to have said, “Build me a 100 mile long wall here so I do not cross this boundary again by mistake” and then he went back to Rome to tell his fellow Romans of the strange people who were collectively known as “Geordies” that he had met up that way and of the strange tongue they spoke with.
In the 1970s it was still pretty much the same when I arrived there.
The family unit was strong though, that’s one thing that struck me, the family unit counted for everything and at every opportunity the family unit would gather, and thus it was ever the same for Suzanne’s family.
It was a large family and they had spread themselves far and wide, a brother in London, us in Leeds, another brother just a few miles away who they never spoke to (oh but that is a story…), and June and Malcolm in Morecombe, sort of Aunt and Uncle, I say “sort of” because , well, thats another story too.
And they’d gather at holidays and bedrooms would be given up by the younger members of the family and everyone would sleep wherever and whenever they found somewhere comfortable to sleep, sometimes they’d play cards all through the night and not sleep at all, but before all of that the menfolk would walk across the road to “the clerb” and in the Mens Bar in the “clerb” we’d drink beer as if Prohibition were to start on the morrow, and all the while the womenfolk would stay home and drink fizzy wine and lager and all the while June would be filling with gas like a bespectacled Goodyear blimp.
And when the menfolk were finally evicted from the clerb we’d walk in the house and as tradition dictated Suzanne’s mother had a “broth” ready on the stove in a huge cauldron of a pan where she had boiled a ham shank for twenty days and twenty nights until the bones had dissolved into liquid and any and every vegetable off the nearby allotments had been added – you’d get a huge bowl of the stuff handed to you as you walked in through the door and then you’d be handed bread, and – here it comes, the tradition – a scoop of fart fudge to spread on the bread.
Fart fudge, or as it is known in polite company, Pease Pudding.
Some call it a Geordie delicacy, personally I think its awful stuff, my wife thinks I have no taste, I think she has taste but its awful taste for enjoying pease pudding, indeed there is a tin of the stuff in our fridge right now and none of us will eat it for my daughters are Yorkshire girls and we all know that fart fudge is the devils work.
Suzanne’s mother made her own fart fudge, prepared for weeks beforehand as far as I could ever gather it was made from pulses and beans and boiled down animal bones, maybe wing of bat and leg of toad in there for good luck and then a spell cast over the whole thing as it set in a tray, a sandy coloured sticky slab of goo that carved like butter and tasted like dog shit as far as I was concerned.
Not that I have ever tasted dog shit of course though I suspect that it tastes very much like pease pudding.
And her Auntie June would eat copious amounts right through the night until at some time in the early hours of the next morning the whole family, twenty or thirty of them, would be sitting around the fire all talking at the same time, often shrieking with laughter as they tried to work out how Malcolm was related to all of them (now there is another story…) and suddenly June would cry out “Oooh Malcolm, I’ve got a pain…”
That was the signal for more shrieking and as she screwed her eyes shut to hold back the pressure of a whole nights fizzy drinks and bean based produce there would be calls of “June’s got a pain, open a window” and that would make her laugh even more and you’d be at serious risk of a conflagration, “Ooooh I’m going to pump” she’d cry and someone would douse the fire for you couldn’t risk a naked flame in such an atmosphere.
“Ooh Malcolm, I’ve got a pain”, a precursor to hours of flatulence based hilarity…