Sunday, 28 September 2008

End Of An Era

Twenty-one years ago this month, with mum seven months pregnant with me, my parents finally moved out of their cramped little place in Homerton in London's East End and bought the three-storey, flat-fronted, semi-detached house in London Fields where my brother and I grew up.

The house in London's East End where I was brought upWith a great garden (just large enough to accommodate the odd footy game between me and brother Joel), with trees and bushes to climb and hide amongst and with both a frog pond and a koi carp pond to explore... the old house was a delight for a kid to grow up in.

When Joel and I grew too large for the available space (at 6ft 3ins, Joel could only sleep diagonally in the back bedroom), dad built a three-storey back extension making the house into a huge 4-bedroom, 2-bath, 2-reception property. OK, the previous sentence is kinda over-simplifying what it was really like, because in reality the building project was four years in the making and was never properly finished until recently.

Having already retired from work, Dad's plan was to sell the house when the building work was eventually completed, pay off what was left of the mortgage, sink the profits into his retirement pension fund and move up to Yorkshire. And it very nearly worked.

During an exhaustingly long period on the market, more than one buyer came close to completing the purchase before eventually pulling out. Now anyone who has ever sold a house will know that coming to an acceptable deal is a very long and stressful ordeal to go through - even just once - and to be quite blunt the pressure was clearly taking its toll on dad, both physically and mentally. Then this year came the credit crunch, leading to a huge drop in house values and a collapse in the property market, leaving dad up a creek without a paddle. Having been massively gazundered by the latest buyers, and after some serious and careful thinking, dad decided to pull the house from sale, rent it out and move anyway.

After a frenetic month with the house full of plumbers, fitters, electricians, plasterers and decorators, the work required to make the house ready for renting was eventually completed last week and four young professional tenants moved in. And a 40ft removals lorry arrived to take dad, his 130 packing boxes and his bits of furniture 178 miles north to God's Own County.

The new house, tucked in-between the Pennines and the Yorkshire Dales National ParkThe new residence is a three-bedroom detached house in a small North Yorkshire village, sharing its postcode with just six other properties. Just a few yards off the Pennine Way, the Yorkshire Dales National Park stretches away in an easterly direction and the Pennines to the west. And the woods at the bottom of the garden, facing the summer house, provide a perfect home for wild deer. Or unharvested venison, as dad prefers to describe them. Just kidding... but food is, as always, the point of my post. Five years ago, when I was a 15-year-old attending Waltham Forest Junior Chefs' Academy, my dad was still regularly feasting on spare ribs from the Chinese chippy on Essex Road and lamb rogan josh ready meals from Sainsbury's.

Of course dad could cook - sometimes to a decent standard - but like so many people with little spare time in-between a hard day at work and a busy evening, he rarely did. All that is now long gone. Ever since I've been pursuing my career as a chef, dad has been listening, discussing and learning. He's been cooking almost every day and his eating habits have been transformed. But even I was unprepared for what he had to say about his plans for life on the North Yorkshire/Lancashire borders. "I'll start by finding a local farm to supply a fortnightly fruit and veg box", he told me. That'll drive my cooking, making sure that I don't stick in a rut and that I'm fully in tune with the seasons. Then I plan to find a really good local butcher and fishmonger. After that, it'll be Morrisons in Skipton or Asda in Colne... but only after I've sourced the really important produce from independent, local suppliers."
Dad's new house as viewed from across the valley
Is this the same man who used to get a free spare rib each Monday night with the four ribs and chips that he brought home, as a token to a loyal, high-spending, high-fat customer? I like to think that I've contributed in a significant way to the transformation of dad's eating habits, but he won't admit it. After all, he still thinks he taught me to cook.

Postscript: Dad tells me he's already found a local farm milk supplier who delivers to the doorstep, a butcher in the neighbouring village who dry smokes his own bacon and another who makes gluten-free sausages across the Lancashire border. He's been told about a fishmonger supplying fresh fish from the East Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire ports and will be attending Skipton farmers' market on the first Sunday of each month. He's still searching for a fruit and veg supplier, because the local farmers are mainly dairy producers, with not much arable farming in the hilly and uneven terrain.


Amanda at Little Foodies said...

How stressful!

Note to your dad - Good luck in your new home!

Mike said...

Am I missing Borough Market, Amanda? Not really. Skipton Farmers' Market next Sunday is down on the Canal Basin. Stress? No chance.

The Boston Foodie said...

That really does look like God's Country. Stunning pic. Best of luck to Dad, Trig!

alexthepink said...

Sounds lovely!

nicisme said...

That's a truly fabulous view. Good luck to your dad in his new home.

Helen said...

Wow. What an inspiring story. It just goes to show that the will to eat good food is all down to knowing about it - and of course wanting to learn. It's amazing how, no matter how tired I am, I always find time to make something 'proper' to eat. We won't mention the drunken kebab episodes though, the less said about them the better....

The new home looks idyllic and I can't imagine how your dad could not be very happy there.

Trig said...

William - not God's country - that's the American West - God's Own County. We have much smaller horizons in Britain!

Alex, Nicisme - almost as beautiful as Barcelona.

Helen - he's really doing the thing with farm food and organic veg box deliveries. I've offered him a guest spot to post about it soon.

Ros said...

I'm glad to hear that things finally worked out with your old house, particularly after the evening at Bacchus when your Dad was trying to convince ME to buy it!

If he ever decided to harvest that venison, I'll happily take any excess ;)

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