Did I ever mention that the priest who married us looked like Richard Gere?

He used to set hearts a-fluttering in a Thornbirds kind of way, unattainable, the very antithesis of crumpet. Everywhere he went- the Catholic School to give assemblies and say masses, the parish pensioner get-togethers, the mum-and-baby coffee mornings, he turned heads and caused foolish smiles and blonde moments among the womenfolk.

Thing is, he wasn’t just a pretty face.

He was searingly intelligent and deeply compassionate, one of those rare men of the church who really know how to manage and delegate to a large congregation.

It couldn’t last.

He fell in love, you see. With a woman with an equally beautiful mind. And rather than change, the church lost him to secular life. Last I heard, he was a happy, fulfilled, married insurance salesman.

But he did guide us through the whole getting married thing. That was nice. And he provided Phil with an unforgettable snapshot of the priestly life.

Each visit, we would knock on the door and be invited in for that most English of rituals, a mug of tea. We’d sit on the sofa and discuss the finer points of the rest of our lives, fidelity for an eternity.

So one day Father was making a cup of tea, and he opened his fridge.

I noted it, absent-mindedly; but Phil clocked every vivid detail.

Apart from the pint of milk in that fridge there were only two other things in there: a huge two-litre bottle of cider; and a meat pie.

Is it even possible to put that life lesson into words? How shall I name the strange solitude that juxtaposes cider and a pie as fridgefellows?

Shop pies are very much bloke things. And just a few days ago I realised somewhere seep in my psyche that on some level, my father, one of the great role models of my life, Renaissance man, was just another bloke. And it was pies that taught me. Pies and mash.

It’s been a strange time for us all. Mum had an op which seemed to go well, and home she came: Dad settled briefly into a caring capacity before complications sent her back into hospital once more.

While Mum was home, we had prepared frozen home cooked meals so that the two would eat well: but Mum could not eat, and Dad dined alone.

I arrived, a day or two after they came home, to a sight which, to me, was as outlandish as an alien knocking on the door. I have had half a lifetime of arriving at my father’s house to see him tucking into beautiful home-cooked meals, complete with piles of vegetables replete with iron.

But this day I walked into the kitchen where- despite frozen home-cooked goodies being freely available – he was enthusiastically pummeling some instant mash.

Do you remember that stuff? Granules of processed potato, peddled by aliens which looked and sounded like saucepans?

As he sat down to eat the mash which lurked next to a shop pie, I eyed the plateful warily . He gave me a shopping list.

He had a system, he insisted. He needed instant food, fast, so he was available to care for my mother. So: please could I purchase a large box of instant mash and enough pies to last a while?

I felt like saying, Dad, you want a six litre bottle of cider too?

Pie and mash: the staple of blokes, when all is said and done. Not so much empowerment, as emPiement.

Of course, Dad was called into hospital and the excellent canteen is now feeding him mightily at favourably subsidised rates. Just 30 minutes before they got the call to go back in, there I was with mountains of pies and boxes of instant mash piled up in a supermarket trolley.

And I returned home from the hospital later that evening to find a fridge full of lonely pies, Cinderellas with no ball to go to.

So: for Saturday lunch, who ate all the pies? We did. We decided to use them up in one fell swoop. The smell was mouth-watering as it tends to be, and it was only when everyone had cut into the shop pies that I remembered why we never have them.

They were horrible. The manufacturers never casserole them for long enough, or lovingly trim the bits which should be trimmed. We have a word which is not a word: the meat was nyangy. Stretchy, Jaw intensive.

Felix bowed out fairly soon, and I followed suit soon afterwards.

But a glance in Phil’s direction and Contented Bloke Vibes just radiated from his very being.

There he sat, the very epitome of emPiement.

For the picture source-and a lovely nostalgic English blog which will give you the low down on the Smash aliens – go toΒ http://adoscobblestoneblog.blogspot.co.uk/


50 thoughts on “EmPiement

  1. lol, guys and pies.

    my favourite home from home place makes wonderful deep-dish pies, a covering of light golden pastry and inside filling, delicious and definitely NOT nyangy.

    i’m often ashamed of my fridge as it doesn’t look like one belonging to a responsible adult. (at least the contents are a bit biased away from responsibility)

    1. Sidey, I take pride in my pies: I casserole meat until it impossibly tender and lovingly make the pastry to cover it. Yet still the men in my life seem to love a shop pie.

      I too feel ashamed of my fridge, but mainly because many of the things I put in there are eventually so mature they are able to walk out by themselves.

  2. Yes, it’s hard to believe – fathers are just blokes πŸ™‚ Sending best wishes and good health to your Mum! Those enigmatic and good looking priests must sure get harrassed a lot. EmPiement – great word that – haha and great post.

  3. No, not just the English! We love pies in the Antipodes, though most of us are descended from the British so that might be part of it.

  4. Wishing you strength, endurance, denial, distraction, hope, visions of swans–whatever you need to get through this difficult time. No matter how grown up we are, or our parents, we can feel deeply shaken when they are vulnerable. But I think we also connect with whatever gifts they gave us; it’s like they come alive in us in a new way. No wonder you can drive: love does whatever is required. Sending some your way tonight.

  5. I do hope that your Mother is doing better, Kate.

    As for the pies…you had me longing for a moment, harkening back to pre-gluten/chicken free days when I was a child. Then the suspect tasting you experienced reminded me that the only thing I really adored about those frozen things was the salt content!

  6. I have never quite got ‘shop’ pies – we too grew up with a brillant cook in Mum – but my dad and I have to say my sister always made a beeline for the most horried tasting monstrosities ever created:( I have some in my freezer for those days I am away’can’t cook for some reason and then my sister gets her treat but only then – the smell of them puts me off! She (and Dad when alive) did say home cooked was best but, when out and about – well!

    1. πŸ˜€ You made me laugh, Alberta…did you see- was it Horizon? where they have realised that some people’s brains simply glow with electrical activity when they look at junk food, and other people remain dispassionate. I am usually the former, unfortunately….

      1. i missed that one – no mine wouldn’t glow at junk food – and I infuriate the nurses whenever I am in hospital because I have my friend bring food in – hospital food on the wards is the pits – I even got my specialist to agree me:) – why can’t they get it right after all this time I’ll never know – fresh food is not expensive- junk is – I am shaking my head here in sorrow! πŸ™‚

  7. Sorry to hear that both of your parents are in hospital, so stressful. I love pies, absolutely adore them, so that possibly makes me very blokeish. We’ve fared very well with shop bought pies, maybe because we only buy their vegetarian equivalents although the ‘brown’ ones are normally too meaty for me! I never met the Smash aliens as a child so I’ll have to check the link but we did have the tins everywhere at junior school. πŸ™‚

  8. Hospital canteens are the business πŸ™‚ I arrived one time, drawn like the Bisto kid by the aroma of wonderful chicken curry. At least, all my friends and relations assured me it was wonderful. Oddly, there was none left.

    I was thinking of the Thornbirds just the other day- at a dance competition all the mummies came over all gooey and smiley when we realised that someone was dancing to a piece of music called Megan’s something or other- the Thornbirds music πŸ™‚

    Warm wishes, and energy giving vibes, to you and yours, Kate

    1. The Thornbirds left an indelible mark on our psyches, didn’t it, Fiona πŸ™‚ Bodice-rippingly good.

      The canteen: Β£3.50 for a huge plate of fabulously cooked nosh. The big hospitals must attract the best chefs….

  9. Spot-on blog, Kate. Generations of men in my family have been pie-obsessed. My mother’s “cow pie” (corned beef) was universally adored and as I was shamefully lacking in the pie-making department, one of my boys became addicted to Ginsters curry pasties.

    Smash was v useful on caravan holidays – quite bearable laced with melted butter. I adopted the feminist principle of never taking a potato peeler on holiday.

    Hope your mum’s getting some first-class care in hospital.

    1. Ginsters: a spell living in Cornwall ensured I had enough of those to last me a lifetime, Jan πŸ˜€ Funny: my mum used to bring tinned mince camping. We loved it to distraction. I’d forgotten that. We called it ‘camp mince’.

  10. I empathize with your Dad, when we men are alone all we need is a microwave and something to drink. Just doing our part not to make a mess of things, you know.

  11. Instant mash! Now there’s a thought. I use it πŸ™‚

    Do I eat it?


    It is a wonderful ‘resist’ for textiles. Paint it on and the dye doesn’t penetrate that area. Lovely for batik.

    Maybe that’s why it was invented?

    Take care, Kate,

  12. Contented Bloke Vibes. Ha!!

    Very sorry to hear your Mom is still in the hospital, Kate. My prayers go out for her, your Dad and you and your family during this time.

    I may have some blokeness, because I adore the meat pies every time I visit England. I can make a mean chicken one from scratch at home, but it isn’t the same somehow.

    1. No, the pies are the pies are the pies. That characteristic smell. I can’t seem to get past the whole texture thing though, Andra.

      Thanks for your well wishes πŸ™‚ I am a trifle distracted in everything i do right now, and that includes blogging. But Dad’s commented (below) to say she’s had a walk round the ward today. Slow steady improvement, I think..

      Enjoy that concrete castle of yours. Concrete comes highly recommended by the Shrewsdays in their strange Swedish-design concrete haven next to the forest.

  13. from the bloke in the middle of this, Kate, thanks for this blog. Your Mum loved it
    And so did I.
    June has just been for a little walk around the ward, X
    She describes herself as “cream crackered”- I am just proud of her.
    Love Dad

    1. Yay! I’m glad to hear she’s “up and at ’em” again! Speedy recovery to her so you can all head home again, home again . . . jiggedy jig jig!

  14. Oh, Kate, how true it is. The man in my life will also, left to his own devices resort to the quickest and simplest…. muck.

    ‘What shall we cook for Dad on his return?’ I asked the younger generation after Cyclo had been away for a few days cycling.

    ‘He really likes sausages,’ they chorused.

    So it was: bangers and mash as his homecoming treat. (Though they were ‘finest’ and real mash!!)

    1. I LOVE those finest ones…but I digress! It is refreshing to know this is a virtually universal trait, Pseu.

      You remind me of the day we all sat round our tiny gourmet portions at a plush restaurant, picking away at them to make them last, and Phil arrived late and ordered egg and chips. He got a huge, piping hot portion. Honestly…

  15. Instant mash and shop pies = Instant Yech! – but I think the pies are more disappointing because they look good. Good to hear your mum’s up and walking…

  16. Where do I jump in? First–A big yes to the Thornbirds…I won’t ever release my book…it’s just too good! I even liked the minni-series and they usually butcher the books! And then about the meat pies! I’m not sure what food staple I’d equate with them, but I can say that with food, men are men, no matter where they reside! This would be my husband, my dad…I can just see Phil’s contentment. Your decision to feast on them and get the offenders out of the home is just hilarious to me! I really do think it’s time for the whole family to get back on an even keel…we will celebrate with you when your mum is home…and dad returns to good home-cooked iron-rich meals πŸ™‚ Debra

  17. Lovely story about The Fabulous Father – just a disappointing touch on the choice of career!
    I must miss the typical male mould when it comes to pies. Most of what comes under that title has little appeal for me. However, the Yacht Club has a version according to their own recipe which is justly famed the world over. Yachtsmen from far distant parts have hardly moored before they are dashing in to place their order for the first of many. I, too, guzzle those with deep appreciation.

  18. As a child, I loved Swanson’s Turkey or Chicken Pot Pies with a golden pastry shell I could mix into the gravy and veggies . . .

    I fed the meat bits to the dog when my parents weren’t looking. πŸ˜›

  19. Thinking strong and healthy thoughts for your Mum, Kate. For Mark, his bloke food is the stuff of his America in the 80s childhood diet of Kraft Dinner, Spaghettios, and Top Ramen. So gross.

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