03 Jul, 2010

Family life

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Readers’ favourite photographs, songs and recipes

Snapshot: Ranger in his wedding finery

My dad has always liked dogs, making a funny clicking sound to get them to come up to him so he can fuss and pat them. But the dog in the picture with him is special – he was Dad’s first dog. He was called Ranger, not after the Lone Ranger, but Glasgow Rangers FC – Dad’s team. He was just a boy when he was given this small black pup to look after, and his mother was very clear where responsibility for the dog lay.

Dad was good with Ranger and Ranger, I suspect, was good with Dad. As an only child Dad spent a lot of time on his own, but as he recalled later, “with a dog you’re never alone”. He always stressed in his three children the responsibility of being a dog owner. Even in his bachelor days coming in late from a dance he would take the dog out for a late-night walk.

The day this picture was taken, however, marked the end of those bachelor days – the day in 1963 that he married my mother. To celebrate, Ranger, now an old dog of 16 or 17, had a blue ribbon tied round his neck and posed with Dad on the front grass.

As a family we knew the story of Ranger and his blue ribbon on the day of the wedding, but we had never seen the photograph. Until, that is, a year ago when we were emptying my great-aunt’s house when she moved into a nursing home and came across a box of slides. We had no idea what they were, but my brother thought he could do something with them, and this month he presented us with digital copies of the slides: including this one of Dad, Ranger and the blue ribbon. Alison Campbell

Playlist: Heartbreak round the hearth

More Than Words by Extreme “Saying I love you/Is not the words I want to hear from you/It’s not that I want you/Not to say, but if you only knew”

I won’t forget our farmhouse front room with the fire roaring and the stereo blaring. I loved our brown velveteen sofa with the abstract pattern. You’d had that sofa since before I was born.

I remember being hunched up on it, the heat of the fire warming us, seeing the flames’ glassy flickers through tears that burned our eyes. You were singing at the top of your lungs, as if trying to exorcise all the pain inside. I know we didn’t fully understand it all, though, so many emotions and issues far too complicated for a six and 10-year-old to fully comprehend. But the pain was evident, the grief and despair all consuming.

For years I was unable to listen to that song. I felt sick whenever I heard it. The radio would go off, I would leave shops … It’s only recently that I can listen, and see those memories with a clearer understanding.

I remember vividly you telling me you would always love my mum, and remember just as vividly telling you once, with all my teenage wisdom, that you didn’t love who she was now, you loved the memory of what was.

If only things were that simple. But now, a few years older, both my brother and I have experienced a broken heart. I remember phoning you to tell you I now understood what you had meant. For some there is that one heartbreak, that one person, who will always own a piece of your heart.

Now I have found a man whom I love and trust implicitly, and we hope to marry next year. Closest friends and family around us, those we love and care for. I would love for you to be there, Dad. But I love you too, and now understand a little more why you may feel unable to join us. Scars tell our stories, but there’s no need to open a fresh wound. Anonymous ? (checking)

We love to eat: Mum’s Pasta Joke


Pasta bows

Frozen peas

Tin of corned beef

Tin of chopped tomatoes

Boil pasta bows in water then add some frozen peas a few minutes before they are done. Drain, add tomatoes and chopped up corned beef. Stir over heat.

As far as family meals went in our house in the 80s, this was pretty much the last resort. It was a thing muddled together when Mum had been caught up at work or a dental appointment had stopped her from reaching the fish fingers in the frozen food aisle of Walter Wilson’s before closing time. If Pasta Joke turned up on your plate it probably meant she’d had a particularly bad day, so it was best to shovel it down and shut up.

It did, however, taste better on school holidays. It would have been hastily prepared after a long car journey, involving our X-reg Ford Escort dragging a trailer tent from Cockermouth to Trencreek Farm in Cornwall. It was a 12-hour trip (including toilet/leg-stretch stops) with three daughters fighting for the dominant position in the back, reading comics and carrying out surveys to see what was the most popular colour car on the motorway. We’d listen to Stock, Aitken and Waterman classics on our Walkman cassette players, noisily click-clacking the fast-forward and rewind buttons to get past Rick Astley but not miss Bananarama. It must have driven our parents nuts.

After arriving at the campsite, long after tea-time and with our stomachs growling, it was down to my dad to build the giant pop-up tent and hammer in the metal pegs, while Mum would get the gas stove on the go, magic a bag of frozen peas out of the cool box and frantically hunt for the tin opener.

Pasta Joke was best eaten off a plastic plate while sitting cross-legged on a groundsheet. Its silly name disguised the fact that it is possibly one of the blandest dishes ever created. Which is probably why Mum gave it such a name. It was always made with farfalle pasta – their comedy shape also distracting us from the taste.

The main downside to Pasta Joke on location was having to queue behind the other mums and children on the campsite to wash up the pots in the shared sink. The next day we would usually have something more glamorous cooked on the stove – involving a different variety of tinned meat. Kay Harrison

We’d love to hear your stories

We will pay £25 for every Letter to, Playlist, Snapshot or We love to eat we publish. Write to Family Life, The Guardian, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU or email family@guardian.co.uk. Please include your address and phone number

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