Sunday Lunch - a Meditation -- Mari Howard

Sunday lunch — someone I know (in real as well as virtual form) posted a photo of her daughter under this heading (or hashtag) a few weeks back. Reminded me of when our daughter was that age and stage: long hair, beautiful smile… and preteen angst in spades!

Yesterday, someone I (hardly and virtually) know, responded to my describing my novels as “contemporary”, and then proposing that maybe, since today’s kids (such as that daughter above, at Sunday lunch) are taught the 1980s and 1990s as “history”, I maybe qualify as writing “historical” fiction. This fellow writer even indicated that I would need to do plenty of research!

Time flies (and as my great aunt, born in 1876, used to say with a smile, you can’t, they fly too fast! in true Victorian and Edwardian humour style).

Sunday lunch — for an example of 1980s living: first, off to the (organic) butcher’s to buy the joint on Saturday. Then on Sunday morning, prepare the veg and the batter, put joint into hot oven, disappear to church. And then, in our house: as Granny (my mother) returned from church earlier than us, she would put in the Yorkshire pudding, and put on the vegetables. Every week, around the table, the six of us. And off to “other Granny” for afternoon tea. I used to take my mending and school name-taping along, (to do while she talked!), and we’d go via the park to visit the swings. In the fashion department, Princess Diana was setting the tone for mums — for Sunday morning, a smart skirt or dress, a navy blazer, court shoes with small heels. Husband in a suit. Boys hopefully in smart trousers, not joggers, daughter as a diminutive version of mum, in a flowery smocked dress, coloured tights and a mini velvet blazer.

Oh the 1980s! Yesterday, (Sunday), we stood on the edge of the lake which forms on the nearby marshy water meadows, watching hundreds of geese who migrate here every winter, while behind us the sun slowly rose. 


We went early to avoid too many runners, and exchanged smiles with a few neighbours walking their dogs. I thought about “lockdown”, and how this year that time was, at least, a time of amazing cloudless blue skies and sunshine. Lockdown Who would have thought, in the carefree 1980s, Life would bring us all here?

Lockdown is a cruel word, coming from a history of restraint as punishment. Psychologically speaking, this implication of punishment isn’t what I'd have called those days of sparse traffic, silent blue skies devoid of aircraft, and of course of internet grocery shopping. Those of us not “locked down” meanwhile were toiling away: key workers such as carers and shop workers, and NHS employees from porters to consultants in grave danger of infection. Bin men, those who keep electricity supplies or the sewage works going, bus and train drivers, simply doing their jobs. All this enabled us writers to keep typing away, and maybe for the more traditional continue to eat a proper Sunday lunch! And people in the performing arts, the hospitality business and retail found themselves thrown into a boat together, threatened with unemployment.

All far from life in the 1980s, a quiet time when the characters in my story meet in the civilised surroundings of Cambridge University, and after some interesting adventures end up in a marriage of family opposites.

Or is it? Who reading this remembers the miners’ strike? That there was a recession? Or how it was for the people of Northern Ireland, still embroiled in “the troubles" which lasted from 1968 into the 90s. Who remembers how we all felt about the scary emergence of HIV/AIDS, the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, or the extensive famine in Ethiopia between 1983-5?

All time is history. We writers may place our characters into crises of the Roman Empire, the burgeoning of industrial Victorian England, the first World War, the unknown fantastical future… or the many centuries between. My undergraduate heroine, studying genetics, was far too occupied with romance over a mysterious piece of research to notice. Though I'd imagine AIDS interested her medical mind, we don't discuss it in the novel... And I was not writing much, but occupied with three small children and my mother to think about. Always and everywhere, life remains on the edge for someone, many someones. And Family Sunday Lunch a wonderful aim of some respectable households not, at that particular time, caught up in some untidy reality.

We hurried over to visit daughter and small grandson, carrying some home made rock buns and a pair of new mittens, and enjoyed a short outside meet-up...

Photos: CMH Weiner 1983, 2020


Sandra Horn said…
Thank you, Mari, for this delightful trip into my past too. Oh, rock buns...
Here's another bad joke for you: fruit flies like a banana
Peter Leyland said…
‘All time is history’ - Thank you Mari. I like this meditative style. The 80s were not personally good for me and I remember well those crises you mention - miners’s strike, AIDS, Ethiopia. We did have Live Aid but I read that even that is now being challenged. Sunday lunch, yes a key item: Mum making the gravy for the roast. Now I do it for Sue and I, using Mum’s method and save the jelly for the next meal on Monday! Are we prisoners of our past or does it release us? I wonder.
Griselda Heppel said…
You’re absolutely right to question how we look back on the past, thinking how much safer and cosier life was then compared with all the worries today - when a bit of concentrated memory would show us the opposite to be the case. I’ll never forget the miners’ strike - one of my daughters was born at the height of it. And all those tragic disasters - zeebrugge, Hillsborough, kings cross fire, let alone the bombings by the IRA, in Northern Ireland and England. Mind you I’m still reeling at the idea of your great aunt being born in 1876!
Eden Baylee said…
Hi Mari, I agree > "All time is history."

Too often, we live a-historically, as if the past has no bearing on the present or the future.

With life as it is at moment, it makes me long for those good 'ol carefree days.

Stay well,
Griselda, yes, and my Grandma in 1880 - my parents married late - after the 2nd World War and were in their early 40s when I was born. It is not a recommended childhood to have ancient relatives! I'm looking up that date again though - that's the date her oldest brother was born - she was 1880 - not that that makes much difference!

Thanks to Sandra for the fly-based humour!

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