“Are you ready?” asks my sister. We’re all lined up. There are seven of us aged from 4 to 64.
Instead of 2 metres apart, some of us are 300 miles apart. It’s all thanks to my younger sister who has organised a group family bake off to distract us from the “C” word. Poignantly, we are using our mother’s macaroon recipe which she passed down to us when she died 33 years ago.
It’s a great idea to bond three generations of the family during this very weird and scary time.
“Now did you all get your rice paper that I sent you through Amazon?” asks my sister
“Yes!” we chorus. Oh oh. My voice isn’t coming through.
“Press the sound icon on your phone, Aunty Janie,” points out my niece.
Ah. There it is!
“Can I crack the eggs, Mummy,” pipes up my four-year-old granddaughter Rose, who’s raring to go.
“Bother,” says my 28-year-old youngest son (actually he uses a ruder word) who lives in London with his girlfriend. “I’ve just realised we used all our eggs up this morning. Hang on a minute. I’ll just nip to the corner shop to get some.”
“Don’t go too near anyone,” I call into the screen. He’s gone already.
“I love your new kitchen,” says my daughter to her cousin.
“Thanks,” she says, taking us on a tour.
“I love your pink toaster,” chirps little Rose.
There’s almost a party atmosphere… in fact I can nearly pretend that we’re all together under one roof.
“Now where did I put my almonds?” I ask out loud, rummaging through my cupboards.
“They’re there, on the side next to your mixer,” says my sister. So they are. Silly me. Just as well we’re not on national television.
“I’m back,” says my youngest son. I only wish that my eldest could be here too but he’s in Spain without a smart phone. But it helps that he rings me every day to tell me he’s all right.
“Ready, steady, mixers on!” instructs my sister.
“And we’re off!” says my husband who’s filming us as we whip the egg whites.
“George go too,” says a little voice plaintively. It’s my two-year-old grandson running in. He dips his finger into the bowl at his end and flashes us all a cheeky smile. “Don’t worry,” says my son-in-law. “His hands are clean. He’s just had a bath.”
Rose and George fold the other ingredients in and then spoon them on the rice paper.
We all grab our oven gloves…
“Now into the oven, for eight to ten minutes,” says my sister.
I have an Aga so my cooking time is different. “That’s too soon,” says my sister when I whip one batch out early.
I put it back in the interest of family peace but they are decidedly crispy when they come out.
We hold our macaroons up for inspection. Fantastic.
“When Gan Gan and I were little,” says my sister to Rose, “we used to make these with your great granny.”
“They were for special occasions,” I added.
Memories to treasure
My sister and I smile at each other. It’s brought back so many lovely memories. If Mummy was here, she’d be so pleased.
George is understandably getting a bit fractious. It’s bedtime and it’s all a bit too much to take in. The most important thing is that we’ve had fun and have forgotten the “C” word for a good 20 minutes.
“Can we do this again?” asks Rose.
What a brilliant idea. Next week? Perfect.
“How about making one of your national dishes?” I ask my son’s German girlfriend.
“That would be great,” she says. My heart goes out to her. It can’t be easy being in the UK without her family during a worldwide crisis.
Staying in touch
I come away with a warm feeling in my heart. Then it made me think. Perhaps us grandparents should make a list of things that help us all stay in touch with the grandchildren. Baking together on screen is just one. Here are some others that I’ve been trying out.
- Writing stories online featuring the children’s names. I’ve been doing mine on the computer and then holding my phone screen against the desktop screen to show the children on Facebook along with my commentary. Or you could send it over as a Word Doc.
- Painting a rainbow on a giant piece of cardboard. I left mine at the children’s door during my dog walk. If you don’t live near yours, you could email a picture or draw it on a small piece of paper and post.
- Write down stories about your childhood in simple words they can understand. If you’ve been thinking about writing your life story, here’s your chance! I’d advise keeping it simple so that mummy or daddy can read it out at the other end. You could also include funny things about what their mummy or daddy did when they were little.
- If you’re computer-savvy, browse websites for ideas on what to do with children during lockdown. Send some of the links to your family.
- Grow some seeds. Take photographs of them as they get bigger and send them to the children to show how things grow.
- Sing songs on the phone or on FaceTime.
It would be great to hear from you too with your ideas. You can email me directly at email@example.com. Stay safe. Stay smiling (if only for your families). And remember that this can’t go on for ever. See you next week. Meanwhile here is our mother’s recipe below. I know she’d be thrilled if you made it.
Jane’s new book… out May 28
It started with a kiss. And ended with murder. I Made A Mistake by Jane Corry (Penguin), is out May 28. You can pre-order it at http://bit.ly/IMadeaMistake or https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Jane-Corry/I-Made-a-Mistake/24376830