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Family life

Readers' favourite photographs, songs and recipes

Snapshot: Dad on a rare holiday in the 1930s

What a great time these young men are having. A group of lads sharing a rare holiday in the 30s, determined to have a ball. The rolled shirtsleeves and vests suggest hot weather. My father, Ben, is the one astride his motorcycle on the far left of the photograph, which I think may have been taken on the Isle of Man. I know Dad went there in his youth to watch the TT racing.

Ben was born in Birkenhead, Cheshire, in 1906, and worked for the co-operative movement until the 1930s when, after studying engineering at night school, he moved to Surrey to work for Vickers-Armstrongs, the aircraft manufacturer.

Dad was a quiet man, whose favourite pastimes were reading and walking in the woods. I love the way this photograph shows him in his youthful element, larking about with a group of fellow motorcycle fanatics. The guy on the right has dropped a piece of rag as though they are about to start a race, but the demeanour of the participants shows that nobody is going anywhere.

There are girls in the background, standing next to the barn. Only one large tent is visible, probably shared by all the lads, because a second photograph shows a smaller, round tent hidden behind the motorcyclists, which was most likely to have been the girls' tent.

For my father, a holiday meant camping and his only concession to my mother's lack of enthusiasm for his passion was to hire a caravan.

As his five children matured, he bought a motorbike and sidecar, which had to be a Royal Enfield. He and I travelled all the way to Birkenhead from Surrey for a family wedding with my 12-year-old self riding pillion. There were no motorways in 1957, so it took all day. I also remember being taken to watch the motorbike scrambles at Pirbright in Surrey.

It could be that Dad's first motorbike was a Royal Enfield as well, but I will let any motorbike enthusiasts among the readership decide. Erica Medcalf

Playlist: A knees up that might be costly

Uptown Girl by Billy Joel

"Uptown girl / She's been living in her uptown world"

I first heard Uptown Girl in the early 80s, playing on my sister's radio in our shared room – it was always tuned to Radio 1. But it was a while before it came to my dad's attention, being a man more inclined towards classical.

Every Saturday we sat down to watch children's television and in those early days the video, full of neon tones, seemed to catch all the family's attention. The song was a big hit in 1983 and hung around for weeks – whenever it came on, with its upbeat melody and catchy tune, my dad couldn't help but dance. And it was quite a sight – fingers clicking, knees bouncing and change jingling in his pockets. We laughed until we cried. I remember it vividly.

Years later in 2001, it was re-released for Comic Relief. In his mid-70s, my dad probably shouldn't have attempted such moves but yet again the bendy–knee dance came out. Again we laughed until the tears fell.

My dad is due for a knee operation soon. I hope his passion for bendy-knee dancing didn't contribute too much to his dodgy knees. And maybe once he has recovered he will dance again – though not necessarily to Uptown Girl. Caroline Russell

We love to eat: Bread and dripping


Good white bread, cut in thick slices

Beef dripping


When I was 12, my father left his office job in London and started a shop. My mother worked there too, part time. It was a huge change in our lives. Till then, my mother had always been at home when we came in from school, ready with food and questions about our day. We'd have a children's tea of eggs and bread, fruit and cake, and by the time my father came home from work we'd be in the bath and ready for him to read us a story. Then he and my mother would eat alone in comfort. For the past year or so, I'd been allowed to join them for this grown-up dinner, while my brothers had gone to bed early.

Now, though, my mum would be out most days. I was 12, and regarded as quite old enough to look after the two boys, so it was my task to get home from school first and make sure we all got something to eat to tide us over till the main meal, which we ate together. 

I also had other tasks: the fat old coke boiler in the kitchen would need to be fed and stoked, and possibly even relit. No hot water otherwise. I might also have to prepare vegetables. Quite often, too, I'd walk up to the bus stop to help my mum carry shopping she'd done in the lunch hour. But I didn't mind: I can still remember the huge pleasure of coming home to the empty house and being in charge, responsible for my brothers. Bossing them about, I expect they'd have said.

My mother cooked a big roast every Sunday, big enough for the five of us to have at least two meals: hot on Sunday, then cold on Monday with salad. Whatever was left over after that would be minced and added to the next meal, and my mum might make soup using the bone, if there was one. When it was beef, there was always a bowl of dripping: underneath there would be a rich brown meaty jelly, full of fragments of roast meat scraped from the tin, with a thick layer of salty fat on top. We'd spread slices of crusty white bread with it and settle down in front of the electric fire to eat it. You can sprinkle salt on the top, to make it even more delicious.

I don't often roast a big joint of beef now, but when I do I always take care to set aside a bowl of dripping, to enjoy on bread, and remember the warm comfort of our house after school and our snacks in front of the fire. Claire Bainbridge

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