This week both my Auntie and a group of my brother’s friends have undertaken several fundraising activities in memory of Greg. Around 15 friends from our home town completed the Welsh three peaks challenge, climbing the tallest three mountains in Wales in under 24 hours and raising over £6,000 between them. My Auntie completed a 10k run and raised over £1,000. I’ve actually lost track of the number of fundraising activities that have taken place since Greg has died – so many runs and cake sales and employers donations, all going to our nominated charity Papyrus which works to prevent young suicide. Including the donations given at the funeral we think around £25,000 will have been given, all in Greg’s memory. This is truly amazing, and it is a blessing to recognise that Greg was surrounded by so many people who loved him so much that they felt the need to go out and do something for him in the wake of this tragedy.
At first I wasn’t interested in raising money. In fact, I resented it. If this charity couldn’t save Greg, why should it save anyone else? Now Greg is dead, what do I care how much money this charity has? It hasn’t done what I needed it to, it hasn’t saved the person I care about. It’s not relevant to me. In fact, it failed me. It failed Greg. Or I failed Greg in not supporting these kinds of causes before. Either way, if Greg could no longer be helped I wasn’t interested.
But once my anger dissipated a little this feeling also reduced. Because now I see all this fundraising as a tribute to Greg. In so many different ways it is a tribute. It says: we all love you so much we are never going to stop doing things for you. You might not be here on this Earth but you are still in our thoughts and our hearts and we will continue to do things for you. It says: this terrible illness may have killed you, but we will not leave it be. We will fight this illness in whatever way we can because you should not have died, you should not have left us, and our lives will be forever the worse for your leaving. It says: your death does not end the great impact that you will have in this world. You lived with kindness and joy and a concern for justice, and we’ll do all we can to continue that in your memory. If Greg were alive he might be a little embarrassed by all this activity taking place on his behalf (he was a fairly humble lad) but there is no doubt he would be very touched, very thankful, and pretty impressed!
Fundraising is a great way to take back a little control from the tragedy in your life. No one can change what has happened – we are all completely powerless in these situations. But there are still things you can do for those who have left us, and fundraising is one great example of this. Earning money for a cause fighting against the kind of tragedy you or your loved one has experienced will be hugely beneficial, if not for you specifically then for others. Putting time and effort into a task that challenges you, all in the name of someone you love, can also be a massively cathartic experience. It doesn’t have to raise any money at all and it could even be a private challenge that is simply symbolic to you. In 2011 Gary Speed, the then manager for Wales’ national football team, died tragically to suicide. This year, 5 years on, Wales surpassed all expectation in the Euros and have returned home having put in a performance to be immensely proud of. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of those players had Gary Speed in their thoughts during this tournament. What a great tribute to him their effort is.
Before I move onto my cooking for this week I wanted to include one of the other tributes that have been made to Greg in the form of a poem written by his friend Leo Smith. Again, many poems have been written. Many I heard or read in a blur of grief and cannot fully remember. This poem, though, touched me immensely and I wanted to share it here for Greg:
For our dearest Greg, who had to leave,
we face this challenge, with hearts on sleeves.
We’ll come together, in his beloved name,
We’ll tell the world, how our world has changed.
We’ll carry with us, what you left behind
Through which we can, some comfort find.
Memories forged from a shining joy,
Product of, this most wonderful boy.
We will not forget, the love you left,
less so your joy, of which we’re bereft.
May your soul live on, within our hearts,
Which owe their spirit, to your glee and smarts.
Our lives are littered with ups and downs,
Their navigation filled with smiles and frowns.
These three peaks, we will climb and descend,
A message sent, this is not the end.
The Cooking – Spinach, Leek and Gruyere Quiche
Greg’s funeral was overwhelming with the sheer number of people who turned up to say goodbye. It was heart-warming to see the church packed so full, and it was fitting for the wake to be a busy, lively affair. But it meant that it felt necessary to hold a more intimate goodbye/ celebration for family. This week we hosted my mum’s family. We walked them up to the field where some of Greg’s ashes had been scattered, and laid on a spread of food and alcohol back at our house. My mum is the child of Irish immigrants, so our family is typically large and noisy. A family get together means feeding around 20 people, which is no mean feat! A vegetarian quiche seemed the perfect accompaniment to the large bowls of potatoes, chicken, salads, bread, hams, coleslaw… the list goes on!
I made two spinach, leek and gruyere quiche tarts from Mary Berry’s ‘Complete Cookbook’. I had never made pastry before and was a little apprehensive – if it has become so normal to use ready roll the real thing must surely be exceptionally difficult. But it wasn’t. Mix together the flour and the butter, add in a bit of water to bind it all together, and hey presto! Pastry. I couldn’t see what everyone was so scared of… until I tried to roll it out.
My first attempt looked like this:
My second attempt was a little better…
But then I tried to get it into the tin.
So now I see why pastry is notoriously hard to make. For my second quiche I resorted to YouTube to help me along. There are hundreds of videos of supposed home cooks easily rolling out their lovely smooth pastry into large squares. Mine cracked and broke up simply with the rolling, so maybe something went wrong earlier in the process (too much handling? Not enough water? I need Mary Berry’s advice!). The technique for moving the pastry is to roll it around your rolling pin to lift it off your work surface, then unroll into the tin. The pastry stayed completely intact, and came away from the work surface like a piece of beige felt. But this is what happened when I gave it a go:
So I gave up on moving one perfectly rolled, smooth piece of pastry into the tin and instead broke it into the largest pieces I could manage, threw the pieces in, and pressed them together with my fingers to fill up the many rips, tears and holes.
Whilst the pastry baked for a while I made the filling, which was easy. Soften the leeks and spinach in a pan and separately mix together cream, milk, eggs and cheese. Spoon the leek and spinach mixture into the pastry shell, then pour over the egg mixture. First time round I tried to use up all of my egg mixture, which meant that it broke free of its pastry shell and overflowed the tin. This produced an end result I don’t think Mary Berry would be too pleased with:
Next time I took more care and the filling remained perfectly enclosed. The lesson here is don’t be a slave to the recipe – if the quantities look too much, they just might be. Don’t passively watch your quiche being overwhelmed with egg but keep adding more just because the book says you should. It’s difficult, but try to engage your brain.
Despite all these mini dramas the end results were perfectly edible! The second attempt was much better looking than the first. To be honest I didn’t eat any of the first because I’m selfish like that, but some people did and everyone appeared to digest it with minimal problems. The second was very well received (though one could propose my family are biased). One particularly good taster quote: ‘beautifully light pastry (no soggy bottom) with amazingly seasoned filling… Not easy with a quiche!’ The main lesson here being: an imperfect process does not necessarily result in an imperfect quiche.