Monday, 2 March 2015

The Extra Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick, age 81 by J.B. Morrison

This is my first blog since my husband died unexpectedly in 2014. I haven't done much reading or cooking these past few months, then I came across the quote below.

"The three grand essentials to happiness in this life are: something to do, something to love and something to hope for." Joseph Addison 1672 -1719.

This is an amusing story. Its witty and unexpected twists gives the reader a glimpse in to what it is like to be 81 years young. The central character, Frank, shows us what the future holds for all of us as we age and what it feels like to be bored, patronised, slow in body and lonely in spirit. 

The story begins with Englishman Frank Derrick being run over by a milk truck on his 81st birthday. The unfortuante accident sends him to hospital with a broken arm and foot. When he returns home in plaster he finds his only daughter, who lives in America, has arranged home care in her absence. 

For the next 12 weeks we enter in to the world of an aged pensioner and what it is like to be penniless and powerless; without friends, to survive one's spouse and have grown up children who have no time to spare. It is also the reverse story of what Frank's thinks about the world and the mischief he gets up to make it work for him.

"I'm 81, come and have a go, you think you're hard enough! p1

At first Frank rebels against the home care organised by his daughter. He sulks, he sabotages, he refuses to wash, shave, tidy his flat or flush the toilet in protest until pretty Kelly Christian arrives and changes his life. Kelly the "pensioner whisperer" made him a cup of tea and tidied his flat. 

"Kelly made Frank feel like getting out of bed in the morning. She was like a replacement hip. 
His half an aspirin a day, his grab rail and large-buttoned phone." p20

Until Kelly's arrival, Bill the cat was Frank's only friend. Bill gave Frank a routine, something to love and something to do.

"Bill's expression was exactly the same whether 
he was waiting for his dinner or filling his litter tray." p21

On Kelly's second visit Frank was ready, he combed his hair and waited for her return. She put on the kettle and cleaned ot the fridge.

"Some of the food in your fridge is way past its use by date," she called. 
To which he replies "if it stays there long enough the date will come around again." p29

Food plays a small part in Frank's life as he has no one to share it with since his wife's passing. 

"Kelly brought the cup of tea and put it next to Frank... and she took 
half a pack of cream biscuits out of her bag and put them next to the tea." p10

After she had cleaned his flat, checked his health and had her time sheet signed she left. Frank noticed something had changed. Kelly had left something behind, and it wasn't the cream biscuits or his pills. It was something else. Kelly had begun to work her magic and Frank was to be transformed - lifted out of his rut and in to the rest of his life.

Frank lives in a housing estate in Fullwind-on-Sea and apart from Bill, his only friend is Smelly John, a much younger man in a wheel chair who suffers from MS whom he visits from time to time. The only other outings Frank has are to the local charity shop to buy knick knacks and to the supermarket to buy cat food and cans of spaghetti.

Every day is the same for Frank. He tells the time by how many planes fly overhead and he remembers which day it is by marking it off his calendar.

On Kelly's fourth visit she entered Frank's living room carrying ice-cream cornettos because there is "no age limit on eating ice creams," she said.

"By my age we should be sucking mints," Frank said, "and wearing cardigans and sipping cups of tea." But Kelly thought otherwise and told him him so.

As Kelly's final visit drew near Frank tries to raise the funds to pay for more home care through various hilarious means and fails. Kelly remains firm and professional. The future belongs to her but in the here and now she has revived Frank's spirits.

The author describes many funny scenes where age is a liability. In one scene Frank is struggling to cover his plaster cast in plastic wrap so he could wash. He is all wrapped up when he realises he needs to cut the tape  - and he's left his teeth on the bedside table!

In another scene, a matronly woman visits Frank in place of Kelly. Frank tells himself that if that woman tries to give him a bath he would jump out of the window. Then he wonders if he would get up enough speed to break the glass?

The symbolism of food as a means of companionship and sharing screams loudly due to its absence in Frank's life.

Spaghetti, cat food, cups of tea and food past its use by date hint at the lonely and frugal life of an aged pensioner, the lack of funds to budget for good produce, the lack of ability to prepare and cook it, and the limited communal opportunities to share in it.

Kelly shares her time with Frank and connects with him through the simple social pleasures of cups of tea, cream biscuits, sandwiches and ice cream. There is one heart warming scene where Frank and Kelly spend an afternoon together relaxed and cheerful, watching Frank's collection of DVD's and eating lemon meringue pie which Kelly had brought with her.

"Kelly's eleventh visit was perferct. She arrived 10 minutes early with a lemon 
meringue pie. She sat next to him on the couch and together they ate the pie and watched 'Singing in the Rain'". p228

Indulgent Lemon Meringue Pie

Step 1:  

Make the crust first so it can chill in the fridge for 30 minutes while you make the curd.

I 1/2 cups of plain flour
2 tablespoons icing sugar
125 g cold diced butter
2 1/2 tablespoons iced water

Rub together until it forms bread crumbs, add iced water and form in to a ball. Don't over work it. Put some baking paper on bench and roll pastry out on to form a disc to cover your pie plate. Use the paper to flip pastry on to pie plate. (I bought a good pie plate from Coles cost $10 and is nice and deep) Trim pastry sides. Chill in fridge. Then bake blind 180 degrees for about 45 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool.

Step 2: 


1 cup of strained, freshly squeezed lemon juice. 
(about 4-5 medium lemons)
1/2 cup of water 
1 cup of caster sugar
1/3 cup cornflour 
4 eggs separated

Combine in a saucepan over heat until thickened. Cool slightly.
Then add 60 gms butter and 4 lightly beaten egg yolks. Set aside.

Step 3: 


Beat 4 egg whites until fluffy. Slowly add in 1 cup of caster sugar
and beat until sugar is dissolved and stiff peaks form.

Step 4: 


Step 5:  


190 degrees for 5 minutes or until peaks are lightly golden.
Allow to cool so the curd can set.

Step 6


with your friends and family

©2011 My Novel Idea by Ann Etcell-Ly/All Rights Reserved

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