Times Change For Sister Joan – Episode 17

WE can’t let him go – not just like that!” Sister Imelda snapped her fingers. “We have to give him a jolly send-off.” Dipping her spoon into a bowl of porridge, she applied herself to breakfast.

“Of course we must,” Joan agreed.

“A party!” Sister Jan exclaimed. “Would a party be jolly enough?” She glanced at Imelda for approval.

“Something a little quieter, perhaps,” Joan said with a smile.

“Supper would be the right celebration for Father.” Sister Clare was adamant. “He likes supper with us, he always has.”

“A very special one,” Jan said. “I shall make my very superior bolognese with a sprinkling of Parmesan and –” She didn’t finish the sentence.

“Irish stew.” There was finality in Clare’s voice. “All the best ingredients, no expense spared. Just this once, Mother?” she pleaded. “Father so loves Irish stew.”

“I think that would be a grand idea,” Joan said. “With dumplings?”

“Certainly dumplings.” Clare beamed.

Jan’s honey complexion reddened a little.

“So!” she said. “Then I shall make my very superior crostata di limone for the pudding.”

“I shall make my special apple-pie,” Clare countered. “With custard!”

“The lemon tart it shall be.” Joan’s decision was final. She couldn’t help but notice the look of triumph on Sister Jan’s face as she reached for the marmalade. Had she just sacrificed Jan’s chance of humility to indulge her own sense of fair play?

Sisters Amy and Louise promised carrots and onions from the store in the potting shed, the early peas were ready and new potatoes could be dug.

“Pity we don’t have a lemon tree,” Clare said casually. “It would cut down the expense.”

“The apples are not yet ready, either, so money would have to be spent anyway!” Jan retorted.

“Father’s worth every jolly penny,” Imelda asserted, and Joan smiled at her.

“When does he go?” Emma asked.

“Next Wednesday.” Imelda buttered the last slice of toast.

“Let’s make it Sunday evening, then,” Joan decided. “I shall phone him this afternoon and invite Father George, too.”

“Should we have a little wine, Mother?” Jan asked.

“Tea!” Clare said. “He likes his tea.”

“Perhaps a wee tot of that medicinal brandy from the sideboard cupboard in the sitting-room?” Madeline suggested.

“That’s a good idea, Sister,” Clare approved. “But I’ve no doubt he’d prefer tea, and we could use the tea set usually reserved for the Bishop.”

“It’s all getting a bit too special, isn’t it?” Imelda said doubtfully. “We don’t want him to feel uncomfortable.”

“Now, Sisters – I know you want to do the best to make a memorable feast, and it will be just that.” Joan smiled. “Irish stew with those delicious dumplings that Clare does so well, and a wonderful Italian lemon tart – and tea. When we retire to the sitting-room, Father may like a brandy, but it’s up to him. It will all be very special anyway.”

“That all sounds jolly good to me,” Imelda declared. “What’s this lemon tart, then, is it in the book?”

“Yes!” Jan beamed. “It is my very superior crostata di limone. It has fifteen eggs in it and seven lemons. It will serve twelve people,” she said triumphantly. “Something very special for Father.”

Joan noticed that Clare’s mouth had dropped open.

“I’m sure that Mr Murray over at Abbey Farm would be delighted to contribute some eggs for such a special occasion,” she said quickly before any comment could be made.

“I’ve no doubt at all,” Clare agreed, and then had the last word. “I’ll make custard anyway.”

Alison Cook