Tom is the middle of my three children. As a child he was quiet and reasonable most of the time. He would wait quietly while his siblings made dramatic, heartfelt pleas for ice-cream/a new toy/a day off school etc. and then just get on with whatever he needed to do. There were occasional explosions of temper, more than enough to reassure me that he wasn’t just the fantasy of a harassed parent, but he was pretty low maintenance. When he was seven he decided he needed to save up for and buy a huge Lego model of a formula one racing car. It wasn’t kiddy Lego, it had 18+ on the box and was very expensive. We left him to it, half hoping he would forget about it – it would be far too difficult for a little boy to do. But over the next year, he saved all his pocket money, birthday money and the odd sub from his uncle, aunt and grandparents until he had enough money. He bought the set and assembled it, no problem.
Tom is the least like me of our three kids, he’s doing physics at university and sees the world in a way I can’t even imagine. On the top of Pen y Fan this summer (the highest hill in South Wales), he looked down at the heart stopping beauty of that wonderful view and said “Wow, it’s just so… mathematical”. When questioned it turned out that this was a good thing, an amazing thing – a gorgeous, visual proof that the laws of physics, the forces which erode rock, make boulders fall and cause water to run down hill, were all working beautifully.
I am very jealous of his ability to see the world in those terms, but also slightly scared for him – if he saw an elephant charging toward him, he would probably be far too busy calculating the forces involved (in Newtons of course) to get out of the way.
The food in Verdi’s hasn’t changed in the twenty years I ‘ve been going there. They do good pasta, perfectly acceptable pizza, great ice-cream in a million flavours and utterly delicious toasted sandwiches. It’s not the cheapest place in Swansea but the view is second to none and the service is excellent. The location is a bonus too – you can walk over Mumbles head, along one of the beaches, go shopping in Mumbles or go down to the pier to admire the lifeboat, they all end up bringing you back to Verdi’s for a snack and a cup of good coffee.
9th November 2014
Verdi’s Ice-cream Parlour, Mumbles
Tom was very undecided about our venue. This isn’t unusual, I’ve seen him ponder the question of whether to have tea or coffee for so long that everyone else has had theirs, washed up and gone out for the day. In the end he chose Verdi’s, a regular coffee and crossword haunt of ours. His reasoning though was very much in the spirit of the 50 lunches – a nod to his childhood and memories of me as a proud parent.
According to Tom, whenever he or his siblings got a good mark at school, did a music exam or passed a swimming certificate, I would take them to Verdi’s and buy them cake. The favourite was always Rustica, a creamy, chocolatey affair which is served in huge slices in Verdi’s. I don’t remember particularly favouring Verdi’s as a treat venue, but smiling proudly at one of my children as they were eclipsed by a slice of cake half the size of their head is very familiar image, so maybe he remembers better than me.
These days I don’t understand Tom’s world at all, he left me behind somewhere between GCSE and A’ levels, but he’s a got a really good feel for mine and is fond of words, books and crosswords. For the last year or so we’ve been doing cryptic crosswords together and he has been applying his usual determination to learning the conventions. The result is that it is now unusual for us to fail to finish a crossword.
Our lunch day was a very stormy one; sometimes sunny, sometimes raining heavily. That kind of weather makes for some beautiful skies when you are on the coast and Verdi’s is a great place to observe them. We did the crossword as usual, had a chat with our friend Ryan, a fellow crossword enthusiast who works in Verdi’s and is always good for a clue or two, and watched the weather rolling across the hills and into the bay. We both had to go back and carry on working, me to studying for the DipTESOL (more of that on the next page), he to whatever it is that physicists do when they aren’t forgetting to look while crossing roads or making warp drive a real possibility in my life time.