Every Easter the Hunt was up! In Nanny and Grandad’s garden : flash of foil in fir tree - gold and purple and metallic blue. The Redman family Easter egg hunt.
Ever the amateur auteur, my Dad filmed every hunt - editing and screening his finished product since the days of videotapes through DVDs all the way up to the Smartphone present. All neatly labelled on shelves (or later in iCloud folders) next to the Christmas games of quoits and the summertime Clee Ford boat races. They were almost as organised as his desk top or desk or red screw pots in the shed - and just as testament to his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
That last hunt was no exception. His not-so-steadicam following the action, jogging memories. We’d unearth the rainbow eggs next to where Pepper rested under commemorative blossom. We dislodged them from Summer House eaves or bird bath as if New Life had already hatched. All the usual hiding places like it’s the first ever time we’d guessed - asking if we’re hot or cold as we discover a green one disguised as moss, stuck in some stone gnomic armpit.
It was a tradition of the heart. Like playing Pooh-sticks over the Clee Ford bridge before weighting Dad’s shed-made DIY sailing boats with pebbles to win the race through the overflow and down the mini waterfall into the brook at the foot of the Secret Garden. It was something the Old Man had to micro-manage, just as he did half the HGVs in Bromsgrove and all the Transport Union Members in the West Midlands; not to mention his library of home movies and whether or not I’d checked my oil for the journey home. “Which motorway are you taking, again?”
On one recorded memory you can see we didn’t have a punnet so Daddy’s tee-shirt had to become a sling. I had to hop with the bunnies like a beer bellied kangaroo. I remember once we missed an egg and found it months later on a Summer visit, melting near an ornament like stone squirrels could get the squits.
But on the last one - Dad’s cinematic swansong, as it happened, you could see we were phoning in our performances. Trying to keep it going. Teenage boys playing along for their baby brother. For some reason, though, our hearts weren’t in it.
So I think we need to pause the mise-en-scene and rewind the footage to find out why…
And as we rewatch Clem Redman’s feature finale you can see the clues were there all along - hiding in plain sight. Like Easter Eggs…
Spin on through the first few finds and you can see that Pepper’s flower bed resting place beneath the most blossomest of blossom, where we dug up a pink one that made little Harry scream with delight because pink’s his favourite colour, was the only turned earth in the garden. Clem Redman’s garden. The best kept garden in Shropshire.
Spin on some more and it’s clear that the said Summer House was cobwebbed to buggery and the garden tools inside were just lolling there, rusting and gathering dust like statues in a mausoleum.
The aforementioned bird bath was bust - a job that ‘Fix-It Grandad’ would have had sewn up in no time ordinarily. Plus poor old Gnomeo was covered in moss. It’s not just his armpit now that we can pause him on a pan of the peonies and zoom in on his sorry state.
But watching the Easter Egg hunt farewell footage again, it’s not just the visuals that should have told us something was wrong with Dad. It was the soundtrack to little Harry’s egg quest that was screaming out to us to phone the doctor too. Because, to top it all off, our every egg-stalking step was punctuated by the hacking rasp - like a fox bark worrying a hen-house - of Dad’s unshakeable cough.
As he entered his third act there was a change of location to Saint Jude’s Cancer ward. The act where all seems lost until the hero pulls through and defeats all the obstacles standing between him and achieving his quest. Only there was a revelation of information that skewed this narrative somewhat. A revelation of information from the haematologist oncologist.
Dad told me he didn’t feel like he was dying as he tapped out lists on his new iPhone toy he’d never get to add apps to - which brothers were to get which of his tools; where Mum could get his glasses fixed - him and his lists, lists, lists.
Mum took a photo of me next to him in the hospital bed. A still from the final act, if you will. I scolded her for doing it - this was hardly a moment for commemoration to be captured for posterity. This was no graduation or kid’s birthday party or Bar fucking Mitzfah! But my mother’s the kind of woman who takes a camera to a funeral to snap the flowers; and dying is a surreal enough experience as it is so perhaps saying ‘Cheese’ in a Cancer ward is not as incongruous as it may seem. Plus she used a Kodak ‘Happy Snaps’ camera and so the picture wouldn’t see the light of day for God knows how long. As it was, my brother Albie got it processed a year later and commented on the weirdness of what was on the roll. I told him to bin it. But he’s his Mother’s son so he’s probably scanned it to his Instagram account.
When we had a quiet moment, (she must have gone to the loo), Dad said the last lucid thing I ever remember him saying to me as he picked purple and yellow bits of foil off a Creme Egg Mum had left him. He told me he wanted me to have his home movie collection. He’d been proud when I spent five weeks on an induction course at the National Film School only to be shown the door for being too young and “not having enough life experience”. We were certainly putting that to rights now, me and Dad. He was also chuffed that my middle son was keen on doing Film Studies at A Level - and so he said it seemed right that our strain of the Redman family bloodline should be bequeathed the videos.
We both winced at the mention of ‘bloodlines’ and his wince got worse when he spat out the bite of Creme Egg he’d just bit. He took a look inside the chocolate cavity and where the yellowy white fondant should have been soft and creamy it appeared dry and mottled.
“How long is it since Easter?” he joked, wiping the gone off fondant from his lips.
He died just one month later of Myelodysplastic syndrome. Cancer on fast forward.
Now here I sit in the dark, rewinding the footage from that final hunt, torturing myself with Clem Redman’s Director’s Cut, chomping on chocolate and counting the repeated motifs leading inevitably to the end of Dad’s story arc : scattered in a box. A McGuffin. Kicking myself at these Easter Eggs that were found too late.