I never meant to write the book. Certainly, Love, War and Ice Cream didn’t start out with a story or character or setting or dialogue or anything like that. My dad just asked me to sort out a box of old photos, and to choose a few to show at the 70th birthday celebration he was planning for my mother and himself, in Spain, which is where they live part of the time. He was giving himself two years to arrange everything. Yes, he’s organised. With six children spread across six countries he has to be.
There were hundreds of pictures, mostly of dead people I’d never met. Eventually, I whittled the photos down to about fifty. But if I had to choose only two, they would be this one of my dad, at twelve, grinning in top hat and tails, and this one of my mother as a mini spanish dancer, complete with kiss curl. Side by side, these poses, fading black and white, portray their worlds poles apart, and also the renewed hopefulness of the period just after the War, and their joy of life shines through. This is their foundation, their common bond, and what keeps them together in the face of their unlikely pairing.
As I reviewed the images from the box, one by one they teased out the family folklore absorbed over many years, and my mother didn’t need to be asked many times to fill in the gaps. We spent hours and hours on skype, recalling details and speculating about the motivations of people long gone but still present, and worth remembering.
Had my children not begun full time school and had my husband not been travelling more than ever, my pen would likely never have touched the paper to record the stories that shaped me and my family. Then my husband’s big company employer decided to merge with another firm. I waited to hear whether we would have to move again across the Atlantic, for the second time in eighteen months. Better to do anything than fret though, so I scribbled.