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Saturday, 30 July 2016

The various purposes of desire.

A week on from all that cooking.
Lucky me,all those lovely things to eat and minimal work to get them to the table.

Smell a rat?
I bet you do.

Have you never found that looking at the recipe/having the idea , doing the shopping and then cooking it is enough?
 Its a bit like someone telling you that you will find a joke hilarious or a man telling you that he is sexy.

Christmas day food is a good example.
In advance make mincemeat ,bread sauce,stuffing,mince pies,sausage rolls,chocolate log,Christmas pudding,Christmas cake,potted shrimps,spiced beef.....

You: "Oh shut up,shut up, shut up."
Me: "Feel weary?" "Queasy?" "Think its a bit excessive and / or show off?"
You: "No offense but YES."
Me: "and thats before we get to the big day."

Ok,we ate a bit of everything but mostly the batch of cooking just sat there.
There wasn't room for the rhubarb and strawberry pie in the fridge.I checked on it and the heat had put a mould on it.I very nearly did a dance.

Waste? Hardly bad girl territory is it?
It's a form of wanting to want something

A place, for instance, that you have loved down the years and know like the back of your hand. Isn't it better to lie in bed and mentally walk round it,savouring all the old pleasures? If you go it can be either formulaic or disappointing or both.

Is there a place you went to, thought magical and then never went back to?

Don't know why - Nora Jones
(video on Utube if you don't know it)

"I waited till I saw the sun
I don't know why I didn't come
I left you by the house of fun
I don't know why I didn't come......."

"Something has to make you run
 I don't know why I didn't come
I feel as empty as a drum
I don't know why I didn't come......."

Mind you I never felt like this about romance.Said a mouthful there Angela! Before I married the saxophonist I had six other proposals of marriage.NO,I wasn't the town tramp as they say in the states.I just found friendships with  men easy, men who turned out to be romantic.
No, I did not want to want any of them .Just said no and got out quick.

Perhaps wanting to want things is a dangerous game whether its half a chicken or anything else.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

The woodpecker's example.

Today,it still being hot, I decided to cook for the week.

Roast chicken.
Roast gammon.
Roast lamb.
Rhubarb and strawberry pie.
Sausage plait.
A Cornish/Devon recipe for a pie involving spring onions (scallions),bacon and an egg mix.
A spinach/garlic combo.
A mix of broad beans minus pods and inner cases with cabbage strips.

We ate the lamb with new potatoes,mint sauce and the beans and spinach .Plus the rhubarb and strawberry pie with creme fraiche.

I will turn the chicken into a pot pie,sandwiches and soup.
The gammon is for baguettes and to go with saute potatoes,green salad and some mustard.

The plait and Cornish/Devon pie are for a picnic along with potato salad and beetroot plus fruit and some coconut flapjack I've made.

Yesterday driving through the countryside,windows down,something crossed the road at windscreen level.
A woodpecker.He whirred across just like a clockwork toy.His feathers were ruffled and his expression (No,I didn't imagine it) was fed up.His yellow breast looked like he had run an exasperated claw through it.

Perhaps he'd been fool enough to cook for the whole week all in one go.

Just looked in the mirror : evidence of ruffled feathers and weariness from whirring for all to see.

Soothing slow jazz on the radio ( Mi Soul radio ),bath,stroll in the evening cool for a beer I think.
NOTE TO SELF:if you see someone harassed by life don't fall into the same trap - even if its a woodpecker.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Pitfalls and distractions.

These last two days the weather has,mostly, hovered around ninety, dropping to the low eighties at night.In  other places and at other times it's certain it has been more testing.
I find this scant consolation.
I have poor circulation.I complain and the concerned or irritated touch my forehead or hand.The general response is "good lord".This is neither here nor there really.Its all relative and if you feel hot you feel (expletive) hot.

What to do then?
Well,not much judging by the quietude that's hit round here.Streets and roads are largely silent. To see a solitary figure somewhere in the distance feels like coming across a stranger in the desert.

It's as silent here as if we have been snowed in.

That's probably as well as it takes so much effort to stay civil in this weather.
The Saxophonist and I are convivial and kind with one another because,well,because we just are.Outside of that I seethe inside. The heat makes me critical,illogically so.
Its not dehydration as I'm drinking tea by the pint and what feels like water by the bucketful. No,its the long list of things you want to eat, wear and do which would be disappointing and / or miserable if you tried them now.Frustration, I suppose. I ridicule people in my head.Oh dear...

Last night I sat down with a pile of cookery books. The idea was to rough out  weeks worth of light and tempting food.Not too much involving the oven and perhaps a picnic or two.
What I actually did was leaf through the illustrations of about a book and a half in a dilatory fashion.I scribbled down a couple of lacklustre ideas and then has to stop.
Every thing seemed to be "warming,"hearty",rich,sickly or sometimes all four. I snapped the books shut before I felt any more bilious than I already did.

Distractions. Aah distractions:

I am reading some Jonathan Raban at the moment.Another of his watery volumes. He speaks of "smashing your own reflection".He means diving into that reflection.
I sat there quite sometime ,flinging myself from the side of the boat,savouring the shock of the cool water and soaking off the sweat in the waves.

Yesterday I got given a promotional balloon.A bit embarrassing  as it bobbed along beside me like an excitable puppy.Once in the car park I simply let go of its string.I thought it would just end up under somebody's car.Instead it went straight up.Caught a thermal and gained momentum.Up and up until it was a tiny yellow dot and then nothing.Gone higher than I could see.There was a release and a relief in that.Illogically,a clarity that felt cold.

I thought, today,what would I tell a child about managing this temporary time of sweat and thirst.I decided I'd tell it about angels.
About how,if its deep snow,you can lay down in an unblemished field or a car park.Lay flat on your back and scissor your arms up and down along the snow.
When you get up the image is left of a full skirted figure with wings.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

An evening more of a sum than its parts.

The Saxophonist puts down the phone. I've heard half the conversation of course and know he has agreed to play at a beer festival at a country pub.

He's agreed to put a crack band together from players he rates.Just for the night.
He's forgotten its the same night his brother has invited himself over.

"Ah" he says."You'd like to go,wouldn't you?" He knows I like a good gig.
I agree to be diplomatic with brother in law.Which means telling him a pack of lies.He is the sort of man who would find Mother Teresa a bit degenerate.These are necessary fibs.
A good early dinner has been cooked(by me) and clearly appreciated by brother in law.
I say casually what a lovely evening it would be to go to an oak beamed pub in the depths of the countryside.

Brother in law likes beer very much.He can tell you how many vitamins there is in a pint of real ale and how important it is to keep up your fluid intake in hot weather.

The landlord ushers us through the pub and out into a huge marquee.Real ales racked up at one end.A rudimentary stage at the other.Little tables and chairs scattered down the sides.A huge space in the middle where people may or may not dance.
The saxophonist greets the players with enthusiasm,they are enthusiastic back.Brother in law is not noticeably enthusiastic.In fact he actually shudders at some of the more outre gentlemen in the lineup.(He'd shudder a lot more if he knew some of the stories).
The band sets up and brother in law makes the best of a bad job and goes to look at the real ales.He orders four pints.One a piece and one he swallows in one before he brings the tray to the table I have chosen.

And so we begin.
Music. Jazz and jazz vibed. Some raucous and some melancholy. It starts to rain. It pours as brother in law pours two pints down his throat every time he goes to the bar.
The night moves on and some of the pub regulars have drifted indoors.Other people have had a small orange squash,felt they have been daring to come at all and gone home.Everybody else remains.In fact some more people arrive! The proposed dance floor now splashes when you walk across it to the bar.Which we do rather a lot.

Its late now and people have mellowed.In fact a couple of people have got so mellow they have fallen off their chairs. But we are all inhabiting the music as much as is what is in our glasses.

Suddenly the saxophonist shouts a roar and says something to the band we cannot hear.I grin at brother in law and say "it just got serious".
The saxophonist tightens his reed and pitches it high.The band to a man shout something and as one they kick back and play for all they are worth.

Four or five tables of people stand without discussion and walk to the mud that was once a dance floor.
A woman hair stacked high in a wettish party dress laughs out loud at the spectacle.
Might have been me.
The crowd surge and strut,twist and thrust and get happy.
The woman takes a swig,kicks off her heels and joins the throng.Her brother in law grabs her hand and they jive in the mud.
The saxophonist solo's again.He swoops like a swallow,he chuggs like a train and then he hits something.
The crowd knows what that is and so do you.

Its that sequence of notes that you never want to stop,that can never be reproduced exactly again.
It makes you want to laugh and cry at the same time.Male or female,old or young.It speaks of something you yearn for,can never have and cannot precisely define.Its the point where you no longer understand except at the most profound level.
Its about happiness and living forever
The musicians and muddy dancers making something memorable and beautiful.
Something that will,in recollection,warm them on a bleak day.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Looking through the key hole.

If you squint through a key hole you get a partial view of the room on the other side of the door.It is by no means the whole story - its distorted by the angle you are obliged to look at it.
I felt a bit like that yesterday.
So, I and the saxophonist are at Aldeburgh, sitting on the shingle ,eating fish and chips  .He takes a swig of cloudy lemonade and gazes out at the boats and yachts bobbing past."Bramfield has a detached tower,a medieval wall painting and a fifteenth century rood screen with original paint and decoration on it"he says.
He is talking about an ancient church and he has done the research.
I am impressed but he need not know that.
"ah"I say "but does it have an alabaster or marble monument of someone".
"Yep" he says screwing up his empty fish and chip papers.
Now he knows and I know that I am as much a sucker for all these features as he is.He also knows that monuments are an especial favourite with me.
I grin from ear to ear,he grins back (the saxophonist finds enthusiasm attractive ).We pick up our belongings and the remains of lunch and sprint back up the shingle.A black headed gull cheers us on.

There is a detached tower and a ghostly wall painting they have uncovered. The rood screen does indeed have the rich dark green,red and blue they painted on in the 15th century.All are glorious.What a treat.

I sit on the alter steps of the silent and empty church looking at the life size monument. A woman in farthingale and ruff holding a predeceased baby in swaddling bands.Impressive and melancholy it is too.
I glance down.
There are some gravestones flat on the floor. Unusual in their detail.

Angela: "Want to know the story?"

You: "Go on then."

Three related stones .
First, the father.Mr Nelson,gentleman. Accomplished but missed out on preferment at court through his reticence.
Second,the husband .Arthur Applewhait .Bayliffe and "favourite" to five named plus later unnamed owners of Hevingham Hall.Died aged 39 and left no will on his fathers instruction "thus leaving his elder brother and his wife" (from whom all the money came by the way )"to engage in a chancery suit"
Third,the wife.Her story is best told by your reading the stone word for word.Here it is.

Here lies the body of Bridgett Applewhait
Once Bridgett Nelson.
After the fatigues of a married life,
Born with her Incredible Patience,
For Four Years and three quarters baring three Weeks:
And after the Enjoyment of Glorious Freedom
of an easy and unblemished widowhood,
For Four years and Upwards,
she resolved to run the risk of a second marriage-bed
but death forbad the banns -
and having an Apoplectick Dart,
(The same instrument with which he had Formerly
Dispatched her Mother)
Touch't the most vital part of her brain;
She must have fallen Directly to the ground,(as one Thunder strook,)
If she had not been catch't and supported
by her intended husband.
Of which invisilble bruise,
After a struggle for above Sixty Hours,
with that grand enemy to life,( but the certain and merciful friend to helpless old age,)
In Terrible Convulsions plaintive Groans or stupifying sleep
without recovery of her speech or Senses,
She Dyed on the 12th day of Sep in year of our lord 1737 and of her own Age 44

Well ,what are we to make of that.
Was father weak and spoiled her?Was Father a really good Dad?
When did mum die of an Apopletick Dart"?In Bridgett's childhood or later? Did Bridgett think/know she might go the same way?
She had money and married someone without,is this relevant?
Her husband was not just doing the bayliffes job but was a perpetual "Favourite" .What do we make of that?
Why such a high turnover of owners of the hall?
What of the will and the father in laws instruction?
Also what do we make of the strange way her widow hood is described ?

Sorry,is your back giving out from bending over all this while ,peering into the keyhole?

I would love to know your interpretation of this shadowy soap opera.

If it helps you can look at the church at:

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

I bet you would have done the same.

The weather has been oppressive for days and meals have gradually and consequently got lighter.Comes the day though when you look at a lettuce with contempt.I consider that to be a sign to put the oven and my apron on.
I open all the windows and doors,work out a running order and get stuck in.
Later there is a dense but not soggy chocolate cake,some sausage rolls,a savoury flan,a summer soup and some little apple pies.
Whilst they all cool I test the cake.First out of the oven ,its cool now.So I make a ganache to coat it.The cream and heavy slab of dark chocolate blend beautifully.The ganache is sleek and shiny as I take a palate knife.I smooth it over the cake in a thick gleaming slick.
Nothing else is cool enough to deal with.So I leave it all and go to the town on a few errands.The heat looks set to stay  and the sky is clear,so I just take my bag and go.
Errands complete, I feel a single fat plop of water.Its several steps before there's another.They come down in ponderously, set apart like pillars in a cathedral.
A minute and this turns to a mild drizzle,almost a mist.
Walk on and suddenly its like somebody flicked a switch.
There's a deluge.
A wall of water.It hits the ground and bounces like a hundred rubber balls.Everyone runs into door ways.Soon the road is a river.I look expectantly to see if a sea monster will glide stiff and regal through the fast moving flow.
Inches in minutes and still it pelts.It has confounded gutters and drains and come edging onto the pavement.A periodic breeze sends sweeps of water to where I stand.I am slapped with another wing of wet and decide there is little point in lingering.
I set off for home.Shortly my sandals are emit tiny bubbles of water and make disconcerting flatulent noises as I step and they seep.
At last I fumble the key in the lock and stand in the hall.First move coffee pot on.
My hair is plastered to my head and sending a bead curtain of water down my face.I do not have an item of clothing that does not need wringing out.
I grab a towel and rub my face.I peel off my clothes.The house is hot but I still shiver as the water runs from my hair and down my spine.
I dry myself in a rough and ready fashion and smell the coffee.
I must put something on but I want that coffee now.The nearest thing on the clothes horse is a pair of silk  knickers.Hardly the thing,frivolous and flimsy.Mint green with tiny black polka dots for heavens sake!
Don't care,put them on and head for the coffee.
I sit at the table,scalding mug steaming in my hand.I glance up and there's that cake gleaming away.
"The cake is for later" I say to myself."You made it so that people can have a slice"I say.
Its then that a slow smile starts to spread my face.
Its that word "slice".They can have a slice,they will love it.They don't need to see a whole cake.
I get up ,grab a plate from the plate rack and the unsuitable bread knife.I cut a fat glistening wedge and grab a fork.
Back at the table,coffee still steaming,rain lashing down the windows,I take a forkful.

You: "Was it good"?

Me:"Oh yes it was good"."Very,very ,good.

I cannot cure the ills of the world but,dear reader,I can tell you how to change your perception of them.In fact I just did - go and get yourself something wonderful to eat.

Sunday, 10 July 2016


Sometimes crowds and queues make you listless.You ache for space and silence.Or at least I do.

So I looked at the map,turned what was in the fridge into an old fashioned picnic and we struck out into the landscape.

Where water is concerned a map can be ambiguous .Here is Blackwater estuary but what of the routes to the water?The little pathways and tracks that take you from countryside to where the masts show in the distance.
Oh lucky day.It was one of those where you turn the corner and there's a dagger of water in sight.Hurry to its hilt and a whole vista emerges.Lagoons,bobbing boats and a vast vista of shining water.

Water that breaks into shards in the sunlight.Shattered mirrors and broken diamonds.The smell of salt and seaweed is intoxicating.Lingering like a child that does not want Christmas to end.
Then a further thought.

There's a remote Saxon chapel built by St Cedd.The plague got him in 664 AD so its been there a while.

We park and start to walk.Its half a mile along a track loud with bird song.The wind is strong but warm.The air sweeps your body and seeps into your spirit for that whole half mile.
The chapel itself is swept by the continuous wind.Once inside you hear nothing but the wind.The only light is from windows very high up.There is space and silence.

I thought of people down the centuries sprinting in and slamming the huge wooden door against pelting rain or icy blasts.

Sanctuary,succour and consolation.It had been that way long before the first king of all England took the throne in 802 AD.

It is that now.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

It's hot.

Slick,sleek,black,oiled.Two young cormorants perch a pole a piece.Side by side.There is the air of leather jackets and I wonder if one will pull out a comb and slick back the thick oily plumage on his head.

An Egret floats across the lake like a table cloth on the wind.Listless in the heat.

My sweaty elbow slips off the shelf in the hide,the binoculars slip.And into view slides a lapwing.He picks his way along the edge of the lake.Halts to preen,halts to think,halts for halting's sake.Its hot.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

On your feet.

There is music that galvanises you.Gets your blood up.
Music that acts like an Espresso or a double Scotch.Sometimes you can't remember where you first heard it,in what circumstances,in what mood and with whom.
If you could choose these songs they might be different and certainly more complicated.But the choice is not given to you.
They have to be popular songs unconnected with a cause,a person or an event.
If they are they  do not count.
They must do you no particular credit.They have to make your blood sing.They have to make you bounce in your seat of course but mostly they should make you feel gloriously,ridiculously reckless.
My three ?
Well all are on Utube and they are:

Red river rock-Johnny and the Hurricanes.

Fast boys and factory girls-Port Sulphur.

Get outta my dreams and into my car- Billy Ocean.

The first two will  rouse me but the third always ,always got me on the floor doing the X rated hip thing. It always will.
And yours?

Monday, 4 July 2016

Coriander and courage.

I like Indian food and I like to cook it too.A while back I found a book written by an Indian from recipes her mother had taught her.
Revelation?I should say so.
Since then I've acquired various similar tomes (some good ones have been written recently).Back then though I had the book but lacked ingredients.Supermarkets either did not sell what I wanted or sold them in puny amounts for exorbitant prices.
I Googled.Yes ,I could buy on line but I like to see what I am getting food wise.
I located an Indian supermarket some distance away and we made an outing of it.
What a revelation.It was a horn of plenty,a cornucopia.The sheer quantity and variety of fruits and vegetables.Very cheap and very fresh.
A sad little button hole of Coriander costs you over a pound in an English supermarket.Here you get three bunches big as bridesmaids bouquets for a pound.
It was my second visit and this time I needed certain flours,the long thin rolling pin and the board used as a rolling template.
There was a whole wall of sacks of flour.Large and small,all in glorious technicolour and all in Indian.Not the Indian on my list either.
No assistant and no idea.
Then down an adjoining aisle a short lady in a plain coat,wire basket in hand and pulling her shopping trolley."Excuse me" I said "I want to make samosa's,pakora's and bread but I'm not sure about the flour.
She halted her trolley,clasped her hands together and said " I use this one and that one".I put the flours in my basket and thought to thank her."what else is on your list "she said.She took the list and we went round the whole shop together.We finished at the boards and thin rolling pins."No"she said "better quality,better price down road.""You pay,I pay then I see you outside".
I did as I was told.Outside she strode along,me in her wake.She giving me cooking tips as we speed along.Once inside the shop she chose what she thought I needed.I put them in my basket and turned to thank her.
She had simply melted away.I paid and left.
On the pavement I paused to accustom my eyes after the gloom of the shop.Then a small figure came hesitantly from behind a display stand ."I just wanted to say "happy cooking""she said.
I took her two clasped hands and thanked her sincerely.Such kindness,two shops and all.
She went her way and I mine.Two women with cooking in common.I do not suppose I will ever see her again.
I came home and began cooking Indian food.I thought of her while I was doing it and smiled.
Time passed and my cooking carried on.Then the atrocities began People with bombs,guns,machetes.Horror in Paris,horror in America,horror here.Like most people I was shocked,disgusted and angry.
Then I remembered my friend in the Indian supermarket.
I began to cry then because I knew that while kindness and gratitude exists between ordinary people the man with the machete cannot win.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Seaside Sunday.

At certain times of the year the tides and currents move and a causeway opens up .It goes far out into the sea.
You can walk out over purple and vivid green strands of seaweed a long,long way.So far you can see round into the next bay.
Boats and yachts are yards away.
You can stand next to a man with a huge hand net catching his tea.
Solitary walkers are lost in their own thoughts like me but as we pass we nod or smile.Its greeting and mutual appreciation for the place
I breath ozone and salt into both nose and mouth.It clears my head and fills me up like a good dinner.
The slap and jump of waves.The wind ebbs and flows.
Your hair is blown about and there's the clink of a few shells in your pocket.
I think you get it too.