Friday, 20 October 2017

A Rare Feast and Spoonfuls of Love

The River Dart this morning 

en route 

to The Riverford  Farm Kitchen

near Totnes in South Devon, where a dear friend and I 

celebrated our joint birthdays with a three course meal - kale and courgette caesar salad,

 hake fillet baked in a caper sauce and a medley of veggies  - including the best rosemary roast potatoes.....although everything was slightly over salted.....

followed by their famous desserts - her wobbly custard tart and orange and polenta caramel cake and 

my sticky toffee pudding  and pear and almond tart smothered in hot creme anglaise... a feast to only have on rare and infrequent occasions.

I have been re-reading my blog from this time last year....a whole month leading up to this weekend and I'm so surprised to find that not everything was as I have been remembering it. Not the facts of what happened or all Robin's appointments at the hospital and people taking him out and moving him into the home, and how he didn't want to eat or drink and all my worrying about him....I remember all that.

But two things struck me - one that the head nurse who looked after him did try and warn me that he was deteriorating very quickly and they were really just trying to keep him as comfortable as possible and the doctor said about not tying to make him use the breathing machine any more if it stressed him.

She didn't say it in so many words but the best way she could. And I couldn't hear it

And the second thing is that I have been beating myself up so much about how I didn't spend  proper time with Robin and only tried to keep making him eat and drink. 

But if I believe my own words at the time it's not true. Maybe I've only remembered my guilt and frustration....and let it obscure the other stuff....the loving I did too.

This is what I wrote at the end of my blog on 18th October 2016

Driving him in the dusk tonight towards the sea, stopping to buy fuel, pointing out the sun dipping behind the hills, even though I'm tired and I can see that he's getting tired too, and even though he won't remember where we went, I know that this moment is all we have. And it's better than fretting about how many spoonfuls of pureed broccoli he had tonight. And if it's enough to keep him alive a bit longer.

Nothing will keep him alive if this disease continues to devour him from the inside. But I can feed him love, never ending spoonfuls of it, for as long as he can smile his crooked smile, stick out his tongue at me, and breathe his quick and shallow breaths.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Heart Broken

"You didn't know my father," says Sue Perkins at the beginning of her programme about The Ganges, "but he's worth grieving for." 
He died earlier this year, and in tonight's episode I found her personal pilgrimage ....  to let herself feel her sadness...... in such a profound and dramatic and confusing place, very moving. She's also very funny. 

I started my own pilgrimage
to let myself
when a beautiful woman,
a healer,
a widow,
sat opposite me and 
But your heart is broken.
You are raw
all over again
for the first time
first anniversary
of his 

in the centre of 
your brokenness
in your smashed
is the seed of 

But first 
of the wound
of your body.
How it cuts

Enter that
for gulps of 
you will 

There is a cross 
in the ground now.

There is a date 
circled in the calendar.

he is gone.

And so I begin
at last
it is

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Black Bear in her Cave Mode

Autumn in the NT gardens at Killerton House.

I don't want to get up these days....into a dark morning. It's always the first sign for me that I'm slipping into hibernation mode.....always in October. 
 It is just like a switch that goes off inside me - one day it's on and the next day it's off. It happened on Sunday. Like being filled up with brackish water....slowly throughout the day.
 So it's hard to keep my spirits, my energy, above the rising tide. I just do the minimum.....till I can give in to the black bear slumped in her cave mode...and feel grateful that I can.....with no-ne to please except myself.

 Today I had an excellent lunch with two gorgeous women in a Lebanese restaurant. We shared a huge fresh mezze platter.....humous, babaganoush, fattoush, falafel, halloumi, pitta bread, pickles and salads. And  afterwards some of us managed to down several varieties of baklava  - tiny nut-filled, honey-soaked pastries....a lovely feast.

I forgot my phone at home and I noticed how anxious it made me ......even though I wasn't expecting any calls and it was only for a few hours. But more importantly it meant I couldn't take any photos of the food.....

And a few more Widows Tips....

Treasure your friends.

Being a widow is not an illness.

Widowhood is not for sissies.

Allow yourself to feel all the bewildering feelings. Don't suppress them but don't indulge in them either. ( A fine balance if you can manage it.)

Tuesday, 17 October 2017


 This is a first for me - a red onion tart tatin ....part of  the brunch I cooked on Sunday for dear friends. It went well with the very garlicky roasted tomatoes, asparagus/ green pea omelette, sweetcorn/beetroot fritters, roasted roots and steamed  kale/broccoli with tahini lemon dressing and pumpkin seeds.

I've been experimenting with making a diary and gluten free pastry  - using fine milled oatmeal, ground almonds, coconut oil and oat milk. Not quite there yet  - this one was very crumbly. It's tricky to roll and trying to lift it over the top of the onions for this tart tatin without it breaking up was a messy operation to say the least.

It works better if you just make it into a ball and push it with your fingers  into the base of a tart tin and put your filling on top - as I did with this open French apple flan that I made last week. ( The other bowls are my batch baking - using up tomatoes and butternut squash  - for a week's worth of suppers.)

After brunch I walked in the Higher Cemetery .... loving the soft autumn light playing on the gravestones between the  rowan trees.....and the last of the verbena and roses....and 

I scattered rose petals for Robin over the Budleigh pebbles accumulating at the base of his cross.


While my sister and I were working on a mass of papers at the dining room table, I  noticed a fluttering movement in the water feature which is on the edge of the patio, just near the back door. I  was so thrilled to see my sweet garden Robin hopping around on the pebbles there which I've collected from the beach at Budleigh.

 I've only ever seen him at the bottom of the garden - usually chirruping in the apple tree  - 

he has never come so close to the house before.

I decided he'd come to remind me about forgiveness. He and my sister both.

I'm finding this self compassion practice is a tough one.
 Today while we waded through the incompletions at the bottom of my in-tray I was felled yet again by my raging against fate. This time I wanted to know why the doctors and the nurses and and the consultants and anyone who looked after Robin ...why they hadn't warned me, told me sooner, how close Robin was to dying when all his symptoms...the extreme tiredness...the refusing to eat and drink are such classic signs of someone very very close to the end of their life. 

Then, I tell myself, I could have spent more precious and kinder time with him, those last few days, instead of trying to make him drink 30 mls of  juice,  of some horrible protein drink....instead of trying to keep him alive....instead of just accompanying his dying.

And oh I know this is just a pointless re-hash....and no-one could have could have been kinder to me or to to blame..... especially not me....

Given who I am I could not have been any other way.

And the whole point of it not being the perfect ending.....the way I  think I would have wanted it.... is that I'm not perfect and what there is for me to do now is to forgive it all. And maybe that's the only purpose of my life practise forgiveness and self that I can live with myself I can live.

So this is my new daily affirmation - thank you, dear sister..... thank you, Louise Hay....thank you Robin.

I forgive everyone now and in my past, including myself, for all perceived wrongs. I release them with  love, including myself.


I bless and prosper everyone in my world, and everyone in my world blesses and prospers me.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Apple Pressing and Ethereal Sky

On Saturday my sister and I were helping out at an Apple Pressing and Cider Tasting day held in the car park of the Yarcombe village hall - a small village in Somerset in the Blackdown Hills.  I took  along all my fallen apples -  and a few more  - to turn into juice.

First the apples are fed through a crusher which turns them into 

a mush 

which is then tipped into this wooden slatted apple press,

the lid is fitted in,

you turn the handle slowly, 

and all the juice pours out  - wonderful!

You bring along your own bottles and containers and

take away your own freshly pressed fragrant and delicious apple juice which will keep in the fridge for 4 days - then you have to freeze it if you don't want it to turn into cider.

Some people brought along barrel loads of their orchard apples....

which we helped to press ...going round and round with the handle like a donkey on a mill wheel.

This is the apple pulp, called must, which is left over after all the juice has been extracted. A farmer came and piled bags of it into the back of his Landrover to feed to his cattle and pigs.

 You could also sample and buy last year's cider ..... it tasted too much like very rough scrumpy for me.


I woke up to an amazing golden light the sky-  flooding the garden with an ethereal stillness. I tried to take photos but they were mostly blurred...... the sky just looked disappointing.

Some people saw an ochre red was the effect of Hurricane Ophelia....dust in the atmosphere. We were warned there could be high winds in the South West....but it was quiet most of the day...

just a bit blustery in the afternoon ....  all the doors in the house kept's still unseasonably  warm so I have the windows open. And  the leaves were whipped off the trees, 

but the sky stayed clear summer blue

and I even got my towels dry on the line.

 But I've felt unsettled, jittery all day...

 till this evening ....
glad when the sun slipped away....into the gold of the sky .... like it appeared this morning.