Friday, 30 April 2010

Friday 30th April

Day 11

At 6 am, still sleepy, I pull the collage of photos off the front of the fridge door. They come unstuck reluctantly, linked together in twos and threes, leaving tiny blobs of blue-tack on the shiny surface. They are the smiling faces of our beloved family and I lay them gently by the cooker.

While I wash up last night’s smeary supper dishes a fat pigeon struts on the plastic ridged roof above me. His delicate clawed feet sound like a pattern of scratchy rain.The pussy cat sits nearby, studying another pigeon in the garden through the window of his cat-flap. His food was raided again last night - we didn’t lock out the intruder as we have been doing. My husband’s gardening boots reek of cat spray. I resolve to phone the vet for advice.

At 9.30, two short men wearing protective yellow cloth gloves, wheel in a new giant fridge freezer and wheel out our old one. The one we had for 7 years, disappearing out through the front door into the gaping cave of a huge van. The kitchen feels bereft without our family on the fridge.Now there is a another clean white space waiting for them.

I will find it hard to choose replacement photos, although I have albums full of them.It takes me some time to adjust when things change - which they always do - something I can rely on, like water is wet. So maybe I’ll leave this empty space in the corner of the kitchen as a blank canvas for a little while. And then wait and see whose faces will be smiling back at me every time I pull open the door for a lemon or a leek. Always knowing that changing the photos can't change the love.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Thursday 29th April

Day 10

The 2 bundles of asparagus spears I bought this morning were going to be the the star in a wobbly creamy tart of butter crisp pastry. Then as the day marched on I thought they could be a starter to dip into garlic mayonnaise. Instead they were an elegant accompaniment to a mushroom risotto, green flecked with leeks, sticky with parmesan.They shared jostling space with roasted red onions, red peppers and golden chunks of Crown Prince squash and a bowl of white sprouting broccoli.

We sit at the table with old friends while the candles burn down and the tulip petals open and drop. The lemon polenta cake I’ve made is in rememberance of her and the occasion many moons ago when I had my first taste of this dessert at her home. I’ve been serving it ever since and she’s always there when I do. Then it was with poached ruby plums - tonight it’s with our first pink rhubarb.But the glass bowl next to it is always the same - velvet mascapone whipped into cream with maple syrup and a splash of vanilla. I lovec the taste of these memories.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Wednesday 28th April

Day 9

My father leans on his 2 blue metal walking sticks and directs me to pour the mineral oil into cracks that have appeared in the oak cross marking my mother’s grave. I bend and rub it in with a j-cloth. It makes the wood sticky and a rich nutty brown but doesn’t cover the blackish stains on the ends of the posts. I like to think I’m feeding this wood with golden life blood - keeping it supple. I spill some on the concrete plinth of the grave behind hers - like my brother did a few weeks ago - although I thought I was being extra careful.

I must remember to bring some Brasso next time. Set into the cross, at the junction of the posts is a little plaque, the size of a calling card. It’s tarnished - I imagine wind, sleet and hail slashing up here on the hill. In black print it says Audrey Mary Temple 31.7 1920 to 10.7.2008.The unmarked brass plaque inset below it will have my father’s dates engraved on it. One of them we already know.

As I anoint the oak he wanders off into the rough grass beyond the rows of graves. He points out a clump of white flowers on delicate stems fanned by feathery leaves.

“What are they?” I call.

“Meadowsweet,” he says.

I arrange a handful of them, each head a spray of snowy stars, in the pincushion flower holder sunk in the concrete square in front of her cross.

“I think she’d love these,” I say.

When we look back, the meadowsweet are swiveling in their little water holes, an open armed circle waving to us in the afternoon breeze before we drive away.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Tuesday April 27th

Day 8

Through the lens of my camera I focus on a swaying clump of buttery yellow tulips. They are in full hearted bloom standing a bit taller than the others which are a force field of flame and vermillion, gentian and pink. I press the button and the screen goes black. A message in red says Warning! Battery exhausted.

I already have a feast of spring garden glory captured in my camera but not to have these tulips to take home is like a broken promise. Of course they agreed to nothing. Of all the wonders these last 2 days in Cornwall that I could have recorded I chose them. And in the writing of them they may bloom a bit longer in my memory.

Now, like my camera, I need re-charging before my lovely man puts his key in the door.....

Monday, 26 April 2010

Monday 26th April

Day 7

An early morning line squeezed in while the kettle boils, my lovely husband sleeps and my small blue suitcase gapes open on the bedroom carpet. Waiting for me to decide what to fill it with. On the other side of anticipating these 2 long awaited sister days is the question of leaving the shape, the imprint, that I make in our house. I wonder what it’s like when I’m not here - poured into these spaces. Like the spilt vanilla stain that still perfumes the jam cupboard.

Luckily I can ask the person who knows when I get back.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Sunday 26th April

Day 6

We are a company of women in a warm room full of light, wrapped round by a wide garden bordered by tall trees and candy pink camellia blooms lying in heaps on the grass.

I feel safe in this circle. The lines round our eyes, on our faces, tell our stories. Our heads turn to the one who speaks. We offer each other the things we know - the things we’ve learned, the things that heal. We are like those women in the past who used scraps of discarded cloth to make a quilt and sewed their lives together at the same time. You can’t see the quilt in this room full of light but we are stitching anyway, woven together by the love of a book and our hearts’ longing for it’s truth.

And because we are women we carry today’s tapestry to the table, anointed with a candle and camelia flowers, and we keep weaving over the jewelled dishes we have brought to share.Wilted spinach in the coconut soup, walnuts and thyme in the soda bread, tomatoes and mushrooms in the couscous, sweet corn and fennel in the salad. A mustard dressing to drizzle and cloudy apple juice to drink. Orange stained fingers from the skins of clementines to perfume the car on the way home. I feel so thankful and nourished, so soul fed.

My lovely man is coming home with a gift of asparagus from an allotment neighbour - so that’s supper then - only some garlic mayonnaise to whisk up and maybe a boiled egg or two.....

And tomorrow we will be 3 sisters on a journey - a delicious present to unwrap - soul food in Cornwall for 2 precious days.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Saturday April 24th

Day 5

Yesterday the pussy cat was my shadow, clawing me with his green-eyed love-me hunger.

Today he is my mirror. My grey eyes say love me, look at me, approve of me, what about me?

I woke in the night and imagined a hundred better words than the ones I wrote yesterday. Usually, if someone is going to read them I worry away at my sentences - polish them like sea pebbles. Now that I’m entangled in this 21 days there is no time for bringing out the sheen. So I’m finding out what it’s like to feel raw, with a cornucopia of ingredients on my kitchen counter and I’m not sure what to make, how to slice it. I’m “under the brooding clouds”, as my lovely niece has said in her 100 day writing journey, “with holes in my shoes”. Taking steps.

This is what I notice today.

That I eat restaurant spicy noodles when what I want is cool avocado salad at home.

That my stomach twists and complains when I say yes to please my lovely man but it makes neither of us happy.

That in the park, in the distance, the white moon blooms of the magnolia trees look like a snow field and close up each flower is a single turned outwards star.

That when the pussy cat meows at me I don’t need to fill up his bowl with love, but I could see that mine is already overflowing. And I could make something out of that. Something worth celebrating. A feast maybe.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Friday 23rd April

Day 4

When I put my key in the door this afternoon I notice my neighbour bent double over her lawn. She is picking primroses and daisies - making a posy of them. “Rescuing them before I cut the grass,” she says. I tell her about the birds pecking the flower heads off some of our primrose plants at the bottom of the garden, leaving them in a pale circle on the ground. If they ate the petals I wouldn’t think they were vandals.

I’m hollowed out with hunger after my yoga class and trawling the supermarket isles. It’s a long time since my apple breakfast. I leave the shopping on the kitchen floor, the wet clothes in the washing machine, give the pussy cat a quick stroke. It isn’t enough. I start chopping - a long red chilli, a juicy hunk of ginger, fat cloves of garlic and scrape them into the pan with a spoonful of olive oil. The pussy cat follows me from fridge to sink to cooker, making little squeaking noises. I show him his bowl of food, as if he doesn’t know it’s there, shake some of the dried nuggets onto the floor. He looks at me with big green eyes and crouches to eat. The pungent chilli oil is making me cough. I scoop a cubed courgette into the pan and then a box of marinated tofu pieces and stir it around. The pussy cat is back almost sitting on my foot, squeaking.

Maybe he’s thirsty. He follows me upstairs and I lift him into the bath so he can drink from the dribbling tap. The routine is that you have to stroke him for quite a while before he puts his mouth to the water. I can smell the lunch catching in the pan - burnt garlic. I rescue it with a little water and a few shakes of tamari. Then tip the whole lot into a bowl of washed rocket leaves, sliced cucumber and baby tomatoes. I hear the pussy cat jump out of the bath.I don’t want to give him attention now. I want to eat. He doesn’t know about my hunger, only his own. I think I must have failed as a pussy cat mum. But probably he’s unsettled by that invading tomcat.

We eat in the garden next to wilting pots of primroses. My lovely man folds his feast into a dinner plate sized tortilla wrap. I tear mine into jagged pieces and use it like a second fork. I wear long sleeves and a wide brimmed hat resigned to the fact that the days of burning sun on my bare arms are over. A little distance away the pussy cat washes himself on the grass and sretches out in the shade, his eyes half closed. Waiting for me to get up and go inside.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Thursday 22nd April

Day 3

Mint leaves mint leaves mint leaves

fresh picked mint leaves, in a wide mouth glass of hot water

bruised mint leaves leaking their green

and their perfume

leaving me a tea of clear emerald

to swirl with my teaspoon

and zing on my coffee tongue.

Today I sip this tea with dear friends in the clatter of a cafe. I’m there and also somewhere else as fresh mint leaves have a particular tag in my memory. Pull the tag and instantly I see a jug of straggling mint stems on a kitchen window sill. The tiny cramped kitchen is attached to a factory in a hot country where I am spending some days with aubergines and tiny brown bottles of liquid smoke flavour. Creating versions of babaganoush. Every morning they bring me a small glass too hot to touch at first - mint leaves in boiling water. It is the freshest most alive thing in my day.

That version of me then was no more successful than the babaganoush samples.

We’ve never managed to grow big healthy bushes of mint in our garden however many varieties I’ve planted. I’d like to try again though this summer. And rewrite my mint memories. Let them unravel into jugs of Pimms , and speckled bowls of tabouleh and saucepans of new potatoes turning the water emerald and zinging me to the table.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Wednesday April 21st

Day 2

In the garden the sun shines on gold and scarlet tulips dipping swan-necked from their pot and nearly touching the grass. I hurry back inside, goosebumps raised on my bare arms from almost icy air.

The sweet peas and Crown Prince squash planted by my lovely man in the greenhouse have sulked and rotted in their snug seed trays.

The radishes in our lunch salad look plump and crisp and taste of nothing but a sponge flavoured with a far distant hint of pepper. Our allotment mustard greens, on the other hand bring tears to our eyes with their hard hitting heat.

This evening, filling up our pussy cat’s bowl with his sloppy tuna the pungent spray of an interloper tomcat hits my nostrils.It is low down all over the wall by the back door and over our rack of outdoor shoes. We thought we’d stopped him last time - eating our cat’s food and marking territory which isn’t his - by locking the cat flap and bleaching his smell away. Now he’s back again a silent and cocky invader.

If I met this same cat in a neighbour’s house where I presume he lives I would stroke and fuss him, admire him and call him a sweet puss. But now he is the enemy of my cat and I don’t see his sweetness any more. Like when we call a boy a hooligan or a child a when I’m cross because my lovely man cleans his mother’s silver spoons and the whole kitchen smells of Duraglit even before I’ve had breakfast.....then I forget his loveliness for a moment.

So today I’ve been thinking about how I feel upset when things are not as I think they should be - a cold spring, a taste free radish, a dead seed, a cat in the wrong place, a husband’s timing. And how would it be instead if I loved all these things I can’t change anyway? I would have to laugh at myself of course. And that would be a new and challenging practice. Like saying yes to the dancing I could have gone to tonight even though I don’t feel the sap rising in my blood yet in this cold spring air.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

No Day Without A Line

“No day without a line”. I quote my sweet poet niece, in turn quoting Beethoven in her blog called 100 Days or 100 di Questi Giorni to find the celebration in the ordinary. She has started this glory to get herself writing when it is easier not to. Now she has 13 days - each one a delicious morsel which I’m savouring and lingering over each night, loving her generous heart on the page -

feeding mine.

When we were together she said “Let’s set up a blog for you too”,nudging me to come out from hiding in my journal. Inspired by her courage and beauty my blog will be for 21 days. They say this is how long it takes to break a habit and lay down the groove for a new one. For me it is the habit of not trusting my writing. So thank you, dear niece. Here are my lines and let’s see what I cook up. Food will slither in soon - after my husband it’s my first love.

Tuesday April 20th

Day 1

Today I find myself at my desk writing in purple ink. My diary says 10-1pm Lifestory. That means me writing it. The story of my life - which I’ve said I will do before I’m 60. Instead I notice I’m curled on the futon, foetal, under the softest blanket the colour of egg yolks. Letting last night’s nightmare filter through me. I can hear birdsong outside my window and I know 2 creamy white cotton rugs - brought back from many trips to Portugal with my dear sisters - are hanging on the spinner in weak sunshine. Strength for recording my past has deserted me today.

So I will think about lunch. This morning I retrieved a soggy bunch of spring onions from the bottom of the fridge. R brought them back from the allotment last week and I forgot them. I’ve snapped the ends off a gaggle of asparagus spears he picked last night. So I can feel the beginnings of our lunch whispering to me - maybe some fat black field mushrooms too and some ribbons of pasta.... we will eat at our old wooden table on the patio. But probably keep our jumpers on.

Maybe tomorrow will be the day to visit that other country of the past.