Thursday, 30 September 2010

Not Cooking for Two Weeks

Thursday 30th September

Day 162

I’ve been wondering what it will be like in America when we are on holiday and I won’t be able to cook. Every night in a hotel for two weeks. A friend says you can find wonderful vegetarian food there. So we could buy bagels for breakfast in New York and have picnics on drifts of fallen leaves - red and gold and yellow - in Vermont. And trust the sun will shine.

I can save up my cooking therapy for when we come home.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Coming Home

Wednesday 29th September

Day 161

Sometimes I think we eat the same meals all the time and I could be more adventurous in my supper repertoire. But as the light fades earlier and my energy with it, I gravitate more and more to the simple.

Tonight, round pebble carrots and potatoes boil on the stove. A colander of broccoli flower heads will sit in their steam for five minutes before we sit down. The pan of flat, pale yellow beans - a packet we bought on holiday in France - are softening in a stew of sweet orange tomatoes, garlic and red onions. There is more garlic - ours - in the mayonnaise to dab on the organic salmon fillets. If I get the timing right we’ll have half a mealie each to sink our teeth into while the fish spits and blackens under the grill.

Now the house smells like coming home. Better than last night’s take away pizza.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010


Tuesday 28th September

Day 160

Outside my window the giant poplar tree is swaying in the wind. Its leaves are turning a rusty yellow. Rain is spitting on the glass. The light is deserting the sky leaving a pale grey stain over the rooftops.

I made an early start this morning in the supermarket trawling for pineapples and avocados for my father’s ten day juice fast. Now I feel like the drained away clouds with no inclination for cooking. Or writing. Earlier, salted cashew nuts filled the gap while I cogitated about supper. Now I’m not hungry. The fridge is full of green beans and tomatoes and things that need eating up before we go on holiday.

I wonder if that lovely husband of mine has any supper inspiration since mine, like the evening light, has sadly leaked away.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Anniversary Jars

Monday 27th September

Day 159

On the way to our anniversary lunch we call in to visit a dear friend who we haven’t seen for a long time. All summer I’ve been meaning to take her a jar of my strawberry jam. Several years ago she gave us our first strawberry plants which reproduce themselves over and over again in their long trailing suckers at the allotment. This time I tuck in a jar of Victoria plum jam as well.

When we are leaving she hands me two bottles of her own - glistening dark chutneys - Pear and Walnut, Tomato and Courgette speckled with mustard seeds. We exchange hugs and our missed summer months - sun and hot fruits captured in glass jars - extending our friendship into the winter.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

A Nearly Anniversary

Sunday 26th September

Day 158

We are sitting on the sheltered steps of a fourteenth century quay having our lunch. The sun is hot on my face. Behind us, seagulls swoop over three sailing boats tethered in a turquoise sea. We have walked down a vertical cobbled street made from beach pebbles to get here. When Charles Kingsley - who wrote ‘The Water Babies’ - lived here over a hundred and fifty years ago he wouldn’t have paid £12.50 in a car park to enter his own village - Clovelly.

My husband’s baguette is piled high with crayfish tails. I am biting into a hot smoked mackerel roll smothered in a horrible mayonnaise. We are remembering this day twenty four years ago - the day before our wedding.

I said, ‘I was probably rolling out pastry for the quiches, or having a panicky cigarette in the garden. And your mother said it was unlucky to see you but in the evening you came round to my sister’s house and and I cut your hair in the kitchen.’

It was all ahead of us then. We didn’t know our six year old bridesmaid, my sweet niece, would make this her wedding day too, twenty two years later. A date we are so happy to share.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Tender Wounds

Saturday 25th September

Day 157

When I come home this evening I find that my husband has pruned the apple tree. We have different words for it. His is trimmed. Mine is butchered. He is surprised by my grief.

Since I can’t put back the severed limbs and their fruit I’ve been wondering how to undo my loss. And my rage at him. Which of course cuts deeper into us, and is more hurtful to him - and to me - than any murdered branch.

Right now I could apply the salve of loving kindness - always good to spread on the most tender wounds - real or imagined. But am I willing to give up oozing first?

Friday, 24 September 2010

Quick Friday Supper

Friday 24th September

Day 156

‘I want something delicious for supper but I don’t want to cook it,’ I say to my husband in the car on our way home.

‘We’ve got lots of apples.’ he says. ‘Or a takeaway? Or cheese on toast?’

I’m not inspired by this and peer into the depths of the fridge hoping for quick deliciousness to leap out.

In the end he scrubs the potatoes and cuts up the beans. I chop the Brussel sprout tops and purple sprouting broccoli. He skins mackerel fillets and I mix up horseradish mayonnaise. We watch the end of ‘The Magnificent Seven’ while the pots boil on the stove.

A delicious Friday night after all - and cooking takes half the time if you do it together. Even if he doesn’t slice the beans quite like I do.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Sewing Box Secets

Thursday 23rd September

Day 155

I need to sew on a button. I don’t do much sewing and hardly any mending. I used to take it all to my mother who was a skilled seamstress. My sewing things are currently in a green 'Clarks' shoe box. I can trust I’ll find a cotton thread to match the material of my tunic - a dark mocha - because in a clear plastic box that used to be full of chocolates, I keep a collection of tiny spools of thread every colour shade of the spectrum. I remember buying them in a newly opened and almost empty supermarket in Streatham in South London where we lived when we first got married.

Searching in the box I find two more memories. A row of needles, one rusty one, slotted into a gold card - my husband’s. When I first met him he used to sew wads of rags onto sticks for his fire-eating performances. I can smell the paraffin on his breath now if I think about it. And singed chest hair.

The other memory jogger is a small padded pincushion nearly as old as me - green felt on one side and on the other a piece of material printed with white daisies on a pale green background. I recognise it as remnant of a doll’s dress made by my mother. I can hear her Singer sewing machine whirring on the verandah. The dress came to a sticky end - chewed by a neighbour’s dog. Maybe he thought my doll was a rat.

I’m glad the dark cotton thread for my button is a perfect match for the material - it disguises my lumpy uneven stitches. I've always been better at cooking than sewing.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Dust in the Mouth

Wednesday 22nd September

Day 154

There is something wrong with our Crown Prince Squash. The one we picked at the allotment a few weeks ago. The biggest and best of only three, hanging from it’s vine like an early Christmas present.

It looks and feels perfect - misty silver grey skin, heavy as a head. But when I hack through the bone-hard outer rind, the flesh inside, which should be bright marigold orange, is more of a mustardy yellow. I scrape out the ridges of flat seeds in the centre clinging to their fibrous bedding. The texture is too soft, too wood pulpy.

I roast it anyway, chopped into large boat wedges, painted with olive oil and scattered with salt crystals. And hope that all will be well once the oven has done its magic.

It smells good. It looks ready to eat - with glowing crisp brown edges. I cut into a segment - it’s rigid tough on the outside. The flesh which should be juicy sweet collapses into powdery crumbs. It tastes like dust in my mouth. A disappointment hard to swallow.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Mealie Meal

Tuesday 21st September

Day 153

Finding myself alone today I stretch my shopping hours to way past lunchtime.

At 3 pm I sit in warm sunshine on the patio with a plate of leftovers - borlotti beans, garlic mayonnaise, lettuce leaves. My second course bubbles away on the stove - a long fat cob of sweet corn, snapped in two to fit in the pan.

We call them mealies in Zambia where they are a staple food. The cobs are left to dry out in high mounds, like ant hills in the sun, and then the kernels are stripped and pounded - usually by the women - into a fine powder called nshima. When this is boiled with water it turns into a soft, tasteless mush which the Africans scoop up with fingers and sometimes dip into a relish of tomatoes and spinach. Or it’s served with kapenta - another staple - tiny fishes from the Kafue River, dried and salty.

This afternoon when I bite into my sweet kernels, grown on an organic farm in Devon and slathered in butter I realise that to me they are a luxury - to be relished for a short lived season till it’s over. To someone in an African village that maybe all there is to eat - day in and day out.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Ice Cream Day

Monday 20th September

Day 152

It’s surprise ice cream weather. We promise ourselves one after our walk by the estuary, where sail boats are marooned on the pockmarked mud and the smell of hot seaweed rises up, reminding me of all those childhood holidays we had on the beach.

In the delicatessen shop they only have small rock hard tubs of a well known and delicious local ice cream but not the flavours my mouth is watering for. We go home. I feel deprived.

Later, after an appointment, when the sun is still hot, I drive past the supermarket and notice my ice cream hankering nibbling away in my mind. I remember the contents of the freezer at home and decide not to stop for Magnums.

I throw handfuls of ice- dusted jewels into the blender - redcurrants, blackberries and raspberries - they rattle like stones against the blade. I find a tub of frozen mango puree, dig out wedges of it with a knife and plop it in with a chopped banana and two big spoonfuls of Greek yogurt. In seconds it’s blitzed into a deep pink and orange flecked creamy drift, thick and icy smooth.

I scoop it into two bowls, pour over some maple syrup and carry it upstairs to my husband’s office. I sit on the carpet and we pretend it’s the seaside. Only later I notice several pink dribbles on my top which unfortunately is white and blue striped.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Weekly Socks

Sunday 19th September

Day 151

‘Is it cold in here?’ asks my father when I arrive at his home this afternoon.

It is. I feel the radiator. It’s not on.

‘Would you like a blanket?’

‘No, but bring me my dressing gown.’

He pulls it on over his cardigan. I make us a cup of tea. He lets his get cold.

I think his grey socks look threadbare at the heels. He insists he doesn’t want new ones. He says he only changes them once a week anyway.

‘Do you mean you don’t take them off for a week, even in bed?’ I ask.

‘Well, they are difficult to put on,’ he says, ‘ I have to use talcum powder. Smell them if you like.’

He’s laughing and I say ‘no thank you,’ and I laugh too.

There are worse things in the world than wearing your socks for a week.

Two Tarts

Saturday 18th September

Day 150

Unlike my father, I’m not someone who sets out to break the rules. There is a culinary dictum, some would say papal, which states -


I’ve always adhered to this in my menu planning. Until tonight’s supper in the company of some delicious, precious young people, we tucked into TWO TARTS. The first was with a crisp, buttery pastry ( frozen, courtesy of Mr Sainsbury) puffed around melted layers of basil pesto, Gruyere cheese and tiger striped tomatoes - the last in the greenhouse. Closely followed by my husband’s favourite dessert - an upside down tart tatin - a fat disc of sweet short crust pastry topped with a mesh of sliced apples - from our tree - glazed in deep amber caramel scented with orange zezt. One tart to wave goodbye to summer the other to welcome in autumn.

Luckily no one notices the broken rule. I think I could break it again.

As the light fades we six re-connect, dovetailing our lives together in the candle light. Outside, surging across the fence in a draping tangled mass, the solarnum crispum of the deadly nightshade family, opens its clusters of white star flowers and drops perfume into the dusk. It feels like a blessing on our table that the Pope could never match.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Just Moments

Friday 17th September

Day 148

Some random moments from my day:

An apple for breakfast - a faller, picked up from the dew on the grass, red skin chewed by earwigs, cold, crisp, juicy......

After lunch - warm lemony borlotti beans drenched in parsley and garlic - we sit on the patio step in unexpected sunshine and share a piece of chocolate banana cake.......

The aroma of tomorrow’s supper - ratatouille - roasting in the oven, floats out of the kitchen while I hack at the ivy rope clawing its way up the brick wall and into the scooped gutter of the flat roof.........

As we leave the house I remember that it doesn’t matter if we are a bit late - better that than being cross with my husband......

I help myself to another irresistible slice of courgette pie at the table of dear friends - she is the queen of crumbly melt-in-the-mouth short crust pastry - I want pastry making lessons from her.......

I rub a scented lotion, soft as whipped cream, into the cracked, stained skin around my finger tips - a sweet nurturing gift from a dear friend who whisked it up in her kitchen with oils of almond, lavender and geranium......

Listening to the rare silence of the house now I realise it's nearly midnight......

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Yogurt Moon

Thursday 16th September

Day 148

The moon leads me home tonight, following the curves of the M5. It hangs there, poking out from behind a black curtain - half of a broken dinner plate licked clean by a shining silvery tongue.

They say the moon is made of cheese but tonight it’s as creamy white as the velvet honey yogurt we poured over apple and blackberry crumble - enough for three bowls. Each as round as the moon; full to the brim with friendship.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

A Mouthful of September

Wednesday 15th September

Day 147

‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.’

If my mother had been walking with us to the allotment this morning before breakfast she would have quoted those lines. Neither of us can remember the poet or the next bit but I can see her, her finger raised in the air - a conductor of verse - as the words flow from her like a musical score.

The low sun slants through the tangle of bean poles and the long grass soaks the hems of my jeans. We pick the last of the courgettes, the wide leaves are turning crinkly brown and dusted with white mould. I pull carrots and he waters the tomatoes in the greenhouse. The greeny brown conference pears are bending the branches of their tree. As I cut the sweet peas my fingers feel stiff and cold. The air smells musty in the bed of squashes.

At home I google the poem. It’s ‘Ode to Autumn’ by John Keats. He writes a lot more but I think those few words say it all. A mouthful of September at our allotment .

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Lost Cells

Tuesday 14th September

Day 146

My sister and I take down the framed pictures from the walls of my study. Where I write every day. We pack away the shelves of books into shallow boxes that I was going to use to store the apples. Getting ready for the man with the ladder and paint brush who will come and decorate when we are in America.

To compensate for my echoey empty room, in the kitchen I cover the whole fridge with photos of our beloved families. Where they used to be on the old fridge. A bright collage of smiles every time we open the door for a tomato or a lemon.

In the consultant neurologist’s office my husband and I gaze at the computer screen. He clicks the mouse so that each time the picture of my husband’s brain gets bigger and closer. Like a map of the world hurtling towards us in black and white.

‘You can see here,’ says the doctor, pointing at dark smudges on the right side, ‘ these are spaces.’

Where before there were cells.

So this explains why he can’t recall the name of a penguin or a courgette even though he knows that he knows it.

I wish we could replace those cells with new ones. Paint in the spaces. As easily as sticking photos on a white fridge door.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Holy Trinity Noodle Soup

Monday 13th September

Day 145

The boiler is leaking. The man can’t come till Thursday. I put a large plastic bowl underneath the crusted tap to collect rusty brown water drips.

It feels cold and bleak in the house. The sky is white-out blank. I can smell rain coming. Fridge-cold lettuce and tomatoes won’t do for lunch. I consider pasta but today is the day to call on the holy trinity - chilli, ginger and garlic - in a hot Thai soup with long noodles to slurp up from the broth. I slice the kernels from a sweetcorn cob, grate a fat carrot, chop a purple onion, a long red pepper, a few chestnut mushrooms and pak choi leaves and scoot them into the steaming stock.

Lunch in a bowl in ten minutes - just fresh coriander to swirl in at the end and a glug of soy sauce. And some shakes of chilli sauce for my husband whose tolerance for pungent is greater than mine.

The boiler still drips but I’m glowing from the inside out.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

A Bar- Tailed Godwit

Sunday 12th September

Day 144

We take it in turns to look through the binoculars at the bird. It’s standing quite still on stately legs in the middle of a small grassy island surrounded by a flooded meadow. It has a long curved beak and streaked creamy brown feathers. It’s distinctive, one of a kind among the ducks and seagulls. The desire to identify it draws us into the bird hide where posters of all the varieties of birds you might see at this sanctuary are pinned up inside the wooden slatted walls.

It’s a Plover.’

‘No, I think it’s a Curlew.’

‘It could be a Sandpiper.’

We point and try to match our bird in the sunshine with the drawings on the paper. We can’t agree.

I want it to be a Bar -Tailed Godwit because I love the name. And I’ve never heard it before. I wonder why naming things gives them an identity and gives me a sense of belonging to a wider world.

And not being able to name things is like not recognising the taste of parmesan cheese or honey even though it’s on the tip of your tongue.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Dinner Time

Saturday 11th September

Day 143

Six fresh trout, stuffed with spikey rosemary and lemon slices are smouldering in a tray in the oven. On the shelf below a pan of roast potatoes, meltingly crisp, are nearly cooked. The last of our green beans and swiss chard are steaming on the stove. A mustardy, lemony, olive oil dressing, thick with my sister’s flat leaf parsley waits on the table to be drizzled over it all. Oh yes, and a bowl of roasted red peppers and aubergines too.

Soon we will come and sit at the table, where a fat candle in the middle is throwing it’s flame on crystal wine glasses, and the vase of sweetpeas, just picked by my husband will mingle with the aroma of dinner.

I think of how much of a meal is about getting the timing right. And about how time flies away but stands still too. Tonight my cousin sits at our table. Although he is a grandpa now, to me he’ll always be my playmate under the hot African skies where our families grew up together.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Tropical Nights

Friday 10th September

Day 142

Coming out of the restaurant tonight the air is tropical warm, wrapping the four of us in gossamer silk. The pavement cafes are crammed with people at tables, talking, laughing, knives and forks clinking in the dark. The aroma of fried onions - something spicy and charcoaled blends with their voices.

If I didn’t know I was in a city centre precinct in Devon I’d think we were walking towards a beach fringed with palm trees rustling in the hot breeze. In some exotic country where you never need cardigans.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Yellow Paint Trap

Thursday 9th September

Day 141

The pussy cat and I lose the afternoon to sleep while the sun blazes on our front door which is propped open, warning squares of paper taped to the step say “WET PAINT”.

When we leave the house this evening we find a tiny black insect glued to the yellow gloss. Maybe it was a creature with bee pretensions hoping our door was a giant sunflower or a sticky pollen factory. I think it’s dead, but it’s fluttering, with only one leg, fragile as a hair, mired in the paint. Gently, my husband flicks it free with the tip of his penknife. It struggles into the still warm air, all legs intact. To live another day or even a minute.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Champagne Breakfast

Wednesday September 9th

Day 140

Slowly I’m diverting our apple river - chanelling it into gifts - “I’ll make apple pie,” says my father’s housekeeper. He finds them too crisp and sour to eat raw.

As an afterthought, I grate some - skins on, juice squeezed out - and add them to a banana cake recipe which I’m experimenting with. I’m making it vegan for our weekend visitors - using dried apricots instead of eggs and oil instead of butter. I’m not sure it works - I think too much fresh fruit in a cake can make it soggy. I could warm it up, call it pudding, and serve it with maple syrup.

What does work is making breakfast out of all the bruised and wormy and weevily ones. Every morning I rescue a jigsaw of apple pieces cut from these rejects - ten or twelve of them, and jam them down the funnel of my super-duper juicer, along with a handful of chopped spinach leaves, a quarter of a lime, a sliver of ginger root. Out pours a clear green, frothy, zingy stream which should taste horrible but is actually the champagne of all juices. And never gives you a hangover.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Pearly Soup

Tuesday 7th September

Day 139

The radio says it was this day in 1940 that the Blitzkreig started on London.

I think of how we use the word blitz now in recipes - as in ‘blitz the bread in the food processor till it turns into fine breadcrumbs.‘ A purposeful attack on a loaf - no death involved.

I insert myself in the kitchen early this morning, conjuring up autumn soup - before the paint invasion. I chop the first leeks from the market and our potatoes and carrots, add soaked pearl barley and leave it to simmer a long time. When we eat it for supper tonight in deep white bowls, it’s more like a creamy thick stew, peppery savoury and comforting.

I wonder what we’ll have for supper this time next month when we’ll be in a street in New York, the night before my birthday. When I wont’ be writing this blog any more.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Paint and Rainbows

Monday 6th September

Day 138

The aroma of fresh basil leaves pounded in a mortar with garlic and sweet pinenuts......the perfume of apple and banana cake seeping out of the oven...... I cook deliberately to mask the smell of silicone sealant and polyfiller and undercoat paint, thick in the air of the house.

All day the doors stay closed against slashing rain and wind, trapping chemicals in the fabric of the walls. I feel cut off from the lifeline of my kitchen while a man on a ladder shaves dust into the fruit bowl.

And then this evening, turning the pages of a photograph album, we glance out of the window and catch sight of a rainbow fragment - half a faintly coloured arch disappearing into hurrying clouds. A bite of sun, a mouthful of blue sky and then it’s gone - eaten up by vapour, painted back into mist. But like fragrant cake, its fragile visit will linger in my memory much longer than the smell of emulsion.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Apple Harvest

Sunday 5th September

Day 137

My husband is perched high up in the apple tree. You wouldn’t know he was there - the leaves and branches camouflage him so well. Except every now and again you’ll hear a shout followed immediately by a thud and a splat as another apple whizzes past his nose and lands on the grass. These are the ones that escape - they are usually bad anyway. He has a Marks and Spencer carrier bag attached to his belt and as he picks, it bulges out with the weight of his cargo.

When it’s full he climbs back down the ladder and brings it over to me. I’m crouched on the lawn surrounded by an array of large boxes - sorting the apples by size and colour and ripeness - small green ones, medium redish ones, big scarlet ones and a lot of stung and bruised ones. The bags and bags keep on arriving till I run out of boxes and I feel like that little Dutch boy with his finger in the dam wall. Luckily we have a shed which can hold this waterfall of apples thundering down from our tree.

The invasion of green tomatoes and plums last month feels like a mere shower compared to this fruit ocean today. I just have to remember that they are the best apples in all the world for making tart tatin - my husband’s favourite dessert.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Welcome home

Saturday 4th September

Day 136

Defrosting the freezer, de-cluttering the jam cupboard, tidying my sock drawer - random acts of cleaning before I meet my husband at the airport tonight. Opening up a space in my head, and in my recent rhythm for the return of his lovely, big warmth.

And probably several new clay models too, the sun and his happiness kneaded into them.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Late Lunch Poems

Friday 3rd September

Day 135

With my husband absent, I notice I live in another rhythm - moving to the beat of being temporarily single - with a pussy cat and friends. I’ve been going to bed very late. Today I had lunch at 5 pm.

After my sojourn in the crowded town - hairdresser, Truprint, library, cashpoint machine, Waterstone’s - I walk home, my stomach growling with hunger. I pile my plate with yesterday’s salad and the cold borlotti beans which are even more garlicky and unctious and earthy on the third day. And a fat cheese straw from Sainsbury’s. I carry this late lunch outside. The sun is still hot on the patio table, the rest of the garden in deep shade.

I open my new book - called “Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes - Selected Poems by Billy Collins. My niece, a poet herself, reminded me in her daily Haiku gem that I’ve been meaning to read his poetry. Ever since June, when our little writing group in France sat on squashy sofas one evening after supper, and read him aloud to each other and we laughed till the tears ran.

Now I am careful not to let the oily dressing on my rocket leaves flip onto the pristine paper while I eat and read. Sometimes his words make me want to cry. And sometimes I laugh out loud, alone in our evening garden, the giant poplar tree above me about to throw its long shadow across the page.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Badgered Sweetcorn

Thursday 2nd September

Day 134

At 8.30 this morning, on my way to the farmer’s market, I pass pavements of children in school uniform - grey and purple. Some of them look too small, too vulnerable, to be in the lions’ den of a classroom. The misty coolness of September haunts the air, like a beckoning ghost, even though the sun is warming up a blue sky. I never wanted to go back to school, always mourned the loss of the holidays, the end of summer and happiness.

I buy four sweetcorn cobs at my favourite vegetable stall. They look like tight rows of squeaky yellow pearls, nestling in their papery green coats, sprouting hairy tassels. I hope they will make up for the ones at the allotment. The ones the badgers destroyed. They raided in the night - thieves with claws and teeth stronger than a man’s - knocked down the stately canes, ripped off the new, nearly ripe cobs, peeled back their protection and chewed each one, leaving the bed trampled, corn spattered, broken.

How is it at the allotment?” asks my husband on the phone from France.

Oh, it’s been very hot here”, I say. “I’ve been watering the tomatoes in the greenhouse.”

I don’t want to tell him about the loss of the sweetcorn that he’s been nurturing all these months. I don’t want to spoil his happiness. Not yet anyway - even though it feels like I’m lying.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Borlotti Beans

Wednesday 1st September

Day 133

All day I have been in the company of dear, dear women.

I sort my linen cupboard with my sister. We fold sheets - the big ones that you need two people for - to stretch between you like a swinging sail, to pull tight and snap in half and half again and offer the ends up to make a hanging square. We remember the times our mother was standing at the other end of the sail.

At lunch we are three around the table - in the centre sits a bowl of borlotti beans - our first picking. They lose their speckled pink coats in cooking, look a bit pale and dull beige. But if you dress them while they are still steaming hot in a good few glugs of fruity olive oil, plenty of crushed garlic and sea salt and stir in ripe chopped tomatoes and flat leaf parsley - they are meltingly delicious. We laugh a lot and later no-one minds that the plum cake isn’t quite cooked in the middle.

Tonight we are a different three in the dark of the cinema, squealing out loud in the scary bits, giggling in the street on the way home. Nudged together like round, soft borlotti beans.