Friday, 31 December 2010

End of the Year

Friday 31st December

Day 254

Last night of the year. Six blog days lost. Our bed has been my restless refuge all day. I curl under the duvet in a fug of coughing and temperature. I couldn’t bear you to touch my scalp - it feels raw naked.

Nearly midnight.This year we are not staying up to count in the chimes of Big Ben. A splintering of our always tradition. Not the first change these last few days. Each time my husband searches hopelessly for a word he used to know something tightens in my belly. And fades away. Like my appetite for a New Year.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Christmas Maze

Thursday 23rd December

Day 246

A dear friend reminds me in an email of the daily gratitude practice I started. And stopped.

Today I’m grateful for everything... for the dedicated market stall holders who still turned up in the freezing cold with their sprouts and leeks, their fresh bread and eggs, their cheeses and chickens. So we can enjoy an organic Christmas.

And I’m so grateful for the daffodil card my father gave us this morning full of his love and concern. He understands how one sentence can up-end your world forever. He ended with a quote -

“Yesterday has gone, tomorrow may never come but today is a gift which is why we call it the present’.

I’m sure I’ve heard it before, but today these few words were like a fine gold thread tied to my finger. Guiding me through my twisting Christmas maze.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010


Wednesday 22nd December

Day 245

Today we decide that Christmas will happen in our house as my sister is snowbound on their hill farm. I flurry around cleaning the house, making up beds, re-jigging the menus and trawling the isles in Sainsbury’s. Too late for a tree though. Or a holly hunting expedition.

Ironing always calms me and it takes a long time to smooth the creases out of our white Irish linen table cloth - a wedding present from my husband’s brother. And I wonder what it would take to mend the fissure which has slowly grown between them. A disease which hollows them out from the inside till only politeness is left - masking their longing for family.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Black Ice

Tuesday 21st December

Day 244

Tired of feeling besieged in the house we scrape a pathway through deep clean snow from the front door to the gate, and escape into the town. We join crowds sloshing along pavements splattered with dirty grey slush. I feel panicky in the crush of shoppers and abandon last minute present buying.

Back home I roll out a circle and a wide ribbon of marzipan paste to cover my Christmas cake, damp with brandy, sticky with apricot jam glaze. I bake a tray of mincemeat shortbread but can’t conjure an iota of festiveness. And feel guilty when I snap at my husband who has done nothing; who I think will leave me too soon.

While he unpacks his weird and wonderful ceramic creatures - back from their sojourn in the town gallery - I stir up a risotto - laced with the woodland aroma of dried porcini mushrooms and glutinous with melted parmesan cheese. A savoury comfort which doesn’t touch the black ice river flowing inside me.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Stalled by Snow

Monday 20th December

Day 243

Last night’s snowfall - the deepness and completeness of it - stalls my day. I put off wrapping Christmas presents and making mince pies. I cancel supper plans and my father’s doctor’s appointments for tomorrow. I hover in and out of the kitchen, distracted by the mounds and blobs and drifts and layers of snow draped over the garden - smooth and thick as royal icing. I forget to unload the washing machine and burn the pecan nuts on top of the flapjack.

In the afternoon I lose myself in a novel set in the 1950s while upstairs my husband wrestles with a knotted mess of tax returns.

Now it’s way beyond midnight and sleep still evades me. Tomorrow will be the longest night of the year. Outside my window the frozen garden, the roof tops, and my restless heart belong to the kingdom of the moon - luminous, still and silent.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Sunday Night

Sunday 19th December

Day 242

Two slabs of salmon - hot smoked fillets - are spitting under the grill. A tray of sweet potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes are turning melting soft in the oven. I’m peeling small sprouts - tight curled, hard green balls. I’ll mask their sulphur smell with butter and garlic in the pan. My husband has lit the fire in the sitting room and soon we’ll eat our supper on trays watching Harry Potter on the TV.

A Sunday night as if everything is normal. The pussy cat sleeps on the sofa beside me, a soft curled comma, his world unshaken.


Saturday 18th December

Day 241

This morning the snow lies powder light on the pavement. It squeaks under our boots like soft puffs of air squeezed from a balloon. In the park children shriek down the slopes on their toboggans. I have to shade my eyes to watch them as the sun bounces diamond bright off the white grass. We hold on to each other on the most slippery paths.

Tonight coming back from Christmas supper with dear friends, we pick our way over rutted ice scrunching like broken glass under the soles of our shoes. The world is frozen. But all day I’ve felt warmed by the flood of care and kindness from the precious people in my life. They circle me like constant flaring beacons on my cliff edge - guiding me home.

Friday, 17 December 2010


Friday 17th December

Day 240

I didn’t plan to, but this morning find myseIf in rubber gloves changing the sooty filter in the cooker hood and cleaning my grease spattered oven. I stop and watch the pussy cat playing on the crunchy white lawn flicking up snow with his paws, hurtling under the umbrellla leaves of the hellibore when it melts on his nose. Later I spot a chaffinch swinging from the wire mesh tube of fat balls in the apple tree. Staying alive in the winter cold.

This new snow, like new grief, changes the familiar landscape. Although my husband’s beloved face is the same as it was yesterday I’m caught out by gusts of sudden howling which fell me at the knees and I wonder what wild animal has snared itself in my throat.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Thursday 16th December

Day 239

They say the snow is coming in on the wind tomorrow. It came earlier into my kitchen today and splintered my heart with ice shards. A woman’s voice on the phone lodged horror there. The kind that doesn’t melt.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010


Wednesday 15th December

Day 238

It’s soothing to wash red mud off the leek under icy running water; to scrub the skin of a stubby allotment carrot; to slice through springy leaves of neroli cabbage.To prepare our meal like I have done a thousand times before. I know what will happen when I pour a puddle of olive oil into a skillet, turn the heat up, and scrape the chopped vegetables off the board with the edge of my long knife and into the pan. I’m certain the pale leek will change into a bright lime green in the steam and then will catch and burn if I don’t lower the fire. I’ll add a jugful of boiling stock and the sweet earthy aroma of supper will fill the kitchen. I can count on it.

Tonight it’s good to keep my hands busy, to remember my friend’s voice on the phone, to turn up the volume on Handel’s Messiah, to douse the noise in my head. Nothing was ever guaranteed anyway. It’s just that I wanted it to be. Like I know sugar is sweet.

The second glass of wine uncorks me. My husband doesn’t seem to mind his jumper being a sponge. But I lose my appetite in the flood.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Hands Across the Table

Tuesday 14th December

Day 237

After our appointment with the consultant neurologist - my husband calls him Professor Duhickeybob because he can’t remember his name - we decide the news deserves lunch out. We drive to our favourite cafe expecting warm cheddar cheese tarts. It’s full up. A man offers us the spare seats at his table. I say no thanks.

It’s not the place to have a conversation about a future we can’t imagine yet. Better to go home and have pumpkin soup and muffins in the kitchen. And hold hands across the table.

Monday, 13 December 2010

What if?

Monday 13th December

Day 235

Macaroni cheese bubbling in an oval earthenware dish, halved cherry tomatoes peeking out from under the blanket of creamy sauce and two long boats of garlic bread specked with parsley- grown up comfort food. The cucumber and frisee lettuce leaves on the side dilute the guilt factor. Lunch with a dear friend in a cafe - keeping at bay the bitterness of a cold afternoon.

She is someone who knows about creeping loss, the useless hammering voice of 'What if? 'in your head that steals away sleep in the deep night while the man in the bed next to you breathes on and on into the morning light.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Christmas Card Web

Sunday 12th December

Day 235 (17 lost blog days)

Writing this after a gap of seventeen days is like riding my bike again after an accident, my knees grazed. I feel wobbly - out of my groove. All the days have blurred. I miss the easy ebb and flow of the holiday hours with my sisters in the Algarve sunshine.

It’s late now, the heating has gone off. The dining room table is scattered with Christmas cards and envelopes, letters, stamps, address labels. This year one name - my uncle who died in February - is not on the list any more.

Now I see that this annual card writing ritual is about remembering as well as keeping in touch with all the dear people in my life. That delicate spider’s web of love and friendship that reaches back into the past but holds me close in the now - still weaving silver.