Sunday, 30 January 2011


Sunday 30th January

Day 283

This afternoon we walk through the rounded mounds and dells of a two thousand year old hill fort. The carpet of dead beech leaves beneath our boots is crusted with ice. I imagine the people who lived here were cold all the time. Except for those furs of course.

Back home my husband fetches the ladder from the shed and sets it up in the flower bed which has been scratched into a random pattern of heaps by the pussy cat - his current loo. We work together along the fence, hacking at mile long wands of winter jasmine, cutting through the tangle of honeysuckle which is breaking into little leaf already, and pulling out the thicket of ivy embedded in the wood panels. For brief moments the sun warms the knotted muscles in my neck as I reach up with my secateurs, or bend down into the dankness of the soil, rooting out brambles.

When it’s nearly dark, or dimpsy as they say in Devon, and the sky is washed the colour of peach skins, I leave my husband to gather up the jungle of cuttings into the middle of the lawn, and come inside to the warm, bright kitchen. I wonder what they cooked for supper on a cold January night in that hill fort. I want our veggies to roast quickly so I cut them into small chunks no bigger than walnuts - a carrot and a potato, a sweet potato and a parsnip and a juicy red onion. I toss them in finely chopped rosemary from the darkening garden, lots of garlic, sea salt and olive oil and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar.

Their sweet herby aroma seeps under the kitchen door and finds us on the sofa with the fire turned up high in the grate, a bowl of salted cashew nuts on the table and a scrabble board laid out between us. And two dictionaries to check the spellings of words we know and the ones we don’t.

White Out

Saturday 29th January

Day 282

In the car driving to Budleigh Salteron for our walk my husbands asks me,

What’s horticulture?’

‘It’s to do with how you grow plants.’

‘What’s the difference between that and agriculture then?’

‘That’s more to do with farming and crops.’

‘ Oh yes, I remember now.’

But tomorrow he may ask me again.

We lace up our walking boots and strike out along the path. It hugs the edge of red clay cliffs which descend sheer into the pebble beach and roiling sea below us.The arctic wind slices through my jeans, burning my lips. I grip the hood of my jacket tight round my ears to bar the wind’s entry.

I imagine my husband’s vocabulary like flakes of dry skin snatched by the wind and tossed over the cliff. Whole words, not just their letters, but all their freight of meaning, disappearing into the pale white coffin of the sky. Lost forever.

We can turn back any time you want if it’s too cold for you,’ says my husband who is joyful, immersed in this raw, wild element.

It is too cold for me but I don’t like re-tracing my steps. So we swerve off to the left and head inland away from the sea cliffs. Our boots scrunch over limestone pitted fields with last years sweetcorn stubble sticking out of the farmer’s furrows. We follow a different path back to the car.

Sometimes I remember in my heart there is another way to see my husband’s disease. I long to hurl my rage and tears into the whipping wind. But some days, like today, I hold on tight to the hood of my fear, pointlessly wanting it to be how it was before. Hoping tonight’s glass of wine will white it out.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Light in the Day

Friday 28th January

Day 281

I calculate another eight minutes before I have to leave the circle of my husband’s arms and step into the fridge of our bedroom.

He says, ‘Your hair is tickling my nose.

I say, ‘Your chin is scratching my cheek.’

So it’s time to leave last night in the bed and wonder what this day will bring.I’m so grateful there is another day. Which could be full of light even though I see that the sky is grey as pigeon wings when I pull back the curtains.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Bitter Sweet

Thursday 27th January

Day 281

I’m making lunch to share - my contribution is something with rice or pasta. There will also be a crunchy colourful salad and a creamy lettuce soup with homemade bread. I choose quinoa for the grain and because the wind is blowing bitter from Siberia today I want hot spices in my recipe to keep us simmering warm. I remember a rice dish we used to make at Sharwoood’s with coconut and mustard seeds. I adapt it for my quinoa dish - fry an onion, stir in the black seeds and the white grain. Pour in double the quantity of hot vegetable stock and dissolved coconut cream and cook till all the liquid has absorbed. And it smells like you can’t wait to taste it.

When I do taste it, it’s horrible. Bitter in my mouth. I suspect I overdid the mustard seeds. I stir in the other half of yesterday’s Hallumi cheese, grated into salty strands and mounds of chopped parsley. But there is no disguising it. Maybe a hot sweet relish to accompany it will do the trick. I slide chestnut mushrooms and aubergine cubes into the holy trinity of chilli, garlic and ginger frying gently in a skillet with red onion and roasted cumin, and leave the flavours to meld on a low fire. Finally two dollops of September’s green tomato chutney add a sticky molasses highlight.

Sitting round my friend’s table and laughing in the warmth of such dear company it’s easy to forget the biting cold outside and gloss over the disagreeable quinoa. She says the chickens next door will gobble up the leftovers. They won’t recognise the bitterness. Which could turn you sour if you bathe in it too long, and forget there’s always a sweet relish nearby. If you know how to look.

Soup and Muffins and a DVD

Wednesday 26th January

Day 280

I still have time to bake a tray of cornmeal muffins to dip into the pumpkin soup which is a spurting like an orange volcano against the saucepan lid. Actually it’s made with a Crown Prince Squash - big chunks simmered in stock with carrots, leeks and onions and then whizzed up with several spoons of Patak’s Korma curry paste and a fat wodge of coconut cream. Hence the lava consistency. I usually peel my squash - a Crown Prince has a thin, grey green skin which can be as hard as parmesan rind. My friend never peels hers and makes a gorgeous soup spiked with Brinjal ( aubergine) pickle. I’d like to try her version next time.

The cornmeal muffins are disappointing. I fiddle around with several recipes - add chopped spring onions and rosemary, chunks of Hallumi cheese, and chips of red pepper. But they are dry and crumbly. However, the two dear women companions sharing my supper are complimentary and we slather the muffins with butter to help them go down.

It is our cinema night but nothing showing inspires us, so we curl up on the sofas under soft blankets and watch a library DVD instead. Called The Peaceful Warrior it’s the story of one man’s courage and determination to overcome all the odds against him becoming an olympic gymnast after an accident which shatters his leg. On the way he learns how the journey is more than the destination. Staying in the now. My lesson too.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Foreign Entities

Tuesday 25th January

Day 279

I’m enveloped in a giant squashy arm chair in the office of the homeopath who listens to me with great gentleness. He relays my words that he wrote down two weeks ago from our first meeting. When I was crumbly and coughing. Did I really say that? That I felt paralysed. Poisoned with fear.

Today he prescribes me a remedy for people with cancer who experience an invasion of their body by a foreign entity. It dawns on me like a slow light, how fortunate I am. My entity is an imagined one - a disease I gave myself. I could let it devour me from the inside. Or I could give back - an unwanted gift. But I may unwrap it first to check what’s inside. Now that I am stronger - held up by so many dear and loving hands.

Walking back in the raw cold I drop my gloves. I retrace my steps to where I took them off at the cash point machine but they are gone. The third pair I’ve lost this winter. Luckily I didn’t like them anyway.

At home I cut up potato wedges and put them to simmer in vegetable stock. I mix up a salsa with organic but tasteless tomatoes and cucumber, green peppers and avocado. I smother them with rich hemp seed oil, rings of spring onion, salt and fine chopped parsley to inject some flavour. A bag of oriental salad leaves adds a peppery note. At the last minute I tip a box of raw king prawns into the potatoes which are stickily translucent, and squeeze in several cloves of garlic and scatter more parsley. When the prawns shrink to pink we can eat.

A lunch to keep all foreign entities at bay.

Avocet Doctor

Monday 24th January

Day 278

We are sitting in the surgery, all gazing at my father’s feet. The doctor with her two long wings of hair bends forward and presses her finger on the surface of his toe. The pressure leaves a white circle in his purple red skin which fades away immediately. Odema in the feet - what does it mean? His heart is already a-rhythmic. Not too serious, keep and eye out for any changes she says - size, colour, temperature.

After she has examined him some more he sits on the edge of the couch with his legs dangling down.

‘What do you put on this dry skin?’ she asks him.

‘Aqueous cream’, he says.

‘Oh, that’s rubbish stuff,’ she says, ‘doctors love it but it doesn’t work. I’ll give you something much better.’

I like this woman who isn’t smiley but keeps her hand on my father’s shoulder all the time she talks to him, looks him in the eyes, realises he’s a bit deaf. Unstinting in her time with him. Rare as an avocet.

Sunday, 23 January 2011


Sunday 23rd January

Day 277

‘Let’s go for a walk.’

‘It’s too cold, it’s too late now. It’ll be dark soon.’

We set off anyway down to the estuary in the fading light. The dank air stings my cheeks, seeps through my gloves. We stop at a gap in the hedge to look at the birds. I can’t believe it when I see them. My first Avocets. Seven of them, wading in the shallows, dipping their long up-curved beaks, slender as new moons, into the reeds. I wonder how their needle thin legs can hold up the black and white prayer hands of their bodies as they jerk along in the water. I feel I’m a witness to a rare and precious thing here. These birds are on the conservation amber list - danger - could be wiped out. We nearly lost them before - but they came back in the 1940s. Wild and protected, breeding in safe places now. Thank you RSPB.

Rounding the corner we catch the sun,butternut orange, posting itself into the money box slot of a silver cloud, leaving a bright smear of gold on the sleek estuary mud. And to think I might have missed it all. Must remember it's never too late to seize the day.


Saturday 22nd January

Day 276

Hunting for redcurrants in the freezer I come across a small tub of Dutch blueberries - the remainder of a gift from my brother last summer. I decide they will be a perfect addition to the red cabbage and apple compote simmering spicily on the stove. They glisten like black rubies in the steam rising from a choppy magenta sea. Still, they don’t bring the tartness I’m looking for and the fine grated zest of an orange and a splash of white balsamic vinegar join up the taste dots for me.

My cousin and his family are coming to supper and staying the night. This dear cousin, as young as my older sister, has cancer in his bones. They say two years for him. How can you count such a thing? Like trying to catch snowflakes before they melt.

Tonight we are celebrating his daughter’s post graduation. I’m cooking carefully to honour his vegan diet. The all-spiced red cabbage compliments the fat Brazil nut bake, the chilli tomato sauce, smokey with paprika provides umami and wetness, the roasted ratatouille brings garlicky sweetness, the January King and Neroli cabbage are an earthy dark green foil and the roast potatoes are vital - for their fondant crunchiness. And for the texture of the smiles they bring to everyone’s faces. That’s a thing you can count on.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Random Moments

Friday 21st January

Day 275

Random moments.....

Just past dawn - sitting with my nephew at the kitchen table while he eats toast and apricot jam, the huge platinum penny of the moon hanging over the ice frosted garden.......

Talking to the plumber who is bending new copper pipes in our loo I discover he is a self taught photographer who walks on Dartmoor at sunrise looking for a bright moment......

Sitting opposite the dear face of my husband while we dip spoons into scalding emerald green soup, guessing at the size of the tax bill.....

Turning the pages of my library book, the pussy cat warm and heavy on my tummy, bunking off from my afternoon to do list.......

The earthy aroma of Brazil nuts toasting in the oven for tomorrow’s supper.....

Now I hear the splashing of water running into the bath holding the hot promise of soothing the ache in my side....

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Cake and Pollen Gold

Thursday 20th January

Day 274

Four bananas in the fruit bowl - each day their skins get thinner and more black speckled. Their tropical ripe smell hovers in the air - a hot mirage in the cold kitchen. I mash them with a fork and fold them into a cocoa smudged cake mixture along with a bar of seventy percent dark chocolate splintered into sharp shards. I melt thick white honey in a pan to glaze it with later. While it bakes in the oven, warming the kitchen with the promise of teatime I take my secateurs into the garden and attack the frost stung stems of last summer’s begonias and lillies and long trailing tails of nasturtiums. Under the honeysuckle hedge where the sun can’t reach, the soil in the pots is frozen, black and solid as chocolate.

Cutting back the dead sticks of the mallow geranium I uncover small pink heart buds, close to the earth, curled and furled and full of the spring which I’d forgotten was coming. Bringing back the light. Flying in like the honey bee, his legs laden with pollen gold to illuminate my dark corners.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011


Wednesday 19th January

Day 273

This morning I’m on a mission with my rucksack. To hunt down suitable treat ingredients for my vegan cousin and his family who are our guests this weekend. I walk past diminished dark green shrubs in the gardens and lumpy black bin bags in the street, their seams iced with lines of hoar frost. My breath plumes in front of me - a steamy mist in the bright air. I can feel the sun is coming. I love browsing the shelves in the health food shop and leave with a heavy bounty which drags on my back - bottles of almond nut butter and pumpkin seed spread, barley malt syrup and sticky hemp bread, honey halva and soya custard. I wonder why I still go to Sainsbury’s when I have all this wholeness on my doorstep.

While waiting for the plumber I make a batch of breakfast Granola or Scrunch as we call it in our family. Mix porridge and jumbo oats with sunflower oil and an outpouring of honey. Stir in ground almonds and chopped hazelnuts. Bake in an oiled tray till toasty golden on top. When cool break up into crumbly chunks and scatter in sultanas and dried cranberries. I think I’ll use this as a topping for last year’s roasted rhubarb and elderflower which is still languishing in the freezer and we’ll have it for dessert. And maybe for breakfast too.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Out of the Blue

Tuesday 18th January

Day 272

Tonight I’m grateful for the dark womb of the cinema, sitting next to a hurting friend, plunged into someone else’s faraway drama for a few hours. Afterwards we fill our bellies with deep bowls of chicken noodle soup, our noses running in the heat of the Thai fragrant spices. And with not a corner left for cold rice pudding and ruby berry compote.

Now I must wring out the towels and find another, deeper bowl to catch the water drip dripping from the cistern pipe in the loo - to try and halt its passage through the floor boards and the extractor fan below it. We can’t find a reason for this sudden random flood that started yesterday. Out of the blue. Like our tsunami.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Rice Pudding

Monday 17th January

Day 271

I’m writing at the kitchen table tonight as I need to keep an eye on the milky white rice pudding burping in a pan on the stove - must make sure it doesn’t stick. I had a yen for another one of my once a year treats. So sweetly unctuous and moreish it has to be rationed. A dark January Monday with the rain slashing on the windows - definitely a rice pudding night.

I’m inspired by Diana Henry’s gorgeous winter recipe book -‘Roast Figs,Sugar Snow’. I choose her Danish Rice Pudding recipe because she serves it with a cranberry compote and luckily I have a glass bowl full of exactly that in the fridge. Made by my nephew on Christmas day - citrussy with orange zest and punchy with port - I’ve been wondering what to do with it.

Ah, I think the pudding's nearly ready - lumpily glutinous in its snowy sea - all it needs is a teaspoon of bourbon vanilla extract and a long glug of double cream. And for my husband to come home from singing in his choir so we can get stuck in with our spoons.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Light on the Horizon

Sunday 16th January

Day 270

It’s so dark in the house this afternoon I have to turn on the light on the stairs. Even clear chicken broth bright with strips of spring greens doesn’t lift the melancholy which clings to my skin all day like a misty cobweb.

Coming home tonight from visiting my husband’s aunty the sky is a swirling sea of black cloud, streaked with a beach of luminous grey ribbons, hovering over the town.

It’s like driving into a dark future,’ says my husband. ‘But with light on the horizon, too.’

Another beacon - the halo of a three quarter moon - greets us when we get out of the car. It was there all the time shining above us in the darkness.

Last Breath

Saturday 15th January

Day 269

I’m making egg and cress sandwiches when the phone rings. My cousin says his brother died half an hour ago. He says the rhythm of his breathing hardly faltered and then one breath was the last one. He says he was peaceful. I notice that today was also his mother’s birthday. She was my favourite aunty. I was making Seville orange marmalade the day she died.

We eat the egg and cress sandwiches in the car driving to Bristol. I feed my husband chunks of cucumber and celery in between bites of bread. The eggy mayonnaise mixture drops onto his trousers. We are going to help decorate my nephew’s new house before the carpets arrive on Tuesday. His wife is pregnant and gets heartburn if she bends down, so our job is to paint the skirting boards and the bottoms of the doors.

While my paintbrush marches along the wood I think about my cousin’s blue eyes and his sweet smile. And I think about the baby boy that will come soon, in the month of May, to join our family.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Soul Soup

Friday 14th January

Day 268

Once a year I make chicken soup. Let a whole organic chicken from the farmers’ market simmer for three long afternoon hours in a golden broth spiked with fresh bay leaves, parsley stalks, a sprinkle of peppercorns and chunks of carrot, onion and celery. The whole house will fill with the aroma of banishing the blues. At the same time chop up a panful of potatoes and squash, leeks and more carrots and cook in stock till tender. When the chicken is melting sweet and dropping off the bones lift it out of the broth, strip the flesh and add to the vegetables with some of its savoury, oil flecked bath water. Serve steaming in deep white bowls with the fire in the grate turned up high.

It’s true that it comforts the soul. And will taste even better tomorrow.

Not Today

Thursday 13th January

Day 267

Another hospital - Sidmouth Cottage Hospital - like a big house or a church with corridors. My father and sister and I sit in a row in wing backed arm chairs in the waiting room and wait - for two hours for the surgeon from Columbia to cut into my father’s ear and take a biopsy. My father calls it an autopsy to make the nurse laugh. Which she does. There is a low table full of Hello and OK and Women’s Weekly magazines, glossy with gossip, which we flick through when the conversation falters. The other chairs are occupied with people also waiting for the man from Columbia.

Afterwards, when the waiting room is empty, the nurse brings my father a cup of tea and a packet of ginger biscuits and I dab at his numb ear which is oozing blood, with a piece of gauze. All the time I keep my phone on - expecting a call from another hospital. But it’s not today - the day my cousin dies.

At the Hospital

Wednesday 12th January

Day 266

It’s warm in the hospital. In the room where my cousin is lying in a white bed, his brother has angled a rotating fan to blow cool air on the bones of his chest. My sister opens the double glazed window a crack and the sound of dripping rain filters into the room adding to the creaking breath of the mattress, the bubbling of the oxygen mask stretched over my cousin’s face and the clicking of the morphine pump strapped to the skeleton stick of his leg.

He opens one blue eye and looks but doesn’t see me. I wonder where he is. In his sleep he raises one quizzical eyebrow - like he used to when he laughed, dipping his head, brushing his hand through his thin hair. I hold his hand which is dry and warm. It feels as if he returns my grasp but I think it's like the clinging reflex of a new baby holding on to a giant finger. I stroke his freckled arm and a livid white scar across his flesh and remember the story of the knife wound.

Over scooped stainless steel bowls of vegetable biriyani in the hospital canteen we reminisce with our elder cousin about our shared Zambian childhoods and holidays with the clan of our grandparents in South Africa. Dipping in and out of the sea, running on burning white sand, paddling in soft brown rivers. Never dreaming for one minute that one day one of us would die before we were old, before our time.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Bertie's Stammer

Tuesday 11th January

Day 265

In the cinema tonight I watched Colin Firth in The King’s Speech being Bertie and struggling with the agony of his stammer. They said the way he did battle with it became a symbol for our resistance to Hitler. I think it was the love and friendship of his speech therapist that really saved him. And knowing when to say sorry.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Keeping Watch

Monday 10th January

Day 264

The homeopath with kind eyes prescribes Aurum for my husband - a remedy based on gold. For me he fills a tiny plastic bag with Ignatia pills - for fresh trauma. Better to treat it before it gets stale and forms a hard crust - like bread left too long in the dry air of the kitchen - more difficult to cut through then.

This evening my cousin calls me from Stoke Mandeveille Hospital where his younger brother is lying in a bed, with morphine dripping into his blood. He says the time of his dying is creeping close now. So he will sit with him in the long night while he sleeps, keeping watch.

Sunday, 9 January 2011


Sunday 9th January

Day 263

For lunch I snap a green stick of celery and dip it into a tub of hummus while I unpack the array of bulging Sainsbury’s bags sprawled on the kitchen floor. I like having the fridge occupied again with broccoli and tomatoes, eggs and milk. I even break all my own seasonal rules and buy beans from Egypt - ringing the sprout changes.

Later, walking to the car, I feel the sun hot on my hair and I think of my husband striding out across muddy fields with old friends. I sit with my father while the light fades in his room and the anglepoise lamp behind him draws a circle round our chairs. He tells me the story of the man who started his Abbeyfield Homes - who tried to fill the ache of loneliness he found in the people on the streets of Bermondsey in the 1950s.

We snack on the puffed cheese straws that I brought him instead of my moist slabs of Christmas cake, as he’s on a diet. I peel him an orange but it’s too sour and we find an almost ripe pear in his fruit bowl instead. I leave him talking to my sister on the phone, praying he won’t be lonely tonight.


Saturday 8th January

Day 262

While my husband walks by the river in the sunshine I sit with some dear friends in a big listening circle under the vaulted wooden ceiling of the Quaker Meeting House. I know most of these precious faces and that of the man who is talking to us. The walls of my chest hurt but only if I think about it. Sometimes I look up and see a sheet of blue silk sky framed in the high arch of the window opposite me. The words of the teacher fall on me like my favourite Beethoven Symphony - The Ninth - achingly familiar but new and rousing every time - lifting my spirits, cracking open my heart.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Dismantling Christmas

Friday 7th January

Day 261

Today is the day to strip Christmas from the house. I sweep the mantlepieces that my sister decorated so beautifully with sprays of yew and ivy, bay laurel and holly. I stand on the two-step ladder and unhook the strings of cards and fairy lights draped over the mirrors. The red candles and sparkly baubles go back into their boxes. The white linen table cloth with its red wine stain like a pale purple hand, is in a carrier bag waiting to go to the laundry. All the radiators sport damp pillow cases, duvet covers and guest towels. Making clear space for 2011.

The fridge is echoey empty but I root around and find enough to make an olipadreida lunch of sweet potatoes, spring onions, carrots and sprouts stretched with a tin of sweetcorn from the store cupboard - all spiced up with garlic, ginger and a spoonful of curry paste. We eat it at the table in the cold kitchen with left over basmati rice from the freezer. We don’t have much to say and watch a fine misty rain fall on the garden and the patio pots still full of slimey dead geraniums and sticky fuschia bushes.

I feel the dankness of January wrapping itself like a clammy ghost around my bones.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Pleurisy and Potatoes

Thursday 6th Jan

Day 260

The nurse on the phone says,

‘It’s probably pleurisy.’

Such a soft rounded pillow of a word. It doesn’t tell the story of the slicing knife that slides between my ribs every time I cough.

Tonight I’m happy to find soup in the freezer that I made from Christmas day left overs - peas and leeks and onion gravy whizzed into thick sweet comfort. As delectable as the memory of my nephew’s Christmas roast potatoes - deep crusted, rough edged golden globes, cottony tender inside - the winning Oscars on everyone’s plate.

I’m longing to re-create his technique when I get beyond this bed and the option of cooking lunch swings back into my day.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Buttercup Weed

Wednesday 5th January

Day 259

I’m still in bed.

It’s Professor Duhickeybob,’ says my husband, handing me the phone.

‘I said I’d let you know your husband’s prognosis,’ says our favourite neurologist.

The pussy cat chooses this moment to wake up and pushes his nose at my pen so it swerves across the paper as I try and write what I’m hearing.

It’s better than we feared. He says he falls into the fifty percent category of those people who will live beyond the average eight years.

My husband is hopeful. Although no-one ever suggested it to him, he thought he might die in two years. I live with a different story in my head - it’s not the dying but the living which is squeezing my heart. Living into a future with my husband who bit by bit is drifting away from me like buttercup weed on the surface of a slow river.

But today I am buoyed up by the constant care of the Dearly Beloveds in my life who hold me with a great tenderness while I hang over this dark abyss.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011


Tuesday 4th January

Day 258


My husband lights the fire in the sitting room and makes a pot of leaf Earl Grey tea. We sit next to each other on the sofa. On the table in front of us are pens and notepaper, our diaries, my computer, a print-out of our monthly standing orders and outgoings - for our usual New Year planning session. It’s our twenty fifth wedding anniversary year - silver.

We don’t venture very far into the stretching empty months. Soon our second cup of tea goes cold and I’m glad of the lance of his tears and hunched rage which I’ve been waiting for.

A little later while he walks in damp woods, I put on a panful of brown rice to boil and steam onions and mushrooms, pak choi and red peppers in a garlic broth. A squirt of rich dark umami paste wakes it up. Umami is Japanese for that undefineable deliciousness, a natural savouriness that you find in Parmesan cheese.

It’s good to have a secret ingredient that makes everything taste better. Like keeping the sun in your store cupboard.

Monday, 3 January 2011

The Rat

Monday 3rd January 2011

Day 257

Last night I had a dream that I caught a grey rat slipping behind the filing cabinet in my study. I grabbed it by the neck. It was compact and hairy - I could feel the weight of its compressed animal vigour. I carried it downstairs where my brother-in-law was lying on our sofa. He said,

‘You must strangle it with a piece of string.’

I said I couldn’t do it. He took it away.

For the last three days and nights my world has shrunk to the desert of bed. My husband brings me hot lemon tea in white china cups. He goes for long walks alone under a blanket of raw grey skies and returns at dusk with icy dry cheeks. I eat peeled apples and slices of sharon fruit and then feel sick but hollow hungry. In the kitchen the red leaves of the pointsettia curl up and drop on the table. I watch three episodes of ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ on iplayer and take long baths in the afternoons.

In the night while my husband breathes beside me I stare into the empty bedroom darkness and flay myself with the last thing he asked me -

Who is Alec Guiness?’

I must find a way to kill this rat. You can’t be this afraid forever.