Friday, 29 April 2011

Smoke in the Air

29th April Friday 2011

Royal Wedding Day Moments

I crush a Nat Mur homeopathic tablet in a pestle and mortar and slip it into the pussy cat’s breakfast. He eats it all unsuspecting. The vet says he’s an aloof cat who wants affection but doesn’t want to give it. I say he’s a majestic cat, carrying our troubles like a head of state.

I roast white onions and cubes of butternut squash with garlic and sweet balsamic vinegar, toss them with chopped fresh coriander and pile them on top of a thin layer of mustard smeared puff pastry, rolled out in a big baking tray. I burn the top, but it’s savoury cheesy smell fills the car as I drive to friend’s house to watch the royal wedding on her ginormous TV screen with a dear group of lovely women.

We ooh and aah over The Dress and the trees in the Abbey, and the golden coaches and the prancing horses and the Kiss on the balcony. We toast the bride and groom with pink champagne and make our shared lunch into a party.

Later, in a tiny upstairs room in a Dartmoor town, I lie on a high massage table under a blanket, the air smudged with sage smoke, and humming with crystal bowl vibrations. I feel the gentle hands of our pussy cat healer on my back, my neck, my heart.

I feel blessed with more healing from our walk through evening woods with dear friends, the sun a low golden ball suspended above the trees.

Eating our supper on trays, watching highlights of the royal wedding on our small TV, my husband and I argue and fall out, old and new tensions hanging like acrid smoke in the air between us.

Now it's way past midnight and I can hear rain spattering on the window. Time to go to bed, slip in next to my husband, hope he won't wake up when I snuggle my cold feet close to his warm ones.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

My Friend

27th April Wednesday

This afternoon I put the pussy cat in his basket and drive out on the A38 to visit an animal healer. There is an accident between a car and a motorbike. We sit in a long queue of traffic, the sun pouring in through the windscreen. I worry he’ll get dehydrated. He’s eating and drinking so little at the moment. The roads are lined with hawthorn ( or blackthorn) bushes in full dense flower - starry bridal white. The hedgerows are frothy with cow parsley. As if the countryside is celebrating its own royal wedding.

We are only a few minutes late. The animal healer is a young woman with such a warm and gentle nature I want to cry with relief - someone to help our pussy cat who won’t make him spit and claw out. She calls him Friend and if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes I wouldn’t have believed it - he stays on her lap for nearly half an hour while she holds and stokes him. He won’t sit on my lap for more than a few minutes and won’t ever be cuddled. He stretches out and lets her touch him even on his stomach. He’s not asleep just totally relaxed.

While I watch I feel as if her hands are soothing my heart too. She says when I start to feel better so will the pussy cat. She suggests I have a salt bath at home and the pussy cat will eat when he’s ready and he may go roaming tonight. I make an appointment for us to go back. I’m so grateful to our Friend who has walked his path with us for fourteen years - maybe even carrying my burdens. And now it’s time for us to put them down - him and me.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011


26th April 2011 Tuesday

My husband prints out the figures - our current and projected finances. My sister sits with me at the dining room table, holding my hand, as I walk through the minefield.The figures don’t balance - expenditure is greater than income. There are the non negociables - car tax, gas, life insurance, loo rolls. And then the nice things like sun-dried tomatoes, geraniums, perfume and gift wrap. Today I join the rest of the world who must choose a TV licence over cut flowers.

I will find my way in this new world - soon, tomorrow. Carve a path through my old ways of spending. Practice budgeting. I could even be like my big sister who is retiring next month - her income slashed. I could learn from her her talent for ‘making do and mending’.

Instead of feeling gagged like I do tonight.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Sun or Shade

25th April 2011 - Easter Monday

Today I feel everything in waves - sad and angry, moved and inspired, grumpy and irritable, resentful and jealous. My skin feels as thin as slices of pickled ginger - pores open to all sweetness and pain.

After breakfast, when our dearly beloveds have begun their journey home, we drive out to the quietness of wide paths weaving through pine woods high above the sea. We walk and talk in and out of sun and shade. Sometimes I can’t look my husband in the eyes for fear of the love I’ll see there. That he’ll melt my resolve to be be right - that I will be alone and poor and lost without him in the future I see hurtling towards us.

If I was a Buddhist I’d know that I could be happy in any circumstance, have the wisdom to be at ease there however uncertain, however uneasy the situation. That the line between choosing fear or love is skin thin. Today I longed to step across that flimsy barrier but found myself instead seeking out the shade, eating another small chocolate Easter egg I don’t really want.

Wild Flower Easter

24th April 2011 - Easter Sunday

Before breakfast I peel off the baking paper from the base of another long rectangle of meringue that I cooked yesterday, spread it with a whole jar of lemon curd, top that with a pint of whipped cream and scatter over three punnets of raspberries and chopped strawberries. And get ready to roll. Fortunately my very observant niece who is watching this process suggests I roll it up from the long end instead of the short end to make more slices. We do it together and manage to curl it onto my biggest chopping board, covered with foil, without too much cream and fruit squidging out of the ends.

My husband packs it carefully in the back of the car along it the rest of the food boxes we’re taking to my sister’s for Easter Sunday lunch. On the way we stop to pick up my father. I stow away his bag of bananas and oranges in the back. We set off and immediately hear a crash and a crunch and I know the fruit has fallen on top of the meringue roulade. My niece and I look at each other and laugh - knowing that most things are rescuable with more strawberries and a dusting of icing sugar.

We tuck into a sumptuous feast - a family team effort of smoked mackerel pate and beetroot crackers, roast lamb, courgette gratin, earthy lentils, aubergine parmigiano, new potatoes, salad and salsa verde to die for - followed by the slightly squashed meringue, a Breton butter cake, stewed rhubarb and a bowl of mascapone yogurt cream.

Afterwards my father climbs the stairs with his sticks to rest and recover. The young and beautiful and tired slather on the sun cream, lie on blankets on the grass or sit under the umbrella shade and my sister leads me and my husband on a wonderful walk through the land bordering their farm - woods, meadows and boggy patches. I love the swathes of wild flowers, bluebells and tiny violets, ladies smocks and white shirt buttons. She shows us the difference between cowslips and oxslips growing side by side like cousins in the grass.

Much, much later but before it’s time for bed, my husband retires to sleep under the covers, my niece writes the story of her broken painted egg from Prague, and her husband reads the Lonely Planet guide to Syria. I wash up this morning’s breakfast dishes, sifting through the pictures of this Easter Sunday in my mind, counting my blessings - as precious as all the wild flowers in a meadow.

Rolling Up

23rd April 2011 Easter Saturday

Saturday morning, my husband makes sushi for the starter. He’s an expert in rolling up fat tubes of sticky rice, studded with asparagus and avocado, smoked salmon and red peppers, layered with pickled ginger, pink as skin, and nose-snorting hot wasabi paste. All wrapped up in rectangles of dark green seaweed parchment.

Filling the fridge with white wine, a bottle slips from his fingers - a crunchy green glass lake creeps across the kitchen floor. He’s more upset than I am - thinks it’s his brain making him clumsy. I think it’s a warning to stop drinking so much. I mop it up with paper towels and spray with Ecover cleaner - I don’t want the kitchen to smell like a winery.

I slather my hazelnut meringue - very sticky in the middle - with a layer of chocolate cream and roll it up into a huge fat log, drizzling the outside with more chocolate and fluttering the plate with cape gooseberries in their veined paper wings. I worry that I need more cream and ring my sister to bring some when they come.

Suddenly the house is full of big, tall, beautiful young people - my beloved nephews and nieces and their partners - brimming with laughter and life and more - my niece-in-law now eight months pregnant. They spill into the sunny, windy garden with plates of noodles and Thai fish curry. For once I haven’t cooked enough and even though we are all family - some of us play the game of FHB (family hold back) and eat mostly noodles.

Before the pudding we play the squatting game on the grass which I didn’t cut - all speckled with daisies and the last of the apple blossom. Not really a game - more of a contest - who can sit on their haunches without toppling over? Like me and my sisters and brother who spent many hours of our childhood squatting in the African dirt, playing close to the earth. Mostly it’s easy to tip the men over with their long legs and narrow hips while the women stay solid, unswayed, heavy dropped to the ground.

I’m still fretting about cream for the hazelnut roulade but my nephew comes to the rescue and whizzes up a deep ruby red coulis from last year’s raspberries, plums, blueberries and strawberries in the freezer. And we even have room for the creme brulee as well. So no need for FHB this time.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Good Friday

Friday 22nd April

I walk through the deserted back streets of Exeter into town. I’m on a hazelnut hunt. Another item that fell off my shopping list yesterday. It starts to rain, spotting the blue suede of my new Fitflops. The health food shops are closed. I finally find two packets in the always-open Indian shop.

Back home I bring in the towels from the spinner - they are soaking wet. I put on the heating even though it’s not cold. I hate damp washing draped around the house.

In his office my husband is loose-endish and restless - he wants to go out to lunch. I have too much to do so I put sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes and parsnips in the oven to roast and make a mushroom and spinach omlettte instead. The sun comes out and we eat in the garden. I turn the heating off and re-hang the towels.

I stay in the kitchen all afternoon cooking for Easter - poaching rhubarb, whisking up a hazelnut meringue - I worry it’s not cooked as I doubled the recipe - baking a Breton butter cake and searching for recipes to use eight egg yolks. Creme brulee is the obvious answer although it doesn’t really fit with the other desserts.

My husband rings from the allotment and says do I want to go for a walk. I say yes but by the time he comes home it’s already nearly seven so we have glass of wine in a long hot bath instead. I make an avocado salad and he cooks the pasta. We eat it watching Juilette Binoche and Johnny Depp in Chocolat, the pussy cat curled beside me on the sofa, his spine all knobbly under my hand when I stroke him.

Now it’s nearly midnight and I can hear my husband is asleep. Our neighbour is still playing his guitar - a haunting sound like sobbing in the dark.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Singing in the Light

Thursday 21st April

A dear friend emailed me this Old Innuit Song:

I think over again my small adventures, my fears, those small ones that seemed so big, all those vital things I had to get and to reach and yet there is only one great thing - to live and see the great day that dawns and the light that fills the world.

This morning my small fears, my little worries, filled the cavity of my chest like spinning plates on poles, endlessly whirring round and round, never crashing.

This is what it’s like inside my head -

Is it too early to ring my father? What if he didn’t sleep again last night?

Will I be able to get an organic cucumber from the small Sainsbury’s in town as I forgot it yesterday? And limes - I need limes for the curry paste.

I wonder what my tax position is going to be now. I must ring our accountant. No time today though. I’ll do it next week.

The pussy cat didn’t eat all his food last night - what if he loses more weight?

Will my husband write the letter he said he would?

Will two meringue roulades be enough for thirteen people on Sunday?

I'm afraid we are drinking too much.

I see how I miss the beauty of the day outside through this ceaseless chatter of my mind. How I miss the light that fills the world when my eyes are turned inwards to the darkness.

And also how grateful I am to a dear friend today who held my feet and sang high clear notes of light into my shaking heart.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Still Here

Wednesday 20th April 2011

Still here! I find I can’t go to bed without at least a sentence on the page. My husband is watching the news. The perfume of hyacinth and apple blossom is floating in through the open window and a big black fly is flinging itself against the ceiling with demented buzzing. I can see stars in the clean night sky but no moon yet. I know it’s there - yesterday my friend who walks her dogs at dawn every morning sent me a photo of it - a luminous round ball suspended over a church spire.

Late afternoon, hot and sultry as the Tropics - the wheel chair my father is sitting in has a life of it’s own, swerving uncontrollably into walls and doors. My sister and I take it in turns to push or pull him along the hospital corridor to the dermatology department warning him to keep his elbows well tucked in. We are seeing his favourite his skin doctor who is enormously tall and young and bright-eyed, who spent his honeymoon in Zambia and as far as my father is concerned is the miracle man who cured the itching rash on his back. Today he prescribes an ointment for the sore red nodules on my father’s arms that keep bleeding into his shirts.

I ask this delicious doctor to look at a small red lump on my shin. He peers at it through a torch gadget, his nose millimetres away from my not very recently shaved leg. He says,

‘It’s a BCC. You must come and have it cut out’.

That’s a skin cancer - not serious in that it doesn’t spread. No more sunbathing then. At least not without a thick white slick of Neal's Yard factor 30.

When it’s much cooler, the sun low in the sky, my husband and I walk in Mincing Lake Park, the red earth cracked and compacted beneath our feet. The evening is alive with birds singing. A magpie flutters up from a patch of meadowsweet, luminous as pale pink moons in the late sunlight. We talk a little but mostly I just let the warm air and the hazy view of the estuary filter through me.

And I think about what we’ll have for supper. Naan bread from the freezer, left over lentil and mushroom curry, lots of spring greens and the sweet sour tang of mango chutney. Familiar, comfort food. Like coming home. Like blogging.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Chameleon's Tongue

Tuesday 19th April

Day 363

I arrive at my father’s at 8.30 this morning. It is already hot. I am taking him for more blood tests. He hasn’t had any breakfast - he has to fast for these tests to check his iron and cortisol levels. We are just about to leave for Charmouth when I realise I have left all the information and the cheque to pay for them on the table by the phone at home. I try to call my husband but can’t remember our phone number. My father looks it up for me in his little black book under ‘family’.

It all works out in the end but afterwards I think about the effect of stress on memory. My reaction to my mistake seems extreme - a coiled chameleon tongue strikes up from the pit in my gut and snatches away all record of my telephone number - gone, devoured in an instant. A blank where there used to be a row of figures. Then my heart slows and the number is back where it always was.

I try and imagine what it must be like for my husband. Sometimes I say a name, a place and he has no picture to match it. He says it’s terrifying - like I am speaking a foreign language. But his resident chameleon’s tongue is never still, always flicking out and stealing his words - flies swallowed whole. Only fear left, clinging to the leaf.

A year ago tomorrow on 20th April 2010, I wrote Day 1 of this blog. So I have come full circle - even though I didn’t write every day, and the dates have got a bit muddled, I said I’d do it for 21 days which has turned into a year. Time to stop. Or not. I’ll see what happens tomorrow.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Wholehearts and Wholefoods

Monday 18th April

Day 362

Today I have been with my dear niece in London, inhabiting The Wholefoods Supermarket in High Street Kensington.We ensconsed ourselves in a high backed booth with our carefully chosen lunch which we selected from a marvellous array of fresh and bright dishes already cooked.The grilled asparagus, purple sprouting broccoli with pink peppercorns and sage were especially delectable.

We talked into the deep waters of our lives, ate bufflalo milk icecreams, wandered round the aisles packed with a wonderous display of all things edible, nourishing and delicious and drank huge cups of Earl Grey tea. I was transported back to Portland, Maine and last October when our dear friends there introduced us to this nutritious Aladin’s cave. I’ve been hankering after it ever since and was so happy to find this English replica - only few hours away on the train. And to share it with my niece who always infuses her cooking with her delicate poet’s soul.

This meeting up was also to celebrate the nearly end of my blog which I started a year ago - entirely inspired by her and her gorgeous One Hundred Days blog. She says it’s hard to start again once you stop, once you break the spider’s thread - the daily weaving. So I’m not sure what to do. I would go to bed earlier if did stop - which would make my husband happy at least.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

How Will I Live?

Sunday 17th April

Day 361

This morning I make Kedgeree for a dear friend’s housewarming brunch. The rice is yellowy gold with turmeric, flecked green with parsley, studded with fat flakes of haddock, leeks and mushrooms, hard boiled egg quarters plopped on the surface.

We gather round her big wooden table in the quiet courtyard, 600 years old - the sun burning high in a blue sky and it feels like we are in another country - Italy, France, Switzerland - pink geraniums in pots, a mauve wisteria flowing over the red stone walls, with clinking glasses and plates of food, laughing and talking - warming her new home and our hearts.

Much, much later my husband and I wash up and put away the kedgeree saucepans and dishes from this morning. A familiar song is playing on the radio - the words are something like:

‘How will I live?

How will I live without you?

How will I breathe?

If you leave me now.....

I don’t how how to do that. Even imagine it. But I suppose it’s like budgeting - something I’m going to find out.

Tonight the apple tree is a glowing white fountain in the dark garden flinging its blossom on the grass with a generous and wild abandon.


Saturday 16th April

Day 360

This afternoon the kitchen smells of warm curry spices. The top notes are clove, cinnamon and cardamom in the pilau rice. I’m mopping the hall floor - muddy pussy cat paws and boot traffic marks. The wood is pockmarked and scratched and a whole rectangle in the middle is sealed with plastic glue where the plumber cut it out to get at the pipes below. We were planning to replace it - have a nice new floor. It occurs to me that this won’t happen now. New floors won’t be in the budget. I’m not sure how you do that - live on a budget. But I’m going to find out.

Tonight I sprinkle sparkly gold stars on the table to welcome a dear family friend and my sister and brother in law to supper. They bring yellow and orange tulips and wine to share. I didn’t have flowers for the table as they weren’t in my budget. I have a feeling that this living on a budget thing may include learning to receive - with grace - no need to stint on love though.

Friday, 15 April 2011

This Too Will Pass

Friday 15th April

Day 359

This morning I wake with my heart fluttering - a bird’s broken wing flapping against the cage of my light bones. Some wild terror clawed its way into my chest in the night. I carry it with me into the day - remembering yesterday and the mask of charcoal thunder etched in the skin of my husband’s face. His rage and fear like a plague in the house.

I escape to a small town by the sea with my father and my sister. We sit in the cool office of a tiny Norwegian nutritionist and gaze at a smear of my father’s blood, magnified a thousand times, on a screen in black and white. The red cells are round bubbles bumping into each other in long chains. Some are ragged edged, breaking down into the shape of stars. She says my father is iron deficient and hyperglycemic. This explains his deathly white pallor and the loss of the fire in his belly.

We leave her with the hope of rekindling his heat and eat our fish lunch on a cement bench by the sea with the seagulls and pigeons squawking round our feet, waiting in vain for batter gribbles and greasy chip fingers.

Later I walk with two dear friends and a small dog through shady woods under a glowering grey sky, perfumed with bluebells and wild garlic. Their company is like a long draught of honey nectar, nourishing my soul.

At supper - asparagus, avocado, eggs and leafy salads - my resolve to be a clear and loving space dissolves into the muddy waters of attack and my husband and I argue ourselves into the orbit of separate planets - his draft letter to his company lying on the table between us - a smoking revolver.

So, be still, my beating heart. This too will pass.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011


Wednesday 12th April

Day 357

This morning I ring a number called The Care Aware Helpline to see if my husband is eligible for any benefits. The woman in Manchester says they only deal with the elderly.

But she says she’ll send me some forms about employment and support allowances which my husband may be able to claim if he can’t work. They used to call it incapacity benefit. My husband is too young to draw his pension. He wants to work. He is a 40% tax payer.

I don’t want to be poor,’ he says. His head is low over his plate.

It’s hard to eat roast potatoes when you are crying. They taste like dust. Like the world is crumbling in your mouth.

Shut Out

Tuesday 11th April

Day 356

Before our picnic lunch we gather round my father in his reclining chair. My brother says,

‘What shall we do when you are gone? Who will be the head of the family?

Who will be the chief in our village when there are only the elders left?

I can’t imagine it. That aching empty space.

I call my husband on my mobile after his meeting with the partners in his company.

They say I have to leave,’ he says. ‘In two months time’.

Later, he opens a bottle of wine and we drink it while I chop mushrooms and leeks for supper. He shows me the proposals, the figures for our future on the piece of paper from the meeting. They look like options. But I can see they are an ending. A door he thought was open for two more years is closing. Shutting him down.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Bright Moments

Monday 11th April

Day 355

Some bright moments from today -

The delicious smile on my brother’s face when I carry his chocolate birthday cake to the table - six candles flames flickering round the edge, lighting up the cluster of alstrumeria flowers in the centre, placed there by my sister. And a cape gooseberry to honour our African childhood.

The sound of the pussy cat crunching his dry pellet food - and not being sick.

Walking and talking with a dear friend across a river meadow splattered with daisies and dandelions, holding the lead of her beautiful, silky-eared greyhound.

Writing a cheque for £200 for the repair of my car - to a lovely garage mechanic - instead of nearly £700 - full of gratitude for the network of trust shared by friends.

Sitting next to my husband under the vaulted ceiling of the cathedral, the glorious musical feast of Handel’s Messiah washing through me; listening out for the tenor voice of our dear friend in the choir; bringing back memories of Christmases past.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Brave Bluebell

Sunday 10th April

Day 354

6.30 pm. We lie next to each other on the bed stretched out in a sunburnt stupor. It’s still warm and bright outside, birds singing.

‘I don’t know why I’m so knackered,’ says my husband, his eyes closing.

I can think of several reasons. We just walked about five miles in the beautiful Blackdown Hills with a group of lovely friends - through fields and woods and lanes, bright with hawthorne blossom, huge dandelions and fragile bluebells. The sun bearing down on us all the way, hot as August.

Then lunch in a friend’s quaint cottage - her table laden with the dishes and bowls we brought from our homes - a venison stew, a chicken korma, a leek quiche, buttery potatoes, peppery salads and a brazil nut roast. We flowed out into the garden and stayed long into the afternoon, finishing up with an apple and pear pavlova, a bread and butter pudding, a fruit jelly, a chocolate hazelnut roulade.

You could call it a full and happy tiredness.

Later an old and dear friend rings for a chat. Each day is an ordeal for her as she struggles with the demons of depression. She says the good coming out of it is that she is learning a new compassion. I look it up in the dictionary - compassion -

‘a sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress with a desire to alleviate it’.

She touches me so much. I think of her like a brave, tender bluebell in the shade - pointing to the light.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Wild About Garlic

Saturday 9th April

Day 352

It’s the perfect day to wash all the blankets and get them dry in the garden. I make a vegan chocolate cake for my brother who is coming next week - to belatedly celebrate his 60th birthday. And a Spicy Brazil Nut and Millet Roast for tomorrow’s village walk. Every now and again I look up from my cooking and see the blankets, soft gold and rust coloured flags, swaying in the wind. Overnight the tiny pink blobs of apple blossom have turned into white flower sprays, shining like fairy lights in a blue sky.

It’s really too hot to have soup - left over from the charity lunch on Wednesday - but we do anyway, the sun burning my face. While we eat my husband explains our pension options but I get lost in the intricacies of annuity and draw down. I don’t want to think about being old without him.

Later we walk along wide paths bordered with dense clumps of wild garlic just coming into flower - spikey white stars on tall stems. New bluebells stretch out like sheets under giant beech trees, their leaves still tight curled. We stop and listen to a tiny bird high up on a branch trilling its heart out. I don’t know if it’s a cole tit or a chaffinch or something else. My husband says he wouldn’t know anyway.

‘What’s the worst thing about forgetting?’ I ask him.

‘I don’t mind about not knowing the names of trees or birds anymore ,’ he says, ‘but it’s the people I can’t remember.....’

He’s had a chatty email from someone we used to know in London many years ago. Even when I fill in lots of detail about this friend, he can’t place him or find a face for him. So we let it go, and pick a huge bunch of wild garlic to take home. Even though there are green swathes of it everywhere, it still feels like stealing and I hope we don’t meet anyone on the way back to the car.

It does taste wonderful, though, chopped up and swirled into thick Greek yoghurt with a teaspoon of mustard, a squirt of lemon juice and a scrunch of sea salt. We dollop it on top of smokey grilled salmon fillets and settle down to watch Mama Mia on the telly. A nostalgic comfort blanket.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Friday Afternoon

Friday 8th April

Day 352

The woman at the Toyota garage says something about sticking calipers and brake discs and rust but I’m not really listening - I’ve seen the quote for the repair on the piece of paper she’s showing me - nearly £700.

Go away and think about it,’ she says.

But I know I don’t have a choice. And I thought it was just going to be a minor wheel alignment. I love my car.

I call in at Sainsbury’s on the way back and arrive home a few minutes before my nephew rings the doorbell. I just have time to strip off my hot socks and shoes and throw open the patio doors. It feels like high summer in the garden. We sit at the table with tall glasses of ginger and elderflower cordial clinking with ice cubes and lemon slices, talking food and recipes for Easter. A little later my husband comes home from the allotment smelling of petrol from the strimmer, flecks of grass sticking to his neck.

My nephew leaves with a big bag of rhubarb picked by my husband yesterday. We discovered he loves it and he cooks it like I do with orange zest. He says he has it on his porridge in the mornings - something I hadn’t thought of. I could try it tomorrow.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Worth Remembering

Thursday 7th April

Day 351

I lie awake a long time in the night. I thought my husband would never stop snoring but he did in the end. I know I had complicated dreams but they elude me now.

I buy two pots of sweet peas in the market early this morning. The herbs look so fresh and tender I can’t resist filling my basket with big bunches of chives and coriander, rocket and sorrel. And radishes, white sprouting broccoli and red Russian kale - just stowing them away in the fridge at home makes me feel cleaner and healthier.

I will be out all day so I leave a blue jug of sweet scented narcissi on my husband’s desk for him to come home to after his homeopath appointment.

At 11 am in the Park and Ride car park opposite the Met office I meet up with two women - and a dog - from the Pick’s Disease Support Group. We drive to a pub - famous for good food - on the Cornwall border. Two more women join us and the sun streams in through the window onto our round table. We eat omlettes and creamed smoked haddock and oily green salad.

All these women have or had husbands in various stages of the same brain disease that my husband has. One is dead, one is in a nursing home, one is filing for divorce. They are brave and tearful and funny and they all say to me,

‘Take one day a time. Book holidays. It may not happen like this for your husband.They are all different.’

Back home we walk to the allotment where the weeds are growing tall between the raised beds and the garlic shoots are as thick as young leeks. We carry watering cans again and again from the tank to the green house and soak the dry soil where rows of little seedlings are longing for a drink.

We linger at the table, talking, after our supper - prawn curry and purple sprouting broccoli - the sky growing dark outside, a sliver of moon rising. I look into my husband’s dear face and I’m so grateful he is different from all those other women’s husbands. He may not remember the name of our next door neighbour but he knows who I am. And how to grow tomatoes. And that’s a good place to start. Worth remembering.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011


Wednesday 6th March

Day 350

Today thirteen beautiful, generous women came to our home and opened their hearts and their purses to help and support some families we will never meet on the other side of the world. In this English kitchen we opened the patio doors and sat in the sunshine with bowls of soup and slabs of warm homemade bread. While orange and yellow tulips blazed in their pots, we talked and laughed over cups of tea, Anzac biscuits and buttered Barabrith, bought raffle tickets, collected prizes and filled a basket with coins and notes.

Along with donations from some other dearly beloveds we counted up £165. So maybe a child who is hungry tonight will have a full belly tomorrow. Thank you to all the dear women who said yes and especially to my dear sister who said to me and our Wednesday lunch playmate, ‘Let’s do it’ and so made this particular Wednesday deeply richer than it would have been. And not just for me.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

A Soupy Day

Tuesday 5th April

Day 249

Another visit to the vet first thing this morning - to administer the appetite stimulant - a quarter of a tiny pill held in the claw of an applicator. The vet, who looks about twelve years old with the face of a doll, her eyes blue as a clear sky, prises open the pussy cat’s mouth and shoots the pill down his throat before he can blink.

At home he eats more than he has for days. But something is wrong - he is restless and he cries whatever I do to settle him - like a bored toddler he hangs around me in the kitchen - not knowing what he wants. In between cleaning the windows and mowing the lawn, I’m making soups for our Christian Aid lunch tomorrow. One is orangey, smooth and thick - butternut squash, sweet potato and carrot all whirred up with coconut milk and curry spices. The other is bumpy and lumpy with pearl barley and lots of small chopped vegetables, green flecked with watercress and spinach.

Taking the bowl of veggie peelings down to the compost bin at the end of the garden I see how the tiny furled buds of the apple blossom are sprinkled all over the tree like rose pink stars.

My brother- in-law just phoned to say his father died this evening. He said it was a relief and they had time to make their peace in the last few weeks. I'm glad for him.

The pussy cat is calmer tonight, hanging around the patio pots in the dark, mouse watching. Now I’m going to run a bath for my dear husband who has been in London all day and will put his key in the door any minute.

Monday, 4 April 2011


Monday 4th April

Day 348

The house smells of bleach and fish. This morning I sprayed the grouting between the bathroom floor tiles with a mould remover - didn’t realise it was full of bleach. Now I have mottled red patches on my navy leggings where I knelt down to wash it off.

The fish is steamed haddock for the pussy cat. He’s been diagnosed with Pancreatitis so I’m tempting him with tiny morsels mashed in water. He licks it, looks at me and returns to his dry pellet food. He has lost weight and needs to eat more. I think it must be my fault - I fed him the wrong food all these years. The vet says he’s inappetent. I look up appetent in the dictionary - is it spelt with an ‘a’ or an ‘e’ ? It means a fixed and strong eagerness or desire; a craving.

I wonder where it comes from - that eagerness for living. That urge towards the light even when darkness clings to everything like sooty cobwebs.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Empty Hungry

Sunday 3rd April

Day 347

Mother’s Day

I am not a mother. But happily I am an aunty. Both our mothers are gone. We take my husband’s aunty out to lunch as her son lives in another country.

The glass restaurant overlooking the sea specialises in oysters and fish. It is full of families and the hot smoke of grilled flesh. Our meals are miniscule. The bill is astronomical. Afterwards we wander through crowds surging along the harbour promenade - the wind cold, the sun hot on our faces.

Back home, rain spattering the windows, I slather Ryvitas with butter and Marmite trying to fill the empty, hungry hole in my stomach.

Asparagus and Eggs

Saturday 2nd April

Day 346

Even before breakfast my Saturday plans curdle through faffing. So when my husband comes back from the allotment with ten sticks of asparagus thick as my fingers, it all becomes clear - a spring brunch. While he poaches the eggs and slips bread slices under the grill, I bend the spears at their breaking point, discard their rock hard bases and lay the tender green stems in a skillet.

While we wait for perfect doneness - eggs and asparagus - I empty the other allotment bag into the sink and wash and chop twenty bright pink stalks of rhubarb, drench them with sugar and add long curls of orange zest to the pan. Pudding tonight sorted.

Now I know spring is here. Saturday chores and smeary windows can keep till later.