Thursday, 31 January 2013

Drop by Drop

 Take 200ml olive oil and one whole egg,

add a tablespoon of wholegrain mustard, juice of a lemon and a scrunch of sea salt

Bamix blend to rich white gold,

and savour.

Woolly blueberries for afters.

In the nodding open heart of a Hellibore...

Single off side rose opening..... 

Seeds sprouting in the bird feeder hanging in the apple tree

We eat a lot of mayonnaise. Hellmans. Sometimes diluted with lemon juice. Or perked up with crushed garlic or whole grain mustard or hot horseradish sauce or in my husband’s case, chilli jam.

My sister reminds me I could make my own. Especially as I have a magic hand-held blender - a Bamix -  which works every single time and emulsifies it in a whirring few seconds, so no need for the shoulder aching, whisking in with a fork, drop by drop oil thing, with no guarantees of it not splitting.....

You are supposed to use a flavourless vegetable oil in Mayonnaise but today I use extra virgin olive oil which in theory is too strong but I love it. And the addition of grated frozen whole lemon gives it a fresh umami zing...

This afternoon when the light is dull  I take some garden photos from different angles, not looking for perfection - thank you, my photographer sister - and it makes me think about writing/living from another point of view - a what if? perspective. What if I shitfed my default position of always feeling bad about myself, and instead, looked at me as well as the other person -  through the lens of a gentle loving kindness?

And mixed that into my thoughts -  drop by drop -  with no effort...... and curdling was part of the imperfect journey.......

Wednesday, 30 January 2013


In the kitchen today......

30th January 2013

On our way to bed, just a last wipe of the kitchen surfaces first. My husband says,

There was something sticking on the top of this thing.

He’s pointing at a ring on the ceramic hob.

You didn’t use a green scratchie to get it off, did you?


Oh no.

I hear the screech in my voice.

Then I rant about the special cream cleaner and the special surface and the damage to the hob and how you NEVER NEVER EVER EVER use anything abrasive on it and he keeps saying sorry and I rub it with the special cleaner and the soft cloth and it’s not really scratched badly at all and then we are both nearly in tears.....scared little boy, angry mum - roles gone wrong....

I reassure him over and over but I feel sick, sure I’ve left scratches in the tenderness of his heart a thousand times deeper than the ones on the surface of my cooker.....

Monday, 28 January 2013


28th January 2013

This little bear sits on my desk just by the computer. He is very old. My mother gave him to my father for his 21st birthday. She must have tied the red ribbon round his neck. I have put him in the protective arms of a Barbary Ape that my husband bought me in France on my 60th birthday when we were in Rocamadour. They look happy and safe like that together. 

The lovely man at Innovations In Dementia  has asked my husband to write a piece for their newsletter, about what it’s like living with his diagnosis, which he has done. We are sitting at the table after lunch with copies of his article in front of us. I have a pen in my hand as he’s asked me to read it and make corrections.

One sentence is - 

....I wrote a number of plays but none of them got acted.

 I automatically cross out got acted and put in were performed.

Then I stop. Because that’s the whole point. He doesn’t write like that any more. He uses words he knows - which say it perfectly. And which tell his story a thousand times better than if I try and tidy it up with the ‘correct’ past tense.....

But he does agree to put an ‘e’ on the end of breath to make it a verb.

If you say so, he says. But his voice doesn’t believe me.

They say something like 80% of communication isn’t in the words you use anyway. 

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Leeks and Losing

27th January 2013

Sunday morning on the sofa
still in pyjamas
sun striped through the blinds
watching Andy and Novak
in Melbourne
mouse squeaking shoes
on blue painted tennis court.
Earl Grey tea steaming
in pale green cups
sister’s chunky orange marmalade
on butter slathered toast.

Balls ping back and forth
excitement building.
Then a twist in my stomach
the bitter sweetness of Seville half way to my lips
when I realise 

And some of the bowlfuls of love and nourishment, fossil circles, dog ears and sea light that filtered through my weekend.

As well as my husband's wonderful leeks pulled from cold claggy earth for our lunch...... 

Friday, 25 January 2013

Someone Else's Life


25th January 2013

I wanted someone else’s life today. Trying to sort out getting dial -up off our home phone, feeling defeated by the mess and clutter in all the rooms of the house - I found a plastic bag with 3 foodie presents in it for my husband that I forgot to wrap up for him at Christmas - it felt like wading through treacle with snow shoes on.

Imagine being able to write a poem every night that only takes you 15 minutes and is beautiful and moving. And the doing of it transfoms how you live your days. Noticing the moments of your life instead of rushing through it, and holding it at bay at the same time - a speeding train with the brakes on.

This is that amazing woman -  Samantha Reynolds - her poetry is at 

 After a long cup of mint tea in a cafe this afternoon with a woman whose husband is only a year older than mine, and who has vascular dementia, and can never be left alone, I felt so grateful for the life I have, ashamed of my complaining....

Tonight I sit next to my husband in the dark of the cinema. I’m wearing my ‘fat’ jeans as my stomach bloated up this afternoon like a round stretched drum - and I don’t know why. I cry at the end of the film  - ‘Quartet - ’ all that loss and sadness leaking out through the humour and the hope.

I don’t want to be young again. But I do want to notice and savour the precious moments. 
Before it’s too late. This day gone already -  another fallen bronze leaf...

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Pillow Talk

Today's photos on a blue sky, snowless  morning.....

 Unopened January Rose - American Beauty

The first market daffodils

Brie on a board inset with New Zealand Paua Shell

24th January 2013

Leaving the bed this morning, looking back at my sleeping husband I notice how white the new sheets are - moonshine in the gloom of the bedroom.

The new pillows are white too but I’m really upset about them. They are deep and firm and supposed to mould to the shape of your neck if you sleep on your side.  Mine is softer than my husband’s but all night I wrestle with it - determined to like it. Hardly sleep at all. 

Because I don’t want to admit I’ve made a mistake.

An expensive mistake. But not a crime. Or a sin. You can’t take them back once you have broken the seal on the plastic bag they came in. In the night my husband throws his to the floor and goes back to his old one.

I know I don’t like a firm pillow - in fact I like a very thin, very soft, full of squashable feathers, almost not there at all, pillow.  So I don’t know what I was thinking.....hoping.

And now my back and neck are stiff, aching. And I need to buy more pillows. But I love the new sheets and their shiny high thread count.......

and these lines from Mary Oliver in her poem Roses, Late Summer

......the last roses have opened their factories of sweetness

and are giving it back to the world.
If I had another life
I would want to spend it all on some
unstinting happiness.

I would be a fox, or a tree
full of waving branches.
I wouldn't mind being a rose
in a field full of roses.

Fear has not yet occurred to them, nor ambition.
Reason they have not yet thought of.
Neither do they ask how long they must be roses, and then what.
Or any other foolish question.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013


Hellibore bud in garden pot

My husband's very first garden sculpture

Winter wonderland at my sister's farm in the Blackdown Hills, photo by Jane Clitheroe

23rd January 2013

A snowfall in the night. Not enough to make a snowman though.

We walk through sleet and slushy pavements to our appointment at Age UK for our benefits review. We sit in a tiny cupboard-sized office with a friendly volunteer. When my husband crosses his long legs his shoe nearly grazes her knee. It’s clear after a few seconds that my questions are mostly financial and she doesn’t cover the areas we need information about. I want to know things like if we should separate our bank accounts. She does give us the name of a tax expert there who comes in on a Monday.

I feel unsettled by the weather. It snows lightly on and off all day turning to sleet and rain this afternoon. The house smells of very hot cotton from the sheets and pillow cases drying on all the radiators. I find myself standing at the windows in the kitchen watching the sparrows and blue tits scrabbling at the wire feeders in the apple tree. Or cleaning the kettle. Or opening kitchen cupboards hoping I hid a bar of chocolate at Christmas that I forgot about. My to-do list might as well be a mirage in the desert that I’ll never reach.

We have deep bowls of coconut curried soup from last night’s leftover veggies and rice scattered with toasted sunflower seeds. I don’t want to cook now so I’ve made a bargain with my husband. I said I’d do the sticky debris of the washing up - which he usually does without complaint - if he goes out into the sleety night and buys us fish and chips. 

He has agreed - the wonderful man.... 

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

See-Saw In The Snow

Tonight I’m feeling of gratitude for..... 

the chiropodist and her beautiul elegant fingers who filed away the seed corns on the soles of my feet and told me I didn’t need to have another operation on the curvy nails of my second toes - I could have kissed her....

the gentle dentist who even though he filled my mouth with novacaine and replaced three of my fillings which meant I couldn’t eat for five hours, is looking after my teeth which seem to be getting longer.....

the lovely man who came and sat in our sitting room for an hour and a half and talked to us about his work and vision to change the perception out there in the world of people with dementia....offering my husband the chance be part of that change... he said he loved his weird and wonderful ceramics too....he’s at

for getting a tiny insight into my biscuit control dilema thing with my husband and then losing it again and making him wrong but knowing it’s an access to something about me - still out of my reach.....forgiving and unforgiving like a see-saw in the snow -  freezing and melting all day....

And I’m so grateful I don’t have to try and get to work or school tomorrow in this blanket of snow and ice sweeping our country tonight.....just as far as the offices of that wonderful organistion Age UK who are being a lifeline for people like us.... 

who are staring dementia in the face....looking behind the mask, looking beyond the label.......still screaming though every NO....

Monday, 21 January 2013

Weekend Snapshots

21st January 2013

Some moments from the last three days -  in pictures as I’m too tired for good words tonight and too stiff from yoga this morning to sit for long at my desk....

Brunch in our favourite cafe - the homemade marmalade a bit too runny though....

Wish I knew what this beautiful bird was - fishing in the estuary mud - maybe a plover .....

I wore this hat that a dear friend knitted for me  - pulled over my ears against icy wind blowing off the water...

Saturday afternoon making more Seville orange marmalade filling the kitchen with sweet citrus steam....ending up with nine gleaming jars.....

Our supper tonight -Roasted Root Veggies Frittata from Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall’s Veg book - I added a soft white moon of buffalo Mozarella and spring onions too - lovely with ruby chard.....

No photo of my resolution to give up trying to control my husband’s consumption of ginger nut biscuits which I deem high....nought out of ten today. Much better to look at where I feel out of control instead.....except then I’d have to change - face my own demons...

Friday, 18 January 2013

Under The Duvet

18th January 2013

It didn’t settle for long, our snow. A thin icing on our picnic table. I was supposed to be in the company of  my lovely sisters today, sorting through boxes and albums of old family photos. But all of us are under the weather. So I took my headache to bed and stayed under the duvet while my husband ventured out to his painting class in a village hall off the A38, off piste, slushy but not frozen.

Later he brought me a cup of tea, his hands still icy cold, and climbed under the covers with me while I read Caitlin  Moran’s How To Be A Woman - a 60th birthday present. I felt too old and foggy to get my head around the 5th wave of feminism and started to think about the golden sweet potato and pumpkin soup in the fridge instead....

A year ago today we buried my father in red Devon clay the colour of African dust after the rains....

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Fire and Ice

Our Pussy cat in the snow in  December 2010 when he was still fat.....

Snow is coming. Blowing in tonight on the west wind. Weekend plans gone haywire - my big sister  who has been in Beirut, and who was coming down on the London train won’t make it now...nor my niece’s boyfriend......

I’ve been prickly and impatient, indecisive and headachey all day....

I cooked a big Coconut Thai Fish Curry for six of us on Saturday - now destined for the freezer. And a  thick pumpkin soup -  but we can eat that up for lunches - good for keeping this cold at bay....

Tonight’s cake ( second version) for another birthday ‘boy’ is definitely not vegan - Carrot, Walnut and Apricot  ( my usual hybrid recipe -  this time Delia and Ottolenghi) - smothered in a cloud of cream cheese icing, tinged with orange zezt and spattered with chopped toasted walnuts.

And with the candles flickering in the half dark and the smiling faces all round it’s an offering of fire and ice.....

Wednesday, 16 January 2013


16th January 2013

Walking up a steep very muddy lane at Parke, on the edge of Dartmoor, we pass by these sheep. They don’t notice the way the sun streams behind the clouds.

After our very nice lunch at the cafe I notcie how the smell of cooking fumes lingers in my new coat. Food I didn’t even eat.

In the car driving home we continue our word journey - the one that goes in circles, the one with no destination, the one that looks like a detour but is the main road now.....

It goes like this. I say,

What are you going to make in your ceramics class this afternoon?

I don’t know.

How about a gnome or a gargoyle or a green man?

What’s that?

And so I set off on the bumpy path with my heart in tatters ....each word needing its own long these ones - 

Leprechaun.....iconic....Jimminy Cricket....Walt Disney....puppet. And later on omlette....bleach....lavatory........chimpanzee.....Osama Bin Laden.....

I read today that believing we are separate from each other is a 'detour into fear'....

Tuesday, 15 January 2013


15th January 2013

Ran out of time today to do the exercise on my e-blogging course....

Got upset all out of proportion when my husband arranged to switch our internet connection to the home phone ....he’s closing down the office phone.......but we may not have the ether for several days next week.....feel ridiculously dependent on my computer now....

We talk about it over a pizza at Bella Italia - to take advantage of their money off deal - he says he’s finding it so hard to accept that he can’t do stuff any more - like change the light bulb in the three lamp light fitting over the table in the kitchen....although I can’t do it takes my sister’s magic persistance tonight - and looking up how to do it on google - before we finally fix it....

I’m delighted with the coconut chocolate icing for the vegan birthday cake I made for two birthday boys tonight....blend coconut oil with honey or argave syrup and cocoa powder.... and actually, now I think of it, the zest of an orange would be lovely too - it’s rich and spreadable and chocolately with no icing sugar or butter in sight....

I know my husband wants me to come to bed...

This is the last walnut left over from Christmas. I cracked it last night and ate it after I took the photo. Two perfect fitting halves - the ultimate fantasy relationship.....

Monday, 14 January 2013

Bitter Sweet

14th January 2013 MONDAY

While I’m still in the dark about how to customise and change or even start a new blog I can at least do today’s task which is to write one....

In between shreds of rage and frustration and guilt and snippy-snapping at my husband I filled nine jars with an amber stream of glistening marmalade. My bitter sweet day on the knife edge - losing sight of kindness in fragrant steam...

Saturday, 12 January 2013

At The Graveside

12th January 2013

The wooden tub of plants that I choose at Otter Nurseries to take to our parents' grave is pretty but overall pale - the primoses white and mauve, the helibore creamy, the striated grasses flimsy. More to my mother’s taste than my father’s. The pot of bright yellow primulas which we leave at the base of the Peace Pole at the Baptist Church represent him more - quintessentially English but catching the African sun in their petals.

I drive through the back lanes to meet my sister in HonitonTesco’s car park as the other road is closed  - flooding under the bridge. Everywhere red rivulets are flowing off the fields onto the roads making slushy pools in the potholes, the steep banks collapsing in mud slides which I have to swerve to avoid. They say the West Country is sodden now, weeping from the sky and the moors and the fields and forests  - nowhere for all this water to go.....

The oak cross at the grave is stark black against the whiteout sky with the two brass plaques washed clean by the rain. It holds off as my sister and I carry the pale planted tub across the slippery grass and place it on the concrete plinth. We remember how it was a muddy lake on the day we buried our father - holding on to each other then so as not to slip into that deep ochre red slash in the ground.....just holding each other now....

The rain comes as we dodge into the Boston Tea Party cafe for a baked potato lunch and sit with our backs to the piano which the ex-president of Zambia played on the day he came to honour his friend, our father.....who would have held my  cold hand in his big warm one at the graveside if only he had been with us. Which of course he was....

Friday, 11 January 2013

Then And Now

11th January 2012

Tomorrow is the anniversary of my father’s death...I keep dipping back into this day last year but.....

the beautiful blog I have been reading today - Christina Rosalie -  keeps pulling me into the moment  - into now.....the wavy edged, fingernail thin bronze shell iridescent under the lamp light on my desk, uprooted from its beach in Portugal, the dull nagging pain in the deep muscle of my low back - sitting for too long, leaning forward in my chair, my stomach stretched full of too much supper in a white shallow bowl - a bright scoop of sweet corn, frozen peas, purple sprouting broccoli spears splodged with tahini, misses my craving for satiety - then snappy squares of bitter sweet dark chocolate take it beyond my comfort zone....sick full but empty....

aching then for my father...still hurting now.....

And then this.......

Totally inspired by this guy Chris Paradox ...... living his silver lining.... Thanks J for sharing this with me....and now I share it with you....

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Sour Green

10th January 2013

That dog
still barking in the night
at intervals
scratching the screen of fog in the air
like fingernails 
scoring the glass of my heart.

Is she locked out,
tied up 
in someone’s garden
on a concrete floored cage?

Cruel. Should I do something 
when it’s daylight?

What is that insistant
other knocking 
I won’t listen to?

Why am I locking myself out of my blog
with the sour green key
of comparison
thinking I have nothing to say?

in the night 
on my own deaf ears.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Parsnips and Nightmares

8th January 2013 

While I’m working on the bigger blogging picture in this e-course I’m doing - ( which is really getting me thinking) - just a couple of things from today....

For the first time -  in weeks it feels like -  I want to cook something - apart from scrambling eggs or opening a tin of tuna or baking a potato and not really wanting to eat it anyway. 

The only caveat is that the meal must be centred around root vegetables as my husband comes home from the allotment this morning with a hundredweight of giant knobbly, knarled, and long whiskered parsnips in a muddy plastic bag.

This is what ends up on our plates tonight - 

A mound of parsnip and Crown Prince squash whisked into a turmeric coloured puree with a slick of white coconut oil, and then laced through with sweet fried onions and chips of garlic........

quarters of boiled beetroot the colour of garnets.....

a fan of melted baby spinch leaves and crisp broccoli florets.....

topped with a pale gold, soft-boiled egg...

a shower of toasted sunflower seeds and 

a  red dollop of a Spicy Tomato Chutney highlighed with cumin and fennel seeds  - a Christmas present from my nephew via Rubies in the Rubble ( a very inspiring company - check them out at

The only trouble is that is's too easy to fork in just one more smooth savoury mouthful  - as comforting as a whole box of popcorn in the dark of the cinema.

And last night - or the early hours this morning I wake with a scream in my throat - the howl of a wolf snared in barbed my dream my husband is trying to kill me. My animal noise wakes him too.

Darling, he says - it’s alright, and lays his hand on my hip.

I lie curled away from him, listening to my thudding heart and a dog barking in the street one soothing it to stop.

Sunday, 6 January 2013


6th January 2013 Sunday

I just ate three satsumas. We called them naartjies when I was growing up in Zambia. My lips are stinging from the spray of the sharp oil in their skin. I want to get lots of Vitamin C into me to fight this cold. I overdid it yesterday  - thinking I was better - back to bed today. Trying to trust my instincts.....surprised how much I can little appetite I have....

My father has been so much on my mind, unravelling my heart....been reading my blogs around this time last year....didn’t know then that he would be gone within the week.... All afternoon I’ve heard his voice strong and clear and sure in the pages of his autobiography. Like all his books I find this one unputabledownable.....I remember he laughed when I used that phrase about his book New Hope For Africa, but in a pleased way.....

Tomorrow I’m starting Susannah Conway’s e-course about maybe this is my  last blog in this form....another ending - since I started in April 2010 -  and not sure how to begin again....but I suppose that’s the point.....letting go of what I know.... which isn’t that much really .....will just have to chance it - which is what I think my father did a lot.....and step into the void.....listening out for the whoosh of angel wings....

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Is Brie A Fish?

5th January 2013 Saturday

My ribs ache from coughing but I make a stab at normality today. Wear clothes instead of pyjamas, put on mascara, eat breakfast at the table with my husband. We start to make a list of THINGS TO DO IN 2013. I suppose we used to call them goals. We talk about holidays and money. My husband writes down all the countries he wants to visit. He says he doesn’t want to die with regrets that he never went to New Zealand or Japan. Even if he won’t remember the names of the places he’ll remember the experience. I say I don’t want the experience of not having enough money for a proper care home for him.

Because that is the difference between us. He wants to buy an experience now. I want to save the money - to buy the time of someone who may need to feed him and dress him in the future  - not a very far away future, not an 85 year old future - because I don’t know if I’ll be able to bear to do it myself.

So there is nothing normal for me in our conversation today. I can’t find any pleasure in making plans. We break out for a very late baguette lunch in a cafe by the sea. Driving home the sky is streamed with gold and pink behind an abandonment of haphazard cloud. Mozart’s Magic Flute fills the car with glory and tears - his and mine. Mine are for my mother and my father. And because I’m sitting next to the man I love who doesn’t know that Brie isn’t a fish.

This is my normal now....  what I’m trying to escape from. I just keep forgetting.

Friday, 4 January 2013

In The Nest Of My Bed

4th January 2013

The fridge is nearly empty - bereft of green veggies anyway.  I haven’t spent any time in the kitchen for several days. My husband is wonderful at washing up and keeping it tidy.  But this morning when I come down to make my lemon and ginger tea it feels sad and echoey as if it’s a foreign place I’m visiting on my way through to another country.

I’m letting this cold keeep me in the nest of my bed. I cancel my hair appointment and lovely weekend plans. While my husband goes to the supermarket with a list - lozenges and cough mixture, broccoli and eggs, I email our consultant neurologist for help with filling out the form for my husband to re-apply for his driving licence. Should we tick the box that says he suffers from serious memory problems? He emails back yes but to say it’s ‘semantic’ - mild to moderate -  and refer them to him to confirm his fitness to continue driving. It’s such a relief  - it’s been like a throbbing sore in my mind ....want to do the right thing, get the answer right when it’s all so unclear what the right answer is....

It’s also a relief to go back to bed and dive into my novel - The Secret River by Kate Grenville....escape into the horror stories of life for the settlers and the Aborigines in New South Wales in 1814. Rather that than face whatever looming thing it is I’m  trying to escape from in my own little life in Devon in 2013. By being ill.....