Friday, 31 May 2013

Cutting Asparagus, Lilac and Resources

While my husband flails noisily at the knee high grass around the raised beds with his newly mended strimmer, I bend deep into the shelter of the rhubarb forest to avoid the green shredded storm. 

I love the sucking snap of each bendy pink stem as I yank it from its crown nest. The asparagus stems don’t yield so easily and I have dig down a bit round the firm white stalk before wiggling and tugging and breaking them off. To trim the giant rhubarb leaves I use my beautiful hand-crafted knife with a carved walnut wood handle and leather tooled sheath - made by a friend who is a man of the woods with the heart of an artist. It makes me feel like Monty Don, to be the owner of such a glorious and sharp gardening implement.

The sun is still high at 7 o’clock when we stagger back from the allotment laden with bags of rhubarb, asparagus, radishes and spinch and a huge flopping bunch of white lilac branches which fills the kitchen with with a warm peachy perfume.

I’m too tired to cook so my husband goes out for pizza and I put a bottle of Crabbies Lemonde into the freezer to cool. And I notice how we are slowly slipping away from the strictures of our detoxing diet - only two months in. I like to apply the 80/20 rule - good for 80 percent of the time and indulgent for 20 per cent....but I also notice how easy it is to fudge the figures.....

And today my husband recieved a letter informing him he has been awarded the Disability Living Allowance that he applied for with the help of the wonderful woman from Welfare Rights...without having to fight for it or go to a tribunal or ask for endless letters from the consultants and doctors. Considering how much cutting back on resources is going on I am truly and deeply grateful......

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Honeysuckle Summer

I am
cutting the grass
churning up daisies,
leaving  pink tinged petals strewn,
mowing out the beat of Bob Marley
blasting across the fences.
And the laughing student boys
exams over or not,
clink their beer cans,
 BBQ smoke wafting.
Careless summer comes 
this afternoon
for them.

I plant a hanging basket
with sunset begonias trailing,
sparse in their new high home
above ground
by the yellow front door.
I dig up buttercups
in the shade of the honeysuckle hedge
pumping out its sweet peppery perfume
as if there was nothing else
to do
with all the time in the world 
to unfurl its rose to gold
crown of horns.

When my skin is sunburn tight
I leave the green garden
and melt dark brown sugar
and a block of butter
on the hob,
and whisk in a fur of lemon zest,
a long froth of eggs
a snow shower of flour,
and bake a cake.
To share with friends

To stem the shadow brush
of sadness
that has followed me
all day
in and out of the

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Soul Hat

Both my husband and I have recently been fitted for insoles to wear in our shoes - hand made to our measurements by a company in Canada. We are told they will last a life time and will help correct posture, falling in arches, leg length and prevent possible hip breakage. All good - except it seriously affects the kind of shoes you can more sandals with no backs or flip flops or slip ons - just sensible shoes...

As I’m an invetrerate buyer of shoes which never quite work out ( ie expensive mistakes), but which I don’t get rid of, ( I have seriously wide feet) and mostly live in boots all winter and Fit Flops in summer, this insole thing is a bit of blow to my already restricted shoe buying habit.

So the search begins...last week I compromised and bought a pair of comfy Ecco loafers to accomodate insoles and then gave in and bought midnight blue sparkly Fit Flops - for occasional wear.....

And today I took them back to the shop. Not for the sake of my feet but because when I got home I found the exact same pair of FitFlops under the bed.....I’d bought them at the end of last summer - never worn them and forgot all about them.....

So I bought a hat instead - floppy straw, big brimmed, cream and blue striped...... a purchase for my soul.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Blue Bananas

Mother-in-law blue....

Alien bananas....

Police siren blue.

Liverpool Lilac

Basking seal near Babbacombe...South West Coastal Path

Liverpool wallflower escaping the bars of a gate...

 Back from Liverpool, sunday evening -  I’m slicing fruit - pale canteloupe melon, small, only just ripe nectarines, red-skinned apples, oranges from Spain, a banana... and scooting them into the shallow mouth of a blue glass bowl - a precious gift from my mother-in-law many years ago.  I think it’s a rather dull selection of fruit but then the sun powers in from behind the poplar tree and floods the kitchen counter  - flashing into the glass bowl  - painting my bananas police siren blue.

My dear cousin is stting at the kitchen table in the pathway of the sun recovering after his long hike - another lap of the South West Coastal Path - reading yesterday’s newspaper. Reading like my husband used to.....eating up the words.....drinking in their meaning......easy as breathing.....turning the pages....a mind feast....editing.....choosing what to skip over...what to tussle with...... a world to explore whenever he wants .....always there...the gates yawning open.

Sometimes, carelessly, I forget...... my hands wet from chopping....I ask my husband what’s on TV.....he opens the guide.....hands it to me...

You’d better read it - I’ve got no idea what it says....

As alien to him as blue bananas.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Burnt Fingers

Random Photos....

A walk by the River Dart....

Budleigh Salterton from behind the pines.

Lamb and buttercups at Montacute House, Somerset.

 Late sun on rhododendrons blooms on the kitchen table.

Tonight, taking the oaty seedy bread out of the oven, I burn the soft under pads of my three middle fingers on the wire now it hurts a bit to type....I’m wondering what’s too hot to handle in my life right now.

So instead here are a few random photos I’ve taken over the last weeks.....and a reminder for me from The Universe -  

Behind your greatest fear lies your greatest gift.

I’m going to Liverpool on Friday so will be back on this page next week....

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Alternative Sweeties

Coleslaw Sauerkraut

Scrunching it up

Sweetie Jars of Sauerkraut
Photo by Jane Clitheroe

Today we said goodbye to our lovely clinical psychologist ( retiring) who has accompanied us on this roller-coaster journey even pre-diagnosis - for the last nearly three years.  We didn’t see him that often but his exquisite listening and compassion, depth of insight and ability to contain us in all our grief and rage and confusion has felt like a cord of hope in the murk of these long long days.....
He’s right when he says it’s not an ending as he hands us over to his colleague who is much younger and less experienced, but a beginning of travelling with someone else’s fresh input.....

But I feel the loss of is an ending for me....another change to adapt to.....

In the bright light of the kitchen this afternoon I did something I’ve never done before. My sister showed my how to make sauerkraut. We grated and chopped kilos and kilos of sweetheart and savoy cabbage, carrots and apples and celery, scrunched them all up in a washing up bowl with our hands, added a sprinkling of sea salt to bring out the juice and then packed the whole lot into an old fashioned sweetie jar, the top weighed down with plastic bag of water to keep the air out and to let the juice come to the top.

It looked so pretty -  pale greens and orange flecked with the red apple skins - we made another deep pink version with beetroot - and smelled so fresh and clean that I wanted to eat it straight away. But you have to leave it a few days or longer for it to turn into a raw fermented pickle which is really nutritious as well as delicious....I never thought I’d rather dip my hand into a jar of homemade sauerkraut than a jar of Quality Street Chocolates....

Another change that happened without me really noticing it.....on the other hand a jar of Green and Black’s dark chocolate could easily tempt me....

You can find out about homemade sauerkraut from Sandor Ellix Katz’s book Wild Fermentation and at 

Monday, 20 May 2013

Inside The Heart of a Tulip

20th May 2013

Today, with a dear friend, I took a guided journey inside my heart....inside the one that beats too fast, fuelled with fear, that races with adrenaline.....trying to catch up with time before it steals away my life... I found a fierce little girl there with a fixed glare, barring the entrance to the standing angel who has come to help......when she grows weary, finally, and sits down, he bends from his great shining height and scoops her up into the feathers of his wings where she rests in gentleness.... till it’s time to go together through the gates of the thrumming heart.....together to find a way to be slow, to be still.....

That’s why I love the tender hearts of these tulips in my garden  - they remind me of angel wings guarding a secret place of stillness....which is waiting for me always.... just a feather’s touch away....

Friday, 17 May 2013

A Safe Haven

I love the free gift of this clematis tumbling over our fence from next door's garden ending up right by the back door. It's also the safe haven for a pair of black birds building their nest in the dark shelter of the dense foliage and twiggy mass of the honeysuckle...

I’ve tried writing my day three times and not getting anywhere - no fresh words here is the poem I read this morning and which has stayed with me all day....whispering to me that there is always another way of seeing...

The Place Where We Are Right
by Yehuda Amichai
From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.
The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.
But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plough.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.

I like this quote too from Gerald  G Jampolsky's book, Forgiveness The Greatest Healer Of All
which I'm reading in the mornings to try and stop the noise in my head when I wake up -  like diving into a safe haven of truth...
Forgiveness is letting go of all hopes for a better past.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Fresh Love On A White Plate

While the fish cooks in the oven, the apple tree blooms

like a white cloud waiting for bees and

the honeysuckle horns in the hedge think about bursting open.

Wild garlic, fresh oregano and thyme, avocado and lime

 get blitzed into fragrant green gloop

to dress the red sea bream for lunch today.

Back from the farmers’ market with a tray of little red geraniums in my basket, four sea bream fillets - their rough skin the colour of coral -  and a bag of soft stemmed herbs -  fresh thyme and oregano.

Half an hour to make lunch before husband leaves for his ceramics class.....what to eat?

Halve baby new potatoes and shove in oven with olive oil and salt.

For a mayo substitute : whizz up avocado and the herbs with juice of half a lime, more olive oil, sea salt and black pepper, and loads of wild garlic which husband brings back from  walk at Killerton.

Cut up radishes and orange peppers, tomatoes and cucumber  - spray with white balsamic vinegar and more of the tiny leaved fresh thyme - leaving a sweet, sharp fragrance on fingers.

Lay two of the sea bream in the hot pan with the nearly roasted potatoes.

Take five minutes in the garden under the canopy of the apple tree -  its blossom thick and white and pink sprayed against a blue sky.

Squeeze lime juice on the fish and call husband down to lunch....

 for fresh love on a white plate.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Lost Worlds

My husband is helping the man from Innovations in Dementia with his research into people with memory problems telling their life stories. At first he uses words like functionality.....cognitive....empirical..... but changes them when he sees my husband’s quizzical look.  But he doesn’t change his stand for representing people like my husband  - being on their side, being an advocate for them, holding an alternative vision for them in the world where they can become invisible, diminished, marginalised, forgotten...

He tells us that an article my husband wrote for his magazine - about what it’s like for him now, including his phrase about Having a day of joy by living out of my heart -  was read out in a small group of people with different dementias and their partners. The woman running the group in York said it was the best thing she’d read and there were tears in the room afterwards....

Which makes me cry too.......reminds me to keep looking for the whole of the man I love....stitching him together how he is now.... and to not grieve so much, so constantly, for the enormity of his lost worlds....And mine.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Man and Snake

The antidote to bad dreams and a sore throat on a cold and drizzly May day - Miso soup of last night's left overs..

Bad dreams in the night.

I’m in a room with a man on a bed and a cream and brown mottled snake hanging above him. I know he knows all about snakes.

He says very slowly,

Don’t make any sudden movements.

He’s a frozen statue, hunched in the corner of the duvet.

There is another snake exactly the same on the other side of the room draped over a hook like a floppy walking stick.

As I start to creep off the bed the snake above the man slithers down, opens his jaws and swallows him up in one big gulp  - a stocking clinging to a leg.

I reach the door and run out. I’m thinking I must get someone to help pull the man out of the snake. But if they go back in the room the other snake will eat them.....

I look back through the window of the room and see the shape of the man, kicking, in the silky skin of the snake. I think it’s my fault because I moved too quicky and it’s too late now. I feel helpless and distraught that I couldn’t save him.

 I wake up with a cold and sore throat and feel intermittently weepy all morning.....I make a list of everything I need to forgive in my life...then it's time to take the rhubarb to town.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Too Cold For Comfort

Snowball blossom on our apple tree

Bluebells not quite out at Blackberry camp, Honiton

Blossom before the rain

Giant blueberries for lunch

At the allotment

Beech leaves in bluebell mist

I’m loving this pink and white and green spring blowing its blossom along our street, snowballing in our apple tree unfurling its precious pale leaves, filling out the tree skeletons with bright new growth. I’m longing to be out in the garden, planting and composting but today the sky turns the colour of blueberries and the wind is unfriendly cold.  Late afternoon the sun comes out briefly and we risk a vist to the allotment.

While my husband strims the grass with the wire and his resolve snapping every 10 seconds, I cut 90 stems of rhubarb, the colour of garnets. I reckon there are about 30 stems to a kilo and tomorrow I’m taking them in to sell  at our local organic food shop, cafe and bakery who have put out a call for garden rhubarb. When the store  first opened a few years ago we bought some shares in it ( in the days when we didn’t think twice about spending money). Emma’s bread is wonderful and last month they won an award for the Best Cream Tea in the South West.

Maybe we’ll put our rhubarb money towards a cream tea then - or towards the parking ticket I got the other day outside another health food store - so the jar of coconut oil I was buying turned out to be rather expensive.....

Now I’m really tired and cold -  even though I'm wrapped up in a thick woolly cardi -  and a bit despondent and bleak.... my neck is stiff sore - maybe that shoulder stand I did in my yoga class this morning was a stretch too far - so I’m glad supper is nearly cooked.... the aroma of sweet baking leeks, squash and garlic beckoning me into foody comfort downstairs........

Friday, 10 May 2013

Close Up

10th May 2013

One of my lovely blog followers asked to see a photo of me. Hence the above. ( I was going to put it on my About Page and write something about me when I was doing Susannah Conway’s blogging course - but I got cold feet.

So thank you, Nina, for nudging me to take the first step and come out from behind my words.

My husband took this photo on my 60th Birthday last year in South West France. We had just spent a marvellous few hours with some Moroccan Barbary Ape families in a protected park outside Rocamadour. I was having a wonderful time and we stopped in the cafe to have a Magnum in the shade....

I don’t like seeing photos of me now... but because this one has happy associations it just about feels OK to put it on.....if I look at it sideways....

Mind you it’s a lot better than the one I nearly took this morning while a dear friend and I were playing around with the camera on my new iPad - she was showing me how to use it and I was so shocked by the close up from the underneath of my neck and chin that filled the screen that I felt the need to lie down in a darkened room with a bag of smelling salts....

Or at least have another slice of her luscious Sicillian orange and honey cake with a slick of creme fraiche and the inspired accompaniment of a spoonful of her bitter orange marmalade....

Detox diet? What diet?

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Pear The Penguin

A Simon's Town Penguin - South Africa Feb 2012

Because my day has been jammed packed so full -  I don’t know where to start so I’ll skip to the end instead....when my husband made me laugh and then cry...

We have finished our supper - long sweet strands of allotment asparagus dipped into soft poached eggs, yolks the colour of marigolds -  and my husband says,

Do you fancy a penguin?

I can usually guess what he might mean but this time I have no clues.

I don’t mean a penguin - but it starts with P...

Then he remembers 

A pear.

I tell him there used to be a chocolate biscuit called a Penguin - maybe there still is - but he just laughs.

Then I realise he doesn’t know what a penguin is so he doesn’t know why it’s funny. That’s when I want to cry. I explain with prompts - The Antarctic, black wings white chests - look like waiters, birds but swim don’t fly, lay eggs on feet, fathers huddle in freezing temperatures to keep babies warm while mothers go off to hunt fish, we saw them in South Africa.... Happy Feet, I even do a penguin walk. But he doesn’t have a picture. 

Then I say,

We printed off lots of pictures of Emperor Penguins from the computer because you were going to make one in your ceramics class.

Oh that, he says. I’ve made one already. It’s waiting to be fired. Is that a penguin? 

What are you going to call him? Percy? Peter? Peppy?

I don’t know.

I think you should call him Pear the Penguin.