Friday, 28 June 2013


The lady with the boxes of small brown bottles has been in our kitchen for the last two hours. She's been squirting drops of noxious green potions into my husband's open mouth - being a toxin detective. She finally leaves. With a large cheque.

My husband looks shell shocked.

How was that? I ask.

Incompetent, he says.

Do you mean incomprehensible?


The idea is that the high doses of the potent green liquids will clear my husband's candida and mercury contamination......which could then clear the route for good things to get to his brain.....which could ....what ? Not cure his brain disease ....not heal him. Slow it down then? Halt the dying of more cells stealing away more of his words?

She can't say. But this is a good start. Maybe I'm trying too hard though. Better to do something than nothing I think.. Except it's not my disease and my husband's heart isn't in it  - he says he just feels controlled.....

We avoid the conversation with alternative toxins... pizza, red wine and chocolate.....and I wonder if surrender would be a more potent cure....

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Lavash and Gata Farewell

At the end of our sojourn in the mountains we are invited to watch the ancient process of making Lavash - the Armenian long flatbread and also Gata, a round sweet filled bread -  at the home of a neighbour whose family is very much part of the building and maintenance and cherry picking that goes on at the house where we are staying. I felt very privileged to witness it and of course taste it too.

This lady rolls out the weighed balls of dough which take 2 days to prepare and prove and rise as they don't use yeast. I'm glad when she takes a break to answer her mobile phone as it looks hard work. Then she tosses the paper thin disc to this lady,

who catches it on her fore arms and does some graceful, nifty stretching and

then drapes it over this cushion, ( covered in smart denim), makes a small slash in the centre, dabs two corners with an egg wash from a plastic bottle to make it stick on the sides of the clay tourner and

then leans in to the hot oven and slaps it against the wall - for less than a minute - and then hoicks it out with a long hooked pole and tosses it onto the growing pile near by.

They make enough to last the family of seven for two weeks.

We sampled a piece - fresh and crisp and soft -  rolled up with cheese and spring onion.

This is the Gata - another young woman makes it by flattening out the dough ball and pouring on this mixture of melted butter, sugar, flour and egg, bringing in the sides to hold it together in an envelope and then rolling it out again, brushing with an egg wash,

and making this traditional pattern on top with a fork. She places it on a flat iron 2 tiered tray and lowers it into the oven, suspending it with a pole across the top.

It's warm and sweet and tender - it feels like a delicious reward for all their long hard work which we are very lucky to share.

Back in Yerevan on our last night we are invited to a big family feast on the terrace,

which ends with sweet Armenian coffee, more mulberries, cherries and apricots

and a magnificent Solstice moon, white as a ball of dough, rising over the hillside to bid us farewell.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013


I wanted to write about making Armenian bread ......
I'm swamped by a swell of all things lost.

The hum drum ordinariness of
the anchors
in my day
which used to keep me steady
although I didn't know it then
all yanked up.
So now
I drift loose
in unclear

At the very core
of me
snarled springs
ready to
any passing
and brand it
into my skin
as shame.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

A Flavour of Armenia

Trees of glass at the Cafesjian Museum of Art in Yerevan where we stayed for the first few days with my husband's dear cousin and his gorgeous wife and two year old daughter.

The real thing - one of many cherry trees on the slopes at the family home in the Mountains near Garni.

A more rare white variety -  and our view from the terrace every day.

These ones were picked by the local villagers before we arrived and were off to market the next day.

We picked these ourselves with the help of a very sweet little person.

Unbelievably delicious....

These ones came from the trees near the bees making honey in their hives from meadows of wild flowers.

Black mulberries - taking me back to my African childhood and the tree we had outside the back door, our fingers (and the soles of our feet) always stained purple like this.

White mulberries and apricots just picked off the tree in the family garden in Yerevan.

Little green apples and rose petals for sale at the fruit and veg stall at the side of the road in the village.

Purple basil and parsley and green onions all sold together in a big fresh fragrant bunch.

You roll them up in the local bread (like a soft tortilla) called Lavash, with  slices of curd cheese (a bit like Feta) and a slick of sour cream, into a long parcel of heaven.

Breakfast - our hosts fed us magnificently -  French toast with the most yellow gold eggs I've ever seen, laid that morning and collected from the farm next door.

Pimms on the terrace ....Babaganoush (smoked aubergine pate) bruschetta, fried rounds of courgette and garlic drenched in sour cream and yogurt, green speckly beans and a herby potato salad -  all to go with her speciality - a fabulous tomatoey fish stew - giant trout bought from the fish farm down the track. 

More flavours tomorrow - the fascinating process of making Lavash......

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Saying It With Roses

11th June 2013

The mist hangs low over the hills behind Lyme Regis. We walk out along the Cobb -  husband, sister, brother - the wind blowing sharp off the sea. We pass a whole class of small school children huddled on the beach eating fish and chips out of white paper parcels. We dip into a cafe for a pot of mint tea, follow the river back to the car and drive to Otterton Mill for a late lunch.

The sun comes out, our coats come off and we sit at a round table in the shade eating big plates of salads with side orders of saute potatoes and tease the young man who served us - when we asked what was vegan on the menu he suggested mackerel salad. He admits his girlfriend is vegan but he has no idea what it means. Slabs of butter come with our granary bread....

Later I sit in a small room at Boots the Chemist with my brother while he has a free hearing test.  He wears red and blue headphones, presses a button when he hears a sound and the audiologist records it on a graph on the screen in front of him. The graph shows that he has a fifty percent loss on the lower registers and the nice man recommends hearing aids. He tries one on and it’s tiny and almost invisible.

We both remember the hearing aid sagas of our parents - the round baby batteries, the high pitched squealing, the wax blocked tubes, the losing them, the finding them, the not wearing them - the agony of shouting everything and the going silent..... It seems these aids are much more advanced and of course much more expensive.

And now it’s nearly midnight - family all gone, husband asleep. As we are going to Armenia on Friday for ten days to visit my husband’s cousin and his family, and I’m not remotely ready or organised and a bit aprehensive about it all, I’m not posting for a while and will blog again on our return.

Leaving you with roses against a wall in the beautiful gardens at Cadhay House outside Ottery St Mary where I walked with a dear friend on Friday. They do a very delish coffee and walnut cake too....

Monday, 10 June 2013

Nights On Sofas

Cadhay House Poppy

Nights on the Sofa

Friday night I watch “The Smurfs”  with my husband. The library has a good supply of DVD cartoons in the children’s section. We nibble on flapjacks and dried dates.

Saturday night we sit with my Sister Big, my tender-hearted sister, who is visiting us from Luton, watching the final of Britain’s Got Talent, eating slippery cheesy triangles of Zizzi’s pizza.

Sunday night it’s trays on our laps -  Cauldron veggie sausages, roast sweet potatoes and Calvo Nero cabbage tossed with a whole bulb of finely sliced fresh garlic ( the first one  - my husband pulled it from the allotment that morning) while we finish our game of scrabble - being careful not to get horseradish mayonnaise on the tiles. My husband wins.

Tonight I sit next to my big brother, who is visting us from Holland, on our Sister Middle’s sofa after she has fed us a fabulous vegetable curry with eggs and creamy basmati rice, watching Slumdog Millionaire  - entirely appropriate as he has recently returned from running a workshop in Chennai. 

I love escaping into the stories of these other worlds.... and I love the company of my dear siblings who keep the wheel of our family spinning even though the hub of our parents is missing....keeping me, Sister Little, in their sight, in their hearts...

Friday, 7 June 2013

Tree Slaughter

Wednesday morning


Early Wednesday morning the head splitting 
screech of a circular saw
tearing the air.
Once a year our neigbours strim the long hedge
that runs at the back of our garden.
So I don’t take much notice.
I think that’s what they are doing.

Mid morning, my hands in the washing up bowl, I  glance out of the back door and
I see something high in the sky
that freezes the gasp in my throat.
Something falling
tied to a loose rope
and then a 
terrible crash 
as it smashes to the ground
in a hush of leaves.

A branch slashed
from the giant poplar tree
in our neighbours’ garden.

A man with a red hard hat
tethered with rope to another branch
Eiffel Tower high
a chain saw extended in one hand
in front of him
whirring through
fresh wood 
taking the life
of the tree

that has always been there.

Sentinal grandfather
overseeing all our homes
skeletal statue in winter
rustling with pigeons
in summer.
I measure the time by its swaying green shade
across our patio
barring and releasing 
filigree sun 
into our kitchen.

They take all day
with their loud surgery
and it’s still not done.

Tonight it stands 
half cut

And it won’t leave me alone
the space where it lived
empty now. 
The great majesty of it
with such violent precison.

The ache of it 
hurts so much
like someone I loved
just died.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Balloon Journey

 Giant Balloon sausage

Balloon squares

Balloon waves

Fire in balloon

Holding on

Devon fields forever

M5 snake

Husband's hands/Devon fields forever

Looking up inside balloon

Leaning out of basket ( after the champagne)

Silver  snake of River Culme

Up there with the sun

Landing (in cow pats)

Getting ready to roll up and go home.

A wonderful birthday gift for both of us -  thank you dear family - I'll never forget it.....

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Decisions Decisions

Spotted in South West France last October

While my husband is being nourished by two dear friends from his support team, I share lunch in the garden with my sister. We sit on cushions on the step, our feet on the grass, clean blue sky above us, eating a big salty smoked mackerel and avocado salad. We are taking a break from our morning’s work - sorting out and ordering photos on my computer, booking a hotel room for when my husband and I go to Oxford in July for the Art In Action event, writing difficult emails, researching flights to Portugal.....each thing needing a decison. Making decisions has never been my strong point and I find them harder and harder now.... my sister has a wonderful way of making it all seem easier - and making things happen that could take me forever.

She is  also my DON’T PANIC sister. We have agreed that I can call her up when I’m about to go into melt down and ask her  - should I panic about this or not?  Usually not, but it’s always good to hear someone else say it when my head is blocked with what ifs....

Later her wonderful husband replaces the stuck water filter cartridge under the sink which requires persistance and experience as well as strength....

So today I feel totally blessed and buoyed up with all the love and support flowing around us.....

This evening I roast slabs of sweet potato in the oven, make a mushroom omlette with garlic prawns, poach asparagus tips with peas and warm up yesterday’s tomato sauce. My husband lays the round table and we eat our supper in the garden, our bare feet on the warm patio stone. We look up at the pale shining sky and say things like,

This time tomorrow we’ll be up there in a balloon.....looking down on fields and houses.

Spending my husband’s 60th birthday gift voucher from all the family - flying high above it all - a good decision.