Friday, 30 January 2015


No words tonight - too knackered - just some random photos from my albums on the theme of white.....noticing how much colour there is in white.....

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Something To Be Grateful For

 A hailstorm in the garden this afternoon - bobbles of ice shooting out of the sky - hitting a hellibore....

 massing on next doors's mossy roof tiles....

 a melting ice ball carpet....

piling up on the green re-cycling bin outside the back door....

and a foraging pigeon beneath the apple tree.....bluebells poking up already.

This morning I shop in the icy temperature of the market and rush around getting other things done in the luxurious knowledge that my husband is in the safe company of our lovely Age UK worker.

This afternoon I dodge the tyranny of my TO-DO list, make a cup of tea, wrap myself in two soft blankets and immerse myself in the wonderful photos and recipes and inspiring foodie articles in Waitrose Food Magazine. Being good to myself while the wind smashes bullets of hail against the windows.

Later I turn the oven on and when my husband wakes up he makes three batches of biscuits - Melting Moments, Almond Macaroons and Coconut Raisin Anzacs which he calls New Zealand biscuits. All I do is point out the difference between oats and flour, a bowl and a saucepan and baking parchment paper and cling film.... and  try and stop him eating all the cherries before he presses them into the middle of the soft dough balls lined up on the baking tray.

When I get back tonight from my Deeksha mediation group, feeling soft and blessed, he has done all the washing up beautifully and boiled me an egg with two pieces of hot buttered toast - just as I like it. Every day something to be grateful for. 

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Growing Younger

There are small vases of snowdrops on the tables in a Methodist Church Hall in Weston Super Mare, where we are tucking  into a buffet feast after the funeral service celebrating the long and good life of my 101 year old aunty.

My husband looks around the room and says,

There are old people here and medium people and children and babies.

Talking to one of my cousins later I realise that once your parents and their generation have passed, you get promoted  - you become the old people in your clan - the grey haired ones ( albeit still wearing jeans) - the end of the line. Luckily how you feel may not have anything to do with how many years you've lived. I still feel like one of the  medium people - but with a husband who is growing younger.....into  a child....but in retreat from the world.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Paparazzi Pigeons and Wild Dancing Poppies

 Sunday afternoon, in Teignmouth, my husband and I are standing on a small foot bridge over the stepped river which runs through the park. I'm taking photos of these ducking and diving waterproof

mallard ducks.

And this single pigeon.  When suddenly a paparazzi of pigeons on the other side of the bank fly up en masse, swoop down in one great flapping cloud and land in line on the rails of the bridge. It's as if they are saying Me too! Take my photo too!  I'm beautiful too! 

Or maybe they think my camera is a bag of bread and they're hoping for crumbs.  For a moment I feel like the Feed The Birds woman in My Fair Lady.

 When I stop snapping I see one of them is eating a berry out of my husband's hand. He 's also crunching on one. I suggest he spits it out.

I've asked him before not to eat any wild berries - I don't think these Cotoneaster ones will poison  him but he no longer remembers the rules of the countryside - if it's bright and edible and free he'll put it in his mouth...

Further up the river two black swans are preening and 

cleaning themselves. Reminding me of the wonderful sight of a single black swan

riding the surf one evening  on the shores of Lake Taupo in New Zealand....where we were on holiday this time last year.

This morning my sister and I wandered round the rather chilly Aladdin's cave of one of Exeter's best fabric shops looking for material to make curtains for my room. The bolts of cloth were stacked ceiling high and when we spotted one on the very top shelf, I unravelled the end, and it rippled down in a soft linen sheet splashed with wild dancing poppies in all the colours of Tuscany in the summer.

The perfect backdrop for my new snuggle chair. 

Monday, 26 January 2015

Rusted Beyond Recognition

On Sunday we drove off in search of birds at the Nature Reserve - a spit of land sticking out into the estuary at Dawlish Warren. We lost our way,  and in the end stopped and took a path up a steep hill  into the woods nearby instead...passing this wind turbine - its sails locked in stillness.

We found this abandoned rusty trunk, divided into mystery compartments, now blocked up with old beer cans and plastic bottles, sitting on a bed of crushed leaves - the stories of its travels lost forever....forever untold.

 The path was lined with birch trees  - some of them weeping glassy black resin from gnarled knots -    sticky open wounds.

The view from the top of the hill,

 and the sun weak as moonlight filtering briefly through the naked forest.

The sky tonight outside my window,

makes me happy for its brief radiant lifetime.

In  our talking today these are some of the words which have been swallowed up and lost to my husband - rusted beyond recognition into one of the unfathomable compartments of his brain....

naval base.

Friday, 23 January 2015

My Chair Arrives/ Polenta Roast Potatoes/ Too Much Suffering

It arrived this morning, a hard frost still on the ground. Two lovely men heaved it up 3 flights of stairs 
to my room at the top of the house. My snuggle chair - making the space feel like a home. This is a before photo as in time I may get it recovered and then there'll be an after photo as well. I'm sitting in it now typing this blog - wanting it to be a bit wider for my elbows - but maybe it isn't a writing chair - maybe it's a reading, dreaming, snoozing chair.

I've decided that roast potatoes count as extreme self care.  Especially on a week night and especially if you parboil them, rough them up in the pan with sea salt and a dousing of polenta flour, roast them in a puddle of olive oil and always snaffle one or two straight from the pan - scrunchy crisp on the outside, pillow soft on the inside - before you dish them up for anyone else.

This afternoon, I did something I've been feeling very deprived of - going to the movies. My husband can't follow films any more.  I sat in the back row of the little Barn Cinema at Dartington, with a friend and a paper cup of hot chocolate and watched the new re-make of Testament of Youth - the memoir of Vera Britten, about the first world war. Her brother and her fiancĂ© and a friend who loved her were all killed. I found it too hard to watch - too much suffering, too much anguish and pain close up on the screen. Too much pointless death. 

 Afterwards she became a pacifist and it was women like her who fought for us to have the vote and the equal rights I now take totally for granted. At least in this country - but not if you are a woman in Saudi Arabia.....

Thursday, 22 January 2015

'Foreign Food'

My husband is fascinated by all the ethnic restaurants and supermarkets that have sprung up in the last few years - a lot of them in Sidwell Street -  the main route we walk along into the centre of Exeter.  He often comes back with printed menus from the Indian, Thai, Lebanese, and Chinese take-away cafes. And packets of unidentified snacks and biscuits and sweets from the Asian Food Store and the Turkish supermarket.
I've said we'll try some of the restaurants - so far we've had an excellent, authentic lunch -  a felafel/humus wrap -  in the Lebanese place, and I've said we can buy some 'foreign' ingredients and cook them at home. 
On Saturday we bought dried Udon noodles in the Chinese supermarket and a Plantain at the International One Store and I made chilli and coconut stir fry vegetables with cashew nuts for lunch. Tonight I used up the other half of the tin of coconut milk - cooked sliced carrots in it with veggie stock and then stirred in chopped purple sprouting broccoli and sweetcorn. We had it with the Plantain  - sliced and fried in coconut oil.
I wasn't sure about having banana with a piece of cod but then I remembered the meal we had in Funchal on our last night in Madeira where we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. See below.....

 fish and banana -  which was delicious. That night there was a bowl of heavenly scented 

frangipani in the centre of the table. Tonight there is a gift of just-open daffodils in the centre of our table to have with our 'foreign' food as my husband calls it. He especially liked the drizzle of maple syrup over the sweet sliced Plantain.
 I think it's too much to expect that he'd replace his passion for sugar with nice savoury stir fried vegetables....

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

A Magic Carpet Of Love

Today I entrusted my question, Why do I find it so hard to receive? to the wise counsel of my family constellation healer.

 We changed the question to How can I nourish myself? I laid it before her on bare boards in a design of cut out shapes in soft felt material -  a magic carpet of deep primary colours representing all the beloved people in my life - moving and shifting them - a bright kaleidoscope of truth.

In the end it answered more questions....revealed something else buried there -  about the gift of my husband's illness.
For him, even at the cost of losing his mind, it has answered his soul's longing for connection - for friends.

What is your soul's longing? she asks me.

A normal life, I say.

I don't think so, she says.

 And then I see that my husband's illness is a gift for me too -  that in the receiving of it, in the receiving of all the love it has brought me has freed me somehow - to flower - to enter my soul's longing.

 Now I'm asking myself how can living in the fallout of the hell of dementia ever be something good? 

I don't truly know what it's like for my husband but it has taken this uninvited horror to force me to go beyond whatever I imagined a normal life could be. It has forced me to disarm myself -  not sure what I was defending myself against -  but I lived behind it - that glass guard - afraid what you might see - the unlovely me.
I am, of course, frequently unlovely but not pretending anymore. Today surveying my magic carpet of love and friendship laid bare before me I felt another crack in that hard screen that keeps me separated and afraid. I felt the pleasure, the humbling joy of receiving the gifts of love that are offered me so unconditionally every with my heart soft and open.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

If Everything Is Love...

Singapore Orchids.

Tonight my husband leaves the house in his old clothes and heads out to Dartmoor for his ceramics class - to give it another go after being defeated by it last week. I drive away a few minutes later with a big Leek and Cheddar quiche, steaming up the plastic cake box, on the seat beside me - heading for a bring and share supper at our friends' house down the road. I'm already full from a lovely long bring and share lunch with two friends earlier on.

A few hours later I drive back with an iced chocolate cup cake, light as fairy dust, sprinkled with tiny gold stars, nestled on the seat beside me - a gift for my husband from the friend who baked it. And I'm full again with gorgeous food and lovely conversations and company, brimming over with gratitude for all the tender loving care from these dear people.....and also I'm struggling with  a question....

How can I  receive all the kindness and support I'm can I let people contribute to me... when I've done nothing to deserve it?  But by not asking for help or feeling so bad about having to ask for it - especially around people spending time with my husband - I'm actually denying someone the chance to make a contribution - to him and to me....

 I can't really get my head around this....I know in my heart that giving and receiving are the same thing....but my head still thinks that giving is better  - more familiar have to do something to deserve love..... to claim your place in the world... But the message I'm getting is the opposite....if everything is Love that includes me - no deserving about it.....

Monday, 19 January 2015

Ta Dah!

The Cobb, Lyme Regis - Sunday afternoon.

A miracle manifested itself on Saturday afternoon at 3.55pm -   we are walking in the main street of the small town of Topsham - heading for a cup of tea in a cafe when I glance in the window of a Charity shop called The League of Friends and there it is - my SNUGGLE CHAIR.  Old fashioned, wide and deep, covered in soft pale cream fabric, already loved and well sat in. We go into the shop which is closing in 5 minutes. My husband holds my bag.... I sink into the chair and don't want to get out it is so comfy. The lady volunteer says it's very well made and in good condition. I look at the price tag pinned to the back. £25. Ta Dah - Done! Will be delivered on Friday for £5.

Tonight the water in the taps is icy cold - like the tip of my nose. But I don't mind - I can feel the angels in the space where my chair will be, fanning my dreams with their wings.

Friday, 16 January 2015

White Elephant Ears

The sky from my window - late afternoon.....

the sun going down over the garden,

throwing its light over the bookshelves in the spare room,

where this weird and wonderful creature lives - one of my husband's creations -  guardian of his books.  But as he can't read them, his books are an anachronism now, a white elephant in the room.

I  recently commissioned this marvellous painting of him by the portrait artist Rachel Jamieson, surrounded by his weird and wonderful ceramics. So even if the ceramics themselves find other homes I'll always have this picture to remind me....

You can find Rachel's moving portraits at 

 Tonight I wanted to use up the tired red cabbage I've had in the fridge for ages  - I meant to cook it at Christmas but ran out of time.  For inspiration I looked in Dennis Cotter's wonderful book Wild Garlic Gooseberries and Me, and adapted his recipe for Braised Savoy Cabbage and Apricots and Pecans - actually it ended up nothing like it but was still fab.

Chop a couple of shallots, add some minced ginger and garlic and fry in coconut oil. Add the shredded red cabbage, 2 small wizened apples, a sprinkle of toasted cumin seeds, the last of the dried Christmas cranberries, cover with hot vegetable bouillon and cook till tender and rosy purple. Stir in some knobbly chopped walnuts, season with S&P and a slick of shiny pomegranate syrup swirled in at the end for sweet winter comfort.

We accompanied it with roasted squash chunks, half a gem squash each, shredded Neroli cabbage, a dollop of left over tomato sauce and a fillet of smoked haddock. 

While I was chopping and stirring I lit all the old candle stubs from Christmas and let them burn and melt into a soft white sea.... like waves of white elephant ears on the plate.