Monday, 31 August 2015


Sidmouth today - Bank Holiday Monday - from the top of Jacob's Ladder.

We treat ourselves to a huge lunch - pan-fried fillets of fresh local mackerel for me, Cheddar cheese baguette for Robin and half a mountain of Almond Lemon Polenta cake at the packed-out but excellent Clock Tower Cafe. This is after a very touching and helpful healing session with our lovely EFT counsellor. 

She gives me some extra healing as I'm awash with despair and tears today. I savoured a little sip of freedom in the last two days.....want more.....but it didn't work for Robin..... too stressful for him to try and fit into any group...or follow any conversation....he's at a loss what to do. 

Me too. But I have recently heard about Equine therapy....going to find out about it for him.

I fell in love with this stunning water-colour in a wonderful quirky shop called "I Want....I Need" when I was loving my day off in Sidmouth on Friday. I wanted it........ but don't need it. I told Robin about it when we were walking back from our ginormous lunch and he said he would buy it for me for as an early birthday present. Opening his big generous heart....making us both happy.

It's by Peter Wood - the famous trees at the mouth of the estuary at Budleigh Salterton.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Unfamiliar Freedom

The house is full of men, painting windows and doors, even after Robin leaves this morning - seemingly cheerful -   with the the lovely woman who is taking care of him for the next 2 days.
So I escape to Sidmouth where it's all blue sky, white cloud, blustery wind, seagulls calling and windsurfers zooming across the waves.

 I spend my first pension payment - well some of it - on on a  zipped, sling, backpack handbag and a leaf green scarf printed with swallows.

I buy haddock and chips and sit on the pebbly beach eating it out of its white box, the lid blowing in the wind. I'm not great at eating in public on my own so this is a first for me.  I'm soon surrounded by a family of little red haired children, the eldest one bossing her sister about - unsuccessfully  -  (reminding me of myself at that age trying to boss my little cousins on holiday in SA)  and chucking pebbles into the sea - ignoring  me completely - perfect.

Back home I give the men cups of tea and flapjack while they pack up their painting gear and sweep up the dust. I don't really know how to use this unfamiliar freedom so I revert to normal work ethic - make up the bed with clean sheets, roast our allotment cherry tomatoes, mow the lawn and cut the edges with scissors. Then I wash up  - also unfamiliar now as Robin always does it, for which I'm eternally grateful -  for all the time it saves me.

I drive to my late evening hair appointment for a cut and ridiculous bouffant blow-dry. The town is buzzing with Friday night diners and drinkers - flowing onto the pavements from the pubs and cafes. Another world.....a life I used to know a long time ago.

I come home via Waitrose and pick up some fizz...... treat myself to my absolute favourite chocolates  Booja Booja Hazelnut Truffles ( they always remind me of my late dear cousin)..... a bath with  beautiful freesia soap -  a fragrant gift.....and later scrambled eggs on toast and a film on telly - The Boat That Rocks.

All pure indulgence -  tinged with sadness and guilt after Robin calls and says he didn't have a very nice day..... but I did  have a nice day before I knew that....

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Summer's End

End of August photos where we were on this day over the last 5 years.

Today it feels like the end of summer.....condensation on the windows.....rotten apples falling from the tree.....making plum and blackberry compote..... dry leaves swirling around the car park at Sainsbury's.....wanting to wear socks..... the light leaving the sky by 8pm....that whisper of "it's over" in the air.

I'm thinking about the next two days and nights. Robin is going to spend it with a 'Shared Lives' family near Honiton. We'll pack his bag in the morning. And I'll stay here. I may sleep a lot.....

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Early Mornings Late Nights

 Early morning on Sunday middle sister and I drove up to Luton to assist our big sister

in packing up her daughter's belongings in order to ship them out to Sardinia. Both my sisters are brilliant packers - judging space, juggling shapes, fitting it all in - 30 kilos in each box. My job was to keep the inventory - and make the lunch - much more my forte.  

On Monday in Sidmouth with Robin after a day of rain.....

the holidaymakers stay mostly in the town....

leaving the beach for a few determined bathers.

  A lot of early mornings and late nights this week.....

Early mornings because the decorators arrive at 8am...unless it's raining....they are stripping, repainting, repairing all the outside window frames, window sills and the front door. I naively assumed they would stay outside but because a lot of our windows are high up and awkward to get at they are also working from inside.....which means dust. Dust everywhere - a fine layer of it in every room...on my the soap dishes in the bathroom.....on the loo seat....on the photo albums on the bookshelves.....on the pile of clothes on the chair in the bedroom.

Luckily I was out most of today....after making more sugar coated almonds and walnut shortbread with Robin... having gorgeous lunch with two gorgeous women. And even though they are lovely decorators who we've known for 12 years, still I feel invaded, unsettled by men on the stairs.... in my private, safe spaces.

Late nights because I still don't know how to fit my life into the hours of my days which turn into nights before I'm finished what I want/need to do.

PS Re the rose being related to the tomato - not so - it's  related to the apple ... obvious really when you look at the beauty of apple blossom.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The Jersey Boys

Just got home .....been to the Theatre Royal in early birthday treat from dear outstanding performance of The Jersey Boys - the story and music of Frankie Valli and the Four know -  Sherry.....Walk like a Man.... Big Girls Don't Cry....Can't Take my Eyes off You.

It was a wonderful evening  - I felt like a grown up for a few magical hours....

Monday, 24 August 2015

Saturday Lunch and a Walk in the Park

Saturday's lunch with Robin's family....The Tomato PestoTart.

The Lemon and Marjoram Grilled Courgettes.

The Marinated Roasted Peppers.

A last minute addition - Roasted Aubergines with crushed cumin, sesame seeds and parsley.

The Pavlova - with a blackberry compote to drizzle over the strawberries for extra unnecessary but pretty sweetness.

After lunch we walk in the University Parks - autumn berries everywhere.

I seem to remember that the rose is related to the tomato..?

If you are 14 and curious,

you can squeeze open one of these rose hips to find out....

and discover it does look a bit like a tomato inside.

We stop to stroke the soft nose of this lovely small horse and take lots of photos of rabbits scuttling in the field behind him ....but they all turn out to be blurred.

As lunch was very delayed  -   Saturday holiday traffic in Cornwall -  no-one was hungry enough for tea and "Going Back To School and Birthdays Cake" so they took it home. So I've yet to find out if it was cooked in the middle....

Friday, 21 August 2015

Tiny Angel, Grime, Post-it Notes and Pushing The Culinary Boat Out

 While I was cleaning our yellow front door early this morning this adorable little Robin red breast hopped out from under the hydrangea bush as if he was curious to see what I was doing. He stayed close for a while.  I felt I'd been visited by a tiny angel.

Late morning we visited the lovely physiotherapist at the doctors' surgery for Robin to learn more exercises to help the movement of his arm and hand. To stop the atrophy of the muscles in his shoulder and the stiffness in his fingers. He asked me to take notes to remind him how to do the exercises. At home I write myself post-it notes and stick them on the mirrors to remind myself to remind him.  I'm likely to forget any new routine.

This afternoon I scrubbed the hard floors in the hall and kitchen...... and cleaned skirting boards and  door frames.....and flushed out all those dusty corners where the spiders live. It made me absurdly  happy  - didn't realise how it was getting me down....  living with unsolved grime.

Tonight there is a crisp nest of pale pavlova meringue drying out in the oven.... on the counter, a  deep bowl of sweet roasted peppers - orange red and yellow - steeping in a garlicky marinade of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and basil......a shallow dish of charcoal striped courgettes - yellow and green  - basking in a lemon, garlic and oregano dressing......and wrapped in foil, two round chocolate sponge cakes waiting for their  butter icing and ganache sandwich filling tomorrow.

Robin's family are coming to lunch and tea tomorrow.....a good reason to push the culinary boat out....especially from a clean kitchen.


Thursday, 20 August 2015

A Flood Of Sweetness

I'm drowning in Victoria plums. Never had such a huge crop. The lower  branches are so heavy with fruit they are bowing to the ground. I haven't been to the allotment for a week....the plums were still green then and I wasn't expecting them to be ripe already.

I picked 5 huge bags which made no impression on the tree at all. I stood on a white plastic chair to stretch up as far as I could but the ones on the top branches will rot and fall as they are way beyond a ladder's reach.

Robin went back with the car later to collect the bags as they were far too heavy to carry. Now I've got to work out what to do with them all.....before the next invasion. And then the apples will be ready for picking....and storing. 

This flood of sweetness swirling around me.... a lake which I can't swim in.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Cooking My Way Back

The sun streamed into the kitchen yesterday evening lighting up these gorgeous creamy roses, a gift from a friend last week. 

Today it was so gloomy in the kitchen I had to put the lights on..

and the heating on to dry the washing as it rained all day.

Robin keeps asking me if we can make 'sweet nuts' like the ones he bought in Honiton market from the nut and olive man. I've no idea what the coating was around the cashews so I just google 'sugar coated pecans' and come up with this recipe. It's simply nuts stirred into beaten egg white and then tossed in cinnamon sugar and salt and baked in the oven. I use a mixture of almonds and cashews.

It's an American recipe. I read the oven temperatures the wrong way round....mix up Centigrade and Fahrenheit. You are supposed to cook them on the lowest setting  for an hour. I do the opposite and  put the oven up to its highest setting so the nuts start to burn and the sugary mixture sticks to the non-stick paper. 

I rescue them in time and once they are cool Robin can't stop eating them. Luckily I'm not tempted. We make brown sugar meringues and flapjacks before he has to leave to drive off up the A38 in the rain with his walking group.

The rain scuppers my gardening/allotment plans and instead of returning to my indoor to-do list I slip out of my life...... disappear into my snuggle chair....... start reading a novel set in modern day Japan.

The trouble with escaping in the afternoons is that I don't want to come back from the story of someone else's life in another world...much more interesting .....and face the truth of mine.

In the end the best way for me is to open the fridge.... and start chopping something ...... start making my way back into what's left of my day.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Sunset Tomato Sauce and Worrying

A gift of huge squat green onions from my sister.  I chopped this one up tonight, threw it in a pan with olive oil and minced garlic....... 

sliced up some of these greenhouse tomatoes that Robin brought back from the allotment.....

along with some from the market - the giant orange Brandy Wine variety -  heavy handfuls of sweetness......

and let them all cook down with lots of vegetable bouillion into a chunky sauce.....

a glorious sunset of a sauce...... perfumed with chopped basil and parsley stirred in at the end.

Tonight we draped it over circles of fried courgette, steamed runner beans and baby broad beans. Even with a pan fried fillet of delicate sea bass on the side it was still the star of the show for me.

With such deliciousness I didn't miss the juicy ripe nectarine I would have had for dessert.....or the apricot flapjack. Not  true actually....I can't really pretend tomato sauce - however sweet - is a substitute for  pudding. But I survived today anyway without sugar and lived to tell the tale.

This morning we had a meeting with our lovely financial advisor about our pensions and planning for the future. I've been worrying about it for ages - dreading it -  this morning feeling tense and panicky. Worrying how Robin would be.....if he'd understand....or be difficult....if I would understand either.
Which is why I asked my sister to sit in with us as she has a much better grasp of all things financial than me.

I needed have worried at all. It was a long meeting but Robin understood enough....asked for what he wanted....  what I didn't follow my sister translated for me afterwards and we spent the afternoon making/ adjusting/ reducing the budget.

I wish I'd remembered this wonderful poem by Mary Oliver ( she of The Wild Geese) given to me by a friend recently..... then I could have missed out the worrying "what if" weeks and jumped straight into the song.

“I Worried”
by Mary Oliver

“ I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers 
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn 
as it was taught, and if not how shall 
I correct it? 

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven, 
can I do better? 

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows 
can do it and I am, well, 

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it, 
am I going to get rheumatism, 
lockjaw, dementia? 

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing. 
And gave it up. And took my old body 
and went out into the morning, 
and sang.”