Friday, 22 December 2017

The Second Christmas

I have been wobbly and 

tearful again today....losing concentration...slow and dreamy about everything. So I was very happy to be in the company of this sweet robin in the front garden this morning.

I haven't seen him for a while - it could be a her - I now know that male and female robins have the same plumage .... but this morning he flew in and sat on my front gate and chirruped away all the time I was sweeping up the dead leaves on the path and cutting some branches off the low spreading conifers. I was missing seeing him and hearing his familiar song.

 As well as the conifer branches, I brought in from the back garden sprigs of very dark green prickly holly - sadly no berries - trailing ivy,  and some osmanthus burkwoodii  which is a similar bush to holly but has a prettier variegated leaf, and sprigs of daphne already in flower.

 I decorated the mantlepieces and filled tall jugs with all my fresh green abundance. 

I tried to tidy up the house but got overwhelmed by all the stuff in every room...clutter and just too many I made a Christmas cake instead. My last minute cake -  full of fruit and nuts but lighter and not so rich....and it doesn't take 3 hours to cook.

And now it's the day before Christmas eve. The second Christmas ....somehow harder to bear than the  first.

I wish you all peace.... and joyful moments.... and many blessings in the coming days.

I will be back in 2018.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

My Solstice....and a Messy Business

 Solstice ...the longest dark ....the shortest light ....the turning of the year.

 I arrive earlier in the market this morning, hoping to avoid the Christmas crush to buy Brussel sprouts and parsnips. One of the regular stalls is called Bon Gout  - a well established delicatessen run by a young enthusiastic couple who own a shop in Exeter. They provided all the buffet savoury food for Robin's funeral. Today Nichola is the stall holder....although I wrote and thanked her afterwards I wanted to say a personal thank you...the food was excellent.

She was so lovely and asked how I was....but seeing her brought that day back ...instant drowning....and I found myself in tears ....and just wanted to come home. 

Sometimes it's like that - I have no warning....I am weepy and wobbly all day.... so I stay in the kitchen and make foodie Christmas earth me to something root me into this moment...this now.

I collect and weigh out all the ingredients I need to make fresh Korma curry paste.

The long orangey roots - alarmingly resembling fat maggots  -  are fresh turmeric...they look like carrots when they are peeled....but they stain everything.

Whizzed up into a paste....

the ingredients lose some of their vibrant colours.

But the paste will keep for ages in the fridge. Having made a quick potato and spinach curry with some of this mixture it was fragrantly pungent and aromatic....I don't think I'll buy a jar of curry paste ever again. I say that now mind you....

I decide to ring the changes with my walnut stuffed dates and dip them in milk chocolate and white chocolate as some people in my family aren't as keen as I am on dark 70 percent. 

It's a very messy business....chocolate dipping. But it keeps me occupied in the now. So  for a while I forget to dip into the past....which is also a messy and painful sweet reward there.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Christmas Present and Trouble Shooting

This lovely Georgian Town House in  Honiton which I visited with a  dear friend last blue sky Saturday used to be the East Devon Registry Office of births, marriages and deaths. 

 Two members of our family, my nephew and my niece, have been married here - beautiful wedding memories- and it's also where we registered the death of my mother in 2008.

Now it is the home of the Thelma Hulbert Gallery hosting permanent exhibitions of contemporary art and crafts. I loved these spalted beech wood chopping boards....not just because they are heart shaped. 

I have a lot of chopping boards that I've collected and been given over the years....

I also own many beautiful bowls and jugs...a particular weakness of mine. So as I don't need any more, I justified buying this gorgeous one-off piece by Michael Taylor by calling it my Christmas present from Robin.
 He was always wanting to buy me things and so pleased when I let him ....when it was something I loved. It took years for him to learn not to buy me presents without talking to me first ...he said it wasn't so much fun if I knew what was already in the parcel....and I had to risk hurting his feelings when I had to take it back or change often I didn't.

Fragrant hibiscus tea after yoga class on Monday....I love the colour.... deep clear beetroot ....but will have to drink more to acquire the almost savoury sour taste.


I'm so relieved to have an internet connection - which is faster than my old one -  even though it took more hours to set it up. And the router box has to be in a very inconvenient place  - on the first floor landing opposite the loo - where the master BT socket is located.
 I've learnt so much that I don't really want to know about Broadband. My favourite technical advisor and all round Help-what-should- I-do? friend has disappeared to Portugal so I'm proud of myself that I didn't lose it totally. I finally followed and understood and carried out instructions (my least favourite occupation) and even did a bit of trouble shooting myself - a bit randomly -  to discover why it wasn't working. 

I'll need to experiment tomorrow to see if it still works from the extension  socket by my main phone.

And now I'm going through my Christmas ritual motions....feeling flat and a bit stressed. But they are  a good antidote to stop me sinking into my aloneness.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Red dress ... no complaints

Still no router or internet today .
Writing on my phone is hair-tearing-out frustrating. Can’t access my photos & everything keeps freezing. So just one random photo of a vegan cashew nut cheesecake that I am going to make for Christmas Day as an alternative dessert to sit beside my sister’s traditional plum pudding which will be my choice.
I went off piste today - off my long Christmas to -do list.... . I joined the spilling -off- the -pavements crowds & rummaged through the racks of clothes in the sales. I don’t need any clothes.
I bought a red dress. Not suitable for Christmas. Not suitable for anything in my life now.I have no occasion to wear it. A faint shadow reminder of someone I used to be.
Luckily it wasn’t expensive..... & I have no shoes to go with it. Shoes have always been my problem....

I daren’t think about the real problems of the world ... in Mexico City you can be shot & killed for the trainers you are wearing...

So I don’t have a single problem .....& not a single thing to complain about.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Disconnected.... and grateful

Random photo from my archives. 

I’m writing this on my iPhone as I have lost the internet connection in the house as today was the day I switched from British Telecom to another supplier. It did not go well. I lost my afternoon. And will have to wait in for another router to be delivered tomorrow. The young man who was helping me on the end of the phone while I was running up & down the stairs looking for phone sockets unplugging & reconnecting every device I could find, couldn’t have been more patient & apologetic & not just because I was in tears with frustration at the end of it.

I didn’t realise how utterly dependent I have become on my computer ... to keep me connected.
And how grateful I am I have this alternative on my phone.
And how grateful I am that I can write this at all even though I’m a painfully slow typist on this tiny keyboard with my big fingers.

I have remembered that you can’t be resentful & grateful at the same time .... So gratitude is a great antidote to anger & upset.

Friday, 15 December 2017

H. A. L. T. and Napping.

 Every year in Portugal my quest capture the exact moment of the ultimate wave breaking....

 I had these sweet sparrows for company and chirruping.

This is one of my favourite Julia Cameron Life Lessons - number 19.

Tired one, allow yourself to rest.
Do not push yourself onward ignoring fatigue.
Your body is your beloved vehicle that houses your soul.
Treat yourself gently.
Do not force yourself forward. 
Remember H. A. L. T. Do  not get too hungry, angry, lonely or tired.
Fatigue is dangerous.

I did listen to my body today. When I got too stiff and cold sitting at the table writing cards I  took myself out into the cold bright air to post a parcel and to buy big bunches of  fresh herbs - parsley and dill and coriander  - from the Turkish shop. I don't want to eat much salad in these icy temperatures but I crave fresh greenness for my soup.

Later when the sun was already sinking low in the sky I listened again to my body, aching with weariness, and crept under a blanket on the sofa and took a nap. Like my parents used to do every afternoon after lunch. Such a good ritual which I believed only belonged to the elderly.

Now I know it has nothing to do with age and everything to do with abandoning my outdated conditioning " don't stop till you drop" and taking care of myself. 

I'm learning was a lovely nap.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

I have cried for him....

Three shells...

three sisters...

I was always lagging behind them...taking photos...running to catch I've always been since I was 2 years old..
 "Wait for me ....I'm not ready.."

 But they encouraged me, my big sisters, to climb the lemon tree that I did last lemons for us all...well, scrumped lemons...although because of the drought this summer they were small and hard. And I didn't climb as high.....not confident in my flip flops....

Lantana - the  fragrant bush of our African childhood. Crush a leaf and we are all instantly transported to the back garden of our home in Lusaka and the lantana hedge running all long one  border of our property. 

We only saw graffiti occasionally... this one unusually painted into the cliffs ...don't know what this means.

Approaching Alvor from the river estuary

and past a wonderful collection of stone shrines that people had constructed along the path.

In the town where we found our favourite Italian restaurant which we re-visted several times.

One Sunday we drove out with our Portuguese friends.  Starting at one of the highest points in the Algarve - the weather station at Monchique. I took these wind turbines for Robin because he loved them....and I always remember his passion for saving the environment when I see them....and remember the good things about him.

Followed by a picnic on these rocks ....watching the fishermen...

a walk along this beach...

watching the surfers...

And an evening stroll in the busy marina at Portimao

avoiding the holiday makers and loud  music

we crossed the bridge and had hot chocolate and cakes in a quiet cafe.

One evening we looked up from reading our books on the terrace as we heard a small plane and saw this message being pulled though the sky behind it.

Vera will you marry me?

I hope she said yes.


The dining room table is covered with lists and Christmas cards. Some of our friends I only write to   once a year so I've been wondering how to sum up my year, 14 months into grieving for Robin,  inside a card...too I may just say I'm OK but I'm also not OK....not myself but also finding another self I didn't know was there....

Fourteen Months On

I have used up
and thrown away 
a forest of tissues.

I have wept for him
on the tiles of my kitchen floor.

In the cooling water of the bath.

At restaurant tables
holding the hands of my friends.

On a massage couch
tears in my ears.

On a mattress
 on wooden floor boards
beating a cushion.

On a single bed in Fiji
cradled by my sisters.

I have howled for him
in a double bed in Portugal

And at his graveside
in the wind.

I have tortured myself
with regrets.

And with yearning for one more day 
one more smile
one more breath
on my cheek.

I have drunk too much wine
and not enough soup.

I have held on
till my gut
is twisted with

The truth of 
he's gone.

I have cried for him.
And for myself.

But I have also laughed
and let go 
a little bit.

So now
fourteen months on
 I can laugh
feeling the guilt 
I'm still here and he isn't.

And I can cry 
without hurting myself 
with if only...

when I weep
it's clean
I miss him
my heart.