Friday, 21 July 2017

After The Rain

After the rain this evening.

All day I stay inside, working at the kitchen table. The rain hammers on the conservatory plastic roof so loudly that I have to go into the sitting room and close the door so I can hear myself talk on the phone.

Later I fall asleep under a soft blanket on the sofa.

I feel a cold creeping into my head and my nose. 

Denial and its aftermath is exhausting.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

In Denial.

My head knows it's true.

Here are the words. On a brass plaque. 
The nails rusting.
The wood cracking.
So it's not a new cross.
But it is a recent fact.
9 months old.

The grass is growing in the red clay
where his body is
below the roses
I placed there 
So I can touch 
and see
and smell
the truth 
that he is gone.
I hear it with my knowing 

My heart on the other hand
is a skittering butterfly
dragging a ripped wing
 of torn silk
in a frenzy of searching 
for him
the truth.
in the 

But my gut
held in that deep bowl of
is telling me 
And it has been warning me for weeks now.
holding on
to the 
in each cell,
letting go,
in a rage of
the fact 

At least I know now
and it is a 
to admit it.
I'm in denial.
My head
 knows it's true
my heart
 is a suppurating lake
 my gut
doesn't believe it.

 And with good reason,
but not a rational one.

Why would I want to 
an unbearable

You can't fly 

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

A Ritual

Late afternoon yesterday, walking in Mincing Lake Park with my brother,
stabs of lightening immediately followed by harsh whip lashes of thunder bring a stinging waterfall of rain....soaking through our thin shirts in seconds. A mile away my nearly dry washing on the spinner is also caught in the deluge.

Not as serious though as for the people of Coverack on the Lizard in Cornwall who could have drowned in their homes in minutes.

The storm in the night, the constant crack and roll of thunder, kept me orchestral symphony to  accompany my usual 3am worrying.

Ripe blackberries in the park in July. What's happening? Aren't they supposed to be ready in the we can make blackberry and apple crumbles....the apples on our tree in the garden are little green bullets still.
Robin wouldn't have cared about the month - he would have just picked them, sour or not, his favourite task on any walk in the countryside. And insisted I try them even though I like my blackberries super sweet.

This afternoon my sister and brother and I take perfumed roses, buddleia cones and lavender wands from our gardens to our parents' grave which we weeded and cleaned ....remembering my mother who died 9 years ago last week. Our big sister would have come if she could. Later at the Boston Tea Party cafe in Honiton,we clinked cups of hot chocolate and shared coconut flapjacks and a sticky brownie and thanked them for our existence...and their love.

I love this ritual we have created for them. More and more I can see the value of a ritual long as it is fresh each time. We don't need to go their grave to be reminded of them but it does bring us closer - the dead and the living - in this act of celebrating on a particular remember and honour the ones we love.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Drinking The Poison


"The forgetting
is difficult.

The remembering,

 by Peter Mc Williams. From How to Survive the Loss of a Love.

'Tell me about it. All of it,''
she says
this new person who doesn't know me.
this grief counsellor
sitting in the comfy chair 
opposite me
in a high ceiling room
which smells a bit musty.

I show her a photo of Robin.
Her face colours
her eyes well up
''But I know him'', 
she says
''we made ceramics
in the same class''
A lovely man.''

So now it's easy
to tell her the
 of the disease
of how it was
to drive him
to feed him
to wash him
to undress
and to dress him
over and over again. 
And to 
love him 
and to 
the drenching
of caring 
so much.

But it's not easy 
to tell her about 
that last day
when I didn't 

And then the next day
which was even worse.

The voice on the phone
I didn't know
which rang beside me
 in my bed
at 7.35am
while I was writing an email
to the MND nurse
saying that
he was slipping sideways
in the car seat
and maybe it was time 
to buy a car 
that you could put a wheelchair in.
So I could still
take him out
which is all he wanted to do.

But it was too late.

This is the day
I re-live
In surround-a-sound

Drinking the poison
that doesn't quite
kill me.

She says she can help me with that.
To remember 
hurting myself.

Yesterday at the Killerton Estate with my brother.

Monday, 17 July 2017

African Birthday Lunch and In the Middle of his Life

My sister chose an African theme for her son's 40th Birthday surprise lunch and tracked down recipes and ingredients reminiscent of our childhood and honouring our missionary ancestors.

 In Zambia we called them mealies - these corn on the cob - a much tougher variety than our English ones - but still sweet and smokey charred, cooked on an open fire.  I remember they used to sell them in small piles on a piece of sack cloth at the side of the road.  Exactly like these we served on Sunday -  wonderfully roasted by niece's husband in the fire built by the men in the family - and authentically dusted with grey ash and grit from the embers.

The traditional accompaniment to all African meals is Inchima - a  cooked white cornmeal known as mealie meal - called Sadza in Zimbabwe -  which is used to mop up the juice from the stews and relishes it is served with.   And always eaten with your fingers. Some of us took up the challenge  

and ate this tomato, onion and kale relish and this stew of little dried fishes called Kapenta, with our fingers and some of us stuck with our forks. The best of the stews was one made by my sister -unfortunately no photo - a Peanut and Sweet Potato Stew -  the flavour of the peanuts, turned soft and pink by long cooking, took me straight back to the one my mother used to make. 

And my father would have been tickled pink to see his great granddaughter tucking into a plate of inchima and asking for more. Even though she thought it was mashed potato!
I just wish I'd bought more mealies ( French ones from the International Stores) as she wanted more of those too.

But everyone, especially the birthday boy, enjoyed the Granadilla cake accompanied by the tropical fruit salad and vanilla coconut cream ...and ice cream of course for the little people.

Later on we sat round the mealies-fire in the field, avoiding the sheep shit, perching on cushions or logs or camping chairs and my nephew asked us to tell stories of any other 40th birthday parties and told us what it meant to him to be turning 40. In the middle of his life.

It all made me cry of course....we had sat round another fire in another field in this same ancient landscape 19 years ago when he turned 21. 

It completed another circle for me when I gave him a beautiful hand-crafted steel knife with an antler horn handle, snuggled into a leather sheath, made by a friend who is skilled woodsman. I had given  it to Robin as a birthday present a few years ago. I also gave him Robin's creased brown leather jacket which has been hanging in the cupboard waiting for a new owner....and which fits him perfectly.

I hope he will pass on the knife to his son when he turns 40. And pass on his memories of Robin....who was very much present with us in the circle round the fire on Sunday. 

Beaming his love on us through the blowing smoke. 

My knife - same craftsman.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Granadilla Cake

My nephew is going to be forty soon. How can that be?

I remember him so clearly even before he could talk, pointing to the plum tree at the bottom of their garden, grabbing the finger of my right hand and urgently pulling me outside into the cold autumn air to go and pick up the wasp stung plums scattered in the grass under the tree.

Tonight I made him a Coconut Granadilla Cake - a contribution to the family celebrations for him this weekend. I grew up in Africa where we called them Granadillas but in this country they are called passion fruits.
My nephew is a wonderful cook himself.  He has come a long way since our plum foraging days.I just hope he likes the sweet perfume flavour of passion fruit. 

The recipe is an experiment  -  an adaption of the Lemon Scented Geranium Cake I made last week...with the addition of passion fruit - juice and seeds -  in the cake and also in the orange and lemon glaze on top.
I'll have to wait till Sunday for the verdict. 

 After a long and mind boggling  morning in the Apple Shop buying computers, my brother and I sat outside on the terrace in strong sunshine, eating our dessert ( his main course)

freshly picked soft fruit - a gift from our neighbours allotment ( the one next to the one Robin used to have) and a blanket of banana and vanilla ice cream. I know it looks a bit like mashed potato but it's just frozen bananas whizzed up in the food processor. It  has exactly the same texture as ice cream. You can add strawberries or cocoa powder or anything you fancy to ring the changes. And not a cow in sight.
Best to eat it before it melts.

Wonderful variety of grandillas in the market in Funchal in Madiera.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Lost At Sea

My brother is staying with me this week.  Africa will always be in our blood.  These are memories of our trip to Knysna and the Cape in 2012 just after our father died.

I'm missing the sea.
I'm missing Robin.

I'm missing the identity I owned 
in all the years we were together.
Now I am stateless,
a foreigner
in my own life.
My passport out of date.
I can't find the language
to define 

I travel my days
in a rudderless dinghy,
in a practical fashion.
It is sensible to 
keep appointments
and buy green vegetables
and laugh sometimes.

But the water beneath the boat
is where I live
most of the time.
Dodging waves
seeking anchors.

Lost at sea.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017


A  pampering day at the Spa..... at the Jacobean Boringdon Hall Hotel near Plymouth.

Heritage carrot and feta salad for lunch.... spiked with cumin seeds,

 followed by  delicate raspberry mousse slice....

and our view from the round lunch table while we ate. Beautiful.

Restorative and relaxing. Not sure why I'm feeling this paper thin tired after so much gorgeous luxury and company.
My friend says maybe you are already full up to the brim with everything so making room for a few drops of pampering is like flying to the moon....and back.... in a day.