That’s the end of the memoir bits. You had mine first, which came last on the day, followed by some of his poetry, and the grandson with the amazing voice sang Linden Lea* and then it was over except for the champagne and fireworks.**
And then all of us left behind stumbled back to our lives. It’s funny what catches you out.*** Up till this week when it turned suddenly cold at last† it’s been insanely, unseasonably warm†† and all kinds of plantlife has been shooting out—my snowdrops are going to be over before they usually start—we had purple sprouting broccoli in November instead of February, and I’ve just been shelling my first broad beans of the year . . . broad beans? That should be like . . . May.†††
Broad beans were one of my early revelations about life in England. The only big fat round green bean I knew were frozen limas—preferably as succotash—and while they were fine the earth did not move and rainbows did not explode behind my eyes when I ate them. But broad beans . . . yowzah. YOWZAH yowzah. They are so spectacularly awesome they are worth the incredible faff of shelling the beggars. Those of you accustomed to this task will know whereof I speak. They grow in these massive great pillowy pods and you pick one up and think, YES! Big fat broad beans! And then you grapple your way into the thick uncooperative husk‡ and discover it’s mostly the plant version of bubblewrap and you have to lever out the few beans embedded therein. ARRRRRGH. Only the fact of the essential divinity of broad beans keeps any rational person at this desperate activity.
Peter derived some amusement out of my naïve horror at the process. And I did get used to it. Greed helps. But the thing is . . . it’s something we did together. We certainly did it literally together back at the old house, podding our very own broad beans out of our very own sweat-of-our-brows garden‡‡ And even since we moved into town and our broad beans come by organic-grocer delivery we at least had each other to moan at, whoever did the actual shelling that meal or that week or that season. Hey! the one would say to the other, shaking a pot with a modest layer of broad beans spread across the bottom. It took me forty five minutes to shuck that many!
Not this year. And telling the hellmob just isn’t the same.
* * *
* Peter had eccentric tastes in music as in most things. He would tell you he ‘wasn’t musical at all’ and didn’t care for music, or didn’t care one way or another about it.^ But if you put the wrong CD on you would hear about it and there were certain things he did really love, Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings for example.^^ I still wasted quite a bit of time believing that he didn’t care for music and, for example, originally assumed that the mum in SEVENTH RAVEN was a cellist because he needed her to be something, not because he was susceptible to a well-played cello. Oh. Anyway. He was sufficiently unmusical to like listening to me sing, and I’d been learning Linden Lea shortly before one of Percival’s visits. Peter certainly knew Linden Lea; I don’t think you can live on these islands without having some vague idea about King Arthur, Stonehenge and Linden Lea, but I don’t think the last had particularly registered with him before I started doing my dying-pig routine with it. Percival is always happy to take requests and he knew Linden Lea. Golly. So while Linden Lea was introduced at the memorial service as one of Peter’s favourites it might be more accurate to say it was one of his favourites for about the last year of his life.
^ And long-term blog readers will recall that he did the loyal-husband thing and accompanied me to many operas although this was not his idea of a fabulous night out and he usually complained about the libretto. Well I complain about most librettos. Any story-teller who doesn’t complain about opera librettos is an alien from the Crab Nebula only pretending to be a human story-teller. Well, a human story-teller with any pride.
^^ Which I learnt to pay attention to and then to love because Peter thought so highly of it. I wasn’t a Britten person when I moved over here; I knew his operas a little because I know most standard-rep operas at least a little, but their emotional reality is mostly too real for me. There’s no dazzling melodramatic catharsis at the end of Britten’s tragedies the way there is at the end of Verdi’s. And, just by the way, if I never hear the four sea interludes from Peter Grimes again, my life will be a little brighter. I should think Mr B would be rolling in his grave at the idea that something he wrote has been essentially turned into a frelling lollipop. Although I think he was the one who turned them into a concert piece in the first place. We all make mistakes.
** Well, prosecco. But definitely fizz.^ And yes, fireworks. Advantages of having a memorial service in January, generally speaking a quite depressing enough month in the northern hemisphere without any help: It gets dark early for fireworks. I’ve been saying that we blued the estate on the send-off. It was worth it.
^ I had two glasses and could barely walk. Maybe I should have eaten something. They even had a plate of gluten-free and I saw it like once before it ran away and hid in the shrubbery or under the piano or something.
*** No it’s not funny. It’s not funny at all.
† And I found out again how many frelling gazillion geraniums I have when I had to bring the suckers indoors to save them freezing. I had visitors coming and the sitting room floor was suddenly wall to wall to bookshelves to sofabed with geraniums. I spent a day that might have been better spent cleaning the house^ hacking and repotting and wedging, got the floor clear enough to open the sofabed and the windowsills JAAAAAAAAAMMED . . . and then there was a family crisis and I have a nice clean sitting room floor and no one to admire it but me.
^ I lost the will to live on the subject of the kitchen floor of the cottage several muddy months ago. Now I know the hellmob do walk into the little garden courtyard to pee and so it is not surprising they come back in again mired to the elbows but I SWEAR the flaming mud can jump. I’m standing in the doorway just making sure that no one with a high-angle aim pees on a rosebush and the mud makes a sudden lightning raid and gets all over the bottoms of my house slippers. Arrrrrrgh.
†† AND WET. AND MUDDY.
††† Not that I wouldn’t be glad to have May’s daylight. This time of year, bad weeks the hellmob and I barely see the sun.
‡ The how-tos tell you blithely to run your fingernail down the seam and split it open. LIKE HELL. The how-tos, which have obviously never podded a broad bean in their lives, neglect to tell you that you have a better chance of seaming one open if you start at the rear end rather than the stem end, but even so, at least one pod in three disintegrates in nasty messy little spiral flakes as you claw at it. Think about running your fingernail down a line of bubble wrap and expecting it to pop open. Ha ha frelling ha.
‡‡ Note however that I personally did almost nothing in the vegetable garden. I was flowers^ all the way. Our broad beans were the sweat of Peter’s brow. I admit however that I’ve started surreptitiously growing a few broad bean plants in pots in my little garden. I get about one good plateful from them, but they’re not fussy as plants, it’s only when you’re trying to extract the frelling beans that their depravity manifests.
^ Hey. Only about 85% roses. Okay maybe 90%.
. . . yesterday. I’d been Street Pastoring Friday night* so getting out of bed Saturday (ahem) morning (ahem) was a somewhat protracted business.** I eventually came downstairs*** and was fallen on by the hellmob† who feel that six hours is plenty of time to be without the fascinating, stimulating and all-providing hellgoddess.††
And before I go on with this story I want to make it very clear that I had had an adequate amount of caffeine . . .
I have three eggs for breakfast every morning.††† I make excellent scrambled eggs‡ and this also means that if I—er—don’t get around to eating for the rest of the day I’m still good to go.‡‡ I have NO IDEA how it happened, except that I must have put the pan carelessly down on the edge of the cooker while I reached for the bowl. Possibly to do with sleep deprivation. Even caffeine can only do so much.
AND THE BLOODY PAN LEAPED OFF THE COOKER, DID THREE CARTWHEELS MIDAIR‡‡‡ AND PLUNGED TO THE FLOOR WHERE IT FRELLING BOUNCED. Who knew that a heavy copper pan COULD BOUNCE THAT HIGH?
I had scrambled eggs—scrambled eggs that had just had their butter stirred into them a moment ago—EVERYWHERE. I mean EVERYWHERE. I’m starting to feel hysterical again just remembering. The eggs that landed on the front of the Aga itself were instantly welded into place because the front of the Aga is HOT, you know? The fronts of the white cupboards were suddenly a shiny mottled yellow. I had eggs on my computer, eggs on the piles of books and magazines§ to either side of it, eggs on the glass panes of the cupboards above the counters, eggs on my knitting bag . . . eggs on the FAR SIDE OF THE KITCHEN ISLAND, on the table I can no longer get the leaves up of because there are too many hellcritter crates, and on the glass front of the bookcase that stands next to the table. There are probably eggs in the geraniums on the windowsills too, but it’s a bit of a jungle in there and if there are eggs they can just stay there.
Meanwhile, back at ground zero . . . my kitchen was built by a cowboy. I have no idea where my predecessor found him, but I hope she put him back where he can trouble no one any further. Since I have a cowboy mentality when it comes to housework this is mostly not that big a problem. I curse the drawer that doesn’t open except when it shoots out and falls to the floor, but mostly I can ignore the fact that it has big gaps at the top and on both sides, and that the handle doesn’t fit flush to the front. I can also ignore that the cowboy was either drunk or high when he put in the footings for the Aga§§ UNTIL I’M TRYING TO CLEAN SCRAMBLED EGGS OFF EVERY SURFACE IN THE KITCHEN. A heavy copper pot can cannonball its contents with amazing force. I had greasy scrambled eggs inside that frelling drawer, having slammed through the cracks; I had scrambled eggs jammed under the not-flush handle. I had—and, in fact, still have, since I see no way of getting them out—scrambled eggs puttying up the gaps in the Aga footings . . . I had scrambled eggs inside the oven-shaped space in the Aga that contains the gas feed and the striking mechanism and the spigots because there are vents in the top of the door which the eggs came through. I had eggs sliding down Jesus’ tummy on the brand-new icon I have hanging on the front of one of those glass-paned cupboards§§§. I had eggs dripping off the overhead ceiling beam.
I spent two hours cleaning the kitchen.~ And whining. And then I made myself more scrambled eggs and I ate them. ~~
* * *
* And I got STOPPED BY THE FUZZ ON THE WAY HOME. Hee hee hee hee hee. They must have been bored^—or poor Wolfgang has that look of minor criminal delinquency. I saw a car pull in behind me and I couldn’t see it was cops but I am happy to say that late at night any car that pulls in behind me is guilty until proven innocent of being cops, and I drive accordingly. At 4 am after being on your feet strolling the city for six hours you might be forgiven for BEING A LITTLE TIRED.^^ I had about decided this car was not cops since it had followed me all the way through town and out the other side and I hadn’t had any near encounters with trees or anything. But they still pulled me over, one of them ambled out and asked—politely—if I was lost or if perhaps . . . I had had one or two down t’pub earlier? No, I said cheerfully, I’ve been Street Pastoring, and I waved the sleeve of my jacket, lying on the seat next to me, at him. Oh, Street Pastors, he said, carry on. I spared him pointing out that he’d just spoken to me not an hour before on a street corner . . . but the anonymous thing about a uniform? The SP logo is like a great big HARMLESS sign and I think cop gaze slides right off us. Not the other way around, you will note. But I’m still getting used to chatting amiably with The Man. Or, occasionally, Woman.
^ I’m happy to say that in this area at 4 am, when the final Chinese/Thai/Indian takeaway/kebab shop/Subway sandwiches has closed after the last club+ has closed, things are pretty quiet. Except for the occasional random old lady serially hurtling a hellmob. The cops’ve stopped her too, as you may recall.
+ Yes we have those too. No, really. You want vices? We got vices. It’s just most of them go to bed pretty early.
^^ I would be useless at shift work—like cops—and with the ME the only reason I can do Street Pastoring at all—or all those late Sam duties—is because I stay up late anyway. Just not quite this late+ and there’s less walking involved++, although what walking there is on an ordinary McKinley late night includes liberal use of small plastic bags.
+ Um. Usually
++ Or chatting to people, which is much more tiring.# I like carrying the knapsack, despite the weight of a full frelling thermos, because then I can concentrate on the hot-drinks service and conversation can be honourably limited to ‘vegetable, chicken and vegetable or hot chocolate?’ Mind you wrestling with thermoses that don’t open, plastic bags of paper cups that have no entry point, packets of soup that won’t tear and the regular dismaying disappearance of all the spoons, it usually takes an entire team to get a hot drink made anyway. I suspect many of our regular homeless don’t want the drink but they enjoy the show.
# Answering the phones at the Sams is different. They rang you. You didn’t wander up to them wearing a silly hat.
** I’ve got the standard post-late-Sam duty system reasonably well banged out but I’m still working on post-SP. I have two major problems about getting to bed before the morning news on Radio 3^: the first is this three dog drill. Pav is totally down on bodily functions. You take her out, she does the necessary and she can’t wait to get back indoors again BECAUSE THERE WILL BE FOOOOOOOOOD. Hellhounds . . . Chaos has to crap at least twice^^ every time he sets foot across the threshold and Darkness has to find the PEEEEEEEEEERFECT spot. He can shuttle around a patch five foot square for five minutes . . . and then CHANGE HIS MIND and be obliged to LOOK ELSEWHERE. And the pee-marking . . . they may have to pee several times and from several different directions on a single tree, dustbin, bus stop, wall^^^, pole, etc. Although watching them trying to get it RIGHT with a pole is pretty funny since their aim isn’t all that great, and . . .
And the other thing is that I come back from any late duty STARVING. And more so after following flaming hellhounds around on their eliminatory QUEST. And eating is, you know, time consuming, since you’re not going to gag down six brownies and an onion^^^^ at the kitchen sink, are you? You’re going to want to consider your choices and then sit down and enjoy your selection, and maybe get out a book to read or a little knitting and . . .
^ the sound of which produces an OH FESTERING FESTERING reaction, especially if I’ve fallen asleep in the bath again
^^ I am not merely paying for the makers of biodegradable plastic crap bags to send their children to college, I am also funding their tropical rainforest holidays in Maine and sun and surf holidays in Tibet+. ARRRRRRGH.
+ Both of these options are EXTRA EXPENSIVE for what you might call the obvious reasons
^^^ Walls come in extents, you realise. A self-contained extent from a peeing-dog perspective is anywhere from three-quarters of an inch to about two foot. Sigh.
^^^^ Well I hope you aren’t
*** There may have been moaning
† I am DELIGHTED TO REPORT THAT the hellterror is off heat again YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY. Although the hellhounds are still checking. Hellterror is all, you want my butt? I am delighted you want my butt! Here is my butt! HERE IS MY BUTT! HERE IT IS! HERE! ARE YOU ENJOYING MY BUTT? IT’S A NICE BUTT, ISN’T IT? MAYBE YOU’D LIKE TO TICKLE MY TUMMY TOO? OR I COULD JUST MUG YOU. —Remind me why I have dogs.
†† Getting your dogs on your peculiar schedule is easy. But all those bright little expectant eyes when you crawl through the door at three or four in the morning is perhaps not the perfect solution. When are they going to invent a dog-walking robot?
††† All right so it’s not necessarily morning. It’s the first meal of the day, okay? Unless you count the nosh at 5 am.
‡ Possibly almost as good as Sunshine’s. Almost. After all, she’s a professional.
‡‡ There could be some connection here with why I am often starving at three or four in the morning. But post-menopausal metabolism, you know? The frelling eggs are an indulgence. I could maintain weight on a carrot a week, I swear. A small carrot.^
^ I am not thinking about Niall’s brownies. I am not thinking about Niall’s brownies. NOT. +
+ However I am apparently ringing at Old Eden tomorrow night, where ringing up those bells is like running a flag up a flagpole where the pulleys are all frozen and the flag is the approximate size, weight and momentum resistance of the Albert Memorial. Who needs a gym subscription?
‡‡‡ During which I wrung my hands and did not make a grab for it because it had only JUST come off the hot plate and I employ a heavy copper-clad steel pan because I can use all the upper-body strengthening devices I can get AND it cooks divinely not least for its HEAT RETAINING PROPERTIES.
§ You mean not everybody eats surrounded by books and writing implements of various applications, or keeps current reading material on the kitchen counters?^
^ There would be more on the floor except, you know, hellterror. No she doesn’t eat paper but she does carom off it.
§§ It’s a reconditioned one so it’s possible that whoever did the reconditioning also supplied the footing. This is not an encouraging thought. Fortunately the Aga herself is a star and I wouldn’t be without her. Long time readers may recall I’ve said that all my friends fell down laughing when they found out I’d bought a house with an Aga in it since I had clearly bought it for the Aga. Ahem. I deny this charge. Although I admit the presence of an Aga may have been a tipping point.
§§§ A few weeks ago, when the real world was beating me up unusually hard, I met my monk on my way into the chapel on Saturday night and he asked me how I was. I burst into tears. The end of that conversation included Alfrick suggesting I buy myself a suitable icon and start poking my problems into the little cave with the skull in it at the foot of the cross.^
^ First you have to find a reproduction that doesn’t chop the cave off because it’s all for tourists anyway and they won’t care. Good grief. Or I should probably say God bless. I finally found a nice shiny working Catholic repro of an icon. I don’t recall however that you’re supposed to baptise your new icon in scrambled eggs and I was a little worried that the cheap varnish was going to peel off, but it seems to have taken no harm.+
+ This is a monologue for another night, but having been raised, supposedly, to be a generic Protestant . . . generic Protestants so miss out on the evil-papist [sic] ritual objects like icons and rosaries. Maybe I’m just unusually mired in earthly matters# and/or old to be this young, but I find the props tremendously helpful and supportive. We are living in this world with bodies in three mortal dimensions##. I belong to the school of thought that it’s not all about transcendence.
# two hellhounds with chronic diarrhoea and a hellterror with a fabulous butt can do this to you
## and hellcritters. I think hellcritter bodies exude an extra dimension or two. Possibly hellterrors have a special Butt Dimension which could explain a lot.
# Small mercies: the hellterror had been recrated^ before the excitement. She did, however, have lovely buttery scrambled eggs for breakfast. She did not care that they’d spent a few minutes on the floor or were seasoned with tears of rage and despair.
^ For an excess of butt-related activities
~ It’s still speckled yellow. But it’s less speckled. .
~~ Today, however, has been better. We went to a ROSE GARDEN.
I’m better. That’s the main thing. I’m not frelling enough better but I’m MUCH BETTER. And thank you for all the friendly forum messages to this effect.
So first there was the really bad ME day, as I thought, which was my warning, except I didn’t know it. And then there was the memorable forty-eight hours of twelve-hour bouts with minor hiatuses between of throwing up every time I stood up. This would be an interesting experience anyway but it was made exquisitely more interesting by the fact of a hellmob and no back up plan.
A hellmob, what’s more, who will not crap in their own garden(s). And only Chaos is willing to pee in the cottage courtyard which is, admittedly, small, and he only pees there because he has recently developed prostate problems and HAS TO PEE WHEN HE HAS TO PEE. Which is often. Pav, by the way, is the most supernaturally continent dog I’ve ever even heard of, and this talent is probably worth keeping her entire* through the dramas of fertile season, all questions of beauty and bloodlines aside, even with two entire male hellhounds in the vicinity. Mind you, this talent often causes me additional anxiety when the circumstances are that she has to pee here and now and the locale does not suit her hellladyship, but I’ve given up arguing with her. She knows what the command ‘squat’ means and she’ll piddle like three drops while looking at me out of those bright evil little eyes, and then stop when I know she’s got a full tankload on board . . . arrrgh.
Anyway. The whole staying up till three or four a.m. really comes into its own when you have stomach flu and need to get your hellmob out of their garden so they will frelling well crap, because there’s no one around to notice you heaving in the shrubbery. Sigh. Let’s not discuss how interesting picking up after them has been for several days, and the dizzy spells that go with not eating.** We should perhaps also not discuss Peter’s reaction when he found me (still) sleeping on the floor of the dining room Sunday morning. Lighten up! If I’d wanted a bed-like object I could have lain on the frelling sofa! I was sure I was going to be enough better any minute to amble back to the cottage as usual! And therefore I didn’t want to sleep really! I was just . . . resting in a posture less likely to make my appalling stomach go into another of its cursed paroxysms!
The second forty-eight hours was the beginning to be able to stand upright again phase, or might have been able to stand upright if there were any available calories to provide energy for this surprisingly complicated task.*** Stomach: We’re fine, we’re fine, stand around all you like if you want to, just don’t bother us with any food. Every other cell in my body: We’re starving! We’re STAAAAARVING! Stomach: It’s good for your character. Every other cell in my body: STAAAAAAAAAARVING! Every other cell in my body won, partly because of the passing out in the shrubbery while tottering after hellcritters post-acute-stage thing. Whereupon we entered the subset of the second phase, which is the Large Burning Column Occupying Most of Your Body Especially the Stomach Area subphase.† I’m not quite out of this . . . but that may have as much to do with the last week’s business falling on me as from a height today when I’m finally almost recognisably functional again as it does with the remains of my deplorable lurgi.
Meanwhile, speaking of life catching up with me, I have a Samaritans duty tomorrow††, Street Pastors again Friday, and a meeting with Alfrick on Saturday. From which I hope to come home inspired finally to finish the KES ep that has been dangling around hopefully for a fortnight or more. Oh, I haven’t wasted all my KES time however: it may interest some of you that The Story So Far list is finally up to date.
* * *
* Spaying is notoriously hard on a bitch’s bladder control. Most bitches are fine after, but you still don’t want to press it too hard. Or at least I have always tried not to. Among other things a clean dog hates losing it indoors. He/she will be miserable and ashamed. Which is how I found out Chaos really couldn’t hold it any more. And the miserable-and-ashamed is why you don’t put your critters in a position where they can’t help it . . . if you can help it.^
^ I have mostly managed to put Boskone out of my mind, and going back to America for the first time in a decade. Not. And if never going anywhere starts haunting me I can frelling well sign up for that homeopathy course that I’m going to take, I’m just having a little trouble finding time right now.+ Oh, and money.
+ I’m sure there’s a homeopathic answer to this lurgi, but my usual stalwart in these cases had no effect at all and I was not . . . in much shape for hunting for a better match.
** I’ve never particularly bought into the Sensitivity of Your Furry Companions theory. They may lie down beside you on the floor in a friendly and affectionate manner but that’s because you’re on the floor, and if you get up suddenly and abruptly and disturb their slumbers they will look at you reproachfully. My experience is more that they want what they want and when you aren’t providing it they want to know why. They’re not great on compromise either: The hellmob don’t crap in the garden and that means they don’t crap in the garden. And, you know, this around the block at 3 am thing? Where are their hurtles? Also the hellhounds entirely stopped eating the minute I took my eye off the ball/food dish and have probably lost as much weight as I have arrrrrrrrgh. It doesn’t suit any of us. Haggard is not kind to the late middle aged.^ As an ex-fat person I can say authoritatively, There is such a thing as thin enough. I am that thing, or was last week. There is also such a thing as being too thin, which is what I am now. When your frelling belt, required to keep your trousers up^^, gives you frelling pressure sores on your hip bones, you are too thin.^^^ Fortunately you, or anyway I, gain weight lost through illness back pretty fast as soon as I’m eating again, which is still a slightly aggrieved issue.
^ It’s not actually kind to anyone and as an elderly feminist who has been through the whole body image frenzy decade after decade after decade after DECADE, it makes me NUTS that nothing has really changed, including that young women—and, apparently, increasingly, young men—are encouraged, or maybe I mean aggravated or harassed, into thinking that skeletal is attractive. No! It’s not! Not unless you’re a straightedge or a picket fence! It’s just you can get away with it better when you’re young and your skin still has some collagen!+
+ Me? I’m used to the way I look. Do I have body image problems? Sure. I’m still breathing.#
# And food is only the enemy if your digestion is possessed by demons.
^^Interesting Conversations with Your Stomach: Me: Look, you perverse organ, my jeans will fall down. Stomach: No! No! No belt! Can’t stand a belt! No belt! Me: It won’t come anywhere near you, you prat, you’re in direct contact with my backbone.
^^^ I suppose I could take a few penknives, keys, small notebooks with writing implements etc out of my jeans pockets for the moment.
*** I was knitting^ while listening to the radio tonight and there was one of these snippet-science programmes that reported earnestly that eating protein is GOOD for you. Here we go again. Even before I officially had ME I had energy-fluctuation problems and absolutely must have not merely unfashionably high levels of protein but unfashionably high levels of animal protein including red meat. I’ve been fighting this battle for decades too and vegetarians are fine, some of my best friends^^ etc, but the holier-than-thou brigade of [insert superfood of the week here] and pure thoughts really get up my nose. The revelation that more than a minimal level of protein is good for you reminds me of the walking is not weight-bearing exercise allegation a decade or three ago. No, no! Of course it isn’t! We didn’t evolve to walk, we evolved to train in gyms on fancy weight-bearing exercise machinery!
^ Contrary to pathetic tweets earlier in the week I actually have done a fair amount of reading and knitting recently. I can’t remember if I told you that Aloysius loaned me a frelling great brick-like volume which is a commentary on the first four books of the Bible+ and when he was checking up on me earlier in the week he asked how I was getting on with it. It is too heavy to read lying down.
+ With constant irritating references to the Pentateuch.
^^ Including Sunshine
† I managed to eat something very nearly resembling dinner last night which disappeared into the calorie deficit with indecent haste and I was then hungrier than ever. I usually have fruit both first thing in the morning and last thing at night and I WOULD FRELLING KILL FOR AN APPLE, I am an apple junkie and most of the year eat several a day. I was staring at the fruit bowl last night with a savage lust and . . . eventually ate a pear, not because one raw tree fruit is likely to be less provoking than another raw tree fruit, but because I’m so deprived if I ate one apple I’d probably eat six, which I’m sure would not be a good idea right now. But what is it about pears? You can have totally over rotten, hard tasteless grainy meh and DIVINE all in the same pear. Nibble carefully.
†† We are not a secret society: hey look, the hot link among south of England Samaritans^ this month: http://forumpublications.co.uk/hampshire-people/
It seems to me a good interview with a good guy, although I’m seriously, brain-explodingly fried at the interviewer’s suggestion that the deaths of Peaches Geldof and Robin Williams may glamorize addiction and suicide. WHAT? WHAT? Um. No. That would be nooooooooo.
^There are quite a few of us around:
Behind is good. Farther away from the FRONT is GOOD. Also, it turns out, good is the awful spotlights that frelling BLIND YOU. It means you can’t really see the congregation.
Yes. Never underestimate the calming power of bright lights in your eyes. Congregation? What congregation?
Yay for having fun with singing!!! And when you do write that power ballad, I want to hear it.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha. And here I thought you were going to say something all helpful* and knows-way-more-about-music-than-I-do. Fie.
But . . . I’m pretty sure it was you, a long time ago now, posted to the forum asking about Maggie’s mom’s chicken, apples and cream recipe.** I TORE MY KITCHEN APART*** looking for the frelling recipe and had just about decided that it must have been in one of the cookbooks I’d got rid of when I went off dairy—probably one of the Shaker cookbooks. You know all these clean pure lines of Shaker furniture and houses and how they dressed simply and were celibate and so on? THEY MAKE UP FOR IT IN THE FOOD. If there was ever massive sublimation going on Shaker food is it. Or anyway the several Shaker cookbooks I had in my twenties and thirties† were ALL cream and butter and thick gooey sauces and . . . glorious.†† Although it helps if you have a really fast metabolism and/or regularly save the world which is usually a high-calorie undertaking.††† The rest of us have to have a week’s detox on lettuce and water after every foray. Even if I hadn’t gone off dairy twenty years ago I’d’ve had to get rid of my Shaker cookbooks when I hit menopause and my metabolism said, nice knowing you. Going to sleep now for several decades.
BUT I FOUND IT. CHICKEN, APPLES AND CREAM. YAAAAAAY. From the notes in the margins there was at least one other recipe I had already tried—which probably was in one of those lost Shaker cookbooks—but I know I used this one too. It’s been so long since I’ve made it I can’t remember much about it except that it’s good. The original is from COUNTRY SUPPERS by Ruth Cousineau which I’ve praised in these virtual pages before. I think it’s a lovely cookbook and it should have been a fabulous best-seller and still in print. But it’s not—still in print, anyway.
2-3 T slightly salted butter
1 large sweet onion
2 medium-sized sour/cooking apples: popularity was busy ruining Granny Smiths when I moved over here: when they first hit the ground running they were the perfect all-purpose apple, not too sour to eat if you like brisk but excellent in pies and so on too. So I’m not sure what you Americans use now. I used Bramleys when I first moved over here‡ but they are VERY SOUR. Also, Bramleys tend to HUGE. You’ll probably only want one Bramley. Anyway. Choose your weapon. Then core, peel, slice. You know the drill.
3 T flour
1 c good strong chicken stock. Either make it yourself or buy proper stock in the refrigerator section of your grocery.
½ c heavy cream‡‡
4 c chopped cooked chicken‡‡‡
Melt the butter, gently fry your fine-chopped onion. Add apples and go on cooking gently. If you’re using Bramleys be aware that they get fluffy if they’re cooked too enthusiastically. Sprinkle on the flour and stir till you get something resembling a lumpy roux—all those apples and onions in the way. Then slowly add the stock and cream. As I recall I added it alternately in bits—so half the stock, stir till it’s all taken up, then the cream, stir etc, then the final stock. It’ll be much thinner, obviously, but it should still be a proper thick sauce.
Add the chicken and heat through.
You’ll need some salt: add how you like it. You may want pepper. I don’t but then I’m not eating this, am I? You can think of me and feel superior.§
* * *
* I need to learn how to change key signatures and how to write a descant. Okay?
** SHADOWS. For those of you still waiting in the loan queue at your library.^
^ Suggest they buy more copies.
*** It did not, in fact, look a great deal different than before I started the tearing process.
† Before I went off everything that was fun besides tea, chocolate and champagne
†† I was just googling Shaker recipes and there seems to be some revisionism going on. Simple pure lines of Shaker cooking. Hmm. Okay.
††† Ask Kes.
‡ I sashayed back and forth over the ‘no dairy’ line for a while till my body convinced me that it meant NO DAIRY.
‡ Oh frell. US/UK translation problems. I think if you’re in the UK you want what’s called ‘whipping cream’. I’ve just been pestering google and that seems to be the consensus. I too fell into the ‘double cream’ trap. The UK is just cream mad. Which is why I started falling off the no-dairy wagon when I moved over here. Clotted cream. Be still my heart. SIIIIIIIIGH. I’m old and mean now though. I’m used to my bitter privation.
‡‡‡ The original recipe calls for shredded chicken. Ugh. You can also just joint your chicken. It makes quite a nice presentation if you arrange your chicken pieces on a platter, pour the sauce over and artfully arrange a few slices of raw apple on top—not Bramley. People die of intense shrivelling by eating raw Bramleys. This method also saves all that chopping time. You could knit several rows in the time you didn’t spend chopping.
§ I CAN STILL EAT BUTTER. With black tea, champagne, chocolate and BUTTER, my life is not a desert.
Fiona and I had a Yarn Adventure today. And about time too: we haven’t seen each other since November. Life: what a ratbag.
Admittedly there is usually a high gremlin count when Fiona and I get together but today they weren’t half trying. We were going to set off at two, which in our case usually means before 2:30, well, maybe, if we’re lucky. Fiona usually texts me as she leaves the house*.
No text. Well, whatever, and we got on with hurtling and then with feeding me**.
Still no text. Prepare to feed critters, since I was going to put it down as I left. Sometimes this intrigues hellhounds sufficiently to stimulate them to eat.
Still no text.
Dither. Feed critters.***
Okay, now I’m worried. I have checked Pooka several times. Nothing.
I’ve hung the laundry and washed all the lunch dishes† which is of course nicer to come home to but WHERE IS FIONA?
Pooka barks, and I make a slightly dish-soapy dive for her. I have the feeling my texts aren’t getting through, says Fiona’s voice. I HAVEN’T HEARD ANYTHING FROM YOU SINCE LAST NIGHT TILL THIS PHONE CALL.
Well, I’ll be there in three minutes, she said. And as she rang off, Pooka chirruped and SEVEN MESSAGES POPPED THROUGH. ARRRRRRRRRRRRGH.
The day improved from there however. Our chosen yarn shop was having a MOVING TO NEW PREMISES sale and . . .
I’ve been wanting FEARLESS KNITTING for yonks but, you know, it persists in being full price. The dark auburn yarn is Debbie Bliss Winter Garden which I have also wanted for yonks but it’s too frelling expensive, and the green and gold down front is Louisa Harding Grace Hand Beaded which etc. And the other stuff is just . . . um . . . shiny? And when a pattern book only costs £2 you only need to like one pattern in it. . . .
* * *
* This text will read ‘I’m running a little late because . . .’ Mind you, if she’s not running late, I’m in deep trouble.^ Today’s non-arriving text however informed me that her car had broken down and she was negotiating to borrow her parents’.
^ The hellhounds would like this. It might mean I didn’t have time to FEED them before I left. The hellterror, of course, would chew her way through the front door and come after me if I tried any such thing but I wouldn’t DARE. Also feeding the hellterror is easy. Open nearest tin, throw contents in general hellterror direction, add a handful of kibble if you’re feeling persnickety, and don’t stand too close or she’ll eat the toes off your shoes. The hellhounds . . . it starts with cutting up the chicken scraps SMALL ENOUGH that Chaos, in particular, who has prehensile lips, can’t just hoover up the chicken, and you need to stir the kibble in really well because any that has not been touched by the magic chicken-stock wand will be instantly rejected as dry and tasteless and beneath delicate hellhound dignity.
Unfortunately for them, however, I had allowed time for the careful creation of appropriate hellhound comestibles. It didn’t work though. They still didn’t eat it.+ That look in Chaos’ eyes says: if you didn’t mix it in so well I’d’ve at least eaten the chicken.
+ Do I have to bother to tell you that the hellterror ate hers? No? I didn’t think so.
** Moans of protest from the hellterror who is, furthermore, sitting on my feet, just to make sure I haven’t forgotten her. YOU JUST ATE BREAKFAST TWO HOURS AGO. YOU ARE NOT STARVING. Also, sitting on my feet is counterproductive. You are heavy. You are obviously getting plenty to eat.^
^ I was out hurtling hellhounds recently.+ People frequently stop us to be goopy over them. Mostly their admirers stick to telling me how beautiful they are, but occasionally someone wants to find it funny that we’re all skinny and leggy. Hellhounds are also now quite grey in the face so we’re all skinny, leggy and old. But some dork came up to us the other day and was in grave danger of rupturing himself over the sheer hilarity of owners who look like their dogs.++ I stared him in the eye. I have a bull terrier at home, I said. I did not mention the ‘mini’ part. He stopped laughing and edged away prudently.
+ In my life I can always say I was out hurtling hellhounds recently. And hellterror.
++ I wondered what his frelling problem is. I have no idea, of course, but he was a big flashy maybe forty-ish dork, and looked a bit like someone who was maybe rolling into midlife crisis and in a mood to be snarky about some post-menopausal hag who is refusing to stay home with her TV and her memories but is out cluttering up the pavement wearing jeans, All Stars and long hair, and walking her dogs like she thinks she still has a purpose in life. I don’t like big flashy forty-ish dorks who think looming over me and being scornful is a fun thing to do.#
# Speaking of testosterone poisoning, yesterday I was creeping up the hill to the mews in Wolfgang, which little journey is another of those absolutes in my life, going at 30 mph which happens to be the speed limit. And I was passed by five motorcycles. FIVE. Streaking past, whing whing whing whing whing. What the what the what the I can’t even. And there is all this bushwa about how cars are supposed to be careful of motorcycles. I don’t know if this is nationwide or just around here, but there are posters all over the landscape saying THINK BIKE. How about if BIKERS think at all? I’ve been a motorcyclist, as long-term readers of this blog know, and it is absolutely true that people driving cars can be amazingly stupid and dangerous about bikers and this is a large part of the reason I stopped driving a bike while I still had all my body parts intact . . . but the frelling majority of the motorcycle accidents around here are caused by male bikers being assholes: yesterday at least I was only going 30. Being passed by some dinglenut on a 60 mph road that is only just two lanes wide with hedgerows on either side . . . going around a curve? Yes. I have.
*** Ecstasy of the Hellterror.
† Except, of course, hellhound bowls, since they haven’t eaten anything.