I am looking at my diary and wondering if I can return to das Boot sooner rather than later. The good thing about being freelance is that you can take time off. The bad thing is that when you do, you don’t get paid.
Flat earth and cows
But having discussed Mother’s ashes with Older Nephew who is going to think about the issue, our minds naturally enough turned towards my father.
He was a fit man though an ex smoker, an ex Royal Marine Commander, a man who was always on the go. Barely a year after retiring he suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage from which physically he recovered well. But it shook him. Suddenly his body had let him down. Mentally it took longer.
One swan with reflection
If ever there was a day designed for staying at home and clearing out the cupboards it was yesterday in London. The tail end of Hurricane Miguel caught us and was less Flaming June, more bloody hell as temperatures dropped and rain poured out of the sky with grim determination. Visitors to england have strange ideas about the weather. They often seem to think it rains almost constantly and heavily. The reality is that our rain is generally light, frequent, and short lived. Or it used to be. Climate crisis has introduced even these islands known for their temperate (some would say unexciting) weather to bizarre swings and abrupt changes, and flooding in parts of the country has become the annual norm.
So I knew rain was forecast but as I had spent Sunday in my shirt sleeves, and Octavia and I had eaten supper outside in her garden as the grey Ninja swarmed up the trellis onto the walls and posed beautifully against a blue sky, I foolishly thought it would still be quite warm. It wasn’t. I had the misfortune to be working outside all morning. My hands got colder and colder and Raynaud’s Disease soon drove the blood from my fingers. On the bus journey at lunchtime I sat with my hands clasped between my knees waiting for warmth to return. To add to the misery, my erstwhile trusty waterproof shoes leaked. My socks were damp and unpleasant. Thank goodness the company was good.
In the evening the Young Relative who is going to look after MasterB when I am with Cousin in NI came round. We had a lovely evening. MasterB honed his technique for keeping her under his paw. We ate, drank, talked family stuff. Before she went home I took her to the local Turkish deli. The original plan had been to show her around the area, but the rain rather dampened that one. At the deli we met J. He is the son of Celia’s good friend Lata, who is visiting from Australia, and J should have been flying home to the US today. However, as Robbie Burns so eloquently put it, The best laid plans o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley. Continue reading
I have eaten all three of my meals at home today, not unusual, but either I am being particularly uncritical or the meals have been particularly good, for as I finished the last mouthful of my freekah based salad this evening I reflected that I could not have enjoyed better meals anywhere. OK lunch would have been improved by a side portion of rice, but otherwise it was all perfection. I reckon I have had fifteen portions of fruit and vegetables today, and that includes a rather lovely alcohol free cocktail of mango, orange and something I have forgotten Celia bought me at Sound Unbound this afternoon. It was made by Mix and Match Unlimited if you are looking to try it.
My neighbours B&J who looked after the incomparable MasterB when I visited Australia in 2016 told me about Sound Unbound. They also kept a close eye on him and gave him love and attention when I was hospitalised for a few days at the end of last month. But that’s another story, and yet another post I haven’t got around to writing. If you follow the link you’ll see we were spoiled for choice with music in a variety of venues, all for free. It was eclectic, it was vibrant, it was eye-opening and it was fun. I rather liked Zwarm who performed in St Giles Cripplegate, the church where my paternal great great grandparents married. I think they would have been quite surprised by today’s use of the space.
Zwarm at st Giles Cripplegate
I think it’s about time I wrapped up the Woolwich visit, or another month will have passed.
The contrast between the couth regenerated area of Woolwich Arsenal and the main shopping drag is marked. Plenty of shops catering for those without a huge amount of disposable income; fast food outlets, garish colours. A huge branch of Tesco, a Primark, a Wilkinson’s, A TK Maxx; no sign of a Marks and Spencer. Oh but some of the buildings were grand, and the evidence of independent shops representing the ethic diversity of Woolwich is heartening. Give me a Turkish deli over a mini Waitrose any day.
The old co-op building caught our eyes and we gazed up at the statue of Robert Mackay who seems to have held every senior position in the venture. I had all but forgotten Woolwich’s strong association with the co-operative movement.RACS are initials familiar from childhood, but I can’t say when I saw them last.
The Woolwich Arsenal Cooperative Society
Across the street two more buildings in a sorry state were also once part of the RACS. We couldn’t make it out at the time, but my photograph, when enlarged on my laptop, showed the motto Each For All and All For Each. Not Thatcherites then.
Each For All and All For Each
One way or another today has included a lot of death. I spent much of it in Guildford, the town where I was born, and where I lived throughout my teenage years.
Looking down the High Street to The Mount
The main purpose of my visit was to see the dentist for my six month check up (all good). I was early and looked at my ‘phone. There was a message that made me gasp, notification of the death of Ernie, a really lovely man I used to see often during the course of my work. I made a note of the funeral arrangements in my diary. His partner Paul must be devastated. They were together for nearly sixty years. Throughout my appointment I was remembering his kindness, the way he used to call me Mate.
As I was leaving the dental practice an elderly gentlemen was making a follow up appointment. When I heard his name my ears pricked up and I turned to look at him. It was an unusual name and one I recognised, though I did not recognise the man. He was our family GP for some years. More grist to the memories mill.
Then it was a trip to the museum, a place where I spent some time almost every Saturday until I was around twelve. I walked there via the Castle Grounds where I used to walk my grandparents’ dog. I’m sure some of my DNA has entered the soil there.
The Castle Keep
What is it about the end of the year and the start January which suggests soup? It’s not just me; my neighbour Jolita has also got the soup bug. At a guess, it goes back to childhood and Mother making meals from festive leftovers. To be fair, I don’t remember any soup, but I do remember a nut bread she made based on a recipe in a copy of Family Circle someone had passed to us. Is Family Circle still going? We weren’t a magazine taking family, though the Radio Times was taken weekly, and I was a big fan of the Dandy before I reached double figures, then it was Jackie and Fab208 as often as I could get them, with very occasional forages into Rave before I graduated to Honey. Nowadays it’s the Guardian and magazines from various organisations I belong to or charities I support. Favour, the magazine for supporters Hearing dogs of the Deaf doesn’t feature many soup recipes. But then neither did the Dandy.
That said, for me soup generally begins with what I have in the fridge rather than a recipe. And this week I had some celeriac that needed using, lots of tomatoes, and some nice white bread that was past its best. So Monday’s soup was a version of ribollita which worked surprisingly well. Motivated, I moved onto tomato soup, with a pound of tomatoes and some other veg I already had. I found a recipe which became the base for my soup, but to my surprise it didn’t include garlic. Surely some mistake? Easily rectified though, and thus emboldened I added half a tsp of ginger purée instead of the tomato purée I did not have. I love chilli, so after a slight hesitation I added a few flakes. Continue reading
Night fell a couple of hours ago. The shops are closing. Celia and Charlie have left for Brighton. Octavia is in Yorkshire. In the block of flats where I live, only a handful of residents are at home, and in the section where my flat is, only my lovely neighbours opposite and I are here for Christmas. We’ve decorated our shared landing and exchanged gifts.
Inside, I have candles and fairy lights, tinsel that has so far survived MasterB’s interest, clean sheets, and parcels piled up on the table. Nanci Griffith’s voice fills the air from an old cassette tape.
I am feeling Christmassy, but not Christmassy enough to play CDS of carols. Anyway, I have managed to miswire the CD player of the stereo and sorting it out is beyond me right now. Continue reading
What lovely responses to my last post. Thank-you to all who left comments and those who emailed me. I don’t want to give the impression I don’t get on with any of my family, that would be quite wrong. Early 2019 is pencilled in as Cousins Time; not my Irish cousins who get mentioned a fair bit as I usually stay with Cousin several times each year. This time it’s my English cousins. One is my cousin Russell who I’ve mentioned several times on this blog. He is the only first cousin younger than me on my father’s side of the family. Much to Mother’s annoyance, I used to spend my pocket money on Matchbox cars for him. His parents were much better off than mine, and I think it irritated Mother that her hard earned cash was being syphoned of to a family who had a much healthier bank account.
It didn’t stop me though.
When my cousin and Russell’s half-sister Jeannette died suddenly in 2017 we realised we couldn’t take our cousins for granted, so Russell and I, already regularly in touch, became closer. When he contacted me to say he is the current artist in residence at the Watts Gallery I nearly burst with cousinly pride and excitement.
Russell is my first cousin.
The other cousins I hope to be meeting up with are also first cousins, but one removed; ie they are my father’s cousins, younger than him by some years, now old in their own right. Jeannette (another Jeannette) lives not far away from me, but we seldom manage to coincide. Her parents, my Great Uncle Percy and Great Aunt Helen decamped to Wales and Jeannette has inherited their property which has become a favourite bolt hole. I’m not sure how much she goes there now, but if she’s anything like Percy, she’ll think nothing of the drive. He drove down to London for his 90th birthday party and stood chatting to everyone throughout. Helen, his wife, was Swiss. They were both musicians and Helen was not brought up with domestic skills. At that birthday party she told me how she had not known how to prepare a meal, but good smells issued from her neighbour’s house, so she went round and asked her to show her how to cook.
Jeannette and I had a chat a few weeks ago and we plan to meet to exchange family stories and look at photos next month. It’ll be great to see her. As both sides of my family tend to be talkative the conversation should be lively . Continue reading
Octavia used to have some paper table napkins inscribed frugal is such an ugly word. I don’t mind frugality. It makes room for the occasional splurge. I’m rather more uncomfortable with excess, something modern weddings seem to have a lot of.
So I like this photo of my parents with friends and family (mostly my father’s family as my mother married in England in the days before cheap air travel). The date was 28th August 1948, so today would have been their 70th wedding anniversary.
Mum and Dad’s wedding 28th August 1948
We went on an expedition to another cousin’s house last night. Maps were consulted. Traffic conditions considered. Cousin’s older sister agreed after a few ‘phone calls to come with us. Watches were synchronised. Cousin’s brother and his wife arranged to meet us at our destination.
I was the only one who had been there before, but I had no memory of how to get there. I just knew it was quite near Uncle Bill’s. The satnav was consulted.
We stopped en route so we could arrive bearing gifts.
We were greeted by a hen who followed us to the front door. I thought she was going to come into the house, and Cousin did too, but the cousin who opened the door refused her admission. Uncle Bill was already there. The house belongs to one of his sons. Continue reading