Neighbours and Outsiders

It is often said that London is a series of villages. I’m not sure I buy that, but I would say it’s a series of neighbourhoods. Most people are very aware of and loyal to their neighbourhood. When I came to live in London people would talk about their manor. It’s not a term I’ve heard for a while, so I suspect that those a generation behind me would find it as quaint as I did expressions from the 1950s.

Celia, Octavia and I all live in the same neighbourhood. I couldn’t tell you exactly where our patch begins and ends, but two or three years ago Celia and I were walking in an adjoining neighbourhood when we spotted a notice for a book group. It was behind glass and the worse for wear from condensation. We peered at it, trying to decipher date, location and book. As we did so, a woman approached with a wide, friendly smile. Do join us, she said. We don’t live here, we answered, wary of trespassing on alien territory. We live up the road; we belong to a different tribe. Alright, we didn’t say the last bit, at least I don’t think we did, but I certainly thought it, despite knowing people from this other tribe. That doesn’t matter, said the woman, smile enhanced by a halo of blond curls. You’d be very welcome. Continue reading

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Carry On Veganuarying

Heading into the final week of Veganuary, and like my compatriots doing dry January, this could be a watershed moment, to continue or not. I think I know the answer, which is I shall return to being a flexi-vegan. Once I have eaten the few things already stored in the freezer that contain dairy I don’t think I’ll be hurrying to replace them. Consciously eschewing dairy has been easy, though I haven’t been to the pizzeria yet, and it’ll be the end of M&S meal deals as they barely manage a vegetarian option, let alone vegan. I’ve not bought eggs from a supermarket in months, so until and unless I can get them from hens kept as pets, eggs will be off the menu too. I have quite a bit of honey at home, and that’ll gradually be consumed as well. Whether I replace it or not remains to be seen.

So no, I don’t think I’m going to be a full-time, banner-carrying vegan, but 90% of the time you wouldn’t be able to tell. I’m certainly going to be eating a lot of fritters. After the success of the beetroot and spilt pea fritters I decided to play with my recipe, swapping the split peas for lentils, adding broccoli to the beetroot, and putting the rice flour in the mix to bind everything rather than the tahini. There were more ingredients – tomato purée, garlic, onion, turmeric, soy sauce if I recall correctly. The rice flour didn’t work as well as the tahini, I had to dust them all with more flour after I’d shaped them, yet still they were crumbly. I decided to cook two and have them with mushrooms and kale. I admit my hopes weren’t that high. Continue reading

Rain and Light, a Wet Weekend in January

The weekend has been a rain sandwich. Friday was glorious; bright blue skies and sunshine flooding the flat. It was warm on the street, though not exactly bikini weather, until the sun went down and the temperatures tumbled. Tomorrow is forecast to be a rerun. But the rain gods have held sway for most of Saturday and Sunday.

I was working yesterday, inside, so in the dry, but someone had definitely decided to economise on the heating. I was glad of my long sleeved thermal vest under my presentable work clothes. By the time I finished working the rain was having a pause. Good news as I was meeting Celia in a pub prior to taking in our second evening of Lumière London. We had explored installations in Mayfair and the West End on Thursday after attending a lecture at the Royal College of Physicians about William Harvey. Yes we really are that cultured, I haven’t even mentioned last weekend’s poetry evening.

On Thursday I took some photos, they probably aren’t great, I haven’t looked at them yet. But I didn’t photograph our favourite installation, seesaws in South Molton Street. They were soooo relaxing. I don’t know about Celia but I had to stop myself from entering a zen like trance. I could have seesawed for hours. We ceded our places to a young couple and walked about until the lights were turned off, impressed by some installations, underwhelmed by others. Maybe we are picky. Continue reading

Veganuary, An Undisciplined Cook, and Delicious Fritters

Half way through January, aka Veganuary, and it’s going well. I still don’t know how to pronounce veganuary, but that’s a minor issue. A advert on television last night pronounced vaginal in a way that was wholly new to me and because of that caught my attention. Clever marketing or something else? For me vagina and vaginal are pronounced with a strong i so vaginal whereas the ad was more vadge-in-al. Bizarre.

Pronunciation aside, vaginal has little if anything to do with Veganuary. My twitter followers who are legion (not) will know I have been tweeting both pictures of some of my meals and my failures with split pea rissoles. While the flavour had me wanting more, the falling apartness was something of a failing. More frittata than rissole. that thought was a bit of a breakthrough. That and advice from Sabina via twitter. I know Sabina from our MyT days, which in blogosphere terms means we go back generations. She thought the mix was not fine enough. I intended to have a break and come back to the fray in a week or so. But a lone beetroot in the fridge got me thinking. So tonight I tried again, with a radical change in the recipe. Continue reading

A Year in the Months, and a Happy 2018

I’m ending the year feeling much better than I anticipated this morning. The cold which I started on Christmas Eve was gazumped midweek by a much more aggressive version which has left me in no doubt that I am not stoic invalid material. As a headache gripped my brow in a rusty vice and left me feeling sick each time I bent down I yearned for my health to be restored so I could enjoy my cat, my home, my life.

Friday was a particularly low day. I went out to work telling myself I’d be fine. My nose ran almost constantly and grew redder and sorer by the minute. I began to feel self-conscious and embarrassed at the number of times I had to blow my nose and find yet another bin to dump a wodge of used hankies. Yuk. I went to bed early, then up betimes yesterday for another day at work. Less nose blowing, but still gripped by the vicelike headache and prone to sudden outbreaks of sustained coughing. However by the afternoon I was convinced I was on the mend. Home via the shop to stock up on more boxes of paper hankies where I realised at least half the local population is in the same boat as I am. I nabbed two of the last three boxes of my favourite brand.

I made myself stay up until half past seven and then climbed gratefully between the sheets where I slept for twelve hours with some interruptions for coughing, nose blowing and glasses of water. I thought I’d be fully rested and on the road to health this morning, but instead I should have gladly turned over and slept some more. MasterB desperately needed time and attention from me and was keen to play. Off I went to work feeling as though my body belonged to someone else somewhere else and my feet were not truly making contact with the ground.

Then magically, mid afternoon, something shifted. I’m still coughing, still blowing my nose rather frequently, but it’s almost eight o’clock and I don’t think I’ll be in bed for at least an hour. I’ve eaten a meal with pleasure rather than out of a sense that I need the sustenance, and I have a glass of wine at hand, my first for nearly a week. Admittedly I’ve not drunk any of it yet, but just looking at it makes me feel more festive. I’ve even lit the candles and decided the Christmas decs can stay up for another day or two. Continue reading

Forty-Eight Hours

In forty-eight hours I shall be at Cousin’s. I’ve missed autumn, and now it’s the build up to Christmas and the shortest days of the year. I’m anticipating dark afternoons wearing a hi-viz jacket when walking Westie Boy, heat from the wood burning stove, and a cold bathroom.

What I hadn’t been anticipating until a text came this afternoon were cats. But I now know three cats have joined the household. What Westie Boy makes of them I am eager to see. Why three, what they look like and how they were acquired, I have no idea. I’m hoping they are able to come indoors. Cold evenings are the perfect time to have a warm cat on your knee.

The plan is to see Uncle Bill on Thursday, so that’ll mean a trip to Belfast. I hope there’ll be a second trip too, but a week goes by very quickly. I’d like to go to the Fintan O’Toole lecture at Heaney Homeplace, but that’s on Thursday too, and I don’t think it’d work. Anyway, who would I go with?

Pylons

Golden


On a long leash


Slieve Gullion

A year ago it’d have been Ann D, but she since died. I think this visit is where I will have to accept that death has happened, because from here I find it impossible to imagine Cousin’s without Ann’s presence and conversation. Maybe that’s where the cats will come in. Cats for comfort and distraction.
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Of Margaret Atwood, the Arts, and Why Both are Vital

Margaret Atwood is often described as a difficult interviewee; an intimidating writer of great intellect who can be openly disdainful of a luckless interviewer. She doesn’t play the game, the game that most play when invited onto chat shows or whatever when they have something to promote. I can only think she likes Alan Yentob. He evidently likes her. The result was a fabulous interview broadcast on Monday night but only watched by me this evening.

I’m not sure how I came across Atwood. I know it was in the 80s, and it wasn’t because of The Handmaid’s Tale, though I read that later. I think it was probably that she was published by Virago. Feminism and feminist literature were (and still are) very important to me for a mixture of reasons, one of which being a relationship that fortunately ended with a man with whom I am now mystified why I spent more than five minutes. Make that seconds. Or nano-seconds. So authors published by Virago, or the Woman’s Press – motto: Steaming ahead! complete with a sketch of a steam iron – had a particular attraction. Continue reading

Privileged and Proud

Afloat. Alone with my best boating companion, the lovely MasterB. Feeling incredibly privileged that I can do this. That my pension is crap fades into insignificance when the Boy and I settle down to a weekend, a long weekend thanks to my self-employed status which means I can choose to say no to work and ring fence days in the way I could not when half my income relied on a job where I was required to be there when my employer so decreed.

Listening to Ed Sheeran and loving it. I know some people think he's lightweight, and they are free to their opinion, but I love his lyrics and music. Maybe it's a ginger thing. My brother-in-law used to call me Ginge, though I was a strawberry blond rather than true ginger. I was never bullied for my hair colour and am appalled that many kids are. How does that work? The second most popular cats to be adopted from shelters are gingers (the first have odd eyes), so how come people love ginger cats, but think the human gingers are objects of derision? Prejudice. Yuk.

Last night I saw Girl From the North Country at the Old Vic, and before I left home at lunchtime today I had to listen to Planet Waves. I wouldn't put myself in the first rank of Dylan fans, but this production was a reminder that his music and lyrics have been part of the soundtrack to my life, and they have such resonance. Such resonance. It's a fabulous production. Tired as I was, and I was very tired, it was another occasion when I felt acutely aware of how privileged I am. I was my friend Nicola, and we knew quite a few members of the audience, I because we had complimentary seats due to my work, she because she is a voice teacher and ex drama teacher. It was something of a shock that I realised today that Ncola and I have known each other for twenty-eight years. Am I really that old? Answer: yes.

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