14 February 2014
Our idea of a celebration - pie, peas and mash, a pint of Broadside for him, the closest I could get to a milk stout in Bethnal Green in honour of Ena, Minnie and Martha, rain outside, and one of the barman's granny's amaretto truffles to finish. Oh, we know how to live.
12 February 2014
"Every year, in the third week of February, there is a day, or more usually a run of days, when one can say for sure that the light is back. Some juncture has been reached, and the light spills into the world from a sun suddenly higher in the sky. Today, a Sunday, is such a day, though the trees are still stark and without leaves; the grasses are dry and winter-beaten." Kathleen Jamie, Sightlines, 2012
I am writing this from my bed tucked underneath a duvet and a couple of woolen blankets, a jumper on to keep me warm. Our east-facing bedroom is unheated, and there are no sensible heavy curtains, just some light muslins so that the natural light can wake us up in the morning. The street lights have just gone off and now I notice that the sky is pink and bruised behind the couple of trees I can see through one window.
Jamie lives in the far north, and the return of the light there would perhaps have much more impact than here in the soft south. This year we can perhaps claim our fair share of grey, dreich days, the sky weeping daily the absence of the sun. At last though, and notwithstanding days of heavy rain, it does at least seem that the light is coming back.
Sightlines came off the shelf this week after a prompt here to name my top twenty books. Twenty? I'd have trouble naming a handful I commented. I think I've managed to come up with about a dozen so far, but I'm working on it. It's time for breakfast now though.
08 February 2014
There is no typical Saturday here. It all depends on the weather, and whether all the things that should have been done during the week have been done. There was something that was on my mind today though. I'd popped in to Sew Amazing during the week to buy sewing essentials - pins, some tweezers and a little thingy to make threading an overlocker easier after an hour and a half of exasperation remedied, successfully, by making a threader from some 5 amp fuse wire I found in the cellar. Now, I like to go in to Sew Amazing. All those rows of haberdashery kit - needles and studs and tailors chalk. And Rob, the man himself, he who can caress sewing machines into action. We have conversations about them - missing screws, bastardised Berninas, the history of the Juki... and the family's new poodle puppy. Around about chucking out time at the local primary school, the shop fills up - Have you got any pink felt? Do you mend Brother machines? Can I pay for these needles? And while Rob is dealing with the hubbub, I take a look at the shelves of second hand sewing machines like I always do. And that's where I develop a crush on a little 60's model - all metal and wood and touches of chrome. The instruction booklet is pristine, all the feet tucked into the side drawer, a little plastic pouch for the embroidery cams. But the last thing I need is another sewing machine. I mean, that lovely little electric 1930s Singer that I saw in Herne Bay a couple of months back that smelt so evocatively of machine oil and lint, well, I managed to leave that behind didn't I? I've already got one, or two. So I admired the pictures of the pretty little poodle, said cheerio, and went home to make tea.
Back to Saturday. Wind and rain promised. We need to go to get the potatoes from the allotment shed. But I've been thinking about that little machine so we go up to the market, but Rob's is shut. An hour or so later we are back again. This time I try out the machine with Rob urging me on -"Go on, sew over that denim and leather and treble layer of fabric, pretend you're jumping over the hurdles. Lovely machine, isn't it?" I'm sold, and so is the machine.
Saturday becomes a stay at home day for me, spent in the kitchen, quilting something that should have been tackled ages ago. The machine jumps the hurdles as easy as anything.
This Alfa, this Romeo to my Juliet (what?for goodness sake!) weighs a ton, everything else feels lighter, brighter. It could be love.
05 February 2014
I know. It looks like Christmas again. It's because we have been eating our way through the cupboards, the freezer, the potatoes in the cellar, and the tiny stash of leftover bottles from Christmas. All part of lightening the load. I thought we might save the oloroso for next year's pudding, but it turned out to be quite unrealistic once we closed the doors to the inner sanctum of the back room to keep it warm and cosy while watching The Bridge - and if you must know, I was distraught at the end of it and really wished there had been even a tiny drop of something harder to buoy me up.
On the food front, the potatoes - hotpot, mash, vegetable crumble, fish pies, wedges, jackets, soup, bubble - have held up well. There are more at the allotment to be tackled yet (we will have to share, I think), a few leeks and parsnips, winter greens and salads. There are tins of beans, tomatoes, sardines, jars of onions, frozen packets of fruits of the forest, jars of marmalade, a few jars of chutney, dried fruit, nuts, enough flour to keep us in bread and cakes for another month. We can probably last until the end of this month with only topping up on coffee, porridge, fresh fruit, milk. Whatever was I thinking of? Armageddon?
I've made a tentative, very tentative, start on the fabric stash. Then there's the yarn, the cookery books, the novels to go. And don't even talk about the clothes; or the projects rolled up into bags, half started, a quarter finished.
Gently, gently. It will be spring soon. It will be spring soon.
Wake me up when it's half past April.
14 January 2014
In Norwich at the weekend, we mooched around the market and saw some splendid - and expensive - forced rhubarb. Despite the temptation to buy some, practicality got the better of me and I left it glowing pinkly on the stall among the caulis and greens.
Down at the allotment the next day after our first winter frost we found this pushing up from beneath the mighty feed of autumn compost - the first fragile leaves of our own rhubarb.
There's a rhubarb forcer around somewhere, and it's about time it was put to work.
12 January 2014
Then half an hour ago or so there was an email:
"I do like a coincidence. Just standing by my mirror in the kitchen last night after I got back and just pulled this out from behind some other postcards... The date, the Poirot reference ..... Xxx. "
It may be a new year, but some things don't change as much as we might like to think. I'd still like a check dress like Molly's; and I'll still be writing post cards. Do add it to the list of resolutions.
02 January 2014
The good thing about having a rather broad guiding statement for the year is that it can cover all kinds of weather. Even after staying up until the hours, a late invitation to spend New Year's Day with friends at the seaside seemed like a good start to lightening the load, We spent the day in a warm shed, wiping the condensation off the windows to watch the muddy waters and a young boy walking the dogs, listening to the wind buffeting the building, sharing a meal. Seems like a very good start to me.
Wishing you many happy days too.
24 December 2013
With apologies to Handel for the missing comma, here are two wise old girls at Mudchute today, one slightly disapproving, one with a smile. They remind me of the two sisters in Cranford, watchful, waiting for news. Maybe they know something we don't.
So here we are again for another year. Thanks for coming along on the journey around East London and beyond, and leaving all your lovely comments. Peace, joy and good wishes to you all.
Hallelujah and amen to that.
23 December 2013
Flurry: a small swirling mass of something, especially snow or leaves, moved by sudden gusts of wind; a sudden short period of activity or excitement; a number of things arriving or happening suddenly in a short period.
We have been bartering, my neighbour and I: her barely used spare mattress in exchange for hemming her curtains. It wasn't a bad deal, though I had forgotten what a pain net curtains can be. It was a lovely escape, actually, and as I sat at the sewing machine with the rain pouring and the long lasting leaves from the mulberry tree next door swirling around outside, I almost managed to forget that there were other jobs that needed to be done. I optimistically thought there might even be time to make a few late gifts. Wildly overambitious of course, especially when there was cake to be made for visitors, resulting in a flurry of flour and sugar instead. Then there was carol singing, social stuff, a bit of cheery jiving, shopping, deliveries. That flurry soon became more of a meltdown.
So to leaven the gloom of the heavy downpours this afternoon, we went off to find a star, and settled on the Star of the East in Limehouse. I've been curious about this old gin palace for years. Back in the 50s it would have been packed with seamen or locals who left their bored children outside with lemonade and arrowroot biscuits. Outside there's a hint of the Alhambra, plus some original gas lamps. Inside it's more like the Wild West - bare floors, a scattering of seriously dedicated drinkers, and tables too heavy to pick up and throw through the windows.
20 December 2013
Normally there is strict observance of the house rule that the tree does not go up until the weekend before Christmas. Now I realise that may well have been a mistake. We reached the point, with the cold and all, where something bright was needed to cheer us up over and above a glass of pudding sherry, so here is the driftwood tree, lights, three felt robins, a perplexed cat wondering what I am doing outside the house looking in, and a more cheerful household.
|Driftwood and drift plastic junk|
The trip a few weeks ago to find exactly the right planks of wood for the tree, including a triangular piece for the top was made on a clear afternoon, timed so that the tide was far enough out to allow us to mooch about on the shore. As you may have gathered, we are partial to a bit of driftwood. Quite often it ends up just propped against the wall because it is too interesting, too tactile, too full of the past and possibilities.
I like the idea that our tree has been resurrected from the river. It's quite a fragile construction - one careless move and the whole lot could come tumbling down. It only has to hold on until the New Year, after which, well, it depends on how cold it is.