20 November 2016

strolling, maybe walking, occasionally marching

It has been a good week for just strolling, by the light of the moon above as Flanagan and Allen might have had it, or otherwise. Some evenings it has been balmy, with foundling leaves swirling and crackling round in low breezes or sticking perilously to the pathways preparing to ambush the inattentive. I love the way the low light - along the canal, through the park, down the short-cut side streets - softens the rough surfaces and harsh tones of the city, hiding the unswept gutters and graffiti in the shadows. On the main hauls, the hubbub and the dazzle of headlights, street lamps and the Tesco Metro shop windows play other tricks but still can't compete with the beauty of the perigee moon along the Mile End Road.

There's something about this walking at night that makes you hyper alert. We may not be in the dark forests of wicked witches, wolves and woodcutters, but, well, you never know. This evening a skein of geese flew overhead making just enough whispering noise to make me look up. Later on I noticed I gave a much wider berth to the Staffie and his owner than to the little lapdog and hers. We all have our prejudices. And preferences: I stick mostly to the places I know and like best.

It's easy to forget at this time of year that what might seem late is actually not late at all. Side streets that are quiet during the day are deserted by five o'clock. It may feel like midnight, but turn a few corners and you find the that the last of the market stalls on Whitechapel Road are just stalling in and shoppers are still popping into the Bengali Sweet Shops for something truly suitable only for those whose teeth have been protected for years by fluoride in the water.

Occasionally I complete the circuit by bus or train. Those pavements can be hard on the arches. By the time I get home, I'll be rosy cheeked, a little too warm from the chunky sweater under my jacket, ready for a chair by the fire, a chat about where I've been, what I've seen, what I may have brought home with me and, let's be honest here, just a little sanctimonious about the number of steps I've clocked up. 

If you are interested in London walking and it comes your way, go and see the slightly whacky, funny, sad and enraging film London Overground. John Rogers has done a lovely job. Or just watch one of John Rogers' short films about walking. This is a walk John suggested to him. I just love it.

13 November 2016

seeking comfort

Well, what a week it has been. You'll know what I mean. It hardly bears thinking about, but it won't go away and my fears for the future multiply daily. So, like the good people who put this board up outside a local church cafe, a little comfort seems needed all round and food seems as good a starting point as any, though possibly definitely not cheesy pasta.  No, no, no.  Soup is definitely nearer the top of my list. We've probably eaten at least three different types, homemade, in the last week alone; carrot and coriander, my latest herb of choice; celeriac, leek and potato; and a very tasty spicy Mexican tomato soup that came in a Hello Fresh vegetarian box on sale at Liverpool Street station for a donation to the Felix Project.

Next up would have to be toast, with or without embellishment of any kind; my persona fixation is marmalade just now.  Toast had been on my mind since I spent a couple of hours indulging in comfort-blanket that it the Edward Ardizone exhibition at the House of Illustration a couple of weeks ago. Fans will know that he created the feisty Diana who boldly rescued a poorly rhinoceros by plying him with a great deal of toast while he settled down in front of a fire in the front room, an inspired piece of nursing if ever there was one.  It should be on prescription for the downhearted.

And if toast doesn't do the trick, you could always try a cream tea, preferably homemade. Sitting alone in the cafe at the V&A after a Brief History of Underwear I counted my uncorseted blessings and imitated a heroine from a Barbara Pym novel, though the portion may not have been quite so ladylike. I know it doesn't seem like sensible, or even healthy, cold weather food, but at least it's a reminder of sunny days. And if that doesn't do the trick, a square of 85% chocolate might help. Or a trip to Smitten Kitchen, a brilliant post which ends with a very sensible next step.

Anybodyseeking a bit of comfort?

02 November 2016

now, where was I?

So much for good intentions. Things went rather to pot when our boiler needed replacing, then the one we bought needed replacing because it was damaged on delivery, the kitchen counter needed to be rebuilt because the boiler no longer fitted under it, the plumber went on holiday, the furniture maker hurt his back, the window repair man locked himself out of the house while we were away, the car broke down on the way home from Horsey Island- ah, Horsey Island, at least that was peaceful, apart from the terrifying journey across the muddy causeway. The camera gave up the ghost in sympathy and the laptop decided not to co-operate with Googlmail or the iphone. I thought about buying a new one, decided to wait until the new Macbook came out and now find the price has rocketed. Just as I was trying to eliminate all thoughts of Brexit from my damaged psyche.

So summer rolled on, and on, and on. We had no rain for months and the fine weather demanded that there was no staying indoors. It seemed very busy. We spent many evenings watching the sun set on our allotments after trying to keep the crops going with copious watering. It worked, mostly. There were crops of tomatoes and cucumbers the like of which I have never seen before, patty pans galore and even the butternuts finally played ball. Our hearth is packed out with enough to see us through winter and all the family will be receiving a jar of green tomato chutney in their Christmas stocking whether they like it or not. We will not want for borscht or spaghetti rosso (did you know cooked beetroot freezes well? It was news to me.) You can knock here too if you're in need to kale in any colour.

Cleaning jars, shiny surfaces!
Now, after a couple of weeks of easing into Autumn and the most glorious leaf fall, I have reconciled myself to the change of season. Nature can only hold out so long, me too, and my obsession with getting out of the house is subsiding. In fact, cold notwithstanding, I'm rather looking looking forward to and certainly hoping for a more reflective and creative time indoors. The hole in the wall is now well and truly blocked up again (sorry, Polly) and we now have a new shiny-ish kitchen counter. Summer dresses have been stored away and woolens rescued from their ziplock bags, mended and pressed. I've got some things to sew using some new patterns, even though I find I never even mentioned the old ones. We can get to that another day perhaps.

Phew. I'm glad I've got all that off my chest. I have been feeling very guilty about my absence and feel so much better.