On a blustery, chilly, sunny day, with occasional fierce showers, I am doing housework, washing, dog walking, planning meals. Just now I am avoiding doing all those things.
It looks like Spring; it feels like February. The girls are reluctant to move off their heated pads; Catkin – being a rather large old lady – has commandeered the biggest one, leaving Lottie and Millie to squeeze together on the smaller, over which there are sometimes unladylike disputes. The boys are hardier; Scooter prefers his bed in a draught, while Hamish lolls on a neighbour’s shed roof so long as the rain holds off.
I painted a little (orange pine – you know how much I dislike orange pine) wall shelf, and am pleased with the result, despite the ill-assorted items that I plonked on it for the photos. If ever we finish the unpacking, I may find other things to display; I seem to recall a pretty yellow tea set that deserves more attention.
My sister came to stay for almost a week. She brought with her 2 kilos of ‘gigantes’ – those lovely huge beans that we only seem to find already cooked, in small jars.
I shall make this next week: Gigantes plaki (baked giants).
She also brought us a lifetime’s supply of Greek mountain (or shepherd’s) tea, both fine-leaved and in twig form. Sideritis or ironwort, a lovely, light, refreshing, almost lemony drink, widely used in Greece as a what-ails-you remedy. I hope it aids long life, because we’ll need those years to get through our stock – I’ve only shown you a fraction of what we now have. Feel free to drop in and have a cup of this delicate brew, and feel it Doing You Good.
We went out and about, including a morning spent pleasurably doing nothing at all except look out of the window of the West Somerset Railway steam train, and a beautiful evening drive on narrow lanes, over rolling hills and sleepy valleys, collecting a supply of farm gate eggs, all sizes and colours, just like the hens we could see freely pottering around in the farmyard.
We visited Devon (Bideford and Appledore), seaside and countryside, saw Highland cows, deer, pigs and a million lambs and primroses, bought each other presents, cooked and talked, I taught her how to make a white sauce and how to use Skype, she weeded as if for her very life in the garden, and she reminded me how lovely it is to spend time together.
It was hard to say goodbye to her, although we plan to meet up again before Christmas when she comes over briefly to her home in Glasgow. I miss her. We belong to very small families, The Gardener and I, and one member being absent leaves an empty space in the heart.
Today, as I type, Baby E and his mother are somewhere in the air, on a return flight to London. They have spent the month in warm sunshine and doting family life in Mexico; Baby E had an Aztec naming ceremony and party, which – judging by the photographs – seemed to go down very well with everyone except him. But it’s hard to tell; for such a smiley baby, he does do a spectacularly serious face.
He grew, his hair grew, and some teeth appeared; he looks very well. His father had to return sooner, to meet work deadlines, and is waiting eagerly to see his little family again. We shall see them all next week, when we go up to London.
The conveyancing solicitor’s bill arrived yesterday, and was paid immediately; prompt action is the best way to avoid niggling resentment, not of the legal firm, who were unfailingly helpful, supportive and efficient, but of the sheer waste of money in the abortive process of Not Buying/Not Selling a house.
The aftermath of those terrible months drags on. The boxes that we packed when de-cluttering the house for viewings and sale have not quite all been retrieved from storage and unpacked; this is on our To Do list, but meanwhile, I’ve rather enjoyed having half-empty cupboards and no idea where the table linen is. But I do want my plant food and little plastic greenhouse now; maybe this weekend we’ll bite the bullet and empty that storage unit…. If we can, much of it may be redirected elsewhere – how much white china do two people need? How many bedroom chairs?
A neighbour’s bees caused alarm by slipping in and out of the vent from the boiler; I feared for their welfare, the boiler being in frequent use, and the fumes from the vent being unlikely to add much to the production of honey. I also worried about what might be happening inside the boiler. Luckily, advice from a bee expert assured me that the bees were simply sipping the condensation water just inside the pipe (an odd choice, given how wet it’s been round here, with fresh water available everywhere). Esoteric tastes, bees….
Now I’m off to make some paneer for tomorrow’s dinner with next door neighbours. The first recipe I ever used for paneer instructed me to reduce the simmering milk by half before adding the lemon juice, an experience for which life was too short to repeat often. However, a new recipe (thank you, Anna Jones, for this and indeed your whole fabulous book, A Modern Way To Cook, which has livened up my kitchen life immeasurably) works perfectly when the milk is just brought to the boil, the lemon juice added, and the usual draining and pressing of the formed curds carried out. (This is her picture, but a very accurate representation of what I turned out.)
And that new recipe is a relief, because our local supermarket specialises in not stocking things any more, just as you’ve found out which shelf they’re on this week, and paneer seems to have vanished entirely. Asking staff causes more bewilderment than I have time and patience for, as once a product has vanished, no one ever seems to recall that it was ever there, or indeed that it actually exists.
Okay, that’s enough avoidance activity for today; the washing machine is making that loud, irritating bleeping that signals its task is done, and the paneer won’t make itself. Back soon, with yet more photos of Baby E….