Friday, 28 March 2014


Dear Mr S,

Unaccustomed as I am to public declarations of affection I do think that celebrating fifteen happy years together is such a significant milestone that it should be marked in some way. So since I didn't get you a present, I would just like to say thank-you.

Thank-you for our two beautiful children and the patient thoughtful way that you parent them.
Thank-you for our cosy home and for spending too much time in vintage land.
For mending my bookcases and making sure our pictures are straight.

Thank-you for telling me you loved me in Camberwell in the rain.
Thank-you for getting me back to our first flat together that night when I drank too much blue aftershock and red wine.
Thank-you for staying up late with me and listening to my waffle.
For The Soprano's

Thank-you for your Arsenal addiction and for sorting out all our electronic devices.
Thank-you for never knowing where anything is and always remembering.
Thank-you for London, Amsterdam, Vietnam, Australia and La Sagrada Familia.
And for Galway, Glastonbury and Venice.
Thank-you for Paris, I know not yet but we will...

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Consolidation Week

Last week on the Open University timetable was the Very Important Consolidation Week, a time for review and reflection on ones progress so far. What have I learned so far through this module? Actually it is all a bit of a weary blur so instead I  treated myself to a break from Solow, Ikenberry, Lenin, Gramsci et al.

Instead I consolidated myself with some slow time, time to ease oneself back into a frame of mind that is ready to take on the next 8000 words.
So we:
Walked and foraged,
in the beautiful tranquil Beaulieu Woods. Can you see all the wild garlic from my picture? Perhaps not but it was lush and bountiful so inspired by this article in Landscape magazine,

and gathered a handful and made a delicious chicken and wild garlic pie from the leftovers from our Sunday roast. Alas no pictures, we were far too hungry to wait but I am definitely going to try some more recipes with this fragrant and delicious little plant. (Of-course please act responsibly when gathering food from the country-side. Be certain that what you are picking is edible, you have permission to be on the land and that you leave nothing but a faint footprint.)

I have been crocheting and watching Shetland.
I am so glad that I began this project, it was inspired by this post by the lovely Kirsten and so soothing to work. I bought some gorgeous pure welsh wool from The Wool Croft in Abergavenny and it has been a revelation to use, so soft and fine, all my acrylics now feel too scratchy and scritchity. The Wool Croft is a gem of a shop nestling on the main street of the gorgeous market town of Abergavenny, I wish I had longer to linger and really appreciate all their sumptuous selection of yarn.

I was pointed to the excellent Ann Cleaves, Shetland series by Dovegreyreader via the equally enjoyable Lewis Man trilogy by Peter May which I devoured in a weekend, holding my kindle while I absentmindedly tackled various tasks completely transported to Shetland. The Jimmy Perez series, I am borrowing from our local library as they are returned. (For some reason in reverse order!) Is anyone watching the BBC adaptation of the Cleaves crime novels? They are very enjoyable, just the thing to settle down with by the fire and chill out with. The cinematography of the wild remote and ultimately mysterious island is beautiful but I am a little disappointed with the changes to the original texts.

Finally, planning and reading:
It has been so much fun planning our allotment planting, last Sunday we were there for hours, clearing, weeding and Mr S had so much fun digging, he snapped the fork! The kids picked out some bright flower bulbs from the garden centre, multi-coloured freesia for O and sunny yellow begonia's for S. In vain, I tried to steer them towards the chocolate and ruby dahlias which I have fallen in love with particularly after reading the completely marvellous 'Virginia Woolf's' Garden by Caroline Zoob.

This book is an absolute joy, a treasure for your favourite gardener or book-worm. It is a elegant combination of biography and garden design inspiration. Caroline Zoob's affectionate portrait of the Woolf's marriage and the construction of the garden is perfectly complemented by Caroline Arber's stunning contemporary photography, archive pictures and Zoob's delicate embroidered planting schemes. To sit in a quiet sunny room with a steaming cup of coffee and dip in and out of these pages has been one of the highlights of the week. I do wish you some great highlights of your own for the forth-coming week which takes us yet further into spring!

Wild Garlic and Chicken Pie
Caramelise some onions and garlic.
Add left-over free-range chicken from Sunday roast.
Add peas and chopped wild garlic.
Cover in B├ęchamel sauce.
Season to taste.
Pop into a piecrust made from shop bought frozen puff-pastry.
Cook until golden brown and bubbling.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Yellow Gorse, Green shoots, Black Dog

Today, I walked to a green mossy bridge and looked at the sky. All around the gorse has suddenly triumphantly burst into bloom, great swathes of golden flower line the hedgerows, spiky and exuberant. In our house it was known as 'the wins', on Easter Sunday we would carefully gather the canary petals and boil them with our Easter Monday eggs to transform their henny brown into a soft honeyed hue.

About this time last year I was coming back home on the train from Belfast, it was a beautiful day and I overheard two old country boys reminiscing about using 'wins' as a fire-lighter. Their accents sounded so familiar I think that word for gorse comes from County Tyrone perhaps travelling down with my Granda to County Antrim. That day was one full of vitality, I was particularly inspired by the colours that flashed by, the pale blue sky, the warm grey dry-stone walls and the yellow gorse and lots of creative ideas simmered gleefully.

This week is not so good, I think I am being followed by the black dog, although my experience is becoming more akin to being held under a black fog, my heart feels heavy and my lungs stifled. I feel fragile and weak although my temper is unfortunately neither of these. I have been asking myself questions that I would simply not ask another who was suffering from depression and anxiety. What do I have to be depressed about? Can't I see how lucky I am? I have so much to be thankful for and so much to look forward too. Why now? I simply don't have time for all this self-absorption.

My Grand-mother with whom I spent a lot of time with, lived her life (in my perception) in a state of constant anxiety. She was - I think - addicted to tranquillisers in her later years, 'give us one of those wee diazepams there' she would say and for a long time I did not connect the wee diazepam with it's more notorious nomenclature, Valium. She always had a steady supply and would regularly and quite innocently share them out with some of her neighbours. She was full of fear of the outside world and all of the dangerous things that could potentially happen to the unsuspecting traveller, she found it hard to cope calmly with something out of the ordinary and yet managed to reach the ripe old age of 93 with her twin armoury of prescription drugs and religion, her diazepams and her rosary beads.

Sometimes, in the midst of all the fretful worrying and over exaggeration she would have flashes of great intuition. She would 'see' things that were about to happen or perceive something about say another persons character that no one else would pick up on until much much later. The rational brain lives in tandem to the irrational mind, thank-fully. In 'The Concept of Anxiety' (which I have barely understood, let alone finished but continue to stumble over) Kierkegaard comfortingly supposes that anxiety can be regenerative rather than degenerative especially if the individual realises the possibility of freedom and of faith.

'Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom...and freedom looks down into its own possibility.'

There may be an intermission.