Friday 31 December 2010

2010 - A View

Wherever you open your window,
I wish you a Happy New Year.

Thursday 30 December 2010


A winter's morning. A sky like a dirty old slate.
Trees untidy, lead-coloured brushes against it.
The air full of snow and rain 
and the hour full of the absurd necessity of going out hunting.

At such a moment there is one thing impossible 
and that is to see a summer's day.
White flowers in the evening seem the only terms 
in which it can become remotely visible.
Say stephanotis in darkness.

from The Rising Tide by Molly Keane.

Embroidered table cloth from my grandma;
from the archives.
(The Manual and I are locked in mortal combat.)

Keening -
  a form of vocal lament associated with mourning
that is traditional in Scotland and Ireland.

Wednesday 29 December 2010

There will now be

a short intermission.

I have a new camera.

The manual,
which I fondly imagined was only bulky because 
it was multi-lingual,
is in fact 211 pages of vital English directions.
Well I say English.
It might as well be Japanese for all the 
sense I can make of it.
It took me ten minutes to attach the shoulder strap
(see page 25).
There are sixty three pages of 'basic' instructions
but no glossary or index.

So far, local weather conditions,
dark, drear, dismal, dim,
have not allowed me to experience its full range of
cleverness but I have just chanced upon page 105
which offers night portrait, night scenery and
creative night scenery, 
so all is not lost.

Monday 27 December 2010

Christmas passed

Well that was lovely.

Now I'm feeling a trifle peckish.
I wonder if it might be time for a little smackerel of something.
Cold bread sauce would just hit the spot.

Friday 24 December 2010

Sunny Christmas Eve hall

The given-up-for-lost goose has arrived!
I can put the chicken nuggets back in the freezer.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday 23 December 2010

A feast of Sugar Plums

At last I have a box of Elvas Plums for Christmas.
I found them on a tiny stall in Borough Market 
with jars of chestnut honey.
They are actually greengages;
the original sugar plum after which 
The Nutcracker's fairy was named.
Agatha Christie was said to be very fond of them 
and they get at least one mention in this Hercule Poirot tale -
here is her Foreword and an extract:

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding is an indulgence of my own, 
since it recalls to me, very pleasurably, 
the Christmases of my youth. 
After my father's death, my mother and I always spent Christmas 
with my brother-in-law's family in the north of England - 
and what superb Christmases they were for a child to remember! 
Abney Hall had everything! 
The garden boasted a waterfall, a stream, 
and a tunnel under the drive! 
The Christmas fare was of gargantuan proportions. 
I was a skinny child, appearing delicate, 
but actually of robust health and perpetually hungry! 
The boys of the family and I used 
to vie with each other as to who could eat most on Christmas Day. 
Oyster Soup and Turbot went down without undue zest, 
but then came Roast Turkey, Boiled Turkey and an enormous 
Sirloin of Beef. The boys and I had two helpings of all three!
 We then had Plum Pudding, 
Mince-pies, Trifle and every kind of dessert.
 During the afternoon we ate chocolates solidly. 
We neither felt, nor were, sick! 
How lovely to be eleven years old and greedy! 
What a day of delight from "Stockings" in bed in the morning, 
Church and all the Christmas 
hymns, Christmas dinner, Presents,
 and the final Lighting of the Christmas Tree! 
And how deep my gratitude to the kind and hospitable hostess 
who must have worked so hard 
to make Christmas Day a wonderful memory to me 
still in my old age. 
So let me dedicate this book to the memory of Abney Hall
 its kindness and its hospitality. 
And a happy Christmas to all who read this book. 

 The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie (1960) 

Nothing could be more old-fashioned than we are! 
My husband, you know, absolutely lives in the past.
He likes everything to be just as it was when he was 
a boy of twelve years old, 
and used to come here for his holidays." 
She smiled to herself. 
"All the same old things, the Christmas tree 
and the stockings hung up and the oyster soup 
and the turkey - two turkeys, 
one boiled and one roast -
and the plum pudding with the ring and the 
bachelor's button and all the rest of it in it. 
One can't have sixpences nowadays because 
they're not pure silver any more. 
But all the old desserts, the Elvas plums 
and Carlsbad plums and almonds and raisins, 
and crystallised fruit and ginger. 
Dear me, I sound like a catalogue 
from Fortnum and Mason!"
"You arouse my gastronomic juices, Madame."

Tuesday 21 December 2010


A slightly different take on the predominant fruit and nut theme.
I put dried cranberries in it because I didn't have enough
candied peel, otherwise, it's Sally Clarke's recipe.

'A small slice is all that is necessary of this rich sweetmeat,
heavily studded with nuts and dried fruits
and intensely flavoured with honey and spices.
It is perfect to serve as an alternative to a dessert,
particularly in the colder months,
with espresso coffee or a glass of vin santo
or Madeira...
the pleasure derived from creating this yourself,
as the rich aromas fill your kitchen with images of Renaissance Italy,
will be well worth the time and effort.'

A full moon cake on an eclipsing plate
it suddenly occurs to me.

The Dream of Joseph, 1356 - 67 (fresco)
Bartoli di Fredi
San Gimignano, Italy.

Monday 20 December 2010

The writing in the snow

A crunchy early morning walk round the park,

before our end of term fry-up in the café.

And for my friend's son,
the morning brought news of
a big 'Y' for yes from Oxford.
Well done D.

Saturday 18 December 2010

Red sky in morning,

shepherd's warning. 

We heeded the warning,
but heard of many others whose plans
were hindered or prevented once again
by a very modest covering of snow.