Sunday, 30 September 2018
In the October week before my mother died, my father asked me to take him to East Ham. He'd been a curate there in the early 1950s, before he met her.
He said he wanted to remind himself that he could live without her.
This morning, I'm listening to the Brandenburg Concertos on the day before my youngest son leaves for university. These are the first LPs I owned, given to me when I was 10 or 11 by my father and mother on the occasion of my confirmation, at my request. My parents had other recordings of the music, but I wanted my own.
Year after my father died, my stepmother, with whom he enjoyed some very happy years after my mother's death, gave me a book of poetry. It was inscribed by my father to a woman he had loved whilst living in East Ham, who had returned the book to him.
I'm not sure where I've put the little silver cross also given to me by my parents when I was confirmed, and I have not known what to do with this book of poems. It's in a box somewhere in my attic - ah, now there's a metaphor!
The hours we spent in East Ham were strange - my father had never taken me before, although he'd mentioned this part of his life because he needed to explain why he supported West Ham FC.
The feelings I felt on reading the inscription in the book of poems, Palgrave's Golden Treasury, were something about loss, and the way it's wrapped up in the way we hide ourselves from each other, and how this hiding is often necessary.
This morning, I am listening to the Brandenburg Concertos on the day before my youngest son leaves for university to read music. Over the past forty years of listening, my favourite has shifted from no.4 to 6.
Later, I'll tell my son that I love him, and that I'm glad he's got the confidence to go to university to study the subject for which he has an extraordinary passion.
Monday, 24 September 2018
I am currently tree-less and so a colleague's gift of a bag of cooking apples was especially welcome. For her, they represent excess - for me, an invitation to abandon.
When boxes of apples are left out, free to passersby (and with spare bags kindly provided), you know that goodwill is close at hand.
I carried the apple bag on my lap on the train on the way home, the smell of garden and autumn liberating my journey. When I got back, I went out for an unnecessary bike ride in the chill of the late evening sun.
Of all the fruits that are for cooking, apples are my favourite. This is why:
- Core one, preferably a Bramley, score a line around its girth, stuff the centre with dates, crystalised ginger, sultanas and cinnamon, sit in a shallow dish with water and a sprinkle of demerara sugar, and bake at 180 degrees till it has spread its middle to a fluffy, pale confection. Serve with custard as my mother used to.
- Peel and core three or four, slice and sprinkle with cinnamon, set in a dish with a dash of water, cover with crumble mix (oats, SR flour, demerara sugar, butter, ginger) bake at 180 degrees till the apple is soft. Eat with crème fraiche in the dark looking out at the moon, and then cold, for breakfast.
- Peel one large apple, chop into small pieces, mix with SR flour, demerara sugar, sultanas, an egg, milk, butter, cinnamon, bake at 180 degrees. Leave on the side with a note for your son who's out with friends. APPLE CAKE - eat me.
- Peel and core one large apple to stew and eat with a pork chop. Unless you're vegetarian. In which case, sprinkle with sugar, and eat from the pan with a wooden spoon.
- Peel and core the rest until you reach the end of the bag. Cut the good pieces out of the one that is going brown. Stew the lot with a handful of sultanas and chopped dates. Cool, and keep in the fridge and when you dollop a spoonful onto your morning porridge, the heat of the porridge will warm the apple, making the whole just right, as if you were Baby Bear herself.
What a gift, the apple. What a temptation to joy and pleasure. How obvious to pick them or rescue the windfalls from the ground. What a generous and comfortable liberty.
Friday, 14 September 2018
For those of you who don't know Shrewsbury,
this is an artist's impression of Wyle Cop:
And in this photograph,
notice how people are struggling to walk up the hill.
If it was enlarged we might
see that they are wearing crampons:
And so, as I approached Wyle Cop on my bike this evening I muttered something along the lines of:
My legs didn't pay attention, kept pushing the pedals round,
whilst inside my head all I could hear was this:
By which stage I'd reached the top.