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Showing posts from August, 2011

Mathematics, evolution and prawns to die for.

I am back in Kent bouncing around on a tractor and stacking up on logs for the winter.


Four of these:


equal one of these:


Each tipped trailer-load had to be wheel-barrowed into the store and while I started counting the trips I made from diminishing woodpiles to increasing woodpile I soon gave up. Not because of boredom or frustration but because I lost myself in the repetitive but satisfying physical work of bending and lifting and throwing which left my shoulders, back and leg muscles as tough as walnuts but calmed my mind to an unruffled ocean of contemplation.

I love logs. Cutting them, splitting them, stacking them. Their scent and texture. The differing weights of different hardwoods.


But I suspect there’s more to their appeal than I’m consciously aware of.

Wood = fire = heat = food. Opinions are divided about how long fire has been used to cook food but even the most conservative archaeologist would commit to 250,000 years. And in the bookCatching Fire, How Cooking Made Us Human,Ric…

Staying hungry. And writing prompts.

As the hungry writer gets nearer to the end of its posting life (this is number 45 in the original plan for 52) there have been weeks when panic has crept into my bones, a little like how the cold can sometimes find its way through your coat, sweater and even your thermal vest on a winter walk and suddenly your heart feels frozen at its rim and the involuntary shiver you give is tinged with fear.

wondering what to write...
outside my bedroom window
a seagull laughs and laughs

This is one of those weeks.

Since our drive from the south of France to the south of England in the middle of last week, then, a few days later, across to south Wales, food has been:

Heartwarming: sweet potato and blue cheese bake at Fortify, a vegetarian café (with WiFi) in Maidstone.
Unexpected: foraged damsons and a few ripe cox from the orchard


Argumentative: fillet steak and a heated debate about the properties of the new cast iron frying pan, possibly fuelled by the 2005 Berton Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon t…

Figs. And doors opening. And writing prompts.

Yesterday evening we said goodbye to the last of our summer guests. We chalked up 19 this year, a little lighter than the 34 during our first year here. Today I’m packing and closing up the house as we leave tomorrow morning for two weeks in the UK. Then we’ll be back for a month to, hopefully, finalise the sale and move permanently back to Kent.

I’m putting aside the fridge goods, fruit and snacks we’ll take with us for the journey and calculating how much Tony and I can manage to eat of what’s left. I think watermelon does go with chopped cold chicken in crème fraiche, mayonnaise and curry spices. Well, it will today. There’s also a lonely Mille Feuille in the fridge and I can bet money that Tony will get to that before I do!
Some of what’s left is breaking my heart. Figs. Our three fig trees are plump with fruit that’s now ripening on a daily basis. I’ll take a bowl of them with us in the car and I’ve told my house and cat-sitter to pick and eat as much as she wants. I’m also ho…

Cooking with Children: writing prompts and chocolate fridge cake

Take one plump child.
Set the oven to 200° C / Gas mark 6.
I know. It’s an old gag. But family and close friends know I am not equipped with the maternal gene. I never wanted my own children and as the years go by I’m still pleased with my childless state. I’m particularly averse to babies. Apart from holding new born family members and writing a poem to celebrate their arrival into the world I’ve managed to keep a distance from the whole birthing, feeding, defecating, crying and screaming side of things.
I remember the first time I looked after my step-granddaughter. Her mother had a heavy week of OFSTED inspections at her school in north London so could we have Summer to stay at our house in Kent? She was a few months past her third birthday and, mercifully, well beyond the nappy stage, but the idea of being responsible for a young child for a whole week filled me with dread. Not just the responsibility of mealtimes and bath-times and bedtimes but the anticipated boredom too.
At the en…

What we mean when we say goodbye, and a breakfast smoothie.

The summer has been full of hellos and goodbyes. Yesterday we said goodbye to our 17th and 18th staying guests, my step-daughter and step-grandson who have been with us for ten days. Oliver, who’s seven, ate snails for the first time. And olives. And saucisson. In fact he ate everything that was put in front of him, the kind of behaviour that both astonishes and frustrates parents who are used to their kids’ resistance at home.


He won’t have sauce, his mother says. He never has sauce on anything. Or gravy. Nothing. Ten minutes later he’s wolfing down the chicken in cream sauce his Papi has made.