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Showing posts from January, 2011

More, please

There is always more:

the shore of a stone sea

the heart of a bonsai grove
or these two old ladies like exotic finches in their turquoise and black pants suits, lips painted red, white hair coiffeured and lacquered: their tiny bones weighed down with two many bright feathers. They cling to each other as they totter on each step towards the Museum’s doors, then rest at the top to look behind them, at the lake with its reflections of sky and trees. If I clapped my hands suddenly, they might take flight, across the water, rising over the umbrella pines and bamboo grove, their wings stretching in the warm air as if they’d never feared falling, never doubted that earthbound was just a passing phase.
There is always more to know about myself. Like how I can feel simultaneously ecstatic and discomforted. Sitting alone in the Japanese restaurant, overlooking the lake at the Morikami Museum & Gardens in South Florida, there’s the joy of being exactly where I want to be and choosing whatever…

Daily Bread

At school and at Sunday-school I closed my eyes, clasped my hands together and prayed in English and Welsh: Give us this day our daily bread: Dyro i ni heddiw ein bara beunyddiol, words I repeated by rote that meant nothing to me.
It came to us in a van that toured the estate, street by street, whose back doors opened to slatted shelves and the smell of flour, where I gazed at the plump Cottage loaves and imagined carrying one home in my arms like a baby. But I always parted with the half-crown piece for the disappointingly smooth, pale crust of a Sandwich Loaf that my mother would cut with a silver knife.
At mealtimes, unless there was gravy on our plates, it sat in the middle of the table – bread and butter, bara menyn – thin slices, cut in half, which we were expected to eat, out of habit, tradition, a memory of hunger.
For years I bought it, threw so much away, dry and forgotten, riddled with mould. But now I live in the kingdom of bread: baguette, ficelle, couronne, pain au resta…

Lessons: Mam's Vegetable Soup

for Mammy
It has never been in your nature to give up, not even at catering college when the head chef put you to peeling and chopping onions every day for weeks in a row. You were there to learn and you would take something from every task, every day in that professional kitchen; you would show yourself determined and willing, unable to be beaten.

At home you astonished us, unwrapping the knives you kept sheathed in a drawer, that we were forbidden to touch, and transforming a topside of beef into ‘Olives’, a shoulder of lamb into Navarin. You were suddenly more than the wife and mother we knew: a woman carrying the noises and scents of other countries into our south Wales home, your fingers scented with garlic; al dente you said as if the words had always belonged to you.
And here I am, forty years later, astonished again by this bowl of soup you carry into the conservatory and place before me in a patch of sunlight: the simplicity of parsnip, onion, carrot, potato, simmering in a gla…

Eat, laugh, cry, remember: Baked Camembert

Once, on a holiday in Malta, I dressed Tony up in my gypsy skirt and stretchy white vest, used two satsumas for breasts and made up his eyes and lips with the brightest colours I had with me. Then I took a photograph. He didn’t seem to mind, in fact he seemed quite tickled by the fuss and attention to detail, but the quantity of rosé we’d shared at Snoopy’s restaurant on the seafront in Sliema earlier in the evening might have had something to do with that.

This was 1988. There were no digital cameras for instant viewing (and, praise be, instant deletion). The only instant photographs at the time came courtesy of Polaroid, with their packages of square film and box-like cameras, and slid out of the front of the machine on shiny thick card that everyone huddled over and watched develop. But they tended to be party cameras, appearing at Christmas, birthdays, engagements. You captured your holiday photos on a proper camera, one you had to load and feed film into, then unload and drop off…