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Showing posts from September, 2011

Cruelty and kindness

1. I once made the girl who lived next door to me drink mud. The fact that I was only 4 or 5, and this was a pretend tea-party where we’d mixed up earth and water to resemble hot chocolate in the blue plastic teacups, could perhaps excuse my behaviour, but the memory is harsher than that.
There were three of us at the tea-party: me, Anne, my next door neighbour, and Kathryn, who was my best friend at the time, and that intimacy between us created a streak of cruelty towards the ‘outsider’.
‘You have to drink it if you want to play with us. ’ I remember us pressurising Anne. And she did. Or at least I remember watching the mud seep between her closed lips. And I think she might have cried.
Cruelty might be too strong a word here; bullying might be more appropriate although that doesn’t make the memory any less unpleasant. Some people might interpret the whole event as part of any child’s introduction to social dynamics, the emotional experiences of inclusion and exclusion. Others might sa…

Pantries and peanut butter.

My favourite room in our French house is the pantry or garde-manger. A pantry is something I’ve wanted in a house for a long time. A proper pantry, a little room you can walk into, not just a larder cupboard. The other thing I’d like, one day, is stone windows. You know the ones I mean? Deep window sills with the metal window frames hinged right into the stone walls and the window panes distorted with age? We do have some of that old wavy glass in a few of the windows here but the frames are wooden. But at least I have a pantry.
You see the windows at the back? They don’t have any glass, just fine mosquito mesh to keep out insects and let in the cool air from under the terrace. To be honest, during the summer there’s not a great deal of difference between the temperature in the pantry and the temperature in the kitchen but in autumn, winter and spring you can feel the cool, or even cold, rush towards you when you open the door.
The word ‘pantry’ has its roots in the late Latin, panariu…

3 Unexpected Things and Lemon Cake

1. Lunch on the Beach

September feels a little odd to me, here on the Cote d'Azur. Perhaps it’s the contrast between the guest filled house of the previous months and the distinctive silence I’m living in at the moment: I’m on my own for two weeks. But I wonder too if I’m genetically programmed to see September as the start of autumn, an in-between month that ushers in change, and so I feel at odds with 30 degrees centigrade and bright blue sky. There’s no reason why I can’t continue with my daily visit to the beach but… it’s September.
September used to be the smell of a leather satchel and new black school shoes pressing into the back of my heel. Or, back at work, watching a summer holiday suntan start to peel and fade. It was preparing modules for the new University term, the branches of apple trees heavy with fruit, almost touching the ground. Woodsmoke. Now it’s the dichotomy of walking past clothes shops wearing flip-flops and a sleeveless cotton dress while the window manneq…

Goodwill and happy companionship. And saying thank-you to the chicken.

I meant to take a photo of the roast chicken and vegetables last night but Tony and I were so pleased to be having dinner together that we ploughed on with the carving and serving and talking and it was only when my plate was a smear of jus and breadcrumbs that I remembered.
Tony’s been on a post-guest diet so we haven’t sat down to eat together properly for a little while. We’ve also been fractious with one another, partly due to the wilting humidity when we arrived back in the south of France last week and partly due to the drawn out uncertainty of the house sale as our buyer’s English solicitor requests official attestations for even the air we breathe!
Perhaps if we had been sharing a meal each night the fractiousness could have been avoided because mealtimes are the moments when we reconnect. They don’t have to be grand affairs; often they are as simple as bread and cheese. But they are essential to how we act and react healthily with each other and I’ve noticed, over the past 26…