Skip to main content


Showing posts from July, 2014

Hungry for more in West Wales

I've been in West Wales following in the imagined footsteps of some of my great grandmothers who were born and lived here in the 18th and 19th centuries, walking the lanes and hills between the farms they worked and the churches they were married in, where they buried some of their children. 

I'm yet to find a map of mid 18th century Carmarthenshire so I can't be sure of the route Anne Protheroe, my 5 x great-grandmother, took from her father's farm at Bron y Gaer, in the parish of Meidrim, to her new husband's farm, Plas Issa, in the neighbouring, and southern, parish of Llangynog. I am sure that some of the lanes might still wind around the same bends, skirt similar if not exact hedgerows, although the 19th century arrival of the railway and the main Carmarthen to St Clears road, the A40(T), have irrevocably changed the landscape since that day she was married in February 1769. 
Did she walk or travel in a cart? Did she take more than her clothes, her personal poss…

First crop: memory

Dad's first crop of runner beans, picked today, topped and tailed and strung, ribbon sliced and cooked 'al dente', seasoned with butter and pepper. They are the taste of memory, of 1960s childhood summers in South Wales, of caterpillars and the scent of cabbage leaves, sunburn and prickly heat, shell gardens assembled in sand-filled fruit boxes, rose petals soaking for days in water and hope, the three-legged race, a drindl skirt in turquoise seersucker never completed in the last year of Junior school, a new leather satchel, Tuff shoes. 

The years compress: a squeeze box of sounds, some as distant as echoes, others like the ringing of a school bell demanding attention. 
And this one now that arrives like a breeze: a purple swimsuit with a red stripe, the sun beating on my shoulders, the sand hotter than burnt toast, and the sea so far out I think I might never reach it. Or find my way back.
sunset over the sea
I remember when my mother
ran faster than me
Hungry Writing Prompt Wr…

Wild Asparagus

Not wild to be fearful of. But wild enough to have seeded themselves at the bases of a dozen or more apple trees and, by the end of June, to have disguised themselves, their fern an almost indistinguishable cloud among the post blossom foliage. 
Last year we walked around the orchard and tagged the trees where we discovered them then, one by one and if they were not too close to the trunk, we dug them up and replanted them along a row of cherry trees in the new orchard near the house.
A minuscule crop this year, snapped from the earth and eaten raw. Now we brush past a hedge of asparagus fern laden with seed pods. Next year we imagine ourselves slicing their stems below the earth, blanching them for a few minutes, watching the melted butter shimmer over their plump tips. Shaved Parmesan? Italian salami scented with fennel? Smoked salmon and a squeeze of lemon? Ah, the decisions we'll have to make.
Hungry Writing Prompt Write about something you did last year.

Weetabix. It's breakfast, Jim, but not as we know it.

Well, do you? And did you? Ever? Spread one (or two) with butter and jam, like a crisp-bread, or a slice of toast? 
It came back to me this morning, a childhood memory of spreading welsh butter and strawberry jam on one in my mother's kitchen, the slow, gum-sticking process of chewing my way through. I can't remember if it was at breakfast, or when I came home from school in the afternoon. If it was breakfast time perhaps we were short of milk... but that doesn't feel right. Milk was delivered in red foil topped bottles to our back door every morning. I do remember it feeling like hard work by the time I'd got half way through one: the butter and jam overwhelmed by the dryness of the biscuit that found its way into every crevice between every tooth and resisted the concerted dislodging efforts of my tongue. 
This morning I use French butter and home-made blackberry and apple jam, more generously, I imagine, than the 10 year old girl would have dared to. And the memory is…