It is grey and blowing today. Eight o' clock in the morning. The wind lashes the yew tree. I look through my bedroom window at the rain blowing in rippling curtains across the valley. Ian has gone to work. The house is quiet, apart from the noise of the wind, and dark, too dark to see without the lights on. I pad downstairs in my slippers and go round turning some lights on in the kitchen and the sitting room. The dog greets me with a wagging tail. Sadness snatches at me but I turn away from it. Today is mine to make. I hear my mother's voice "I think to myself, what can I do to make this a good day for Graham and for me, and then I do it". So simple. So complicated.
So how to claim the day, how to make it feel like home? Breakfast first. A cup of tea in my favourite mug and scrambled eggs. The rhythm of making scrambled eggs is soothing. I could do this in my sleep: the little pan on the hob with a knob of butter in it melting while I beat two eggs, swirling the butter in the pan to cover the bottom and then in go the eggs, stirring them, bringing them together and tipping them out onto a blue and white plate. It takes no more time than it would take to make a bowl of cereal. I sit at the kitchen table, eating my eggs, drinking my tea, the dog leaning against my leg. What shall we do today?
Making it feel like home has to start in the kitchen. I decide to have a go at making Erika's gluten free bread recipe which Ian, after a lot of research, found on this site. We ordered all the flour substitutes online and they have all been sitting in the pantry waiting for me to get my act together enough to try the bread recipe. One of the downsides of having been making our own bread for so long is that our normal recipe has become another thing that I could do in my sleep. Attempting a new recipe with a long list of ingredients and a method quite different from the one I am used to just looks such a faff that I keep putting it off. But suddenly the house settles around me, warmer, lighter, snug against the blowing wind. I put on my apron and turn on the oven. The kitchen hums gently. I feel myself come together, curious, interested, ready to go.
I follow the recipe exactly and, when the loaf eventually goes into the oven, I sit with a cup of tea, reading my emails, checking Instagram, content. This house needs activity and so do I. Whether it is anything to do with more than four hundred years of being a farmhouse at the centre of a life filled with work I do not know, but the house needs to be lived in and lived in actively and busily. It sulks when you go away. Coming back into it after an absence feels cold and dark. The house needs fires and cooking and light and people doing things. With the bread cooking and the kettle boiling the house feels warm and comforting, like a blanket. Sit for too long looking through the window at the rain and the house turns its back on you. Get on with it, it says under its breath. Do something, live.
The bread is totally delicious too. It is six months since I went gluten free and I had decided that I feel so much better for it that it is fine to live without bread. I have two slices of this new loaf with salty Welsh butter and then a slice toasted with a poached egg for lunch. Oh my goodness, how I have missed bread! Other attempts at making gluten free bread have produced a dry, tasteless, slightly too sweet loaf, like stale brioche. This is good. This tastes like bread and has a texture like bread. I will experiment a bit more with the recipe and perhaps try a little less honey and a little more salt for a more clearly savoury loaf, but it is good. In fact it is so good that I was too busy eating it to take any photographs.
And as the day darkens again it needs fires, and lamps and Ian's company, making it feel like home.
Tonight I will go to yoga and then use BBC iplayer to catch up with Michael Wood's brilliant "Story of China". What have you done to make today a good day?