Showing posts from April, 2008

Food and cooking and childhood

There are foods which take me straight back to childhood: meat and potato pie, cheese and onion pie, shepherds' pie. Now I realise that these were foods for the poor, ways of making a small amount of protein go a long way, and not the treats I thought them as a child but these dishes are still to me redolent of comfort and good cooking. My mother made great pastry and loves to taste and stir and experiment. Sometimes I would go to a friend's house for tea and find that their version of meat and potato pie was all grey: grey cardboard pastry, grey meat with gristly lumps, grey potatoes, indistinguishable from the grey gravy. I would do my best to eat it, except for the gristly lumps which could be stealthily hidden under the knife, but always felt so sorry for my friend. How could she bear it, when the pastry should be crisp and golden, the meat cooked long and slow into tastiness, the potatoes just firm enough to be a distinct mouthful in the bubbling gravy. I loved to

A week on the move

This has been a week of not being at home and I am filled with a need to stay here and be quiet. On Sunday I caught the train to Exeter to visit my parents who live near Okehampton on the edge of Dartmoor. Ian and I had been going to go together but his sister is in hospital, his father worried and not able to get about very well so we decided he would stay home and I would go to Devon. I love seeing my parents. After all this time I still look forward to a visit (although living with them would drive me quite quite mad). When I got off the train in Exeter my mother and my niece were there to greet me. My niece is ten, all long legs and brown hair, and just getting to the age when the woman she will be catches you unawares from time to time and looks out of the child in a move of the head or the line of her cheekbones. My father was waiting with the dog by the exit, sitting on a bench and shocking me as he stood up to hug me with the grey age in his face. He is having a lot of pain fr


I've been musing about mothering this week. I did not immediately take well to motherhood. Did I have postnatal depression? I'm not sure and even if I did it was not profound but I did struggle with the sense that I did not know what to do. I loved my baby from the start but she cried and cried and I couldn't seem to stop her. We moved when she was six weeks old to a town where I knew no one and my husband was working long hours as a junior doctor. I remember vividly the sense of desperation and isolation and the feeling that I had given away a life I had been happy with in exchange for this relentless anguish. But by the time she was six months old things had improved. I had come to know how to care for her and made some friends. She laughed at me when I went into her. With the second baby we had again moved just before he was born and his first few months are a blur of utter exhaustion in my mind. I envy those who have easy babies and settle comfortably into a milky worl

Painting the shed

Some days just work. Yesterday was one of those. The sun shone and we worked together in the garden. Ian was laying bricks for the base of our new greenhouse - can you imagine, a cedar greenhouse, my birthday present - and I was painting the shed. The shed has had to be moved as it was occupying the flat, sheltered, sunny site where the new greenhouse is to go. Now flat up here on the hill really means just a gentle slope, but still, prime land. So Ian had painstakingly taken the shed to pieces. We imported additional labour in the shape of older son to move it around the corner down to the end of the big pigsty and here it was rebuilt and given a smart new roof. I don't think I have ever painted a shed before. It had previously had a dark green stain, now very faded, and there was new wood as well where Ian has replaced a rotten windown with new shiplap so the whole thing needed a new coat of dark green. It's mesmerising, the rhythm of a brush backwards and forwards