Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: 03/01/2005 - 04/01/2005

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Goodbye Black Dog

The malaise - physical and mental - has lifted: at last! The world feels good again, even though the hot wind is drying up all granny's daisies - has dried up the wild rocket - on her land. No more bitter salads.

No more time now either. Granny has to attend to the domestic activities left undone since she got sick. Beloved's response to this was an orgy of elaborate meals; the results clog up the kitchen - not a surface is clean. Scrubbing is today's necessity. But she will be back.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Scar Tissue

What a day. Spent much of it communicating with Deirdre's lot - merry little discussion on suicide/depression/mental illness. Interesting though. Couldn't get Blogger. (Our engineers are working on it.) Did finally, write a post and promptly lost it. Nothing much to say anyway - Granny has been lying on a sofa most of the afternoon with a hot head contemplating a two inch long scar on her upper forearm - delicate pink, shiny, puckered at the edges, surprisingly pretty; a cook's trophy; she always has some of these, if not so big, acquired from shelves in hot ovens. She knows to run them under a cold tap, instantly, so they don't hurt.

Another Calima - hot wind, hot air - 32 Centigrade -probably the reason for Granny's hot head. Some kind of malaise anyway. And she's running out of (new) reading matter. A DISASTER. The only good news - for her - why should it be for anyone else?- is that thanks to the wonders of technology she has been able to set up shop, computer, internet, in a new space, the office, instead of the kitchen; this approximates to a room of her own, even if the shelves above her are full of books with titles like Teach yourself logic/calculus/trigonometry or Henley's Formulas for Home and Workshop or On being a Machine. Not exactly light fiction. But she can play opera loudly, without upsetting Beloved or anyone else. Not that her head encourages that at the moment. But give her time.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Oh God and all that

Worst thing about feeling low is not lack of answers but lack of questions (apart from: what's it all about? - which is meaningless.) The questions are always more interesting than the answers - and often more reliable too. Any questions anyone?

The wind is blowing, nice policeman from Andalucia has come up to help Mr Handsome from Blackburn with getting everything ready for the (we hope) about to arrive pollitos.. chickens to you. Tiresome Terrier has a suspected tapeworm: she crapped all over the dining-room in the night. It made a merry awakening for Beloved, always up first. He is now off to the vet with TT and Beautiful Wimp both.

Brain dead Granny resorts to the online Guardian, and recommends Madeleine Bunting on the growing significance of faith - of all kinds - in Africa; a salutary reminder to faithless Westerners, currently being funny at the expense of Easter. Bob Geldorf it seems insisted on this fact about Africa being inserted into the report of some major international commission. Africans surprise surprise don't trust politicians - they do trust their religious leaders - who supply many of the few services that exist. The trust includes leaders of traditional religions - witch doctors, so-called - who contrary to Western stereotype are often benign.

Granny can confirm this: working alongside her ex doctor husband twenty years ago, she not only visited Ecuardorian healers, she also spent a morning in a big psychiatric hospital just outside Nairobi. The weary Asian psychiatrist said: 'I couldn't manage without the healers; they deal with the social illnesses which is 80% of it, so than I can concentrate on organic illness which is more than enough.' She also heard of a Norfolk GP who after spending a year or two in the high Andes said: 'The healers rub peoples' stomachs with guinea-pigs - and then they feel better. I wish I had guinea pigs sometimes in Norfolk. I don't have anything like that; most drugs make miserable people feel worse.'

Well those are questions and answers of sorts. And if Granny can't quite get it together with God and all that, it's her problem. (Not her Beloved's though. He thinks a religious sense - and need - is genetic. And that it's a gene he doesn't possess. Does Granny? She hasn't a clue. Though she could do with a guinea-pig just now; better still, a guinea pig rub.)

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Not 70 yet?

Granny reads Joan Bakewell's pieces - Just 70 - in the Friday Guardian sometimes; how not. Though she does often find them too prim, neat, too SENSIBLE perhaps. (She prefers sensibility to sense, mostly. As her Beloved complains.) But this - Paula Rego, not least is one of her goddesses (what else could I do? - indeed) - should comfort her; shouldn't it?

A Piece of Chalk

TS Eliot on a bad day sat on a tube train, looked at the faces, wrote 'Dark dark they all go into the dark' - (of course he could have just meant the tunnel.) Granny on a bad day looks blankly at a piece of chalk.

The chalk hangs on a string at the back of the door which opens on to the fridge. Next to it is a little blackboard on which is written - very out of date - 2 chickens, scales, olives, yogurt, potatoes, in her Beloved's writing. Beyond that, pinned up on a tatty sheet of A4, is a list of equivalents - pounds ounces, kilos, grammes, American cups, half cups, printed off the internet; immediately above is another list of equivalent oven temperatures: farenheit, celcius, gas; ditto.

Granny at the very least could wipe the board take the chalk and write - what? - oranges - loo paper? - funeral flowers? - why not? Boring enough, but normal. Others take pieces of chalk, grind them up, add colours, make pictures that sell for vast sums - when they're dead- at Sothebys; or they take a piece of chalk and in scrawled mathematical formulae transform understanding of the cosmos. Still others understand from this one piece of chalk the geology of the South Downs, of the undersea world from which they emerged. Still others - or at least one - write/wrote an essay that in her long-lost youth granny was urged to emulate - but FAILED -processing in stately language from one major theme to another, then folding them back in on themselves, step by step, till they're returned - too neatly? - to the original simplicity; the piece of chalk.

To Granny this morning, with a mild respiratory infection in her head, and worse - black - gloom in her soul, it remains a piece of chalk hanging from a string on the back of the door that leads to the fridge.

Beloved has gone shopping to the little market up north which Granny normally loves but has rejected this morning. On BBC Radio 3, next to her ear, they are comparing - appropriately - recordings of Benjamin Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem. That's it really. If the sun is out again, so what? She's going back to feeling sorry for herself. What's it, she, the world, all about, reader? Nothing?


PS She fed the guests on the 2 chickens, stuffed with raisins, apricots, pinenuts and saffron rice. In another country, long ago, the guests ate them ALL UP.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Shrike wars

Perhaps an (over-age) Jane Eyre should refer her readers to this: they may draw their own conclusions..(Nice Tanya, though, isn't the first to notice that Charlotte B was much sexier than Mrs Gaskell. Elaine Showalter et al got there first, if without the provocative headline.)

(Eureka, dear helpful friends: GRANNY GOT HER LINK RIGHT! AT LAST.)

This will be brief. Granny is weary after a fairly sleepless and over-excited night dreaming up a new book. Today the turndown: the hangover. Yesterday, at last, she had the OK from her agent about the previous book which will now, after Easter, be submitted to the editor who first chased Granny for it 6 or so years ago, but who, when Granny foolishly prevaricated - she had other things on her mind just then - moved on. Another wait. Long gone the glory days when Granny chucked an idea at an editor and got a commission JUST LIKE THAT. Gone too the glory days of the agent from heaven who had two vast-selling authors to keep her afloat so could afford the less than vast-selling granny. New agent is by no means from hell- she's an old friend - but she has only recently opened up and despite having had an author on a big prize shortlist two years in a row cannot afford to spend too much time on less than profitable prospects. Which Granny is or may be: not only her world but the publishing world too has changed radically since she last wrote fiction. (Didn't we all complain how uncommercial and inefficient publishers were? - and now look what we've got. And they still can't sell books - or not many -outside the much hyped few.) Yet here she is back at it. At least the uncertainty helps her to know that she is a writer still after the long years of blockage. If you don't know what you can sell -or if you can sell anything (too old, too out of fashion, just not good enough? - oh god no) yet still keep on doing it; then you are a writer. Aren't you?

Another day of sun. This is the world now - it chucked it down here like never, at a time when the rest of Europe - Portugal - England - Spain - had the driest winter on record. And now it's chucking it down there while here has turned to summer. Sod's law being what it is, the winter/wind/rain/ something bad will return no doubt in time for arrival of Beloved Daughter etc on Sunday week.... Granny is a pessimist. Sorry, Reader. Sorry.

Meantime the battle between Feline Houdini and the shrikes goes on. This morning both shrike parents were there perched on the railings outside this window, fanning out their tails, bobbing them up and down and shouting at Feline Houdini crouched on the flowerbed below, fluffing up his tail. Though he put his ears back, hissed and snarled, he made no move to get them. Clearly he knows their wings give them the edge. Granny assumes the young shrike too survive; the parents wouldn't bother if they weren't. Good. Granny does not employ Feline Houdini as birdcatcher. Despite the nasty things shrikes do to lizards - like hanging them from thorns - she is ON THEIR SIDE. Honestly.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

the perils of the grandmother...

Before she starts, Granny wishes to draw the attention of all to this in today's Guardian - Women writers unite! (She apologises for continuing to fail to connect you simply via the word this without the gobbledy-gook, despite much good advice from her internet friends.... she will keep working on it. Has worked! Look! Sometime she'll get rid of the underline too..)

Now on with her dull domestic altogether womanly story... not even any romps or buttocks..Sorry about that. (On second thoughts, Granny('s) buttocks are hardly erotic objects these days. So maybe, reader, you should be grateful, after all.)

This picture was taken of her dad about a year before he died, with Granny's two youngest granddaughters. He looks almost happy. The only times he did look happy in the last three years of his life, after he'd had to move into a home, was when he was around with or talking about his various great-grandchildren. What he said was always the same. 'I must say, I'm lucky, I've got a bunch of the prettiest little girls you'd want to see.' Which was nice, but boring. eventually. Especially when it did not stop him also saying, after the birth of his first great-grandson, 'It's the happiest day of my life since T (his son, Granny's brother) was born...thereby enraging the grandmothers and the less laid back mothers of the eight great-granddaughters so slighted. Oh yes, Our Father definitely came from another country. And it wasn't heaven.

About the only other thing that moved him was sport. In the two weeks before he died, it was hard to know which pleased him more; the visit of his second great-grandson, aged 6 weeks, or a spectacular, knife-edged Test Match win by the English team. Granny is glad he got both, in the middle of what was otherwise misery. (As she has said before, she hopes he might be watching this year's Test series from up there somewhere. But doesn't dare believe it, alas. No afterlife for her. Or him who did believe it. Which is sadder.)

It also leaves her wondering about grandchildren as a substitute for life. Especially in view of a piece by Petite Anglaise yesterday, about the guilt engendered in the children by the need to visit one set of grandparents or other.

Granny herself woke up sad this morning. First after dreaming of her dad, and second because it's almost Easter and this is the first time in 2 years she hasn't spent it here, on her island with all 3 of the little girls, and a lot of eggs. The eldest will be here in just over a week's time. But the other two aren't coming at all. There won't be any eggs either; other than the ones laid by hens.

Now let her state at once, before she fills her children with guilt when/if they read this, that she accepts it all as part of the unspoken grandparents' contract. Of the unspoken parents' contract come to that: motherhood is a difficult joy, for sure. Granny is not just talking about the broken nights it starts with, and the teenage horror that follows not so very long after. She is talking about the way, along with sprogs always, your own and their sprogs' sprogs, your grandchildren, the paradoxes do and must arrive. You lose and gain yourself simultaneously. You continue to lose and gain yourself as they grow up. The sprogs' presence all the time is painful and joyful. Their absence when they leave is equally painful and joyful. (Oh God, what am I now? How I miss them. Oh God what bliss to be free to lead my own life...) At the very moment you gain children, it's certain that in the end you will lose them. Off they go - off they must go - to lead their own lives free of you and quite right too.

And then the grandmotherhood. The fact is that without you, the grandchildren wouldn't exist. But it doesn't mean to say you are central; far from it; you are peripheral in actual if not genetic terms. It is probably right that while you are saying goodbye to life, the ongoing life of the family - your children/grandchildren, your siblings' children/ grandchildren (not to mention all the great-grandchildren if you live that long) become the chief meaning of existance - more than work even, if it's the kind of which the effects or otherwise might last (Though you shouldn't count on it. Look on my works ye mighty and despair' says it all. And come to think of it grandchildren aren't always the best kind of future either. Think of Nero's grandmother. Or Queen Victoria for that matter, whose darling little Willy grew up to be the Kaiser and generate the First World War.) But not before. Never before. Until the end of your life living through your children and grandchildren IS NOT ON.

Mourn you may. That's life, see above. Meanwhile you get on with/ do your own things, joyfully what's more. You rejoice when the young come to visit you (and sometimes when they go away). You expect and want NOTHING - in particular not their guilt, especially not their guilt. Love - mother love in particular, oh God, is like that. With which sententious statement Granny will close and eat chocolate to comfort herself. NOT CHOCOLATE AS EGGS, though: Good Friday, the penitential bit, comes first.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Thoughts on guests and mortality

WHAT DO GUESTS DO WITH ALL THE BOG ROLL? ( Granny's recent lot used even more of it than they ate of her food; which is saying something.) She remembers too this comment from another owner of a bed and breakfast outfit: 'It's what they leave in their bedside drawers that's interesting. Recently I found headache pills on one side of the bed, condoms on the other. My question was: which won?'

Granny and Beloved's guests were too old probably for such things. (Or too canny to leave them.) But remark by one of them has sat on in Granny's head. A guest looked up from the paper she was reading and said in a melancholy voice. 'Dave Allan has died. He was only 68. I'm 68, and I don't feel anywhere near death yet.'

Granny has by no means reached 68 herself - but she is near enough to have had similar thoughts; some of her own friends have died, others are more fragile than before, others very much impaired. She knows she can no longer think with any degree of comfort - where will I be in 20 years time? Or even 10? Granny's old dad was totally hale and hearty at 78, and despite a major operation pretty good at 88 - playing golf and going not only on cruises but holidays which demanded a degree of stamina. On the other hand, he would say, sadly: 'I'm the only one just about. All my friends are dead or totally decrepit.' And so they were. Of his wives one - Granny's mother - died aged 53; the second, 12 years younger than him, whom he'd hoped would see him out, statistics being statistics, died after an operation on her aorta at - wait for it - 68. (But then she was a heavy smoker. A factor Dad hadn't taken into account; his generation didn't.)

So there he was in his 90's not an exile in place as Granny is - he lived in one or other Home County almost all his adult life, having migrated there from West London - but definitely an exile in time. Granny's both Beloved and Beautiful Daughter, after reading some of her posts about him, said. 'While he was alive he seemed an anomaly. But now he's dead you can see he was really just a man of his time.' Yes. Indeed.

LP Hartley's statement which opened 'The Go-Between' may be a cliche now, but still noone has said it better. 'The past is another country. They do things differently there.' Granny viewing her own past these days, let alone her dad's, begins to know too well the truth of that. Yet she wonders if a sense of exile is inevitable for many- or whether some can live in these other lands, of present and future, and still feel at home, not exiled -even when everyone they know dies off. Hard then, she supposes, not to feel out of time somewhat.

Clearly some people move in time more easily than others. She thinks she does - her own sense of exile is not that great. Her dad, though, on the whole, was not one of them; he seemed baffled by the world which surrounded him in his later years. He didn't move easily in space either - unless driven by grief; (in which case he did so precipitantly- two months after Granny's mother's death, he moved from the village where Granny and her siblings grew up - something she's always regretted; she understands why he felt he had to, but it took so much else away, along with her mother.)

Her dad of course, youngest son of a woman aged 50 when he was born, of a man aged 60, might have had particular problems with the presents and futures of his older age. Not only were his parents more Victorians than Edwardians - Granny's Grandmother never in her adult life wore a skirt more than an inch above her ankles - he himself was put into the clothes worn by his brothers in the 1890's and given their books to read. He also lived through a century full of death and grief. Aged 7, he lost his brothers, in the first world war, through his 30's he lost many of his friends, in the second. He also married a wife from a family that carried the breast cancer gene BRCA1- with all the deaths and griefs that led to - the loss of a wife and a daughter the worst. Does such acquaintance with grief mean you are bound to live more in the past - or at least is it harder not to? Granny doesn't know.

At his funeral she suggested they read 'Fear no more the heat of the sun' - a poem which might be another cliche but never mind - it remains irreplacable. 'Golden lads and girls all must/ as chimney sweepers come to dust...' And yet, suddenly, in that time of surprising grief - everyone was glad for him that he was out of it, at last - the golden lad reasserted himself over the old old man. (And the chimney sweeper.)

The family went hunting through ancient photograph albums. And there he and Granny's mother were on the Norfolk Broads in the late 20's, early 30's; the young men in baggy shorts and v-necked cricket sweaters, pipes clutched in mouths, hair blowing in the wind. The young women with arms round each other's necks, also in baggy shorts, aertex shirts, old sweaters, hair tied up in bandeaus. It was all very correct of course; young women sleeping on one boat, young men on another, anything else unthinkable. Yet what worlds this was from the chaperoned lives of their parents; in whose youth it would have been as unthinkable to go away alone in a mixed group, as it was in Granny's parents' youth to go away a deux with a boyfriend or girlfriend the way Granny's children did without thinking. (As she did; but illictly. A story for another time.)

One of Granny's much older cousin's told her once how glamorous her father and mother seemed when they blew in, clad in shorts and youthfulness, on staid family holidays organised by his and Granny's grandmother. Glamorous? Granny glad of that word, still finds it hard to imagine. Yet so it was. The very last time Granny saw him, her father looked out across Sussex towards Chanctonbury Ring and said: 'I climbed that twice in a day once. I went up after breakfast, during a houseparty and came down to find the prettiest girl in the party had overslept. So I went up again with her.' He ended regretfully: 'It didn't do me any good. I never heard from her.'

Ah... golden youth has its pains too. But Granny clings gratefully to that glimpse of his other country, before the humiliations and grief of his final years. Glamour, yes. Youth is glamorous alright. The only problem is that when you're in the middle of it you only feel its miseries...looking in the mirror you see yourself a monster. (HA.. Let them wait. The inevitability of ageing is, of course, the revenge of the already aged on the young.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Hell's grannies...

Granny forgot to add this: small piece in BBC news online: "hell's grannies on motorised wheelchairs face control call..."

Granny is not yet in need of such a wheelchair - aside from twinges in her left arm and right back and a general creakiness first thing she can still get around on her own two feet...

But in years to come who knows? YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Saint Jamie

Granny had a day out yesterday - sun sea flowers good food. Here's a picture of some kind of marine plant (she can't name it) to prove it. (No, no, she didn't eat it; the food was eaten up a hill, inland, with a long view and not a shrimp in sight. It was delicious. And there was a turtle to look at, who held his dear little hind feet up t0 the sun to warm them.)

Today has been taken up with shopping. This island is due to close down any minute; Semana Santa is yet another big festival and lasts four days more or less. Buy food now or starve. (Not an Easter Egg in sight, though Granny did see some rather etiolated hot cross buns in supermercado used by expats. She was not tempted.) So no BIG THEMES let alone BIG THOUGHTS, let own further episodes of Our Father - the one underground that is to say, not the one up there. Tomorrow or the next day perhaps. She has him all lined up.

But here a big salute to another holy one - the Blessed Jamie Oliver - who has just taken the food industry by the neck and shaken it. AND ABOUT TIME TOO. The craven government, though chuntering on about obesity etc didn't dare. So these bastards have been offloading addictive products made of E numbers, mechanically recovered meat (ie bones and BSE) and chicken skins onto also commercially driven school meals caterers (M Thatcher did much worse than snatch milk, she snatched school kitchens and cooks too) thereby filling up our children - my grandchildren too - if their parents hadn't had more sense - with total rubbish. Granny doubts if anyone could have seen Jamie demonstrating to a group of addicted kids what actually went into their chicken nuggets and turkey twizzlers without wanting to throw up. The children nearly did. And they promptly opted for Jamie's school dinners that they had rejected up till then. And afterwards - surprised anyone? - behaved better, did their work better - another finding from Jamie's labours.

So now Tony Blair - Granny has just been reading this in Sunday's Observer - has put forward his! - ha! - idea - that money should be provided for cooks, kitchens and proper food for children - and maybe cooking lessons for their parents....AT LAST. (37p per child for food. As the Blessed Jamie pointed out they spend more on meals for prisoners and police dogs. )

There are many villains in this world; from Berlusconi to Rupert Murdoch (who feeds the world with other kinds of crap) and all places in between. Not forgetting the dear man who boils people alive in Uzbekistan. For which the also blessed man who pointed this out has effectively lost his job. But in Granny's view the 'junk' food industry - she means junk in every sense - has as much to answer for as any.

People who make saints in Rome: people who put the worthy forward for knighthoods, please note. The one man band who effed and blinded his way across British television screens for the last few weeks deserves all of it, more than most.

THIS IS A GRANDMOTHER SPEAKING. A greedy, cooking grandmother at that...

She enjoys ranting too. Maybe, reader, you noticed.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Odds and Sods

1. Frogs. Item in yesterday's BBC Home page. 'The only frog hospital in Australia has had to close for lack of funds - Deirdre where are you? (Incidentally, Granny has yet to discover how to put a name in and have it come up neatly in blue, which can be clicked on, without having to put in whole bloody URL. Beloved Son in law due to arrive in two weeks be warned: GRANNY NEEDS GEEK HELP. Not that he's a geek in any other sense- far from it. It's just that she isn't in that sense. And wishes she was.)

2. Pigs. Pigs are omniverous like humans, have teeth like humans, to the point of having physical anthropologists mistake fossilised pig teeth for human ones, their internal organs are so like so human ones that pigs can be used as medical testers, in the wild they have separate places for defecation, just like humans. So why do humans talk about dirty pigs? Police as pigs? Etc. WHY DO THEY HATE PIGS? Is it because they hate themselves??

NB Pigs like having their backs scratched; so does Granny. She's happy to be a pig.

3. The calima from the east continues. In Spain it comes from the south and called 'calina.' In France also from the south and is called the sirocco. In Israel it's from the east and known as the hamsin. In all cases it's hot dry dusty, covers everything with sand, dries up plants, skin, houses and drives people mad. This island is on our 4th day of it, which is just too much. Admittedly it's brighter today and the wind is down. Granny and Beloved had planned a day out, up the island, and may still go.

4. Why are some people invisible? Granny and Beloved had lunch with Mrs and Mr Blondbombshell yesterday. They are shaking the dust of this island off their feet (literally just now) and departing for Teneriffe, where they may be as discontented; who knows. Granny has always had a problem noticing Mr BBS. When she failed to greet him instantly, ditto say goodbye, she has thought herself unkind and unaware. Yesterday she realised it wasn't just her. Nice, cleverish, quiet Mr BBS literally has NO PRESENCE. Some people don't. Turn round and they vanish from consciousness. Just like that.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Green Land: by request

. Posted by Hello

What's in a name

Brief reflection on the word 'creature.' (Source of one of exhausted Granny and Beloved's few spats during the busy week.)

(Probable cause is the fact that Beloved like many brilliant men or women has some of the problems with verbal ambiguity suffered by the hero of Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Granny by virtue of her literary outlook tends to be metaphorical, not to say ambiguous, all or most of the time. Frequent response by her Beloved is: 'What are you talking about?' His problem with the ambiguous is compounded by his long scientific training which requires precision, all the time.)

Granny sitting up in bed reading a review of two books about the history of bees and beekeeping, innocently reads out this statement: 'Bees are the most studied creatures in the world.'

Beloved explodes: 'Creatures -what does he mean by 'Creatures'. Plants are creatures; microbes are creatures, so is bacteria? Bloody journalists never know what they're talking about...) This is a very brief and toned-down summary of what he actually said. )

Granny tries in vain to explain that a) the reviewer is no less a scientist than he is, b) that no matter what the word 'creature' may mean to scientists, the review is addressed to lay(wo)men like her, for whom the word 'creature' could never denote 'plant' let alone 'bacteria' but simply something within range mammal bird reptile insect invertebrate (latter means she is mildly educated here; not that her Beloved would agree; he didn't.)

What word would you use then she enquires? Beloved comes up with the word 'animal' - which to non-scientists, like Granny means mammal pretty much; the less specific word 'creature' fits better therefore to the lay mind.

Not that Beloved agrees. Why should an editor promote ignorance he puffs? Scientists spend their lives trying to dispel ignorance, everyone else encourages it. Incandescent by now, he is all set to depart to another bed - heads for the door before realising that all other beds now filled by guests who might be surprised to find him joining them... He has to return, ignominously.

Granny pretty incandescent by now too at being so misunderstood.

Actually the whole thing due really to fact that it is midnight, that they are camped in the office on an uncomfortable sofa bed, they have been working all day, clearing up for an hour, that they will have to rise at 7 next morning to make breakfast.

Anyway: they make peace eventually. And next morning Granny agrees that creature is imprecise, really, and Beloved agrees it might be allowable in such circumstances. Well actually he still disputes that, and Granny continues to allow that it IS allowable. But neither push the point.


(And actually, in such a stressed week, that major spat, and some minor exchanges over practical matters is/was not bad going. )

(The hoopoe, bless him. has taken to appearing on the windowsill before her and tapping on the window with his beak. Granny has to allow that he's after his reflection, not her. But she likes it all the same. Close to, his eye is so small and round, so very bright and black. )


The haze is still present. Not a volcano, let alone island in sight.

But here is the good news; for Granny, if noone else. A hoopoe seems to have added itself to the residents. A week ago it got into the house and had to be shooed out. Yesterday, mirrored in the kitchen window, it spent an age attacking itself, in vain; quite ignoring an interested Feline Houdini. This morning it appeared on the balcony outside granny's (now re-inhabited, post guests) bedroom window. Its beak silhouetted is long long long - a perfect tool for digging out insects. Its silhouette, with crest opened or folded by turns, is ridiculous and wonderful both.

The impertinent shrike meantime has taken to attacking Feline Houdini. Evidently it has a nest somewhere. Feline Houdini looks puzzled but doesn't react.

The bad news is: also for Granny and possibly for anyone frustrated by the slowness of the Blogger comment system. She has spent an hour trying to install Haloscan. And FAILED.

She is reading a lovely book on pigs of all things. The WHOLE HOG. Author claims they are the cleverest of animals - probably true - unfortunately, in passing, he underrates sheep. (Far from stupid creatures as anyone who has tried to keep them trapped in a field knows.)

He quotes Churchill: who says: Dogs look up to you, cats look down on you, pigs look you in the eye.

Granny would add first, that that the yellow eyes of sheep appear to look nowhere; they live in quite other places, like the eyes of hawks. (She knows this because thirty years ago, in another life, oiled by the work from head to foot, she helped the shearers who were denuding the poor grannies, shoving each indignantly naked one outside and folding up their fleeces.) She would add, second, that humans, very often, look past you...

She likes pigs.

Friday, March 18, 2005

More statistics

Still shattered grannies: 1
Still shattered beloveds:1
Still non-functioning dishwashers: 1
Number of linen washes done: 3
Quantity of Saharan haze outside: (How many grains of sand in beach? Let alone sky?) 1 or uncountable
Number of such hazes in one week: 2 (quite out of order)
Number of volcanoes currently visible (out of usual 10 or so): 0
Hot Wind speed: 25 mph approx
Air temperature: 28 C at lunchtime.
Cyclists still on island: see uncountable grains of sand, above.
Tourists arriving for Easter: also see above.
Geckos caught by Terrible Terrier: 2
Meals cooked by Granny since yesterday: 0
No of meals she proposes to cook this weekend: 0
Some cheap music? TV? instead.
Number of non-functioning CD players: 1
Number of functioning CD players: 0
Number of episodes of Friends on TV tonight: 2
Number of episodes of Simpsons on TV tonight: 2

Nowhere to go. Good afternoon everyone. Practically Goodnight.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Bloody Cyclists..

No, no don't get Granny wrong; she thinks cycling is a wonderful, not to say ecological, not to say healthy form of transport which we should all adopt. NOW. Goodbye cars. What she objects to is so many roads on her island being currently clogged with shaven legged, beetle-headed wiry men in logo-covered lycra. Solitary one as here can be lived with in all senses except aesthetic ones. Not so phalanx of twenty riding three abreast up steep hills. Maybe they are all hoping to win the Tour de France; this island being where some of them train in winter. Who cares if they win the Tour de France? But could they please not sit ahead of Granny trying to fetch/carry visitors/ecotourists to and from sites of interest, let alone to and from their much less ecological forms of transport - namely aircraft - which wait for no man, certainly not those held up by triple rows of straining but neat buttocks in day-glo lycra....

Never mind. They've all gone - tourists anyway - and Granny is brain-dead. Nothing left but statistics: try some:

12 loaves of bread; 2 and a half large cakes; 3 batches of biscuits; a whole packet of wheatabix, ditto muesli, a dairyful of yoghourt, a bowlful of fruit, two large kilner jars of Granny's fig compote, 1 jar of marmalade, 1 each ditto of apricot jam and fig jam (home-made, natch) approx half a kilo of butter, 3 packets of ham, 2 cheeses, two large tortillas..... this is just breakfast and teatime consumption of 5 not very large, let alone fat, wrinklies - nice ones - really - average age 68. God knows where they put it all. Some time Granny might put up the dinner menus - but not today - enough to say that everything on them got eaten up too. Does this mean they LIKED it all? Possibly.

(And unlike G and B they also, all, ate large lunches. Not, thank god, provided by them.)

Non-pork and shellfish eater turned out not to be Jewish, just self-styled - loudly - at length -'fussy eater.' Granny and Beloved enjoyed introducing her to chilli....small shrieks of dismay - but she did end up saying 'I've eaten more new foods this week than I've eaten since I was 20. And I LIKED them.' (Lady was/ is traveller all over the world; how she had managed to avoid EVER eating Indian food, Thai food, Chinese food, let alone chilli, a total mystery. She is an ardent tennis player - which may not be relevant, but who knows.)

The one man- the eldest, who reminded Granny a little of her dad, but wittier, did say - not, obviously, to G and B. 'I think I'm looking forward to roast beef and brussel sprouts.' But he also told to them on departure; 'I think I could get to like sushi.'

This is an achievement...

Other statistics; thanks to nice horticulturalist friend leading the group Granny now knows she has no less than 30 different kinds of flowers on her land, including 10 - at least - varieties of daisies. He was quite as dazzled as she is, as was the one genuine naturalist among them who has taken pictures to relay to expert who might know what some of the more puzzling species are. (Canarian flowerbooks more baffling than helpful; but then aren't botanical books always baffling? Botanists are good at communicating with each other mainly, but not to the rest ofi us. )

Rainy days; 1; hazy days 2. mostly sunny days 3. Rainy day unfortunately was one in which Granny and punters trailed through Volcanic park in sheets of the stuff, unable to see any of it. Soaking wet punters 6. Photos taken of volcanoes: nil. Photos taken overall; approximately 250.

Spats between overworked Granny and Beloved: 2 (not bad..)

Generally you could say it was a success. Except for knackering effects on cook, kitchenmaid*, laundrymaid, chambermaid, hostess, guide and her equally overworked Beloved. No more of such things till September. Thank God for that.

The only thing did overeat was the dishwasher, seemingly. It packed up two days before end. *Hence kitchenmaid.

Functioning dishwashers: nil

letters/emails ofencouragement from agent/publisher: nil.

Happy St Patrick's Day to Gordon Brown who has just presented the old folks with 200 smackers and a bus pass each. Generous of him. At this rate Granny, in particular, will need it.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Granny far from recumbant

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Granny is busy trying to turn current shit heap known as her house, into lickitty split, shiny clean casa rurale for guests due to arrive on Thursday. This includes, among other things, trying to house in other than room now designated as guest bedroom about 20 (no exaggeration) bags, big ones little ones medium size ones that Beloved seems to regard as essential to his life (It's one reason he can never find anything. Injured tone: 'I put it away of course. In my bag!' 'Which bag?' 'I've no idea.' Quite.)

'I've left them 3 drawers. Surely that's enough?'

'No, Beloved, it isn't.'

(Guest coming to equivalent of small hotel and paying for it, does not expect to have to dispose of their gear amid drawers stuffed with sundry office accoutrement- in triplicate -and more drawers full of spare paper, files etc -also in triplicate- Let alone 20 bags.) GROAN.

'Beloved why do we need three packs of (eg) computer paper? '

'For emergencies, of course. In case we run out.'.. (Ask a silly question....)

Granny has discovered that best method is to wait till Beloved goes out then remove everything. It is done. But is just one of many tasks. Not she least she is doing the cooking for the next two nights, so she can be certain of meals requiring the dirtying of one saucepan/frying pan/casserole rather than the entire (ENTIRE) complement of the kitchen. (Or thereabouts.) So for the moment friends, family, whoever, will have to content themselves with photo of (more or less) recumbant Beautiful Wimp and Tiresome Terrier. Recumbant Granny isn't. Let alone an active Blogger. Back soon.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Spot the sea slug no 2. Or granny recumbant

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Spot the sea slug

Granny's spatial exile is by choice, mostly and has many compensations. (Not counting Beloved: who is a compensation in himself, except when using all the saucepans and leaving them unwashed.)

Over this weekend, for instance, she, Beloved and the Lady with the Big and Little Dogs went up to the town to the north of here, set in the middle of hills and surrounded by tall palm trees; coming from above it looks like an oasis; it IS an oasis. There are frogs there, which is what they have come in search of. They don't locate the frogs - they are up a hill somewhere, inaccessible. But they do find a waterfall - A WATERFALL?? on THIS dry island? Yes, a waterfall, complete with cyclist in blue lycra filling his waterbottle. And they find flowers which make even the abundant ones on Granny's land these days look sparse. And bushes of wild chrysanthemum. And a man laying into three chickens with a baseball bat. (Question, to man in hat: why are your chickens running around in that mad way?' Answer, by man in hat;'because I just killed them. No, I haven't seen any frogs round here.)

While yesterday, Sunday, after her bad morning, Granny and Beloved went down to the salt flats and found another much bigger, prettier sea cucumber, red with white spots, alongside a still amazing more amazing monster, like a huge whitish-yellowish slug with brownish spots, horns- like ears - f0ur of them, and an opening-up back which appeared to reveal its innards. A sea rabbit, in Spanish: sea hare in English (definitely an aspersion on hares) Lets settle for the Latin: Aplysia Dactylomela. Dactyl is the Greek for finger. This figures. Granny goes in search of information and comes up with this:

Appropriately referred to in the vernacular as - the Spotted Sea Hare, this species of Anaspidean has worldwide, circum-tropical distribution. One of the many species deriving the common name from the rabbit-like appearance of this sea slug, the rhinophores suggesting long ears, it is possibly the easiest of the Sea Hares to identify, having large black rings inside and out on the mantle folds.

As indicated throughout the literature all Aplysia's are herbivores. Aplysia dactylomela is common in intertidal "tidepools", and shallow waters where algal densities are greatest..

While I wouldn't recommend this species of "bunny" as an Easter gift for your child or grandchild, you must admit that those cute little eye spots give this slug that warm snuggly look. Yeah, right!!!

Yeah, right. Easter is coming up. Maybe eldest granddaughter?..

Then this:
Like all sea slugs, Sea Hares are hermaphrodites, which means they have fully functional male and female parts. During mating they can act as either the male or the female partner, and sometimes they mate in chains of three or more. When mating in chains the anterior animal acts just as a female and the most posterior animal as a male, but the ones in between act simultaneously as male and female.

How convenient Granny thinks. She decides she will not head for suggested section 'sea hare mating strategies.' Enough is enough. One sea slug snuggling. OK. Two?

Let's fly to the moon, she thinks. It's nearer.

Sunday, March 06, 2005


Granny's morning..

8 am. Wakes. Lies very relaxed warm and comfortable. Gradually memory of today's TO DO list seeps in.

8.05 am. Granny opens one eye. Promptly shuts it. TO DO list runs ever more busily through head. Ease, relaxation decline.

8.10 am. With much effort Granny reaches out hand to bedside table. Ouch. Hand cold. She grabs contact lens case and draws it back under covers.

8.11 am. Raises herself up, unscrews green lid of case and extracts right lens from soaking liquid. Places it on middle finger of right hand - should be index finger but it lost all sensation after unfortunate encounter with blades of hand-held mixer two years ago. Raises finger to eye. Lens settles into place on cornea. Good.

8.12 am Granny unscrews white cap from case, extracts left lens, places it on OK left index finger. Lens promptly folds onto finger like little cap. Granny rolls it up replaces it back on finger, raises it to eye. Lens sticks to finger. She withdraws it, refits lens, tries again. Lens still sticks to finger. Further adjustment. Granny tries again. This time lens remains on eye. She blinks; vision blurred. Lens is wrong way up.

8.14. She removes lens from eye, puts it back on finger the right way up, reapplies it to left eye. And again. AND AGAIN. Groan. Third time lucky. The whole of Granny's upper body is now freezing.

8.16 am. She retreats back under covers. TO DO list rampant.

(1.) Alter website. 2.) Write disclaimer form to be given to shortly arriving members of Natural History course, so that if they break legs, arms, teeth, etc Granny and Beloved will not be held responsible. 3.)Wash dressing-gowns, towels etc for guests. 4.) Give dogs morning run on land. 5.) Fetch Saturday Guardian from newsagent and find shop open to buy sweetcorn, tinned or frozen for cornbread she proposes to make later. 6.) Discuss change of menu for guests with Beloved, following revelation that one guest eats neither pork nor shellfish (guest Jewish?) -meals, some already partly prepared and frozen, contain pork, prawns, squid, octopus, of course. Memo, check on internet to see if squid, octopus too are considered non-Kosher. If so adjust menus. Guest cannot live on Granny's cake, ice cream and corn bread alone. 7). Order Beloved Daughter's birthday present via Internet. 8.) Hang out washing. 9.) Take Attic Woman out to lunch. So on and so forth. Not forgetting to annoint herself all over with anti-insect cream. Feline Houdini, despite applications of expensive antidotes, is harbouring more little friends. Granny is again covered in flea-bites.)

8.18 am. Now seeing Granny notices her book on bedside table (Justin Cartwright's latest.) Remembers she left chapter unfinished last night. Reaches out hand, opens book, finishes chapter, checks out next.

8.25 am. Puts book back on bedside table. Lies down. TO DO LIST now screaming. With monumental effort Granny throws back covers, leaps out of bed, runs shivering into bathroom; slightly warmer - there's a heater- she peers out of window. Sky grey. Shrub under window, gauge of windspeed blowing madly; wind in North-East. Granny contemplates heading back to bed. Resists the temptation.

8.27 am she approaches bath, contemplates filling it up, leaping in and staying there. She resists this temptation too. Instead virtuously, she adjusts taps to spray mode, picks up hose and washes her hair with what she hopes is ecologically friendly Aloe Vera shampoo.

8.35-8.40.am dries hair, more or less, with not so ecological hairdryer.

8.41 am. applies ever more expensive and ever less effective cream to ageing skin in vain attempt to halt even reverse process of ageing (hope springs etc..)

8.44 am contemplates getting dressed, decides that's altogether pushing it, throws on toweling dressing-gown - she ought to be washing this too for guests - too bad -puts in hearing aid (sans eyes sans ears, increasingly sans everything: Granny feels increasingly as if she's some mythological ancient, sharing spare parts) heads out of door into outside courtyard (freezing) down stairs, into house, into kitchen.

8.50 am Beloved has coffee waiting. Bless him. Granny takes reviving coffee-addict's swig, then heads to gather up laundry - finds unwashed towels lurking in a guest-room, again, dumps them in machine plus one towelling gown - hers can wait- sets it going.

9. am. She feeds Feline Houdini to stop him yowling at her feet, refills bowl of coffee and settles at computer. Connects to Internet. Orders Beloved Daughter's Birthday present. (?. That would be telling. Beloved Daughter too reads this.) Gets up Google: octopus and squid definitely non-kosher. Ouch. Gets up website; finds it offering wholly erroneous advice to punters that weather will be 'warm.' Beloved's idea of warmth not hers or most likely theirs, she adjusts this, but at such a late hour suspects she will have to ring each and every one of them to warn them to bring fleeces, etc. After various vicissitudes, she succeeds in saving and publishing this information on website.

9.35 am With slight sense of triumph (Beloved's usually deals with website) she then writes disclaimer, but fails to get friendly lawyer on telephone to advise if satisfactory. (Granny's memo to self; remember to try later.)

9.55 am. Virtue is to be rewarded with brief interval between jobs while Granny writes new post for blog.

10. 35. Blog has taken longer than expected/intended. It's a good one, Granny thinks. She tries to select it all, and save to copy, in case Blogger is playing up. Post rolls up and disappears entirely.

At least the sun is coming out. But the wind is blowing harder than ever. And, oh god, the dogs...

Tennis anyone?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Montaigne and a manky cabbage

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What´s new?

A. Another lake at the bottom of the land after yet another furious rainstorm last night

B. Rainstorm -I think- if not something else has wiped out telephone connection. Unless the cause is something that will dry out this means yet another prolonged battle with Telefonica- they may sound efficient in Madrid but try them here....Chance of reconnection before Monday nil Granny thinks. Fortunately the line belonging to the Lady with Big and Little Dog is working OK, so Granny is on her machine right now in company of B&L Ds.

C. She has in the last few days made 1) cardomum and rosewater ice cream which not only sounds fit for Sheherezade, it is, it is. Merely the smell of it would give Richard Burton (not Elizabeth Taylor´s, the other one) an orgasm. Let alone the taste. 2) covered candied orange peel (her own) in dark chocolate. Ditto. 3) A Seville orange cake. She will 4) when she returns to her Internetless, so comfort-blanketless kitchen (she will have to reflect on this) make a bitter chocolate icecream. All this for lucky guests next week.

D. On further inspecting manky cabbage - above - she has decided that Mr Handsome from Blackburn might have a point. It does need retiring. (Bananas, citrus, olives also look pretty manky right now too, they don´t like this weather either. But should recover when sun and warmth return. The new guava tree lost its leaves too, but is producing 2 fruit! The very first.) She might do a deal with him. Goodbye cabbage, welcome papaya in return for cabbage seed planted elsewhere.

This blog does seem to have had a thing about cabbages lately. Even now, proposing to move to higher things - or thing - or man - that is the divine (she means DIVINE) sixteenth century Frenchman, Montaigne, cabbages will feature.

Montaigne Granny sees as the precurser of all bloggers. His essays, so-called, bear very little relation to the kind of essays enjoined on schoolchildren - theory - discussion - summing-up -conclusion - they wander here there everywhere, just like us. An ´essay´ called ´Coaches´ starts off with vehicles, proceeds via various digressions to the behaviour of monarchs and from thence to a long rant against the appalling behaviour of the conquistadors towards Indians in Latin America. (Montaigne was by no means an ethnocentric European - another essay on cannibals defends them by saying they would regard some European customs as quite as strange and abhorrent as Europeans regard theirs. He does think highly of suttee for widows, alas. But then noone´s perfect and this was more than 500 years ago.)

Cabbages then? Ah. Granny first came across the divine Monsieur M when asked to compose a funeral service for husband no 2´s agnostic uncle; who, she was told, had been reading Montaigne only 3 weeks before he died. She opened it up and found an essay called ´to philosophise is to learn how to die.´ Oh yes, she thought, oh yes. (She´s sure the also wonderful Zinnia Cyclamen of www.realefun.blogspot.com must know this too.)

Let´s go on:

At the end of our course is death. It is the objective necessarily within our sights. If death frightens us how can we go forward without anguish. For ordinary people the remedy is not to think about it...no wonder they are caught in a trap. You can frighten such people simply by mentioning death.....(But) we do not know where death awaits us; so let us wait for it everywhere. To practise death is to practise freedom. A man who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave....

Finally - here we come back to cabbages at last - We are born for action: I want us to be doing things, prolonging life´s duties as much as we can. I want Death to find me planting my cabbages, neither worrying about it, nor the unfinished gardening...

So you see. Granny doesn´t know whether he got his wish - or whether he died less pleasantly in his bed or otherwise- though in his day at least, pneumonia still the old man´s friend, he wouldn´t have been cruelly kept alive the way Granny´s old dad was, among others. Seems to her that we could with a lot more of Montaigne´s sense now. She remembers with some dismay a doctor she heard of who said: ´there´s no such thing as a good death.´ And patients in a geriatric ward in Nottingham, filmed during a fly-on-the wall documentary, who when asked as they have to be asked now whether they wanted to be rescussitated in case of heart failure or other mortal problem following surgery all said ´why are you talking about death? I haven´t come here to die. I don´t want to think about death..´ And all of them between 70 and 90 odd years old...I mean to say.

Enough. But you can see that Montaigne would have walked off with a Bloggie award. And you can see perhaps why Granny likes the thought of planting cabbages. Though come to think of it to die while making ice-cream for Sheherazade might do: (a shame not to get to taste it though, she thinks. Hard to live up to M. de M entirely.)

Don't tell me: show me.

OK. Let's go. View from house... to sea.

On the land: the pretties

to the house: apologies (Granny thinks) to ?Vlaminck'

poor little thing

Poor bigger, common thing.

(What granny would like to do is set all these artistically in double rows. BUT SHE DOESN'T KNOW HOW...)

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Intimate stuff

One more note on physical habits turned ritual. Beloved claims that the regularity of his habits - eating sleeping drinking exercising defecating whatever- is a necessary means of physical well-being, whereas Granny's indiscipline in such respects is bound to lead to irritable guts, sleep disorder, pulled muscles, you name it.

This leaves Granny with a happy vision of her organs jostling for attention, jumping up and down inside her squeaking 'my turn, granny..' or complaining vigorously among themselves: eg liver to kidney 'hey, you've had two goes and I haven't had one, it's not FAIR' - or stomach to heart - 'isn't it time you did some of the work you lazy so and so instead of leaving it all to me? - can't you see I'm snowed under?'

Beloved's organs on the other hand, far from sighing in elysian content, are groaning with boredom. 'God here we are day after day doing the same thing at the same time, how about a little variety round here, how about some change? BOR-ING. BOR-ING.'
Granny apologises for this. (To you, readers, not to the contents of her and Beloved's insides. Well or badly treated, they can fend for themselves, have been doing so for more years than they care to count.)

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Memory Lane?

Why IS it called Memory Lane, Granny wonders? Seems more like an effing 6 lane highway to her, packed with cars in both directions, going murderously fast...

No, not dad's vegetable garden

Granny has been reflecting on the connection between habit and ritual, whether they are ever one and the same. A habit of course - even a long established one - is not exactly a ritual in a religious or social sense the way a mass is on the one hand, a yearly Carnival procession on the other. (Carnival, religious in origin, of course, is largely social these days, trailing on through what should be the austerity of Lent.) Yet a habit established over the years, whether a daily one - like cleaning your teeth at a particular time in a particular way- or an annual one like marmalade making or the grape harvest that defines the turning of the year- does become a ritual in a way. It certainly becomes so for the old. Maybe it is part of the way they are able to connect to the past, so hang on to an ever shifting unfamiliar present. (Granny is trying to prevent herself going too far down this road. She does not, for instance, still, have any rules about what time of day she does anything. Though she will admit that over recent years the past - memory of it - has become a more significant component of her present. One reason probably she is writing this.)

Her dad, too, a man of ritual all his life, grew more so as he grew older. He decorated his house every Christmas, put up a tree as long as he lived in his own house, across a courtyard from Granny's brother. Granny remembers with fondness and irritation both, the tone of utter tragedy in which he told her one October - he was 91 or so - 'it really is FRIGHTFUL. There are no berries on the holly this year. What are we going to do at Christmas?'

As for his daily rituals. Granny's school mornings were defined before breakfast by the rhythmic squawk that came from the bathroom where her father was stropping his razor before shaving. And after it by the sight of him advancing on the lavatory clutching his Times, for the daily evacuation of his bowels. Interrupt him never: DON'T DARE. Dad's daily shit was sancrosanct. (And not to be called a 'shit' either in his hearing, if you valued your skin; the word 'fart' was out of order too. Granny is not quite sure how dad did refer to his excretions. She can't imagine him using the term she was told to use for hers 'big jobs ' -as opposed to 'little jobs; or 'spending a penny.' This was long before the use of 'pooh.' )

It is said that Germans are obsessed with their hearts, the French with their livers and Englishman with their bowels. If Dad was an example this is right. Not just Dad either. The historian AJP Taylor claimed that the direction of the First World War was adversely affected by Lloyd George's insistance on holding his War Cabinet first thing in the morning. The similar morning rituals of Lord Robertson's Chief of Staff thus sabotaged, he was not only famously tetchy but also desperate to hurry the proceedings on. (Lloyd George, as a Welshman obviously had no such problems. But then he wasn't trained by a nanny.)

Another thing that turned to ritual for Granny's dad, initially because of the war, was his garden. It's something else Granny finds familiar here - she walks to the local shop serenaded by chickens - at one point by a bored goat popping its head out of a stone enclosure and bleating at her indignantly. In gardens all round potatoes are coming up, rows of onions, leeks, peas, potatoes, cabbages; the small raised mounds in which each sweet potato is planted are sprouting leaves. Just so, give or take the lack of sweet potatoes, the kitchen garden of Granny's youth, in which her father endlessly laboured.

For the last 20 years of his life he contented himself with a flower garden. But throughout her childhood, the familiar sight was of her father digging, weeding or feeding chickens; of her mother bent over strawberry plants or in the raspberry cage, bowl in hand, picking raspberries. The vegetables were wonderful of course. Free range, organic - noone knew o anything else. The downside was the sheer hard labour. If Granny did not rush towards self-sufficiency in the 60s like many of her contemporaries, it was because she remembered all too well the agony of chasing escaped chickens in the dark on wet winter nights; the equal agony of picking frost-covered brussel sprouts for Sunday lunch. Granny and her siblings were often recruited as forced labour,

One reason Dad could manage this of course was his relaxed work pattern. The other reason, during the war, was his being in a reserved occupation - much to his fury - not allowed to join the army and fight like all his friends. Dig for Victory he could, though. He did dig. Besides keeping chickens; and rabbits. (We were allowed to keep two pet ones only. All the rest were for the pot. He and Granny's mother dreamed of keeping a pig too, but they never quite managed that.) All this was not just to the country's advantage either. It was to his and his family's. Rural people who could and did grow their own food were a hundred times better off through the war and the austerity afterwards when rations diminished still more.

At this point Granny's family were still living in the rented house where she and her twin were born - a ravishingly beautiful early 18th century terrace house by the Green, just next to the church. If you walk down through the churchyard today you can still look over the wall and down into the garden below. There is the lawn, backed by a low moss-covered roof, which figure in many Brownie snaps of Granny and her siblings at play. There is the chestnut tree, providing their very own supply of conkers - just over the wall from the tiny grave of Granny's younger brother, who died aged one week in 1944 - another story. There, a little way down, is what used to be Dad's precious vegetable garden. In which, aged four or so, Granny perpetrated the worst - most delicious, most irresistable- crime of her childhood.

He was planting out a row of cabbage seedlings one day. After a while creeping up behind him, she pulled out one seedling just to see what it felt like - how easily - how beautifully it came into her hand. She laid it down and pulled another; then another; the ecstasy of little destructions - the delight of each easy little pull making her forget - almost but not quite - it was part of the pleasure in a queasy way, as was the sight of her Dad's bottom just ahead of her, his his earth-covered hand reaching into trug for each plant - the retribution to follow.

At the end of the row her dad straightened, turned round. Saw each seedling lying on its side. After one look at this face Granny departed rapidly, fled up the garden into the house, hid behind the sofa, pursued first by his bellows then by himself. Her dad only believed in hitting boys - it was called corporal punishment and considered altogether a good thing, even a duty of a parent. Girls were a different matter. Yet Granny does have some vague memory of a smack when he hauled her out from her hiding-place, this time. She can't be sure. The memory of that and any further punishment has been eclipsed by her memory of the guilty pleasure of what incurred it.

As for now: granny's apology for production; her dad never aspired to the chillies or the bananas that Granny is trying to coax into life. Her cabbages appropriately a different matter, she is glad to report that Mr Handsome has bowed to the inevitable and reprieved Granny's cabbage plant. Apart from anything else he's too busy re-varnishing the wood; another victory.

Oh AND the glassman cometh. AT LAST. It's all go on Granny's little island. 'Lunchtime,' urges Beloved another man of habit, not to say ritual.

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