Sand - flies
No pictures today. No islands. Beyond the immediate landscape all Granny can see sitting here at her desk, looking out of the window (if you want to know which window, it's the left hand one of the small windows between the two big ones in the picture above) all she can see is a hideous yellow fog; dust from the Sahara, plus dust/sand from this island, blown up, torn up, thrown in. A calima has arrived; an east wind, not hot like in the summer, or icy cold, like in the winter, something in between, but dry, dry, dry, distressing animals, people, plants, withering skin, hair, petals, fur, leaves - Granny's precious nasturtiums, leaves as well as flowers droop, their edges burnt - poor things, they're directly in line. Eyes smart, noses run, respiratory problems abound all over the island. Upstairs, above her head it sounds like a party of out-of-order people shrieking, yelling, banging around, making a nuisance of themselves.
This is the first serious day of it - there'll probably be two more at least. No warning either - for some reason the Sahara is sneaky, it never or rarely lets the weather forecast system know in advance. It creeps north makes a smash and grab raid on the wind and drags it round to the east. And there we are; desert in the air and on the ground. Birds blown about rather than flying. Animals staying undercover. The only creatures unfazed are the bloody flies. They should have gone by now, it's November for god's sake. But this year nothing diminishes them; rain, cold, heat, non-typhoon, calima. Here they still are crawling on everything. There's two on Granny's typing hands even now. Go away little black bastards. I'm not even sweating now it's all dried up; I'm no use to you. GO AWAY.' (Obviously they can read. They've gone. For the moment.)
Granny doesn't go out on such days, not if she can help it. At least she has the choice. Poor Beloved at the moment doesn't. He's been hi-jacked to teach at Mr Jonah's school. The biology master left at a moment's notice, leaving two A level groups without a teacher. So there he is, setting everyone by the ears. His pupils don't seem to know what's hit them. 'It's the first time anyone ever made them think,' says Mr Jonah's wife. (Possibly this is not a tactful statement, her husband being the headmaster.) 'They're all pig ignorant.' says Beloved 'God knows how they passed GCSE. They can't even name the classes of animals, and their defining characteristics.' (Nor can Granny actually, at least the latter; but let's let that pass. Did you know that the defining character of amphibians - think frog - is the capacity to breathe in the air, while breeding underwater? No? Or maybe you did know. Probably - you're all so very much better informed not to say cleverer than she is. Just like Beloved.)
Equally fazed is the person in charge of school supplies. Within the first two days Beloved had demanded: a fish tank; a hundred small plastic beakers; a recently dead rabbit. Actually the supply man seems quite intrigued - this is a livelier list than usual. The fish tank has arrived already. So have the plastic beakers. The newly dead rabbit is on its way. The chemistry teacher meanwhile, also short of supplies, is still waiting, or she complains. Evidently the odder your list the quicker the supply man jumps. Perhaps the chemistry teacher needs to turn her pupils into Harry Potters, doing witchy kinds of chemistry - whatever that is. Maybe that way she'd also get served more quickly.
Back home at the ranch - here - it means Granny is doing much more of the cooking; not that she minds. She likes it. Not least it means much more in the way of vegetables; and salad. (Beloved is not big on salad, not of the leafy kind.) It also means many fewer dirty saucepans: Beloved's cuisine involves almost every saucepan in the kitchen simmering away; - all too often boiling up prawn shells; one of Granny's least preferred smells this always drives her away, which maybe is Beloved's intention. She admires the way he uses up everything; he is an economical cook. She wishes he didn't forget all too often that he is cooking oddments up. Almost every saucepan has been burnt at some point, its bottom by now irredeemably coated; non-stick saucepans do not remain non-stick saucepans very long in this house. If he doesn't forget what he's cooking, he leaves it cooling on the stove- cooling at first, then just lurking. 'What's this?' asks Granny, eying some dubious mixture. 'Oh,' says Beloved. 'I forgot about that. I was making stock/a sauce/the beginnings of a stew. We'd better not eat it now, I'll give to the dogs - or the chickens.' It's another of his virtuous economies, saving left-over lettuce, vegetable cuttings, bones, cheese rinds, saucepan contents for the dogs or chickens. Granny is all for this. You could say it was his version of saving the planet. But she does wish he'd remember to cover the bowls and saucers and saucepans from time to time. Even if she doesn't love them the flies do. She goes round at intervals with saucepan lids, plates, wire covers and hides them.
As she also wishes he'd learn Spanish. A man who can remember and expound complex concepts and theories, Beloved is hopeless on words, language. (Poetry? Forget it.) He does try; but in Spanish his small amount of trying hasn't got him very far. Investigating the freezer Granny finds a packet which says (she can read Spanish, she is translating -roughly) Prawn pieces for fisherman. Not fit for human consumption. )
'Are you thinking of going fishing, Beloved?' she enquires.
'Then what have you bought this for?' She translate the message word for word.
'Oh' says Beloved. 'I thought it was very cheap when I bought it.'
Granny has an awful thought. The packet has been opened. 'You haven't been feeding us on it, have you?' she asks.
'No,' says Beloved. 'I had a bit once while you were away. It didn't do me any harm. I'll give the crab some. The chickens can have the rest.'
Please believe, possums, he is really a good cook. Just a bit absent-minded that's all. Just as well she's around to keep an eye on him.