Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: 02/01/2008 - 03/01/2008

Friday, February 29, 2008


Granny could say -she does - that she feels called to write her second post in two days because of that once-every-four-years, rare date. 29th February. Every minute of such a day should be savoured: only problem is it feels much like any other day, and here she is in front of her computer trying to gear herself up to starting on a new piece of work, her brain this time full of porridge. Nothing rare there. It is also, probably the real reason she's writing this post, if she's honest. Escape from reality, obligation, that's all. Forget rare date.

Porridge? you ask. Or she does. Porridge comes to mind as legacy of dear old friend who left for her home in Ireland yesterday. Every morning she made herself porridge and a jar still half full of her rolled oats remains. Granny decided to make herself some this morning; she ate it - Scotsmen among you turn away here or else faint with horror - mixed with yogurt, raisins and orange juice which happens to be the way she likes it. She also ate it sitting down, in the doorway leading out to the back patio to be precise, with the radio playing behind very loudly - Beloved who would be shuddering like the rest of you as a good Scot - and doesn't like music played loudly at any time - was out.

Granny's father used to eat his porridge standing up. That's the way men are supposed to, Beloved says - he remembers once being taken by his surgeon father to stay with a Scottish laird somewhere. It was a big house-party. There were a lot of men and at breakfast they all marched round and round the table spooning up their porridge - managing somehow not to bang into one another: Granny envisages it as kind of ballet with the women, sitting at the table, swaying gently in time. She doesn't know whether the women were allowed to eat their porridge seated; or whether they weren't allowed to eat it at all, whether porridge, like whiskey, was reserved for men.

Why were gin and sherry considered suitable drinks for women and not whiskey and port? There's something tribal and taboo about it: Englishmen/Scotsmen - upper-class ones in this case -no less primitive this way - if it is primitive - than any stone-age tribe, with their foods for men and foods for women. As she sips her single malt in front of her Canarian fire, Granny remembers the time she came home from Oxford after developing new tastes: for real coffee on the one hand, considered snooty of her by her parents and far too expensive for every day, whiskey on the other. She really did not like Nescafe; and she hated - still hates - gin. What she liked was real coffee and whiskey. She was baffled by the storm that erupted when asked at six o'clock, the suitable hour for alcohol, if she would like a drink, she answered 'a whiskey, please.' At such an unfeminine request - she hadn't realised it was so unfeminine and would not have cared if she had - she thought her father was going to throw her out of the door: if he didn't have a heart attack first, that is. Weird.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

problems problems...

First problem as Granny arrives at that threatening site labelled 'New Post' - she doesn't seem to have anything to say....either her head is full of sludge or dead wood or it's just plain empty - leaving aside the matter of a skull, cranial matter, the odd neurone, you know the sort of thing. All of them at the moment like empty pots - or was it sounding brass? - signifying nothing. She's quoting the Bible here -she thinks: she was brought up on Bible as was dear old friend just departed; you didn't have to be a heavy fundamentalist to be brought up on the Bible in those longer-departed days. And it did put some pretty good words in your head; instead of the deadly prose of the Good News Bible ('God said to the snake. You will be punished for this.'.) you got good thunderous seventeenth century English. ('On thy belly thou shalt go..'), Forget religion. Think myth, literature... LET THERE BE LIGHT. Not to mention a burning fiery furnace...

Actually there is not too much light here just now, let alone burning. Just haze, probably come from the Sahara - the north Sahara in this case. So the wind is cold. Shame dear old friend didn't get better weather. She got good flowers, though, thanks to the rain, she got good food, thanks to Granny and Beloved. But she and Granny went on more nostalgia trips than tourist trips - neither of them, they agreed, would want to be eighteen again which is when they last knew each other well - let alone back to the fifties, where they grew up alongside each other.

On the other hand, Granny is thinking now, there was something to be said for that time - and the sixties and seventies, come to that - times you didn't feel compelled to go around inspecting every label, every provenance, for every type of food, every type of garments, reading spectacles donned, perched on end of nose, to peer at small print. (Right on Granny is full of environmental guilt, you see - maybe this, like her liking for seventeenth century syntax, is the the result of all that Bible study.) Once upon a time, there was just food and clothes: a much less wide choice of food, admittedly and not nearly such nice clothes. In Granny's and dear friend's youth, women of their age didn't go around in jeans, fleeces, smocks, crocs, Birkenstocks, etc, all the comfortable stuff; it was high heels, stockings, permed hair, powdered noses, not so simple in that way; Suspender belts: too easily laddered nylons: frizzed hair.

And you wouldn't then (mostly) have got to be an expat in nice climates either, the way Granny is, not unless you were exceptionally adventurous. But this, too, is getting awkward:carbon footprints and all that, Granny's cup of guilt altogether overflowing, as she goes to and fro to visit her family. She thinks back wistfully to those times in her life you just bought, wore, travelled your travels - if you could: when like sex, after the Pill arrived, there appeared to be NO problem. (Apart from the Bomb, of course. But she tried not to think about that.)

But sex turned out not to be so simple, did it? Maybe it was the AWFUL WARNING. After lots of lovely problem-free sex along comes AIDS, along come Chlamydia, Herpes, etc etc. So what do you know? You got free, then you got frightened: the wages of sin and all that. Back to the Bible.

Dear Beautiful Wimp went fishing yesterday and got his nose nipped by a crab. His wages of sin maybe - not that this would have occurred to him. Lucky dog. On the other hand Granny wouldn't want to be a dog. Or a man, come to that. So there you go.

Friday, February 22, 2008


Ovagirl of L'eggs Up and Laughing has given Granny an award which she hasn't been able to acknowledge owing to her total failure to copy it to her site, despite copious instructions ('right click on it, no I mean left click': you know the kind of the thing.) It would be something to do with having a MAC rather than a pc: that's her excuse anyway. AND SHE'S STICKING TO IT.

Kind Ovagirl has now sent her a version she can put on WORD and copy here at least if not on her sidebar. So here it is.

Except it isn't. Deep sigh. Blogger evidently doesn't like WORD either. Back to drawing board. And if you want to see the award hop over to Ovagirl of L'Eggs Up and Laughing (on Granny's side bar) and you can see for yourself just what your very own Granny has been awarded.

Thank you Ovagirl.

Now this: Ovagirl's blog has re-emerged as a book, called Legs Up and Laughing, published by Murdoch Books and available on Amazon. Granny has just read it from beginning to end. To many of us to whom IVF is not, personally, a burning issue - Granny not least - long descriptions of its author - Vanessa Bates' - long struggles with the process might not seem the most thrilling of subjects. But believe her, this is. It IS. It is hilariously funny ('if you don't stop laughing,' said Beloved grumpily when Granny was reading Legs Up alongside him in bed, 'I'm going to sleep downstairs. I can't stand the noise.' Granny was restrained enough not to mention the equally irritating chipmunk beep beep noise of his electronic chess game which nightly afflicts her and did her best to contain her mirth.) Alongside IVF are long passages of autobiography, Vanessa growing up in Malaysia and Australia, her activist Philippino mother, her mother's death from breast cancer, her strict father's re-emergence with his second wife as active supporter of Gay Rights (even to appearing at a Mardi Gras procession throwing leaflets while dressed in minimal hotpants) Vanessa's own very strong marriage, surviving all the horrors of the medical procedures, her early career in a variety of animal guises, moving and sometimes just as funny, all of it conveyed in sensuous vivid prose. She is quite a writer; Granny is envious of her command of words, images, details. It's all just as engaging, thrilling as any novel. GO READ.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Well, well. The good news: the dread fourteen of February is good and over; no more nightly rumbles from Beloved as the TV ads rumble past - 'commercial rubbish' etc etc- she'll spare you the full text. The bad news: next up is Mother's Day - known as Mothering Sunday in Granny's youth. More rumbles from the sofa as further misuse of red roses etc is suggested on the small screen, to the benefit of all the those evil capitalists. (No, Beloved is not a raving Marxist. Granny is re-phrasing a little.) The only problem here is that Granny rather likes Mother's Day, being a mother herself you understand; not to mention a Grandmother. 'But you're a mother all the year round,' protests Beloved, 'what's one day got to do with it?' You do not get it, Beloved, do you? Granny does not try to explain, just smiles as sweetly as she can and prepares for/hopes for loving phone-calls, whatever, from her young, on the day, assuming they come, plus deep wounding/ indignation if they don't.

So sorry, Beloved. And no, he does not count on attention come father's day. Shame, really.

Meantime Granny is suffering a weird wound, attendant on living in a province where prickly pears are grown. She does not process the prickly pears that appear every year on her land. The spines are lethal, and the results of braving them insipid. They do appear in the shops sometimes de-spiked, in theory, but not usually at this time of year. Yesterday, in a very good new greengrocer which has sprung up recently in the town where she goes to do her ecological shopping, there were some small fruits emanating from Tenerife that she did not recognise: they bore no obvious signs of prickles. Which does not mean to say there weren't any. She picked up one small pink fruit. 'Ouch' she said. 'Ouch' said old schoolfriend, simultaneously, she too, equally unwisely, having done the same. Granny, still more unwisely, put a sore finger to her mouth. No doubt now of the nature of the little fruit: she has had, since yesterday, a virtually invisible, seemingly unshiftable spine, lodged at the end of her tongue. Even Beloved with all his veterinary skills can't dislodge it. Any ideas anyone? None? Granny fears she will have to wait till the bloody thing dislodges itself.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Catch up

Sorry world - small world maybe but still all Granny's- at least for the moments this world spends reading her not-so-immortal prose. What with one thing and another she's been busy. At the moment, in particular, she is right back in her distant past, entertaining oldest of old friends, the only one she kept from her old school - the one Princess Diana attended later. (Old friend taught Diana art briefly - she went back to the school to teach for a while - and said she was a very ordinary, not very bright little girl, good only at swimming and looking after the school guinea-pigs....try and extrapolate the future from that. Granny can't.)

Granny, many years ago, stole old friend's grandfather's house and turned it into Aviary Hall, the background to her first children's novel - The Summer Birds - and the third too, and, though by this time at long distance, even for Charlotte Sometimes. Aged thirteen/fourteen /fifteen she remembers Sunday lunches in this house that were so interminable that she is surprised the lunches are not still going on, now, this minute. Old friend seems very forgiving of the thievery. Good. For the rest she and Granny delve into, play about with, memories, stories of till now long-forgotten people, long-forgotten events, filling in each other's gaps. It's VERY boring for Beloved - who puts up with it, just about. The importance of this particular friend, Granny realises more and more, is that she is the only person anywhere in Granny's life who knew her family, her long-dead mother, her long-dead twin - her old friend was also very close friends with her; for a time a much closer friend than Granny was with either, family life being what it is. Past lives, all gone, surface: bits of life stories, of the life lizard's life tails/ tales, long cut off, flicker back sometimes painfully, sometimes enjoyably into the present. Ah time. TIME. What a bugger it is, stealing so much away, hiding it: destroying it.

Before then Granny was writing and re-writing Going Mental - which has now, much shorter, more plotted, been dispatched back to editor for further comment. Granny's second husband, the doctor, also an academic and writer, couldn't make out Granny's method of working at all. 'Your books are all afterthoughts!' he complained. Which says it exactly. That's how writing - narrative - plot-fixing - is.

Meantime, island life goes on; lots of rain fell; lots of wind blew and dried it all up again. Locals have been pruning their vines and burning the clippings. Granny can tell the way the wind blows - that kind of wind - from the direction of the smoke. And oh, it's carnival time again. New lights have gone up where some of the Christmas lights were- cats with masks on this time. Yesterday, towards dusk, the carnival procession wended its way through the town. The main carnival float prize this year was won by a devil-worshipper's temple - creepy stuff - the third prize was a penguin. (Really.) The second prize float did not turn up. No Brazilian stuff up here, either- vast feathery head-dresses - camp choreography - semi-nudity - nor the local, ancient, diabolitos. But there was some very nice bees with stings on, complete with baby bee. A good time seemed to be being had by all, judging by the noise and the flourished beer cans; the music went on all night.

Luckily Granny, Beloved, old friend, live too far away to hear.

Cheers, world: sometimes she loves you. No, no, of course not, she always loves you. CHEERS.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Hard to explain to someone who has not experienced this, that a perfect looking day, clear sky, bright sun can be horrible. But that is how it is here when the east wind blows, straight from the Sahara, the way it is doing today. The dust is rising, sea and islands are no longer visible. Granny stays indoors as much as she can. Her skin is growing old fast enough without her allowing the dry dry vicious wind, the vicious sun, to speed the relentless process.

'What's wrong with getting wrinkles?' asks Beloved. He doesn't get it, does he? Which explains,why this man who comes upstairs and just jumps into bed - 'I have cleaned my teeth,' he says virtuously - why he's so baffled by the time Granny takes to join him, what with all the cleaning off, rubbing in, etc etc etc, she goes in for. 'Why do you need all that?' he asks, crossly.

Granny does think, looking round her generation, very few of whom look like women of her age used to look in her mother's day, that the advent of decent creams, more idea of a healthy diet, more exercise, the decline of smoking, changing views about the appropriate hairstyles, wear, demeanour, of the old has helped them look, if not spring chickens exactly, not quite so like the human equivalent of boiling fowl that her mother's generation mostly did. Catch a middle-aged let alone elderly woman permless, wearing jeans then? No, never. (Actually Granny's mother did have a pair of red jeans, but she only ever wore them at home.) Boiling fowl does taste good, for sure, if cooked for a long time. But Granny is not ready for the pot yet; nor does she feel it. Or look it.

She cleans up her skin each night. She rubs in her creams, night and morning. She flosses her teeth and cleans them for far longer than her Beloved thinks necessary.

'You'll do in the enamel. Except what's on your teeth isn't enamel, it's...(Granny has forgotten the precise scientific term he gave her) why can't they get it right?'

'Because they're all like me; pig ignorant,' she says, turning off her toothbrush at last and coming to bed, smiling and smelling sweetly.

But sometimes she wishes that females aged - or rather didn't age - like birds, at least the ones not deprived of their feathers. There is a famous picture of an ornithologist somewhere - or rather two pictures, forty years apart -of him holding the same seabird - a fulmar. The bird looks the same in both pictures. This cannot be said of the ornithologist.

Granny knows -at least in terms of ageing - which she would rather be. She does not even try to put this point to her Beloved. It's a waste of precious breath.

She does know his attitude is the healthier one: probably. And that the curse of the ages is mirrors everywhere you look, so that you can't avoid the horror, ever. Never mind. What is nice to know is that she is loved, would be loved, wrinkles notwithstanding. Isn't Beloved lovely?.... he is lovely - most of the time.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Home again

On Friday, as promised, Granny added to her carbon footprint and here she is again, gazing out on her land, on the sea and the islands out there. Yesterday it was cloudy, today it isn't, but in each case the light is weird, bringing the distant islands into close-up, turning the sea slate grey yesterday, slate blue to day. It is cold: this is the coldest time of year. She is huddled up in wool and trying not to use her heater, though she may be forced to later to overcome the dismay of ripping apart Going Mental yet again. Next draft will be fifth or there about. It has never been harder to get a book right, especially when the prospect of getting such a book published in the present climate recedes ever further. In the publishing industry things are dire. It is too late for Granny to chop some bits off herself, add others, go blond, turn herself into a WAG or minor celeb - even if she was young enough she doesn't think she could do bubbly vapid well enough; or not that kind of vapid anyway. But if she could she might have some hope of publishing something; anything. Her agent reported one editor's comment on one celeb 'author.' 'Does she write her books herself?' the agent had asked, 'No, of course not, but at least she's very interested in what goes in...' Groan from Granny.

Still, as the editor who's currently ripping her apart says: some good books do get out there. Indeed they do; but it's a matter not just of merit these days but zeitgeist and a lot of luck. And many more good books - brilliant books - don't get published. The weird thing is that the harder it gets to publish such books the more people are out there trying to write them: Granny is not alone. And at least she can say - being philosophical - if not in the abstruse way her Beloved would like her to be - she, as well as any other dog, has had her day. Though she is still hoping - vainly so far - for another one, she can at least say that.

For the rest: 'no rain,' says Beloved. 'Nothing has changed since you went away.' Oh yes, it has. 'Hath not the guy eyes?' she asks him. The place is covered in flowers that weren't flowering when she went away. And the grass is nothing like so green. But Beloved doesn't do flowers, merely beasts and it is Granny who wanders round her land marveling, as always at this time of year. Wild marigolds all over, small purple flowers she still can't put a name to, brilliant little blue pimpernels which sting your hand if your pick them, etc etc etc. Apart from which Ruby the friendly brown goat is definitely pregnant, one hen might be a cockerel, the bantams are laying, the bloody terrier continuing to gobble up the cat's food. All an antidote in Granny's head for the difficult things elsewhere which continue to haunt her. She remembers her father saying once in his late eighties: 'all my friends/generation are either dead or hopelessly decrepit.' Granny's are nowhere near that yet. And she prays none of them will suffer the fate of one of said decrepit friends, her godfather as it happened, who spent his life roaming the north Lancashire moors with his dog and his gun until the day he shot the dog by mistake. Whereupon he came in, sat down in his chair and scarcely got up again with predictable effects on his head and body, both. He had no children, grandchilden to cheer him up unfortunately, only a thereafter much put-upon and sad wife.

As she gets older Granny reflects on such stories, shuddering. You see why she needs the pregnant goat, the marigolds, the pimpernels, above all her Beloved, whose fingers these days are covered in little pinpricks as part of his efforts at a long - longer - life. He is now on Warfarin for his slightly erratic heart, and monitoring himself. It reduces his chances of a stroke, considerably, if not to zero, from this cause, even if it does up his chances of a brain haemorrhage very slightly: but that's modern medicine for you, off with one danger - hat - on with another. Granny is thankful not to be on any sort of medication herself, even if, thanks to her faulty genes she faces, has faced since she was forty, the danger from the very same sometimes fatal lurgy currently afflicting her dear friend. Who had another operation in London yesterday and of whom Granny is thinking very hard. Even from far away such things cannot be forgotten. In some ways it is even harder to forget them. At least dear friend is now in good hands - at the Royal Marsden no less - fully functional again. Following the pre-Christmas dramas, though, it still stinks, horribly, of smoke. Granny on her visit there with friend did not find this reassuring. 'Inferno' near as dammit, means in Spanish 'hell.'

On the other hand - here she is on her island - and out there in the kitchen Beloved is making garlic soup - a Spanish recipe, containing water, stale bread, garlic - lots and lots - and tomatoes; if that doesn't sound alluring well it is; the Spanish equivalent of that famous English dish for invalids, 'bread and milk' and much much nicer, believe it please. It is Granny's absolutely favourite comfort food. And the smell drifting through to her now is almost as good. In half an hour or so she'll be in heaven, supping it up. Whoopee.

Click Here