Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: 02/01/2009 - 03/01/2009

Friday, February 27, 2009

Veni vidi vicimus...

The guests came - they saw - and Granny and Beloved seem to have conquered - though they'll know that for sure when and if a review goes up on the Alastair Sawday website. What they do know - it was work work work - is that the guests stayed in for dinner, every night, never mind that the female of the species is a sommelier - wine expert - for a well-known restaurant - and had been a professional chef. 'Now you tell us,' wailed Granny handing out her amateur food the first night.

These visitors did not come for island delights - they saw very little of these - they came for a rest and for hanging out in the sun. WHICH THEY GOT. After the first drear day, the sun shone, the wind did not blow and the happy pair spent much of their time out on the back patio, very happily. Three of the four mornings they even ate breakfast outside, not a pleasure always available on this temperamental - weatherwise - island.

They left yesterday afternoon, after another morning in the sun. At lunchtime the storm clouds began gathering. 'We'll leave a little early,' they said anxiously looking at the sky, 'So as to get to the airport before it starts to rain.' And so they did, only the smell of their unguents, shaving cream, bath oil filling the room upstairs showing that they had come and gone - this business is all about passers in the night leaving no more than such traces of themselves behind. Granny too looked at the sky; and so elected to leap naked into the jacuzzi the moment their car left the drive getting out twenty minutes or so later as the rain began to fall. Which it continued to do, on and off, till 9.30 at night, culminating in a furious storm from 7pm on, thunder, lightening, deluge and all, leaving lakes in the sitting-room and the downstairs bathroom and a much bigger and still existing lake at the bottom of the land. Though that did for Granny and Beloved's hopes of chilling out in front of the telly all evening- NO SATELLITE SIGNAL BEING RECEIVED - announced the screen, severely, the thought of all that lovely free water - the water that wasn't sitting on sitting-room/bathroom/bedroom floors that is - cascading down into the water tank, for the first time this winter owing to the previous process of repair, more than made up for it. And this morning the flowers on the land were all raising faces as happy as Granny's - if smaller - one hen was laying, the birds were singing, you could almost write a hymn about it, if you felt so inclined -morning has broken, yet again, perhaps, something like that. (Or perhaps not.) Never mind the curious murk outside right now, the disappearance of sea and islands from sight, the sense of being on an isolated little plateau in a sea of cloud which is not so joyful in itself but given where it came from cannot be objected to: Granny objects not. More visitors due on Saturday week. But till then, the mice will play - or least this mouse - Beloved mouse is not too hot on playing - he doesn't see the point.

No doors on the stove yet. But it's working all right and since the wind is not blowing it does not smoke, meaning the doors are not strictly necessary. The visitors do not have a fire at home. This was another of the holiday delights with which Granny and Beloved provided them. You see how much they will to do to please..

Friday, February 20, 2009

Go go go

It's all go here.....The water system is now fixed - ironic that all through the winter the lovely rain was wasted because the water tank was not in use- and now it is, now the tank could fill up with the free wet stuff, no rain; that's life. Ah well. But G and B now do have the tank, a valid water company account - the first bill just arrived - and grey water can be used to water some of the vegetables for free, more or less. Oh and there also was a new door for the stove - Granny says was....because supplier of new door clearly didn't understand about woodstoves and the heat thereof, and last night while she Granny and Beloved sat innocently warming themselves the glass quite reasonably objected to what the flames inflicted on it and exploded with a mighty crack, rent from side to side twice over- the rending of the veil of the temple was nothing compared this, she tells you.. Nor was it Beloved's or anyone's fault - other than local ignorance about wood stoves - a shame what with Beloved having admitted - kind of - that the slamming of the old doors might have caused the original problem (you're not going to slam these doors, are you Beloved? - his very subdued 'no', said it all: and more.)

So another broken door and Mr Handsome will be going back to the glass place on Monday - though Beloved and Granny are now arguing about whether the news door should be metal or much more expensive glass. Meantime Granny has actually managed to settle down to a new book - has characters, a plot and is all set to produce yet another heap of paper to join those that haven't managed to find a publisher. The dire way things are in the literary world she can't imagine this will find a publisher either, but heigh ho, she's a writer, so away she goes, plus all that entails - waking in the middle of the night to write stuff down etc (small hours always seem more profitable like that than big ones when she is actually willing to sit down at her desk but nothing wants to come: sod's law.)

And anyway she can't get to her desk: not as much as she'd like. Simultaneously arrive the first guests to be lured by Alastair Sawday....Sunday till Thursday - so she'll have to be off making beds, planning meals, making cakes etc etc etc. Luckily the cleaner turns up this afternoon. So no more slumping in front of the now again working telly of an evening for her and Beloved. He will be playing Mine Host and she will be clearing up - not a division of labour she minds too much - forget the traditional feminist gripes: she will have spent dinner talking to the guests and thinks they will have had more than enough of her by then and vice versa. Beloved, bless him, is much more socially indefatigable and quite happy to go on tippling with them. Good.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fire places

The wonderful woodstove which warms Granny in the evenings has two big reinforced glass doors. It also has a tiled base. The tiled base is full of cracks because Beloved will insist in hacking out kindling for the fire there before he lights it.

'Why can't you make your kindling outside, Beloved?'

'The proper place to make it is on the hearth. These tiles just aren't strong enough. We'll have to replace them with something stronger.'

'Meantime, why don't you cut the kindling outside?'

'No. This is the place to do it. I'll replace them soon.'

Granny sighs and takes to requesting Mr Handsome to cut kindling. Beloved claims it isn't the right kind of kindling and continues to cut his own, to the further detriment of the tiles, which are now more crack than anything else. Granny has prevailed on him to postpone their replacement till the fire is no longer needed. He claims the work should only take a morning but she doubts that very much and Mr Handsome backs her view.

The glass doors to the stove don't fare any better. Beloved never just closes, he SLAMS them. Granny remonstrates from time to time. A few days ago, watching the glass shiver, she said: 'You'll break it if you go on treating it like that.'

'No it won't, ' said Beloved. 'It's much too strong.'

Two days later, when she came into the sitting-room in the morning he said; 'Come and look at what's happened.'

Granny looked. One door is cracked from side to side. 'I warned you,' she said.

'You're making it up, you're always saying you've said things when you haven't.' (Beloved's form of defence, you have to understand, is always attack.) 'I'll get Mr Handsome to put a rivet in tomorrow, that will hold the thing together,'

That night, slam, slam as usual; the broken glass judders more than ever. 'You'll make it come out of its frame, Beloved.'

'No it won't. It's too well fixed.'

When the fire has heated up, Granny gingerly pulls the broken door open; it falls off its hinge at once.

'Now look what you've done?' said Beloved, before Granny can say 'I told you so.' 'You always are so clumsy.'

Mr Handsome has gone off this morning in search of new glass and, possibly, some strong slate to replace the tiles in due course.

Why is that your best Beloved is also the person who annoys you above anyone on earth? And vice versa?

Monday, February 16, 2009


Granny is a heavy dreamer. Something she only minds when she's sleeping badly and for a good part of the night catnaps rather than sleeps. Each segment of that restless dozing contains a dose of disturbing story that leaves her edgy and upset for the first part of the day. (Beloved is sceptical about this. 'If you're dreaming you must be asleep. How can that be disturbing? The dreams aren't real.' Oh but they are - both disturbing and, at the time, all too real; believe her.)

In general though, Granny likes this other world she enters as much if not more than she ever did; her vivid night life seems to extend her day life, even while, in real time, it shortens day by day, has her thinking to herself as she climbs into bed each night: 'another day older' - if not 'deeper in debt' (a freelance, most of her life, Granny has always avoided debt; to her relief now seeing what is happening to everybody else.) Her dreams undisturbed by such problems she enjoys her sleeping life a lot. At times it seems a good deal livelier than her waking one.

She enjoys it too for this reason: she is not old in her dreams - and nor on the whole is anyone else - neither the recognisable members of her friends and family, nor the total strangers she encounters and whose faces she can recall vividly for a while on waking. Last night for the first time she met and hugged her grandfather - an event unlikely in real life as he would have been ninety odd when she was born and had already been dead three years. And even he looked young - dark-haired, tall (in real life he was red-headed and fairly short) much younger than Beloved looks, for instance. The only person with gray hair was a woman she'd been working with cleaning public lavatories - really -Granny takes on some unlikely activities - for her - while sleeping - who suddenly decided to accept the marriage offers showered on her by her French boyfriend, called for some reason Thierry, and who appeared a little later in the dream still gray-haired but with bright red lipstick and some very sexy patterned green leggings. Explain all that someone.

Almost all Granny's dreams are narrative and all are in colour: she can hear, she can smell - she can even taste. One dream a while back provided her with the best coffee she has ever drunk. You can see why she likes dreaming.

Day life is indeed a little blanker at the moment. Yesterday she made a delicious rabbit stew - but that was yesterday; today she will make cauliflower cheese, reminded by Hugh Fernley Whittingstall that it can be delicious. (Beloved who claims cauliflower makes him fart is not so sure; we'll see. There's plenty of wind outside again for sure - cold wind this - though better is forecast.) Over the weekend everyone was out pruning vines: the smoke from the fires made for the clippings dispersed widely in the wind and the vines themselves are all dead gray stumps for the moment: with all the other greens in the flower-covered landscape that's no loss just now. Carnival is due next week and the shops are full of Harry Potter outfits, wizards, devils, supermen, etc etc. Though Granny likes the definite shape of the years here, turning on religious festivals mostly, she wishes they didn't come round quite so relentlessly: hardly is one over when it's back again. Sitting at her desk in the kitchen - warmer than in her workroom- she thinks she should be writing, but disheartened by rejections doesn't quite know what or if she dares, let alone where to start. Even though she knows she'd feel less blank if she did. Writers need to write you know, no matter what. It's what they do. But still, but still. Where next?

Let the dreams come. Maybe, one day, she'll dream a saleable story. That will be the day. The only problem is that stories that seem promising when asleep turn out not to be when you wake up. Pretty much like dreams in real life too - most of them. Shame really.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

dressing gown stuff

11.45 am and Granny is still sitting here in her dressing-gown after hard week, entertaining on and off a group here to discuss - wait for it - rat's whiskers. (Turns out they are the most sensitive whiskers of any animals studied and if replicated - if they can be replicated - by robots could be very useful in macro-cosmic matters - cleaning sewers etc and microcosmic ones - keyhole surgery etc.) 40 odd people, biologists, physiologists, roboticists, computer specialists funded by the EU, came from all over Europe, to pool their research on said, sensitive whisker. At some profit to Beloved who helped organise the event and acted as driver for the scientists' time out sightseeing, and also to Granny who together with him put up the organiser and his family for three days and cooked a lunch for the computer team yesterday.

All this on an island where the weather has improved - lunch was eaten outside yesterday; a group of mainly young scientists due to fly back to snowbound Sheffield that very evening sat in sun hats borrowed from granny (the runcible yellow one from Mallorca, the elegant straw from San Diego, given Granny by an American friend, the green baseball cap labelled Lanzarote -she kept the sun-defying Aussie one for herself) and couldn't imagine why she was talking about it's being winter here - they laughed. 'What do you mean, winter?' (Though maybe they would have appreciated the point better had they sat round the fire in the evening with Granny and Beloved and found themselves glad of it. But by that time they were being entertained by Monarch Airline. Lucky them. Granny is being ironic here. Maybe you didn't realise.) There was a lot of washing-up, afterwards. It's still being done.

Nice creatures, rats: in the right place. (No she is not being ironic this time. She likes rats: in the right place, ie not five feet from her - as they say - anywhere in London, or in the chicken run eating Beloved's chicks, or infected with plague-bearing fleas.) And very clever. Wherever they are.

As usual when visitors arrive Granny has had to shift her clothes round the house and now can't find anything, apart from said dressing-gown - and, of course, the sun hats which decorate the hall when they are not decorating her or scientists' heads. That's her excuse for slovenliness, anyway. She'll go and have a shower now and try and locate her knickers (clean ones, please note, nasty anonymous commentator on last post, now eradicated, she is not that dirty an old woman. So there, you dirty anonymous thing.)

Domesticity. And elsewhere all that snow and the unutterable horror of the fires in Australia. Thank god it's not in the area where Beloved not-so-little Sister lives - but that doesn't make it any less heartrending as far as those other poor wretches are concerned. Oh the fragility of life - yet still, on Channel 5, Neighbours in all its Aussie banality keeps on coming round just as if it wasn't.

On this island meantime, there are now more than 16,000 people unemployed. A large chunk of the indigenous population. Keep on coming scientists/whisker researchers and all: the island needs you.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

drip drip

It's raining, it's pouring, the old man's snoring - well actually he's not, that was last night, along with the old woman: right now he's in the sitting room trying to stop the fire smoking -difficult when there's a south-westerly gale - and trying to watch Time Team - also difficult when it's raining because the signal breaks up. There are guests coming tomorrow wouldn't you know, two parents and two children supposed to be inhabiting the fabulous guest room upstairs (fourposter bed, bathroom with palm tree, annex with bunk beds and windows with fantastic views - when it isn't raining.) Granny has been moving all her stuff downstairs all week, to accommodate them and now has had to move it all back up again, because there are huge winds forecast for tomorrow and that makes the upstairs room rattle and shake and liable to frighten any horse let alone human young; still worse the skylight leaks. So guests will be put downstairs in plainer but more reliable rooms instead, at least for the first night. (But isn't beauty always more difficult to trust? Or is that just Granny sour grapes?)

Meantime email from them bewailing British weather forecast. Maybe they won't get here anyway. Oh dear oh dear. Of course this predictable enough for the British climate. What is less predictable is the way the Canaries, so-called provider of summer in winter for suffering northerners, has this year been so afflicted, putting off tourists in droves, as if the recession, the dire state of the pound wasn't quite enough to be going on with. The pathetic fallacy has gone too far: skies stop weeping for us, please, please, please. So say all of us and that includes the local Canarian press.

But oh aren't the flowers lovely, and didn't Granny have two lovely days last week, sun little wind hammock and a drink on the patio at lunchtime. So it can work, this summer in winter. BUT NOT ENOUGH. Certainly not enough for the tourists shuffling round disconsolately the rest of the time as if this was Scarborough in a wet August.

Let's hope Granny's chocolate cake and the locally grown in season strawberries will recompense the travellers somewhat. If they get here that is.

Click Here