Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Eight Happy Thoughts

I am feeling happy at the moment, so it seems the right time to put together my eight happy thoughts for Cottage Smallholder, who tagged me.

Here are the rules:

Link to the person who tagged you. Then post these rules before your list, and list 8 happy things about yourself. At the end of your list, tag and link 8 other people.

I won't be tagging but please do this if you feel like it.

8 happy thoughts

1. A general feeling of contentment, not felt for some years, now pervades at least some of my days, some of the time.

2. My musical reawakening. Having not been able to listen to music for so long, discovering all these bands I knew nothing about is just fantastic. And I'm turning up the volume, little by little.

3. Time spent with a true and faithful friend. She understands what isolation feels like, has recovered from a multitude of health troubles herself and is in a position to be very supportive on a regular basis of late. We were playing Scrabble recently and I needed to know if 'cak' was a word. Well I know it's a word, but you know what I mean. A real Scrabble word. It wasn't in the dictionary. But then I spotted, and yelled out "Cake!" It was hilarious at the time. And I nearly beat her. With bigger words than cake.

4. Tonight I completed a second beautiful batch of Christmas plum conserve, delicately spiced with cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Rich purple in hue, it's been one of my favourites to make...largely because it is very, very easy indeed. Still planning a cooking and recipe post, so maybe it'll feature.

5. My pottery class. Attendance is sporadic, and I started half way through but it's a 'drop-in when you feel up to it' affair run by the NHS. I'm making things to hang from a tree in the garden, and my son has requested a gnome. If I were skilled enough, I'd make a Heston Blumenthal.

6. Emotional freedom. No longer feeling fettered, oppressed. Exploring freedom, daring to express myself. Wearing different clothes, jewellery even. Still can't be arsed with make-up though. Never was that into it as I recall so it's not an ill thing.

7. My son and I say "I love you" every day. Yeah, okay. But it's as part of bedtime as warm milk and cleaning of teeth.

8. is ace. I'm off there now. Thank you Fluttertongue for introducing me to this totally addictive and brilliant site.

Many bloggers I know are having a rough patch at the mo, and I know I couldn't have done this even a couple of weeks ago as I was feeling very upset, so this is just me saying hey, if I can be happy sometimes then I hope it's catching ;-)

Sunday, 25 November 2007

I lied

Sod cooking, I just found this.

Such a big voice. And such effortless talent, she can still do it whatever state she's in. She may not even have been in a state on this particular day. See how me trying to judge whether or not she was in a state is getting in the way of a really great performance? Even I'm doing it, seconds into this post. And I haven't been party to most of what has been written of late.

Amy Winehouse was just starting to make it when I got ill. I haven't seen or heard much of her since (which puts me in a minority) as until recently I haven't been able to listen to music at all and I don't read the papers. But music videos on TV and stuff on YouTube are helping me rediscover music again. I seem to need the company of the artist to be able to enjoy their music. I can't do it with just me alone with the stereo. Why? I have no idea. I just get scared, or I cry. Sometimes I watch emotional stuff to help me with my emotions. And sometimes I just find stuff and think "Wow." This was one of those occasions.

It's hard not to want Amy Winehouse to pull through. I hate the thought of people buying tickets to see her only to end up going on about how out of it she was. It's sad. This live acoustic cover blows me away.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

When I next post...

It's going to be about what I like about cooking. I've just had a great book delivered aimed at people who for one reason or another struggle to cook. From those who are busy and tired but want to eat well, to those who are totally and utterly unwell but also want to eat well. It's a great book. Plus Goldfish tagged me months ago with the Meme Mut8nt R4 and I have four recipes to post.

I'm just too bloody tired to post at length at the mo, so I'm spending a while researching. Photography is on hold due to inclement and frankly flat weather (can't do anything without decent light). But I am managing some art and sculpture projects, albeit on a small scale. As current interests go, cooking seems to be the thing at present.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

For Real? Surely Not

As I find my stamina and interest for select TV viewing improving, we are branching out from Top Gear and anything to do with nature.
But really, Heston Blumenthal. Having not watched an awful lot of television since becoming ill, I seem to have missed all the fuss surrounding this molecular gastrognome (oops sorry) gastronome.
Tonight I watched, utterly incredulous, as he took what seemed like at least a week to make...a fish pie. To those already familiar with Blumenthal this probably seems completely normal. Those glasses. Are they supposed to look like chemistry goggles? Is he having us on? Or is he serious? Those who dine at his restaurant seem to take him very seriously indeed. I did find it heartening to discover that there is at least one other person out there who favours slow cooking over fast food. But his approach is slow and meticulous. Mine is more slow and confused.
He created a sand and seaspray topping for his fish pie, which included within its velvety depths langoustine tails (he researched stress levels in langoustines to find the optimum flavour) and oysters. His creation of the mash topping defied belief. And when he smoked fish in a squirrel cage using hay... well, let's just say I was left somewhat bemused by the whole spectacle.
He served his creation complete with a side dish of MP3 player housed in a sea shell, so the discerning diner can listen to the sea whilst eating said pie. This new dining experience has involved intensive research at Oxford University. I just fell about the place laughing.

In other news: I have perfected the art of suspending whole chillies in apple jelly. Oh, and I have been listening to music. Sometimes music and cooking at the same time. Blumenthal, move over.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Pass The Bucket

My son has been asked by his school to wear his clothes back-to-front or inside out for Children In Need. As I write, I really wish I'd had a T-shirt printed with some choice words emblazoned on it. But that would be wrong. Using my child as a vehicle for a message I want to put out, well it's not on is it?

A while back David posted this on Jerry Lewis and the MDA Telethon. I love all his observations on the destructiveness of pity. Especially these:

Pity promotes the view of charity rather than the view of inclusion.

Inclusion encourages respectful dialogue to discuss ways to adapt to the obstacles of society.

Pity towards people with disabilities gives society the false impression that disability and happiness cannot coexist.

I have come out against charity events before, and Children In Need and Comic Relief are in my opinion guilty of falling into the pity trap. Well, actually they don't fall into the trap so much as set it. They positively encourage pity. And the people who watch this tripe are generally the ones who can be found humiliating themselves in some cringeworthy charity stunt with a big cheque at the end of it. The rest? I really can't understand why they watch it. But in between telethons, these very same people are the people who will give you a certain look when you are out in your wheelchair, who will say things like "Oh, but you're so young." And other such nonsense.

Of course Children In Need does not just focus on children with disabilities. No, you'll find plenty of Young Carers featured, in need of pity because of their plight. They are generally to be found near a window, gazing out of it wistfully. Children imprisoned by their duty to their disabled parent. Children deprived of laughter, happiness, childhood.

I will say only this. My son and I have experienced far more laughs and happiness since we created an environment where my disability is accepted, talked about, respected and increasingly forgotten as we find things to do that we just enjoy, regardless of my impairments.

The environment we have created is called home. It couldn't flourish within the confines of a relationship that was unaccepting of my disability. So I left and home flourished.

Yet we are frequently on the receiving end of unwelcome pity. Being a single disabled mother, well it must be just bloody awful mustn't it? Hard, yes. But I don't want pity and neither does my son, who has flatly refused to be called a Young Carer. If people locally and on a wider scale could be a fly on the wall, they might be surprised to find that my son is happy here and I am not a freak. I'd like Children In No Need Whatsoever to come and do a film at our house. They may catch us cooking, watching Top Gear, doing homework, having one of his friends over for tea or...laughing, yes that's laughing. Because we do have a laugh. Just like normal people.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Wait For It

I think it will be better to comment on the forthcoming Wallace and Grommit Creature Discomforts disability awareness campaign once the campaign has actually started and there is actually something to comment about.

Yes it's good that it has got so many people talking, but a large proportion of the debate so far has been given over to speculation or angry kneejerk reactions. Let's just wait and see, everyone?

Sunday, 11 November 2007


When Tori Amos released Little Earthquakes I knew it would be one of those albums that stayed with me forever. And this week a particular track, Winter, has been on my mind. If you don't know it, it's all about her bond with her father and even before my Dad died it resonated with me. Now it's unbelievably apt. The lyrics blow me away.

I found this beautiful film on YouTube, and asked if I could share it here. It's one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Happy Birthday Dad

It would have been my Dad's 70th birthday on Tuesday. He died not long after his 60th, in February 1998. My son was born a month later.

This year I cried for a long time, and I'm still crying. And on Tuesday, I actually decided that Tuesday wasn't going to happen. I was determined to make it not happen by staying in bed. Then I noticed the sun was shining. So I got in a taxi and went to the park, and getting out into the sunshine made me feel a bit better.

I had written a lengthy, grief-soaked post to go with these pictures. But I think the pictures are enough. They speak of life, not death. Even as autumn fades into winter and the last leaves fall, there is still the warm light of the sun. In winter I hold my face up to the sun and close my eyes.

So there I was on Tuesday out in the sunshine. And he was there too. We enjoyed the light dancing on the leaves, the wind in the grasses.

The morning my Dad died the sun shone with a brilliance I will never forget. It was February. Perhaps that is why in winter I hold my face up to the sun and close my eyes.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Preserved in Amber

It's lovely how an exchange of ideas can develop a train of thought. Thank you Cusp.

Yesterday's post was all about how I have come to discover that cooking and photography help me stay grounded in the moment. There is a definite connection here. And amber is one of the colours to have infused my life these past few weeks.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

They Dined On

Edward Lear wasn't talking complete nonsense you know. The sheer romance of dining on quince would surely lead anyone to dance by the light of the moon.

Yesterday my son and I cooked a fair few quinces in a variety of ways. Above is poached quince which you simply stick in the oven with water and sugar and leave for three to four hours. We also made a tarte tatin with quince slices nestling among the apples. It was heavenly. A classy and very, very easy dessert. We spent an enjoyable hour or so in the kitchen. I have somehow acquired a second perching stool along the way (accepting the delivery in a fog before realising I already possess one) and so we perched together over the stove stirring bubbling quince jelly, making the tarte tatin and checking the oven every so often. The most beautiful scent filled the whole house. I hope my son will remember it as smells are just so evocative and we really did have a lovely time. He is becoming a highly skilled pastry chef. And he told me he's glad I'm cooking again. So am I.

It was one of my biggest losses when I became ill, to lose the ability to cook, and then later, to digest food. I remember crying my eyes out at a Radio 4 piece about a woman with cancer who described her last meal before having to give up solids altogether and be tube-fed for the rest of her short life. It will be ten years in February since my Dad died of cancer, and I think seeing him slowly robbed of the pleasures of eating was one of the hardest things to witness.

So for me, becoming reacquainted with food, pushing the boundaries, slipping up sometimes but generally now enjoying what I eat is something I never take for granted. I don't have cancer, but I did experience what malnutrition can do to you when you have a chronic illness. With single motherhood has come the necessity to cook far more regularly. This can be tiring, but rediscovering cooking, and I mean cooking for pleasure, has been a delight. I really believe that with careful planning ahead and a wise choice of low maintenance recipes it is possible to eat well and improve your quality of life in the process.

I have the Cottage Smallholder to thank for inspiration on the quince front. And I am reassured to know, reading her posts on quince jelly and other recipes, that I am not the only one to be smitten. What other fruit can give you cordial, syrup for ice cream, dulce de membrillo (served with cheese in Spain) and a tasty addition to apple pie? And then there's the jelly, which really is something else.

I think my current thing for making jam and chutney runs far deeper than I realised. It is helping me reconnect with food, and with nature. Fresh produce from the farmers' market, from the best orchards in England indeed, can be transformed into really wonderful stuff. It's also a memory thing, a bit like my love of photography. I do it because I enjoy it but also because for one with significant cognitive problems, it preserves the moment. Before cooking and photography too many moments were just lost to me. These are my anchors, my connections with life and the beauty around me. Remembrance of Things Present.