Ten past five and it suddenly pours with rain for six minutes … Sitting comfortably on the sofa with some coffee, I'm not unduly bothered but do wonder if it's a sign of things to come. I check the online edition of the Guardian again and it quite definitely says that it was going to rain here at four. Where will it end? And then it dawns on me... I'm not going ga-ga. I've been taken prisoner by the web.
Fortunately, after a couple of weeks of feeling like death after a bad reaction to some pills, I'm feeling almost human again and can put the laptop down and join the real world again. Perhaps plan a day out. An hour or two on the train, a good lunch and buying some new shoes will be quite exciting enough to start with … and I'll throw caution to the winds, not checking the weather before I go.
An elephant dressed in Kevlar and lace, a quickstep with a terrier, a lead, his owner and her rollator ( it became rather macrame-like till we could all realign ourselves ), coffee with Shakespeare's Wife on the train, the chance to play with a four year-old and a silver foot ball and to top it all, a magic cookery book…
Or maybe, had the sun not been shining, I would just have written that the Groninger Museum had decided to stage an exhibition of everything animal-related hidden in their vaults, including the life-size elephant, a dragon and a conveyor belt. That the terrier had wound himself so successfully round the rollator's wheels that his owner was stranded between me and the bus and it seemed rude to shove her aside rather than help. That Germaine Greer's book, grabbed from the pile by my bed, was entertaining with breakfast on the train. Or that waiting in a draughty bus station, the little boy was having a wonderful time shooting penalties with a tiny football made by his big brother out of rolled-up silver paper from a few chocolate bars.
And the cookbook? My favourite secondhand bookshop had it in their 50 cent box, obviously unaware of the magic recipe inside … Above a yellowing early '60s illustration of something orange-ish, it promised everyone's warming favourite, Tomato Soup. The list of ingredients is economical in the extreme: 1 litre of cold water, 5 tomatoes, 2 cloves. And the method? Boil for 35 minutes. Season if necessary. Yum!
When you're asked what you did at the weekend and you have to admit to going to a lecture on how to wean your pet onto a vegetarian diet, you'll get funny looks.When you do, just smile in return and change the subject. Don't tell them that you'd only been siezing the chance to sit down for a few minutes.
In fact the whole thing was rather accidental. I had a free train ticket to use up … it hasn't been the weather to go anywhere recently … and somehow Veggie World, a vegan and vegetarian festival seemed to offer an interesting afternoon out and the chance of endless, interesting nibbles.
I tried everything from non-dairy grated "Parmesan" non-cheese ( really non-nice!) to nuggets made from beans, quinoa and an alarming amount of chili ( not for children, then ), lactose free yoghurt, a gluten-free vegan lasagne (disappointing) and mountains of hummus and vegan mayonnaise, even an everything-but-sugar-free Caesar salad dressing which rather oddly seemed to glow in the dark.
All the cakes, biscuits and pies were very nice as were all the juices and soups. All the teeshirts, posters and cookery books were beautifully designed and everyone was cheerful and obviously well fed.
I'm slightly reassured that Small Grandson who, at seven, seems to have already decided not to eat meat won't expire but, though I've cut down on the amount of meat I eat, I'm not ready to join him. When someone makes some really convincing bacon, I might think again. But I can certainly recommend it as an afternoon out.
"Life is a near-death experience. Stumble around in giddy gratitude while you still can''
This quote from Jen Sincero popped up in a book by Lisa Genova today and I thought I'd share it with you. I usually avoid all these homilies like the plague and don't have embroidered cushions exhorting my guests to count their blessings dotted about but this appealed because it describes this week perfectly.
The sun shone, the birds sang and all the early bulbs are flowering. Sitting outside Starbuck's in the sun, hearing about Friend's homework and her teaching practice with young teens, I gave thanks for being old enough to retire.
There are things about retirement I don't much like. It can be very quiet at times and you miss the mid-morning gossip, but I don't miss the endless meetings about whether we should insist on every child only bringing fruit for snacks or allowing bread and butter as well or just not having any rules at all and running the risk of biscuits or croissants. The political correctness got a bit wearing and, in fact, the one boy who I saw helping his mother last Christmas in the supermarket had invariably had an iced bun in his snack box when he was three. Rules per se don't bring out the best in people and the average pre-schooler's morning doesn't normally revolve round having a banana or carrot sticks. I expect this lad was carrying four shopping bags and herding his mum to the bus stop out of affection.
But retirement does have its advantages … I find I quite like life on the wild side. I like being free to do what I please a lot of the time. I might well go in for some giddy gratitude tomorrow ...
It's finally happened. I've turned into my mother, as we all do eventually.
While she was still alive, we'd usually all come together for Christmas, squash into our old house, eat too much, reminisce and enjoy each others company. Since there weren't quite so many of us then, we could all just about fit into the same car and go off in the afternoon for an outing. My mother would sit happily in the passenger's seat, listening to the radio.
Our local radio station had its firm favourites and a short playlist. That year it, like the rest of us, had been impressed by Titanic. Wherever we went, the blasted song would come on before we'd reached the end of our road and my mother would pipe up , "Who's that singing?". And everybody would chorus, "It's Celine Dion, Granny".
The other day I was sitting in the hairdresser's, trying to remain positive about my fringe, when there was something about the song on the radio … "Who's that singing?".
Yes of course, it was Celine Dion and her new song, whatever it's called…….
No, it hasn't snowed once today. Had it not been freezing, I would have drunk my coffee on the balcony. Yesterday we only had a lot of wet white stuff that melted on its way down, at about knee height . The crocus are waking up in the park. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
Winter even makes getting dressed in the morning rather boring . Hugely heavy thick green jumper or hugely heavy thick grey jumper? ( Am I the only person left, old enough to remember when sweaters came in a wide variety of colours every year? When we didn't all look as though we'd Xeroxed ourselves?)
Last week it snowed every day and I spent most of it under a blanket, reading a pile of paper backs. I can really recommend 'The Watchmaker from Filigree Street', 'Half-Sick of Shadows' and 'Moon over Soho', having thoroughly enjoyed them all, especially the first.
But now I'm all magicked out, I've mooned over a huge pile of American museum catalogues, made a variety of vegetable soups and have started to make myself bacon sandwiches again ( definitely frowned on by the cholesterol police ) so I'd better have my hair cut and go for a Day Out. The Femmes Fatales exhibition in Den Haag sounds good … the Dior exhibition in London sounds good, too, but unfortunately Days Out can only really last 24 hours in the real world. Never mind, it's Blood Orange time again and three different people today assured me that the snow's finished for this year so it's onwards and upwards. ??
Smitonius kindly emailed me a shot of her baking and I thought I'd share it with you to spread the cheer. If I've been overoptimistic and it snows again tomorrow I'll make some muffins and eat them all before the day's out … after another bacon sandwich.
The party-ing is over. Huge fun while it lasted; a surfeit of fattening food … TWO Christmas puddings, eight sorts of cheese, three sorts of ham, far too many biscuits and Janet's Bubble and Squeak …. but it seems sensible to stop now before I go pop!
Though, since it's snowed this week, there's a little voice in my head saying, "You need your calories, my girl" and I think of walking through the snow to school when I was quite small, sucking a boiled sweet my mother had given me 'to keep me warm' (ironically she later became a dental nurse).
Fortunately there's a bigger voice pointing out that if I want to button up my jeans, I'd better not eat a large bowl of porridge, two bananas and a leftover sausage every day for breakfast … oh, alright, just this once, then…
Trouble is having vivid memories of being housebound the last time we had days and days of black ice, I've stocked the flat with enough food to feed the neighbourhood for a fortnight.
Luckily there have been a couple of good exhibitions locally and wandering round the Fries Museum's Rembrant And Saskia , Love and Courtship in the Golden Age a couple of times has kept me fit. Add to this a quick skip round Nubia, Land van de Zwarte Faroa's in Assen's Drents Museum and I'm still only slightly chubby. And I've got a lovely post card of a white Nubian cat on my fridge door.
SmitoniusAndSonata is a mother and daughter collective blog.
London based Smitonius (Jessamy) makes one of a kind jewellery using vintage buttons, as well as a combination of beads from all over Europe: from lampwork ones by a range of UK artists to vintage and modern glass beads.
Sonata is a miniature quilt maker based in the North of Holland (Leeuwarden). Geraldine Keyzer is already known to collectors of Hitty dolls and owners of vintage dollhouses. She likes to use vintage as well modern cotton to create a range of quilts from simple One Patch to the more complex Grandmother's Garden.