Saturday, 21 July 2007

The Pacific

Saturday 6pm

I was brought up in a library. Well, no of course I wasn't but I have spent a lot of time in them. When I was little my mum would often put me in the pushchair and walk down to the library for an hour or two. When I was older and living in Edinburgh, every couple of weeks we would trot off to the library, Blackhall, or Corstorphine for a change some times. And on empty afternoons while at university you could often find me at the central library along with the alkies and slightly greasy seats that you are not sure you wanted to sit on. And still today a rainy day will find me in Hastings or Havelock library, now often accompanied by my youngest. Corstorphine library was an old building, white plaster walls, high narrow windows operated by a long pole with a hook, and row upon row of tall wooden shelves packed with books. I remember it as always dark outside, a chill in the air, the streetlamps glittering with brittle, frosty light and the library windows glowing soft and warm although it as usually cold inside despite the heaters. The adult section was separate but children could browse there with permission. Near the checkout desk under the librarian's watchfull gaze ( I don't think she liked children ) was a low bookcase with an atlas on top. A big atlas, it must of been two foot high, and I could look at it. The whole world was within it, familiar places, distant places. Just dots, and names and squiggly lines really but a book of magical spells to me. There was no National Geographic channel in those days but I did not need it. With just the maps, my imagination, and the quietness I would be off to the strange lonely parts of the world. And this is where I first met the Pacific Ocean, at the very back of the atlas on the other side of the world, as far away from Edinburgh as you could go. A place so exotic, so distant, that I would never visit except in films or on the telly. And yet here I am on its shores. I have come a long way since then in distance and in thought.The Pacific Ocean. Life is a journey.

Picture of me at Cape Kidnappers by Nicola

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Pizza, a winter salad dressed with cinnamon, and a nectarine tart

Thursday 7.15pm

I am very lucky in that I only work four days a week. It is another luxury that I know other people do not have and although I have worked hard to get where I am today I do know how fortunate I am. So Thursday I am usually off and so cook the tea. Tonight it Nicola's choice - pizza. Feta, pepper, courgette, mushroom and olives for us, pepperoni for two boys and a bought in meat feast type of thing for the eldest who does not like my pizza anymore (c'est la vie). Midwinter just now so my body asks for raw vegetables as well, so a sort of winter salad as accompaniment - mesclun, spinach, celery, mushrooms along with some walnuts and pumpkin and sunflower seeds that I found in the larder and toasted. It being winter, spices also appeal to me at the moment so I dressed the salad with a cinnamon dressing, made by warming some oil and a knob of butter till sizzling, popping in half a stick on cinnamon, taking it off the heat to allow the cinnamon to flavour the butter then after a few minutes pour it into the juice of a couple of lemons with salt and pepper. Beautifull - rich and lemony with the cinnamon coming in subtle and warming in the background. Earlier on I had an hour before needing to cook the pizzas, and as the oven was going on anyway, I made a pudding - Nigel Slaters fig, honey and marscapone tart made with nectarines instead of figs and using yoghurt for the custard because I had no creme fraiche. Oh, and no honey, I thought the nectarines (and all that sugar) would be sweet enough. The proper recipe can be found in Real Cooking . All in all very delicious, mind you I was cooking so although I listen to requests I mostly cook what I fancy myself !

Stop the bus

Sunday 7am

Well actually just lately it has not been good. It is midwinter, cold, wet, rainy and very dark. Life is a struggle at the moment, things keep breaking down, the bills keep coming in, you know what it is like - one step forwards, three steps back never quite getting on top of things. And all these things are pushing through into my mind. When I wake at the moment my head is a maelstrom of whirling thoughts. It is like being on a crowded bus where everybody is talking at once. I don't think I am completely mad yet, I haven't "come home from the war with a party in my head" as Tom Waits said but I do want to stop the bus and get off. And I have discovered that I can. I don't know how I do it I just seem to breath out softly, relax a bit and the thoughts all fade away. I can still hear them but faintly as if behind a wall - they are all still on the bus and haven't noticed I have gone. Everything suddenly comes into focus and there is just me and now, the present. No past, no future, just me and now. This must be what meditation or being in the " the zone" is all about, suddenly the whole of my mind is available to me without all those distractions getting in the way. Of course the moment does not last long. A couple of minutes and one thought squeezes its way back in, quickly followed by the rest tumbling in. But I have seen the way out now, glimpsed through a small crack maybe, but I know it is there, and I am changed by knowing it.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Fragile moments

Friday 6.15am

I have a small luxury in my life. Most, if not every morning, I awake first. At quarter to six my alarm goes off and accompanied by the cats getting up I get out of bed. I put the kettle on, feed the cats, and get the fire going again to warm the house for everybody else getting up in another hour. Now I pour a cup of tea and some orange juice for Nicola, open the bedroom curtains a little and go back to bed. This is my luxury. The house is quiet, our bed is still a warm cocoon, Buffy the cat comes to join me and I can lie there drinking tea and watching the dawn for quarter of an hour or so before getting up properly. It is an optimistic time of day. There are things to do, places to be, but not just yet. The cat is purring, Nicola is breathing softly beside me. There is a chill in the air and my hands are cold but the warmth of my teacup is seeping through.

The moment is fragile and will soon wilt like a flower, but just for now, all is good.
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