Saturday 29 February 2020

Small things of joy in a worrying world

I felt anxious for quite a lot of yesterday. It's tempting to keep glancing at the news: virus activity, Brexit stupidity, biodiversity - loss of... Today, helped by the fact it was dry and warm despite the rain announced, I planted lettuces in my chicken-proof area of the garden and made a small pond out of a yellow plastic something I had found previously at our local recycling haven. Chickens are forest  creatures by nature according to my favourite permaculture person on Youtube; they love to hang about in marshy areas under trees, roost and eat insects. Well, the small plastic pond isn't quite going to recreate that but it's a start.
Late February and the garden and all its occupants are behaving as if it's late March; why would they not though, I'm gardening in a t-shirt (and jeans ;0)) and it's about 25 degrees on the terrace . . . I've put signs out warning of being cautious re nest-building but certain birds have taken no notice - mainly our resident daft but lovely collared doves. They usually start attempting to build a nest around mid March behind one of our shutters - bizarre as the shutter open and shuts, obviously, and the few twigs become dislodged as dusk approaches and we are obliged to close up for the evening. I did hang an old basket in a tree at the edge of the terrace, even with some starter twigs inside but nope, the shutter was preferable. Eventually they flew off into one of the cypress trees and constructed their one up-one down for that nesting season.
So, the small thing of joy... this year, they have opted for a nesting site in the middle of the old conifer bush which borders the terrace. We can eat lunch/drink tea and quietly observe the comings and goings of the bloke-bird as his partner sits patiently on the rather basic, it must be said, twig platform.
Stop press: I've just observed over lunch that they take turns to nest-sit I had wondered if the male was about to bring a sort of packed lunch, but she's off to forage for her own.


Just found this image of a dove's nest behind a satellite dish, so maybe behind our shutter was not quite as odd a location as I thought.

It's early days for spring - far too early so I hope we don't get a vicious cold snap, not just for the doves' sakes; for ourselves as the wood-pile is almost gone (we had enough wood from last year due to this mild winter) and for the sakes of the early-blossoming fruit trees/vines and those who depend on their fruiting for their livelihoods. The last two years have resulted in late frosts in certain vine areas and masses of potential fruit not happening. 

Small fires lit to try and save the vines from frosting, April last year.

Other small things of joy today: Mark will probably make a cake, I will take the dogs out to a nearby lake then I'll make a fire and put aside time to read one of the many books on a teetering pile in the front room.

Tuesday 4 February 2020

The Joy of Less

Not a sequel to that famous 1970s classic, the Joy of Sex. Or maybe there is one - the Joy of Less Sex.
Anyway, the Joy of Less as in buying and using less, making do, etc in this time where increasingly I feel we won't have much choice in the relatively near future - might as well get used to it now. And it's nice; gives a great feeling of satisfaction and not being taken in by supermarkets and the like.
So. Less.
I've always been quite good at Less with regard to cooking - instilled probably during wilderness student days coupled with a slight laziness about buying ingredients. My mother was also queen of making-do, mainly as she absolutely had to. These things do get absorbed . . . my son rang me yesterday while he was preparing an evening salad! Yes!
Today: Slight glance at dust-covered recipe books . . . yawn. What 's in the cupboard/veg basket.' Oo, look, garlic, a leek, a potato, half an aubergine a few mushrooms and . . .' quick look in fridge . . . 'yep we have cheese and yogurt. That'll do.' This comes under the heading of one-pan cooking in our household. I've probably blogged about it before as it's so useful.
How to do it - serves two, or more, or less depending what else you can find/ want to leave for tomorrow's 'what's in the cupboard' gastronomic experience.
Fry garlic and leek in big frying pan, chop up mushrooms, aubergine, or whatever other veg is available, add to pan, sauté for a bit, add a layer of very thin sliced potato, bit of white wine/sherry, seasoning, put lid on and let it simmer for about ten minutes, then add dollops of yogurt and or cream, and crumbled cheese. Put lid on and go and do something else for ten minutes. Just check the pan hasn't dried out from time to time, add water/lemon juice/soy sauce if so. Ready.
Serve at the table or if you're on your own you can eat it direct from the pan. Yes, I do this sometimes, while watching a youtube about collapsology, permaculture or something appalling in French about millionaires spending habits - just for language instruction, of course.
One pan. One fork. Almost no washing up. New project! Useful, if rather thin, cookery book?


My other no-waste achievement today was to make a protecting bag for my novel when I hike around London bookshops with it. I had thought about buying one of those laptop bags but there isn't a shop locally that sells such things.
I'd wandered around the house for a while looking for a solution. Knitting one? No wool, and I can't remember how to cast on anyway.
Make one out of . . . hm. Old shirt/duvet cover? No, something thicker, more protective. At the bottom of the jumper cupboard I found a small embroidered rectangular blanket, an item that has travelled around with me forever though various moves but has never had a use. It had been, apparently, my cot blanket - crafted from a big, much-darned blanket by my grandmother. How perfect. A recycled thing I could recycle and use for my book which is largely concerned with recycling. And I found a 'I've Been to London' cloth badge in Mark's mother's old sewing box. Bit of ribbon from the wrapping box . . . done.
I might have to go and buy a cake to celebrate, however. Ah. Not needed, Mark's made one out of things he found in the cupboard.


Saturday 1 February 2020

Suddenly a brighter day

Following on from last post . . . brighter for me anyway.
Interesting that a most magnificent rainbow had arched over our house just before the postman turned up and delivered a large blue sack containing a box within which were four copies of my novel, Londonia.

Thanks Tartarus Press. They look awesome, in the real sense of the word.

To pre-order:


It's a grimy, greasy day today and far from the Union-jacketed persons crowding London's streets drunken with Brexitwe've done it! hysteria, I took a walk down to the banks of the river Aude to document the havoc caused by 'natural causes' - excessive rainfall (which would have previously been snow before recent accelerating climate warming) and partial opening of a dam higher up in the mountains.

The metaphor being, destruction: uprooting and huge damage, but not by something out of our (humans) control, but by something chosen - and unfairly.
It just feels so sad. Both our poor root-revealled/fallen trees along the river, and that fact we have managed to extricate ourselves from a union which, although flawed, at its center had major human ideas of protection, trade, movement of citizens, and, crucially to guard against future happenings of which our older inhabitants remember all too well.
(See link to moving short film projected on the cliffs of Dover by the admirable 'Led By Donkeys')

So, the documentation of toppled trees, containers moved several hundred yards from their original place as part of the canoe club, and the remaining evidence of the full force of nature in its river form - huge scoured bowls full of rocks and sand.
I had stood on the old bridge during the day of the actual flood and had watched, along with many other people in a strange silent glazed state as the brown waters rose and trees cracked and broke against the ancient stonework, knowing as we all did that there was nothing that any of us puny humans could do about it.