Sunday, May 20, 2012

For the Twenty First of May, 2012.

Grief is a funny business.
It can overwhelm in waves,
taint days with shame.
And loss.
Sometimes it sits
just below the edge of consciousness,
doesn't get in the way too much.

Op-shops and grief go together.
Places for perfectly good things that nobody knows quite how to deal with.
Absence transforms into treasure.

I found twenty different linen and lawn handkerchiefs.
I surrender.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Aga Blame

A friend asked me about my "Aga Bonding" today and I have to admit that, as Agas do, the thing is growing on me.  I am not sure whether I've been in denial about my food habits/secret desires, but up until a week or two ago I would have described myself as a food lover who was: happy to eat out; delighted to receive culinary treats from friends and family; cool with holding a big dinner party four times a year; and fine with living on toast-in-between.  Becoming a mother forced me into regular food preparation. Marrying a farmer has raised the stakes again. And now we live with a four oven AGA.

Over cocoa last night, I sat down with Joe and told him the story of the Aga we had in Wales.  The hotplate covers were for drying snow soaked mittens, the coolest oven warmed sick piglets (often while a roast was happening in the hot oven), coal used to go down a hole in the top, and we all burnt our fingers and toes on the handle of the door that reads: "Keep Tightly Closed".  Joe got his arm stuck between the rail and the stove top the other day and I felt his panic. I'd been there before.   I remember tracing out the cursive, raised AGA letters on the front. Joe thinks the font is ridiculous, the swirls unnecessary.

Here at Burrowye Station, the Aga is the only thing that survives from the original house. The weatherboard homestead burnt down in the 1950's, and a spanking new brick house was built...around the Aga.  Like many new generation families moving back to the family property, we talk about how this house faces the wrong way, how we lose the northern light in a utility room and how really the kitchen should be where the master bedroom is.  But, unlike other new generation families, I think we're going to stick with things as they are.  A lick of pillar box red paint here and there could well be the extent of our renovations. We hear stories about the vast expense of new Aga stoves and the vast expense of converting this one to gas and we assume any attempt at re-locating it would be out of the question.

The Aga has three cooking ovens going, simultaneously, at different temperatures.  You approach it with the intention of slow cooking a roast, then a pudding becomes essential and, while you're at it, a slab of slice and some biscotti suddenly seem like a good idea. The warm metal plate beside the hotplates is perfect for rising dough or making yoghurt - although not simultaneously because the yeast does funny things with the milk culture.

Am I sounding like a devotee? Am I one of those Aga people?  James himself is showing signs.  He slipped back into bed at about 3 am the other morning.  In this day and age, most wives would suspect a bit of internet trawling had been going on. After mild interrogation he confessed. He'd been sitting up beside the Aga, drinking tea.

And me? I'm still living on toast-in-between. And working two days in week in a cafe kitchen.  Cooking food.  And loving it. Sometimes I stop and pinch myself and wonder to what extent that Aga is to blame.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Burrowye Blazes

My mother used to drive us a very long way, from our little farm  in the Camarthenshire hills to Netherwood Prep School down near Saundersfoot.  We braved flood, snow and mud. We stopped on the way home for Cadbury's Cream Eggs and Cordon Bleu cooking school magazines at the Narbeth newsagent. We listened to BBC Radio.  I was still young enough to be shocked by The Secret Diaries of Adrian Mole, and just old enough to be passionately interested in getting my writing published.  Adrian's rejection note from The BBC is etched in my memory. It went something like this: "At this time of year, the corridors of the BBC are positively reeking with the scent of autumn bonfires and rustling with golden leaves...".  Blogland must be much the same this year, but I just can't resist getting autumnal.
We had our first heavy frost last night, and the leaves are raining down, so in between bouts of housework I ran out and captured these images.