Sunday, 24 September 2017

Revenge on a marrow, and other harvest stories

"I had to buy a new mop bucket because my old one got smashed by a marrow."

That's surely not a sentence many people get to say even once in a lifetime.


The marrow in question was left, with a group of its friends, at the back of church by an anonymous donor.  It weighed 7 lb, about the same as a newborn baby, but was decidedly less cute and a lot thicker-skinned.  I adopted it and brought it home.

Presumably Theo was just curious about this giant vegetable that I'd left on the counter.  At any rate, he was reaching for that or something else, and shortly afterwards I found a sheepish 3-year-old, a wrecked mop bucket, and a remarkably unscathed marrow lying on the floor.


A few days later, I got my revenge on the marrow by turning it into chutney.  This recipe from BBC Good Food made plenty, and used up over half of the vegetable.  The rest I peeled, chunked, and stashed in the freezer for now.  I have vague ideas of making marrow and ginger jam if I collect a few more jars, or I might go savoury and make soup or something.

Apples have been the other big thing this year.  It seemed like everyone was trying to get rid of apples!  I stewed up one big batch for the freezer, and made a bagful into pie.



Blackberries arrived early but then got rained on a lot.  Our local bush gave us a steady supply for a few weeks, so Toby made these chocolate cupcakes with blackberries on top.


And once again, Graham has been collecting sloes to add to gin.  He discovered Aldi's gin this year, which apparently is excellent for the price.  One batch of sloe gin is already infusing, and another lot is coming soon.

Finally, these are my two pretty pumpkins from the mysterious pumpkin plants.  We've eaten the green one, stuffed; it was very tasty.  I'm hoping if I save the seeds, I might get some more next year!


Sunday, 17 September 2017

Write. And keep writing.

Write, they say.  And keep writing.  Every day if possible.  That's what you do if you want to be a writer.



Right, I say.  Writing.  I'll get to it as soon as I've done the shopping cleaned the bathrooms called some volunteers mowed the lawn hung up the washing got some exercise spent time with my family. 
Um.  Maybe tomorrow.

So writing has slid backwards from being a priority, when I called Cafes with Kids my job and reviewed a cafe every week, to a sideline, now that I'm the other side of the counter and, once again, calling cafe management my job.  And, as a bonus feature, actually getting paid for it.  It's exciting.  It's rewarding.  It's also all-consuming and completely exhausting, at least in these first few weeks when I'm trying to learn everything and everyone all at once.  That breathing space seems a long time ago already.

But sometimes you have to carve out space for who you want to be as well as who you need to be.  And I want to be, if not a writer, then at least someone who writes.  So here I am, writing.  And here you are, reading, and wondering if I'm going to get around to anything apart from the fact that I'm not writing.  Now, there's an interesting question.  I'm wondering the same thing myself.

Now I feel like I probably should.

OK, two quick thoughts.  Back when I was last a church cafe manager, ten years ago and more, I distinctly remember thinking:  How does anyone do this job and then go home to look after children?  But then I picked my boys up from school, and they were running down the path hand in hand ahead of me, and I thought:  That's how.  They crystallize a moment into a memory, and you tuck that memory into your heart, and it gets you through.  Cherish the moments.



And secondly, for those of you who are interested in Bible stuff.  Romans 10 was the reading at church this morning, and I had never realised that this:

For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”...  Romans 10:5-8 ESV
 is basically a direct quote of this, from Deuteronomy:

11 “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.  Deuteronomy 30:11-14 ESV
OK, so there was a big clue there in the "Moses writes" bit.  It's always obvious when you know it, isn't it?  Moses is talking about keeping the Jewish law, which has just been spelled out in mind-numbing detail in the rest of Deuteronomy.  Paul takes his words and applies them to having faith in Jesus, "the end of the law", as he puts it.  Neither of those things are something you can claim to have achieved all at once.  But neither of them are too difficult to start.  We don't have to wait around for someone to achieve the impossible.  If you want to get somewhere, just take the first step.  Do what's already in your mouth and in your heart.

Or in other words: Write.  And keep writing.  And one day you'll realise that you're a writer.





Image credits
(1) Writing tools By Pete O'Shea [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

(2) Writing sunset By gnuckx [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, 1 September 2017

A breathing space

Theo and I sat perched on a rocky step in the sunshine.  Somewhere above us, Graham and Toby climbed higher up the path, while behind us, a waterfall splashed noisily down the hillside.  In front of us the land spread out in patches of green and grey and purple, sun-bright and dappled with cloud.  I drew in a deep breath.  We were definitely on holiday.




Our usual last-minute AirBnB searching had led us to a cottage on the corner of the Yorkshire Dales.  Technically we were in Cumbria, but this area is far less popular than the more famous Lake District, with the guides tending to use words like "under-rated" and "little-known".  We certainly didn't have the place to ourselves, but then the weather that first day would have dragged the most reluctant walker out of doors.  Or just about.  You can see how enthusiastic our little walkers were!


Cows.  On an A-road.  Definitely under-rated.
The target that first day was Cautley Spout waterfall.  We had a fairly flat walk along by the stream, then a steep climb up some well-made steps beside the waterfall itself.  By that point little legs were getting tired, so we made our way back down and treated ourselves to fizzy drinks at the Cross Keys.  This is no ordinary pub, but a temperance inn; it hasn't served alcohol since 1905.  It has an impressive array of alternatives.  Graham was delighted to find root beer, while I had ginger beer and the boys went for Diet Coke.  It was a good thing no one else was in the garden - the burps that resulted were tremendous!



Next day we mooched around the pretty town of Kirkby Lonsdale.  The Devil's Bridge, just outside town, was built in the 14th century, and amazingly, carried all traffic over the River Lune until the 1930's, when the number of vehicles got too much for it.  It crosses an excitingly swirly part of the river, where we were much entertained by some novice canoeists attempting to paddle the rapids.  The boys were happy exploring the rocks for quite some time.  Finally we dragged them away and along the footpath to the Radical Steps - unfortunately less exciting than they sound; it was the landowner who was a Radical, not the steps.  Still, there's a good view from the top.  And fish and chips and ice cream and a sweet shop in the town centre.  Oh my.  No one wanted much dinner that evening.




Our cottage was well-equipped with board games which reminded me of my youth.  I'd mercifully forgotten the frustration of shoving straws through a tube to set up Kerplunk, but Theo loved it.  Toby begged for a game of Monopoly and beat me.  Oh, the long-drawn-out torture of losing Monopoly.  That takes me back.

Our holiday cottage

We were a long - but curiously precise - distance from London.

Finally, since we live in landlocked Derby, we always have to go see the sea on holiday.  Only a small amount of bickering about directions was needed to get us to Silverdale Cove.  We arrived at high tide, which meant we got to throw stones in the water for about ten minutes before it retreated, rapidly and astonishingly, across the vast mudflats of Morecambe Bay.  There was a fair breeze with occasional bucketfuls of rain, but we ate lunch in a handy cave, then sheltered under trees as we climbed Arnside Knott for some more views.




In such a crowded country, it's remarkable that there are so many places still to retreat to for some breathing space.  I'm glad we found another one of them.