Saturday, September 12, 2009

Off on holiday

Aurora has asked me to let you all know that she, Maudie & Billy have gone to London for the christening of my first cousin once removed and then on to Cornwall for a week with my sister & Posetta Baddog. There's no internet connection (the horror!), so she's taking a week's hiatus from blogging.

Take a bow: The Lovely Blog Awards

I was very touched and excited today to receive a Lovely Blog Award. That it came from Chic Mama, who has supported me on this blog with her kind & thoughtful comments right from the beginning, is especially lovely. We are both going through difficult times, and it's been extraordinarily helpful to know someone else in a similar situation.

This is the first award I've received for A Life Reclaimed, and it's amazing to think that people actually read my blog! I have to now pass the award on to five other lovely bloggers.

The women below have been very supportive, leaving much appreciated comments here, making my entry into the blog world feel a little less like diving into the dark unknown. Of course, there are more of you who I would like to mention in dispatches, who welcomed me with open arms, and I shall look forward to exploring all of your blogs properly as I become more conversant with the ways of the interweb!

Miss Whistle
Wonderful gardening, cooking & poetry dispatches from the intelligent side of Los Angeles

Helena Halme
Who write such interesting posts about her life

Novelist Kate Lord Brown's fascinating What Kate Did Next where she writes about writing in an enlightening manner

Everybody Says Don't
who loves dogs, restaurants, tea, theatre, wine & fashion. (We may be from different generations but this is a girl after my own heart!)

And finally, I must mention Liberty London Girl
This is the senior daughter's blog. She writes about fashion, food, dogs and her life in America & elsewhere. She is responsible for the technicalities of my blog (linking, blogrolls and more), so deserves a big thank you!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The love of Two Dogs

I have been sprawling on the sofa this evening, watching New Tricks, which I really enjoy. James Bolam - remember The Likely Lads? God, that makes me feel old, I believe he is about 70!

Along the back of the sofa lay Billy, his head hanging down, under my chin, his cold wet nose up close and personal. His fur is so sensual, soft and silk velvety, his floppy ears so wonderful to stroke. He makes the most wonderful noises, a sort of grunty snort of sheer pleasure. His eyes on a level with mine, they are suffused with love. I just adore this dog, the bond with him is total - the result of breeding a dog and knowing that he is yours unreservedly. Maud snuggled up at my side, a weather eye fixed on Billy, jealousy in every bone of her body. From time to time. her lips curled back in a silent snarl as she thought he was getting too close to me. She expects Billy to know his place, Billy pushes the boundaries, and I think it is hysterically funny, until Maud gets nasty, and Billy draws back, a wounded look on his face.

These dogs are my life - the companionship they offer is so rewarding. When Violet died, I thought nothing would heal the pain and sense of loss, but these dear dogs have filled the void, and how I love them. A little triumvirate - we face the world together, and let noone part us asunder.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My Cornish Reading List

I adore reading, but since I have been on my own, have done very little. I have been stockpiling books for quite some time now, and wonder whether I will ever make inroads into the ever growing pile.

Every January the husband and I used to go away for a three-week holiday, to sunnier climes, and I used to take a large pile of books with me. We were lucky to fly business class, so I could take almost a whole suitcase of reading matter. This was a real treat, as coming so close to Christmas, I usually had a lovely pile of gifts to read. My family knew my weakness, and kept me well supplied. I missed the January break this year, and know now that I will be unlikely to ever repeat it in the same way.

So - what shall I choose? I mostly like biographies, my taste is not modern. My elder daughter has a voracious and eclectic taste in books, and makes me feel slightly old-fashioned. I admire her wide-ranging selection - but am not tempted to read many of them.

On the table in front of me are the following:

Elizabeth David by Artemis Cooper
Sashenka by Simon Montefiore
So I have Thought of You - The Letters of Penelope Fitzgerald
Venus of Empire, The Life of Pauline Bonaparte by Flora Fraser
The Music Room by William Fiennes
Dsvid Golder by Irene Nemirovsky
All Our Wordly Goods by Irene Nemirovsky
The Lover's Watch by Aphra Benn

Common sense dictates that I will probably only read two or three of these or possibly four. The eternal problem, piles of wonderful books, hardbacks in wonderful covers, and destined to be returned once more to the shelf. Not the only things on the shelf at this moment in time. What a terrible pun.

I do have a secret plan - when I am finally divorced, and master of my own destiny once more, I intend to slope off somewhere warm, and inexpensive, to sit under a shady tree, and read to my heart's content. The very thought is giving me the strength I need to get through the next few months.

Suddenly I am not at all worried about being on my own - the thought is so seductive - so many selfish pleasures in the offing.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

There is a distinct chill in the air first thing in the morning when I stumble bleary-eyed out into the garden with the dogs. It is misty and damp, and autumn is definitely in the offing.

The summer has passed without remark - it hardly seems possible that I am now in my second autumn after making the most momentous decision of my life. This time last year I could never have thought that things would be unresolved a full year later, and my future would still be hanging in the balance.

I have managed well, all things considered, I have learnt who my true friends are, and who is duplicitous and not to be trusted, because, human nature being what it is, most people like an easy life, and are craven and lily-livered. Easier just to melt away or be a turncoat! So - at the risk of repeating myself, thank you to those of you who have been staunch and loving and how I have appreciated your loyalty.

On Saturday, my dogs and I had a wonderful long walk during the afternoon. It started out cold and overcast, and halfway through, out came the sun, and off came my fleece.

The hedgerows were bursting with autumnal fruitfulness and colour, the hawthorn berries had turned the most glorious red, the little wild crab apples were suffused with deep rosy flushes and the sloes, this year the sloes are magnificent. Great, globular fruits, surely much larger than usual, possibly due to all the rain. Some a dark glossy, almost sinister, purple, and some, a deep vivid blue with a soft bloom on them.

I am itching to start picking them to make my sloe gin. Tradition dictates that they should have had a frost on them before you pick them. I shall wait and see - I have a brilliant short cut when making sloe gin. Instead of pricking each and every berry with a needle, I shove them in a plastic bag and freeze them. Then, when I want to make the gin, I defrost them, and they have usually split their skins. Bingo. Another tip is to put a small teaspoon of almond essence or creme de noisette in the jar with the berries, gin and sugar, which adds a little je ne sais quoi.

I wrote some weeks ago about the berries in the hedgerows, and how they were then not yet ripe. Now they are in their full glory. Alongside the hawthorn, crab apples and sloes are the hips, a glorious orangey-red, and the elderberries, glistening darkly and ready to be made into the most delicious jelly, to eat with game, or to slather onto hot buttered toast after a chilly winter walk.

On Saturday during our walk, I cut sprays of the hawthorn berries, of varying colours and ripeness and little branches of the crab apples, tying them up with Billy's lead to carry them home, and put them in our little church, in green pottery vases, on the window ledges behind the altar. Our church is very old, and quite plain, and better for it, and looks lovely decorated simply with garden flowers or berries and foliage, picked as I did on Saturday, from the hedgerows.

This is a glorious time of year, today was warm, and yet there was a feeling of a changing season, it is now nearly half past six in the evening, and it is getting chilly, although the sky is still bright, I feel the night is beginning to draw in. I love this cusp of the changing from summer to autumn, I am always ready for it, regardless of what the summer weather has been like.

Good smells are coming from my oven. I am roasting a chicken, which I have marinated in a mixture of Greek yoghurt, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and a curry powder blend I bring back from New York. I know that sounds posey, but it is the best ever blend - I buy supplies from Dean and DeLuca everytime I am in that city, and stock pile them. I will eat it with steamed English tenderstem broccoli, and a mixture of basmati and wild rice.

Yes - I cook for myself - a chicken is what I call a progressive meal. Roast, then a simple cold salad, I then devil the drumsticks, then I make a good jellied stock from the bones and, hey presto, there is then a chicken, lemon and tarragon risotto in the offing. When the stock is made, I strip the last meat from the bones and Maud and Billy have a good supper! Years ago, there was a cookery writer in the Sunday Telegraph called Simone Sekers, and she once wrote an article on what she called Progressive Cooking - this has always stuck in my memory, and I still practise it.

I am about to pour myself a second chilled glass of a quite respectable Viognier and will settle down to enjoy my supper. Life is OK - when I have eaten I will start to consider my choices for my holiday reading for Cornwall next week. Tomorrow I will run my suggestions across you all!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

One week later

How time flies - what a busy week.

My lunch party on Monday was all I hoped it would be. Now I am on my own, entertaining is a complete joy. No hassle, no mulishness, no bad-tempered responses to requests for help. Billy, I am glad to say, did not get me up at 6.30 am although we did get up early, the dogs and I. The house was orderly, the food prepared well in advance, the table laid with starched white cloth, the white wine chilled, and the St Emilion opened in time to breathe.

My guests consisted of the two good friends who had taken me to Glyndebourne for my birthday treat, my recently widowed girlfriend R, another couple who have been very kind to me and with whom the junior daughter and I will be sharing a holiday in Cornwall next week, and a girlfriend, also called V, who shared the Ebury Street house in the 60's with R and I. We had the most jolly time, with much laughter, and much food and wine was consumed. The roasted peppers disappeared in double quick time, the crackling on the pork was divine, what more could we ask for?

I just love eating round my large kitchen table, a weekend or Bank Holiday lunch being the best time, and if it is with good comfortable friends, it is a near perfect experience.

I am actually blessed - many friends who we did not see regularly, the husband and I, have all reappeared now I am on my own, and I am beginning to enjoy the sort of life I was denied whilst married to the philanderer. It is becoming apparent to me that when one door closes, another slowly opens, and I am willingly trying to push it open further than ajar.

The rest of the week was spent with another widowed friend D who, with her late husband and two other couples, used to spend many hours with the husband and I over the past 15 years, at race meetings, or rallying around the world, as a jolly octet, who enjoyed each others company. It is sad now that the philanderer has been excluded, but his behaviour has been such that they do not want to have anything to do with him. When D's husband R was so ill, the philanderer was no friend, he hardly ever contacted D and went to see R only once in 18 months. I was ashamed of him.

I am now back home, and beginning to get ready for Cornwall. The most important task is to select my holiday reading, more of that later.

The sun is out this morning, the sky is blue, the breeze is brisk, and I am looking forward to a long dog walk. The dogs are already restless, I can hear them crunching on the gravel of the terrace, but I am afraid they will have to wait just a while longer, I have to finish the Daily Telegraph Weekend General Knowledge crossword first! And - perhaps have a lunch time glass of wine.