Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com rockpool in the kitchen: 02/01/2005 - 03/01/2005

Monday, February 28, 2005

carnival time

. Posted by Hello

This weekend, carnival came to Granny and Beloved's home town.

No, this is not Granny in disguise. It was blowing a gale on Saturday. Granny and Beloved decided that standing by the side of the road watching children shiver in glittering underwear and citizens of the third age (see above) cavorting in drag or out, or was not for them. They have been there, seen that, in warmer years. They contented themselves with the drumbeats and music from the tannoy echoing down from the hill. (The pictures were taken by the visiting clever doctor at the first manifestation taking place in the main town of the island, 3 weeks ago., when it poured with rain. Granny and Beloved declined the pleasure that time too.)

However Granny likes the idea of it. Very much. She likes it that life here is one long round of fiestas and parades, a whole year spelt out in mostly non-commercialised ritual (give or take the fancy dress costumes on sale all over the island at this time of year.) It reminds her of the village of her own childhood - there, the equivalent of the carnival was something called the Westerham gala (pronounced to rhyme with sailor) which took place on Whit Monday - often in the rain - where similar local worthies were to be seen cavorting in drag, dressed as cannibals, or pirates, on floats made from trucks provided by the local brewery - who also provided all the beer -it was a merry occasion. Granny never rode on a float, but she did win first prize one year in the children's fancy dress competition dressed as Tweedledum alongside her twin sister dressed as Tweedledee; their striped jerseys and short pants stuffed with cushions; their cheeks - rather lumpy looking - with mint imperials. (Dough was the original idea; but it tasted too disgusting.)

All the years thereafter at boarding-school which did not recognise Bank Holidays, Granny missed this jollity. Something she deeply resented.

The Gala may still exist for all she knows. But nothing much else does about that village. The village people have been pushed out of the cottages around the Green by richer commuters. The village shops have been unmanned by out-of-town supermarkets and replaced by antique shops and the odd wine-bar. The seasonal arrival of new potatoes and peas and strawberries in early summer, raspberries later, and so on, doesn't figure any more; these things are flown in all the year round from Africa, the Canaries, wherever. If Granny was a child there still she doubt if her Saturday morning would consist of trotting round the International Stores - the cheap grocer's shop patronised by her mother, who scorned the more expensive upmarket one over the road, used by the middle-classes - Evenden's the ironmonger, the butcher, the greengrocer; ending with her Dad's half-pint of beer and her half-pint of fizzy lemonade - shandy when she got older - in the George and Dragon.

Oh God, she thinks; look at the old codger blethering on about the good old days. The fifties were an appalling time to grow up in as a matter of fact; fancy a perm like Doris Day's anyone? Fancy forcing yourself into a roll-on and nylon stockings aged fifteen? Fancy the awful music - you could pick a chicken with Eve Boswell, catch a falling star with Perry Como, put another nickel in, in the nickelodeon with God knows who. No thanks.

But the ritual was good. And the localness; which still exists here, where Granny is living now. There are very few incomers, the inhabitants are long-standing, the shops useful - a supermarket OK, but also two bakers, a greengrocer and a ferreteria - no trotting off to B&Q here; buy it all on your doorstep. (The disappearance of local ironmakers is one of the trials of English life in Granny's view.) Oh and the vegetables you buy are mostly local - if not from this island, from another Canary island at the very furthest from Spain. Granny does confess to buying Granny Smith's from Chile - the only decent apple available here for making baked apples. But she doesn't miss snow peas from Zambia, green beans from Zimbabwe, all the year round. Though she has to admit that sticking to seasonal and local produce here is easier in this climate - where she can buy strawberries any time with a clear conscience; they're in season almost any time.

Ritual who needs it? Everyone probably; but particularly children to make sense of a chaotic world. And maybe too those growing old, ever more fraught by the relentlessness of time; each day folding itself inevitably into the little sleep that mimicks all too efficiently the fast approaching big one. There are times that Granny feels all she ever does is haul herself out of bed - or climb back into it. Though there are worse things than climbing into bed with Beloved; and worse things than sleep - not sleeping for example. (After yet another night of heavy rain, waking with a jump, leaping out of bed to move it yet again out of the deluge, not being able to get back to sleep thereafter has become a ritual in itself. Not one Granny welcomes.

Making marmalade in late January when the Seville oranges arrive - now that is something else. That contains time nicely. Hold your horses. Lock yourself into the ritual of the moment. Wow.


Sunday, February 27, 2005

Spot the Ladybird: another kind of Englishman

Spot the Ladybird Posted by Hello

Granny has been fiddling with the picture quality on her internet reception to try and speed it up (no broadband here.) Though there should really be a ladybird in sight -you should almost be able to count the spots- she can barely see it. She hopes you can.

The other kind of Englishman has been fast removing such beauties as above if and when they intrude on his neat gravel. Mr Handsome from Blackburn is a tidy soul - since Granny and Beloved gave him the title of 'site manager' he has tried to impose his idea of tidiness on them. This largely involves weeding and re-whitening everything. As there are many more urgent things to do - this house is like the Forth Bridge - finish one end, start again at the other- his energies have, tactfully, (see his title) to be diverted. There's a half built patio, for instance, admittedly due to the wind (howling today - the front door is almost impossible to open) or the rain (mercifully absent) it's been hard to get on with that lately. Every piece of wood facing outside (a lot of it, windows and pergolas) has to be re-varnished, urgently. First time round, lacking a Handsome, Granny did most of it, under the whip of the man who installed it ('momentito, p'...he would say - Granny's name in Spanish is very melliflous - followed by instructions to prepare/paint 80 pieces of wood plus 3 windows by the very next day- which mostly she did, reeling from the fumes of the varnish - what DO they put in it? People to install said wood of course wouldn't arrive till 3 days later...) This time round she will supply Handsome with a mask and a ladder and set him to the task- she's too busy.

Other things Handsome regards as untidy?

1) The moving in next door of the Lady with the Big and Little Dogs. Handsome disapproves deeply of the Lady. Granny was letting her dogs out the other day - Lady works all day at the airport once a week. Handsome, weeding the gravel at her feet was to be seen scowling. When she remarked, cheerfully, that mutual dog minding was a useful arrangement, his expression would have dessicated a prune at 20 paces.

2)Granny's cabbages. This has been a running battle for about a year. There was a fine plant self-seeded in the garden behind the back patio, from which Granny cut cabbages from time to time. Handsome did not regard it as at all appropriate in what was supposed to be an ornamental garden. One day she came home to find he'd dug it out. When she remonstrated he replaced it crossly under the wall at the back - coming in gleefully from time to time to say 'it's not taking; I think it's had it.' It did take eventually. More fine cabbages (try them with cooked with onions, dessicated coconut, cumin, chilli.) Over the winter, it shriveled to a stalk. 'You won't want that cabbage any more,' says Handsome, triumphantly. 'I'll have it out.'

Then he got flu. By the time he came back, more little cabbages were appearing on the shrivelled stalk. Granny has not had time to approach him on this one, but when she remarked on it to Beloved, Beloved laughed and said; 'He was planning to put a papaya there instead. Over to you.' (Bananas, papaya, olives you understand, exotica in English terms, don't count as kitchen garden vegetables in Handsome's eyes.)

Handsome has his merits though; many more than one. Unlike most English expats who huddle in their own enclaves, refuse to learn Spanish, regard the locals as worse than yokels, and patronise only English workmen and English bars, he and Mrs Handsome, despising them for this, live on an entirely Canarian/Spanish estate with useful neighbours like electricians, plumbers, policeman, with whom they are fast friends (Granny and Beloved have benefited from this.) They communicate pretty well in the local dialect, speaking the most excruciating Spanglish - particularly Mrs H - but understanding almost everything said back. Granny's Spanish, though more grammatic and more correctly pronounced is infinitely less useful.

The Janet Reger underwear Handsome buys, incidentally, is definitely for his wife. G-strings are NOT for Handsome.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Granny at work

Well no: Granny is at work - but locked into bloody technology, much less healthy - and productive. Photo and blogger both. Hasta manana amigos.

Friday, February 25, 2005

To be an Englishman..

I'm an Australian woman who has been living in London for two years. I have been seeing an English guy for six months and the relationship is going well, apart from one thing: he has started to wear my clothes and it is becoming increasingly embarrassing. Not to mention the fact that he stretches everything. (NB. Granny. Lovely detail.)

When I challenged him, he said that when people have been seeing each other for a while, they want to become one with the other person and that this manifests itself in wanting to wear each other's clothing. He says it is a cultural thing, something that English men like to do.

I'm not comfortable with the situation. Is this his way of getting "closer" to me, or will it lead to problems in the future?

No please don't send the answers to Granny; if you're inspired to advise the poor mazed Aussie, write directly to its origin http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,1424927,00.html.

Grannie's avoidance-of-writing-tactic of choice used to be her blog but for the moment now the book's finished (please agent, editor, please please please pronounce) the blog itself is the duty. For now she avoids it by trawling the internet editions of the more pc London dailies - along with reading other blogs, of course. Which is how she came across the above, the funniest definition of an Englishman since the case in the London lawcourts many years ago - pointed out gleefully by her then husband, the lawyer - in which a woman was suing for divorce on the grounds of her stockbroker husband's insistance on (illegal at the time) anal sex, claiming that 'all his friends in the City did it.' (So the French who called it 'le vice anglais' were right all the time?)

Which brings her neatly back to her father: not that sort of Englishman at all. Not that he didn't like sex, she knows that for a fact, but his was always strictly legal, maritally and otherwise. As for dressing in her mother's clothes - though it conjures up some delightful images - roll-ons? - her mother's apology for a bikini top consisting of an aged ill-dyed and fading bra? - her more correct tweed suits and felt hats decorated with a jewelled pin? - she thinks not. Transvestism for him would have been limited to Charley's Aunt, fancy-dress parties and pantomimes which he never much liked anyway - too vulgar he said. Granny and her siblings taken to pastiche Victorian pantomimes instead, Granny had to wait till her children were the right age to encounter the delights of principal boys and pantomime dames. Maybe that's why she so adores - maybe the more correct expression is fascinated by - drag queens; to her Beloved's bemusement, even horror. She never learned to take them for granted like everyone else.

She can't imagine Beloved in her clothes either - she did once have a friend who claimed her lover liked to wear her suspender belt and stockings in bed; but that's it for Granny's brush with transvestism. The fashion in her youth for women to nick their boyfriends' t-shirts and sweaters and wear them like trophies, doesn't quite count. Apart from anything else it was the only way then to get comfortable clothes. Fortunately the fashion industry caught up - to her father's horror. He never ceased to complain about women wearing trousers all the time and looking so untidy. Just as well Granny's mother didn't survive to see it. Judging by her worn-strictly-at home clothes of choice (rolled up shorts, nicked from Dad, said dyed bra, with her rather minimal tits falling out, a pair of fetching and tight bright red jeans all of which used to amaze Granny's visiting boyfriends, who expected a surburban lady decently covered in floral prints) she'd have jumped into the new easy look for ladies and run with it. But alas she died too early in 1963. Like sex for Philip Larkin, it was all too late for her. (Actually it wasn't too late for Philip Larkin to judge from later revelations. But poets are allowed to lie in the name of poetic truth. Aren't they?)

Back to Granny's dad. Up at his golf club where he played till over 90 (wonderful) he was known as Stuffy she discovered after his death - she doesn't know whether to be angry or touched by this -she doubts if the crass golfers meant is a compliment. Because her dad was stuffy. Boring even. Yet he was the image of a decent Englishman if ever there was one, of an old school Tory as opposed to the I'm alright Jack, over-incomed let's keep it that way variety. Who loved Shirley Williams and loathed Margaret Thatcher - both of whom he saw from day 1 of their parliamentary careers at very close quarters. Who went to South Africa under apartheid once in his life, was so appalled by it he refused to go back. Who called Jewish men 'Jewboys' without the least realising it was offensive yet welcomed a Jewish son-in-law ('He's a honey.' Calling someone a 'honey' was Dad's highest form of compliment.) Who despite some antedeluvian views on women - eg 'what's the point in sending a girl to university' - insisted on cooking breakfast and doing the washing-up to help Granny's mother out - who bought her the first automatic washing-machine on the market despite a very tight budget. Who taught Scottish Country Dancing, dancing in a ring with the correct laced up shoes on and his bottom sticking out, to the embarrassment of his twin teenage daughters, expected to do likewise, as demonstration for his pupils. And who - his one flirtation with the illegal - thought it perfectly alright to nick a Christmas tree from a local plantation. Some of Granny's dearest memories of her dad are these furtive expeditions, the car parked ready for instant departure just in case; dad sneaking among the trees with his axe over the shoulder. The triumphant drive home with the tree stashed on the roof.

It just about qualifies probably for that oddly English combination of convention and eccentricity.

Enough for now. More on dad among the politicians another time.

Sun and showers in the Canaries. It's getting a little warmer.

Brief blog

Granny will post properly later. For now she just wants to recommend to all and sundry a brave woman blogging from Baghdad, who calls herself 'Riverbend'. She writes about everything from vegetables to hijabs; from bombings to politicians. As the mainly Shia regime beds iteself in, we don't want to happen to her what's happened to the Iranian bloggers - and others. Best thing is to read and publicise her. Please. http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/
That's all for now.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Granny's has a lake

Granny was going to write more about her dad today. But she will leave it till tomorrow after a very bad night. She was woken around 2 am by rain falling on her - she and Beloved had to leap out of bed - again - to move the bed. The rain continued to fall on the floor behind them, which bothered Beloved - Granny much less - there are advantages in being deaf. Even she, though, could hardly fail to hear the rain drumming on the skylight ever more heavily, let alone the accompanying thunder and lightening. This went on and off all night - every time she fell into disturbed sleep it started again. 'Why are wriggling?' demanded Beloved. 'You keep waking me up.' When Granny did finally fall asleep for longer it went along with taking all the bedclothes - or so he claimed in the morning. He gave up anyway and disappeared downstairs.

Result as always - apart from the usual leaks everywhere and the odd powercut caused by rain on plugs etc - is the lake at the bottom of Granny's land.

It looked as if the day was going to be sunny after. It was: now it's raining again... Granny has to get up to let in a very wet and very cross Feline Houdini whom she'd shoved outside because he had, rather foolishly, bitten the hand that fed him - or the leg anyway.

Oh dear. Granny, Pollyanna as always, tells herself that rain is good for the flowers and there will be plenty still for the eager natural historians in two weeks time. The flowers and grass are so deep in some places already, that Terrible Terrier disappears in them. Beautiful Wimp almost does. This is unheard of.

She's been making her second batch of marmalade - held over for a couple of days because the gas ran out. In her stupor from lack of sleep she left out the lemon juice. Thinks it may be a case of twice-cooked marmalade anyway. Jam thermometer claims it's reached the jamming temperature - it looks very liquid. What to do? Granny doesn't want to burn it. Has lost its young look for sure -the lovely stage when the liquid is dark and the peel is still a beautiful glowing orange.

Beloved reappears. Time for lunch: and sleep thereafter. (Dinner last night was a chicken tagine with pickled lemon and an egg in it; nice. A cook in the family is A GOOD THING. Granny's experiments with various kinds of risotto - some invented by her - spiced parsnip worked surprisingly well, - develop nicely too. Bottleblondshell and spouse when told this was on the menu for lunch looked horrified. In the end they gobbled it and asked for more. AND GOT IT.)

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

WORKING (and play..)

Granny's dad's cricket team. He is sitting on the right, and she is disconcerted to see for the first time a likeness to her brother. (She had already seen one in her twin sister and in her twin sister's son. Oh the family face.)

Nostalgia day, after reading a post put up by Petite Anglaise - http://www.petiteanglaise.com/ - about her overworking partner, Mr Frog. Granny was reminded of her own over-working husbands - lawyer first, followed by doctor - who both like Mr Frog looked exhausted on it, and about which worried Granny too protested. Hard to know how much was/is due to connivance by self-driven husband's/partners - in case of Granny's doctor there was an element of this. (As other doctors' wives will probably concur it can be difficult to protest too much in the medical case - how can the needs of wives - families - the doctor himself - compete with the needs of sick and sometimes dying patients? Granny who is neither meek nor long-suffering did protest sometimes - often - she had a point - but still felt awkward about it.)

It made her remember too her dad, who never understood - few of his generation did - about pressures exerted by the modern workplace. He was particularly lucky - he worked as a civil servant in the House of Commons; ultimately as a very senior one. In his day all clerks like him had holidays throughout parliamentary recesses. In the summer this meant he was at home from the end of July to near the middle of October - the breaks at Christmas and Easter weren't bad either.

Even when parliament was sitting, he never left home much before 8.30 in the morning - would set off for the station - about a mile away, wearing an Anthony Eden homburg hat and a long overcoat with a waist - Soames Forsyte to the life - brief-case in one hand, a rolled umbrella in the other, to catch the 9.05 train on a little branch line.(The train, known as the Westerham Wheezer, used a ton of coal to go 11 miles, and was axed for obvious reason by the infamous Dr Beeching.) From the next station he caught an express to London and arrived at his desk overlooking the Thames at around 10 in the morning.

He'd do his morning's work, then roll off to the member's dining-room for a full 3 course lunch - the menu was the same as in the Stranger's Dining-room to which his family was invited sometimes; very English. Granny remembers such pleasures as oxtail soup, or a weird assortment of cold hors d'oevre from a large trolley - followed by all the usual suspects - steak-and-kidney pie, roast lamb, Dover sole, finishing up with rhubarb crumble , say, or jam roly-poly: tinned pawpaw was always on offer for some reason (as pudding or hors d'oevre? - she can't remember which. Maybe it was a nod to the Colonies.) The dining-room was all pale wood panelling and lugubrious green carpet. Most of the other diners male, and dark-suited, the impression was to Granny's young eyes a convention of undertakers. Famous politicians lurking at other tables looked both smaller and larger than life.

After this the clerkly dad would retired to his desk, put his head down and sleep for half an hour. Three hours or so more work; then off he would go to catch the five forty-five or possibly the 6 something. He was home by 7.30 at the latest - except when trains were delayed by fog. (One bad day in 1952, or thereabouts, he was at the back of a train which crashed in a pea-souper at a place called Hither Green. Many people were killed but he and others got off the train safely and walked along the tracks to safety. It took him a long time to find a phone and ring Granny's
mother, who'd heard about the crash on the news, and was besides herself.)

This was Granny's dad's normal working day. Perfectly normal at the time - he was known to be an exceptionally good administrator, and promoted as such. He told Granny once that only twice in his working-life was he forced to bring work home at the weekend. Though he worked in an interesting place at a very interesting time it never particularly interested him; it was life with Granny's mother and their children that did. And sport. (See below; and above.) Work to him was just 'daily-breading' - his term- something all men were obliged to do to support their wife and family. (Wives didn't work as a matter-of-course -he insisted Granny's mother gave up her job when she married him. This too was normal. Then.) Work as passion, need, was something quite outside his understanding. His father - Granny's grandfather - was the same. He took legal qualifications and became something called a Chancery Registrar because it meant working only during legal terms: in betweenwhiles, climbing his passion, he could attempt to climb the Matterhorn or Eiger - Granny's dad who suffered from something close to vertigo never understood this either - cricket was his thing - see above - along with golf. (He won AParliamentary Golf Championship twice over the years. Granny did not inherit such skills. She made the school lacrosse team for one term, at her most solid. That will do for her. She is not grieving. )

There's more to say about his job another time. In the meantime Granny can say she was/is mostly grateful to have had her dad around so much; even though she took it for granted; even though much of that time she spent fighting with him. ('I could never manage her,' he was to say, plaintively, to lawyer husband in later life.) It wasn't a good preparation for life with men whose working life was much more all-consuming. But it has taught her that that life for family men and their families is better that way (unless Daddy is a total bastard of course. In that case, the more he is absent the better!) The only downside perhaps was for her mother, who had reproduce the at least two course meal at lunchtime every single day. Someone less perfectionist might have said 'sod it' and doled out bread and cheese, but not she, the perfectionist, with her over-worked sense of duty (alongside her other anarchic not to say maverick tendencies: which were/are quite another story.)

Island Life

The weather is improving. A south-west wind today which means it will rain tonight. Meantime the sun is coming out and should lead to a perfect afternoon as yesterday. The island is full of spur-of-the minute tourists, fleeing the English freeze-up. Had they come with those who came last week - half-term, poor buggers - they might have regretted it.

Handsome from Blackburn came back this morning. He's been off sick for over a week and shouldn't be here now. He's got a thick chest and a weeping ear, but says it does him good to get out. He doesn't manage to get to the mess in the front where there are two half-built sheltered areas. The dust, the breeze-blocks the concrete-mixers remain as is. Meantime Nieves' the cleaner's husband plus his brother-in-law comes round to check the broken skylight over the sitting-room. If the job costs more than 200 euros and the insurance company have to be involved he can't do the job because he's moonlighting so won't provide an estimate. Granny and Beloved are left waiting - again - for the glass-supplier to give his verdict. Otherwise Mr Cleaner's Husband will find someone else to do it. AT LAST. It's taken all of two months so far. This is how it is here, particularly if you're having to deal with dialect which leaves out all the consonants. (Thank goodness for sudden arrival and help of the Lady with the Dogs.)

Granny went down to the coast then to take the Attic Woman out to coffee. The cooks from the restaurants were all out on the fore-shore in their check trousers, gutting fish, the usual array of swooping, screaming gulls in attendance, fighting over the spoils. Granny meantime was talking nostalgia with the Attic Woman - this is often the easier form of conversation. It was nice in a funny way. Sad but as it should be.

Bloggers unite

More marmalade calls - no time to post now. This is just to add Granny's voice to the outrage about Mojtaba and Arash, the jailed Iranian bloggers. (Lacking an inner geek she hasn't managed to work out how to head this post with the banner calling for it. However if you click the title above, you will be taken straight to the Committee to Protect Bloggers site, which explains the present campaign to free them. She can say what she likes about local political crooks on her island. So should they be able to. We all need our Rory Bremners too. (Hate to think what would happen to him in a country like Iran. He couldn't do what he does on US TV either. Bush and VILE Rupert Murdoch* have got it all sewn up.)

*The late great lamented Dennis Potter called him 'a cancer.' Quite right too. He's an ayatollah, too, of a different kind.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Making Marmalade for the Dead (3)

Granny thought something pretty was needed to counter the marmalade - Beloved wouldn't serve right now; he has a large plaster on his nose to cover a bite byTiresome Terrier. Not her fault for once - he was rough-housing with her and she got over-excited. Granny could say serve him right. But she won't.

Flowers everywhere - the yearly magic. No such thing as crocuses and daffodils. Spring here is a growing season, a rebirth from dry not cold. Granny misses snowdrops and suchlike. Oh and the sweet evasive smell of primroses. But she can't complain, really.

Well: marmalade. She makes the whole orange kind - you boil the oranges and cut them up after, much less tiresome than taking the peel off the raw fruit, as her mother did. Even easier now she has found a recipe in Jane Grigson's Fruit Book (book much to be recommended- the woman could write.) Granny's old recipe came in a book that used to be her mother's - which demanded she not only removed all the pips but scraped out the pulp before cutting up the rind - a laborious process. Fruit Book just tells her to cut the rind up, pulp and all - thanks be to be to St Jane. Only problem is that Jane, to judge by last year's problems, advises too much water - Granny goes to consult former recipe - unfortunately the book, as is common with old cookbook has lost the relevant pages. On top of which Granny forgets that the water in which she boils the oranges has to be put back in the pot with the sugar and cut up fruit. She lets it boil almost away and then has to guess how much to replace. Too much; naturally.

Further problem. Her trusted old preserving pan lurking back in the UK, she's forced to utilise Beloved's old milking pail that he used for his goats. It serves fine except for having a raised part in the bottom with a neat little trough all round, in which of course the jam sticks and burns unless she stirs constantly and watches very carefully. And why, she asks, does every recipe for jam she's come across suggest that 20 minutes will be enough? - its nearer 45 and more for marmalade in Granny's experience. Many a year she's taken it out and potted it to find it still more or less liquid when cold. Out of the jars it comes - they all have to be washed and re-sterilized - back into the pan - she can dignify the result by calling it 'twice-cooked marmalade' as if it was a deliberate extra refinement. It isn't. It's a pain.

Granny thinks of her mother while she does all this; the continued ritual a kind of communion with her. Her mother never so much as boiled an egg till she was 30, when she was thrust into domesticity by the war. Always a perfectionist she plunged in whole-heartedly, half-killing herself in the process. Seeing her fret about the state of her kitchen while she lay dying, Granny and her twin sister looked at each other and said: 'this is not going to happen to us.' Nor did it, mostly. But Granny did adopt the bits she liked; she and her twin both took to marmalade-making in their thirties. Granny has done it on and off ever since. Partly it's the only marmalade she likes; partly she loves the smell of it cooking. Lilies of the valley? Roses? Give her half-cooked marmalade any day. Toiling in her own steamed-up kitchen she's grateful as well as nostalgic.

One small nod to this place. Driving back from the beach to the north of them yesterday, Granny and Beloved were puzzled to see large numbers of people - mostly men - clutching plastic bags, heads bent to the long reaches of sandy soil on either side of the road. It turns out they were looking for a kind of wild potato, a delicacy, much prized and very hard to find. This is a relief to Granny - she thought they might be looking for birds' eggs.

There's a lot of searching with bent back and heads here. But usually it's down by the shore, for limpets, for the little black crabs they use for fishing-bait and so forth. Young men do it too. Granny is glad to see such traditions continue -so many are fading. The old men and women in traditional hats, sitting outside their houses or on walls along the road, gossiping to each other are a dying breed. Impertinently Granny tried to photograph one old woman yesterday; who shook her fist, hissed at her, literally. Granny agrees she deserved it. And she didn't get the photo.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Making Marmalade for the Dead (2)

Granny's father stuck to cooking breakfast, luckily for Granny's mother. She did not have to make marmalade alongside a Beloved stuffing squid. Guess who did. Fancy a squid-flavoured conserve anyone?

(And no, his cooling liquids did not actually infiltrate the oranges....but it was a close run thing.)

(Sunny for two days if anyone's interested....but with an ICY wind.)

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Making Marmalade for the Dead (1)

Beloved this morning was eating his breakfast standing up. Granny thinks this isn't good for his digestion - 'A Scot,' says Beloved, 'always eats porridge standing up' - a statement that brings back at once for Granny the image of her father at breakfast with his bowlful, holding it close to his mouth and shoveling spoonfuls in: yes, standing up. And yes he had Scots blood - highland - one-eighth of it, reflected in his names - of which he was inordinately proud. That he put sugar in his oatmeal, rather than salt, was probably due to the bastard English rest of him.

When he'd finished his porridge, he'd sit down for the rest of it; what is these days called 'a full English' - bacon, eggs - sometimes with added sausage - all of it replaced occasionally by kippers, followed by toast and marmalade; always marmalade without which breakfast wasn't; he expected his entire family too to wade through the whole thing. How he remained so skinny - the rest of this meals followed similar traditional patterns - God knows. But he did. Granny's mother provided by the marmalade. Breakfast was always in her family cooked by Dad himself.

Her mother meanwhile, who found waking up in the morning as hard as Granny does sat at the other end of the table in her dressing-gown, knocking back coffee to wake herself up and reading her paper - the Daily Mirror, not for its politics but its cartoon strips. (Granny loved the cartoon strips too and may have caught some of her future political views from reading left-wing firebrands like Cassandra; tabloids weren't all rubbish then. She doubts if the political effects were intended by her Dad - he cancelled the subscription in 1956, because he disapproved of the Mirror's thunderings against the Suez war. ) He meanwhile would be ensconsed behind his Times. None of the family were allowed to talk at breakfast. There was a thing called a dumb waiter in the middle of the table - a kind of tray on a swivel. That way noone need interrupt the silence so much as by asking for the marmalade. Breakfast was sacred in those days. Granny still associates the taste of marmalade with silence.

The marmalade at least survives. Granny's does. Today's adventures in marmalade making though can wait next time....Bottle Blondshell and husband are coming to lunch..

Saturday, February 19, 2005


Oranges are boiling on the stove. Kitchen is full of steam - and music - Saturday morning and CD music on Radio Three. Vivaldi at the moment.

Granny has just finished and printed up fourth draft of book which will have to do for the moment. She is also marginally over-hung. Lady with the dogs came to dinner last night, plus big and little both. (Big is so tall his face turns up next to your plate, which is disconcerting - fortunately he's too polite to take a bite, though looking ever hopeful.) Lady is fond of red wine - so is Granny for whom - and for whose stomach - it isn't good. Hence the hangover. Red wine might also have been reason for weird and wild dream, involving beloved daughter-in-law setting up an extremely randy Tarts and Vicars Christmas show performed by a lot of large, or little, but all ageing, rather drunk and very suggestive ladies in revealing garments. This sets Beloved Daughter off on screaming fit. Granny is left to gather up beloved grand-daughter - actually more like daughter as a child - who doesn't appear the least phased, merely demands a bagel. Before she can supply it, Granny wakes up.

Where did that all come from???

Lady with Dogs reveals the following:

1) Dionisio - see above - is married, has children and grandchildren and would like to run his pigs sometime on our land. Granny is in favour, provided they don't eat all the herbiage, so good for birds, providing 'hotelitos for the animalitos,' as the Park Rangers put it. For sure Granny wants to protect her lizards, insects and so forth.

2) An English vulcanologist who owned three houses on Tenerife and two on this island has sold all of them, against impending volcanic activity. Granny and Beloved knew about the possible implosion of Tenerife but thought here was safe for the duration. Activity is more likely at southern end of island and will involve slow flowing lava, possible to run away from, unlike the explosive kind in Tenerife. But even so.

Lady does not inform G and B about increasing likelihood of Gulf Stream disappearing from coast of UK, lowering the temperature by 5 degrees at least. Granny read that somewhere (on the Guardian website?) Freeze to death in UK? Or be engulfed by hot lava here? What a delightful decision!

Lady also regales them with tales of her work with the seamier side of the island - ie the tourists. Last night it was a drunk young man claimed his drink had been spiked with cannabis. At midnight she was called out to translate for a fourteen year girl who'd spent a week flashing her bits at a waiter, who'd assumed therefore she was of age; she is now accusing him of sexual harrassment. What with that and chief carers randy over 50's it doesn't make being British anything to boast about. But there you go.

(View slightly uplifted though by wonderful Channel 4 programme about the trials of Charles' Ist's regicides; all in their own words and wonderfully produced and acted. As for that lovely sonorous yet austere seventeenth century prose... yummy. Some things we are good at.)

The sun is out and bright! Good good good. That'll do for today's news about the weather

Friday, February 18, 2005

Sucking Pig

Bloggit again. Granny should do what nice Deepak suggests and write the post on line. She didn't and has just lost it. Here she goes again..(She'll select and save it all this time for sure.)

Squeals erupted a little while ago from behind the bright blue water butts on the far side of her land, perched just above the wall. A man appeared, followed by Dionisio, carrying a small blackish pig, wriggling so furiously as well as screaming that he had to stop and shift it every now and then to get a better hold. They all walked along the donkey wall (made for donkey carts, still useful for people) descended to the road and disappeared behind the house where the squealing stopped - maybe it was smothered. Shortly after Dionisio reappears alone and the business is repeated, except this little pig is mottled and wriggles even more energetically; he's forced to put it down after a bit, he takes it by the hind legs and walks it along the wall like a wheelbarrow. The pig stops squealing. Either it prefers this method of locomation - or else it has no breath left.

Back behind the house again. Shortly after a van drives off, plus piglets presumably. (In which case they're lucky. The last piglet Granny saw collected was shoved unceremoniously into the boot of a car and the lid slammed down on it.) Two possibilities here - the pigs have been sold to be reared by another family, or same family is celebrating something this weekend with a feast of sucking pig. First is most likely; in the case of the second, a) it's Lent, b) Granny suspects Dionisio would have sold them already slaughtered; he's all set up for this in the white garage just beyond along the dirt track dignified by the name of Camino Las Peladas. Evidently there are no laws here against slaughtering your own stock. Or maybe there are; but this is an illicit - or at least not legal pig farm to start with, so the family has no choice.

Life in the raw in rural Lanzarote. Not cruel though here - not really. Dionisio held those pigs almost tenderly as if they were children. He's such a nice man - perhaps they are his children. Granny doesn't know if he's even married. Certainly in this so-called family co-operative he has to do most of the work. The piglets must feel like his own. They look like his own.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Sun Day

It hasn't rained for over 36 hours. Half the doors in the house have swelled up - the one above the courtyard leading to Granny and Beloved's bedroom can't be shut at all. The cushions from the sitting-room are almost dried out but still haven't been replaced. The mysterious smell -alway an effect of too much rain on the septic tank - emanating from the shower in the white bedroom downstairs has almost (almost) been banished. Matters chez Granny and Beloved are settling down again. They ate lunch in the sun today. Are ignoring the bank of black cloud appearing on the horizon this moment.

Dogs; the lady with the big and little dogs works down at the airport all day on Thursdays so Granny is in charge of letting them out for the obvious purpose. She has noticed an odd phenomenon; the very big dog - male - crouches to pee like a bitch. The very small dog - female - cocks a leg to pee like a dog. Did she always, Granny wonders. Or is it only since her male companion appeared that she feels a need to compensate? The big dog is not only tall but weighty. If he cocked a leg he'd almost certainly topple over.

The black cloud one way, sun the other is turning the green of the land below Granny's window livid. The prickly pears are edged with black shadows. Very dramatic.

Odd how one can live in several places at once. Granny's working on a book set in Birmingham and lives there half the day in her head. She is reading one book set in Barcelona, another in California and disappears those ways too. Beloved says it doesn't work like that for him, he's always just where he's standing.

Local horticulture goes on. Down the driveway the widow in black who lives in the house there sorted potatoes all afternoon that she'd spend most of the morning digging up. "Buenas papas?" inquires Granny. ''Unas malas," says the woman. "Lastima" (pity) says Granny. This is communication of sorts.

Five or six people are coming here for a study of local natural history in three weeks time. We've got a lot of work ahead,' urges Beloved. Granny groans. She rarely welcomes the thought of company, let alone the work involved, though she can enjoy it in reality - (as long as they don't take pictures of her - they make her look too old. Never mind says Beloved.) She is perverse like that.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


Granny did write a post yesterday. When she tried to publish it the piece vanished and that thankless page came up that says 'unknown address' etc etc. End of post and she couldn't redo it because she had to take the dogs for a walk and one of them vanished - the beautiful Wimp of course - and didn't come back until after dark, despite Granny and the Lady with the Big and Little Dogs driving everywhere to find him. Whereupon Feline Houdini disappeared for the night - not much to be done about that, though this has to be discouraged. Too many birds nesting already these days. He upset a pair of shrike badly yesterday.

Two relatively windless days. Yesterday was dust haze, today plain misty, though apparently it was sunny on the coast. Granny is sorry if this site is turning into an endless weather report. In fact almost the first impetus for it was someone suggesting she keep a weather journal, so she could compare months from year to year. In fact, judging by recent anomalies it's turning into a very local account of the effects of global warming. There's been snow on the island called La Gomera for the first time in a hundred years.

Not much else to report. Granny has been feeling a little achy and dismal for some reason. It happens. Phone doesn't go, no emails, nothing on her book, which she is going over and over in the vain hope of turning it into deathless prose. Favourite bloggers don't seem to be blogging - just like her. Beloved claims he doesn't like her music and has gone out somewhere. Unfed dogs are yelping. Wrist is better but not wholly so. On the BBC website it says they are looking again at Diana's death....what's new. (The most surprising people are beginning to think she was murdered. Granny neither knows or particularly cares.)

One of those days. Mild air, though. Thanks for that.

Now to publish.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Lone palms

No pics today either...

Out of the window behind her laptop Granny can see two lone palms, two wild heads of hair if you like; one poised dramatically above sea and against sky; the other backed by white houses and stone walls - very North African (but then Morocco is only 40 miles away.) Both are the measures by which she assesses the wind - it has been tossing them furiously for the last three days; now there's the odd wave only of a petulant lock. For which much thanks. As for the ceasing at last of the endless rain and the endless leaks and the endless power cuts. The whole island has been reduced to its usual state of chaos - hospitals and roads alike. If this goes on they will have to do some work on the roofs and maybe provide the roads with gutters. Though one of the four 'dry' Canaries, its rainfall is currently higher than on the three wet ones. A spindly grass has even started to grow. What next.

Valentine's Day. What's that? Granny is now old enough to confess her shameful secret that apart from home-made items from her then very small children, the only Valentine she ever received was a joke one when she was a boarding-school, sent by nasty friends to point up how many cards they were - would be - getting from spotty youths around the country, met at the kind of dances where granny, spectacled and plump lurked miserably on the sidelines. Though she lost the spectacles and the weight over the years and had her due of anything but spotty boyfriends, none of them believed in sending unsigned postal hearts and flowers, let alone calling her smoochy koo or Poohsie Bear in the columns of the Guardian - or if they did they never told her. The more romantic of her two husbands took her out to a Valentine's dinner or two - once to an establishment called appropriately 'la pomme d'amour' - but he didn't believe in Valentine cards either - as for dear Beloved - a deeply romantic man in his own way - he thinks Valentine's Day like Mother's Day and Father's Day and all the rest are commercial conspiracies by card manufacturers among others to extract money from the gullible. He could be right. Somewhere in her internet reading today Granny encountered a mini-fridge touted as the perfect Valentine's Day present....what for - to keep feelings in? Actually she prefers them warm.

The sun came out dimly and is going down. There is the sound of Beloved chopping something behind her for an unValentine's Dinner; the still more encouraging glug glug of a bottle being emptied into a carafe. Her wrist is improving by the day - any minute now she will go to give him a hand - especially with the bottle. She can type two-handed again and has managed to acquire yesterday's Observer; a rare treat. She'll settle for all of these. Who wants hearts and flowers? Not her. Not really... NO!

Sunday, February 13, 2005

just like home

Dismal day. This is the place where it didn't rain once for 7 years. Now it doesn't stop. One merit is that our realigned rain-catching system (off the roof, down onto the sloping terrace, into the water-tank) is providing almost enough to keep granny and beloved supplied. Last water bill for desalinated public provision was just 15 euros. Good. Not that we drink it - take off the aljibe (watertank - lovely word) lid, survey sundry floating lizards and the odd mouse. Um. No. Though youngest granddaughter aged 18 months was caught once swigging it from her paddling pool and didn't suffer much more than mild diarrheoia, so it can't be that bad. Just unaesthetic. Wind is also blowing - from east - an east wind and rain TOGETHER??? Unheard of. Fortunately it hasn't blown hard enough to smash yet more panes in the glass roof that covers our sitting-room - once the courtyard. That happened while Granny and Beloved were off on their travels - the temporary wood replacement is now sodden and leaks more than the rest of the roof; which also leaks everywhere, throughout the house. They lie in bed listening to drip drip drip. And are forced occasionally to move the bed. Nice day to sit by the fire though and get kippered (wind in present direction makes it smoke badly. All G and B's clothes smell as if they have been off camping.)

Upside of this - yesterday was altogether nicer day - is that Granny's land is postively lush in places. Flowers everywhere. Locals out everywhere too, digging this, cutting that. More and more vines are being planted, new walls (always black, because lava stone, until it weathers) are being built to shelter them. Granny would like to ask about this, but local patois rather beyond her getting-more- servicable- but- still-rudimentary Spanish. Exchanges mostly limited to 'frio' on both sides of dialogue and exaggerating shivering. Why do some versions of Spanish leave out all the consonants? It makes things so difficult (even for Spanish speakers sometimes. Granny met an Argentinian lifeguard once who complained he couldn't understand a word anyone said. But then they said the same of him.)

Oh the joy of two-handed typing. The wrist is definitely improving. Beloved has splinted it, which helps. What a versatile fellow he is...

This weather is reminiscent of winter cosiness back home. There are worse things. It keeps the flies away for sure. (But not Feline Houdini who is sitting next to granny's laptop looking snooty.)

Saturday, February 12, 2005

low tide

Another fancy pic from the clever doctor. One-handed granny is grateful for this. She realises exactly why -apart from necessities of symmetry and balance - human beings are blessed with two arms, two hands, and full of admiration for those forced to manage permanently with less. Teeth, she too discovers, have their uses - for pulling dressing-gown cords up tight, for instance. Still, things improve somewhat. No painkiller today. Tomorrow she can - will - discard the sling.

The calima is now quite with us. No sea or islands, just veiled volcanoes, weak sun and a parky, tho' diminished wind. Granny woke this morning, sinuses hurting from the dust. Last night the lady with the big and little dog brought dinner in for granny and her beloved; home-made sushi, grilled fennel and asparagus, a huge sea-food soup. How good she isn't out of Chekov. Much better to have another good cook next door rather than in Yalta; even if the playfulness of her VERY big dog does look like an elephant attempting to gambol. (A school of whales has been seenlately down off the coast where the Attic woman lives. Really. They are said to gambol too.)

Granny has spent her enforced idleness re-reading her M/S. Meaning she still has a lot to do on it. With books and poems alike it's as if a bell keeps ringing in your head until the thing is right. And then it stops, leaving you trying to work out what to do next to fill the empty -writing- space. (This is worse..)

Two images sit in Granny's head. One of a long lost city (only reported in myth) revealed by the tsunami on the coast of South India. The other from a programme on telly about the English Civil War. A young girl is made to watch the massacre of her community by the royal forces; sent to warn other rebels what to expect she goes mad en route.

And no, we are not more civilised now, just not, anywhere in Europe, in extremis. Yet. 18 dead in Iraq yesterday. Our terrible world. But also beautiful - see pic, above.

low tide Posted by Hello

Friday, February 11, 2005

sprained wrist and stone curlew

No long blogs for now. Granny is typing this with one finger. After taking bath last night to celebrate 1) wearing but successful family week 2) renewal of (mostly) domestic bliss with Beloved, she slips on wet floor and sprains her right wrist. Very painful. Ibuprofen now oral intake of choice. Just as well she is left-handed. She can't drive even so and Seville oranges still not turned into marmalade will now have to be frozen till wrist recovered. (Six to eight weeks claims google-found website, cheerfully.) This is the weather indoors. Outdoors blows a furious calima (East wind ie) it's grey dusty and and about as cheerful as granny feels.

Still she tracked down a stone curlew. An endangered species it turns out. Tiresome Terrier's exploit still more to be deplored.

Posted by Hello

Thursday, February 10, 2005

family sagas

Granny has spent her week with rain coming through every roof, electricity shorting, a psychomatic stomach bug, and - now, - with wind banging top bottom and all round. Appropriate weather - did anyone shout pathetic fallacy? - for her immersion in problems arising from being a second Mrs Rochester. Let's keep the literary analogies going. Tennessee Williams meets Cranford. Granny had forgotten how very polite some kinds of Americans can be - the kind that does not go stamping on hot tin roofs or naming Street Cars Desire. The kind not called, say, Kerouac or Philip Roth. Granny's image throughout the week swung between Wicked Stepmother and Mother Teresa - quite often - as Beloved pointed out - in her own head. She has now swung back to her normal mundane self, no more evil than most let alone good. She does wonder, though, about the roles all of us (she assumes) find ourselves trying on in the course of any day, any life, bouncing off, reflected from, this person, this group or that. Some do it more some less - or at least they are are less self-conscious about it. Beloved is not the least self-conscious and appears much more constant: but then, no doubt, everyone seems more constant from the outside. His persona, in extremis, Miller of Dee (I care for nobody no not I and nobody cares for me) ends up as:'if all else fails, cook.' In consequence, everyone over-ate this week, not to say over-drank. (Which might have something to do with Granny's iffy guts.)

So the son, the clever doctor, the Southern Belles came and went (one Belle was definitely rung, but that is another story. Granny does love being cryptic sometimes. How many stories can one tell in a blog and how many not? And which ones are true? And shouldn't they all on some level be cryptic?) Granny and Beloved are left exhausted but happy because really many kinds of family ghosts were laid in the end, with hugs all round which is just as it should be. Granny keeps thinking of ordeals as in the Magic Flute: you walk into the dark and emerge at last, blinking wearily, into the light. Some wonderful music to have accompanied this would have been nice but you can't have everything. And maybe the sudden winging up of two stone curlews from under Granny and Beloved's feet, to replace the one slaughtered by the Tiresome Terrier will do just as well . (Tiresome Terrier is to be kept from the area concerned until the nesting season is over. )

When Granny is feeling less tired she will find a stone curlew to put on her post. Meantime here is a nice and very typical picture of Beloved, rock-pooling, taken by the clever doctor instead. As you see he doesn't have long yellow legs, let alone a long beak tipped with black and broad wings edged with brown black and white stripes. No, no, that's the Stone Curlew.

The electrician has been and gone. More power has arrived. A good metaphor for the way G and B are feeling. No more sudden plunges into the dark they hope: though true improvement could only truly be measured by another influx of Southern Belles, taking showers and wielding hair dryers....

A question. Does every family have its golden age? This week was one long reminiscence of such an age in one family. Interesting that.


Monday, February 07, 2005


Prickly but unbowed - if not as pretty - pretty much sums up Granny's life and self both, just now. For the first time for two days she is alone in the house apart from Mr Handsome and Feline Houdini, currently wrecking the seat on the chair behind her.

Electricity keeps on tripping as visitors attempt to keep warm, dry their hair, make cups of tea etc. Gas bottles have been acquire to run heaters, which helps, unfortunately one evening uses them up and since entire island is cold like us, and finds as we do that their systems won't carry much in the way of electric radiators they too have resorted to gas. Bottles are therefore hard to attain and tomorrow, wouldn't you know, is yet another Fiesta (carnival this time) so after 12 oc'clock all possible outlets will be closed. Merrily merrily. It turns out that extra potencia can be supplied, illegally, circumnavigating electricity company so this will be done - but not till Wednesday (see Fiesta, as above.) Granny is also contemplating investigating wind and solar power; expensive to instal but much more environmentally pc. Good.

Otherwise all goes well enough. Granny had not expected all the southern accents...house sounds like Scarlet O'Hara meets LadyBird Johnson (boy, does that date her..) with a bit of Driving Miss Daisy thrown in. Never realised people actually did say 'yo'all' outside fiction - THEY DO. Add some very tight-lipped English rewrite of Tennessee Williams (Granny never tight-lipped but never mind) plus heavy rain storms, plus, just now, Handsome working on outside lights both of which also animate tripswitches and you have life chez Granny and Beloved in the week of February 6th 2005.

Back to minds, souls as in last post. The saddest of all saddest things is that even when the mind is half gone, emotions are as powerful as ever. Sadness, depression etc clings on amid all the confusions of dementia or brain-damage. Seems unfair, doesn't it. But what's fair about life? Tiresome Terrier, for example, killed a stone curlew two days ago - very dramatic and not so common bird obviously incubating a clutch of eggs; TT wouldn't have got near her otherwise. Granny who loves her birds considers this another if less painful example of it's being unfair. But so what?

Phew. Despite being thrown off internet 3 times in the course of this post, she's made it!!

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Walking the Dog 2

Well then. Life is - feels - odd here just now full of figures from Beloved's past life, pre-Granny.

Last night ensued long philosophical discussion on nature/possibilities of mind, animal and human, between 1) Beloved, the animal man, 2 ) philosopher son, 3) very bright not to say eclectic doctor escorting (2). Conclusion of animal man at least was that there is no such thing as true intentionality. Ie man does what he does because he does..... Taken literally this would wipe out all legal sanction, moral stance, etc etc, all of which distinguish between 'intention' and 'not intention.' Even Beloved admits that pragmatically speaking intention cannot be left out of account no matter how inadequate an acount it makes of behaviour. Very bright but not to say pragmatic doctor fascinated by this, if sceptical - as was - insofar as she understood the more technically philosophical ends of this - fiction writing granny. Who actually would have nothing to write about were it not for 'intention' so there. While the doctor might as well be a vet.

Nature of mind something Granny thinking much about just now anyway, following the news of her stroke-felled friend. She has previously known at uncomfortably close quarters several people affected by brain damage - cancer in two cases, stroke/vascular problems in two more. In each case faculties relating to reason memory empathy social behaviour etc had gone to some extent or other, according to the site of the damage. This would seem to give a lie to the notion of mind distinct from body - what Beloved calls 'dualism': if the brain part of body is damaged only part of the mind is left: at the extreme all mind goes. Equally it denies the notion of rebirth in an afterlife. Which Granny has not believed in for a long time, though sighing a little for the faith of her parents, both of whom expected to see some long-lost love - ('I'll see my Peggy (granny's mum) again-' sighed her father; 'I'll see mummy' wept her 50 year old mother, motherless from the age of 3.)

On the other hand what religion talks about is 'soul.' Which a theologian would say was different from mind. Very confusing. Granny too has observed that in all the 4 brain-damaged cases she saw most closely, what remained was a kind of residual essence of personality; almost a distillation of what she knew before about the person concerned. In one case the distillation was anger, another (her mother) grief and fear, a third, furious willpower (so powerful it was like an earthly force; reminding granny of the primitive images of some fertility goddess) the fourth, extreme dependency. Beloved in response to this says what is observed here is in the eye of the beholder; or beholders since in most cases they concurred.

And if he's wrong about this, if it's there, objectively, what about enlightenment? What would you observe in a brain-damaged Buddha? All the extremes of will, loss, rage etc transcended? Peace after death dependent on such utter maturity? Granny wonders.

Meantimes she will go swimming. 3 cold Texans are due to arrive this evening. WHOOPEE.

Walking the Dog 1

What more to say really? Granny won't except to add that she has spent the whole morning trying to persuade Hello to let her send two pictures to the same post and FAILED, dismally. Let others talk of their 'inner geeks.' Where's hers?

Next photo will appear on Walking the Dog 2. (Dog in singular because one dog - Tiresome Terrier of course - chose to walk herself and buggered off. Good)

By the way: there have been swallows here over the past day or two. Also good.

Friday, February 04, 2005

the performer

Yes, well, here is the real thing: a grandchild!! No 3 to be precise. No's 1 and 2 to follow in very due course. Taken on Monday in a much warmer room than this.

IT IS COLD. And the sun has gone in. Among travel agents there is a profitable myth that these islands live in permanent summer. They don't. Locals sensibly clothe themselves in wool. Even Beloved acknowedges winter with a second t-shirt, he also wears long trousers instead of shorts (mainly because Grannyp complains he makes her feel colder still if he doesn't.) None of this would matter much, the sun can be warm enough, if the electric heaters put on to counter the chill indoors didn't instantly trip the electricity, meaning constant plunges through the dark house to put it on again. Three American women from Houston are appearing on Sunday, all of them claiming to feel the cold dreadfully. In the light of which Beloved and Grannyp headed for the big ironmonger on the other side of the island this morning to buy gas heaters. Successfully. Only problem is heaters need little bottles of butagas to feed them and acquiring them is more of a problem. According to some they can bought over the counter at any garage; not true; we tried 3. According to others a special certificate has to be acquired from a centre in the main town before the garages will even release them. Possibly true, but since they haven't yet found the little orange bottles of gas obtainable with or without the requisite piece of paper, granny and Beloved are still in the dark on this one, in all senses. Sunday is approaching fast. They will have to try again tomorrow.

As for electricity; in order to upgrade it seems that yet another certificate of 'potencia' is needed; whether or not that's obtainable without months of negotiation or possible short-circuit - ha! - via exchange of illicit cash - if only they knew how to set that one on- who knows? Not they. So why didn't they stay back in England where at least, baby, it's only cold outside?

(In the course of this expedition they did find source of a) fair trade coffee b)risotto rice; good. That's one less thing to hump back from London. Failed to find promised source of real smoked haddock. But you can't have everything.)

Granny, despite everything, is pleased to be home; really. A few days before leaving she encountered one of the lesser pleasures of ageing; news that an older friend, ex-boyfriend, had had a massive stroke a few months back; a once quite athletic, certainly strong man, barely 60, recent owner of an olive grove where he happily shinned up trees, pruning etc, in between building himself a house next door, is now able only to walk - just - and talk just - but unable to drive needs 17 hours care a day, so totally dependent on his family, round members of whom he is shunted for a few weeks at a time.

Would it have been better if he'd died? Who knows? Only he can answer that. Meantime Granny, who hadn't actually for one reason or another expected to encounter him again - or even to know his fate- is now beset by fond images of her friend's former lively self. (Also by rage that he refused to take better care of himself - blood-pressure checks were not for him, stupid bugger.) A kind of mourning; which she duly expects will be repeated more and more often as time goes on and her less robust friends succumb to one thing and another. It is said they will abolish old age; but it hasn't happened yet. Wh cares about creaky bones and wrinkles and all that if you can still walk, talk, look after yourself, depend on noone much? Poor friend. Meantime granny is left also, guiltily, relieved it wasn't Beloved. Who does take care of himself, more or less. Granny herself is flourishing still and intends to live FOR EVER. At the same time who knows what, or when? True of everyone - aren't we lucky to live even as long as sixty really; look at 26 December? But wrinklies, not to say crumblies, I guess, think about it more. Free travel on the London Underground cannot make up for all this. (But it helps.)
Posted by Hello

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Irrelevant boxes

Hullo friends... Granny is back- plus picture of wholly irrelevent boxes just to show she can (partially) manage recently accquired digi camera.

Sun is out - wind freezing. Locals' idea of effects of global warning on the island is much hotter summers, much colder winters. True. Latter can be trying as most people's heating is not adequate - Granny and Beloved's wonderful stove for instance is only lit at night. London was colder outside and much warmer in. Beautiful Wimp and Tiresome Terrier pleased to see her - they caught a rabbit in her absence - amazing - even if it was by all accounts a very young rabbit, and its capture certainly pure fluke. It went in the pot at once. Feline Houdini has not yet caught a mouse.

So Granny has her camera and Beloved his handheld computer chess - something Granny recommends to all wives/partners of chessplaying and retired husbands.....now she's left to read in peace more or less - if chess game sounds much like demented chipmonk (it does) so what?

This will not be a long blog. No travelogue - yet! (threat?) A stack of people descend - Beloved's son for one, come to visit Attic Woman and not wholly sure about Granny. Who has soothed herself with the smells of cardomum and lemon making a large cake; and will in due course attend to the 4 and a half kilos of Seville oranges she has lugged back from England - ironic that; all having come originally from Andalucia. It's marmalade time. The only kind she rates is very dark and bitter and made by noone else. so she either has to go marmaladeless or make her own. She makes it.

Flowers are out. Islands clear. Book is sitting with agent, whose marital problems may militate against early reading - never mind. At her age Granny is still impatient but better (a little) at living with that.

Cake has turned out beautifully; then fallen off its rack and broken in pieces....SOD IT.

Hullo everyone. And goodbye for now.

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