Week-end: jiggety-jig

A group of small islands seen across a city from the top of a hill on a sunny day

The good

I very much enjoyed our last couple of days in France – exploring more of Avignon (including the covered market) on foot and by tram, and then visiting Marseille. The latter was very sunny and very windy. We took a bus a little way along the coast so that we could look at the Chateau d’If from the shore. Of course I now need to reread The Count of Monte Cristo, but then I always do.

Also, an extremely positive and useful vision and planning day with my Cursillo committee.

The mixed

I wouldn’t have chosen to take a rail replacement bus at 7.20am – but looking back to see the towers and walls of Avignon sharp against a hazy gold sunrise, and then driving through Tarascon and Beaucaire as it brightened into a clear sunshiny day, with the old walls basking in the light, made it worth it.

Got caught up with work and didn’t make it to Evensong on Thursday. But I learned today that Candlemas was not marked at Evensong on Thursday, so I have in fact been saved disappointment (and other people have objected).

The difficult and perplexing

Dealing with a jam containment failure on the TGV. My fault. Probably.

Not sure I will ever catch up on my emails. Oh well.

What’s working

The lectio divina on community from Fifty Ways To Pray. Embracing the idea that sometimes all choices are good (and therefore that dithering over where to eat lunch is a waste of time).

Reading

At Nîmes station I found a machine that dispensed short stories at the touch of a button. So I pressed the button and received a copy of Fleur Sauvage by Thierry Covolo on a long thin strip of paper.

Since getting back I’ve been pretty tired and have fallen back on Persuasion retellings from the AO3. May reread Persusasion proper. Some good blog posts, too: The Holiest Feast Day of Do-Overs from The Fluent Self, and Admiral Cloudberg was on particularly good form capturing the horrifying inevitability of Carnage on the Autobahn: the crash of Paninternational flight 112.

Watching

The European figure skating championships. I have to say it’s nice to be able to watch the final group in the women’s competition without constantly wondering whether it’s making me complicit in child abuse.

Looking at

More Provençal crib scenes, not to mention the churches that contained them – Ste Marie Majeure and Notre Dame de la Garde in Marseille. I liked them both, flamboyant nineteenth century edifices that they are. Notre Dame de la Garde in particular is quite remarkable. It’s right at the top of the hill (we took the bus up) and even when you’re inside you can hear the wind howling around. It’s more or less wallpapered with votive plaques and representations of Our Lady’s miraculous interventions, including several model boats and aircraft. But particular kudos to Ste Marie Majeure for having an actually convincing flock of sheep in one of its crib scenes.

Cooking

I made jam tarts for Candlemas. (I forget now where I read about this tradition, and it may be a complete myth. Still, at worst I get jam tarts.)

Eating

More delicious French food, including cromesqui (a sort of deep-fried potato ball) and entremets (a cake made of chocolate mousse). Things I’d actually heard of included salmon and poached egg.

Noticing

Cats sitting on the roof of a hire van in a suburb of Avignon. A deer sneaking across the path ahead of me when I went for a walk on Thursday. A bus in Nîmes that thought it was a tram.

Appreciating

Warm blanket, fluffy cat. Bed.

Acquisitions

More badges for the camp blanket (still missing Avignon). Interesting flavoured salt, and truffled olive paste, from the covered market.

Hankering

So much unsuitable cheese. And the wine, too. (We did bring some back for purposes of future celebration.)

Line of the week

From No More Delay: a call to General Synod by Charlie Bell.

The minute we bless same-sex couples, people’s prejudice will be challenged by real, living people, right in front of them, living ordinary, faithful, loving, honest lives of love and faith, to coin a phrase.

This coming week

Back in the office. And maybe I’ll decide what to do with the butternut squash and sweet potato that have been hanging around for ages.

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!

Week-end: cold and beautiful

A street corner on a bright wintry day. Above the houses a cathedral tower rises, hazy in the mist, and surrounded by white-frosted trees.

The good

I dragged myself out of the house this morning and was glad I did: a heavy, spiky frost had turned all the trees white, and the cathedral was wearing a misty veil and looking like an enchanted castle from another dimension.

I have had a little more go, and even managed a bit of piano practice on two days. (I have been teaching myself to play the piano, very slowly, for the last five years at least.)

Lots of post on Thursday: my author copy of Bicycles and Broomsticks (Tony got his on Friday, so I think most people should be getting their Kickstarter rewards soon); cotton mending yarn in jolly bright colours…

The mixed

… and the probate application form, which has been doing the rounds of us executors. It is a sad thing, but it is good to keep things moving.

The difficult and perplexing

Never mind Blue Monday, Wednesday was an actual depression day. I am looking on the bright side and thinking that it is useful to know that I can in fact tell the difference between being knackered and being depressed.

Mixed news from the Church of England, and as usual I’m having trouble working out what I feel about it and feeling hesitant about expressing that, whatever it is.

Also, I shrank my favourite jumper. I’ve stretched out out again over the drying rack, but it is not what it was.

What’s working

Alternating activity with lying on the sofa.

Reading

I seem to be starting loads of books and finishing none of them. Yet. I continued with Sisters of the Forsaken Stars. My romantic suspense book club is now reading Death in Cyprus (M. M. Kaye) – satisfyingly awful characters, including the ones who are meant to be sympathetic, and some gorgeous descriptions. I also returned to Switzerland’s Amazing Railways, which had the entirely predictable effect of making me want to go to Switzerland and ride on (more of) the railways.

Writing

Not a huge amount, but I did type up all the longhand I did on the train last Monday. I still haven’t worked out a routine or set-up that works in my current state, and I’m not sure whether there is a routine or set-up that would theoretically work, or if I just need to wait things out and write little bits when I have the energy.

Mending

Two of Tony’s tops and a pair of my tights.

Watching

As in the rest of the month: Detectorists, Our Flag Means Death, quizzes and winter sports. I am not all that invested in the sports, but I enjoy looking at the snowy mountains.

Looking at

Small but Perfectly Formed: an open exhibition at the local art gallery. There were a few pieces I really liked, quite a lot that were just Not My Thing, and several that I would have liked had they not been given horrific twee names. (I am much more a ‘willows with heron’ person than a ‘gone fishing’ one.)

Cooking

I continue to experiment with the Instant Pot. Last Sunday I made a stonkingly good boeuf bourguignon on the slow cooker setting. Yesterday I did lamb tagine with the pressure cooker. I like this thing.

Eating

As above. Also, yesterday I had a falafel and halloumi wrap from the market; it was not as good as the ones from the stall in St Pancras new churchyard, and was also more dribbly than I’d have liked, but was still not at all bad.

Drinking

Tony and I tackled the mocktails menu at Poet’s House yesterday, considering all four items on it (I noticed too late that there was a Dry January blackboard with several other options) before going for a Virgin Mary (him) and a Galaxy (me). The latter is made of pineapple juice, and I think soda water, and made partly purple with butterfly pea powder (sole function of latter seems to be making things purple). Then I was falling asleep again so went home.

Moving

Swimming on Friday morning: probably a bad idea, in retrospect, even if I was careful and did about half what I’d usually attempt. Still, I’ve managed to walk into town and back, or further, every day since Thursday, so maybe that’s progress. People keep assuring me that the fatigue will pass. But why does nobody mention it alongside the sickness and the forgetfulness?

Playing

Home on the Range. Repeatedly.

Noticing

A goldfinch.

In the garden

Finally got all the pear trees and all but one of the apple trees pruned. And obtained an enamel soup plate to replace the birds’ water bowl, which cracked in the last frost.

Appreciating

Long johns. Hot shower. Bed. All the organising I did in November.

Acquisitions

The copy of Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (Rebecca West) that’s been tempting me in Oxfam for months got sufficiently reduced for me to buy it. And I got Arsenic for Tea (Robin Stevens) and Unseen Things Above (Catherine Fox) while I was in there too.

Hankering

I wanted to get a peanut feeder for the birds with an anti-squirrel cage, but such a thing was not to be had in Wilko. I want interesting socks, but not enough to learn how to knit them for myself. And I am still tempted by a 21-hook darning loom.

Line of the week

Loads of candidates this week! Either I am reading some very good writers or I am reading more attentively and appreciatively. Both good. This is from Death in Cyprus:

Amanda’s hair – a deep golden brown with glints in it the colour of the first chestnuts in September – was a glorious anachronism.

Sunday snippet

This is from the ‘don’t quit your day job’ workbook thingy.

One of the great gifts of all this has been that I have ceased to feel guilty about the things I’m not doing, whether that be writing, or washing up, or piano practice, or getting cat hair out from under the TV stand.

Things happen when they happen. I am actually pretty good at getting things done, but I get them done when I have the time and the energy, and when I don’t I don’t waste time and energy worrying about them.

This coming week

The long haul south. Pancakes. And what looks like it’s going to be a very frosty cycle to the station tomorrow morning.

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!

Week-end: service resumed

Toy pig made of beige corduroy, and plush wild boar, on top of a row of books

The good

My team’s Christmas lunch happened on Tuesday, having been postponed due to rail strikes in December (solidarity forever, obviously). The food was extremely tasty and we ended up in a pub admiring a nineteen year old cat named Jackie Onassis. What more could you want?

My writing brain is back and I did three pages on the train on Friday (half of them in red, because my black pen ran out). Hurrah! I survived the week better than I’d expected, actually, and even had the energy to peel potatoes when I got home last night.

One of my colleagues bought me ginger biscuits, which was very sweet of her.

The mixed

Sunday was the anniversary of Pa’s death. I went to church (Epiphany – so incense, which he would have disapproved of) and cried a little, discreetly, and in the evening we had a family Zoom and discussed various practical things we still haven’t sorted out.

The difficult and perplexing

Goodness, the Church of England is in a state at the moment. Ugh.

What’s working

I think a small cat nap on the train on Friday evening was beneficial.

Reading

Mostly I’ve been reading back through my blogroll. I’ve got to ’26 days ago’, so it’s all very Christmassy. I also returned to Sisters of the Forgiving Stars, though haven’t really got into it yet.

Writing

Lots! Hurrah! I began with a reflection for today’s online Cursillo meeting. Then I finished off the questions for Exeter (will link, if they end up being published in linkable form), then polished up Starcrossers and threw myself on the editor’s mercy regarding the fact that it was half as long again as the advertised maximum wordcount. We’ll see what happens. Then yesterday I wrote three pages about the fact that some times you just can’t write anything at all. This is going into the Don’t Quit The Day Job workbook I’ve been prodding at for a while. I haven’t done so much today, but I’m feeling quite encouraged.

Watching

Today, the Wengen downhill skiing. I have skipped a lot of the Alpine skiing in the last couple of weeks because the swathes of green were just depressing, but Wengen was displaying proper Alpine weather. And of course it’s always worth watching just to see if the Wengernalpbahn train will cross the track at any point when people are skiing down. Which reminds me, I must go back to Switzerland’s Amazing Railways.

Cooking

I had a go with the Instant Pot we have on approval, and made something that claimed to be Greek Chicken. I am not convinced that it was as Greek as all that, but it was quite tasty and the pot cooked it adequately. It was useful just to get an idea of how long the thing takes to heat up, get up to pressure, depressurise, etc. I haven’t got to grips with it by any means yet, but it does feel plausible that I might. Recipe recommendations welcome.

Eating

Tuesday’s lunch, at Drake & Morgan and King’s Cross, consisted of: chestnut hummus with flatbread; goose with a plum wrapped in bacon and typical roast dinner accoutrements; chocolate opera cake. I’d never had goose before, and was surprised (though thinking about it I shouldn’t have been) what a rich, dark meat it was.

Drinking

Working my way through the mocktail menu (first a Plum and Violette [sic] Spritz, then something called Garden Fizz, which was mostly blackberries and raspberries) followed by a lot of Erdinger Alkoholfrei.

Moving

Pleased to report that I did my standard fifty minute walk today and didn’t have to take a nap in the afternoon. And I climbed up to the top floor of my office a couple of times this week. Energy seems to be coming back. Today I thought about going swimming, but didn’t.

Noticing

Hazel catkins shaking in the wind. (And it has been very windy, the last few days.) It’s also fun to look for nests in the bare trees, though I don’t know how many of them are still in use.

In the garden

Four simultaneous bluetits, who approve of the suet cake.

Appreciating

Having more energy than I’ve had since mid-September. Who knows, maybe I’ll have to spend all of tomorrow in bed, but this week’s gone better than I could have hoped.

Acquisitions

A roll of double-sided sticky tape. And I have some more darning yarn on order.

Hankering

I smelled some perfumes in Rituals at King’s Cross, but didn’t like any of them enough to seriously want them. They’re comparatively cheap, though.

Line of the week

Clothes in Books featured Women in Black by Madeleine St John.

There remained presents to be bought for sundry difficult relations, there remained clothes to be purchased for their gigantically-growing children, there remained even frocks to be found for themselves, and then shoes to match these frocks: there remained almost everything to play for, and they were resolved to win.

Saturday snippet

From Don’t Quit The Day Job:

“Average author earns £100,000 a year” factoid actually just statistical error. Average author earns £10,000 per year. Megabucks Bestseller Georg, who lives in French chateau and earns £5000 per word, is an outlier and should not have been counted.” Of course we don’t want to believe it. We like books – at least, I assume you do, or why are you here? – and it feels deeply unfair for something that brings so much pleasure to us to return so little reward to its creator.

This coming week

Just one day in the office this week. An appointment on Thursday. Otherwise, a pretty quiet one. Maybe I’ll write some more.

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!

Week-end: Twelfth Night, somehow

A paper 'stained glass' window shows the Magi offering gifts to the child Jesus and Mary

The good

Lunch out with friends. Sharing good news. A really interesting discussion about John the Baptist.

My brain is coming back! Slowly, but it’s on the way. I have been reading things. I have been writing things. I have been watching things.

The mixed

It’s just as well that I’ve been working from home all week, because I’ve been collapsing into bed as soon as I clock off. I’m a bit worried about how I’m going to cope next week.

The difficult and perplexing

I’m becoming increasingly aware that for my next trick I need to become much better at delegating. But at this stage I’m still very much in the ‘it’ll only take five minutes; might as well do it myself’ phase, and delegating (and chasing the people I’ve delegated to) is also work. Improvement needed.

What’s working

Going for the easy option. Zoom rather than a dash to the South (this is tomorrow but I’m already glad I’m not taking a train to Guildford). Lunch in the pub that is nearest. And so on.

Reading

Lady B- is back! And I’ve just started Snow Ball (Brigid Brophy): cynical and scintillating.

Writing

Most of an interview for my alma mater, and a little more on the blog about the Belgian Coastal Tramway. Coming soon. I hope.

Mending

I got the darning loom out again and mended holes in: my favourite navy Guernsey jumper; one of Tony’s long-sleeved T-shirts; a pyjama top.

Watching

Charade: a self-consciously silly caper film starring Audrey Hepburn and the Parisian urban transit network. Mostly the Métro, but there was an excellent moment where Cary Grant leapt onto the back of a bus, as is entirely correct. I guessed the solution of the mystery quite early on, but there were plenty of other twists to keep me amused.

Continuing with Detectorists. I also started Our Flag Means Death. I’d been rather put off by hype backlash (a constant weakness of mine) and the earnestness of the fandom discourse, but it turns out to be delightfully silly (as well as Good Queer Rep and, what I hadn’t heard so much about, a clever commentary on the place of pirates in popular culture). I continue to get earwormed by the Horrible Histories Blackbeard song.

Cooking

An extremely bland and comforting tuna pasta bake. And then the thing with pearl barley, chorizo and kale (the only way to make kale interesting that I have yet discovered).

Eating

Today at the pub I had a chickpea curry (forgettable) followed by peach tarte tatin (very nice).

Moving

It feels rather depressing to be noting what used to be my standard morning walk as an incident of record, but there we go.

Playing

This afternoon I was taught to play Bears vs Babies. Rather fun.

In the garden

The squirrel has discovered the peanut feeder. I shall rearrange the feeders and leave the nuts out of it for a bit.

Appreciating

Intelligent theological conversation. Friends. Being able to nap.

Acquisitions

Merino wool long johns in the Mountain Warehouse sale. Will it get cold enough again to wear them? We shall see.

Line of the week

Almost every line of The Snow Ball has been quotable. What about:

He was short, and hollowed out by middle age; and his sporran leapt hectically, leapt breathlessly, up and down, not keeping time with the lighter leaps of his jabot.

Saturday snippet

The beach was a generous sweep of pale sand, scattered with seashells. I thought about paddling, but decided against it. The sea was quite a way out, and the wind was cold.

This coming week

Four days in the office. Will I manage to stay awake? And will I get the hang of the (heretofore unmentioned) Instant Pot? Stay tuned!

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!

Week-end: and year-end

Morning sun and bare trees seen through a glassless window

The good

I’ve enjoyed these first seven days of Christmas. We’ve seen lots of family, and a few friends, and I’ve been alternating between cooking, reading, and doing absolutely nothing. Now we’re back home with the cat.

And I think I’m getting my brain back.

The mixed

I could do with fretting less when we’re both away from home. I’m better now that we have a cat – because that means that we have someone coming in to feed her, and surely if the house burned down they would let us know – but I’d really like to be not quite so on edge until that first check-in.

The difficult and perplexing

Had to see some of the family from a distance, as they were struck down with the lurgy.

What’s working

Letting other people do things. Though I still need to work on this.

Reading

Wintering (Katherine May). I bought this because a lot of people on the DecemberReflections Instagram hashtag named it as their book of the year. I have to say that there wasn’t a whole lot in there that felt revolutionary to me: the central idea, that some periods in one’s life are just bloody difficult and to deal with them one needs to take a step back, is one that I first encountered in Lesley Garner’s Everything I’ve Ever Done That Worked back when I was a student, not to mention something that has been brought home to me by experience this year. And the concept of living in season is something that’s explored in far greater depth in Waverly Fitzgerald’s Slow Time. I was unimpressed by the uncritical repetition of the factoid about Hallowe’en being ‘when the veil between the worlds grows thin’ (anyone who follows @Cavalorn on Twitter will know that this is an idea that dates back no further than the twentieth century) and was consequently preprared to distrust anything else May wrote about wintry festivals; fortunately she didn’t, much. However, there were some lovely bits of observational writing, and I’m glad to have read it even if I didn’t get my mind blown. And I have Winters In The World (Eleanor Parker) to read next, and I have much higher hopes of that.

Agatha Christie: a very elusive woman (Lucy Worsley) was a Christmas present: very readable. I found the constant use of the first name (Agatha this, Agatha that) rather uncomfortable, although since Worsley’s point was very much that Agatha Christie was a complex mixture of personalities, not all of them called Agatha Christie, I can see why the choice was made.

Watching/listening to

The Neujahrskonzert on BBC4 is on in the background while I write this.

Cooking

Simultaneous soups, one vegan and one from the remains of the Christmas chicken.

Eating

What haven’t I been eating? Turkey, I suppose. I have not eaten any turkey this Christmas. I have eaten many other things. Roast lamb. Macarons. Smashed avocado and poached egg on sourdough toast. Fishfinger sandwiches with chips. Vegetable curry. Shepherd’s pie. Chocolate cake. Many types of cheese. Stollen fudge (just seems to be standard fudge with dried fruit in so far as I can tell).

Playing

Two different railway-building games: TransAmerica and Ticket To Ride. I lost spectacularly in TransAmerica and won Ticket to Ride by three points.

Noticing

A huge Newfoundland dog – first peering under a gate, and then out for a walk with its owner. Various birds of prey I couldn’t identify (I am rubbish at birds of prey; they were probably all very common). The lovely sign on the A421 that points to Toseland Yelling Graveley.

Appreciating

My green corduroy trousers. People helping me with things and/or doing them so I didn’t have to.

Acquisitions

I did pretty well in the sales in Milton Keynes. Brushed cotton pyjamas. A nice floaty top. Starry pants. And – in the rather incongruous charity shop – a gorgeous blue dress that might do for my brother’s wedding.

Hankering

Several things in LionessElise’s sale. But I don’t need any of them.

Line of the week

From Wintering:

Encountering the extremes of cold drew us both into that most clichéd space, The Moment, forcibly pulling our minds away from ruminating on the past or future, or tilling over an endless to-do list.

This coming week

Lots of thank you letters to write. News to share. Bank holiday. Back to work.

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here! And I hope 2023 brings you many good things.

December Reflections 24 (stillness) and 25 (today is…), and Week-end

Grey sea and grey sky fading into each other at the horizon
Discarded wrapping paper

The good

I am more or less over my cold and was able to sing most of the Christmas carols as I would have wished.

The mixed

Christmas with the family, the first time we’ve made it since Covid happened. It’s been good. Tag-team organised chaos. Missing Pa. Ended up in charge of two major meals. Slightly overreached myself with the Wigilia and had a cry midway through making the pierogi (need to get better at coopting minions, particularly when it’s just a case of following a recipe in a book).

The difficult and perplexing

Being ill has meant I haven’t been to nearly as much church as I normally would, and having melted brain and general fatigue has meant I haven’t been able to do as much in-depth Advent study as I usually would, and really all I could do was turn up at midnight mass and hope it was doing its thing somewhere deep under the surface.

What’s working

The shower! At least, better than it was before. I think I must have knocked the temperature control at some point.

Reading

I finished Bright Smoke, Cold Fire. Holy cliffhanger, Batman! I suppose I’ll have to read the next one now, but I disapprove. Picked up The Master and Margarita again; I continue to find it rather heavy-going. Started Sisters of the Forgiving Stars. And also Letters from Tove [Jansson], which I can see I’m going to enjoy immensely.

Watching

I finished the first season of Detectorists and enjoyed it. Quite a lot of skiing. And we watched a programme featuring Susan Calman taking a Christmas cruise down the Danube, which provided me with an opportunity to try to recognise bits of Vienna and Bratislava.

Cooking

Almost an entire Wigilia (Polish Christmas Eve) meal, modified to account for two vegans and one vegetarian. I was particularly pleased with how the pierogi (three flavours – mushroom, sauerkraut, and potato, onion and ‘cheese’) turned out, even if it would have been better to make it in advance.

The barscz came out of a Tetrapak and the uszkas came out of a bag. I made a sauerkraut salad and a cucumber and ‘yoghurt’ salad, and got Tony to do a tomato one. Lidl ready to pan-fry sea bass for the carnivores. Stuffed tomatoes for everyone else. And I had made the cake ahead of time.

Ended up mostly in charge of Christmas lunch, too, until I got the timings out by half an hour and gave up with a howl of despair. There were plenty of other adults to take over.

Eating

See above.

In the garden

Finally got around to unloading compost from the Hotbin.

Noticing

Arundel looking impossibly fairy-tale in the declining winter sun.

Appreciating

Family. Friends, not least the online ones. And the hovercraft coming back into service just as we got to Portsmouth, cutting an hour off the journey.

Acquisitions

Other than Christmas presents, a lot of sewing thread.

Line of the week

From the verse of O Little Town that’s only in the New English Hymnal:

Where charity stands watching
And faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks,
And Christmas comes once more.

This coming week

More seasonal shenanigans.

If you’ve been celebrating Christmas today, I hope it’s been a very happy one. Otherwise, I wish you a nice peaceful day and hope it all doesn’t get too annoying.

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!

December Reflections 23: orange

Small citrus fruit and a perfume sample bottle on a yellow box

Actually, that’s a clementine, but close enough. The abundance of citrus fruit is one of the consolations of this time of year. I’ve gone off apples a bit recently, but oranges retain their joyful tangy appeal.

The perfume sample is Ffern’s latest, and it starts (for me) with a burst of friendly orange before the cooler notes come in. I’ve been enjoying experimenting with scent the last few years – working my way through discovery boxes, picking up a bottle of Molton Brown Recharge Black Pepper in the duty free on the ferry home from the Netherlands, spinning through the seasons with a Ffern subscription… And I often do end up liking the orangey ones best.

December Reflections 17: I said goodbye to… (and Week-end)

Pa. Sort of. Incompletely. That’s the thing with an unexpected death: you don’t say the things that you might have done, otherwise. I would rather have it this way than the other, but I never actually said goodbye.

And that’s about all I feel up to writing about that, so on with the rest of the post.

The good

The snow was pretty? And not too inconvenient for me personally. I took the slow train to the office on Monday (nothing running on the fast line) and had a lovely time looking out of the window at white-blanketed Essex countryside.

The difficult and perplexing

I’ve had a horrible cold, which has run the gamut of symptoms (runny nose, nosebleeds, lost voice, cough, cough, cough, headache, exhaustion). This morning I woke at half past five or so and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I’ve been very tired and grumpy all day.

What’s working

Hall’s Soothers, a bit.

Reading

I finished The Fellowship of the Ring this morning and started The Two Towers after lunch. I’ve read quite a lot of articles on the internet this week, a fact that I’ve found faintly encouraging.

Watching

I started The Detectorists earlier this evening. It’s quietly enjoyable so far, though it hasn’t really grabbed me yet.

Cooking

Finally got my act together and attempted vegan pierogi. The shells worked well; the filling, made with vegan spready ‘cheese’, lost all cheesy flavour when cooked. Also I need to be more careful about sealing them. I’m wondering about trying that yeast flavouring stuff, and/or vegan parmesan.

And pasta e fagioli from Tin Can Cook.

Eating

Other than the above, Thai green chicken curry, on my mother’s suggestion. Lebkuchen.

Noticing

A fox loping across a snowy meadow. Blue tits and great tits and robins at the birdfeeder, with a woodpigeon prowling hopefully on the ground.

In the garden

Everything is frozen.

Appreciating

Sleep, when I get it. Dungarees.

Acquisitions

Perfume – Ffern winter box came through this week. Haven’t opened it yet.

Line of the week

From Rejoicings in a Dug-out (a London Review of Books review of a biography of G. K. Chesterton):

His saintly lack of concern for practical affairs seems to have entailed not only a wilful failure to think about how his staff’s wages would be paid, but a deeper reluctance to address what he was avoiding and what he was clinging to – attachments that a life of prayer and self-examination are supposed to make clearer.

This coming week

One and a half days at work; a visit to Addenbrooke’s; and the last of the Christmas prep (I feel as if I’ve hardly done any).

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!

December Reflections 13: delicious

Pale green mashed potato spread across two pieces of toast

I am feeling pretty miserable today. I’ve picked up a cold, including a horrible sore throat, which on top of the ongoing fatigue has more or less wiped me out. So a dish that would slip down easily, and which I can make in my sleep, was called for. This is Leeks Lucullus (known more often in this household as Green Mash) from Katharine Whitehorn’s Cooking In A Bedsitter. As she says, it ‘looks like pale green mashed potato, but tastes delicious’.

I often find that cookery books that assume the cook is operating under some set of restrictions more inspiring and accessible than those that assume they have at their disposal all the kitchen gadgets and delicatessens the heart could desire, even if I’m not in fact bound by those restrictions. If I could theoretically make something delicious on a single gas ring with a hostile landlady prowling (as Whitehorn was) or create a delectable creation entirely out of the contents of tin cans (Jack Monroe) then surely I can manage it with all the advantages of a kitchen of my own and a regular veg box delivery. Actually, the veg box delivery helps a lot, too. It’s much easier to think, ‘oh, leeks: what do I do with those?’ than it is to start from a blank sheet.

I do have How To Eat (Nigella Lawson) and enjoy reading it for the sheer pleasure she gets from food, but I very rarely cook anything out of it. Though she has more in common with the other two than you might think: all three think that food is good and people should be allowed to enjoy it. Which is a sadly and surprisingly rare attitude in cookbooks.

December Reflections 4: if I were an animal… and Week-end

Fluffy black and white cat asleep with all her legs stretched out in front of her

The animal I know that’s currently spending as much time as I am asleep on the sofa is the cat, so there we go. Since having Covid in March I’ve been much more conscious of my body’s needs and desires; the thing is; it usually seems to want a nap, particularly at the moment. The next challenge is to roll with this as gracefully as the cat does. I am hopeful that I will have more energy come next year, but I would also like to continue to know what I want and need and to act on that.

The good

Tony’s work Christmas do last night; excellent fun. Let us hope that nobody has caught Covid. Last weekend, reading at both the morning service and the Advent Procession, at which I also served. Also, a very pleasant few days with family on the Isle of Wight. The sun came out on the last day and it was absolutely glorious.

The mixed

Going through boxes of family papers – letters, diaries, sketchbooks, and so forth. It’s fascinating; it’s a chance to get to know relations I barely knew or never met at all; and it’s surprisingly tiring. I more or less gave up for the day when I found my great-aunt Kathleen’s note of what she wanted all her siblings and friends to have after she died (which she did, aged 13 or so, in 1917).

The difficult and perplexing

Cold. Cold and tired. I don’t seem to have many suitable winter clothes at the moment and I’m not sure whether I ever did.

What’s working

Honestly? Napping.

Reading

I demolished Paris Daillencourt Is About To Crumble on the train south on Monday and then regretted it, the way one might regret a slightly-too-large cream cake. It was a bit issueficcy for my taste, though I did appreciate the section where Tariq explains that it is perfectly possible to be a person of faith who is also queer. (This, in my experience, is a conversation that often does have to be had in words of one syllable.) Then I read Poirot Investigates (short stories; Hastings particularly insufferable) and Truly Madly Guilty (Liane Moriarty) when I was on the Isle of Wight. I enjoyed that one; I think it’s the most psychologically plausible of Moriarty’s books that I’ve read so far, even if it isn’t so conventionally suspenseful.

Writing

Absolutely nothing (apart from these blog posts, obviously). I spent the train journey home looking out of the window and not feeling remotely guilty about it. I’m sure my brain will come back sooner or later and in the meantime I’m not going to worry about it.

Making

I took the tacking stitches out of the secret patchwork (the papers are staying in, for support). Pictures coming up in a few days.

Listening to

A couple of bands at the party last night – one dressed as Game of Thrones characters and doing an eclectic variety of covers (Take On Me, I Wanna Be Like You, Proud Mary…) and the other, The Captain’s Beard, dressed as pirates and doing folk rock, generally Irish or seafaring. Extremely good fun.

Cooking

Winter vegetable stew with cheesy dumplings. I cheated magnificently with the vegetable component – found a yellow-stickered bag of pre-prepped casserole veg in Tesco and chucked it into the pan with some oil while I made the dumplings. Worked very nicely.

Eating

There were some very nice canapés last night. Beef with horseradish sour cream. Cauliflower and beetroot. Tomato and feta.

Playing

Rummikub and Scrabble with my mother. We weren’t terribly impressed by Rummikub.

Noticing

An excessive (even for the Isle of Wight) quantity of roadworks. A waxing moon flirting with the clouds. Christmas decorations (today I saw that our opposite neighbours have hung big silver baubles in the bare trees outside their house).

Appreciating

Family, the connectedness of it, and the opportunity to know a little more of who and where I come from. Tony’s employer’s extravagant hospitality. Live music.

Acquisitions

I came home with a little packet of green beads my mother had been saving for me.

Hankering

Some sort of leg covering that keeps my legs warm, that I can cycle in, that fits me comfortably around the abdomen… I have never found trousers that fit me sensibly, and most of the time this isn’t a problem because I live in skirts instead, but at this time of year it doesn’t quite cut it. /goes off to look at woolly tights on Snag.

Line of the week

I’ve been looking at Polish Cooking (Marianna Olszewska Heberle), trying to work out how much of the traditionally meatfree Christmas Eve dinner can be fully veganised. She has this to say about carol singers:

If they sing in front of your house and you don’t give them food or vodka, they might pull your sleigh five houses down, or remove your fence gate, all in good humor.

This coming week

Back to work. I’m hoping to get quite a lot of loose ends tied up before Christmas.

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!