Island Blog 108 Left Over Right

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Last night we had Leftovers for supper.  Actually, to be honest, we often do.  I have never been that sort of a cook who follows recipes, noting down what I might need in order to cook a certain dish and then trotting off to buy it.

Is this, I wonder, because I am too lazy/impatient to don my prescription specs and follow a recipe?

Could be.  I remember once thinking I was dutifully following one cake recipe when I was,in fact, following two.  I did wonder at the imbalance and curio-factor of blending two unlikely bed mates into one cake, but the wild and colourful in me rose to the occasion with a skip of excitment.  The cake, or cakes, arrived as one rather wonky lump, listing dangerously to one side and quite impossible to present on any level surface. I make up my own recipes now.

Back to last night.  Well, first I must open the fridge.  I creep up on the door and swoosh it open suddenly.  This is an old tactic and can often prevent anything escaping.

Aha!  I say with a cook’s gleam in my eye.  Opportunity presents itself and I grab it quick and hold on tight.

Next, onions.  I always need onions and garlic and I rarely run out of them because they lie artfully arranged in a nice basket from Portugal and in full view.  Any old vegetables, chopped, julienned, grated, diced, depending on what lies floppily inside the salad drawers.  Olive oil, infused with whatever I can more-or-less identify as herbs in the herb garden.  I know I should know which is which, but the voles have shifted the labels around.  Big pan, light on, favourite wooden spoon ( I never cook with metal weapons) and off we go, but to where is quite another thing.

As each ingredient is added, the house fills with tempting aromas that  join together in a rising sound wave until I turn down the heat.  As one animal now, it simmers and softens into a harmonious chorus.  Now, what would lift this dish?  I taste a little and let my instinct guide me.

What?  Mint you say, and dark chocolate and fresh nutmeg?

Never doubt that voice.  It’s not a left brain thing.  This could be casserole or cake.  Just don’t argue.

I comply and taste again.  Delicious.

I notice 3 old bananas hanging on the banana hook, all in a big brown huff.  What can I do with you I wonder?  I check the fridge – a tub of elderly natural yoghourt, lemon juice, and in the drinks cupboard which is still called that even though it isn’t any more, I find a teaspoonful of banana liqueur.

I chop the bananas and fry them in butter, adding a spoonful of wild honey and the liquer.  Whizzed up in the whizzer to a fine  puree, I add three serving spoons of yoghourt.  Meanwhile some almonds have been toasting in the oven.  I pour the mixture into two glasses, top with toasted almonds and pop them in the fridge, which is empty again.

Or is it?  One woman’s empty fridge is that same woman’s chance to shine. It’s all about self belief and no 24 hour shop down the road.

In that famous parting line from Fanny Cradock’s tv series, spoken with such confidence and encouragement into a thousand homes by her husband and assistant, Johnnie…..

May all your doughnuts look like Fanny’s.

Island Blog 107 A Change in Time

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Well here we are on a Friday again and it seems like yesterday is was last Friday.

I know that as we get older we find time passing more quickly, but even young and sprightly things tell me they find it’s the same for them.  We have endless encouragement through the wise sayings of Deep Thinkers to make the very most of every minute, and we all nod, because we believe in such a truth and then carry on rushing past precious moments and precious people.

As a young mother I would decline all offers of a ‘quick cup of tea’ because I always had to be somewhere ten minutes ago, and calmly so.  I left, rushed, arriving way too early in a bright pink fluster, having no doubt remonstrated with one, or a few, of my children at the top of my tension, parked badly and banged my knee as I cornered too fast.

Why did I do that?  And worse, why did I keep doing it?  To arrive anywhere with my chest calm, my heart softly beating, my blood moving steadily and freely was a very rare and tea-less occurrence.

I can still say no to a cuppa and leave wondering why.  If I have said yes, and sat my butt on a stranger’s chair, patted another person’s dog, looked around another’s room, I have come away, not necessarily with the best cup of tea ever slopping inside my belly, but with my heart and head completely changed.  It was the encounter that mattered and the pleasure I gave and received by just saying yes, and giving myself to another soul.

The conversation can be wild, can be funny, can be informative and is sometimes astonishing.  The things on the inside of us never see the light of day in a shopping queue.  It is only when we sit and share something as ordinary as a cup of tea, that a person opens their heart.

‘Life is short’ is one of those immensely irritating cliches that makes me want to scream.  The reason I want to, but don’t, of course, is that saying these well known throwaway words make absolutely no difference to either the person saying it, or the person hearing it, for all the smiling and nodding that goes on.  However, it is the truth.  Over one single day, I know of people fighting for their very lives, when last Friday they were full of healthy bounce.  When they recover, they will truly know that Life is Short and both will change their lives, and the one area that will enjoy their total focus will be that of relationships.

All those terribly worldy concerns will melt away into a dirty puddle.  Suddenly, and it is sudden, the choice of family over work is easy.  Suddenly, it no longer matters if there is an immovable stain on the carpet, or the cooker stops working.  It no longer matters that our mother/sister/neighbour/cousin said something or did something to let us down, either yesterday or when we were six.  The familial baggage we lug through our healthy years, we can lay down and walk beyond.  Just like that.

What matters is the happiness within the home, the smiles we can bring to the faces of our loved ones, by forgetting Things and putting Them first.  There will never again be a chance that we would say yes to the boss, and call to cancel dinner out.

Nothing travels beyond the coffin, but the spirit of a person.  All else becomes dust.

We, who are still bouncing this Friday and not fighting for a second chance at life.. we who can change everything right now……. might pause for thought.

Island Blog 106 A Timely Light

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First of all I want to say thank you to everyone who comments on my blogs.  Your responses to my own thoughts, thrown out into the world, come back to me like a soft warm morning full of birdsong.  I write as I feel, looking not for a Well Done, but to touch on another’s life, to connect a couple of dots perhaps, to feel I am not alone, not physically, but in my innermost self, that woman I am stuck with, as she is, with me.

It makes me consider these two women – the visible one and Her Indoors, and the oftentimes mismatch between the two of us.

In the early hours before dawn, I ask myself big questions, such as who are you?  and what do you want of this life? and why do we get in the way of each other?  and why is it we aren’t perfectly aligned in our thinking?  I know it may be a tad late to be addressing these major issues, but I seem to be doing it now and, besides, time is an illusion, whatever that means.

When I meet someone, I observe her intently.  I learn much about her from how she says what she says, her body language, her choice of dress, the pitch and volume of their voice.  I can hear clearly what the inner person is saying, however much talk comes out of her mouth.  Is she really herself or is she fitting in to the shape either she, or others, require of her?  Is her confidence real or built only on the sand of her expectations?  What drives her?  The need to be thought of as a ‘good’ woman, or the need to be true to herself, or a bit of both?  Does she feel she has done her very best in this life, or is there an ache of regret and loss, and how well has she managed to conceal it under bright merriment and high rise cheese souffles?

I often feel there is a wasp in between me and someone of whom I have just asked a personal question.  One like….. Are You Happy?  Oh, I will get a list of all those things she may quickly pull into the room like the success of her children, the fact that the Co-op now sells mixed peel outside of the Christmas period, the arrival of the Redwings to colour up an autumn scene, but she won’t answer me direct.  After all, what she feels about her life is not important at all.  What is important is how she can make others happy, and this the point when I am in danger of falling out with Her Indoors, because I understand it completely and it is surely a goodly way to live, isn’t it?

No, it is not enough, and becomes glaringly clear when the children fly the coop, and she is without purpose, unless she has been ‘selfish’ during the busy years, and taken time to develop and grow her own interest, one that can support her to the end of her days.

When I look back on my own life, I see how fortunate I have been in my choices.  I found a man who has never understood for one second the shrieking sharp-toothed Her Indoors, but has loved her anyway, even if he did have to walk about in full armour-plating for many years, which was wise of him considering my deadly aim.

I think we don’t need to seek acceptance, nor understanding for the inner person, except from ourselves.  The big mistake is to bury her, or him, for this applies to both species, and then to blame an outsider for our own refusal to let light in.

Without light, nothing grows but fungus.

Island Blog 105 Think or Thank

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Just in case anyone thought I had fallen permanently off the ladder of life, I am here to announce, with renewed confidence, that I did, short term, but now I am back and climbing once again.

I think that this year has been a big one and that it took a toll on me, one I struggled to pay off.  The emergence of Island Wife into the world with all its accompanying publicity and travel threw me into a new place, one I didn’t know my way around.  Add to that the emotional push and shove of a very personal and honest story flowing anew into, not just my own life, but those involved in it.  It wasn’t just me who needed to have the answers to all those questions after all.  Each character was thrown into the deep end, just when they thought they had deep ends enough of their own to swim through.

Within this, there is joy and there is sadness.  As long as a personal story remains inside a person, it is manageable.  It lies mostly in the inner straits of a personal map, perhaps allowed out in snatches, perhaps not.  Suddenly I bring out the super trooper and the whole thing is centre stage, blinding, and not just to the distant onlooker.

I had not envisaged it at all.  And nor, I suspect, had they.

Laying out a life story for the world to see requires each involvee to live it all again, with individual takes on each part of it.  Believe me, hardly two together saw it the same way, and only I saw it as Island Wife.

I saw again the failing in me.  I read again the times I was too weak and feeble to lift my eyes above the situation I found myself in.  I feel the guilt, I feel the shame, and, as recently, when I became unwell and exhausted, I revisited those feelings.  I didn’t want to, but their voices are strong and much louder than those who tell me I did my very best.

Now why is that Judy Fairbairns?  is it that you love to beat yourself up?   Is it that you are constructed in such a way that you are, when at a low ebb, dangerous in your inward thinking? Is it that you don’t see yourself with any value rating through the eyes of others?  And, do you think too much?

If I am honest, I will say yes to all of the above, but, I know I am only out of balance.  Within me are two major powers.  One creates, the other destroys and they are two sides of the same moon.
I can light the night or eclipse the sun.  It isn’t either/ or….it is both, and there is a wonderful energy in that.  If I was a beige girl, I would walk a steady path.  I am not beige.  I am rainbow or midnight black.  If I can honour both, I find my power.  Not over others, but over myself.

And the key is to accept both and not to hide away from the dark side. To be honest about the whole moon, recognise it, honour it in its natural orbit, and bit by bit, year on year learn how to wind in the strings of each energy, with my own bare hands and battered heart until I know myself completely.  Only then will I really be me.

The key for now?

Don’t think……….thank.