Island Blog 144 Cake Wrecks

 

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Okay so I fell out with my almost new mixer.  To be completely honest, it was mutual dislike at first sight.  You see, before this alien arrived in the tanned arms of Dennis the Delivery Boy, who left boyhood a wee whiley back, only nobody wanted to upset him by saying so, I had an old Magimix.  It had worked for the dangerous granny for years, even had a customised red gingham skirty drape made to pretty it up on the kitchen counter, and, for the life of me, I cannot think why I moved it on at all.  It was still working fine when I did, which makes it even more dreadful.  I generally never move things on at all.  They fall apart right here on my patch and are flung in the bucket, unless there are some attractive parts that might serve as bird scarers or dingle dangles for my mobile collection. On the rare occasions I have moved something on, it would have been something I no longer, nor ever would again, need – such as 8 inch platform PVC boots or tooth whitener (way too late), or perhaps a box for buttons marked Buttons which I never unwrapped, being an olympian button owner and requiring a school trunk at the very least for my supply.

This mixer and I growled at each other a lot.  I even resented the fat smug way it’s oversized bottom took up way more room than it needed forcing me to squash up my vitamin collection, spice and herb racks and the butter dish which now doesn’t stay in line at all, jutting out like a naughty dinghy in a race line up. Every time I walked past this disorder I felt cross.  I did try to make peace, at first, but the flaming bowl would never assemble without making a HUGE fuss and resisting any connecting with the launch pad.  ‘The motor will not work unless the bowl is fitted correctly.’  I know this.  I know this a LOT!  Finally we make some sense and the damn thing is correctly fitted and I am moderate to fair backing gale force 8 but, nonetheless, we are running and although very little is moving beyond the slicing blade, I am confident we will become friends one day, or, at the least, unhappy colleagues.

At least ten times, during what was a quick whizz in dangerous granny’s magimix, I must twist off the lid and free up the glued on cake mix from the sides.  Ten times I fit the bowl incorrectly, twist on the lid, turn the knob into a long silence (all the way up to 6), turn it back, twist off the lid and fit the bowl….well, let’s say eventually I get it right.  By the time I have added the eggs, and flour and gone through the whole gluey infuriating process again I have gone right off baking.  As the cake rises (probably in a temper) in the oven I wash up 37 pieces of a mixer I loathe with all my heart and re-connect it with its large bottom, cussing like an old fishwife.

After a reasonable cooling off period I try again.  Cake tins are empty throughout the land and folks are beginning to revolt.  Well, himself is, anyway.  I begin.  Nothing has changed.  This mixer has no shame.  Half way through the dreadful process the motor dies.  No correct fitting tactics work.  I am apre eggs and pre flour.  In other words, a sloppy curdled mess.  I make a decision.  Tipping and scraping out the yellow goo into a big bowl I march the offending mixer out to the wheelie bin and throw it in with all my strength.  I then march back to collect all the attachments, the dough hook, the meringue beater, the juice extractor, the julienne, if you don’t mind, plus all other disks and the instruction pamphlet in 17 languages, none of them English, and throw them in too.  Feels fantastic.

My next attempt at cake making, is ably assisted by my lovely neigbour who lends me his super duper Kenwood.  It purrs along, sounding quite in control and not minding much about being fitted incorrectly at all.  I turn the speed up just a tad, turn my back and turn it back again mighty quick at the flash, the crash and the smoke pouring from the motor casing.  Not only have I blown up my lovely neighbour’s super duper Kenwood, but I am, once again, half way through a cake.  I will have to make amends for this expensive disaster I know, at some point, but, for now, I must carry on regardless and not give up, however tempting that may sound.   I select a large glass bowl, pour in the mix,  grab my wooden spoon, flex my muscles (I kind of remember where they used to be) and begin to beat.  It’s flipping hard work, by the way and to think our grannies had no choice!  After one bout of fast battering, the bowl falls neatly in half, the falling half landing squarely on my bare toes and spewing floury contents all across the kitchen carpet. (Never go for kitchen carpet.  It’s got to be lino every time).

Now this is me – undaunted by such ghastlies.  I scoop the carpet-flavoured cake mix into a plastic bowl this time, adding the rest and beat on, quite admiring the red flecks of carpet and inspired to add cherries and almond essence for the hell of it.  It can hardly rise, this unfortunate.  It doesn’t, well, it does for a while, then sinks like it’s worn out putting on a face.  They said it tasted weird, but none was left over at the end.

My lovely neighbour was most understanding, albeit sad to think of a cake-less future.  I, for one am happy my cake-baking days are over, for I will not beat by hand again, and nor will I spend a fortune on a load of futuristic rubbish that makes a huge stooshie out of everything it does, or doesn’t do, and then dies when it feels like it which is just after you’ve thrown away the packaging and receipt.

Oh Granny (that’s my granny, not the dangerous one), how I wish I had never ‘moved on’ your lovely wedding gift of a Kenwood Chef with it’s clundering attachments, big sturdy bowl and great attitude!

Does anyone have it?

 

Island Blog 134 Reality Check

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This morning the air is still on the island.  Nobody is about, except for the birds playing out their dramas.  The doves, including Dave,  whose mate was nabbed by a sparrowhawk a couple of years back, and who will always be a gooseberry, turn up to feed, their beaks tapping out a syncopated rythm on the wooden base of the bird table.  We found the remains of the kill on the track outside the house, and Dave stumbling about lopsided and scared. Not a lucky dove, we said.  After a week or so inside a box, fed and watered each day, he managed a wonky lift from the ground, straightened up and flew right onto the telephone wire.  We hadn’t fixed anything, weren’t sure how to, but perhaps the combination of love and his own will to survive did their work.  Now, however many pairs line the wire, sometimes up to 15 in the winter months, he is the uneven number, but always faithful, staying close to home, when the others loop away across the hills to build nests, raise young, complete the yearly circle once again.

A pair of swallows have taken the nest we fixed at the back of the garage years ago.  Each spring, they check it out, and each spring, they reject it.  Perhaps this is because we are constantly in and out of the garage, for it offers the only access to the hill garden at the back, where the bee hives nestle in the wild grass, their faces towards the sun.  Every day each community, numbering thousands apiece, fly out to find pollen. The scouts communicate directions to the others in waggle dances, performed on the front step and taken seriously by the other worker bees, all women of course, who might be dithering about which way to go.  The hive mind is an extraordinary thing and one that never sleeps, for even when the bees don’t fly, we know that if we lifted the lid (which is not for the faint-hearted) we would not see one single bee loafing about with a vacant look in her eye.  Every single one is busily employed, going about her business mindfully, intelligently, continuously.  Any loafers would be thrown out.

Trouble is, the swallows number three.  I don’t suppose this works, a menage a trois, in the swallow world, but the three of them dive in and out of the garage each early morning and evening.  On the wire, they have words.  No violence is employed, but you can tell, from the tone, that it’s not friendly.  Perhaps, like doves, and swans, swallows mate for life.  Perhaps this lone one lost its mate on that huge journey back from Africa.  We watched them gathering on wires, rooftops, swirling like a dark cloud over Capetown, when we were there in March, preparing for their flight across the globe, and we marvelled.  How they manage to find their old nest sites year after year beggars belief.  We would need maps, charts, radar, provisions, a transport vehicle, confidence, determination and periodic rests in soft beds with cotton sheets and a spacious en suite.  They just fly.

In honour of their unusual tryst, together with the excitement at their final acceptance of the Garden Centre nest, (buy one, get a House Martin one free) I have fixed signs, one on the inside of the door, so we remember not to dive out and head butt a swallow, and one for anyone coming through the little gate who needs guiding to the other door.  If we need to access the hill garden, we must open the garage door slowly, peeking gingerly out, to see if our new friends are around.  Sometimes they wobble on the inside washing line.  We need an inside washing line on the island, as the outside one is often long-term unemployed.  The concrete floor is already guano-ed up and this situation won’t change, as long as they decide, finally, to lay their eggs, which they still may not, given the human comings and goings.

As I walked Miss Poppy around Tapselteerie yesterday, she made me laugh at some antic and, in response to my voice breaking the silence of the afternoon, a well-hidden nest of young tits leapt into action, their collective cheeping floating out from one of the dark holes in the old dry stone wall.  The mother, behind me on a branch, yelled at them to shutup, but they were having none of it.  I didn’t stay around to worry her, but the experience lifted my heart, just to have been allowed to witness that moment, and to fix the knowledge of it into my ordinary day.  I call that an ‘internal shunt’, for It changes me, even though nothing has changed.  My usual list of miniature disasters is still there; the demands on my time, my patience, my purse, stay in place; nothing is certain, nothing really safe and nothing I can do to make it any different.  I could lose a loved one in a nanosecond and there is little I can do to stop it happening.  I can fall ill, a silent enemy moving in to establish victory whilst I dash through my daily list, unaware until too late.  But it does me no good to focus on what may or may not happen, in fact, it will falter my step, weaken me, make me dull at parties.  What I need to do, mindfully and intelligently, is to learn from the birds, from the natural world, of which I am a part.  I am at the top of the food chain, yes.  I can think and reason, yes.  And these gifts are not given to be wasted.  They are gifts of sight, gifts of power, not over others as we seem to believe, but over myself, the choice to get real, like the birds.

How does that song go………oh yes…..

‘Hey, you know what paradise is? It’s a lie
A fantasy we create about people and places as we’d like them to be
But you know what truth is?
It’s that little baby you’re holding, and it’s that man you fought with this morning
The same one you’re going to make love with tonight. That’s truth, that’s love.

I’ve been to paradise, but I’ve never been to me.’