Island Blog 144 Cake Wrecks

 

cake-disasters (20)_thumb

 

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 103 – New Things and Clown Fish

clownfish

There are things I have never bought.  I’m not talking yachts and diamonds, but household things like a new sofa or a multi-functional, all purpose blender.  I have looked at them online and not believed one word of their wonderment.  For a start, in that exciting world of sofas, which, by the way, fails to excite me at all, I puzzled over two things.  One is the material and the other the exhorbitant price.  In my world, a sofa could be wrecked in one short day.  It could be stained with all manner of tenacious colourings and smells, be flipped on its back to become a defence against military attack, or offer a comfortable resting place for swamp creatures such as collies or children just in from the rain forest, so I never bought one, not ever, relying instead on second hand ones already ‘broken’ in.

However, the multi-functional all-purpose blender has niggled at my peripheries for a while now.  I do have a small liquidiser, which can whizz up easy stuff like over-ripe strawberries and yoghurt, and an old magimix which belonged to Granny-at-the-gate and got left behind when she went northwards to heaven, but it leaks and, besides, is not multi-purpose, whatever than means. I also have a bread-maker that produces amazing works of sculpted art.  I sprayed one once with enamel car spray and it lasted a whole winter of island rains before I threw it over the fence.  It hit a rock and I wasn’t sure which one had shattered.

So, last week, with a helpful link to a good one from my healthy eating sister, I ordered my own copy.  A few days later, when dashing out the door to feed the 15 doves who have adopted me as mummy, I fell over a box the size of a small bathroom, which had been silently delivered earlier that morning.

Can’t be.  I thought.  Are there half a dozen of them in there?  Oh, no, of course not.  it will be all packaging and poly bags warning me not to put them over my head, or that of any in-house child.

I find myself, at this point, wishing I hadn’t ordered it at all, because now I have to do something like unwrap it and assemble it and then, worst of all, whizz a few somethings into a whole new something.  Then, I will have to spread it, or slap it on meat, or fish, or drink it.  The very thought brings on a yawn and I go to do another job for a while.

Eventually I have to face it so I lug this huge container inside the porch and grab a sharp knife.  Ok, here’s the top of the whizzer and here’s the bottom.  So far, so good.  Isn’t that enough, I ask myself?  Well, in a word, no.

Ten bags are nestled among the moulded corrugations of cardboard, each one wrapped in polythene danger.  I remove it all and lay each piece out on the counter, which I can no longer see.  Even the Clown Fish in the tank dive for cover.

I begin to assemble.  30 frustrating minutes later, I still only have the top and the bottom identified.  There are round things with small holes, round things with big holes, whisks, plastic discs, a small rocket, metal blades contained in immovable shells, each yelling out LOUD PROMISES of finger loss should any contact be made.  I am now a bundle of nerves and have to call my healthy sister who just giggles unhelpfully.

Did you assemble yours?  I shriek at her.

Nope, she says.  Her husband did.

Well, I have one of those but he is at sea, so that doesn’t work.

She guides me gently onwards and the motor leaps into life, although it has nothing to do but spin around at a terrifying speed, for now.

Later I bring together not a well-thought-through list of ingredients from a tried-out recipe, but just what I have in the fridge.  A bit of almost mouldy red tomato pesto; half a bag of raw spinach; one apple with the brown holes removed; one floppy carrot; a clove of garlic;  5 pitted black olives (ha! you thought I was going to sabotage it with pits didn’t you!!) and the juice of one orange.

Well it whizzed for two seconds and stopped.  I poked about with a wooden spoon and it whizzed again for another two seconds and stopped.  It went on offering me the same resistance, one I have only ever met before in myself, for half an hour, but I was determined to win the fight.

What I ended up with is a paste that resembles the inside of someone’s liver, but it tastes delicious.  It made me think of how important it is for something to look good for us to want to eat it.

Trouble is, I have only used one tenth of the flipping thing.  The rest of its working parts slumber in a dark cupboard. Just the thought of working out what they do makes me want to join the Clown Fish.

Island Blog 54 – All Roads Lead

Island Blog 54

 

I had arrived as a surprise.  My daughter met me in the hallway and we hugged and exchanged greetings.  A little voice from deep inside the house asked ‘Where is Granny talking from Mummy?’ and we both laughed, as did the little girl once she found me.

I could have been using skype as my road, or the house phone on loudspeaker.  Her last thought was that she would round the corner and find me standing there.

But there are many roads we cannot see, such as a span of years or a scene from the past.  We can only find a shape to those inside our imaginations, and no two imaginations will find the same route, although the destination is the same.

Driving Miss Daisy the other day, through the wintry  island wasteland,  I pointed out a wonderful stone formation, obviously man-built as support for the rise of a narrow track, that wound its way down towards the Atlantic shoreline.  There was not a drop of mortar holding it together, but only the skill of the dry stone builder.

We considered the time when this track would have carried man and his animals, and nothing weightier than a pony and cart loaded with hay or feed for the hungry animals. We could hear in our imaginations, the slow march of a day long gone by, the lowing of the cattle, the call of a ewe to her lambs, the odd shout or whistle of the shepherd, and the bark of his dogs.  For a moment we could count the day in hours, smell the changing seasons, according to the rise and fall of the sun, or the flow and ebb of the moon tides.

But our pictures would have been very different.

Sometimes in the clipping season, or when the ewes are brought in for dosing, the hill road from the little town grinds to a halt. The local shepherdess is gathering her flock and calling for them to follow her, through the open window of her truck.  Those of us forming an ever-growing snake are required to dig for patience as we lurch and stall in the wake of a hundred woolly legs. There is no opportunity to overtake, and no possibility of speeding up.

Some of us click our tongues and roll our eyes impatiently.  Some of us smile, knowing we have arrived in an afternoon where time is not the issue, and to hurry along would be to risk lambs becoming separated from their mothers. And we can notice, at this slow pace, the first buds on the heather, the marsh harrier overhead, the way the clouds change and reform into new shapes above the gentle roll of the hills.  We can catch the soft calls to ‘follow!’ as they float back to us on a breeze.

And we will all arrive at our destination.

In the end

Island Blog 10 – On Thinking Too Much

Actually it can be bad for your health.  Well, don’t people say, as you wander through some complicated quandary over a cup of tea, or six……..’You think too much Whatever-your-name-is!’  as if that sorted it out for you.  And that is how you respond.  You nod, chuckle, or try to, at your own sillybilly-ness, and wave farewell, still puzzled and slopping with tea, and now with a label on your forehead that says I Think Too Much.

 

This knowledge adds to your problem.  What you need now, you tell yourself, is a bell to ding as you plod miserably towards the frozen goods, to find something for supper.  After all, aren’t you a leper of a woman among all these bright bustling ‘others’ with purposeful step and cheery lipstick?  How could you have got it all so wrong for so long?  And, didn’t your old mother, now frozen boned and 6 foot under, always tell you that thinking too much is really self pity?  She never felt it.  No time for that.  She had to win two wars all by herself and that’s no task for a moaning Minnie whose self esteem forgot to leave the birthing ward with her and whose brain goes into cramp every time anybody asks a really difficult question such as ‘Would you like tea or coffee?’

 

I should have learned by now, you tell yourself, remembering all those wise words of advice you thrust on your daughters whilst they faced their own dilemmas, sounding just like your own mother and just as ridiculous.  After all, what did you know about ‘popping’ or ‘tweeting’ or ‘shots’?  I would have said, in order, balloons, birds, guns.  But I would be wrong on all three counts.  And that makes me the fool.  Not because I don’t know what these new descriptions mean, but because I pretend its the same as in my day and it isn’t and never can be.  What we old folks need to do is look to ourselves.

 

On that note, back to you over there mooning over the McCain chips.  I have some ideas, based on my own search for self-esteem, which has been 60 years in the lower end of poor.

Yes, yes, I know I LOOK confident, but so do you when you put on your slap and pull on your sensible kit even though you just know you look fat in that pair of crimplene slacks, and will look as exciting as a poinsettia in June by the time you have lugged all those heavy groceries back up the hill.

I’m just a mother, a granny, a housekeeper, we tell ourselves.

Poppycock I say.  Burn your crimplene slacks, as I did my dresses, although don’t do it, as I did, in a cane waste-paper basket.  Way too dangerous.

And who invented crimplene anyway?  I have never worn such an uncomfortable aberration of fibres; fibres that can set off an 80 kilowatt spark whenever anyone gets too close, which is probably its whole purpose.

 

Whilst thinking too much, I consider that once we women become mothers, we are thus defined in the eyes of the world.  It gets worse at that glorious time when one of our own children gives birth to their own.

Now, we are Granny.

What happened to my name?

I know I should consider myself fortunate to be called anything as long as it’s not ‘Old Bag’  But what, I wonder became of me? Who am I, who was I once?

 

During the scary crimplene-burning process, I realised that I alone must dig deep inside to re-locate my self-esteem (yes, it was there all along only nobody said) and get to know it, to tend it with care, regardless of the smirks from those who much preferred me with none. I am not defined by my husband, my children or my grandchildren, nor my friends, nor my neighbours, nor my peers., and I can have my own opinions.  I must begin to look at who I am, at what I believe in, at how I respond to something, to anything, and to bravely find my own voice and speak it out into the world.

I have no idea how to do it, but didn’t someone once say that stepping out into a fog is better than watching it through the window?

That way, at least we can cause some havoc.