Island Blog 7

Found the oldest pub in Britain for a wonderful late lunch – ie home at five.  Haven’t done such an exciting things for years.  There was a black cat on my bench, curled up and fluffy and almost invisible until it smelled the wild duck on my plate.  It stretched, then a little more, then one paw onto the old oak table, then a second, and so on with the grace of a ballerina dancing a well-known role.  Eventually, and without causing the least offence, (in fact, we were all in love at this point), it delicately extended one large soft black paw and touched my arm.

Ok I shared my duck with Shakespeare………!

Island Blog 5

Did I tell you I cook and clean for Old Harry?

Well, I am now, and I do.

The job sort of came to me.  I wasn’t looking for work, but Old Harry has looked after me and my family for over 35 years, doing odd jobs and bringing those little bits and pieces to us when we were without them.  A short length of roofing felt, perhaps, or a special size of bicycle screw, or a bit of wire fencing to block up a hole in the fence.

Well, since his old wife died, he has had to fend for himself in a kitchen he never knew existed.  He did outdoors and she did indoors and that was that for a whole lifetime.  So, Old Harry found someone to cook meals for him, freeze them and deliver once a week.  There was a bit of washing, a bit of cleaning too.  When one cook left him, he came to tell me and I said, quite without thinking, I’ll do it Harry.  For you.

And I do.

This morning I was supposed to go over with supplies, clean washing and my rubber gloves for the cleanup which is never much as Old Harry was a Regimental Sergeant Major in the war and still lives that way.  But, it was raining again, cats and dogs so I knew Harry, whose work is all outside, remember, would be stuck at home and not wanting a merry little cleaner like me moving him around whilst I cleaned.  So, I stayed home and cooked extra meals for him instead, which is timely as we are off to see our new grand-daughter in London on Wednesday and I will be away for ten days helping out.  I will still keep up my blog, though, so no worries there.

I’m bushed now, though.  Time for a walk in the Fairy Woods.  I’ll tell you what I find tomorrow.

Island Blog 4

Yesterday, my husband the old sea dog, turned 70.  Nobody really believes he is THAT old and he certainly doesn’t look it. When we were young, people that old were bordering on fossilisation, but we seem to be ageing differently these days, and keeping ourselves young and fit.

We had a great day, just pottering about and took a lovely walk up into the Fairy Woods with the little dog, managing to lose her during games of hide and seek! The wallow, used by the deer, was more like Lake Titicaca with all the rain we’ve had recently. We lit the fire and played scrabble and laughed a lot over tea and crumpets (or that’s what they called themselves on the packet)

 

Later, we went through to one of our boys, James (the tv star!)and his family, for a fondue and indoor fireworks.  The fondue was delicious and lasted for hours – the best sort of meal.  The Birthday Boy was truly spoiled and celebrated with the generous birthday present of five gold tickets.  I’d never heard of such a thing, but think it quite brilliant.  As the kids are dotted across the world, busy with their own lives and families, their gift to him, a whole day one to one, is a fabulous idea.  When they were little, they were a collective – inevitable when you have five and an extremely demanding work life, and, as they grew, he had to find out anew, who they are, as they did him.  They had to learn a new friendship.

 

We stayed over, and woke to play with the grandchildren on another rainy morning. Then, after a cooked breakfast (as if we needed more food) we went for the wettest walk in years, getting completely soaked, even through big ass waterproofs and we didn’t mind at all.  Once you’re wet, you’re wet!  The massive waterfall was spectacularly swollen with the rains, and the sound of it drowned out all conversation.  We just looked up and marvelled.

 

Back home, we booked our flights to London next week.  Another adventure and this one takes us to meet our littlest grand-daughter, born on Boxing Day.

Can’t wait!

Island Blog 3

Today is my husbands 70th birthday. Neither he nor I can believe he is that old, and yet looks and behaves like a kid.  Now, is this down to my splendid management I wonder……caring for him these past 40 years…..or should he take the credit himself?

Last night we went out for supper to the local pub – just a spur of the moment decision not in the least influenced by the liver casserole in front of the telly option.  We had a great meal, a bottle of sauncy Rioja and then, at midnight, fried egg sandwiches and a glass of 15 yr old malt whilst Sascha and John Digweed entertained us through the stereo speakers.  Now that’s pretty impressive for a septuagenerian don’t you think?

We talked about this blog over coffee and I have this idea to set myself a challenge for the year.  My book is out in March, I turn 60 in March and it seems like a plan to have a daily challenge that people can get excited about.

‘How is she doing today with whatever-it-is?’

That’s the sort of question I want you to ask yourself so that you just HAVE to check my blog each day.

Should I have a flow of recipes, such as the ones in Island Wife, where I had to think last minute often for hotel guests who were expecting gourmet food every Summer’s evening?  The delivery vans refused to venture up our pot holey two mile track and just dumped (literally) food supplies at the gate.  I never knew if the box of bananas would more resemble a box of brownish brackets ((((  and it kept me enterprising to an extreme degree.

Venison Jumble………that’s elderly tough stag with lots of root vegetables and a bottle of red wine cooked slowly for 2 days, then dropped on the floor, scooped back up again and topped with a savoury crumble.

Yum yum, they said, smacking their lips.

The roof on our ancient bird table took off this morning on the back of a very startled pheasant.  One minute he was enjoying the corn, with most of him squished and just his tail feathers showing, the next (after I appeared) he is flying over the stone wall with a roof on his back.  I retrieved it, minus pheasant, in a ditch.

Roofed Pheasant?

I am certain I could make that one up.

Hmmm…..food for thought.

Sounds like I need pastry and that pheasant.

Any comments?

Island Blog 2

This morning early, the phone rang and I ran to answer it.  It only rings 6 times before cutting off and 6 times are a couple of times too short to be honest, and we haven’t worked out how to lengthen the process.  Sometimes, when we don’t want to answer, its a blessing, but never very early in the morning or very late at night. Calls at those times can be bad news.

Anyway, first time I got there and there was a huff and a puff or two then the line went dead.

A call centre I thought, or a mobile in some early bird’s pocket taking matters into its own hands.

I decided to get dressed in the feeble morning light and was just stepping into under garments when the phone rang again.  Again I ran to answer it, fettered ever so slightly by being half in, half out of said undergarments.

This time I heard what sounded like a pig grunting and then a voice I know well.  A friend calling on his mobile from East Timor, just for a chat.  He lives in a monastic community, living on not very much and is happier than ever before in his life.  The pig, explained, had hurtled by his ankles whilst he crossed the dirt road to buy peanut butter.

There are pigs in the streets, he said, as if it was quite normal, which it is for him.

We talked for an hour, me shivering, him bartering for peanut butter, pigs running by, and I said its raining again here.

Thank God, he said, for rain.  We have had months of starving drought, and today, it rained.

It reminded me of a trip to Africa, during such a dry time, and walking into the streets into the first rains – people coming out of their homes to dance and laugh and hold up their arms to feel the healing drops on their parched skins.

 

Island Blog – Day One

I have been here a while trying to find a way to start my blog, having never blogged before in my life.  Do I say ‘Dear World’ presuming the ‘World’ is just gagging to read all about me, or do I just launch in, mid-air, so to speak?  Actually the whole ‘beginning’ thing is always scary.  It’s so much easier not to begin at all, whether it’s a painting, or a blog or a whole book.  So much more pleasant to anticipate beginning, to tell friends I am beginning, then go home, make coffee and watch the clouds scud by with a grumpy sou’westerley up their asses.  Can I say ‘asses’?  I suppose I can spelled like that, like they did in the old days before the word ‘donkey’ was invented.

I am Judy Fairbairns and I live on a wild Scottish island in the Inner Hebrides.  Surrounded by a temperamental ocean, we live a smaller life than those of you in huge cities, and yet, it’s a bigger life in truth.  We have to learn about Mother Nature and how to live under her rules.  And that is the backdrop to my book, Island Wife, to be published by Hodder and Stoughton in March 2013.  Seems weird writing that number, all new and shiny and full of what……beginnings?

It took me years to begin Island Wife, which had no name at the outset.  I just had all those stories, all those memories, feelings of joy and agony, anger and laughter, all those words overflowing into my mouth and down my arm and onto a page, with, it seemed, nowhere for it to go.

Like most girls, if they are honest, I dreamed of a charmed life.  I was going to do it differently.  I was going to find true love, true happiness, true contentment, like the lead fairy in a bedtime story.

And then I met a man, an adventurer, older than me, one who had, in his own words, lived a whole lifetime already.  Hooked to his star, I ran to keep up, to fit his ideal, and to make it look like it was second nature to me. I stepped out of my shiny party shoes and into the wellies of a farmer’s wife.

It was not without the odd miniature disaster…