Children and Religion

22 04 2011

My darling Rowan asked the questions at the Pesach meeting that my mother took him to. And he found the lucky matzo. They swapped it for him for £1. He was so proud of how good he’d been and so pleased with his prize. My mother was so proud and happy with his wonderful goodness and his interest.

I used to have a problem with my mother taking him to religious gatherings. Let me tell you why I don’t have that problem now.

My son  is not baptized and there was the bellows to mend when I decided he wouldn’t be. I endured all sorts of snide asides about the matter, not to mention a few direct attacks and assurances that he would be the subject of eternal damnation, cast into the outer darkness like an ordinary sinner, because of his unshriven state. I took a long time reminding the various commentators that Ro was a tiny child, utterly innocent, and therefore God would take him home. How could He do otherwise, if we were so unlucky as to lose him? So now, when my mother who is a committed Christian, and a good and solid woman to boot, takes him to church and to all manner of semi-religious meetings and gatherings, I don’t make a fuss. I have seen, you see, that she isn’t approaching the subject of Rowan’s religious introduction the same way as she did mine. I’m grateful for this, but also entranced and reassured.

It’s been a tough year and I’ve worked very hard to remove myself from, first, the terrible, aching, dragging depression I suffered over the winter, and two, the desperate hatred I felt for my mother that was growing and putting down roots and threatening to ruin my goodness, what there is of it.

A week ago today I called my mother and told her that I felt there was a growing rift between us, that I’d started to hate her, and that I wanted it to stop. Like mothers do, she put out a hand and said, ‘Let’s talk’, and so we will.

Meanwhile, she continues to show the care and love and devotion to her grandson, my son, that she always has, and she is being gentler on me, which I appreciate, and I believe there may be a place we can meet and share and care once more. I want to love her. She is my mother. I am a  mother.


The Twining Vine

18 10 2010

I had an hour with Seshat yesterday, our first for a long, long while. It was wonderful to see her so wide-eyed and happy, I got the grin which I miss, I got the laugh and the devilry and some truly hilarious anecdotes, and just being with her and wandering arm-in-arm through the town cheered me up no end.

You’ll have noted, probably, if there’s still anyone here apart from me, that is! that I’ve been totally quiet for ages. I’ll tell you why.

After moving house last Yule, I haven’t even unpacked my altar. My books and papers are still in boxes. I have done no observance and made no progress in my spiritual life. Talking with Seshat, it seems we all go through this periodically but this has been my driest dry spell ever.

Part of the problem has been lack of space. Sounds ridiculous – I’ve moved to a house quite five times the size of The Little House, and twice as big as my previous home but that’s not the issue. There is no space for me – nowhere to call my own, no quiet corner where I can have my things, nowhere safe and private and unobserved where I can meditate. It is quite uniquely uncomfortable to feel as though you have nowhere that is yours. It is one of the worst feelings for a person like me, who could happily make use of a medium-sized room what with all my books, ornaments, computer, furniture, pictures, rugs, cushions and so on. I know it’s idiosyncratic stuff, I know it holds value only for me. However, it’s been packed away so long I no longer know what I have on hand.

Help has arrived, people. After hearing me sigh wistfully over an article in Country Living regarding outdoor rooms (or lurking huts, as I prefer to call them) the BB has come up with a solution. Our bedroom is quite large and has wonderful views, and light, and there is an alcove around the door which is totally un-utilised. The BB produced an architectural draft of a plan for a bookcase / cupboard combination, which will incorporate lockable storage for private items, and a fold-away desk / table. He has bought the wood, and has begun work. I am stoked. There’s about 40′ of shelving, and masses of room for all my ceremonial items. He has also made available a lovely little lady’s desk, with a drop down lid and pigeonholes, which will sit kitty-corner with the bookcase and make the whole alcove my own private slice of heaven.

With this amazing and unlooked-for treat in store, I can feel the green shoots of recovery twining up my ankles, a strange sight in Autumn I’m sure, but even if it’s out of season it’s wonderful. It’s the beginning of our year once more, a good time to start again. And I think it goes to show that there’s nothing that can’t be done, and no reason to give up completely if there’s the least hope of a renaissance in the offing. If you fall off the horse, give it time and get back on. You have to expect to take tumbles on this type of life-long journey; dust yourself off, learn a lesson and proceed.

Spring and She Returns

6 05 2010

Hello, my dear friends. Had a short hiatus there, where the muse turned to glue. Happens to us all, I suspect! I’d like to thank all my commenters old and new for their kind words while I was away – how are we all in any case?

I have been prompted to restart by a discussion on the Facebook page of one of my dearest friends, regarding an image. I’ll post the image and a precis of the discussion when I can, perhaps later today, but it fascinated me and got me thinking again.

Since moving in with my Best Beloved all my books, papers and previous writings have been stuck in boxes in the storeroom, ungettable-at. The end’s in sight there, I have a book-case, I know which boxes the books are in, there’s a fighting chance I can get back to academic and informed blogging in weeks if not months from now! We’re so busy getting the house ready for paying guests that I barely know where the days go. However, I’ve put in for voluntary redundancy from work as I have other irons in the fire and my job is less than inspriational to my life. Instead of career-mongering, my instincts tell me to step back, get little jobs of work here and there, make up my money and be happy. A bold move for someone as concerned as I am about financial security. I’m thinking about it.

Waxing and Strengthening

21 01 2010

Hello my dears; I’m just back from a short holiday by the sea with my Best Beloved and the dog. It was just wonderful to get the chance at sea air, fresh smelling and sweet; sunshine, salt spray and simple pleasures like rockpooling and dodging the breakers. I spent some wonderful quiet time, facing the sunset, listening to the booming roar of a sea which was quite agitated enough, sitting tucked up warm on a rock with my feet out of the surf, thinking of nothing but the elemental loveliness of the scene, and giving quiet thanks for it. Free for the taking, costing no-one anything at all, except me and my time, happily given. Perfect.

It’s also the New Year in the calendar sense and that now means marmalade and interior design. The house is slowly warming up and cheering, pieces of furniture are becoming settled in their new spots. We’ve had a charity come today and remove three beds, all of which are in great condition, but for which we have no room! After we managed to wrestle the mattresses and bases out of the top room we were able to look about and see what remained – and re-discovered some things that we have needed, couldn’t find and have done without hitherto. Rather a nice little analogy for clearing out one’s head of the dross, to which I referred in my last post.

Just being happy, contented with one’s lot, quiet in spirit and soul, is a blessing; perhaps the best of blessings. No fear, no guilt, no need to tyrannise oneself with omissions and commissions. Ability to sleep, and to wake rested. Ability to laugh at petty torments and brush them away. Resilience for vicissitudes whether large or small.

I realised that my previous motivations were centred largely around fear. As I no longer feel this fear, I no longer feel so insanely motivated to do things. I have had to find an alternative motivation, which is far less potent, and to wrestle a little with the urge – sometimes irresistible – to not do the thing, whatever it is, that I might be required to do, and to do whatever I want to instead – but, by and large, I’m equal to the task. And now, if things don’t get done, well, they don’t get done.

House to Home, Heart to Hearth

8 12 2009

Now then, dear friends. Can it be a month? Yes, it can. What a month!

In the last 30 days I have:

Written a hundred Christmas / Yule cards, moved house, had flu twice (same bout, with an irritating hiatus in the middle), made Christmas puddings, painted the sitting room, been to London, finished my Christmas shopping, organised a supper party for 35 people, started a degree-level course with all the attendant hoopla and gubbins, hosted friends from far away, and run a house and more importantly a three-year-old. Not bad, when you look back on it all. The third week out of four was spent flat on my back in bed, wheezing stertoriously and wishing for a new thorax.

So it’s Yule shortly, and Christmas shortly after that, and I’m really, most excellently glad of this, and of the two week’s break I am owed and which I am darned well going to take this year. I was meant to be off last year, but we had an emergency contract drop in on the 27th December which entailed me and one of the Directors frantically getting a team together prior to the New Year. Bummer. Not this year though.

This year, for the first time ever, I am hosting Christmas for my dear family, and at Three Chimneys to boot. My parents, and one of my brothers and his partner, myself, the BB and my darling Boostermouse. Our festivities begin next Wednesday with Rowan’s debut performance in the Nativity as the Innkeeper. At his practice last week, he solemnly informed Mary and Joseph that they couldn’t come in as there was no room at the bar… one generally prays for death when one’s children utter such solecisms but I have to say I laughed my socks off and have been dining out on it ever since. He’s just as bossy as me and will, most likely, run the whole show from the centre of the stage and at the top of his lungs.

After that, I’m out to dinner and drinks on Thursday with my dearest friend Seshat – Thai and a couple of snifters and some wassail and general catch-up as we’ve been ships that pass in the night of late. Living 25 miles from her doesn’t help matters but all I need to do is get off my lazy butt and make the effort!

Friday I’m on a half-day and we welcome early party guests to Three Chimneys for dinner and a stroll about the shops of our fair mountain town. Saturday is our Christmas Supper-Party, which has been enthusiastically taken up by all invitees so far, with guests coming from Suffolk, London, Oxfordshire and Wiltshire as well as many of our friends from the local area.

Sunday I’m making things – what, I haven’t yet decided. I have put aside the time for creativity to blossom without being proscriptive aobut what to use the time for. Should it be jam? Chutney? Beading? or sitting in front of the fire with a bar of Green & Black’s Sour Cherry and a glass of red?

Then we have the run-up to the days themselves… the 21st I’m working, which is nothing if not unfortunate, but I will contrive a celebration even so. We’ve got the family arriving on the 25th in the morning and staying on until they want to go home – so at least Boxing Day, if not beyond. How wonderful!

And so we come to the title of my post today. House to Home, Heart to Hearth. This is what I see happening, both in Three Chimneys, and in my heart.

All this cosy domesticity is truly what I love best in the world. It’s one of my strengths, and I love the way it can relax and invigorate me simultaneously. We have all noticed a flowering of the creative spirit inside us, when we found our paths… I think it is a response to addressing questions about oneself and learning about what you like and what excites you. It is also a function of becoming open to the world around you, becoming observant and appreciative of the beauty in quite ordinary things. If I had my druthers, I’d do this sort of thing permanently, but I do have to work; still, I have more opportunities than most to follow my dreams. And this is due in no small part to the wonderful person I’m with, and his ability to love me and let me be me. We are rebuilding the house he bought together, consulting on things, compromising, fitting our furniture in around each other, mucking in as a team to ready the house for Christmas. And at the same time, my heart is being cleansed of the dross and pain and fear and unhappiness it carried for so long, and it is becoming lighter, clearer, more candid, more open, more receptive. It feels clean. My heart is now a home for my BB. The hearth is the fire of the love I feel for him, and the central warmth of the home we are building together.

I’ve got buns in the oven

8 11 2009

Nooo, not the metaphorical type; literal buns! In fact, bread, and shortly chocolate chip cookies, if I don’t eat all the dough.

It’s a grey, dank and cold day here at Three Chimneys. I went out running with the dog this morning at 8am alongside the river, which was roaring and churning, the ducks prudently staying in the few shallow bits. I saw a heron trying to spot fish but he looked like nothing so much as an angular and grey pensioner, hair awry, peering myopically both ways into heavy traffic, looking for a gap in which to shamble across the road. Eventually he gave up and creaked skywards, his body language unmissable in its defeat.  No breakfast for you, mate.

The dog took to every rut and muddy puddle down the lane on the way back, and one comedy moment thankfully didn’t go down in history, but only because there was no-one else there to see me; clinging to the hedge and teetering on the edge of disaster, as I inched my way past a puddle the size of the Red Sea, which I know to be lined with brick fragments and assorted building rubble, and which I did NOT want to fall into. Back home and a nifty attempt by the dog to go and dry off in our bed was foiled at the off; now he’s sulking in his special armchair in the sitting room, clearly underwhelmed and wanting to sleep the day away.

Myself, I’m deep into culinary pursuits; I have found a glorious recipe for mincemeat (tip to our overseas friends – mincemeat comprises currants, raisins, mixed peel, cherries, butter, brandy and spices. I eat it from the jar, which I believe is a shameful thing to admit, but you can put it in a pastry case and call it a tart. It won’t mind). I’m intending to fill medium Kilner jars with this unctuous mixture (heavy on the Cognac, GW) and offer them as gifts to friends.

There’s also a rather amazing sweet-sour tomato preserve which I have found in one of my Elizabeth David anthologies; it comes up garnet rich and cornelian red and sparkling through glass jars. A perfect selection for the upcoming Christmas fairs locally. There’s thirty pounds of regular marmalade to make before the big guns come out and I have orders for a further thirty pounds of proper, amber-coloured thick-cut Seville orange marmalade to placate my stepfather and my best beloved, who both dote on the stuff and feel totally deprived if there is none in the larder, or if, god help us, they have to go out and buy some sub-standard simulacrum in the shops.

Pausa there as I went to take a large Swansea loaf out of the oven. Golden brown and crusty, risen high in the centre and with a cross cut into its floury top, I’m hoping it measures up against the ones we buy, which have the distinction of being utterly delicious even when three or four days old, and manage (somehow) to combine all the chewy, tasty character of a sourdough with the crisp crust of proper English bread.

The cookies will be coming to work with me tomorrow, to be devoured by the wastrels in my co-employ; really, I don’t mind, it’s great to watch people eat things you’ve made. I’ve always been far more of a savoury person than a sweet, temperamentally speaking; this comes out in my cooking to a great degree. Now I’m feeling light, happy and settled for the first time in years, I seem to have fallen into a routine of cooking for pleasure on the weekends; baking pies and cakes, making bread and scones, planning storecupboard batches of chutneys, pickles and jam.

My BB is upstairs planing wood and making a lovely job of finishing the landing. I’m settled in the kitchen, off in another part of the house, listening to Radio 3 and pottering happily. Work again tomorrow; but this isn’t a bad thing. I’m just loving the creativity that seems to be flowing through me at the moment. This evening, beading, I think. Mmmmm.


Postscriptum – The bread has cooled sufficiently for me to pick it up; the smell coming from the still-warm crust defies description. Is there anything more simultaneously comforting and quickening to the appetite than freshly-baked bread? I’m in bliss, just hugging the bread I made and breathing in its spicy, fresh yeastiness and savour. Delightful.

I’d like a potion for flu, please

5 11 2009

Garr ,when I feel ill, I feel ILL, and no mistake.

I spent the whole of Tuesday sleeping, getting up for five minutes and staring blearily at my partner before being hustled off back to bed again, and falling asleep immediately. It was like someone had removed most of my higher brain. Useless for anything except breathing in and out. Tea appeared, piping hot and strong, at regular intervals; as did nurofen and glasses of water. Pillow plumping and shaking out of the duvet, soothing of brow and gentle bossing about to stop me doing stuff I shouldn’t. I got caught watering the geraniums in the sitting room, received a quiet ticking-off and was sent back to bed once more.

It’s lovely to be able to rely so much on another person. I don’t find this sort of thing easy to do at all. Apparently I give the impression of being generally invulnerable. Not when I’m ill, I’ll promise you.