Lunch in a Church

26 01 2010

Yesterday to lunch with The Tattooed Witch, to a local church which has a fantabulous cafe as part of its fabric. The church still functions perfectly well as a space for worship – some might say better, beacuase the lure of coffee, cakes and relaxed chat encourages people in. The church is warm, with plenty of wood and bright spaces, yet still calm and serene and full of respectful hush. I don’t know how this works as well as it does, but it’s a winning combination.

I reeled in breathless with the cold, and sat down for a moment on the wooden bum-warmer that runs along the edge of the cafe between it and the nave. I saw TW reeling in similar fashion, in through the glass door, cheeks pink and eyes bright from the bitter wind. Big hugs and then to the menu, and we grabbed potato and spinach curry, dhal and rice which was utterly delicious and the perfect soul food. Lashings of mango chutney. Mmmmm. Then down to the little annexe where there was an exhibition of some really quite clunky and awful local artwork. But endearing, in a sort of way. There was one lovely pic of a couple of roosters, done in bright colours and thick acrylic – witty and gracefully done. I resisted!

There’s nothing quite like sitting over food and gossiping with kindred spirits. Our lunch gave us both a shot in the arm – I was quite ridiculously chipper and upbeat all day. Roll on our next date – and she’s going to sew the errant pompoms back on the scarf she made me for Christmas too. Blessed girl!


Reading Prevention Technique &cetera…

22 01 2010

I’ve got the perfect thing, for all you witches out there who don’t want to read anything:

1. Move house. 2. Pack all books into cartons. 3. Stack cartons in inaccessible boxroom with labels facing in and no hope of accessing said cartons in any case. 4. Sit at door and sigh impotently as you think of all the pristine, uncracked bindings that await you in *one or another* of the cartons you can’t reach.

For some reason, when I moved this time, I kept all my stones, altargoods, textiles and supplies to hand and packed all the books away safely. And now I want to read them and I feel like a dog without water on a sunny day!

In other news, I am feeling the want of a familiar – now settled at the new house and feeling robust and as if I have time on my hands, I made the fatal mistake of viewing a puppy at the rescue centre yesterday. Many tears were shed when I got home and was kindly but firmly told that trying to introduce another dog to our current spaniel would likely end in tears, as he’d seen one off before. Boo hoo. No puppy for me, but I might be able to have a cat. As I had hoped to take the pup to work with me and have it as my constant companion a cat might not fit the bill so well, but you cannot gainsay the relaxing and soporific qualities of cats – and they are so beautiful and strange. And they kill mice. Which in our current place would be no bad thing. I will keep you posted!

I haven’t made anything beady for an age – since before Christmas actually. Seeing that Fox has got the restocking of Shades of Midnight underway has spurred me on to at least think about projects for the Spring. And Tattooed Witch is seeing us all off with her glorious textiles and embroidery. A real natural. I say, chaps – do cakes count?!

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.

Samhain 2009

30 10 2009

It’s all change for TGW! New home, and a new happiness. I have all but moved out of The Little House and have taken up residence at Three Chimneys, the home of my wonderful partner M. Perhaps most wonderfully of all, he sussed my paganism from the start – in fact from our first date – acknowledges its importance but crucially isn’t the least bit interested in hearing about it. There’s none of the prurience, pretend understanding, cliche-ridded heavy-handed ‘humour’ or other badinage or railery that I’ve become so weary of over the years. Stepping out of the broom closet to important others in your life is a trial sometimes; thankfully this time it wasn’t.

This Samhain I have so much to give thanks for, so much to feel blessed about, so much to cherish and so much to remember. It truly seems to be the most fruitful Autumn I can remember.

Where to begin? I could tell you about the wonderful walks we’ve been on, gathering conkers by the river with R as the leaves fall in shimmering files and drifts; I could tell you about watching the swan family on the river as they serenely brought up 7 chicks to near-adulthood. Or how about the baking of cakes and pies and bread that fill the kitchen at Three Chimneys with fragrance and comfort every weekend? Or the aromatic, piney fires we build and bask in front of on windy, rainy nights? So much to tell.

Casseroles, wine, fellow-hail, comfort, safety and warmth. Mellow light on old stone. Burnished copper reflecting candles, reflecting golden flames seen through the clear glasses in the front of the log-burner. Deep rugs, soft chairs and warm throws to cuddle your feet into. Hot tea on tap. Whiskey and ice, to round out the evenings together. Books, everywhere books. Combined possessions of two people with similar interests, tastes and pursuits. Love, care, understanding. A welcome without and a welcome within. At last, a safe mooring and a home for me and for R.

The house is a work in progress, and it is progressing apace; only this week we’ve finished restoring the panelling in the drawing room, commissioned three more radiators, replastered the landing and the master bedroom, cleared out a skip-load of junk preparatory to my furniture arriving and mended the floorboards in the hall. I’ve planted the urns outside the front door; we’re planning a large Yuletide party to warm the threshold and everyone’s really excited, not least us!

There are carved pumpkins in all the windows, made by R and myself; one happy, one sad and one ‘grumpy’  which came out slightly wrong and actually looks like the poor fruit has indigestion. We’re due at the local Fire Festival on Saturday night – procession of giants, wicker man, fireworks, huge bonfire and all the hot-dogs R can stuff down his maw during the evening. Mulled wine, boeuf carbonnade and mashed potatoes before we go out, to ensure centrally heated bodies as we process through the darkness to the festival site, to the transformative magic of fire, lights and brilliance in the sky, cheer, wassail and the beginning of the New Year for me and for mine.

The moon will be waxing full tomorrow night, the best of all times for me to wish ahead and work for the future.

Blessed Samhain, to all my dearest friends.