Willpower/it’s now or never

Rough start to the day when, despite the burly neighbour’s help, we couldn’t get the Great Dane into the 4×4 vehicle to go to the vet. Our dog has taken a sudden and inexplicable  dislike to riding in cars and just refused to climb in, growled when we tried to lift him, dug in his front paws and put his head down. He is a huge dog and very powerful. He kept wagging his tail rather desperately to show he wasn’t being unfriendly (he likes the neighbour and adores us, is very keen on lots of human approval and affection) but he was not getting into the back seat or the front seat or having anything to do with this  juggernaut of a motor vehicle. His lower jaw trembled and he rolled his eyes unhappily to indicate to me, his usually loving  human parent, that this was not his idea of fun. We gave up eventually, soothed and patted the stubborn refusenik, then went next door to admire the neighbour’s new puppy who is already house-trained, well-brushed and nicely behaved. Shaming to have to come back and see our handsome Dane, his new tartan coat all muddy, leaping around the back garden joyful at getting his own way.

The vet will have to come to us. And out here vets don’t do that except in emergencies.

Now he is drinking water in the kitchen and calming down, poor dog. The small dogs are rushing around hysterical with excitement, demanding rides in cars and more drama, biscuits and loud voices, everyone rushing about and shouting orders, volleys of wild barking and a puddle or two behind the bathroom door!

Earworm from some ancient radio retro-music programme, songs that we (over)heard  and can never forget, Gary Puckett & the Union Gap, dating back before male song writers began to unlearn sexism or gave up trying to talk women into having sex no matter what…

Lady Willpower, it’s now or never
Give your love to me
And I’ll shower your heart with tenderness


Dream last night in which I was trying to solve a murder, the disappearance in a marshy field of a close friend who had come through a terrible divorce, an image of her in strings of black pearls and a gabardine jacket, her hair blown across her face. I knew who had  killed her, the helmeted faceless skydiver she called husband,  but couldn’t think how to prove it. Instead I (the dream self who was a beloved Chinese aunt) sat drawing houseboats  in full sail across an inland estuary, waves of grass, sails like patterned bed sheets. If I could only climb into the canvas propped up on my easel, I would be able to look down into the green grassy depths and locate the missing bodies — the ivory white naked seaweed-strewn bodies of my niece and my dearest friend — trussed up with anchor chainlinks like tentacles. That kind of hard-scrabble edgelands dream.
Siri Hustvedt
“I think we all have ghosts inside us, and it’s better when they speak than when they don’t.”



Friday’s mix and match soups

Nothing prescriptive about this but on Fridays or sometimes Saturdays, I rummage around in the vegetable racks and fridge for the left-over vegetables from the week’s cooking. It isn’t altogether that random either: often I leave a few mushrooms or save one-third of the butternut so that I have something for the weekend soup.


Today, as the cold persists even in bright sunshine, I am making a mushroom and barley soup with a handful of portabello mushrooms, half a packet of dried exotic mushrooms, a small handful of barley (I’m not feeding hungry hordes, just two of us), a mirepoix of chopped carrots, leeks, celery and garlic, a bay leaf, fresh parsley, salt and ground black pepper to taste. I could have put in cabbage but I can use that in something else. My secret ingredient with mushroom soups and risottos is a few drops of black truffle oil.


One of my favourite food thinkers and writers is Tamar E Adler who is passionate about sustainable cooking from scratch at home, not wasting food and keeping it simple: she has chapters on How to Boil Water, talks about saving onion skins and carrot tops, making a good stock.


Illuminating conversations part xviii:

Housemate: I was talking to someone at work who is a vegan and lives on tofu and soybeans, stuff like that. Have you ever had a vegan meal?

Me (deeply startled): I make vegan meals all the time. If it doesn’t have eggs or dairy or any animal products, it is  usually vegan.

Housemate (equally startled): I won’t knowingly eat tofu.

Me: You don’t have to eat tofu at all. Good grief, I don’t smuggle tofu into food heavily disguised as a lamb chop or anything like that.

Housemate: So when do we eat vegan?

Me (listing off the top of my head): Pesto sauce with gnocchi, baked butternut stuffed with lentil and mushroom mix, butternut risotto with savoury herb oil, egg-free homemade pasta with shallots, garlic and chilli, spicy African peanut curry with harissa, broccoli-, cauliflower and sweet potato soup, leek and potato soup, carrot-cumin soup, Tuscan white beans & rosemary, borlotti beans and roasted mushroom bake, vegan pad thai, eight vegetable couscous with capers and slivered almonds. Salads with ginger and lime dressing! Stirfries beyond number! Brown rice pilaffs with cashews! Stuffed vine leaves with rice, spring onions, pine nuts and lemon zest! Making vegan food is as easy as frying bacon and eggs.

Housemate: I do so like bacon and eggs.

A fire that kindles other fires

Waking slow and halfway through a mug of strong bitter coffee before I remembered I was going to drink hot water and a little lemon juice today, fast a little,  because my stomach has been cramping and my throat irritable, so staying away from caffeine doesn’t hurt to give the system a rest, let the body slow and gentle down. But there we are, buzzy, galvanised and fired up with some ferocious gritty beans harvested via Fair Trade from a tropical coffee plantation on a goaty Abyssinian mountainside, pounded to fragments and pressure-steamed, kicking the field of nightly dreams to one side, tetchy in the bloodstream, bad idea.


Hearing all about the funeral sermon given by a local retired deacon aged 98, coaxed out of the old age home by the grieving family. He couldn’t recall the name of the deceased and instead gave a lecture on not looking at women with lustful eyes. Towards the end of a charming but digressive account of how he personally managed to avoid leering at women by going fishing, he saw an old friend in the front pew and  shouted: “You old bugger! I thought you were dead and buried long ago!” The family phlegmatic, resigned, shaking their heads but smiling after the funeral service, saying they should have realised their old preacher’s memory was going now he spends his days chasing nurses around the frail care unit.


Rebecca Solnit on Thoreau embracing different ways of being present:

I think he’s a great example of someone refusing the categories: he thinks about leaves changing color and he also thinks about, and talks about, and cares about, slavery and John Brown and the war on Mexico. In the introductory essay to Storming the Gates I write about the way he’s so insistent that when he got out of jail the morning after that founding act of civil disobedience, he went huckleberrying. It’s an insistence that pleasure and commitment, landscape and politics, the big and the small can and do coexist. He’s himself a great refuser of genre.


Touching here on what this kind of random, improvisational and even repetitious blogging gives me, the chance to mention all kinds of things that may or may not have anything to do with one another, very much the way some days roll full of the unexpected, the routine and the serendipitous.


This weekend I shall fill the house with tall vases of bold strelitzias.