Sunday, 28 February 2010

Apple blossom time

Today is my paternal grandmother's 89th birthday.

After lunch we listen to wartime music. 'I'll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time' starts to play.

'This will make me weepy,' she says. 'This played at the dance where I first met K (my grandfather). He said to me, I will be with you in apple blossom time. It was the start of February, three weeks before my 21st birthday. I was going with another boy at the time, who had been missing in action for some time, but I knew then that even if he did come back I wouldn't have had him. I knew then that I wouldn't have anyone that wasn't K.'

My father was born a week before the end of WW2, and my grandparents were happily married for over 50 years.

I know there is a tendency to romanticise the Second World War, but sometimes I wish I could know things with such certainty.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

A premature birthday and a send off (featuring lots of cocktails, cupcakes and cheap olives made fancy)

Busy week, but I wanted to share last Friday with you. It was a premature birthday celebration - I turn 24 next week, as well as the final party that my much-loved flat is going to see as I am moving in just over two weeks time (more on that later...).

M made various batches of very potent cocktails, there were French martini raspberry jellies served from teacups, plenty of pink-iced cupcakes, strings of glowing fairy lights, home-made bunting, Buddy Holly on the sound system, jam jars full of pink and white flowers, and a wonderful birthday cake that C had made (Three layers! Creamy white frosting! A trio of deep blue anemone flowers resting on top! Silver candles! It was perfect).

And of course there were the guests - I had a house full of friends who had travelled from as far as Edinburgh, Worcester, Cambridge, Colchester, or simply hopped on the tube from the wilds of South and East London, but I truly appreciated every single person's presence. It was so wonderful to see people I hadn't seen in an age, and just as lovely to raise a glass with those I see all the time.

It was a fitting send off for a home that has seen many a party in its time, and though Saturday morning featured a sore head and lots of tidying up, it was certainly worth it (it also featured Buck's Fizz, a batch of blueberry muffins and plenty of eggs and sausages for those who had stayed over so not all bad)!

Becky's Cheap Olives made fancy

I had over forty guests on Friday night, and though everyone loves a few olives to nibble on with their cocktails my budget didn't quite stretch to big tubs of them from the deli cabinet so I decided to make my own. I bought a huge jar of green olives from the supermarket, and a huge can of black and then, loosely following a recipe from 'Fast, Fresh and Fabulous' by Rose Elliot, I marinated my own. I drained and rinsed the olives from the brine they were stored in, before tipping into a large bowl. I then added a few glugs of olive oil, a couple of tablespoons of orange juice, the juice of a lemon and the zest (removed with a vegetable peeler to give largish strips), a couple of teaspoons of chilli flakes and four or five fat gloves of garlic (peeled and cut into thick slices). I mixed this all round and left for a few hours, before decanting into pretty glass bowls and dotting around the room along with many jars of cheese straws. Very easy, and so much cheaper than shop bought. Pretty yummy too!

Monday, 22 February 2010


Best. Night. Ever.

One hell of a lot of clearing up to do Saturday morning though.

Sunday, 14 February 2010


Hope everyone's had a good one, or successfully ignored it completely, take your pick!

Used stamps from a bag of mixed ones bought in a charity shop in Worcester on my visit there.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010


Blood donation vans in a cobbled courtyard. A tentative opening of the door, this is my first time. I never used to be squeamish, "Where's Wally?" books did a fabulous job of taking the childhood mind off proceedings during vaccinations. Today the stomach flips a little, I still haven't forgotten fainting when blood was taken from my sister prior to her operation last summer, the swimming vision, the distant feeling. Still, I have been drinking water all morning to help the blood flow quicker, and have resolved to justnotlook. I pass the questionnaire, a drop of my blood sinks slowly through the blue solution indicating high enough haemoglobin levels. I lie on the plastic covered bed. They try unsuccessfully for a vein in my left arm, before moving to the right. I'm hooked up to the bag, and taped up, though I'm still not looking so am not quite clear on this. I stare out of the window whilst I clench and unclench my fist; blue sky, bare trees, a cloud that looks like a lion. I try not to focus on the strange sensation in my right arm. Not painful, just unknown. Try to remember to breathe, not let the swimming sensation creep up on me as it did last summer. And then, 3 minutes in, my blood stops flowing. Not entirely, but it slows down enough that it is not time efficient for them to keep me there, other donors are waiting. They unhook me. Well you managed about a third. Small veins they say, next time drink lots of water. I did I reply, lots. Must just be tiny veins then.

I know it can still be used, but a third of a pint just seems pathetic somehow. I drink my orange squash thoughtfully. I'll try again, but can't help wondering if I'm better suited to encouraging others to donate, strapping youths with bulging arms and prominent veins, then cooking them up an iron-rich dinner, emerald spinach, slabs of steak, to show my support.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Photos from a weekend

Signs of spring, emerging underneath a beech tree. Golden aconites, dew-wet snowdrops.

Boisterous dogs, sleeping ones. Wet tongues and cold noses.

Details from a small Northamptonshire town.

A station platform, silent at dusk. Breath condensing in cold air.

Farmers' market tulips, to brighten a friend's new home.

And tomorrow is Monday again.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Lighter, brighter, nearer

January is finally over, and I feel a little bit relieved. Already the mornings seem a tiny bit lighter, and spring seems a little bit nearer. After all, February is a short month, over-before-you-know-it, full of pancake batter and heart-shaped chocolates.

My hyacinths are blooming, white and fragrant, and I feel uplifted.