Saturday, 31 July 2010

And so to bed........

Cumin gets a bedtime story.
Well not really, it was a an afternoon of leisurely reading, but a certain occupant of the house couldn't concentrate for long.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Walk along Willis

I had the occasion today to walk along one of the main shopping streets in the capital. A few images for your delight. The first temptation, Butler's Chocolate Shop. The flowers outside Woodstock Florist. The last one was taken outside a church.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

What's in a name part 2

There is a programme on British television called “Who do you think you are?” A selection of celebrities take up the challenge to delve into their family history to fill in blanks and discover amusing or terrifying skeletons in the family cupboard. It’s popularity hinges significantly on the surprises. I had an amusing “Who do I think I am” moment today.
My better half got a biography out of the library of one of England’s famous sons, Oliver Cromwell. Being somewhat “challenged” in this period of history, we had an interesting discussion over the dinner table. But then came the surprise. The conversation went thus:
“You might be related,” said my husband. “And I don’t mean in the way you marched me into a shoe shop this afternoon in military fashion”.
“There are no Cromwells in my family tree!”
“Ah, but his surname wasn’t really Cromwell.”
Cue blank look on my side of the table.
“Well it seems they were somewhat ‘cavalier’ about surnames, and in fact his name was Williams.”
My mum was a Williams. It’s quite a common name but I doubt many people keep it if they become famous.
“Oliver Williams is a bit lame isn’t it? Not surprised he changed it. I mean, imagine if Napoleon’s surname had been Smith. The “Smith” Wars doesn’t have the same ring to it as ‘Napoleonic’ now does it?”
It would also explain the whiff of Republicanism in our family!

Wishing you a relaxed weekend

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Hunter gatherer

Yesterday, somehow our little “Orange Blur” managed to get inside a kitchen cupboard when no one was looking. It’s the one my husband keeps bottles of vitamin tablets, over the counter medicine and pain killers in. Sometimes the wire drawer where they are stored lets a few fall onto the shelf below.

Her ladyship was caught walking around the house with a blister pack of Nurofen in her mouth.

I could almost see the speech bubble above Mr Boy Cat’s head:

“For a real pain in the neck. How appropriate!”

Monday, 19 July 2010

A moment at the Whisker Stop Cafe

At a wee cafe on the State Highway,
a rare treat of coffee before the start of the day.
The log fire had been lit just before we arrived –
the scones steaming straight from the oven,
a heavenly fragrance inside.
Outside it rained so we sat close to the flames.
Chatting so cosily not wanting to leave,
Until a soggy moggy strolled to my chair and started to plead
By staring and staring.........
and staring again.
It seemed that the position was reserved,
but the sign on the cushion was omitted, how rude!
Reluctant to spoil his drying out space,
I stood up instantly and he took his place
to dry out on the cushion, without a by-your-leave.
Laughing at his look which said
"Possession is nine-tenths of the law, indeed"
Then his double arrived to occupy “the best chair don’t you know”
to start the morning's bedraggled oblutions, in sleepy stereo.

Max and Tom own the Brown Sugar Cafe it would appear.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Pax Pussicus

After finding a sunny place for La toilette, the Ginger One checked out the view, then was joined by the Panda Puss and put into position Newman's Defenceable Space.

Ah, Sundays!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Kitten lessons 101

Which end is the beak supposed to be? I'm hungry!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

I like to match my handbag

Sometimes a girl just has to powder her nose before she goes shopping

Monday, 12 July 2010

Cat's Cradle

It’s a universal fact that kittens are contrary. They refuse to appear when you are worried you have lost them, they gorge themselves on one kind of food for a week, then turn up their pretty nose and whiskers and demand something else. They will ignore shop bought toys and attach themselves to three rolled up balls of newspaper and an old tape measure and do large circles around a basket with a soft blanket, preferring to snooze dangling upside down from the ironing board.
I put my three month year old in our spare bedroom at 8pm each evening. It gives me and our old gentleman cat a bit of peace. She has her G Force tour of the living room high places, then gets a look which says “for goodness sake save me from myself and put me to bed”.
So I grab her, and possum tail (her cuddle toy) and take her to a darkened room where there is bed, dry food and access to a litter tray.
The weather here is particularly cold at the moment, so for the last week I have left her a big soft blanket in a heap on the bed, so that she could find a way into it and make a nest.
I also left an empty drawer slightly open in grandma’s big pine dresser, just to see if she would explore. It is a big enough drawer for a newborn baby, and I think it was used for that purpose two centuries ago. I had left an old woollen coat in it; one I had intended to cut up for craft projects.
Five minutes ago I went into the room with a torch to check on her – she was nowhere to be seen. Just as I was about to leave I saw two amber eyes blink from the drawer. Ms Ginger was cuddled up in a cream coat, as cosy as a bug in a rug. Nice to think that yet another baby is occupying the drawer.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Veggie Tales

I have found myself “head travelling” in recent months. The long winter nights require good food to keep warm and focussed, if one is to avoid cranial hibernation. Hence for me wintertime is “kitchen time”.
My “head travelling” usually commences when I’m chopping vegetables or making pies. It starts with a random thought usually attached to food. Tonight it was the pile of mushrooms. And no, this isn’t going to be psychadelic rambling brought on by the magic variety.
As I made fish pie, I was suddenly in Lomonosov, a small town on the Gulf of Finland, around 20 miles from St. Petersburg. I had taken an amazing trip by train with a friend to the Oranienbaum Palace. It was late summer, so we knew that we had a wonderfully long day to enjoy the train ride and the amble around the Palace. It was 1996 so the town was still largely unused to foreigners wandering through its streets.
We had arrived on some kind of market day, and the streets seemed to be lined with a gaggle of grandmas brandishing baskets of every shape and size. Most of the baskets were empty, but as we got closer to the Palace, I noticed many of the old ladies were selling mushrooms.
Mushroom gathering in Russia borders on a national sport in the summer. When you eat at the weekend dacha you eat the fruit of the day’s mushroom hunt and much discussion ensues over them, assisted by quantities of vodka. Russians seem to have mushroom identification in their DNA. They are the human version of truffle dogs, and can be seen stampeding towards a tree or undergrowth in pursuit of the perfect fungi when lesser mortals can only see grass or piles of dead branches. It borders on a mystical gifting.
This evening my mushrooms came from the local farmers market and were grown by a Chinese market gardener. But the romance of that day in Russia is never far off. My souvenir of Lomonosov is a small mushroom basket that sits in the bedroom, a modest little object reclining in a corner, no doubt also dreaming of a Russian forest far, far away.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Latvian revolutionaries and why I love pumpkin pie

This is not a non sequitur. I can blame some Latvian revolutionaries with my passion for pumpkin pie.
It all started in 1911 with the infamous “Siege of Sidney Street”. A gang of Latvian revolutionaries broke into a jewellery shop in the borough of Stepney in the E. End of London. It was a terrible event, with a number of police being killed and Sir Winston Churchill himself narrowly missing a bullet.
Living in Stepney at that time was a widow with her family of seven children, four boys and three girls. She decided it was no longer a safe place for her and the kids, so she upped sticks and emigrated to Canada. One of the older boys initially started to make a living by catching horses for the Canadian Army. This gave him a lifelong love for and friendship with the Whetung Ojibwa tribe. He went on to serve on the battlefields of France in the First World War. When he died, aged 101, he still fit his WWI uniform.
At about this time in a small village in Yorkshire, a lass was about to lose her eldest brother to the pull of Canada. They were close, so when, a year after he emigrated, she got a letter from Bill inviting her to join him, there was little hesitation and she too ended up in Ontario.
She entered the service of one Sam McLaughlin, the founder of General Motors and worked as scullery maid in his beautiful home. By this stage, the lad from the E. End had returned from the fields of battle in Europe and was making a living as a coal merchant. He delivered coal to the big house, and in the course of doing that, found himself a wife, my Great Aunt Mary.
Now Great Aunt Mary was a bit of a cook. She thrived on baking, so the fact that I do too must mean it’s in the genes. She made the most amazing pumpkin pie. I always felt it would be beyond me, as wherever I lived in the world you could either only buy tinned pumpkin or none at all.
Well now I live in a land of pumpkin abundance and I found a recipe for the beast, so I want to say thank you to the Latvian revolutionaries who prompted Mrs Sargant to get on a boat to go to Canada to teach her daughter in law how to make pumpkin pie so that her great- great niece could visit, get addicted and live to make a pumpkin pie of her own.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Of trains and books

I have written before about our characterful trains. We have been waiting for our much talked about modern, state of the art trains for a long time. We live in the twilight zone of anticipation worthy of a mysterious shaped parcel under the Christmas tree.
We have new asphalt on our platforms and new shelters and signs. We have big steel structures to hold the new electric lines. Indeed we even have a new track in and out of the main station. It is all very thrilling as we linger in the cold straining for a glimpse of the late arrival of the 7.32.
As we wait for delivery of the sleek carriages, much remains the same at commuter hour. We all run to get a seat. The seat, when found, has bulging upholstery from geriatric springs and a faint odour of mildew. As the square wheels and asthmatic brakes bring the carriages to a stop at each station, we all grab at non-existent handles to prevent being jettisoned into someone’s lap.
Tonight from the expensive seats (the two parallel benches under the windows) I observed an interesting cameo of a country of immigrants. The man to my left was wearing a brown corduroy suit and deerstalker. He had a conversation into an iPhone in a refined Irish brogue, and then started to read a book on the same phone (courtesy of Kindle). The young Pasific woman opposite was reading a book about the Masai, two seats down a Chinese man was reading what looked like neat lecture notes, in Chinese. A middle aged lady in the far corner was deeply engrossed in a romantic novel, the Indian man opposite was checking the football results in the local paper and I was lingering over the memoirs of Manya Hariri. A little literary capsule sucked through the tunnels; a brief clickety clack down a polished track.