Sunday, 18 January 2015

Whiskers on Roses and Raindrops on Kittens......

..............bright copper kettles have recently fallen by the wayside as I've had an experience in the Non-Ferrous Metals Sales business (but that's another story). Warm woollen mittens are good, especially in this weather. But, Sound of Music reference apart, these really are a few of my favourite things.

In assembling them I am impressed by two aspects of the small collection, first that there are several very sharp things, and secondly that my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother would have no difficulty at all in identifying and using all but one of them.

The bread-board is something of real significance. Its carved motto of Give us This Day our Daily Bread has been cut and scrubbed into almost invisibility by countless hands, yet still does its simple task beautifully. I use it several times a day, and never fail to think of all those, known and unknown, who have also used it. I can still see it sitting in the kitchen of my grandmother's house, and on the marble slab of the pantry in my childhood home. In both places it was associated with a large and dangerous bread saw, which I was absolutely not allowed to touch. So I did, of course, on many furtive occasions, once testing the serrated blade against the rim of the bread board. The mark I made is still there, and still provides a frisson of guilt. I was not caught doing it, but I remember it almost daily.

There's so much to be said for plain wood in a kitchen and in a garden. The citrus squeezer does a perfect job and even sorts out the pips. The small wooden spoon is exactly right for my hand, also for balancing in a saucepan or on the edge of a bowl without falling into or out of it. The wooden handled knife, with sharp point and serrated edge actually lives in my gardening tool store and is a brilliant weapon against dandelion roots, and for all those invasive little plants that creep between the paving stones. Old cutlery often makes perfect gardening tools.

There's a wooden handled bradawl there, which I couldn't manage without. It bodges neat holes for all sorts of purposes, some of which may be the wrong purposes but, well, it works for me. Then there are the really sharp blades, the new secateurs and the razor-like sewing scissors, items of great satisfaction. There are few things better than a simple implement that does exactly what it is meant to do, especially when it does not use any sort of fossil fuel.
The metal tools are very satisfying, too. I really enjoy that little grater intended for parmesan cheese, and the small whisk gets the lumps out of any sauce you can think of. Very simple, but they both work as they should and take up no storage space at all.

The blue plastic tool is something else I couldn't manage without. My mother, grandmother and great- grandmother would not have wanted it anyway because they had no need to release a metal lid with a vacuum seal on a glass jar. Well, perhaps my mother may have done, but she had my father around. The blue plastic vacuum release thingy is probably a bit of a weak-wristed widow speciality. The alternative technique of opening a tightly sealed jar can involve trapping it between a door and its frame, and I have evidence of that malpractice, too.
However, if you need one, or a brush for cleaning button mushrooms, or anything else of that ilk, try here.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Letter to a Granddaughter - P. Rabbit's Busy Weekend.

Dear Small Granddaughter,
Peter Rabbit was on the hop all weekend. Originally made by me for your Uncle over thirty years ago, he has stood the many tests of time well. This weekend he took part in an exciting game of hide and seek and did a fair bit of potty-training. He lost his shoes a long time ago, but that is what Peter Rabbit does. He stars in several of your books and features on your plate at meal times, persuading you to empty the plate and see his picture. Also the picture of Mr. McGregor, chasing him, brandishing a rake.
"I like Peter Rabbit,"  you tell us. "I like Mr. McGregor. I like Postman Pat. I don't like Santa."
I wonder what will happen when you realise the true relationship of Peter R. to the McGregor family, and especially to that frightful, pie-making Mrs. McGregor? You do not yet know that one of your double-barrelled surnames is McGregor. Currently you ask happily for your Granny's pies. Things might change.

Wonderful for me, this unexpected visit. You were not to know that I was feeling low and even (dare I write it?) even a bit sad and sorry for myself, feelings I normally fight to the death. But your parents picked up on it and you all came. You burst into the house, shouting, "Book, book!" while struggling out of your coat. You pulled off your furry boots and exclaimed at the coldness of the stone floor while searching for the right book. Nursery Rhymes, or Postman Pat, or the Lift-the-Flap Peter Rabbit book, or the catalogue of farm and zoo animals so that you can check your collection? All at once, as many as possible, sitting with me by the fire while your parents foraged in the kitchen, looking for coffee, herbal teas, mince-pies, cake, kiwi fruit - anything to keep themselves going until lunch time.

The warm weight of you in my lap, your insistence on singing, all of us singing, your cheerfulness, your growing realisation that you can have some control over a situation, make other people laugh, ask them to sit there, read this, sing that, all these actions banish any sad and gloomy thoughts. You constantly remind me of the need to live in the moment, to hold this precious time because it will change, it has to change and you are changing, growing, developing every day.

You ask for a pencil and measure yourself against the kitchen door-frame, where we are all marked. You have grown fractionally taller: It's only three weeks since you were last here. But what has happened in other growth is exponential.
You talk all the time.
You question things.
"Help me," you say if things are a bit too hard, and I find this especially poignant; such a little person knowing when they need help, trying so hard to be good and do the right thing.

And then you tell me not to talk, not to be funny, because listening to a c.d. of Nursery Rhymes is serious business, and I must sit still while you show me the pictures in the song book. I can sing, but not smile or laugh because this is not the appropriate time to be funny. What happens to Humpty Dumpty is important. "No funny," you say, and I agree.

Whatever you do is done with total concentration and whole-hearted intent. A time to laugh and a time to be solemn, a time to run and a time to sit still, a time to shout and a time to whisper. A time to eat and drink with gusto, and a time to purse your mouth and refuse, absolutely.

Thank you for teaching me so much, Little One,
With love from Grandma.