What a difference a year makes. I’ve been wanting to post pictures of our Natural Progression to winter since, well, since we progressed to winter. Hard to believe it is a year to the day since Susie installed her bamboo sculpture on the edge of the pond.
Flashback to 22 February 2009 – a sunny Sunday warm enough to work in the woods without coats, hats and scarves
Twelve months of rain, wind, sun and snow later the bamboo is still cheering me up when I walk through the woods.
The odd winter storm has knocked it about a bit but as soon as the ground thaws enough we will soon knock it back into shape.
So happy birthday Natural Progression. One year old today. And happy birthday Bobby. Congratulations on naturally progressing to 24– come to think of it, February has some good points.
Full circle – winter, spring, summer, autumn and winter again
.This is a picture Dougal took in the big snow of January. That has melted but there was hard frost on the ground again yesterday and the ducks were skating on the pond.
I have a shelf full of cookery books and I know some of the recipes off by heart but lately when I need inspiration I reach for the laptop, send some ingredients into cyberspace and back comes a list of recipes. Some of them are pretty good. Does this spell the end of the cookery book?
Or is it a way of reconnecting with the kind of knowledge which used to be passed from one generation to another? Food is the best oral history we know which is probably one of the reasons why ready made junk food is so bad for us. It has no past, no sense of place.
I am posting a little food video (thanks to Ray and Dougal) inspired by the World Kitchen in Leith . Mridu makes a meal from her new cookery book Feasts of India but as she explains in her foreword there were no cookery books in her mother’s kitchen. Even now Mridu doesn’t weigh ingredients when she is cooking. She knows by feel and smell when she has popped enough cumin into the pot.
Mridu was one of the driving forces of World Kitchen in Leith at the Leith Festival last year (she even cajoled me into cooking potato scones to go with her chutney). It was a great event supported by many friends but what struck me most of all was how much family history was involved in the foods people brought to the stall.
Granny Barron’s soda bread came with a recipe which had never been written down until a family member sat down and weighed each ‘handful’ of this and ‘pinch’ of that. The recipe for Maryjanna’s sour apple cake travelled from Poland with Daniel, a young man paying tribute to his grandmother who taught him how to make a heavenly, fragrant sponge. And so it went on – Pip’s pakoras, Luis’ prawn and coriander pancakes – a mix of memory, improvisation and inspiration from childhood kitchens.
These are skills we need. Maybe the internet has a part to play in reconnecting people with food stories we can tell each other. I still like cookery books but I have a weak spot for food films (for a while the BBC added cookery videos to their online food newsletter which provided me with a great excuse for not starting work. I mean, I know how to make apple crumble but it was very soothing sitting and watching someone else making it when I should have been writing).
By the way, potato scones are very good with chutney. But I have a confession to make. My granny bought them ready made and none of my cookery books produced a result I liked (even Tommy couldn’t eat all the trial versions I made before the World Kitchen went live). In the end I found a good recipe on the internet though now I can’t remember whether it was the BBC’s Irish version or the more buttery Scots one that I liked best.
One thing. Has anyone designed an apron for the laptop?
We’re planting in the Poetry Garden today so it’s not good to wake to a small blizzard swirling outside the window. But, would you believe it, by the time we carry our poems to St Andrew Square the sky is blue, the sun is shining and the snow is a perfect background for bright red dogwood fluttering with poetry.
With luck they will all last for the whole of the Carry a Poem programme, which is this year’s brilliant idea for the annual reading campaign organised by Unesco City of Literature and theScottish Poetry Library. There are all kinds of stories behind the poems people choose to carry with them as you can find out from the free books they are handing out all over the city (at The Botanics they’re saying it with snowdrops). The display in St Andrew Square is just one of the events because (say it out loud) this is Edinburgh’s poetry garden.
“They did the same last year,” someone says as we finish planting clusters of red and green dogwood hung with 100 laminated poetry labels. So we did, or at any rate we did something very similar – in February last year the theme was the Lost Worldso willow stakes wove a trail of pictures, poems and extracts from Conan Doyle’s adventure story round the garden. And people started reading the labels as soon as we got the willow hammered into the ground.
That’s the amazing thing. Lilias (who’s from the Poetry Library), Celia and I (we’re volunteers) had great fun attaching the poems to the dogwood, stopping every now and then to read a line of poetry that was just calling out for attention (who can resist When I Grow Old I will Wear Purple?). With Ray’s help we even enjoyed planting the poetry in the cold, hard ground round the pond in St Andrew Square.
But, just like last year, the best part is seeing how quickly people come to read the poetry. There it is just fluttering in the breeze, a line that stops you in your tracks. As Celia says, “It takes away the fear of poetry.”
I might just have to keep popping up to St Andrew Square to keep an eye on the dogwood. Perhaps I should invest in a red hat too.
When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.