Tag Archives: journal

Hogs’ Pudding and Breast of Spring Chicken

The past twenty-four hours have been busy and emotional. I don’t want to go into it, but it hasn’t all been bad. I spent half the evening crying, and the other half trying to figure out what to do about my neighbour who turned up in a state about some hogs’ pudding.

For the information of the uninitiated, hogs’ pudding is a nasty, anaemic looking, giant sausage which – for some unaccountable reason – is popular in this area.

This tale involves me, my daughter Laura, Dave (her fiance), a neighbour who we’ll call Bert, although he’s really called Harold – but that’s not true; it’s just a cunning double cover-up, to protect his identity.

Speaking of cover-ups, this morning, when Laura stepped out of her fiance’s brother’s shower, she had no idea that there was anybody other than her fiance in the flat. Had she been aware of the presence of Bert/Harold – who (in order to cause further confusion) I’ll call Gregory, she might have chosen to shower with her clothes on, so, no cover-up there…

Moving swiftly on to this evening; I was near the completion of some nifty and essential six-way texting with a smattering of phone calls, while trying to eat without dripping tears into a meal which had already gone cold, when someone knocked heavily on my door.

“Oh, deary me, who can that possibly be?” I asked myself – although it came out more as a muttered “Bloody hell, whoever you are, why don’t you just bugger off and leave me alone.”

Had I known the answer to my silent question, I might have been inclined to increase the volume of my under-the-breath mutter so that my visitor would hear me. I opened the door to discover my neighbour – the one I’ve decided to call Gregory, his face displaying an interesting combination of startled, terrified, distraught, apologetic and lustful expressions. It wasn’t a pretty sight, but at least he didn’t have the remains of his dinner on his face, as he usually does.

On second thoughts, perhaps the absence of bolognese sauce should have served as a warning – he’d taken particular pains to make himself respectable before coming to see me.

At this point, perhaps I should describe myself:

I have all my limbs, digits and and organs, both eyes, several teeth, hair on my head – and being only about 14lbs overweight, around here I’m considered to be slim almost to the point of anorexia. In addition, I look as if I was probably reasonably lacking in pig-ugliness about forty years ago.

Yes – at the tender age of 62, I am the babe of the over-the-hill stag’s brigade; a real catch, if it wasn’t for the proven fact that I can run faster than any of them. It’s becoming embarrassing, although I admit there are only four men in this block who are actively chasing me.

Gregory is one of them, but he pretends he just sees me as a friend. I had to invite him in, since he was peering round the door looking longingly at my sofa, all the while telling me that he was terribly sorry for bothering me and he didn’t want to cause any trouble, but he didn’t know what to think about Dave’s hogs’ pudding. Naturally, I thought that in addition to him seeing my daughter naked, he must have witnessed Dave in a state of undress, but he said that the hogs’ pudding was in his freezer, so after a moment’s concern for my future son-in-law’s well-being, I realised it wasn’t a euphemism after all.

While I made coffee, he continued to apologise for bothering me. Eventually he explained that Dave had given him money to buy some revolting piggy sausages, and he’d done so, but he hadn’t been able to find Dave and give him the offensive swill. He seemed terribly upset, so much so, that it took me a while to notice that the more he looked at my pullover, the more agitated he became.

I have two swellings which sort of stick out of my chest. It’s nothing to worry about – lots of women have them; they’re useful for small babies to chew on when they’re teething and it makes them forget their hunger, so you don’t have to give them steak and chips. I keep my bumpy things under my clothes, so he might not have been aware of them before. Having seen my daughter naked, I think he was curious to find out if I had similar things. I strongly suspect he’d have liked to investigate further, but was too polite to ask.

I wondered how I’d missed the atmospheric hint of testosterone, floating around the room like a concrete block wrapped around a stone.

His hogs’ pudding story was just a ruse to get into my flat. He could have quite easily rung Dave’s brother, since they’re close friends. They’re going out for lunch together tomorrow, so, come to that, the hogs discussion could have waited until tomorrow.

Even after I’d told him that I needed to go to the corner shop before it closed, I had trouble getting rid of him. He kept clutching my hand, telling me he loved me… “as a friend”, gazing at me, trying to hug me, putting his hand at the back of my waist, to illustrate how long Jane Ayre’s hair was.

By the time he left, his face was purple, his limp more accentuated.  He looked both physically uncomfortable and disappointed, whilst I felt mentally discomfited and disjointed.

Maybe I should go back to writing in the dark, so he won’t know I’m here.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Advertisements

His Passing

The final fact floats free in chill November air.
Wispy theories seep through gaps into my living space;
a sluggish swirl too vague to disarrange my hair.

He is dead.
The pathologist estimates two weeks.

When I saw him last week, the wind
seemed to twist him, and his coat –
the coat he wore to keep the winter out –
his coat was out of step with him
as, tied closely apart, they swirled
in schizophrenic dance of love and hate,
flinging exhortation and despair to the wind.

As I watched him spin I had no way of knowing
he was a wraith struggling to escape
an unwelcome netherworld
and return to this place.

A wide road winds out of town,
its white lines blind to distance and insistent tick of time,
flowing past rural scenes and memories
that strangers keep between fading album covers
bulging with sunshine and smiles.
Still more fond secrets lie stored in the archives of their minds.

Distant kin we never knew
sleep silently beneath the fallen leaves;
so many griefs do not reach us.

We hold hands with those we choose, not letting go
until long beyond the final call.

The mindless road winds on to motorway,
passing towns and cities as it goes, while all the way
the straying ghosts of those we never knew
evade our sights;
we’re rarely touched by unknown spirits
passing through our skin.

Somewhere in the erstwhile smoke of London town
a mother weeps to hear the news:
she’s lost her errant son.
She holds no blame, yet that will not console her.

I dare not weigh her loss against his crimes
and what he might have done if he were still alive.
I cannot feel relief while she holds her hollow womb
and teardrops fall,
but it is sad that I don’t feel a twinge
of anything at all.

The police might be treating Joe’s death as suspicious. They’re on the street, keeping their questions low-key. They know him by his reputation and by his history. Those who may have expected to be future victims of his insanity are addicts too weak to be perpetrators. A woman who had been threatened by Joe was approached and told about his death. The police asked her a few questions. She was quite casual about the conversation when she spoke of it to my son. I’m glad she’s no longer at risk; she was bravely supportive toward my daughter after Joe beat her up.

In spite of the suffering he caused, I feel distanced from his death. Even when he was shouting threats up at my window, I felt separated from his circle of psychosis. As soon as Laura went into recovery, he receded into the murky past.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Leaving home

leaving home

Whenwe  left the smog of the city to live in this backwater place, I lay curled in my mother’s womb. Although my family was looked upon as foreign by the rural folk, this is the only home I’ve ever known. As the popoulation grew, attracting those from distant towns and counties, I rose from my outsider status to become a local. My roots struggled to find a way through the stony soil, and tenaciously they clung. My four children came into being, and were raised here; seeds of the next generation which now thrives. All of my descendants save for one – my grandson, currently at University – are within this ancient burrough, within easy reach of me.

My daughter is at the graveside of her beloved, saying goodbye. Her bags are packed. I put them in the car, to save having to slog later. I come back to the flat and switch on my laptop. It’s slow to warm up, so I go to the bedroom to apply some hand lotion, and see the gap where her possessions had been.

With a jolt similar to a jagged bolt of electricity, it hits me. Aged thirty-one, my little girl  is leaving home.

Written for The Daily Post #Jolt

©Jane Paterson Basil

Every evening with Laura

Last night, Laura and I made savoury tarts – a heavenly melee of aubergine, tomatoes, peppers and onion on flaky pastry, topped with delicious mascarpone. For accompaniment, we prepared creamy coleslaw and potato salad in vinaigrette. A salad of baby leaves, rocket, sundried tomatoes and olives finished off the meal.

It was quick, easy and delicious. We followed it up with a high quality shop-bought Cicilian lemon cheesecake which left our mouths feeling as if they had been spring-cleaned, then brewed coffee and settled down to watch a movie while the milk for this week’s yogurt slowly heated to 200 degrees in the slow cooker.

This may all sound like pretty routine stuff, but in the company of Laura it becomes supreme fun. Every evening spent with Laura is a treat.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Spark

2017-02-17-14-43-33

My cup runneth over… Come to think of it, that must have been the only negative thing that occurred in my life today – as I was pouring a cup of coffee, it inexplicably flew all over the room,splattering everything in its wake, dripping off the worksurface and pooling on the floor.

Maybe it was my conscence telling me to clean the kitchen, and bring it up to the shimmering standard of my living room. I ignored it. I think I’ve done quite enough since I woke up this morning.

I have:

Sorted through my clothes, pulled out what I no longer want, and taken unwanted clothes to the Oxfam shop,where I had a cup of tea and bragged for ten minutes about how lovely Laura’s skin looks.

Been to the pharmacy to pick up my so called “anxiety” medication, rather than leaving it until a few days after I run out.

Been to the medical centre to ask if the medication can be put onto automatic repeat (again, rather than leaving it until after I run out). I don’t know why this hasn’t been done, unless it’s because I tend to take a med. for three weeks or so, then ring my GP and say I don’t like it, and I’m not taking any more.

Been to our local fabric shop, to enquire about muslin, as I’ve just started making my own yogurt, and I want to make Greek style this weekend. Greek yogurt is yogurt that’s had the whey strained out of it.

I wasn’t happy about the price, so I went on to Cookshop, but I was even less happy about the price there. Don’t get me wrong, they’re both great shops – they’re not to blame for the price of muslin. Anyway, I remembered that I may have a whole lot of it stashed away, in the form of curtains, so I decided to have a hunt when I got home.

I proceeded to go into three separate supermarkets for about five items. OK; to be more accurate, when I went in the first one, I forgot what I wanted and bought fish instead. The second one was on my route home, and while I was there, I remembered to get eggs and veg., but forgot the milk, so I had to go to onother one for that.

Looked for the muslin, only to realise I must have taken it to Oxfam three years ago, but it gave me the opportunity to sort through a few bits and pieces which I plan to (maybe) turn into art.

After I got home (could I have a drum roll, please) I managed to UPLOAD MY PHOTOS from my phone to my laptop – after over two years of vague attempts and failures. It took me two hours, during which my laptop told me several times that it couldn’t connect to my phone, and my phne said it couldn’t connect to my laptop. After freezing twice, and in the middle of my laptop telling me it wasn’t friends with my phone, the phone somehow sneaked in through the back door, and dropped the photos into dropbox. Laptop still says it will have nothing to do with phone. I’m just waiting for it to find out about phone’s devious trick. You’ll probably hear the screams of “Rape!” from Aussieland.

I cooked a lovely meal of vegetables in killer cheese sauce. I ate it straight out of the baking dish – something which I’ve never, to my knowledge, done before.

I washed the dishes. ALL OF THEM! AS SOON AS I’D EATEN! And before you say, “Doesn’t everybody?” – no, they don’t.

But this is a prelude to what I did before all that.

I put two African wallhangings on the wall. That is to say, I drilled four holes in the wall, using my Bosch drill, pushed rawlplugs into them, and screwed in four hooks, then looped the hangings into two lengths of dowel which I’d cut, and put the hangings up.

2017-02-17-14-40-14

2017-02-17-14-41-35

By normal standards, this is not a huge achievement, but lately, my standards haven’t been normal. I’ve lived here for over 21 months, and have put nothing on the walls. I’ve pinned and taped a few things to the sides of my bookshelves, but that’s all. Once upon a time I was a rabid DIYer. I knocked down walls, built new ones, designed and built storage units and shelves, altered cheap kitchen units to fit the kitchen space, added my own custom built units, built open fires in living rooms – well, one open fire in one living room. I stripped, sanded and waxed almost all the woodwork – doors, windows and skirting boards, in a four bedroom house. No job, as they say, was too big or too small. When I’d done everything there was to do in the house, I started on the garden. I didn’t rest except to go to sleep. I liked it that way.

Until today, I didn’t take the trouble to pinpoint when the collapse occurred, but I now know it was when I moved to Barnstaple – back to the town I’d left some thirteen or fourteen years earlier, to move home, to the countryside, where I belong. Town saps the life from me, but that wasn’t the major problem. It didn’t help that I no longer had a workshop, or sheds to store my timber, tools, and accoutrements in, but that wasn’t the major part of the problem either.

The real issue was that I was confronted, on a daily basis, by my children’s addictions.

I could tell you I’m back, but I’m not going to; I’ve said it before, and been mistaken. Instead, I’ll tell you I think I’m on my way back. The large empty space on the wall mirrored the large hole in my heart. I used to look at it and feel sad that I didn’t have the spark needed to put something beautiful in that space. Today I had the spark.

It’s a start.

Did I mention how lovely and healthy Laura’s skin has become?

What about the gym ball, and the jogging. I didn’t mention that…

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Serenity is upset, because I haven’t mentioned her new dress. It’s not really hers, and it’s not really new. I designed and made it 40 years ago, for myself. It was my wedding dress. I got married in a registry office. If we were still together, we’d be celebrating our Ruby anniversary next month.

So here we have Serenity, showing off her favourite outfits.She’s very fond of scarves, but doesn’t wear them in the traditional way. In the top left picture, you see how cleverly she’s wrapped a gold and navy scarf, to make a rather attractive top. She’s done something similar with the beautiful piece woven, lightweight wool which I bought for her in Oxfam, last Autumn,and which she is wearing as a skirt in the first two images (she loves this garment, and refused to take it off for three months, until she saw my wedding dress). The panels at the front are finely embroidered in red, green and gold. I haven’t managed to date it, but if it was intended to be a shawl, I’d guess at the early 20th C, if it wasn’t in such good condition. Maybe it’s as recent as the 150s or 60s, but I don’t think so – its energy feels much older than that.

The top in the second image is silk, heavily beaded. I’d say it dates from the 1920s. Around the neck there is a an edging of slk velvet. Her necklace is silverand carnelian.

2017-02-06-20-48-57

2017-02-06-20-58-12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

.

.

.

.

.

.

Serenity is tapping her foot and looking impatient. I think she wants me to tell you about the wedding dress, in the main picture, below.

2017-02-06-21-09-54

This dress is made of a heavyweight cheesecloth, manufactured for clothing. The bodice and wrists are machine-tucked, and hand embroidered with a green, yellow and brown paisley pattern.

Here I am, rabbitting away about Serenity, and yet I haven’t formally introduced her to you:

Meet Serenity, my mannequin and housemate. I think she’s beautiful. We first met when she took up residence in my shop, and did me the service of luring customers in. That was when Laura taught her to make magic from scarves. Laura has a knack for unusual invention.

©Jane Paterson Basil