Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Womens's Hour

Just today, I listened to radio 4, Women's Hour, Jenni Murray, not doing her winning stand-up comedy act for Red Nose Day this time,  for which huge applause, but a very emotional,  interesting and serious discussion about how it feels to be the mother of a son, instead of a daughter. Interesting to me, that is, because I am the mother of daughters, and have no experience of sons in my life -  blood line or steps.

I remember being delighted when I gave birth to my first daughter, ah! I felt I know you already and when daughter number 2 arrived, my cup flowed over. I had imagined girl babies, not the pink fluffy sort of thing, more  the late night chat, borrowing stuff,  mutual understanding, hand holding to womanhood sort of thing.  I liked netball! I have never understood cricket/rugby/mud.

Also on a much darker note, I remember so harshly my own mother's uber-love for my  brother. She set him on a different level to my sister and myself. It really was most confusing and dividing. Now, I am not for one moment suggesting that her adoration of her son was a heathy, well balanced sort of thing,  it certainly wasn't, but I have no true understanding of how the maternal, unconditional love could be any different towards a son than it is towards a daughter.

As a mainly single parent, I felt like the man, the protector, the provider. My girls needed protection until they were able and strong enough to look after themselves. It was only in those days that I ever wondered what it would have been like to have had a son, for I too was in need of male protection from time to time. I have never felt lacking for love nor loving from being the mother of daughters... However I have often wonder what their father felt about it all... Would things have been different had our children been sons, and in truth is this the real, subconscious "difference", ie, that when  a woman has given birth to a son,  she has,  beyond any doubt or argument,  fulfilled her role and duty in this world?

Thursday, 24 March 2011

East Beach Eats

Just last weekend, in fresh Spring sunshine, I decided to pop down to East Beach Cafe for their perfect smoked salmon and scrambled egg brunch and it flashed a colourful memory back into my mind of when, once again,   I needed my breakfast-by-the-sea fix, and as I rounded the corner of the award winning building (check it out,, I was flabbergasted, (just too great a word to not use just this once..) to find the sea full of wind surfers. Now this shoal,  (or should it be herd? What would you call a hellova lot of wind surfers in one spot of sea?).. were not any ordinary wind surfers, oh no , this was, of course, the world  championship FINAL ... in Littlehampton, West Sussex, really? Ha, why?  I am still asking too? But it was amazing, look
I remember that morning vividly, and as I rounded the corner once again last weekend, I remembered another significant meal there... Lunch this time, of pan fried mackerel with tiny pieces of roast vegetables and a glass of chilled Sauvignon...perfect, you could almost taste the sea,  and a couple of weeks ago, I thought I would recreate that moment of magic at home.... Well, I thought it was fine, sipped my wine, ate the lot, then looked at my daughter’s face... She wasn't sharing this gastronomic delight  with me. “Don't like it....” to which I replied, "Sorry, never mind I’ll give it to the cats", problem solved.... Or so I thought. Come the morning, I carefully and lovingly divided up the mackerel for them, only to find they too turned up their snooty noses up at this delicacy!

My food and kindness rejected  even by the cats. T’was not a good day.. I think I’ll stick to salads for a while!

Friday, 18 March 2011

A Funny Thing Happened to Me Today

This is nothing to do with design or gardens or art... it is just that a funny thing happened to me today.

Last October, I decided to buy a new car, big decision for me. This was to be a replacement for my current car, which is a 5 door hatchback, nippy, diesel engine, German, just getting a bit old, like some us..... So, as I said, I decided to buy an updated version, nippier and newer. As luck would have it though, this particular German car company informed me this week, that in instead of  delivering my new car, last week, as originally promised, I would now have to wait till end September/early October! 

I thought this was pretty odd, so I made a few enquiries.  Of course they were  hugely apologetic, something to do with the radio, believe it or not,  but they were willing to lend me, free of charge, a similar German car, with the same engine capacity, seating etc. until my new car should be ready.... A very good offer I thought, and I agreed with alacrity.

The car hire firm were charming and offered to deliver my temporary car this afternoon..... and at 1pm, the door bell rang, and there a young man stood on my doorstep, with lots of papers to sign. The only problem was,  he was standing next to a bus, so I asked him  why there was a 7 seater people pusher parked at my front door.... He told me, proudly, that it was my replacment car!

Now, I am not big into cars, but even I can tell that to drive a 7 seater people pusher would not be the same at all, at all, as driving a streamlined, pretty fast, hatchback.... Hey ho... They were still charming as I was complaining and, guess what,  I am getting a replacement replacement car next week!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Galleries and Sheds

Style, that magical, something extra.... I know when I’ve seen,  but it’s  a bit like relating a dream to someone, it kinda gets lost in the story.. but here goes...

 I went to The Museum of Fashion and Textiles in Bermondsey yesterday, Friday, and wow that was STYLE! At the mo there is a show of Sue Timney’s design, remember her? Shop in Portobello Road, designs everywhere, on fabric, on ceramics, made into ties, etc. etc. - mainly printed in black and  white, some gloriously multi-coloured, but the style was also in the quality of the printing, it was just so fine, and having been a textile designer  for all those years,  believe me it is a joy to come  across good design married to good quality printing on fab silk....

But that’s at the top end. Style comes at all market levels, in fact it is so outside any market value... I went  to stay with friends in Battersea for the evening, and there was style jam packed! My friend prints her own cloth, on silk, beautiful sort of abstract images, with loads of spots, with funky coloured velvet backing, and they are so cool! She has promised me a house gift when she next prints, yay! I’ll pop a photo up when she does. But the cool thing is, she does it all from her garden shed - no grand production line, no big contracts, personal clients who can’t wait to see her next range and are happy to build up their own collection...  Style and Cool together in a shed

Style really is about how you do  it, how you put things together and style is unique. We all have our own, we all have our own signature. At the mo, for example I am into flashes of colour, in my dress and in my paintings - I have been painting white and pale coloured ceramics together with a single bright touch of somtheing, it just feels lifting.. And yesterday I bought a colourful, slightly mad bracelet thingy from the MFT, all made from recycled fabrics.... I think its cool and I think it’s got style and it was only a fiver! I am also wearing/using my DKNY handbag. It’s made from the softest, brownest leather, it was a gift and I know it cost a bomb and I  have been loving it for nearly 30 years!

That’s “My Style” - I keep my favourites for ever regardless of their label, it’s their value that counts for me, not their price tag. In my home and in my life, I mix and enjoy equally, new and old, loud and quiet, bon marche and expensive. It’s the mix that makes the magic....

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Sunday Lunch

Whist thinking about that book, ‘ Catching Fire..”, I was inspired to cook up a Sunday lunch. Well, we eat at 5 o’clock here... very late Sunday lunch I know - Family favourite, Roast Chicken with all the bits. Well ‘bits’ in this case includes cooking the chicken in a brick.... does anybody remember chicken bricks, and if so, are they brave enough to admit to it!

Before you put the chicken in the brick, lay 3 leeks along bottom of it and half cover them with water. Pop the chicken on top of the leeks, stuffing with herbs and seasoning and half a lemon and cover with slices of bacon....

Pop it all  into  a cold oven, turn on to about 190/200 degrees and forget about it  for say, 90 minutes to 2 hours, rather depends on the size of the chicken....Take the brick out of the oven and remove the lid. The bacon should be a nice golden colour by now, so wrap it up and keep it warm.. but don’t do what I always do and forget about it till Monday! Chicken goes back into t’oven for about 30 minutes, to finish cooking and browning, and you know the rest...

Leave it to rest for 15 minutes, sort out vegies etc, and oh, yes, gravy? Well, that’s the joy... simply tip out the gooey leeks into a blender, whizz up and serve with.  It really is the most delicious, light, tasty “gravy”.... I was told that’s how the French do it and that was good enough for me!

But what’s really nice for Monday supper is chicken and roast veg soup.... Boil up a litre of stock add a tin of tomatoes, season, add herbs and 2 handfuls of barley and the same of green lentils , I like to add tarragon and a bit of basil for this soup. Simmer for about 40 minutes then add the left over chicken and roast vegies... let it all heat through PROPERLY and dish up with a fresh green leaf salad and chunky bread -

Not posh nosh, but seriously good nosh - bon appetit!

Friday, 11 March 2011

A Thought to Share

 A thought to share..... from a friend of mine...
"I just finished taking an evening class at Stanford. The last lecture was on the mind-body connection--the relationship between stress and disease.  The speaker (head of psychiatry at Stanford) said, among other things, that one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends.  At first everyone laughed, but he was serious.
Women connect with each other differently and provide support systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult life experiences. Physically this quality “girlfriend time" helps us to create more serotonin--a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of well being.  Women share feelings whereas men often form relationships around activities. They rarely sit down with a buddy and talk about how they feel about certain things or how their personal lives are going.  Jobs? Yes.  Sports? Yes.  Cars? Yes. Fishing, hunting, golf?  Yes.  But their feelings?--rarely.  Women do it all of the time. We share from our souls with our sisters, and evidently that is very good for our health.  He said that spending time with a friend is just as important to our general health as jogging or working out at a gym.
There's a tendency to think that when we are "exercising" we are doing something good for our bodies, but when we are hanging out with friends, we are wasting our time and should be more productively engaged--not true.  In fact, he said that failure to create and maintain quality personal relationships with other humans is as dangerous to our physical health as smoking!  So every time you hang out to schmooze with a gal pal, just pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for doing something good for your health!  We are indeed very, very lucky.  Sooooo let's toast to our friendship with our girlfriends. It's very good for our health."
I was reminded of this again last night.... Thank you my dear friends!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Brain Catching Fire

 I don't really get much time to read these days.... but, having said that,  I am happily popping in and out of an amazing book about social development and growth - "Catching Fire, How Cooking Made Us Human" by Richard Wrangham. 
The thrust of this book is to show us how cooking our food helped our brains to grow. All that  time we once spent chewing for hours  on  rawness, freed up our minds  to develop a  more socially sophisticated way of living with each other. We began to have structures for making and raising families, and gender divisions of labour became apparent, amongst many other crucial developments. Children were nurtured, in more secure places, due to the need to keep 'the home fires burning',  by bonded pairs and many  of the social mores we take for granted today came into being... 
Now,  a lot to argue with there, you might say, as it seems to me that we have spent many years trying to break down the sexual divisions of labour alone , for example! But it's not all bad, and I for one am much happier creating occasion out of preparing  food and enjoying the social ceremony of sharing a meal with my family and friends, than going it alone.
There are also, after all, many arguments  pointing out that in some ways the break down of the family today is due to so many of NOT sitting together as families and sharing meals... Who  knows? It's a  good, thought provoking  book though.... Even Nigella comments on the cover, so it must be ok!