Saturday, 10 January 2015

At the kitchen table


Just before the Christmas holidays, on the day we left for France, a dear friend of mine moved away. She lived just a few streets from me, and our sons have been tight buddies since starting school together some three years ago. For those three years, we would see one another at the school gate for a friendly hello, as well as popping around to each other's house regularly to sit at the kitchen table for good coffee and equally good conversation. A lot was discussed at those kitchen tables, and her warmth and ability to listen always left me feeling happy and at peace.

She had announced the oncoming move months ago and although we talked at length about the new house, new schools and new life that was awaiting her and her family, I refused to let my own feelings of sadness and impending loss run their course. When I broke the news to son S, he burst into tears and dealt with his emotions healthily as children tend to do. Yet for some silly reason, I thought it would be childish for me to grieve this event. I mean, H was only moving to another city, it was just one of those things I felt adults should take matter-of-factly.

I now realise I had fallen into the old trap of not acknowledging my feelings. Of pushing them away in the busyness of everyday life and the flurry surrounding our upcoming trip to France. After the holidays, when the hectic month of December dust had settled, I did a seemingly odd thing. On the first day of school, instead of heading straight towards The Hague where I work, I took a little neighbourhood detour and stopped outside H's house. I parked my bike against a familiar tree and made my way to her kitchen window where I cupped my hands around my eyes, rested my forehead on the glass and peered into the abandoned house. There was no kitchen paraphernalia, no memo board, no bookcases, no rugs, no boxes with toys. And no kitchen table. The light in the house was bleak, the place seemed dead. My heart sank. It was as if the reality of the move sank in right there and then. For a split second, I desperately wanted to go into that house, back in time - as if I simply had a right to the way things were (as dramatic as that sounds) and no-one had the right to take it away from me. As I peered in a little while longer however, I began to get used to the empty house. And when I got on my bike for an hour's cycle to work, I began to feel a sense of peace and resignation.

Our friendship is, of course, far from over. It will simply evolve and take on a new form, much like anything else in the flow of life. Visits will be planned and made. Conversations will be held and coffee will be drunk, albeit far less frequently. But I will always miss seeing her, poised casually on her bike,  smile on her face, waiting and waving outside the school gates.

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Thank you so much for your warm comments welcoming me back - it has done me a lot of good! I'm in a bit of a baking and cooking rut at the moment, but will undoubtedly come out of it soon. I did try something new this week - carrot and coriander fritters, taken form Nigel Slater's book Tender and although the kids weren't sold (surprisingly), M and I loved them. They were more work than Nigel makes them out to be, though; cooking time wise, I thought the task was similar to baking pancakes. Here is the recipe.


Carrot and Coriander Fritters
adapted from Tender, by Nigel Slater

325g carrots (though I used considerably more), coarsely grated**
a medium onion, diced
a clove of garlic, diced
150ml full cream
an egg, beaten
3 heaped tablespoons grated mature cheese
a heaped tablespoon of flour
a handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped

  • in a large bowl, mix all ingredients thoroughly
  • warm a shallow layer of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan
  • drop large dollops of the mixture in the pan and fry until the underside is cooked and will allow itself to be turned over with a fish slice
  • turn over and cook on the other side; they should colour a lovely dark gold
  • lay the cooked fritters on a plate and cover with a clean towel to keep warm

** it is best to grate the carrots with the use of a food processor. Grating by hand makes them mushy, which will not benefit your fritters. 



24 comments:

  1. Isabelle, I feel for you. I can say with sincerity that I know how you feel. A couple of years ago a dear friend of mine moved away; her move was quite sudden in the end, and my sense of grief and longing was palpable. I regretted that I had not appreciated more deeply the years we had had together, seeing each other most days, her house a 10 minute walk away, collecting each others children from school, trying new things together, and those endless cups of tea discussing the world, and our world (and sometimes the two even overlapped!) Gossip, laughter (lots!) , confidences and sharing some hard times too. Don't underestimate your feelings, and don't be embarrassed to feel really sad, and nostalgic! I still see my friend, about twice a year, and we slip straight back into our friendship, but I still miss those days of easy access, casual comings and goings. It was marvellous. Women's' friendships are just fabulous. X

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Penny. They are deeply appreciated!

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  2. Awww you poor thing, I recently lost one of my best friends and I'm gutted. Just because someone has moved instead of passed on doesn't mean you don't have the right to grieve. Big hugs xxx

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  3. It's never easy when a friend moves away. I have felt the same as you and it gets better, but there is definitely a grieving process. I hope you'll be able to keep in touch and enjoy your relationship across the distance.

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  4. Oh Isabelle, I am glad you allowed yourself to be sad! I am the one who moved away many moons ago and it is just as terrible as being left behind. You have a beautiful kitchen table, and I love the pink and green chairs, too. Do you cycle to work every day? One hour is a long cycle! My cycle commute is 15 minutes. Have a lovely weekend. x

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    1. I cycle to work two days a week (I work three). It's a long cycle, but luckily I've got an e-bike, which is great. Thanks for the compliment - hubby painted those old chairs for me years ago and I still love them!

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  5. I'm sorry you been feeling sad and know how you feel. I found it hard when my daughter left primary school because I now longer had those playground conversations and after school pick up coffees with other mums I'd come to love. Nigel Slater's comfort food sound like a good idea for January - might try these. Is that a pile of marking I spy on the kitchen table?

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    1. Yes, unfortunately you spied right. Always a big pile of marking on that table; it never seems to end, does it!

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  6. It is so hard to experience these changes. Even though it is just a few miles and you will still be as good a friends as you always were, it is not the same is it. You will get there and your friendship may be different, but will still be just as good I am sure. xx

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  7. Although it is sad I am so glad you have found a way to grieve yourself, you are right we often hide this from our children but really we shouldn't. I have been known to make a carrot and corriander fritter in the past, different ingredients but tasty for sure. Hope you have had a good weekend :)

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  8. What a sad story - I don't suppose I can say anything that will make you feel better. When I watch Nigel Slater on tv he makes all these things seem easy to do - but I do wonder how many attempts it takes him to get it right before showing us how to do it.

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    1. Yes, I wonder about that too. The fritters were delicious, but I thought they were quite a bit of work in the end - yet Nigel maintains they're easy (yes) and quick (no)...

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  9. Hey Isabelle,
    I'm sorry that you've feeling blue at the loss of your friend. Perhaps a visit in the not too distant future?
    Leanne xx

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  10. she must have been a very special and I am sure she is missing you too x those fritters do sound tasty, it's funny what some peoples idea of quick is isn't it x

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    1. (special friend) - missed out a word..... typing too late at night sorry. x

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  11. HI Isabelle, I can understand how hard it is to have a lovely friend move away. My friends are scattered around the world and you do keep in contact, but nothing like that daily dose at the school gate! All the best for getting through this new period of adjustment! Cheers, Lucy

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  12. Sometimes it's hard to accept when things change in our lives. But you still have a really good friend which hasn't changed.

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  13. Our friends are so important to us so it is only natural to grieve when life changes take them far away. The way I dealt with it was to think of the trips I will make to visit her in her new home. Those fritters sound delicious.

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  14. It's difficult isn't it, when a friend moves away, you lose a daily ally in a tough world, but you don't lose a friend, that's the thing to focus. I do hope that now you're a few weeks on your equilibrium is restored x

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    1. Thanks so much for your kind comments, Annie; they always do me good!

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  15. It's good to see you back here. I sympathise with your feelings as I've recently had some very good friends move away. And then I went and moved away from all my friends...but the real friends stay in your life, just in a different way. xx

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    1. Will be popping over soon, Gillian. Am so curious to know how you're getting on after your move!

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  16. Dear Isabelle, it's quite long ago since I last visited your blog. It's not that I forgot you but I just didn't spent much time in front of the computer. I do enjoy reading your posts a lot. I think that we are quite similar. I also have a nervous sensitive system, I need more rest, peace and quietness than other people. Have you ever heard of HSP? I have read the book by Elaine Aron "The highly sensitive person" and it helped me a lot to understand who I am and why I am the way I am. Does this make sense? There is a great homepage http://hsperson.com/ where you can find lots of information. But maybe you know everything about this topic already, then just forget what I wrote.

    I know how it feels if you have to let a good friend go away. My best friend moved to Malaysia last August and though we keep contact, I miss the talks and discussions we shared. Hope everything will work out fine for you. Viola

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    1. Hello Viola, thank you for your lovely comment. I haven't been on the computer much myself, lately. I have also read Aron's book and totally relate to it. A feast of recognition, so to speak. Haven't checked out her website, though, which I will now certainly do. Thanks for the tip and all the very best there :-)

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