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.


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. 

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Back, finally

Before I comment on the photo above, I would like to start by wishing you all the very, very best for 2015: may it be filled with an abundance of love, happy times and good health. I would also like to thank you for your comments on my last post. I so agree with Gillian: the longer you stay away from your blog, the harder it gets to start up again. But today, for the first time in weeks, I feel relaxed enough to sit down and write. Have I been uptight, then? Yes, I certainly have. I find December a hectic month as it is. There's the St. Nicolas hysteria, Christmas, all sorts of festive school obligations and this year there was also..... a holiday in the French Alps waiting for us. Wonderful, I know, and you won't hear me complaining about it. However, the preparations and anticipatory anxiety can all be a bit much. In fact, it makes me agitated and impatient. Certainly too agitated and impatient to write. 

Anyway. Now that I've got this "why I haven't written for a while" out of the way, onto something else. May I start by asking you to examine the above photo, taken last week in the French ALPS. Why have I capitalised 'Alps'? Because this specific location is something you need to bear in mind while admiring the photo. There is, you see, something missing in this photo... 

By now you probably can't bear the suspense, so let me help you out here: the thing missing in the photo is... SNOW! We had spent weeks, if not months, looking forward to going skiing. We had booked a little house at the foot of the slopes and fantasised about skiing from the slopes straight into our living room at the end of the day. Can you imagine the look on our faces when we arrived to find pristine green mountains and deserted ski lifts? I mean, I had heard people say "there's no snow" and all, but I didn't think that meant there was literally NO snow. For the first day and a half, hubby M and I were bitterly disappointed. We had spent all that money and effort to go skiing and now our plans were being heavily thwarted. But then we picked ourselves up, realising how lucky we were to be there in the first place. The sun was out full blast, the local folks were very friendly and we were at least getting away from it all.  And in the end, we did get to do a bit of skiing. There was a tiny learner's slope open, which meant daughter N could learn to ski, and M took son S to a much higher area where they skied together to their heart's content for two days. 

On a totally different note: daughter N has a new fascination for the world of mammels. Whilst flipping through her new encyclopedia, she came across a photo of a mole. Now she knows moles only from children's books, so seeing a photo of a real mole was relatively new to her. After staring at the photo in surprise for a few moments, she suddenly cried out: "Hey, Mr. Mole isn't wearing his glasses!" Before I got the chance to reply, she added with a twinkle in her eye: "Oh, no - wait. He must be wearing contacts."