Entries in birthdays (2)


rich rewards

There was bunting. There was fizzy stuff. There was lovely food and more wine and warm sun and presents. The crostata passed muster. All in all there was the stuff needed for John to have a happy birthday. Surreal moments included the assembled family stumbling their way through a deceptively difficult Italian children's tune about bells that Nonna is determined Joel will learn, with the reward that when he does 'we can move on to a lovely song about fruit'. Cricket played with sticks that shortened after each stroke. Dogon the sweet natured greyhound sighing and groaning with thwarted ecstasy at the chicken bones just out of reach.

I got lumbered with the washing up so rewarded myself with wine to sip after each water change. And since Dogon was my kitchen companion, he finally received his own reward for patience beyond the call of duty and had a little plate of meaty joy.

Lastly, coffee and eton mess and a bit of a relax in the warmth of the early evening sun. A gentle way to contemplate the fact that another year has passed.


light and dark


My day, my moods and my writing seem to be overly influenced by the weather at the moment. I realise, too, that the photos I post are sunny when I complain about rain. That's because the sun will shine in sudden bursts that illuminate the house in stripes of light and, generally, the skies relax in the early evening, resulting in long low shafts of sun across the lawn and through the bottom of the trees. I love the light then. But when it's taken away we're thrown from bright sunshine to a sudden darkness that needs lights to be switched on to avoid feeling like we're living in a cave.

Thinking about it, I wonder if the weather is reflecting my shifting moods as much as influencing them. This week I'm too easily thrown from light to dark and long for the simplicity of a day where skies and moods are even and predictable.

Today wasn't one of those simple days. A morning party for Joel and an afternoon of baking. Or rather, sweating anxiously over my first attempt at a birthday staple in John's family, the crostata. My grandmother taught me that pastry must always be made in a relaxed, unhurried state. That wasn't the state I found myself in. Returning from the party, distracted by the ludicrously bedraggled, wet and muddy alpaca massing around the fence to greet us, I reversed the car into the corner of our wall. At the time I was impersonating their high-Andean accents so, really, there is no excuse. And for my childishness there is now a largish hole in the bumper that irritates me every time I have to open the boot.

It isn't hard to make a simple jam crostata but it's been made by John's Italian mother for family birthdays for nearly 50 years so to take it on this year was, well, a little intimidating.  Emerging eventually from the oven (having had to whip up an additional batch of pastry owing to certain .. technical issues) with something that at least looked like a crostata, I worked off my nervous energy with a vigorous pillow fight with Joel. You'll notice perhaps that there isn't a photo of the crostata. I covered it ready for tomorrow and I'm damned if I'm looking at it again until then.