Childhood memories

I was watching something on the television recently which made me recall my brief experience of war time.  I was born ten days before the war started and was six when it ended but even though I was so young some things I will never forget.

I suppose it was one of the first disappointments of my life.  I thought it was a special present.  Opening boxes was supposed to be fun, even if they were brown cardboard ones.  Daddy had bought me a red and blue Mickey Mouse version; nothing was ever too good for Baby Ann.  Everybody else’s was black.  But I hated it nevertheless.

I don’t know if it was once a week or once a month we had to do the gas mask drill in school and I dreaded it.  The smell of the mask made me sick.  It was so hot and stuffy that I felt I was suffocating. The feel of the rubber against my skin made me itch.  My breathing was not that great then as it was a few years later that I had to have my adenoids and tonsils removed so I constantly thought that every breath inside that mask was my last.

The boys in the class seemed to like the drill because they found a way of blowing out through the rubber to make rude noises.  Looking around at my classmates was frightening too.  We all looked like aliens.

I learned years later that it was an unnecessary exercise anyway because the enemy never used gas warfare.  They just bombed the place.

I  could have been scarred for life.  In fact I never thought about it for years until I was diagnosed with sleep apnea.  Now every night I have to wear a mask and whilst it doesn’t make me look like Mickey Mouse and it isn’t black or rubbery I still can’t warm to it.

Thinking about gas masks reminded me of the air raid shelter.  My father, like many other people in East London, had an Anderson air raid shelter constructed in the garden.  It was dug into the ground and was made of corrugated iron which was then covered in clay.  It felt like going into a grave.  Earwigs were all over it and the smell of the damp earth all pervasive.

I can’t remember using it that much because my mother tried to get away from London as much as she could to visit my Great Aunt in Devon where she lived at the time.

We were in Torquay where Great Aunt Em lived and on my birthday  I was asked to carry a piece of  the cake to a neighbour and being me nibbled a bit of the icing on the way.  Unfortunately, it was the same piece of icing on which a bee had just alighted.

But that’s another story …….

Seville oranges sweetened with love

It’s been a sad week in The Windmill.  Too sad really to talk about.

The only thing that has kept me going is the marmalade.  It has to be made in January or early February when the Seville oranges are available.  My son Michael kindly bought me some oranges and daughter Rachael gave me sugar so it has practically cost me nothing except time and energy.

It is therapeutic in its own way, all that squeezing, chopping and boiling but very time consuming.  It can only be made in batches of six jars so the whole process has to be repeated over and over.  I finally lost it at the very last batch as the molten marmalade boiled over.  The cooker was a sorry mess.

Marmalade making was just what I needed to cope with the situation.  Why is it always food that keeps me going and why on earth do I think it will help anybody else?  One of my daughters and her husband were made redundant the same week some years back and they came to tell me.   I fussed around and made them a splendid meal, everything that I knew they liked best.  All they really wanted was for me to sit down with them, talk it through, give them a kiss and a cuddle.

I think I do better now and with the pungent background odour of marmalade boiling I gave lots of much needed love and attention and received it back in abundance.

Lots of the marmalade will be given away.  It makes a good present for those who like it.  Here at home it will be a constant reminder of a sad time in our lives.  Nevertheless we will look to the future and January 2012 when the next batch will be made.

The mystery of the necklace

You know how annoying it is when you lose something that you love.  India Knight recently wrote on Twitter that she had found a pair of earrings which had been lost for six years.  She was so happy.  My predicament is different but no less upsetting than a loss.

Between 20th and 27th December I was given a lovely necklace.  Over the course of that period, in fact, I was given three necklaces and they were all assorted shades of green and blue.  But this particular necklace I am talking about is the one below.

I really like it and have been wearing it a lot over the past days.  One of the reasons I am wearing it, apart from the fact that I love it, is because I am hoping someone is going to say to me “I’m so glad you liked my gift”.  You see I have forgotten who gave it to me and it is really getting me down.

I don’t think it is the beginning of some senile dementia but whatever is happening to me I have a mental block.  It has now got to the stage where I am dreaming about it but still the generous donor does not appear.  Just me smiling and saying thank you so much.

I have checked my diary for clues but my social engagements were few around this time as because of  the snow and ice I couldn’t get out.  What difference does it make you might say and I suppose you’d be right but somehow in the back of my mind I don’t think I thanked the person properly.

I doubt if this is going to help, just wanted to share it with you.

Feast of free culture

On New Year’s Eve I attended an event (Sounding a Positive Note) in the National Gallery which was a collaboration between Poetry Ireland and the Gallery.

To a packed audience poets, gallery staff and others read poems and talked about paintings.  Kathleen Watkins’ wonderful voice filled the room when it was her turn to perform, Duncan Stewart took the opportunity not to read a poem but to talk about what we can do for the environment and Marie Bourke gave us an illuminating talk on Jack B. Yeats, brother of William Butler Yeats.

The highlight for me was listening to Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill who as well as conveying her excitement at the recent news of the return of bitterns to Ireland, sang and read her poetry in both English and Irish.

It was a great start to a year which I hope will include many more events like this.

Thanks to Poetry Ireland and the National Gallery for providing this free entertainment for all to attend.

Anybody out there?

1st January 2011

Cup of tea and 30 minutes on the circulation booster as usual.

Had a shower.  K received an amazing Aveda Shampoo for Christmas the smell of which lifts the spirits.  Maybe I should have asked her if it’s OK if I use it.

Boiled egg, coffee and conversation with flatmates.

Cleaned out the fridge (funny smell, only spilt milk).

Found leeks at bottom of fridge.  Cooked potato and leek soup.

Peeled potatoes and carrots for dinner tonight.

Peeled and cooked apples for an as yet unknown afters.  Grandchild P asked me at Christmas what was the difference between dessert, pudding and afters.  It took me a while to explain they’re all the one it just depends where you come from and how you were brought up.  His maternal grandmother says pudding and in this case she was technically quite right as the question arose as we were eating our Christmas one.

Wrote shopping list for K but forgot to include washing up liquid.  We have been using the remnants of our Fairy for the last week.  Try it sometime it really does go a long way.

We had left over mashed potato so I made potato cakes and fried sausages for lunch.

All this before 2 o’clock.  Was I so industrious this morning just to avoid re-starting my blog today as I promised myself  I would?   If so, why?  Do I really not want to continue doing it? And most importantly what is my motivation anyway?

After some contemplation  I have come to the conclusion that I like talking to myself.  I can’t do it  verbally because they would have me locked up.  But really that’s what I’m doing here, talking things through, quietly with no one to answer back or contradict.

At at the end of this short writing exercise  I feel contented.  Isn’t that what it’s all about?  If it makes me happy and I’m not hurting anyone why not?

My two youngest grandchildren are always telling me Silly Nanny, be happy so I am taking their advice for better or worse.

Gone fishin’ ……

Just a quick note to say that some real life activities are taking up my time at present so I won’t be blogging for a while.  Thanks so much for your comments and interest.  It has been great.

Indian whiting surprise anyone?

I was never actually a member of the Sandymount Ladies Club but I seemed to be called in on various occasions.  They had a competition for cooking treacle tart and they asked me to judge it.  I presume it was because I was born in England and treacle tart is a very British dessert.

On another occasion I was asked to enter a fish cooking competition. It was organised by Bord Iascaigh Mhara and unfortunately I didn’t win but BIM handed out some recipes for us to try.  One of these was Indian Whiting Surprise.  I have tried googling it but BIM must have deleted it from their recommendations long ago and it is no wonder.  The ingredients included pineapple, curry powder, onions, tomatoes, cheese, mayonnaise, whiting and rice. I may have left something out.

The recipe required that a kind of curry sauce with chopped up pineapple was made, the whiting was baked in the oven, the cheese was grated and mixed with mayonnaise and the rice cooked.  The assembly of the whole thing was a layer of rice, then the curry mixture, then the fish, topped with the mayo and cheese mix and the whole lot was placed under the grille so that the cheese and mayo bit could brown.

Just writing this makes me nauseous so heaven help my poor children when it was placed before them.  I believe it still gives some of them nightmares.