16 January 2012

January Hymn

I had a treat of a walk today. Got home from errand running at about 4pm and the sun was sinking fast, so I darted off through the fields for some air. It was freezing - the mossy ground frosted white and the air a cold blueish mist.

When I reached the lakes, the swans were stock still on the third pool down, harbouring in the reeds and the overhanging rhododendrons. Even they looked chilled to the bone.

Glancing up towards the hill I noticed that the wood at the top was still bathed in sunshine. The warmth had retreated out of the valley but could still be caught if I could muster the will to huff and puff my way through the chill to the top. I couldn't resist.

It was gloriously worth it. At the summit, the view down into the Welsh valley beyond was lit up by the last of the pale winter sun. I leaned against the trunk of a pine and let it warm me through.

It was absolutely still, not a breath of wind, and the only sounds were the pip-pips of tiny birds watching the sunset with me. 

I paused and felt that glow you get when you take the last ski lift to the top of a mountain and wait until everyone else has skied down before you set off for one last clear run down the deserted pistes.

The song humming in my ears was January Hymn by the Decemberists - click here to listen:

When I turned back down into the valley the sky had coloured sugary pink bleeding into smoky blue. The air was crystal clear and I drank it in as I sped back the cottage for tea and a roaring fire.

I found Dickie in a truculent mood:

Me: "Which of those three wines can I use for cooking? I'm going to stick it in a bolognese tomorrow."

Dickie: "The one in the middle. If you touch either of the other two I will literally drown you."

Me: "What, take me down to the river, tie me up in a sack and chuck me in like an unwanted kitten?"

Dickie: "No, I'll drown you in that wine in the middle. The cooking wine."

Happy days.

Final thought: I think I love Benedict Cumberbatch. It's been a slow burner, didn't see it at first, but has kind of crept up on me. Does a cross between BC and Monty Don exist? Hope so.

11 January 2012

Stumbling upon the 14 year old me in a dusty old exercise book...

As predicted in my first blog, it didn't last long, and two entries in I fell into a deep, ditch-like, writer's block. Pathetic. 

But I thought I'd just write as and when something worth recounting came to mind. So here I am again, several months on. 

Having spent the Autumn enjoying the sights and sounds of California, Paris and Blighty, I am once again ensconced in my parents' cosy cottage on the Welsh borders. 

By day, wandering the hills and fields, where I have made friends with a beautiful pair of icy swans who seem to be staying with us for the winter (see below - thank you for the photo Em). And, no, they don't seem to have any interest in attempting to break my arm.

By night, I mostly find myself huddling around a log fire, eating tons of cheese and drinking all of Dickie's fine wine. This is the life. 

February will see me wending my way back to London…but a new part of London for me. I am headed for the eclectic-ness of Bethnal Green, and am very much looking forward to the Sunday flowers and street singers of Columbia Road, the weekly celebration of food at Broadway Market, and generally appreciating all the benefits that come with living in a part of London that is getting the full Olympics treatment. 

In the meantime, needs must sort out piles of junk back in Herefordshire, having persuaded my long suffering parents to store some of my stuff here for the time being. The vision is to create a kind of magical shepherds-hut-slash-storage-solution for myself in the old pig's cot - replete with shabby chic writer's table, the odd inspirational set text and innumerable boxes of French wine. I will return to this Utopian cradle periodically, to escape the bustle and noise of city existence.

In reality, this means getting rid of all my old pap - mostly mouldy lever arch files bursting with miles of scrawl from school and university days. 

I started the cull today....and stumbled upon my Form 3 English exercise book. I think that would make me 14 years old, when I was charged with the assignment of writing a short story entitled 'My Week in Hospital', which follows here:

"You won't be in hospital for long, Laura. It won't take longer than a week," said my mother, as she tried to calm me down. 

"A week! A WEEK!" I cried. "That seems like a lifetime when you're in hospital."

I'd just had the results of the X-ray I'd had three weeks before. These results came with a note saying that I was to go to the Nuffield Hospital in Hereford, on Monday 3rd July. 

Today was the 29th June.

The X-ray was of my gums. I needed an operation because, inside the roof of my mouth, I'd got six teeth to fit into two spaces. Normally, people have two teeth for two spaces. 

If I didn't have the operation, the teeth would grow down out of the roof of my mouth.

I was hysterical. 

I hated the thought of operations, doctors, nurses, sharp knives, and most of all, the boredom of lying in a hospital bed for a week. 

My sister, Belinda, had exactly the same problem a couple of years back. She had the operation too. I remember thinking at the time, "I hope I don't have the same problem as Belinda has."

But here it was, and I must go to the hospital in FOUR DAYS.

The next four days flew by. 

Mum was busy preparing all of my clothes, nighties etc, for my trip to hospital. 

Then, at last, the dreaded morning dawned when I had to go into the hospital. One good thing was that Mum was going to stay with me while I was in hospital. 

When we arrived, Mum told a nurse who we were, and the nurse showed us to our room. 

I wasn't in a ward. I was in a quiet secluded room of my own. The room was pleasant enough: white walls, white bed, a chair for Mum, a television, a large window, a thick blue carpet and an en suite bathroom. It all smelt fresh and all the white made it look very clean. 

In the hall outside my room there was a large window. From here I could see a huge pond with weeping willows hanging over the clear water. Ducks and swans swam about on the pond. This scene consoled me a little. I didn't much fancy spending the first week of my summer holiday in the hospital though. 

I felt sorry for Mum. She had to sleep in the chair for a week. I thought it very mean of the hospital not to provide a bed for her. 

That evening, Mum and I watched Hansel and Gretel on the TV. That film frightened me and has always remained clear in my memory ever since.

The next morning, a kind nurse called Felicity came into my room and gave me one injection in my arm and one in my bottom. I tried to be brave, and I didn't make a sound until Felicity left. The moment that she shut the door I burst into tears and flung myself into Mum's arms. 

The day dragged on. 

I became tired of TV, and the only thing I liked to do was to watch the birds on the pond. 

In the afternoon, the time had come. 

Felicity came in again and said cheerfully, "Come on, Laura, let's go and visit Doctor Sheen."

My bed was on wheels, so she wheeled me away to the operating theatre.

At the door of the theatre, I had to let go of Mum's hand and leave her outside. This upset me very much. But I had no time to worry about it because I was wheeled into the theatre where Doctor Sheen was waiting. 

The name 'Sheen' suited him fittingly.

He was dressed all in white. He had dazzling white teeth and immaculately groomed and greased white hair. He smiled a lot. I think he did this to show off his marvellous white teeth. 

"Hello Laura," he said, beaming at me. "This minor, little operation isn't going to hurt you or damage you at all."

"Now," he added, "All I want you to do is count to ten and see how far you can get, when I say go."

"OK," I replied. 

He then gave me a quick jab with an injection and said, "GO."

So, I began. "One, two, three…" and I knew nothing more until the next morning when I woke up in my room at about 8am.

I felt terribly sick. 

My mouth was packed full of foul tasting plaster. It was set in around my gums to keep them from falling apart. It was also extremely painful and sore. 

The few days that followed passed slowly. 

When I got home all my family, including my sister, were very nice to me for the next few weeks. Until the plaster came off my gums, three weeks later, I ate lots of ice cream and liquidized food which was, indeed, very pleasant. 

My stay in hospital had been an unpleasant experience, but for a few weeks afterwards I had very good treatment, which wasn't too bad at all.