Monday, 19 December 2011

(R) Amen.....

I remember reading some time ago that one suggestion for a ‘winter pick-me-up’ is to make, and then drink, homemade soup. The warmth of the liquid is tantamount to the most loving of hugs from a loved one.  In the most part I now agree with this statement, a few years ago I broke my jaw and soup was my mainstay for 6 months, believe me, it loses its seductive warmth after a while. However, after such a fast I’m quite particular about the ingredient combinations that go into a soup. One of my earliest memories is drinking ‘alphabet soup’ with my Mum post playschool or some outing to the local Library or shops. The soup, was made from a tiny little tin, Knorr I think.  I was amazed that all these little letters would swirl around my bowl making the most coded of words on my spoon.  The memory of this is as warm as the suggestion for the ‘pick me up.’

Words, letters, stories and warm hands smelling of soap are the backbone of my childhood. My Mum and I would meet my Nanna in the town’s Library for tea or soup before investigating the Library for great finds or forgotten favourites. It is in Libraries I feel most at home, they are pockets of the public consciousness that really are a respite for every bracket of society. I would go as far as to type that Libraries offer us the closest example of modern dogma we subconsciously adhere to. Rules are as strict as those of any religion and unrest/disorder won’t be tolerated by either the staff or members of Joe public. To be a member of a Library is to become a guardian, as a mass all members protect the known sanctity of the environment.

All I know is that those mornings spent in the Library cafĂ© with my Mum and Nanna were/are some of  the happiest childhood memories I can recall. The Formica table tops with spilt salt on them, the mixture of Welsh and English conversations at different rates, the squirrels daring to come near the window in the hope of scraps, the smell of hot buttered toast and singed vinegar on blow-inducing chips.  All this accompanied by the latest borrowed book: ‘Topsy and Tim,’ ‘Blackberry Farm’ or ‘costume/fashion.’ All these books held possibility and that feeling has never gone away, I still find hope in the shelves. ‘Physician heal thyself’ should really be ‘Librarian heal thyself and then others.’ The bookshelves of a Library are not unlike those of an old fashioned Chemist/apothecary, the many titles hold the key to helping yourself through new ideas and hope of another life. I still wander around our Library with a student picking titles I know will answer their essay question/coursework. The students often look at me in disbelief that I obviously don’t know what I’m doing and I couldn’t possibly understand the pain they’re going through. Well I do….and I also know how to pick the books they need to help.

The Art-man and I both work in Libraries; we also have a well-stocked Library of our own which threatens to become unruly/overstuffed at the merest click on an Amazon order. It’s like a game of Jenga, one more book threatens to disrupt the rest. But these books are our ingredients; they are the subjects, titles, adjectives we use to regale each other with thoughts and lives before our combined one. Loathed as I am to admit this, the Art-man’s titles are often a lot more interesting than my own.  

A lot of these books are cookery inspired: fiction and non and it is our goal to produce the perfect Ramen soup or Thai broth. Since moving into our little house the temperature has dropped steadily and with each degree we add another snip of chilli to our broth. The floral colours of: chilli, mange tout, ginger, tomato, salmon all float around the bowl balletically, each perfectly proportioning the other. We’ve become quite critical of the balance of flavours, colours and smells these days. Even now, when my hands wrap around the warm bowl I am the most at peace, for that I am grateful. 

(R) Amen.

Friday, 9 December 2011

*sings* These are a few of my favourite things (this week anyway….)

I’m 30. Just this year in March I entered into a new decade excitedly accompanied by: being in love with the Art-man, a new feeling of creativity and a lovely little new house. Things are good……

But…I crave simplicity. I would like things to be a little more certain than they are. I’ve searched for my essentials and whilst a reoccurring student (and money was a little tight), decisions I made to treat myself were arrow sharp and exactly me. Little silk scarves, books, Billie Holiday CDs. I was a woman in total agreement about the ‘sum of her parts.’ However, things have changed and continue to change but something’s remain, maybe my segments are expanding to fill the void. I admire wo/men who dedicate their lives to a certain era or concept: Rockabilly, retro-revival, Vegan lifestyle…..but I’m not that strict or sacred.

I sprawl on the sofa with the Art-man watching an array of movies, drinking far too much wine, eating sushi until my ears could bleed, swapping my latest fad-love weekly. The poor Art-man doesn’t know where he is most days, ‘Oh you’re Japanese today, fancy a green tea?’ but goes along with the patience of a liberal arty.

I don’t like the uncertainty but I don’t like restriction. At 4 I objected to being told which colours to paint with in paint by numbers, I failed a domestic science class for making scones of different sizes (a little one for our new puppy, a large one for my Dad…..etc. ) my reasoning was logical!,  I disliked looking the same as my friends but craved to be accepted. See?

I’m stuck so I’ve decided to breathe out and just be…’s hoping.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Domestic (Angel) Delight

On a recent excursion the Art-man and I had in our adoptive city (we are now pseudo-Cestrians don’t you know) we chanced upon a wonderfully kitsch collection of 70/80s food boxes in a shop window display. The exquisite cardboard artefacts were objects of such memory triggers we regaled each other with stories linked to our childhoods etc.
Retro is somewhat of a regimen (pronounced in a faux-American accent) in our house. The Art-man taps into all things 60s whilst I adhere to a never ending love affair with 1940s and middle-war revival philosophies.  We’re lucky in the respect we span different decades of birth as well as interest eras, it makes for killer results in quizzes and the most enthralling of talks.
The boxes coupled with the current Christmas countdown evoked a wonderful memory of a favourite Christmas gift I had as a child: An ‘A la carte kitchen.’ I was lucky enough to receive this toy when I was 4 and it was a favourite for many years. The little boxes that made up the kitchen included: ‘French fancies’ and ‘baked beans’ equally kitsch products, with the most colour soaked graphics/photographs. It’s strange to be met with such a strong memory, to link the ‘4’ year old self with the ‘30’ year old I am now, to identify the pattern in integral likes etc. - ‘something’s never change’
Since the Art-man and I moved we decided to submerge ourselves in our relevant vintage era loves, see previous post, and a little nibble of a ‘French fancy’ is akin to allowing the 4 year old to play house again.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Tea-ology: one of my other academic downfalls

The ‘Art-man’ and I live in a sea of tea.
We literally have to place our knee into the cupboard of tea tins and boxes before we are able to shut the door. Each: blend, infusion, tea bag is our Bohemian version of an apothecary. Every mood, anxiety and time of day has a relevant prescription of tea which we administer with the precision of MDs on call.
A recent escape to Shropshire resulted in us finding a darling tea room, ‘Rocke Cottage’ ( where we were treated and pampered with the most delicious sandwiches, cakes and not to mention crumpets.
We talked of:

·         The very divinity of butter and how we need to use more of it.
·         How quickly could we find jobs in Shropshire and affect an immediate move.
·         The necessity to return to the ‘Rocke’ (see we’re already abbreviating, after one visit we consider ourselves regulars) in full 1940s regalia/costume.
·         The need for more vintage magazines in our house, especially considering the stories the Art-man’s Mam can regale us with in relation to them.