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 café 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.