So, as I alluded to in my last blog, a rather amazing and unusual thing happened as I was doing my final edit of 'Sensing the past...'.
As I sat quietly checking spelling and the grammar of the piece, a robin landed on my knee. Quietly, without fuss, and rather comfortingly. Now I have had birds land on me in the past, a robin or two and maybe some sparrows, though never inside our home!
You see, when I was editing my last blog I was sitting in our front room where we do Sunday Chat, I was on the other sofa - the 'Live' sofa. I'd heard a brief fluttering of wings which, with the front sash windows being slightly open, I thought was simply sparrows chomping at the cabbage palm tree seed pods. It's something that they do at this time of year; we often have sparrows in the palm trees and blue tits in our callicarpa, so a fluttering of wings is not unusual. However, the sound of the fluttering of wings was soon followed by a blur in my vision and then the complete 20/20 clarity of a robin landing on my knee... our robin landing on my knee. And yes, I'm totally sure it was the one that has been pecking to get into the house for some time!
My last blog, 'Sensing the past...' had proven to be quite emotional, as it took me back to very happy family times, with reminiscences of many happy faces around the Christmas table, smiling, laughing, joking, eating, drinking and being generally merry. The sounds and voices and smells and smiles were all at the forefront of my mind, when our little robin decided to land on my knee. For some reason it felt incredibly normal to have a robin on my knee... though of course, after a moment I realised that this wasn't at all usual, as we were in the front room!!
Our little robin then flew to the sash window, which as I have said was only slightly open, a few centimetres at the top and bottom to let the air flow through to room. My next thought was then to get this little robin out of the house as WE live in our house, in here, and HE lives outside, out there. So, nice and slowly and carefully, I moved to our front door and opened it wide. I then went and got the key to undo the locks of our front sash windows so that I could fully open them at the top, offering up another route for our robin to fly out. Of course, I was making sweet talk with Mr Robin all of the time, to calm him down, as well as myself.
"Are you OK Mr Robin? Do you want to go back outside?" Mr Robin didn't reply, in fact he seemed to feel quite at home.
By this time Mr Robin was sitting on top of our Virgin Media router, quite happy and contented, and then he decided to fly into our chandeliere-style lights and check out the view from there (as well as the dust on the glass drops I am sure!). Quite happily Mr Robin was going about what he was sure was his business. As I opened the windows he then went on to the cushions on the teal sofa, those that Richard plumps so carefully each day. Then it must have been time to check out the view from the top of our front room door, as that's where Mr Robin went next. Deciding he had had a good old mooch, he flew a few feet towards me, hovering in mid air for a short second as they do, wings all a flutter, turned back towards the door of the room, then took a swift right turn and made his way out the front door.
When I followed into the hallway Mr Robin was quite happily sitting on our coir front door mat, looking at me. He then made a few hops onto our pathway and started pecking away between the old red bricks of the pathway, and I'm sure finding tiny bugs where we would see nothing. He didn't seem at all concerned by his foray into our home.
After saying goodbye to him - "Bye bye Mr Robin. See you at the back door later" - and closing the front door, I just sat down and blubbed for 10 minutes. For me there is so much symbolism of a red robin being in our house, even more so at a time when I'd been thinking about so much joy in my past. Once I had come to, and composed myself, I checked around the downstairs and noticed there was a little bird poo in our kitchen sink. You see, the kitchen window was slightly open. As you may remember, a robin has been picking at our french windows for some time, and we have even thought about letting it in - and I have no doubt that that robin and our red-breasted house guest are one and the same.
Clearly, Mr Robin decided that morning that he had had enough of our inhospitality and chose to make his own way in through the kitchen window, and come and check up on me whilst I was editing my last blog.
A Guernsey Gardener in London, Day 15
Gosh, it was a rather busy and unexpectedly emotional day yesterday!
I said to Richard on Saturday that I wanted to make a Christmas Pudding, as it was Stir-Up Sunday this weekend which is the traditional day that people in the UK would make their Christmas Puddings; families all coming together and giving the mix a stir, each making a wish as they did so. It's obviously one of those traditions that is dying out swiftly now that we can go to any supermarket or corner shop and buy the pasty, sweet, microwaveable, unrecognisable Christmas Puddings that they sell these days. However, I was absolutely sure there is nothing like the real thing that mum used to make, and I wanted to make it. So make it we did!!
Now, I haven't made mum's Christmas Puddings for many decades. In fact, I don't think I've made a traditional Christmas Pudding since I last made one with mum when I must have been in my very, very early 20s.
Mum had given me one of her old cookery books some years back. It's an old Hamlyn cookery book with a pale blue cloth-like cover. The dust sheet has long been lost, and various splodges of cake batter and gravy now sit comfortably alongside the jaded and faded fake gold lettering on the cover binding. It wasn't actually the recipe for Christmas Pudding in the book that I was looking for though. You see, I knew that mum's handwritten recipe of HER Christmas Pudding was on a piece of paper cradled between two of the leaves of the book. I took Cooking In Colour off of my cookery book shelves (note... MY cookery book shelves, not OUR cookery book shelves!). I found the slip of mottled paper with red writing, and then remembered what I had known all along... the list of ingredients used and their weights was for 16 puddings, and I certainly didn't want to make 16!! So I set to and converted all of the ounces into grams and millilitres and then divided all of the total amount of each ingredient by 16. In the end, looking at the full list of ingredients and their weights for one pudding, I decided that I would do one and a half times this reduced amount of mix. It turned out that this was perfect for making 8 individual puddings; it was Richard's idea to make individual puddings rather than one large one, and I think that he had the right idea.
It was in the first moments of stirring this scented mix that the initial sense of the past came back to me... Standing around the dining room table with mum at my side and a huge plastic Tupperware in front of us. We would stir the mixture thoroughly, ensuring that everything was incorporated; no pockets of dry flour here, and no clumps of gooey, squidgy chopped prunes there. Just one unctious flavourful dried fruit, almond, sugar, suet, rum and stout paste. We'd have to take turns in doing the stirring as the quantity of mixture was so large it was really quite tiring on the arms!
My second sense of the past was when I could smell the puddings steaming. The gentle spicy aroma filled the kitchen, then our middle room, the ground floor, then the upstairs until the whole house was engulfed in scented memories. And boy did that aroma take me back decades again! I've obviously smelt Christmas Puddings over the decades, though none have given me this sense of days of old.
And then we jump forward to the tasting, and wowsers... didn't that bang me right back to being a child!! Sitting around the table at Christmas, with family and friends and some people that I didn't even know who they were. Presents had been opened and played with and the turkey carcass was sitting under tinfoil on top of the fridge. There we all were with our coloured paper Christmas cracker hats on, all feeling slightly boozy (even us youngsters as we were allowed Babycham!), terrible jokes had been read aloud, useless cracker gifts were spread around the tablecloth, some gleeful choir was singing updated carols and festive songs on the radio... and then would come mum's Christmas Puddings. Glistening. Flaming. And beautiful. In my opinion, heavenly. 😊
If you've seen the video of us making the Christmas Puddings you will see how I got rather overwhelmed by emotion. It was simply because the taste of this pudding just sent me back decades to all the memories above - to the joys of those people, of which too many are sadly no longer in our lives today, though they will live forever in our hearts... dad, my brother Perri, Aunty Phil, Uncle Len, Aunty Betty and Uncle Mick. Life is so short, yet it can also be so joyous.
And I guess that's the wonderful thing about food, along with many other daily necessities and luxuries.
In the depths of our minds we have so many memories that are associated with a smell or a taste or a sight or a sound, and even a touch. It's in moments like these, sometimes decades later, when these special times are relived, most often unexpectedly, that we're just taken back to our childhood or back to special moments of remembrance. It can be quite overwhelming, though it can also be so enriching too. I for one am so pleased that we have these moments as they highlight time's gone by; for me many are wonderfully sweet and happy whilst some are more bittersweet. However, these memories and events are part of the person each of us is today, and hopefully even more memories can be made for us to fall back to as we get older, and wiser, and remember.
And... as I sat in our front room this morning quietly doing the final edit of this blog before posting it, something quite lovely, unexpected and extraordinary happened, though this story will have to wait for another day...
A Guernsey Gardener in London, Day 14
...long term partners.