Village life takes ingenuity in a tight spot, and stamina – plenty of it! These are the times that test men’s souls! Well, we haven’t actually had any chicken stealing like Mr Woodhouse in ‘Emma’, but life has been pretty hairy in our neck of the woods in the last few days.
Where do I start? We are a quiet law-abiding community, we look out for our neighbours, share our garden goodies, swap cuttings and seeds, and admire each other’s grandchildren. Our greatest excitement is the weekly testing of the fire alarm by the volunteer firemen. But the other night the peace of the four hundred law-abiding souls was rudely shattered. A dog began barking as dusk fell, and continued without end for the rest of the night. I woke every hour of the night, and heard all the other dogs joining the chorus. I overslept and arose bleary – eyed, and then had to rush to attend a veteran’s memorial service in the graveyard.
I came away somewhat disgruntled that the officiating clergywoman should in-appropriately refer to the Somme as a romantic name. The Battle of the Somme was the day that the British Army lost 20 per cent of its men – 60,000 killed or wounded on one day in France, my step- grandfather being one of the badly wounded. No! Not romantic. Naturally I aired my disgruntlement back at home, and felt all the better for it! So I was quite gruntled when the phone went later that afternoon and a friend rang to see how my husband was; and since his wife was overseas, I invited him for supper that night – three hours later in fact..
Putting down the phone, my mind raced through the possibilities. We were going to have cauliflower cheese, but could I give this to a man accustomed to gourmet cooking from his talented wife? I thought of various alternatives, but I was always missing one vital ingredient. Cauliflower cheese it would have to be! We were already having Brussels sprouts and carrots with it, and toasted almonds sprinkled over the cauliflower, so I added some chopped and baked golden kumara – crisp and crunchy on the outside – soft and sweet inside. Washed down with pinot gris.
With some pumpkin soup from lunch, thinned with a little cream and jazzed up with a sprinkling of coriander, served in little gold rimmed coffee cups before we sat down, it seemed a reasonable meal, topped off with hot chocolate sauce poured over locally made coffee ice-cream. No-one wanted coffee after that, but smoky lapsang souchong tea went down well.
Later that night, I heard the dog again. I thought: I cannot face another night worrying about it. So I jumped in the car and scouted round the neighbourhood in the dark. In the next street, I found a frantic pit- bull terrier on the loose – pacing back and forth and barking ferociously and fearfully outside a darkened house. We have no hedges or fences, just grass flowing out onto the pavement. So there he was, and I was available to him…
I went next door, where I could see a light on, knowing the people there, and hoping the resourceful man of the house had a solution. But they were visitors, who’d borrowed the house, and were dreading another night of torment. So it was up to me! The husband told me the dog had been alone for two days, was dangerous and and had frightened two children, so I revved off back home to deprive my husband of six pork sausages sitting in the fridge for him to enjoy the next day.
Back at the house, Daphne, a friend living across the road from the deserted house, was talking to the other neighbours. When I got out of the car, she hurried across, sounding so relieved to see me that she made me feel as if I was the US Cavalry. She warned me to be careful. The poor dog had now retreated to the back of the house, so while I strewed sausages around the front lawn, she went to get some water to fill his empty bowl.
Home, and a glorious peace settled back across the cottages and gardens, the only sounds the restless sea surging onto the rocks and an owl calling. So I rang the lovely Daphne, and she told me the renters had come back not long after. I tried not to regret the sausages, and hoped the dog had managed to eat them all before his somewhat callous-seeming owners returned. (There are dark rumours that they are on drugs and are up to no good!) But a good night’s sleep was apparently had by us all, both the (slightly) wicked and the (mostly) virtuous .
After all this mayhem I took myself off the cinema in the next village in the morning, as I feared the film might go off before I’d seen it -‘Performance’ – about a quartet, set in a snowy and romantic-looking New York. When one member of the quartet has a crisis, all the others go to pieces, with all their repressed emotions and frustrations about their lives welling up. The famous quartet is in danger of dis-integrating, until they finally put their art before their distress, and play the glorious Beethoven Violin Quartet No 14 Opus 131, music which reverberates through the whole film.
A simple story, and I was glad I hadn’t read the dreary reviews of it before I saw it, as they were all uniformly patronising. So, ignorant of the fact that apparently the film had so many fatal flaws, I loved every minute, and came out walking on air, feeling joyful that art had triumphed over all!
This was thirty six hours in the life of our village for me – mundane and busy – no mystery or profound or significant events… just the daily round and common task. A spiritual teacher once said to me that our spiritual destiny is to be in the right place at the right time. So I have to accept that however mundane, this is my destiny these days – right place – right time… food for friends, fearful dogs, and flawed, enjoyable films.
Food for Threadbare Gourmets
Kumara is the New Zealand equivalent of sweet potatoes, and I love the golden ones best. I cut them to the size of a walnut, this time – normally I’d have them bigger. They were then parboiled, and when the water had been drained off, the kumara was slammed around the saucepan and flour sprinkled over them. So with a rough surface covered in flour, hot oil spooned over them and quickly baked in a hot oven, they were crisp and tasty – the crunchiness was just the texture we needed with the soft cauliflower and brussels sprouts.
Food for Thought
I don’t know where this comes from:
Weak people revenge, strong people forgive, intelligent people ignore.