Tag Archives: grandchildren

Pooh Bear has the answers

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I’ve only been on one teddy bear’s picnic. There were lots of teddy bears, crammed into a little dolls pram, my three year old grand- daughter and me.  We solemnly walked the pram to a tree in the park in Melbourne next to the house where they lived.

There, on a cold, slightly misty winter’s afternoon, we carefully propped a huddle of teddies of different sizes and varying shades from honey to dark brown, around the base of a tree. After careful discussion as to what teddy bears might eat, we had plumped for very small brown bread and honey sandwiches – we thought that arbiter of bear behaviour, Pooh Bear, would have approved, and that was all we needed to know really. We thought bears would probably only have wanted to drink water, so that was easily solved….

I was thrilled that she still remembers this occasion now she’s old enough to be at university. And she remembers too, jumping on our shadows the year before, and learning to sing ‘Kumbaya, my Lord’ when she was even smaller (in an English accent!). These memories may be more precious to me than to my grand-daughter, and most grand-parents will understand just how precious they are.

When I look back to my memories with my grandmother, I marvel at what I learned from her, much more, I suspect than today’s grand children learn from theirs. She taught me to knit and sew and do French knitting, and embroider dozens of stitches I’d forgotten till leafing through an old Mrs Beaton cook book recently – daisy stitch, herringbone stitch, blanket stitch, chain stitch, back stitch, buttonhole stitch, cross stitch. She told me the names of flowers and saints and cousins I’d never seen, the stories of dead great uncles in the war. She taught me prayers and proverbs and songs.

But somehow, once the days of reading aloud Pooh Bear and Dr Seuss and Dear Dinosaur had passed, all my grand-children were so engrossed in their play stations and favourite, regular afternoon TV programmes, that there was rarely a space for the sort of boredom or blank days we used to have in my childhood; those times when for lack of something better to do, we mastered a new skill and learned to knit, or read a book considered too hard or too boring before, and which was now discovered to be a treasure.

It was on those long empty days that I discovered the joys of rambling alone with the dog, or daring to cross the weir by the mill with friends, or digging around the Roman mines, hoping after two thousand years to find a Roman coin; it was when we picked primroses in the woods, and carried catkins and pussy willow home as spring announced itself … As we grew older we made egg sandwiches and took a bottle of ginger pop to picnic on empty beaches with names like Man o’ War Bay and Arish Mell Gap, coming home tired and sunburned.

But my grand-children have done it differently. Today they’re not free to roam alone as we were – instead, they went on exciting holidays, in the tropics or to fishing lodges, or learned to sail or ski. But then they’d come to stay with me, and do ordinary and yet totally absorbing things. Leaving their play stations, they’d feed the eels in the river at the bottom of the garden, spend days making boats out of flax leaves, and floating them down the waterfall, building dams, playing Pooh Sticks.

They could spend an afternoon totally absorbed in throwing stones down into another river, far below, and listening for the plop. Another morning in the city when I took all four of them to a secret spot above the harbour, where old oak trees spread, they spent a whole morning searching for acorns and throwing them down into the water. Not aimlessly, but aiming.

And not a question of little things please little minds, but being ‘in the zone’, alive and  present. Blowing bubbles from my veranda and seeing who could make the biggest one that drifted furthest and lasted longest; or the ritual playing of hunt the thimble with the same silver thimble every time, seemed to give them more fun and shrieks of laughter than watching their Japanese TV serials and videos or war games on the computer. And grandparents have time for long conversations about the size of universe and whether ice-cream is good for you, and what dogs are dreaming about – and about important things – like ethics – which even small children understand in terms of right and wrong, or better still, kind or unkind  …

Sometimes I think that this is one of the few gifts we can give our grand-children in this busy technological age when our grandchildren know more than their grandparents, and learn to teach us, instead of us teaching them. We can give them the time and the space to savour the little things. We can listen to them uncritically.  We can give them unconditional love, because we don’t have to make sure they eat up all their vegetables. And the utter bliss of it is that they give us the same unconditional love too. “I’ve got to, but I’ll still be your darling”, said one when I asked him not to grow up!

It’s that ubiquitous bear, Pooh, that ‘bear of very little brain’, who puts into words what I would say to my precious ones in the future. He says so memorably and so truly: “If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”

 

Food for threadbare gourmets

It’s that wonderful time of year for both birds and people – when the figs are ripe. A friend made the most delicious salad the other day using real lettuce – not mixtures of baby leaves – and tossed them with chopped- not sliced – cucumber, fresh peas, and thinly sliced figs, with a vinaigrette sauce. The sweetness of the figs with the crunchiness of the cucumber and the crispness of the lettuce was delicious with cold lamb and couscous.

Food for thought

…’It often takes great courage to follow intuition. It takes a Viking, who is unafraid to sail in unknown seas…. to live intuitively is to live fourth-dimensionally’…                                           Florence Scovel Shinn, 1871 – 1940   New Thought writer who influenced Louise Hay.

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The eternal search – for the perfect coffee

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I lost my wallet the other day. Going to pay for the dry cleaning, I found my big red Guy Laroche wallet given to me by my generous daughter had disappeared. Panic. The last place I’d had it was at the garden centre a mile away. And since I’d paid for the plants, the wallet must still be sitting in the trolley. More panic.

I ran through the things that mattered in my mind… credit cards … but ‘they’ wouldn’t know my pin number. Pain to have to cancel… forget them for now. Money? Who cared. But oh, my photographs of the grandchildren and moments caught in time that I wanted to remember… they were irreplaceable… and the two little love letters with terrible spelling and seven year old scrawls from them … one which I had found written in the diary they always used to keep when they came to stay with me… on this occasion they had decided that they would stay permanently and be home-schooled by me:

‘Five time a week I have fun. It can be so wonderful. I will like to say that I am writing this because it came from my hart and I kodn’t get it out of my hed….I hope that we can stay heer for homeschool it will be so fun and it will asol be fun because I love my granny so much it can be fun every day but I love staying heer and I like feeding the eels’… how could I replace a letter like that? My heart curled over at the thought of such a loss…

What else?  Oh … my collection of coffee cards. Each one stamped for every coffee I’d had, and nearly ready for a free coffee. The restaurant down by the river, the cafe in the garden where they make pottery, the lovely place where they also make hand-made chocolates, my stopping off place in town…

Zipping up my stiff upper lip I hurried back to the garden centre, and there was the red wallet, waiting for me at the office. (gardeners are good  people!) “It was my coffee cards I was worried about,” I explained when I picked it up, and everyone laughed because they knew how I felt.

I have travelled the length and breadth of one country, which shall remain nameless for fear of hurting millions of people’s feelings, looking for a decent cup of coffee. I finally found one in a far-flung cathedral crypt cafe.  I will drive for miles for the sake of that elusive perfect cup.

I know as soon as it’s put in front of me if it’s going to be a good one. The cream will be thick and won’t just dwindle into a thin froth when stirred. It will be smooth and not too creamy and not too strong. The most memorable coffee I’ve ever had was in an Italian restaurant in Melbourne.

Creating this ambrosia obviously came naturally to the maker… and in that search for the perfect cup, I’ve discovered that the maker actually matters. Yes, I know the machine has to be properly cleaned so the coffee doesn’t taste bitter, and the milk the right temperature, but there’s more to it than that. And the deciding factor in the quality of a cup of coffee for me, seems to be the person.

Everyone makes the coffee the same way on the same sort of machines I’m assured, but it doesn’t work out like that. Every barista is different and so is their coffee. A grumpy barista does not produce a good cup of coffee. A good cup of coffee is hand-crafted and a work of love, so I know if it’s going to be delicious by the quality of the barista’s smile. A nice person makes great coffee! They even do lovely patterns in the froth, like a Christmas tree at Christmas time, or a flower or smiley face at other times!

And what despair and thwarted desire when I arrive at a favourite coffee place to find a new member of staff, or the nice coffee person has taken off overseas, and we have to start all over again, with a learner driver as it were!  Or the tantalising times when the best coffee maker is busy cutting cake or sorting spoons, and not at her post, and I have to make do with a cup which I know won’t be as good as hers.  C’est la vie, but coffee is so much more than beans, milk and water!

And when the perfect coffee arrives, what sybaritic pleasure – the delicate sinking of the spoon into the froth, and a gentle stirring. Sometimes a fragrant teaspoon of coffee crystals for the sheer pleasure of stirring and dissolving them in the glorious liquid. And then a sip, and a contented settling into satisfaction as I slowly savour one of civilisation’s minor works of art.

Sadly the second cup never reaches the same level of pleasure as the first. And I’ve even read that scientific research has proved this to be true. No wonder it matters that that first cup is as good as it can get!

 

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

One of my favourite coffee places serves gingerbread with their coffee. I love it. To make it myself, I use two eggs, a cup of sugar, a cup of milk and a cup of golden syrup (the cup rinsed out with oil before measuring the syrup). Beat them together. Melt 225g butter. Mix two cups SR flour, two teasp or more of ground ginger, a teasp each of mixed spice and of cinnamon, and a teasp of baking soda into the egg mixture and then stir in the melted butter.

Pour into a loaf tin with the base lined with baking paper. Bake at 180 degrees for an hour. If you’re using a fan-bake oven test after 45 minutes. Let it cool in the tin for 30 minutes before turning out. You can ice it, but I like it cut into slices and spread with a little butter.

Food for Thought

“The artist’s task is to save the soul of mankind; and anything less is a dithering while Rome burns. If artists cannot find the way, then the way cannot be found.”
Terence McKenna  (1946 –  2000) was an American philosopher, ethnobotanist, lecturer, writer and author of several books.. He was also the creator of a mathematical theory of time based on patterns found in the I Ching which he termed novelty theory.[1]

 

 

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