Sunday, 16 August 2015

Old English Wisdom

The North Elmham Rood Screen - a man riding a pig. The carving dates from, it is thought, the fifteenth century, but the sentiment is Anglo-Saxon, according to "A Clerk Of Oxford" who writes about Old English sayings here.  (It's number ten on the list).

"It’s up to the pig now, said the man sat on the boar’s back".

It's interesting to think of this pre-conquest salty wisdom, being passed down in a remote, extremely rural setting, via generations of country-folk. The carving has survived all that has been thrown at it, and we can see it today much as it was when first set up. 

Those short, pithy utterances have a deep earthy humour to them, which tickles me. 

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

First-World Problems

Ref my moaning about the kitchen - I know, I know, it's such a first-world problem. Thus it was described by my daughter's boyfriend in a scathing put-down some months ago.  But that doesn't mean it is not a problem.  I still feel stress and aching joints and muscles. 

Anyway, moving back to the main point of this blog, namely books.  I have just read a couple of chapters of my current reading - the first time I have sat down to do so since last Friday.  So I am feeling better. 

I must add that I have actually chucked out some books.  Contrary to my usual practice, which is to replace any book I have chucked out (possibly in a fit of misguided tidying). 

The books I have discarded are old cookery books which I have not used for more than 20 years, and will never use again.  I tried to get my husband to chuck out some cookery books which I have NEVER used and know that I never will, but, to my great surprise, he insisted on keeping most of them.  He is not usually a book fan at all.

I also chucked out two files of paper cuttings from magazines and newspapers of recipes which, at the time, sounded awesome - eg "the ultimate chocolate cake" .  Most of them I have never used.  I don't miss them.

In one of these A4 ring-binders, I found two pieces of handwriting by my daughters, when they were very small.  One of the pieces was a painstakingly copied recipe for their favourite cake of all time, (no longer, and forgotten).  The other was a little note wishing me good luck in an amateur dramatics production, and assuring me that I would not forget my lines!  These have been filed away in a different place, to keep for a bit longer.

The other thing that turned up in the A4 ring-binder was strange.  Two tiny scraps of paper.  The smaller is a photocopy of "The Pity of Love", by WB Yeats.  The larger has two poems, "The Sorrow of Love" and "When You Are Old", both by the same.

How apt they seem, how extraordinary that they should fall out of a recipe file 30 years after they were placed there!

When You Are Old

By William Butler Yeats 1865–1939       

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
Yes, I remember a friend, not a boyfriend but a sort of special companion, quoting this to me, forty years ago.  He particularly mentioned the moments of glad grace.  And now, I am indeed old, and feel tired a lot, and would be grey if I didn't have a good hairdresser.  That friend is a distant memory, but my husband is still here, and I hope that Love has not fled.  We have weathered many a storm together.
The Sorrow of Love - no, I won't go there.  But "The Pity of Love", yes, this is so true.
A Pity beyond all telling
Is hid in the heart of love:
The folk who are buying and selling,
The clouds on their journey above,
The cold wet winds ever blowing,
And the shadowy hazel grove
Where mouse-grey waters are flowing,
Threaten the head that I love.
How apt, how true, how un-analysable. 


Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Kitchen, Rant.

It looks so simple, doesn't it.

Just some new worktops, new sink and taps, new cupboards.  But oh, it hides a multitude of painful days, painful months. 

It took me a month to clear out, and pack elsewhere in the house, 24 years worth of clutter from the old kitchen and utility, together amounting to by far the largest space in the house.  Then commenced two months of work, starting on the 25th June and still not quite finished.

The arguments began a year ago.  I didn't want a new kitchen at all.  The old one was clean, well-designed, and perfectly functional.  Why throw out - literally - a £600 dishwasher to replace it with an inferior model, (of which more later) simply for the sake of appearances? Why throw out solid, well-made and spotlessly clean cupboards, just for the sake of appearances?

Husband, a structural engineer, is obsessed with cracks, and wanted builders to knock out all the plaster where we had an extension 24 years ago, to sort out, in the building's underlying structure, the permanent visual problem of cracks.  They are not a safety or structural problem.  Everyone we spoke to without exception said "Just paper over the cracks and in the time the possible purchasers have bought and settled in, they won't notice them".  But no, husband had to have perfection so that "if we pop our clogs the kids, (28 and 30 and both homeowners) will find it easier to sell the house and make more money on it". So, he reasoned, if this disruptive building work has to take place, why not have a stylish new kitchen at the same time?

Personally, I think I have done enough for our offspring, and would like a peaceful and calm retirement.  Not massive hassle going on for months. The kids could easily sort out the work (if they thought it important which I am sure they don't) when the house was empty, assuming we had both "popped our clogs" and they had to clear the whole house. 

I lost the "no new kitchen at all" argument, but bargained for a new door in the back wall which would lead straight out into the garden.  This I have achieved, see above on the right, and it is a great improvement.  You feel less trapped in a kitchen where you can get out into the garden.  And it lets so much more light in.

I lost the argument over the dishwasher, and the new one, which is inferior, doesn't actually work properly, so an engineer will be coming out on Monday.

The argument over the steam oven fizzled out after husband asked his secretary, whose daughter is a professional chef, whether professional chefs use steam ovens.  They don't.

The argument over which cupboard fronts to choose - well I never stood a chance - husband was determined from the outset to have his own way, and there was no discussion. It doesn't bother me that much, although I feel we have chosen the wrong colour work-top.

But we still have (against my advice) three ovens, because as well as the new built-in oven and built-in combination microwave, we have to have the old oven fitted under the work-top so that once a year at Christmas, all the dishes and plates can be warmed without sacrificing cooking space.  So a full cupboard under the worktop sacrificed for one day a year.  Which, surely in the not-to-distant future, will not be necessary - surely one of our two daughters will take over Christmas, at least once?  After 26 years, when will we stop hosting?

I lost the argument over an induction hob because apparently everyone has induction hobs nowadays and soon no other kind will be available to buy.

So what did I gain, other than a new back door into the garden?  We agreed on the new flooring, Karndean wood-effect.  We agreed on the colour of the paint.  We needed a new ceiling (because of the cracks), and new ceiling lights. 

Before the workmen started, nothing was broken, everything worked.  They damaged the burglar alarm, which would cost more than it is worth to repair.  After plumbing and electrical changes, they have left the boiler in a state where it is now on all the time, despite everything being switched to "off" positions. In a heatwave.

They keep on defecating in our toilet, which is a problem because the downstairs toilet has collapsed under the strain and been removed entirely, so now they have to tramp through the house and go upstairs. Which should be private as far as I am concerned. Yesterday they left actual .... well, I won't go on.

Last night we had our first proper cooked meal in our own home since 12th June.  Food does soothe, and my nerves, which were on edge for eight weeks, have calmed a little.  That was before I found out that the dishwasher is not working properly.  And that the new flooring for the downstairs toilet can't be done until September, so we will be without this facility for another month, as the flooring has to be done before the plumbing.

Next, husband wants to go through the same crack-repair scenario in the room next door, which was also extended at the same time, and has the same "problem" (which, in this room, is invisible to the naked eye).

And he wants to start in two weeks time.