Chickens and honest intent

Wednesday November 1, 2006

With the turn of the month has come a turn in the weather. It’s getting really rather chilly. There was a tinge of frost on the grass this morning, and the close was busy for a while as ice was scraped from windscreens, with clouds of steamy exhaust hanging between the houses like sleepy ghosts, caught in the early morning light and needing their rest.

Dolly was horrified. She took a turn around the garden, huffing small snorts of steam, came back into the house, yowled her disgust, and took herself off to her armchair by the radiator in the living room, where she spent the morning contemplating. Leastways, contemplation was one word for it. Some uninformed people would call it sleep. It was an uneasy sleep, however, with many a twitch and a jerk. I went to sit with her towards the end of the morning, to explain that it wasn’t personal, just the turn of the seasons. And then, things having warmed up a little, she went out for another spell, looking back at me as I stood in the open door, just to make sure I wasn’t going to turn the cold back on.

My only outing was for provisions. I’m getting used to shopping and cooking for two once more, pulling back from the chilled meal cabinets and towards the raw food. There was a good selection of fresh vegetables, most of it from Britain, and I chose a very nice-looking savoy cabbage, grown in the Lincolnshire fields around Boston, on which to base our dinner. The potatoes, from Cornwall, were a disappointment, nasty little hard marbles with tough skins. I’ll peel what’s left tomorrow, and smash them up a bit with a little chopped parsley and butter; can’t waste ’em but they need a little help beyond simple boiling.

Graham’s self-assigned tasks for the day was the fixing of curtains and blinds. He hates doing curtains, even though he’s awfully good at it and is often complimented for the professional standard to which he works. So, as a bit of light relief, he took time out to fix a pair of chunky shelves in an awkward part of the kitchen, on which he placed Sharon and Simon, the pair of brightly coloured majolica chickens we bought in Horncastle as a present for our next house just before leaving Lincolnshire. We had no clear idea back then as to what exactly we’d find in Somerset in the way of a new house but Graham had a very firm vision of the way it’d be decorated.

“Welcome home, Sharon and Simon,” I said, tipping my glass in their direction. “You look just as good there as Graham said you would, back in March.”

“Did I?”

“Oh, yes. When you were explaining the updated Mrs Madrigal approach to our new interior decoration to me on the day we bought them.”

“Ah. Well, we didn’t think we’d end up in a house like this back then. Not sure that the Mrs Madrigal vision could apply here.”

“What are we going for now, then?”

“Call it Retro Euro Terence Conran and you’ll not be far off.”

“Gosh. Still a synthesis, I suppose?”

“Oh, yes. Still a synthesis. I’ll not forget the Mrs Madrigal approach entirely, though.”

“Good. Just keep the vision. We’ll not put a foot wrong if you keep the vision.”

“Thanks. I think. Oh, well, I’d better get back to these perishin’ curtains.”

And off he toddled, carrying his glass of Californian Chardonnay and keeping his vision safe. They’re both of them vital as the house is transformed, curtain by curtain, and chicken by chicken. It’s going to be a lovely place to live.


Welcome home, Simon & Sharon


Back at my desk I was both thrilled and surprised to learn that I’ve taken first place in the writer’s group Halloween story contest with the ‘Fairy lights’ story I showed here yesterday. There was a flurry of emails, one from me saying my thanks, and a handful from other group members, telling me their congratulations. I really didn’t expect to win. I’m not entirely sure I wanted to win but that’s a complicated area of my thinking that I’m not ready to explore just yet. However, the congratulations, along with the compliments received in my comments here yesterday [thanks!], are a major reinforcement for me and my gratitude is not at all complicated.

The active members of the group are going off now to participate in National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) where they commit to writing a 50,000 word novel by the end of November. I have a couple of novel ideas rattling around in my head but it’s not the right time for me to write them. So, to keep the spirit of the Winter of Writing going, I’m embarking on a project of my own devising—One Man’s Poem Writing Month (Ompowrimo)—promising myself that I shall write one new poem each day during November. I append the first of them here. I may or may not succeed in meeting my target, and I may or may not post all of them publicly. Just as I reckon the process is more important than the product, I think that the honest intent to succeed is more important than success itself.


For all the saints
It’s a nice catch all, is All Saint’s Day,
a place not only for the saints you know
but the ones who’ve evaded sanctification.
Like Elsie, who lived and died without notice
and never said a bad word about anyone
not even the milkman who cheated weekly on her bill.
Like Albert, who smiled through life, bringing
a spark of joy to everyone he met, even
those who said he was simple minded.
Simple minds, simple saints, not recorded,
neither arrow-riven nor crucified, but saintly even so,
and welcomed in heaven for all that.
John Bailey
Somerset, November 2006



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