A big year; a quiet New Year…

For many, many years we have had a big dinner on New Year’s Eve with lots of friends and lots of courses. The largest number of people, in 2004, who sat down to eat was eighteen. Once or twice,  in our last and smallest house, we were only six or seven. Tonight we will be four,  just us and good friends from Essex who have been stalwarts of the Manchester dinners and will now share our first new year dinner in our new home.

This time last year we ate smoked trout and tapenade, chestnut and celeriac soup, rib of beef, mushroom and nut roast, cheese and spiced pears, apple creme caramel.

Tonight we will eat more modestly, though with a few echoes of last year: celeriac and beetroot soup, ham with leek and cream sauce and homemade pasta, cheese and those spiced pears…

It’s been a big year, full of change. Partner had big birthday, our second granddaughter was born, we bought a campervan and biggest of all, we moved to the other side of the country.

Tonight we will think of all of you who have shared new year and other special occasions with us in the past – especially last year’s New Year’s Eve and partner’s birthday in the spring. You know who you are.

Wishing all our friends and anyone else reading this a very happy new year and all the very best for 2013.

Plum plum pudding

I’ve been looking for years for a Christmas pudding recipe that I like enough to use more than once – and think now I’ve found it. Called Plum Plum Pudding – plums twice because it uses fresh plums as well as prunes – it’s from Dan Lepard’s recent book, Short and Sweet and is delicious. I also made Figgy Pudding and a more classic Xmas pudding from the same book, but we’ve not eaten them yet.

Just now I’m too full of Christmas dinner to think about eating anything else for a long time…

Less rain today. Took dogs out for v quick walk before we sat down to eat, a little before dusk. Had brief glimpse of the kind of view I love – vast sky of bright, pale blue washed pink around the edges, green grass and skeleton black trees, intensity of colour that catches me by the throat. Turning back, I head for the church spire standing tall in the flat landscape.

We’ve been here a week. In some ways it’s still like being in a holiday house where you don’t quite know how everything works. But out walking in the fields it already feels like home.

image

Yesterday’s landscape photos too dark, but here is a picture of the village green with the church behind.

Happy Christmas Day

Happy Christmas Day

Rain stopped yesterday so took my chance to get picture of the garden and some of the village, though rather dark and gloomy. Here is the garden, taken from the house, with big garage/workshop which used once to be a bakery.

Raining again today. Happy Christmas one and all!

Turning world, returning light…

Tis the year’s midnight and it is the day’s (John Donne)**

I love this moment in the year; when we journey into the darkness of the longest night and wake to the promise of returning light and new life. The world ends and is reborn.

I love the deadness of the winter garden, its life hidden from us, mysteries waiting to unfold.

It seems a powerful time to be starting a new life in a new home. And amazingly, at last, today the rain has stopped. None too soon for some houses I saw today, with the river Slea running just inches from their doorsteps.

Another mystery – the charger for my iPad has disappeared somewhere in the packing. Will we find another in our nearest town, Sleaford? We’ll make our first foray there the afternoon. If no more posts for a few days, you’ll know our charger mission was unsuccessful.

** from A Nocturnal upon St Lucy’s Day. St Lucy’s Day is the 13th of December, which was once thought to be the shortest day, rather than today, the 21st.

And now we’re here…

What I said on Tuesday, as we drove away from Manchester, about goodbye rain…

Ha! It’s been raining non-stop since soon after we arrived in Heckington, the village where we are making our new home. Hence no pretty pics of the garden, house, fields etc. Will take some photos when the sun comes out.

We unloaded almost all the boxes into one room, an annexe to the main house, which used to be a shop. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it is terrifying seeing all our stuff piled up in boxes, all in one place. So much too much of it – never get to heaven or through the eye of a needle or whatever with all this in tow…

On the plus side, have found where to walk the dogs, organised daily delivery of Guardian, found even more shops here than I remembered, including hardware/DIY shop and chemist’s, all ranged around the village green. Jolly useful. Tuesday night was rather noisy, being bell-ringing night. Church is just along the street, as is a good butcher’s.

Goodbye, at last, for real

wpid-Photo-8-Dec-2012-1242.jpg

Goodbye to this street. Any minute now we will drive off – removal men gone already.

wpid-Photo-8-Dec-2012-1244.jpg

And goodbye to the alley at the end of the street, and the allotments (not ours) that are like a secret garden on the other side of the alley, and the park a little way on. I love all this pedestrian space just seconds from the house; but I’m heading for more space, more light and air….

wpid-Photo-8-Dec-2012-1313.jpg

Goodbye and thank you, very kind friends, for last minute help.

Goodbye park, goodbye street, goodbye rain.

Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye

wpid-Photo-8-Dec-2012-1306.jpg

On people and places

wpid-Photo-8-Dec-2012-1256.jpg
This avenue of trees in the park near our house makes me think of walking back from school with our daughter in autumn, very slowly while she looked for conkers among the fallen leaves. And even further back than that, of walking with our first dog, in the days when I didn’t know that I would have a daughter or that she would go to the school in the park.

In these last days of life in Manchester I wonder how I will feel about the place once I don’t live here any more. I’ve spent so many years grumbling, never quite felt at home or at ease. And yet, it is here that I have had most of my ‘grown-up’ life, here that I became a step-parent and a parent and came to terms, of some sort, with my own troubled childhood. I have found good friends here, got to know whole families, watched my friends’ children and my child’s friends grow into young adults (some now with children of their own).

I conjure up the places where I have walked, where I have eaten, bought food, watched plays or heard music; and I see and hear the people who have been there with me.

So I ponder this paradox: that I don’t love this city, find little beauty or joy in its many faces, and yet so many places in it remind me of love.

It’s been grim these past few days: partner really ill with flu, me with cold and the packing an impossible task. At last it’s nearly done, with help from two brilliant cleaning/decorating women. Tomorrow, come what may, it all goes into the removal van; the morning after that we leave.

This blogging business

I am new to blogging and so, it seems are some of my friends. So this post is to share my very limited knowledge with those of you who may have even less…

Following the blog: if you go to the bottom right of this page, there is a little black thing saying ‘follow’. If you click this, you can enter your email address and you will get an email whenever I put up a new post.

Commenting on a post: if you look to the left of this text, where the date for the post is, you will see another number in a little quote bubble. It tells you the number of comments on the post. Click on it to read any comments or to put one up yourself. The comments get sent to me first for me to approve (!). Once they go up then they are visible to everyone, not just me.

If you click on About (in tiny letters) at the top of the page, you get to a page about me and why I am writing this blog.

Clicking on Home (at top) shows you all the posts I have put up.

Of food, feasts and friendship

The other weekend we had a party but other people brought the food: very strange. We’ve had a lot of farewell dinners this autumn, each one with echoes of earlier dinners when we weren’t about to leave everyone.

My current cookery notebook begins in 2001. It’s the third of these notebooks, all kept the same way: recipes in the front, dinner and party menus at the back. The first is a slim volume, begun when I was sixteen in 1976. This last book has a silver cover and was bought for me by my daughter. I’ve been reading through menus from ten, eleven years ago, seeing names of people I’ve just been saying goodbye to; and other names of friends no longer here. I miss them.

Some dishes I can taste again (lamb with lentils and artichoke hearts, pears baked with Rasteau); others stir no memories at all. What was Moroccan chicken? Was it nice? Leafing through the years, with each meal I am transported back to that table, that house, those friendly faces, the talk and laughter.

Farewell Manchester

Very soon now we will leave the South Manchester suburb where we have lived for over twenty years. We will put our two elderly lurchers into the equally elderly camper van and set off for south-ish Lincolnshire, to a village called Heckington where we will presumably rendezvous with the removal van and our worldly goods. Keep thinking of a scene in 1984 film, The Chain – people in car watching dodgy removal van drive off in wrong direction, with all their belongings, never to be seen again…

It’s proving hard to say goodbye, though I’m longing to be gone. I will miss kind, funny, clever, lefty friends and neighbours, good food shops, the allotments, nature reserve, lovely dogs and dog walkers, friends at the farmers’ markets and the brilliant tram. I won’t miss the noise and traffic, nor the grim, outrageous poverty that spreads over so much of the city outside our comfy suburb. I don’t want to be here when the going gets tougher.

Meanwhile, more prosaically, the cardboard boxes are piling up ever higher around me and there still seems to be stuff everywhere.