SallyP

Retroladytyping …

Alchemy

“Alchemy: a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination … with attempts to convert base metals into gold or find a universal elixir.”

alchemy

To me, baking  is alchemy, not in the sense of transforming base metals into gold, unless I have been misreading the recipe,  but in the sense of taking individual chemicals, combining them and adding  heat   so transforming them into something  unique and desirable.

*****

My mother had magical powers.

She  knew when I had had a bad day at school: had fallen out with my best friend, been told off by my favourite teacher, or been caught in the rain on the way home and just needed something to make me feel the world wasn’t totally against me.  While I trudged home, I just wanted to feel comforted, loved and warm inside and out.

As I opened the back door, I would  be greeted by a wave of  sweet spiced, vanilla warmth; the kettle would be on, my favourite willow patterned plate would be on the table, almost covered in a crispy edged (I still like it like that) slice of dried fruit speckled, sugar topped cake. On a particularly bad day, she would have left a few spoonsful of uncooked mixture which just had to be removed from the bowl before it was washed.   I can see, smell and almost taste it as I write.  The fire would be lit; drier clothes would be airing.  There was no need to talk or even think about my day.  How did Mum know what I needed before the days of mobile phones?  Magic.

Today, while The Husband was carrying out his festive hunter-gathering mission, I was at a loose end and feeling just a little lonely.   I wondered, did I have the makings of a cake in the cupboard?  Yes.  Apron on, baking tins lined, food mixer rescued from the dusty depths of the cupboard behind the back door.  Now to recreate that magic.

I did it all just as Mum did:  chose my elements, mixed, stirred, beat, whisked, spread, applied heat and waited, while the chemical transformation took place.   The smell was the same, the result appeared to be  the same, but it wasn’t  the same.  I’d even sprinkled edible golden glitter on the top  (Well, it’s nearly Christmas); it was crispy at the edges;  I’d  ‘accidentally’ left a spoonful of mix in the bowl to taste, but something was different. There was a missing element.  I can’t find it in any recipe book or periodic table.

My mother would have had that missing element.  I don’t.  I do, however, have that willow patterned plate.

willow_plate

2 Comments »

String and two sticks

Why I knit

I’ve always been a knitter: one of those ladies who click in the corner, with the occasional “Sssh, I’m counting,” while The Husband  is trying to concentrate on the plot line of one of those convoluted  thrillers which come in three parts.  Why?  Well, Mum did, Gran did and my many aunts did, so there were plenty of people around to help with tricky bits and   I am of the generation who were taught to knit at school from the age of 5, starting with dishcloths  progressing through dolls clothes and baby clothes to  knitting  our own school jumpers – the ones with a contrasting stripe around the ‘V’ neck, in two colours if you went to my school.

My sons   wore hand knitted woollies until it became uncool to wear mum’s hand knitting.  Strangely, they didn’t seem to want me to produce a customised Nike logo sweatshirt!    Now they are (very tall) adults  and hand-knitting is fashionable again,  they might like me to produce something, but it’s just too daunting – sorry boys.  Knitting for a nearly two year old  grandson, however, is acceptable because as long as he is able to get through his busy day in comfort, he’s happy.  It won’t last.

Any knitters reading this will know about the ‘stash.’  It results from the compulsive urge to  have a supply of wool and patterns,  just in case  of a sudden knitting emergency (not often wool nowadays, but still referred to as such.  Yarn just doesn’t sound right).  Temporary satisfaction of this urge is so easy now with  internet shopping and  has the added benefit of providing a colourful insulating layer for the spare room.  Sorting and categorising the different types by weight, colour, purpose and age, while planning future projects,  is a very useful displacement activity when housework is on the agenda, as is “just one more row.” (then another and another …)

A closer look at the image above shows that knitting has health benefits too.  It is meditative, mindful (impossible to think of anything else when knitting aran with all its cables, bobbles and lattice-work) and therapeutic, so much so that a group, Stitchlinks, has been set up at a local hospital to help those suffering from stress related illness. using knitting alongside more conventional therapies.  I need to remember those benefits when I am tinking and tutting in the corner.   I shall remind my husband, when the clicking and occasional heavy sigh disturbs his viewing, that, without my knitting, he would be unable to watch undistracted, as I would feel the need to talk,   even daring to ask for clarification of the plot,  instead of being the reasonably calm, almost silent,  occupied and content  woman he shares the settee with every evening.

(Tinking = unpicking i.e. reverse of knit-ing painstakingly stitch by stitch – often necessary when constructing complicated patterns using expensive mohair yarn and being distracted by three part thrillers).

P.S.  Just read an article about a lady who knits while running to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research.  Hmmm, now there’s a thought …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment »

Motivation

Ok,  I am very new to this writing lark, so please be gentle with me.  Two of my friends have recently set up blogs on this site, so I thought – why not?  Why not indeed – well, because their writing is all I would like mine to be.  It is not and is unlikely to be any time soon.  Does that matter?  I don’t know and I guess I am hoping the answer is in the negative.

About me:  I have recently retired from work, having decided to commit myself to befriending work with people living with dementia, in hospital at present, but soon to be community befriending as well.   That makes me sound noble, but I’m not.  Friends have used words like ‘awesome’ – those were younger people; others have said “are you sure?” and “can you cope?”  Well, I guess I can, so far so good.  I’ve met some amazing elderly people, who never fail to make me smile and I hope I make them smile too.  Recently one lady was in fits of giggles at my identity badge!  I don’t blame her.  I feel either like laughing or crying when I look at it.  Tip to self:  smile, don’t grimace when having photo taken for something you are going to be wearing a great deal.  A bit of lipstick doesn’t go amiss either.

Back to the subject i.e. retirement/volunteering/dementia:  my mother had dementia.  Sadly she died two years ago and I know that I didn’t manage her illness very well.   We knew next to nothing about it, assuming it just meant memory problems.   Those of you who are aware, will know it’s so much more and can mean extreme distress and fear for all those involved – not just the person with the illness.  I had fantastic support from the Alzheimer’s Society online Forum, who saved my sanity during many a late night.  The volunteering, therefore, is a way of paying something back and righting the wrongs and misunderstandings of the past, so I am not ‘noble’, ‘special’ or ‘brave.’  My motives are mostly selfish.

Is that wrong?  I don’t know.

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment »