Small Joys.

Here’s a thing: I often find myself, completely unintentionally, writing in my head. I form words into sentences, build a pleasing rhythm, hit an excellent (in my mind at least) crescendo and, just as I’m congratulating my inner writer on the marvelous blog post I’ve created, I draw a mental line under it and forget the whole lot. The writing, whether it ever makes it to the page or not, seems to be a lot about drawing lines under things, and moving on.

Not too long ago, I heard an interview with Marie Heaney, Seamus Heaney’s wife. She said that she would watch him tapping out a beat on the steering wheel of the car while he was driving and she would know that he was writing in his head. I thought there was something very moving about that, that she could almost see what was going on inside his head, almost read his thoughts in a kind of tapped out code, and that she let him at it where I would probably have been nagging him about the state of the garden shed.

Anyway, my point is that I have been here in my head, you just couldn’t see me.

I often hit a low at this time of the year, when the light fails but it’s too early for fairy lights. This year though I’m grand and just for that, I am grateful. I do feel the need for quietness, especially after the busy-ness of Halloween and I breathed a long sigh of relief when the kids went back to school.

Let me tell you some of the small joys I’ve been relishing.

I’ve been basking like a cat in the sunshine of these last few days and taking the opportunity to tidy up the garden. We still have a few roses…IMG_9836

…and a few visitors…IMG_9834

…and fruit! I am still managing to nab an alpine strawberry or two most days (I don’t share them) and I have planted (on Rory O’Connell’s advice) a myrtle bush. This is Myrtus ugni, also known as a Chilean strawberry. The berries taste like a strawberry inside a blueberry. To walk out to the garden in November and pick a handful of berries feels like a small miracle.IMG_9816

In previous years I would have cleared the flowerbeds by now but this year I am leaving all the seed heads, including the mighty teasels, for the birds. I can’t tell you how much I love to look up from a book and see a family of goldfinches outside the window. I think they may even be getting used to me sneaking up on them with my camera aloft.IMG_9929 (2)

On our last evening in Paris, after we left Shakespeare and Company, and had a little snog on the street and that kind of thing, Husband and I contrived to bring home a few sprigs of rosemary as a memento. We put them in a water bottle and then transferred them to a smaller-than-100mls shampoo bottle for the flight home and then, with just a little bit of wishful thinking, nursed them in a glass of water for a fortnight until little roots appeared and then potted them up and, hey presto, by the magic of plant science, we have at least one survivor growing strong and making me very happy.IMG_0034

Also making me smile is our substantial crop of chillies. We’ve taken to making fermented chilli sauce about once a month (see this post for more on fermented foods). I’m not certain whether it is the satisfaction of growing the chillies, the prettiness of them, the pride in making the fermented sauce, the kick of eating it or the gastro-intestinal benefits of consuming it but, all in all, the whole affair is making me happy.IMG_9919

Another thing, of even greater joy, is watching the Small Girl playing the piano. She has to climb up on to the piano stool and her feet dangle in mid-air while she reads the notes and counts the beats out loud while she plays and concentrates so hard I can nearly see steam coming out of her ears. The dog, meanwhile, nods his approval.IMG_9914

I could write a whole post about the book in that photo (I did, in fact, in my head). I found it in the wonderful Prim’s Bookshop in Kinsale. It’s Real French Cooking by Savarin, this copy printed in 1956. As well as some hardcore cooking techniques, Savarin includes a generous smattering of cartoons and anecdotes, as he says, “in the hope of pleasing the housewife in a rare moment of leisure.” Did you know, for instance, that the speciality of the Tour d’Argent in Paris is the Canard au Sang, a duck served in the juice of two other ducks? Every duck served has an individual number and a record is kept of who ate it. Number 112,151 was eaten by Franklin Roosevelt in 1929. The Duke of Windsor had number 147,883 in 1935. The late Queen Mother and her guests had numbers 185,197 and 185,198 in 1938.

“Eight months later, number 203,728 went to Marlene Dietrich.”

Is that not fantastic? I’ve suggested to Teenage Daughter that she begin a register of her meringue swans. She continues to think I am nuts.IMG_0033

So far, on Savarin’s instruction, I have recruited the family to help me cook and peel chestnuts and have made a scrumptious Cevennes Pie (pork, chestnuts and apple encased in buttery pastry). There is no photo of the pie, unfortunately, they ate it that fast!IMG_9943

Sticking with the theme of French cookery (yes, I’m a little obsessed of late), I have been watching Julia Child on YouTube. Now listen, I am all to familiar with the feeling of finally getting the joke after everyone else has gone home but forty years late is a record even for me. Alas, so it was. I was two minutes into this clip when the forty-year-old penny finally dropped:

It’s the Swedish chef! For God’s sake, tell me I wasn’t the only Swedish chef fan on the planet who didn’t know this!

IMG_9940

Well, Mr. Henson is still making me laugh so that counts as a good thing.

I’m going to lightly trip over this book:IMG_9945

…which I found desperately sad. It has sat on my shelf for nigh on a year because I was afraid it would depress me and, to be honest, it nearly did. It is good but I didn’t like it. Bring on the happy books, I say.

I bought Matt Haig’s A Boy Called Christmas for Middle Daughter last year but didn’t read it myself until January, too late to recommend it. I read it again last week and am currently on a third reading, aloud to the Small Girl, and it is STILL making me laugh. Read it, please, just read it! I’ll post a review soon.

I have a small (literally tiny, elfin even) crochet project on the go which is making bubbles of glee rise up and burst at the top of my head.

IMG_9946

Ooh, almost forgot, my Cooking The Books project for November is, if I do say so myself, a good one. It’s a cheering recipe and a flipping brilliant book. Belated thanks to the lovely Kathy at Gluts and Gluttony who recommended The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester when we met at Litfest. I loved the book, loved the pudding, and took huge pleasure in writing this article. Find it here.

Now, I have two more joys awaiting my attention. Look what the morning’s post brought:IMG_0032

You will notice I have decided to quietly introduce a few very tiny fairy lights. Sure, why not?

Wishing you many small joys,

Lynda.

24 thoughts on “Small Joys.

  1. This is my favourite post so far – full of action. Seamus Heaney – love his poetry – studied him for A Level literature many moons ago. Chillies – we had a huge glut and my husband has put them in oil ready to cook – but I will zoom over to your link to have a read as your fermentation idea sounds interesting. And I love the French book. When in Romania my mother in-law gave me all her old cookbooks and one had sketches in – some very scary – but a lot with humour. I might try and trace on Amazon as I am writing a book about a pig and sometimes the drawings give a massive rush of inspiration. Crochet – I take my knitted hat off to you – I am hopeless at this, wish I wasn’t, but I get holes, but none big enough for my head so I can cheat! Happy fairy

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  2. Your first paragraph is me as well, with 100% precision. (And my 12-year-old son as well, I think, although his “writing” is done aloud. It’s fascinating to surreptitiously listen to him, me in the kitchen working, him kneeling at the coffee table, playing with small bits of LEGO as he reworks sentences over and over in whatever story he’s currently imagining…)

    I love this post, reading about all your small joys, and my goodness, there’s so many — the small elf you’re crocheting, the rosemary, all the books and the cooking!

    Speaking of small joys — many, many thanks for the music recommendation following my last post. I am absolutely LOVING The Frames! Such lovely lyrics, and that gorgeous Celtic fiddling … it’s been wonderful keeping-me-company music while chopping endless kale, while knitting, while scrubbing bathrooms.

    I am definitely going to put A Boy Called Christmas into a cart today. (I just finished The Humans and loved it.) I had been reading aloud to my 12-year-old son continually up until this past August, when we came to a full stop due to neither of us being grabbed by the latest book I had chosen. (12 is a hard age, book-wise.) Perhaps ABCC will fit the read-aloud bill. (He has said he would STILL like to be read aloud to, and I am more than game to continue.) If not, I would be happy to silently read a book that is laugh-out-loud funny.

    Thank you for this post, Lynda; it brought joy to my day 🙂 .

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    1. Thank you, Marian! I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed The Frames. Glen Hansard is one of the few musicians about whom Teenage Son and I are equally enthusiastic. If you haven’t already watched the movie Once, you should.
      Let me know what you think of ABCC ! Lynda.

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  3. The piano scene is similar here, the same piano, except you have reminded me that I took the candlesticks off when the children were little (there was some hanging off of them), the child is a boy and the dog is brown. I have been contemplating fairy lights as well. Love the little rosemary cutting. Remembrance indeed. CJ xx

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    1. Remembrance…exactly! I’ve had a few frights over those candlesticks; plenty of swinging went on here too! It’s such a lovely thing to watch, isn’t it? Like pure magic. Hope you’re well.

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  4. The Muppets were a feature of our children’s education and are still favourites with the grandchildren! I have to confess cartoon films are also found to be very amusing, we are a family who like to be entertained. I hope Shakespeare would enjoy Nomeo and Juliet!

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  5. Oh, the great blog posts that have floated away on the breeze; my brain does that, too.
    So many joys here, Lynda. It was a joy to find a post from you – yours never fail to lift my spirits, so thank you for that. Wonderful garden joys, reading joys, cooking joys, fairly lights and the Muppets. Fabulous. Julia Child seems like a caricature, doesn’t she? Amazing to think that was actually her being her. Always had a soft spot for the Swedish Chef and, no, you’re not the only one who hadn’t made the connection! Brilliant. Rosemary is for remembrance and it’s said that it grows well where a woman is head of the family; it is also said to bring love, passion, memories and happiness.
    I hope you’re having a lovely weekend. Sam x

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  6. I’m late and I’m frazzled (and I AM reading your manuscript) so suffice to say that I loved this and that if I had to pick a favourite memento it would be small girl at the piano practice practice practicing … that is bottled joy. And Savarin (I did know the duck thing … how the hell did I know the Tour D’Argent duck thing …. I can’t imagine how but I relish it probably more than the ducks do and have quoted it often). And Jim Henson DOES continue to bring joy, so much joy – thank you Jim. And than you, you – it’s a honey of an post which headless chicken rather than bloody duck me can’t do justice to 😊

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    1. Yep, the piano practice is a very good thing, and WAY easier on the nerves than were the tin whistle or bodhran practice of years gone by! Jim Henson, as far as I’m concerned, deserves beatification (at least). Listen, don’t worry about the France thing…I know I put in too much silly detail to be interesting. Life’s too short to read about my breakfast! Hope you’re well.

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