Sunday, July 28, 2019

Let Evening Come

Let Evening Come
by Jane Kenyon

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don't
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Personal Effects

With grateful thanks to Garrison Keillor and The Writer's Almanac for this wonderful poem by Raymond Burns.

Personal Effects
by Raymond Burns
The lawyer told him to write a letter
to accompany the will, to prevent
potential discord over artifacts
valued only for their sentiment.
His wife treasures a watercolor by
her father; grandmama's spoon stirs
their oatmeal every morning. Some
days, he wears his father's favorite tie.
He tries to think of things that
could be tokens of his days:
binoculars that transport
bluebirds through his cataracts
a frayed fishing vest with
pockets full of feathers brightly
tied, the little fly rod he can still
manipulate in forest thickets,
a sharp-tined garden fork,
heft and handle fit for him,
a springy spruce kayak paddle,
a retired leather satchel.
He writes his awkward note,
trying to dispense with grace
some well-worn clutter easily
discarded in another generation.
But what he wishes to bequeath
are items never owned: a Chopin
etude wafting from his wife's piano
on the scent of morning coffee
seedling peas poking into April,
monarch caterpillars infesting
milkweed leaves, a light brown
doe alert in purple asters
a full moon rising in October,
hunting-hat orange in ebony sky,
sunlit autumn afternoons that flutter
through the heart like falling leaves.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

When in doubt, make Green Goddess

Big handful of basil
Handful of parsley
Big snip of chives
Tarragon (I used a little fresh thyme)
Some anchovies (optional)
Grated clove of garlic (optional)
Lemon juice
Olive oil
1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup plain yogurt
Maldonado salt & a screw of pepper 

Whiz in your blender and serve with little gem, or warm Jersey Royals or roasted cauliflower or crudités. 

There is nothing more delicious. 


Sunday, July 14, 2019


Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself;
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
- Walt Whitman

Mental health moment: I am large, I contain multitudes. I have been transported back to being three or four when all I could remember was that I was bad and that my father was constantly angry at me. I don't remember why and I don't know whether this was correct but this is what I have carried. I lost myself to my three year old self and despite years of therapy and the most unhelpful of British "pull yourself together" voices I was alone with myself, in a corner, knees up to my chest, arms around my knees, feeling terrified. 

The thin veneer of ok that we carry gently with us is easily cracked. And even as we are seemingly on top of the world. 

Look at this from Friday: A good day. Life is in balance. It's about the architecture, the placement, the elegance, the feng shui, how many parts to how many parts water, the Fibonacci sequence, the golden ratio. It's about excelling in all areas and juggling all the parts. 

Was this too much pressure? Could I not live up to the perfection? 

My lovely man has been my rock. He is my rock. I fear losing him to these shenanigans. I fear his open, kind face will crumple when he sees the real me. It's complicated, baffling. 

My friend J responded to my text in the middle of the night by calling immediately. Without a beat. I was ashamed (oh shame, there is something that needs volumes to be written in it: the most unuseful emotion, the absolute killer) but I managed somehow to text. And she came to me immediately. Kindly. Openly. Sweetly. Don't be hard on yourself. There has been so much change. You can't just keep putting on a brave face and powering on. You must allow yourself to feel this. 

She is a miracle. 

I contain multitudes. Some I am more proud of than others. 

A friend told me that as a teen she asked her mother, right before going out "How do I look?" "No-one will be looking at you," her mother replied. 

Love your children unconditionally. It's the only thing and the best thing you can do.  ❤️


Monday, July 01, 2019


It's been raining all night. Rain sounds different on the sea. The seabirds are quieter, and there are no crows on the roof. I spent an hour in a forest yesterday and I should have spent longer. Soft, pine needle ground underfoot makes you feel as if you could just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Occasionally you look up and see the magnificence of it all; the sun glinting at you from bending the trees, a patch of blue sky, a trapped bird beneath the canopy, the outline of pine cones, the enlightened granite where patches of grass and sorrel grow. I want to be alone in the woods for a long, long time. It's a place to escape and a place to release, to breathe out, to get rid of the anger that builds when one doesn't do enough, what? yoga? I can feel it inside but it's not always there. Usually there is beneficence. (I had been told earlier to shut up and that I talked too much, not by my mother I hasten to add, and I am sure that has its effect. Oddly, talking doesn't come that easy. I often think I am rude for not talking more, like the guests who come into your kitchen and chat so easily as you slice onions, so that you feel like a horrible host for not being more, well, charming.)

The paths interlink and intersect and because the island is small you do not fear getting lost, so you meander down one or another, foot by foot, on the soft ground. An occasional illuminated log beckons, so you sit for a while and think of old friends and the things we hold onto. And the friends we have lost along the way, and why, and how this makes us sad. And every day we look for solutions. 

Sometimes you think of trauma and why we behave as we do and what makes us mean. I am still spiky. I don't want to be but I am. I am spiky and suspicious and demanding of fierce loyalty. 

Sometimes I pray. On my knees, as Mary Karr suggests. ("To skeptics I say, Just try it. Pray every day for thirty days. See if your life gets better. If it doesn't, tell me I'm an asshole.") Perhaps the forest is the right place to pray. Have your tried?

Sunday, June 30, 2019


In my efforts to not be completely slothful (evidenced by staying up till 1am reading my Dorothy Whipple) I decided to swim this morning despite the fact that it was only just over 16 degrees celsius (60 F). Charlie insists that one has to wait for the glow (that comes from plunging oneself into cold water) and enjoy it. Inspired by him, I went straight in, down the steps, splashed around for about twenty seconds and came straight out again feeling rightfully smug. There is no better sensation than the cold clear salty water of the Oslo fjord dripping off one's skin. There is honeysuckle everywhere and the clouds are blowing about, unsure of their direction, unsure of where the wind will blow. 

People are beginning to arrive from Oslo to begin their long month of July holiday. Soon the island with expand from less than 5,000 in the winter to more than 50,000 in its summer months. Nobody used to live here but fisherman, my mother tells me, in the old days. But it has been a summer destination for Norwegians from the beginning of the last century. My great grandparents came here in 1905. The bridge opened in 1933 but before that, a ferry brought families across to their wooden huts. As a child, my mother spent 2 months every summer here. 

I am thinking of tomatoes on a a piece of bread smeared with mayonnaise, a sprinkle of salt on top, for lunch. 

I must mourn my Whipple, throw myself into Mollie Keen, and steel myself for a long walk through the pine woods at tea time. I should like to be wearing a long white linen dress and a crumpled hat, but I have my inappropriately ripped jeans and my red Birkenstocks on instead. I am waiting for my mother to pull off her t-shirt and sit in the sun in her bra, and I will do the same, as my grandmother used to do. ("She dressed so elegantly  in Oslo and so eccentrically in Tjøme" my mother said.)

Friday, June 28, 2019




Sometimes you need to spend time in a simple place. We arrived and unpacked, made the beds, unthawed the prawns, chilled the rosé, stared out at the Oslo fjord. My mother talked about her childhood, her elegant mother who made them ball dresses out of silk curtains and mosquito netting, and how even though her father was absent for much of the war, working as a doctor away from home, she felt tremendously safe and loved by him. She told me stories of she and her friends at 14 skiing in the mountains, staying a a friend's hut, a seter (mountain pasture), and melting snow to bathe. She spoke freely and told me things I hadn't heard before. I wanted to record her but I think that would have made her self conscious. It was lovely. It was lovely that she felt safe and home and comfortable enough to tell me her stories. She was tired and her body ached but I could tell she was happy to be home.

I walked down to the jetty after dinner, watched the sea birds, the ripples on the surface of the sea, the cygnets who have reached their awkward teenage years, the wild puce roses. So many times have I walked here, since just learning how. Nothing and everything has changed. 



The marvelous thing about traveling with a wheelchair customer is that you whizz through the airport, bypassing the throngs of holidaymakers, leaving Radio Two panama hats and bejeweled toe nails in your wake, rendering even the charm-challenged RyanAir acceptable. My mother is safely on the plane and we will soon be heading to Norway. Anna, who is Latvian, Maria who lives in Braintree and monitors her fit bit (9 miles yesterday just pushing wheelchairs) and an unidentified man in hi-vis who was chuffed when I told him that if this were Mission Impossible, he would be the man to know, have ushered us through with relative ease and All Is Well. I have two Dorothy Whipple novels; one for me and one for my mother. We are off to our happy place, the enchanted island I have described so many times here. We are off to seagulls and shrimps and pine trees and the cool, blue Oslo fjord. We are off to my mother's childhood, my childhood, my children's childhood. 

My mother has bought some Rive Gauche, which had its heyday in the time of Studio 54, a scent so iconic that it brings me back to 1977 when staring at that black and Yves Klein blue bottle would make me feel tremendously sophisticated. 

It's just my mother and me for a week and I am in awe of her stamina, eschewing the wheelchair and clambering up the steps of the plane, apologizing left and right for her slowness. She is a marvel, her hands neatly manicured, her nail beds deep and enviably elegant. She doesn't use hand cream unless I remind her but her skin is still supple and smooth. We are of course dressed identically, without intending to do so; jeans (mine ripped as if I have fought wild wolves), white shirts, a red puffy waistcoat for her, a navy sweater for me. Our bags red and navy blue. We are Norwegian, of course.  🇳🇴