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The Grass is Greener
It’s three o clock in the morning and a lifetime of bad decisions are chugging through my head like Bruce Springsteen’s freight train. read more
I was 19 when I first went to Cornwall and that trip is forever burned into my subconscious, a memory stick of cider, Rodda’s clotted cream and sharp, salty air. The drive from London seemed to take hours, it felt as if we were travelling to another country. And when we got there everything was alien too, but in a good way. We walked across the clifftops of Trevose Head and stared down into the blow hole, on Constantine Bay we slid down the sand dunes on our stomachs and ate Kelly’s ice cream.
The new River Cottage Canteen opens its doors in Bristol later this month combining a stunning architectural refit with a menu which serves innovative and immaculately sourced food. It brings beautiful Grade 11 listed St John’s Hall church to its former glory with a conversion that feels industrial and urban yet in keeping with its 200 year old history. Step inside and you’ll find no traces of its previous life as a building society.
Head chef is Mark Stavrakakis formerly of Bristol’s infamous Rockfish Grill and Seafood Restaurant who oversees a daily changing menu of seasonal, local, organic and wild food. We can hardly wait. In the meantime Country Calling talks to River Cottage about the latest outpost…. read more
My 5 year old has unexpectedly got God in a big way. And since religion has somewhat dropped out of my life I find myself stumped by the simplest of questions.
Like this morning as I’m lying in my bath and he’s yelling through from his bedroom. read more
You have to be a certain kind of person to go shopping in Lidl with your brand new ipad, leave it in the trolley and then drive away. I am that person.
Yesterday got off to a very bad start. I hadn’t intended to go shopping at all but on my way back to the car I remembered all the boring essentials that are so boring I keep forgetting to buy them. Ten minute trolley dash round this much-maligned supermarket (parma ham, olive oil, parmesan, even puy lentils) unload shopping into the boot, drive home.
Oh the sickening, gut-wrenching realisation that my ipad is not in the car, the self-hatred that rises up like a tide of bile.
I drive back to the supermarket at a reckless, kill-me-I-don’t-care kind of speed, screech into a space and begin rattling through the bank of empty trolleys. Nope, nothing to see here. Dejectedly I find the store manager who confirms my worst fears: the ipad has gone.
By now, of course, another story is forming in my mind. I mean I just wouldn’t have been stupid enough to leave it in the bottom of the trolley, would I?
I call my husband, heart banging against my ribs. (The ipad was his Christmas present to me and I’ve had it for less than a month).
‘My ipad got stolen in Lidl.’
Sorry,’ he says. ‘Rewind. Why on earth would you take your ipad into a supermarket? And also what were you doing in Lidl?”
He’s so cross that we mutually hang up on each other.
I stick by my story all day – robbed in broad daylight in a cut-price German supermarket – to the outrage of all who listen. In the middle of the night though the self-doubt begins to creep in. Why can’t I remember putting my trolley back in the stack, why can’t I remember removing my pound coin from the slot? Knowing my addled, early Alzheimers brain, I reckon I just abandoned my trolley in mid flow and wandered back to the car.
Back to Lidl this morning where I track down the store manager again.
‘Oh yes, your ipad. It didn’t get stolen, ‘she corrects me. ‘You left it in a trolley. And we’ve got it out the back.’
Why would you shop anywhere else? Puy lentils, rocket, parma ham and did I tell you about the wonderful vine tomatoes? Lidl I think I love you.
Sometimes you read a nugget about someone else’s lifestyle that brings you to your knees. In my case, slightly bizarrely, it was a heavy metal DJ talking about his weekends in the Guardian.
He talks about how he and his partner have no ‘little people’ in their lives so they can go clubbing in Brighton or Tonbridge Wells at a moment’s notice. read more
I’m flirting with Buddhism at the moment. By which I mean I’ve just ordered Buddhism for Beginners from Amazon.
I spent several hours lying awake last night grappling with the realisation that my life is a spiritual desert. The tower of Grazia magazines beside my bed shone out in the moonlight like a beacon of evil; the unworn shirt still on its hanger 4 weeks later, a grotesque symbol of excess. read more
Perhaps as a symptom of being born last in a noisy family whose natural order seems to be shouting, my son has taken to saying: ‘ I just want peace of quiet.’
I haven’t corrected him because a) I seriously get where he’s coming from and b) it sort of makes sense.
I want a piece of quiet too. This weekend my husband has taken the three children away so that I can have some writing time. The fact that I requested this as a birthday present – (how could he refuse?) – over and above the handbag, boots and ring I’d had my eye on probably speaks volumes about my state of mind. And it’s got me thinking about guilty pleasures.
As I sit surrounded by mugs at my laptop, in a house that is freakily quiet, I realise solitude is my number one guilty pleasure. A couple of years ago my husband took the kids down to Cornwall for four days so I could write (same book, still not finished but that’s another – yawn – story).
I wrote ferociously with barely a break, rising at six and finishing at eleven and after a couple of days I remember having the strongest connection with myself, almost like ‘oh, so that’s what you think and feel. Weird.’
It was a bit like bumping into my teenage self unexpectedly. Oh yeah, I remember you, the self-obssessed thinker, the person whose buzzwords were ‘ME ME ME.’
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to have the new generation of ‘ME ME MEs’ in my life and, generally speaking, I’d much rather do a trolley dash round the supermarket than peer into my own soul.
But, just once in a while, peace and quiet, proper space for contemplation, my God there’s nothing like it.
My husband’s last words, as he shoehorned three squabbling children into the car, were: ‘wish I was you.’
There is an inbuilt snobbery about central heating here in the West Country. Switch it on and you are instantly revealed as an urbanite, a pretender, a nouveau country dweller. A bit like gardening in Ilse Crawford wellies or shopping in town with a trug.
Wintering without heating has acquired cult status in these parts. Never mind that there is snow on the ground or your kids have been sent home from school with flu. Never mind that your aged parents risk hypothermia when they come to stay at Christmas. The underlying message is simple. Heating is for wimps; these days it’s all about freezing your balls off.
A clan is gathering down here, slowly but surely spawning new members each year. I call them the Competitive Underheaters (CUs). They turn up swathed in sheepskin, exuding the same fearless, best of British demeanour as Bear Grylls or Bruce Parry. They host parties straight out of Narnia, all frosted breath and guests swaddled in white rabbit fur. They make love in balaclavas and send their children to bed with hot bricks wrapped in flannel.
I find myself conducting secret surveys at dinner parties. ‘Got your heating on yet?’ I might hiss at my neighbour when surrounding conversations seem to be in full flow. A positive response and I feel I’ve found a new friend. Someone who flagrantly disregards their health, their wrinkles and their bank balance. A bit like discovering a fellow smoker at a drinks party.
When we lived in London we seemed to compete about how warm and cosy our houses were. Having your heating on during the day was considered a mark of wealth and financial security. Down here it marks you out as a misfit. No question, it’s more expensive running an oil-fired heating system and there is the constant fear that the oil might run out. Of course there is the struggle to conserve energy too. But the CUs are getting a whole other kick out of this no central heating business. It gives them an inner serenity and an outward superiority that is hard to find elsewhere. A sense of triumph and elitism that makes those butt-freezing mornings more than worthwhile.
I think we might be missing something. I write this, in four jumpers, with a lump of ice slowly forming around my nose, hoping for enlightenment.
I hardly dare write this what with our track record on pets – hamster (vanished in mysterious circumstances), rabbits (deceased) dog (deceased), cats (clinging on for dear life) but I’m taking my children to see a litter of Lurcher puppies. Who am I trying to kid? Taking to see, means actively becoming the owner of, surely? We’re hardly likely to leave empty handed. It would be like queuing up to see Father Christmas and not getting a present. read more