Thursday, January 30, 2014

Wild thyme

It's been a strange start to the New Year. First I went to my niece's wedding near Queenstown. After going to another recent wedding on my own where I knew no one except the immediate family, who were all of course totally occupied, I made sure that this time I had someone with me - my lovely neighbour Jenn, who knows my niece and her parents. It made a huge difference, and she was a big hit - she grew up on an Otago farm, so she was completely at home with the bride's farming parents and their friends, in a way a townie like me can never quite manage. Harvey used to tease me about it, in the nicest possible way. I was terribly impressed (and so were the boys) the time he stopped the car, hopped over a fence and set a cast ewe on her feet again. (In case you're even more ignorant than me, a cast ewe has managed to get herself onto her back and can't get up.)
           After the very beautiful wedding, Jenn and I set off for a few days in Central Otago. I hadn't been back since Harvey took me and the boys there for our first summer holiday together, in January 1980. It was amazing how little I could recognise, but when I did it was both comforting and sad. Arrowtown, still so charming but so much more upmarket now. The road along what is now the dam that drowned Cromwell, but in those days was still the river bordered by old gold workings and the best apricot orchards in the country. Butler's Dam, where I took a photo of Jonathan being a dinosaur and Patrick being a caveman with a spear. They were good kids to take away - put them into an interesting landscape, especially one with water and big rocks, and they were off, making up their own world.
             Back then we had perfect weather every day. This time it was mostly showery, sometimes really wet, and even cold. But we did manage to wander round the hills, and I filled my pockets with stalks of the wild thyme that grows everywhere. I didn't think to do that thirty-four years ago.

I know this isn't my food blog, but for me food comes into everything. I took it back to the bach and used it to make two things: Nigel Slater's sticky chicken wings, and a very simple pasta sauce with garlic, tinned tomatoes and white wine.

It had a much stronger and yet more smoky, subtle flavour than garden thyme. I felt as if I was eating the essence of Central as it was, with all the memories, and as it still is.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Looking backward and forward

So, a new year begins - the fourth since Harvey died. I still miss him immensely. Reading through Circa's impressive programme of plays for the coming year, I kept thinking how much he would have enjoyed them. But I'm determined to get to more of them. I see Circa has a Meetup group, so I might try that, and in any case just make sure I go anyway, even if it is by myself. I enjoy good theatre more than any other kind of formal entertainment.
           This year has been markedly different from 2011 and 2012, mainly because I've spent so much time with other people, rather than on my own. But once they had all gone, the silence and the doubt came back - how do I manage this?
            It's partly that I need a new writing project, and I'm thinking about what it could be. I was quite proud of myself for finishing my memoir after Harvey died, and I'm very pleased it's doing so well. But what next? I'm in awe of prolific writers such as Joyce Carol Oates, who seems to turn out a stunning new novel every year or so, even though she's now in her seventies. (Listen to this morning's striking interview with her here.) She too lost her husband, and her grief was overpowering, but then she acquired a new one eleven months later (and good on her - a happy marriage is much more likely than an unhappy one to lead to another successful partnership). And she kept writing.
              Thank you very much to everyone who has read and commented on this blog in 2013. It means a great deal to every blogger, but perhaps even more to those who, like me, do not have that reliable, constant support and back-up on tap at home. The kindness of friends, and of strangers too, is immensely important.