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Saturday, 23 March 2013

Howling at the Moon

On the night of the dark moon I lit candles.

I always light candles, so nothing unusual there. I lit the candles on my kitchen altar as I cooked, and unusually for me, I left them burning long after I had finished. I lit another in the pale blue tea-light holder hanging in my kitchen window and left it gently swinging in the draft from the just-cracked-open window. A golden glow filled that warmest of spaces as I turned out the light. Shifting shadows danced on the walls.
It had been a bad day. Dull, wet, cloudy, the kind of day that sucks all inspiration from you and smothers it. The kind of day where tempers fray for no reason, and words -though not meant to be unkind- are taken the wrong way. The kind of day where if something can go wrong, it will. My swollen, aching belly did little to lighten the mood and I allowed myself to wallow in that dragging menses energy instead of making it work for me.
In truth I was behaving like a spoilt child, wanting everything my own way...but it didn't seem that way at the time and although I wasn't handling things as well as I should, my grievances, my pain, my fears were justified. I guess I wasn't the only one in a bad mood, and maybe not the only one behaving badly either. Such was the energy of the day.

I left my sleeping Druid dozing in front of the t.v, the abstract flickerings of colour playing across his face. I had tried to write, to spill out my feelings and frustrations onto the page in a form of release, not necessarily to be read, just to be written, but my thoughts skittered and collided, whirling unfettered inside my tired mind. Nothing was making sense and as the tears fell I turned out the light to hide them. Only the colours from the television remained. Jarring. Disturbing. Silent tears became choked back sobs, my body wracking with the movement of the pain I could not voice.

My Druid slept on. I crept away on tiptoed feet, not wanting to wake him, knowing he would ask what was wrong, and that I would say 'Nothing'. Not lying, not hiding the truth, but having no way to put into words how I felt. My kitchen called me. The glow from the still burning candles beckoned me in and instead of hurling myself onto our bed in the darkness as I had imagined, instead of allowing my pillow to smother and swallow the sound of my tears, I stood alone in the centre of my small kitchen and sobbed.

I sobbed raw and broken. I sobbed until I could not breathe. I found myself turning, spinning in the candlelight, whirling in some strange, measured dance to the beat of the dark moon outside. I wept and I howled, I spoke in broken words over and over and over again, what it was that I wanted, needed, missed. I don't know who I called to, I don't remember all I said, only that I wanted to go back, I wanted to go home, not even really understanding what I meant. Back where? I was home! And yet still I spun and still I cried until I could cry no more.

And then I understood. And I knew it was impossible. We cannot live in the past, only move forward or stagnate, but it felt better to get it out.

I did not plan it, or even realise it at the time, but I worked powerful magic that night. Magic that is already moving through my life, stirring things up.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Itchy Feet

Ever since I read Rima Staines'  wonderful post over at her beautiful blog The Hermitage, I've been feeling the urge to go a wandering. Not that I have ever trailed along the highways and byways in the same wonderful style as Rima has (oh what a dream that would be) and I am not sure it is in my nature to ever be able to fully say goodbye to the security of having four solid walls around me but...... excuse me a while as I gaze wistfully into the distance......
While I don't think it would ever be possible for us to live a travelling life for any length of time (my Mad Druid does love his creature comforts ;) ) we have always been at our best when we have lived a life of spontaneity, heading out on a whim whenever, wherever the urge takes us, drifting with the wind whenever we could. Holidays were never planned, and often started out as nothing more than an afternoon or an evening out, but we'd follow the car wherever she led us and discovered so much more because of it. We once went out to buy fish & chips for tea and ended up in Brighton, and picked up our new car from the showroom on London's Commercial Road and came home via Wales! Those were the days.
The decision to leave London and move to Cornwall was taken quite suddenly. Even the somewhat shaky plans we had in place were cast aside over a glass of wine in a Liskeard pub one night when my Mad Druid said 'Sod it, lets just do it!' And in the space of a week our notices were given at work, belongings were either sold or put into storage and we loaded up the car bound for who knows where. Of course, things turned out to by not quite that simple and life had a few obstacles to throw in our way first, but those few months we spent just driving around the South West looking for work and a roof to put over our heads were the happiest I have ever known.

Occasionally we'd treat ourselves to a night of luxury in a B&B (hot running water, mmmm, bliss. lol).





but more often than not we simply parked our car up beside the road in a sheltered lay-by, or on the moors, or beside the sea. We drove where we wanted, stopped where we wanted, and woke with the dawn. Comfortable it wasn't. Liberating? Exhilarating? It certainly was. I had never felt so free.

Eventually, of course, the money ran out, health problems began to interfere and the lure of simple luxuries like a front door and a bed grew stronger. I packed away my camping stove in favour of a 'proper' kitchen and fitted myself into that box that is a conventional life. I am not unhappy. I look out of my window across rolling hills, I can walk in the woods or by the sea whenever I want, we make regular trips up to the moors. I have made a home from this stark cube of a council flat, I have a little garden and a warm kitchen and when I lock the door at night I am content.
But....
I feel the need to go a wandering, to head where the road takes us with no plans, no reason. To wake as dawn creeps across the land, to sleep with the sound of rain drumming on the roof, to gaze at the stars, to take off my watch, to be free; if only for a little while.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

12 Days of Holy Supper

Once again Ms Graveyard Dirt threw down the Holy Supper gauntlet and invited us all to participate in the Midwinter Madness of Sviata Vechera. And once again my plans all went awry. That's not to say I gave up, anymore than I did last year (2011's attempts are here and here), it's just that things didn't quite work out the way I had planned.
In my head I imagined some glorious feast. A day spent in my kitchen lovingly creating the dishes I had researched, a table beautifully decorated, places tenderly set for our beloved dead, and a full on evening of gluttony and merriment and (less welcome) the fuzzy head the following morning as proof of our sucessful excess.
Inspired by last year's challenge, and the realisation that I actually knew very little about my roots, I have thrown myself enthusiastically into researching my family tree. It has been hard work at times and I've hit many brick walls and dead ends along the way, and there is still much work to do, but I know much more about my own history now than I did a year ago. It's only the bare bones, but it's something to go on.
I have found stone masons from Ireland and seamstresses from Cumbria; I have found family in Devonshire papermills and Wiltshire farms. There are soldiers and labourers and gardeners and master bakers. My line zig-zags across the country from Devon to Surrey, from Gloucestershire to Norfolk, from Suffolk to Cumbria, from Northern Ireland to the East Midlands. And I've only just scratched the surface.
There was so much to go on, so many people to acknowledge, so many faces to welcome, so many dishes I could make. And then there was my Mad Druid's family too. Oh yes, I was going to do so much this year. This year I would get it right, it would all go to plan, everything would run smoothly and we would party!
Yeah right!
What I hadn't bargained on was the rotten and lingering cold I brought back as a souvenier from our trip to visit family and distribute presents in early December that completely wiped the floor with me and drained energy with an eagerness I can barely describe, nor the decline in the Mad Druid's health of late and the devastating effects that has had on his appetite.
A feast? Even if I could stand up long enough to prepare it, he wouldn't have the strength to eat it.
So what was I to do if a full on Sviata Vechera celebration was out of the question?
Well, spread it out over the whole damn holiday, obviously!
And so the 12 days of Holy Supper idea was born. It wouldn't be one feast, one night, one celebration, but a whole collection of smaller observances from the Winter Solstice right through to New Year's Day. The table would be laid, a place would be set for our ancestors, for the whole festive period. And something about that felt very right.
We didn't really get off to the best of starts. The Solstice itself was a bit of a disaster (the less said about that, the better) and I was more than a little disappointed that the Mad Druid asked for a dish that not only didn't fit in with my plans but that I don't like and won't eat -so we wouldn't even be sharing it! A few tears later and I got a grip of myself and realised that our likes were just as important and there was nothing really wrong with sharing a meals of our choosing rather than what I expected my ancestors to prefer. So as it was I made Carbonara for him, or rather a strange almost-like-kind-of dish that is based on Carbonara and just the way he likes it. If at some point in the future his children were to hold a Holy Supper of of their own (unlikely, I know ;) ) this would be the one dish they ought to create for him. Carbonara, just the way I make it, minus most of the proper ingredients and with few others just for good measure. (I ought to come up with a different name for it really). It went down well with my Mad Druid and I didn't hear any complaints from anywhere else so, so far so good.

Then we made our way, over the next few days, through such simple things as sausage rolls and mince pies (I always make my own 'mincemeat', usually a mix of dried fruit and apples and sometimes nuts, simmered in brandy), little things that the Mad Druid could just nibble at as he wished and would be familiar to our grandparents and great-grandparents, things we remember coming from their warm and cosy kitchens.

And then I got to make a sausage pie. This is a family recipe that has been doing the rounds for years. My mother sampled something similar at a party many years ago and liked the flavours but not the consistency or appearance, and 'tweaked' it to suit herself. It has made an appearance at every family occasion for as long as I can remember. I've always known what went into it, its not hard to work out from eating it (sausagemeat, tomatoes, garlic, plenty of herbs) and I've seen her make it many times but at last I got my hands on the actual recipe. It's been a closely guarded secret for decades! It came out of the oven, gleaming and golden, filling my kitchen with the smells of my childhood transporting me back to days long gone. It was a joy to make and a joy to share.

Christmas Day I pushed the boat out and gave in to my urge to cook a full Christmas dinner. I was fairly certain I could tempt my Mad Druid with roast duck, no matter how he was feeling and even if he only ate a little that was fine, I had plans for the leftovers ;) And so, rather late in the day as that's when he most feels like eating we sat down to a table laden with duck and roast potatoes, steaming bowls of vegetables, roast parsnips and onions and glazed carrrots. It's a good job I invited the ancestors along (and not just our own ancestors but the 'forgotten dead' too, those who have no one to welcome and share with them- a Christmas Day tradition we started last year) as it was way too much for just the too of us. lol

Boxing Day was bubble and squeak day, using up the left over veggies served with a bit of crispy bacon. My grandma would have loved that :)

Desserts featured rather strongly as we indulged our sweet tooths, recreating dishes we remembered from long ago or trying out regional fancies that may be familiar to our guests. Rum Nicky, a dish from Cumbria I discovered when researching last year's holy supper that we both loved. Westmorland peppercake (which also got an outing as Christmas gifts this year), if you've never put pepper in a cake before, you should try it! A yule log (originally intended for the Solstice -best laid plans and all that) became a birthday cake for my Mad Druid's late mother on New Year's Eve and Clementines, hollowed out and refilled with the segments and cream, something my Mad Druid remembers his grandmother making as a special treat, only this time a more grown-up version spiked with liqueur.

Home made soup and soda bread, mid way between Christmas and New Year, allowed me to fondly remember my grandfather's vegetable garden, and acknowledge my Irish ancestry, while also providing a welcome relief from some of the richer excesses of the season, and homemade chicken liver pate(not from the blender incident, that came later!), taken from my grandmother's cook book and served with fresh homemade bread in a nod to the master baker I discovered in my line six generations back.

Much of our on-going feast was washed down with home made wine or mulled cider which filled our home with the spiced scents of the season, aromas that have enlivened our homes in the bleak mid-winter for generations.

New Year's day saw the end of our feast with a large bacon joint, at my Mad Druid's request, which provided a New Year meal, a rich soup and cold meat for sandwiches just the way it should, and always did before the 'throw away' culture of today.

Holy Supper may not have worked out just the way I planned this year, but I think we did it justice and I'll raise a glass to that.



There should have been more photo's but for some unknown reason blogger won't let me upload them. Obviously it isn't only facebook that's out to get me!





Thursday, 3 January 2013

2013 Came in With a Whimper

Actually, it was more of an OUCH than a whimper, although I did a fair bit of that too after I stuck my hand in the blender on New Year's Eve while making chicken liver pate for my Mad Druid. It was an utterly stupid thing to do. I was tired, my mind was on other things, and I was trying (as usual) to do too many things at once. I thought I had sensibly turned it off before I removed the last little bit of pate from under the blades but, as it turns out, I had unplugged the wrong thing. As a result we spent a very quiet night in front of the TV rather than joining the revellers down on the beach to watch the fireworks, but that's OK. It was nice, just the two of us.

Of course if I'd used the shiny new blender my Mad Druid had bought for me it wouldn't have happened at all, but with the wisdom of ages I decided to use my old hand blender (no pun intended!!!) thinking my new one would be a pig to clean for such a tiny batch of pate. With hindsight I would rather have done the cleaning! Fortunately I only carved up one finger, although that is painful enough, and it is still pretty much in one piece even if it does look a mess.
It made me realise just how much I rely on my Mad Druid, how calm and unflappable he can be, how utterly reassuring his presence is. I was fine at first, remarkably calm in fact, until I realised it wasn't just one cut but several, spiralling around my finger and pumping out blood faster than I could wipe it away, and I felt my knees go and I started to shake.

He's made me promise that my number one resolution for this year is Not To Do It Again! I think I can go with that one :) I think I'll take it a bit further though, and say that I'm going to do my very best to pay attention to what I'm doing, give each and every task the attention it deserves. Easier said than done, maybe, but I'll give it a whirl. This year I'm going to try to focus more, not be rushing around trying to do everything at once. Who knows, maybe I'll even get more done as a result.
The rest of my resolutions are much the same as last year's, with one or too additions.
I always write a whole list, about 13 or so, of not so much resolutions exactly but of things I'd like to achieve during the coming year. I don't always stick to it, sometimes I get to mid-summer and throw the whole lot out of the window -sometimes I have a year like that, where my priorities change. I don't worry too much if I don't get them done either. They are things to aim for, guidelines rather than a 'must do' list.
Having said that though, I don't feel I really achieved much last year, it wasn't an achieving kind of year. Which is why so many of them have made it on to the list again this year, such as learning to drive- something that seems more important than ever. Maybe it's time to dust off my 17 year old self again and get back to the lessons!
I want to get my garden really growing this year too. Last year I barely even set foot in it despite all my promises to myself. Other things took precedence and I neglected one of the things I love the most. This year I'm going to take time for the things I enjoy, not just gardening but writing, painting, sewing. I'm going to take time for me.
Socialising more is still on the list too. I have a nagging feeling I'm going to need a social network this year. I'm getting a little better at interacting on-line but Hermit Witch is still too much of a hermit when it comes to real life people.
But I also want to spend more time with my Mad Druid. That may sound a little strange to anyone who knows us. We're usually together 24/7 these days and our family jokes about us being joined at the hip, but the one problem about being together all the time is that we don't often make as much of it as we should. When we first got together he worked nights (hellish long hours when I missed him desperately) and I was out all day, first at uni and then work, so our hours together were precious. We took nothing for granted and made every second count. I think I'd like to have that back (without the working nights bit, I can live without that ;) ) Certain things that have happened with our family recently have made us realise we often spend so much time thinking about everyone else we have no energy left for us. 2013 is the year we put US first again and take time for those precious moments.
There was one resolution I kept last year though. I vowed to get out into the Cornish countryside more, and when I took up running I certainly did that. The premature birth, and death, of my step-grandson spurred me on to try to do something I had never done before. I was going to run a marathon! Unfortunately plans don't always come to fruition and despite my best efforts I have not been able to raise the amount of money needed to keep my 'gold bond' place for the London Marathon and so I made the painful decision in mid-December to hand that on to someone who could. I haven't given up with my fundraising though, I'll just be doing it at a slower, steadier, less stressful rate (you wouldn't believe the amount of sleepless nights it gave me) and I haven't given up on running a marathon either. I may not be able to run THE marathon this year but there are plenty of other marathons, and other years. I have discovered a love of running that I never expected and so I WILL continue, just at my own pace. I'll get there in the end. Especially as it also helped with another of last year's resolutions...to lose weight, shape up and get fit. I've lost two whole stone (28lbs) and only put 1lb back on over Christmas! I'm wearing clothes I haven't been able to get in for years and I'm fitter than I can ever remember being (no more huffing and puffing as I walk up the steep hill to our flat)...
...You know, maybe I achieved more last year than I thought.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Weathering the Storms of 2012

I think it's safe to say that 2012 wasn't my greatest year and I, for one, am glad to see the back of it.

I started out with hope, like most of us do, for the clean, fresh year ahead. 2011 hadn't been a bad year, not a great year certainly but it had been OK. There had been the roller coaster ups and downs that mark our passage through most twelve month periods and that's only natural, but it had also been a dull year, a stagnant year. It was year marked with a sense of waiting, of marking time. I was ready, or so I thought, for the changes, the movement, I felt sure 2012 would bring.

2012 has been a bitch.

My son was hit by car.
My step-grandson died when he was born prematurely.
My Dad had a stroke.
And Pneumonia.
And another stroke.
My Step-Dad was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer.
Complications during his operation to hopefully remove the tumour led to an emergency operation a few days later to also remove his spleen.
He still needs chemotherapy and the prognosis is not good.
There has been a split in my step-family, a major rift I don't know how, or even if I want, to heal.
The Mad Druid is ill. Much more so than he's letting on. I fear a chest infection that won't heal (it's been months now) is a symptom of something much worse.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

I thought 2012 was to be a year of changes and I took that to be a good, positive thing (and maybe it still is) and looked forward to it, but for those changes to take place there has been a destructive process, a tearing away of comfort and security. For new things to grow the ground must be cleared, but that is a painful process. The storm clouds must gather before we can truly appreciate the blue.

I have been through turmoil of many different kinds this year, I have experienced emotions of frightening intensity, and learnt much about myself in the process.
Though the storm may rage, and the shores of my life may be battered, there are some things that are so strong, so solid, that I can anchor myself to them and ride out any storm, no matter how savage.
And no matter how bad things seem, as long as I hold true to the things, and the people, I believe in instead of forcing myself into a pattern that is not really me, there will always be a light in the dark
and rainbows
and blue sky...

If we know where to look for it.
Life is what we make it. 2013 will be what I make it.

I'm not expecting it to be easy, in fact I'm expecting a wild and difficult ride, but what 2012 has taught me is that I can make every minute of it count, if I want to.

Oh, and there was one good thing to come out of 2012
My newest Grandson x