There were sand martins over the fishing pond on Saturday. These are often the first hirundines I see at this time of year, though I have seen a pair of swallows there a few times already (the same pair? who knows, probably just passing through anyway...) . While the swallows really do seem to make rash promises of spring and summer, with their sleek, sharp lines and blue-black colouring with the gay flash of chestnut, these small, bank-dwelling cousins seem to be end-of-the-winter birds rather; they whirled about in the March gales like the last dead leaves, with the same mud-brown colouring and hectic movement.
I continue to have a strange throat problem; I haven't a cold, or even a sore throat in the usual way. My voice is not affected, but it is as a point of pain and discomfort somewhere to the left between my throat and soft palate, possibly extending to the back of my tongue. Rough textured foods scratch and are hard to swallow, and, worst of all, nothing tastes right, wine and anything on the acid side of sweet in particular taste horrid. I'm not exactly ill but feel continuously washed out, energy is hard to find.
I often get slightly unwell at this time of year, it almost seems a necessary, reculer pour mieux sauter, type of thing, a sloughing off of winter ills. But it is inconvenient. I want to enjoy my food and drink, but can't (though this may be my body's way of trying to do itself a favour...!), I want to get stuck into life, go further afield, take new pictures and find inspiration, but only seem to be able to do what I have to do, then huddle. Recently, one good blogging friend who lives in a desert part of America, good-naturedly upbraided another who lives in southern England for complaining about the weather, 'try living where I do and gardening!' was the gist, and I take it on board. However, I do have to say that continuing chill, wet, wind and dull, dull light is beginning to be wearing, I wouldn't mind a touch of desert!
There is a photo competition locally to celebrate 50 years of the Bay of St Brieuc nature reserve which I'd like to enter. I stand no chance of winning anything, the competition will be stiff and the categories are limited, and my landscape skills are not great, but I like the idea of simply getting stuff 'out there' (ghastly expression), just as I love it when people ask me for copies of pictures. But I'm not getting around to getting out in the cold drear weather to take the photos. There's until the end of April to go. Petrol prices too discourage fruitless and unnecessary journeys. More grouch. Try living in Zimbabwe, Tibet, Iraq etc etc anywhere really, stick a pin in the globe, and stop moaning.
Things to be glad of, which are legion: last night's garlic chicken, quite a lengthy procedure but a worthwhile one, even with an impaired sense of taste. In a big big cast iron casserole, fry some onions, shallots, leeks any combination. Make garlic butter which is more garlic than butter, I used two heads and kept back a few bigger cloves to fry whole with the other veg. Stuff the garlic butter, with any herbs you fancy if you fancy, inside the chicken, in the meantime be browning some chopped carrots following th onions. Push the onions, carrots etc to one side of the pan, and brown the chicken all over, trying not to let the garlic butter run out of it. Then surround with potatoes, cover with stock, water, wine in whatever proportions you prefer or come to hand, and leave to cook for quite a while, the longer the better, though the chicken will fall apart after several hours. This can be cooked entirely on the hob, though it is better if it spends at least some time in the oven. My oven is currently partially broken (another cause of discontent), the top element works but not the bottom, the part is on order, so this is a good stand-by. All kinds of other vegetables can be added, celery is good, or peas and beans, last night I added young turnips, which tasted funny to me, but I found them so pretty and dainty with their flattened globe shape and violet blush.
Washabi rice crackers, a totally decadent luxury, completely unnecessary, buying into the incessant drive to have something new and different from who knows where; 'and all the Athenians and the strangers that were there spent their time in nothing else but to tell of or to hear [or to taste] some new thing...'. They are very good though. They bite back when you put them in your mouth, and you think 'why am I eating this?' then they dissolve into the most delicious savoury sweetness in the tingling aftermath. Spicy things seem to be the most palatable. Mint syrup is OK, though it's a bit like drinking mouthwash.
When I ring Tom on the mobile, he won't be the one to cut it off. I've always suspected he was still there after we'd said goodbye, when I pressed the blue button to 'End'. So once I waited, and after a bit asked, 'Are you still there?'. Yes, he said, I can never cut you off. I said we'd better count 'one, two, three...' then do it, which we did, but he still held back. We were laughing so much by then it just got silly, but I still had to be the one to do it. Now I always know he's still there when I end the call, but one of us has to. I rather wish it didn't have to be me, but there we are.
Anyway, next week there will be a new arrival at Maison Kempton: the first new (to us) car in nearly 15 years. It never ceases to amaze me how casually people accept the fact of a new car, barely seeming to consider it worthy of remark. We have had dear Battered BX for very nearly as long as we have had each other. She is 19 years old, and we have had her for most of them. We love her dearly and we will keep her for the foreseeable, though I am aware that one's affection for inanimate machines dwindles rapidly when they start to be a worry and a hazard and not to do their job properly . I am not prepared to go over to left-hand drive before I must, and frankly I am nervous of driving the new one, a six-year-old Xsara, which seems very big and wide and very new and shiny. I have become accustomed to the idea that a car is not a car if you can't scuff it up a bit. But I will enjoy the new one anyway, and look forward to gleaming reflective surfaces, intersting lines and forms, and perhaps an excursion or two, petrol notwithstanding, all of which may yield photographic opportunities.
So, a rag-bag of bits and pieces, but I was determined to post something. I'm keeping up 30-a-day at the other place, and appreciate the odd comments left there to let me know you're about. But I have felt very creatively challenged of late. I seem to be collecting more and more blogs to read which seem to be more interesting places to hang out than this one, but now seem to have neglected those too! Finally getting around to subscribing to feeds ( thanks Rosie!) has been a boon, but even so, I've not been keeping on top of those very well. That'll be this afternoon's activity, my apologies if I've not been around, I'll be along soon. The day's not running away too badly as yet with the springing forward of the clocks, let's hope the spring proper is really on its way.