Cooking chicken Kievs this evening, a nostalgic indulgence from the time when they were Marks and Spencers' signature dish, I found myself scraping the residue of milk, cornflour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs into a blob and throwing it in the pan to make a little fritter. Molly's portion, as always. What else could I do?
I ate it myself, it really wasn't bad, she did all right.
We picked up her ashes today. Tom had been quite distressed and fretful about the limbo which we were in regarding them. I'd tried and probably better succeeded in telling myself it didn't matter too much, that her poor tired little body was all finished with anyway, and all would surely be being dealt with conscientiously and properly, even if it was the holidays and there were delays, that many a human cremation was delayed far longer. Nevertheless, I was surprised at the peace of mind and sense of resolution it brought, and also how nicely it was done; the paperwork which we had been too distraught to take any notice of at the time assured us that they understood it was a painful and difficult time, that by deciding on this course we wanted to do things decently and that they promised to do their part of it with all respect and kindness. The certification and packaging looked lovely and used her name, and there was even a little piece of card with flower seeds pressed into it that we could plant for her in the place of our choice. OK, maybe it was all calculated marketing but we appreciated it and considered it well done. I don't remember anything so warm and personal with my parents' ashes, and it really wasn't an expensive service.
The vet and her husband asked rather shyly if we were going away this summer because if not they would very much like to invite us over, as friends, now we weren't customers...? That touched our hearts too.
We have Tom's daughter K, her husband and children coming for their summer visit tomorrow, and now we feel better able to cope with it, and enjoy their company. I'm always slightly surprised how much it pleases me transforming my blue room into a cosy den for the kids, and stocking up on oven chips for the traditional moule frîtes fest, and Tom and K always benefit from a bit of time together.
Jantien has been back in Moncontour for the remainder of her residency there, and encouraged me to come for another sculpture class. This isn't really serious sculpture as she does it, more like a simple session of soapstone polishing, but it is immensely satisfying, since whatever happens, at the end of the afternoon one has a beautiful piece of polished stone to show for it, as well as skin, hair and clothes covered in a layer of coloured talc which is curiously pleasurable. I had a notion this time to make something to do with garlic, having been seduced into buying some very beautiful pink garlic imported from Argentina, a thing I would never normally do as, without being too sanctimonious about it, I do try to buy and eat as seasonally and locally as possible. But these were so beautiful and reminded me so much of a sculpture, with their pink polished cloves pushing out through their chalky white husk.
Jantien always says there are two ways to go with sculpture: you can have an idea what you want to make, find the right stone and shape it into it, or you can let the stone lead you to the sculpture. In fact I suppose I took a path between the two, as there simply weren't any raw pieces which would have lent themselves to becoming a pink garlic bulb, so I let the idea go and picked up a piece of pinky brown soapstone with a flat base and some interesting speckles, and began to smooth it off, but the garlic idea persisted, along with another that came through. When I'd told Jantien that I had an idea what I might do, she'd chuckled and said she didn't think she had a black piece of stone. In truth the notion of trying to make a Molly sculpture hadn't occurred to me; I'm afraid I do rather find the idea of making effigies and portraits of one's dead pets rather naff and anyway, I don't feel equal to representing Mol in such a way. Yet the shape that came about was about her; as well as being a garlic clove,
it is also a tear drop.
Not great art or anything, but, as I say, deeply satisfying to make and to have.
A few more photos to season things.
J'suis descendue dans mon jardin... Going to pick some white Winchester Cathedral roses (for a friend and neighbour's 100th birthday, a rather strange event which I thought I might write about but am now out of time and probably your good graces to do so) I displaced a curious resident, a white spider, with a speck of pink, like a chameleon to the flower.
Pray tell me arachnophobes ( which I am only quite mildly), is a spider less frightening coloured thus? Is it the darkness of them which disturbs?
Another white arthropod, a marbled white butterfly.
They are all over the place just now, won't be for long.
Some echinacea with and without bumble bees, just because.
and some poppy seed heads which Tom put to dry in the rough glazed bowl, even though the blasted things sow themselves all over the garden in all the wrong places without any encouragement anyway.
I don't think he meant it to be tasteful but I thought it was just so terribly much so.
And finally, for Robbie really but also anyone else who might be interested, proof it it were needed that Proust really was weird. Never mind every kind of snooping voyeurism from Françoise killing the chicken through Vinteuil's daughter's girlfriend spitting on his picture to the Baron de Charlus getting thrashed by a sailor, never mind locking your girlfriend in your flat in case she might be a lesbian, this is really perverse:
...but what fascinated me would be the asparagus, tinged with ultramarine and rosy pink which ran from their heads, finely stippled in mauve and azure, through a series of imperceptible changes to their white feet, still stained a little by the soil of their garden-bed: a rainbow-loveliness that was not of this world. I felt that these celestial hues indicated the presence of exquisite creatures who had been pleased to assume vegetable form, who, through the disguise which covered their firm and edible flesh, allowed me to discern in this radiance of earliest dawn, these hinted rainbows, these blue evening shades, that precious quality which I should recognise again when, all night long after a dinner at which I had partaken of them, they played (lyrical and coarse in their jesting as the fairies in Shakespeare’s Dream) at transforming my humble chamber pot into a bower of aromatic perfume.
There's a lot of asparagus in Swann's Way. I'm going back over it with audio book, picking up particular passages that interest and checking the text in the original and Moncrieff's translation as and when the fancy takes me, which having them on the Kindle makes easier. The audio book is heavily abridged, of course. I loved the asparagus description but on checking found they had rather coyly left out the last bit about the chamber pot. Wrongly I think, for any discussion about asparagus, as with Jerusalem artichokes, is not complete without a mention of the after effects, is it? No, what's weird is that what most people would be more inclined to liken to the miasma surrounding Bridgwater cellophane factory (go on, follow that link, you know you want to) he describes as 'a bower of aromatic perfume'. Now that is strange.