Green Shoots

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Could it be? Is Spring really on the way? The snowdrops have been decapitated in the recent winds, the daffs are nestling in their fat, papery cocoons, waiting for the whistle, and the begonia my sister sent me for Christmas is displaying new leaves. It’s quite an event when I don’t, by default, kill off a plant. I was sure it wouldn’t last, but here it is, Lent’s begun, and it’s still alive, shooting up, as they say of adolescent boys and drug addicts, though not with the same optics.

I love Spring. You can see where you are, for one thing. I could never live in Sweden, even though I worship Agnetha and Anni-Frid. And Bjorn Borg. Can you imagine anything worse, six months of near-total darkness? Or am I thinking of the Arctic circle? Could be, though the thought of cold and ice would probably drum out any worries re darkness. Never mind, here in jolly old Albion we have the proper four seasons, lucky us. Each has its own joys and wonders. Spring can be truly delightful, with crocus fields, bluebell woods and an end to your drippy nose.

Summer often results in the odd sunny day, the occasional butterfly, ladybird and even a bee or two. Not so hot that you have to leave your vest off, or anything, but pleasant, good for attempting a little weeding and washing winter’s smears off the windows. Don’t make the mistake of doing that in Spring, as it’s only too likely that winter hasn’t really gone away.

Autumn is lovely, with chestnuts and mushrooms and crunchy leaves to stamp on and the magnificent colours of tree foliage. That’s if the trees haven’t all been removed from the local avenues by the council, as ours recently were, to keep down the cost of renovating the roads. Such nonsense. Use my council tax to maintain the trees and start subsidising public transport again, you cretins. I will not start a rant about trees combatting air pollution, but I expect you know where I’m coming from.

Winter, I’m afraid, isn’t much fun. We don’t often get ‘proper’ snow, the kind you can build snowmen from, the kind that allows you to stay off school or work because all the roads are blocked by mountainous drifts. We get cold, wet weather in winter these days, with icy roads and pavements in the mornings, just to upset people who are already upset because they have to go to school and work, instead of tobogganing and throwing snowballs at the neighbours.

Still, at least they’re not in Malmo.

 

Back to porridge

Don’t know what it means? Well, it’s an old Irish expression meaning when all the good stuff is eaten it’s time to get a pot of stirabout going.

We’ve eaten all the good stuff. The Xmas meat scraps have been donated to the neighbourhood cats, there are only two mince pies left in the cake tin, and tomorrow I’ll have to go the the supermarket.

In the meantime, it’s porridge. How do you like yours? My partner is a Spartan porridge eater, just oats made with water, the thicker the better. No milk, no cream, no sugar. No thanks. I like mine made with water, not too thick, served with cream and maple syrup, or tart applesauce, stirred through. But oats are good in flapjacks, biscuits and smoothies, too. And wheaten bread. Here’s some I made earlier, not available in the supermarket.

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Hats – and other Headgear – Off to Christmas!

Two sleeps to go… so much to do. Festive foray into the madding crowd today to pick up the pork joint and other last minute essentials, more mince pies, more sprouts, (forgot those, we’ll have spinach) and one of those special cards , you know the type, Happy Christmas to The One I Love. Can never make a decision on those and always end up, after much procrastination, buying one when there are only three left in the rack. Without correct sized envelope: will it need a trim? And either tres formal or gushing. Went for formal, managed to get a half-decent one and only 99p. What a bargain. Next year I’ll just write I Love You, Sometimes, Happy Christmas! on an Amazon carton and fill it with wine, chocs, nuts and a copy of Computer Shopper. Or maybe, if I’m feeling kind, which is not likely, a copy of Dogs Magazine. He always enjoys that sketch on Peter Kay’s Car Share, you remember the one? Ah, fond memories of nights spent in the woods, or sometimes only the car park.

Anyway, never mind that, what I started this post for was to report on Christmas Hats. You know there is a special day for wearing Christmas jumpers? And intellectually challenged people join in and wear them? Well, today, my bus driver was wearing a full Santa outfit. And saying Ho, Ho, Ho! to passengers as they boarded. Brilliant! Usually the driver ignores your frantic waving from the bus stop and sweeps by, swooshing puddles at you if he – it’s usually a he – can manage it and then laughing his head off. Or making you get off again because there are already 156 people standing and you would just tip the balance, with your tartan shopping trolley whacking into people’s shins. Oh, the shame! But today: what a jolly chap. He even stopped at red lights, stayed within lanes on the suicide roundabout and picked passengers up at every stop. I think perhaps he was the real Santa. A bit like the real Trump in appearance but with full Santa beard and long white curls, instead of a weird straw-coloured comb-over. And better messages to the world, or at least to his surprised but thankful bus load.

And the other headgear? We’ve become used to Santa’s elves in the pub after work, with their Spock ears and red and green costumes. So yesterday. But last night two chaps and a woman came in wearing roast chickens on their heads. Honest, they had their heads in the place where the stuffing usually goes and they looked  flipping ace. I almost choked on my Balti from laughing. Wish I’d taken my camera.

Fall, food time…

Fall is almost here, or autumn, as we refer to the season in the UK. I think ‘Fall’ says it better. Leaves fall, temperatures fall, twilight falls earlier and earlier each evening.  Fall describes the misty, golden, shorter days, when you dig out your sweaters, scarves  and socks from last year and wrap up warm to go out and kick leaves like a kid.

The grocery stores are full of all kinds of apples, pumpkins and squash. Recipes leap out at me from my news feed, warm, comforting dishes: Apple Cakes with Caramel Sauce, Butternut and Barley Risotto with a whisper of Parmesan Shavings, a vegan waffle mix, with Chia Seed eggs, instead of the ones from a chicken. All worth an hour or two spent experimenting in the kitchen.

Trouble is, as usual, I’m keeping an eye on my waistline and trying to stop my little body becoming ever more roly-poly. Last evening we ate out and I chose Shangai Noodles with shavings of Rib-Eye steak. They were delicious and not too bad for my healthy eating regime. But the two generous glasses of Shiraz accompanying the meal probably, literally, tipped the scales. Still, red wine is good for the heart, so the experts are maintaining, at least they are this week.

I’m dreading the Christmas adverts, they’re only just appearing, but soon we’ll be facing a constant barrage of turkey, plum pudding and all-the-trimmings menus. By the time the big day arrives, all I want is chicken and vegetable soup, with chunky bread to dunk. I’ll have had it with the fancy finger food and ubiquitous baked hams, a million ways to stuff a turkey and brilliant brussels sprouts makeovers. Why not just give Christmas grub a miss altogether and hold off until Pancake Tuesday? My waistline would definitely feel the benefit!