I drink lots of different types of coffee, but Café Direct was the first fairtrade certified coffee in the UK and they don't stop their work with a certification, so I like to keep buying from them. That little mug I picked up in the Design Museum gift shop in Copenhagen a couple of years ago, thinking it would be a gift to my part-Danish ex-boyfriend but since we never survived my return from the holiday, I kept it and love it so much! It's by Studio Arhoj and on finding the link for this post I've realised it's stocked in Islington at Twentytwentyone! The Denby has sentimental stories as my family all bought bits for me in waves when I was starting to build my nest solo, so my crockery doesn't match but I love it all. And that's a terrible cafétiere; I don't know who thought metal ones were a good idea, they scrape every time you plunge and it kills the coffee moment.
One of my 'go-to' recipes is this one from Booths - a one pot pork shoulder. My brother-in-law Tim cooked it for me when I went round to his and my sister's house for supper and it’s the perfect dish for a group in winter. I’ve done it since for friends, and Georgina took the recipe and now cooks it with her family when she goes home to the north. I think that means it’s a winner.
I was reminded of it as Tim said at the Christmas meal table that Booths is up for sale. My Leeds-based aunt was gutted to hear this, so hopefully someone good will take it on or there will be cries of sadness echoing across the North of England. (It seems Yorkshire folk put down any east/west divide when it comes to Booths.)
The only thing I change is to cook the broccoli separately so it stays in contrast to the creamy goodness. Tonight I'm doing different greens and have gone off piste a bit due to holiday cottage ingredients, but I'm sure it will still taste dreamy.
I'll pop it in the oven for a couple of hours, serve with crusty bread and use any leftovers for a nice soup.
The snow has now almost gone, but for 24 hours it was real, powerful, and inhibited my movements. And it was beautiful. So, so beautiful.
I just discovered this song yesterday. It feels really fitting for this time of year, as Advent is about waiting and not about celebration. One of my closest friends Tamsin is often expecting miracles and I reply that she might not get them and that that's OK. We're both right, but seeing different sides of the picture.
We live with the knowledge that certain things won't and cannot happen. We may not be able to conceive. A loss of a child will not be undone. Friends won't be brought back to life. Relationships may not be reconciled. We may not be healed. We cannot undo things we have done or things done to us. We cannot unsee things we have seen.
We're sometimes waiting for breakthrough and there is a deep hope in this song, acknowledging the pain, holding on to the hope within it, and acknowledging the conflict. The hope found in 'Immanuel' is a small glimpse in a baby - not an immediate reversal of the status quo.
If Christmas magnifies pain for you, that's OK. The tears have not been wasted, and there is a future for all the broken pieces.
"That's me! I'm the shitstorm man! I'm a beautiful person!
Yay for me!"
Vicar has emailed text for the Christmas services flyer I have agreed to lay out:
"Children are welcome to come dressed as Nativity characters."
Automated email from HR system:
"Great news. You appear to be completely in control of everything..."
Appearances can be deceptive.
I'm on a divorce roll at the moment but don't worry I'll change the subject soon! I got a private message the other day with a question from a friend who said they follow these blogs with interest as they feel they don't really know much about the subject. So I thought I'd answer their question and use the answer as a blog too in case it's useful to anyone more widely. Here goes.
This is not being too nosey at all, I'm happy to answer! There are a few distinct people and their actions which I found really helpful at the time, and they have stuck in my memory as being beautiful people.
The common point in these are people being present without forcing conversations about raw topics. The friends were not actively engaging in the event itself, they weren't giving opinions, trying to fix things or influence the shape or the speed of events. Someone going through a separation is processing their own complex feelings and deciding things with immense consequences on their future - that is more than enough to overwhelm. No-one except the couple concerned knows the whole story, so let your friend go at their own pace and in complete ownership of the situation and any talking, but make yourself visible and fully present while they do so. Don't wait for the invitation -- muscle your way in with the hot meal. And maybe a bottle of gin.
Anyone else got any thoughts and tips?
My most popular blog posts have been about divorce. So does that mean I should write about it more? Or less - you are just nosey and this shouldn't be encouraged? WHO KNOWS.
When I got divorced, I was driven by my sister into the sunshine (Cambridge) with a few bags in the boot of her car. I basically had the items I had left my university bedroom with a few years earlier, plus two wedding presents from university friends. While I was in an unhappy relationship, I cared about new windows, extensions, cars, paints. Once I left the relationship, a part of my materialism left me too. I cared about people, love, family.
There is a mental freedom that arrives with freedom from belongings. There is less to worry about and less to restrict you. There are fewer hurdles in your path ahead. I guess this is why major faiths advocate it; over time we shackle ourselves to belongings again and again, and again and again we need a reminder to release ourselves, a rhythm of recalibration, a Sabbath, a Sabbatical, a Jubilee.
I try and remind myself of this when spending time on Rightmove looking at spare bedrooms and gardens (in my view the biggest luxuries in London). Happiness is not to be found in spare bedrooms or architect's drawings. It's found in walking with the right people, down the right path and once a week, once every seven years, or 50, we need to force ourselves to remember.