Stood on the terrace, I see some commotion going on in the trees of a neighbours garden. There is a local colony of Ravens. Maybe there are thirty of so in number. The mass of them seem to badgering two or three of their number. They are mid flight and the victims have just flown out of sight! There is a lot of squawking and their numbers seem to be flying from tree to tree in an uneasy manner. I heard that ravens live in highly organised communities and their intelligence is on a par with dogs! Looking at them, they are certainly acting as silly as our two dogs at very least. The three ravens being badgered have re-emerged and are now sitting on the bare branches of our oak tree. Still together, I guess they must be family members. We stick together, through thick and thin, don’t we, families?
It does bring back memories of my time spent on the roof top of the world, Nepal. I spent much of my time there back in mid to late 2015, just post the big earthquake had dominated much of the world news at the time. We lived in an apartment in an area known as Lazimpat, a fairly central suburb of Kathmandu. We had a balcony and lived on the fourth floor. The view was quite special. The city is in the foothills of the great Himalayan mountains. Well, our view on clear days stretched over the city with the craggy mountains, sometimes dancing with the thin, low clouds as a backdrop. Every evening at dusk, without fail, the skies would fill with thousands upon thousands of ravens. Over a forty five minute period, the sky would darken and this black mass of feathered foul would fly in one particular direction. There was clearly a roosting area that they would nightly invade. I guessed one of the now defunct palace gardens, perhaps further afield. Aaliyah and Caleb were just very small babies then! Friends (and nannies) Bharti and Rekha had joined me, flying up from Bombay! They were interesting times…
I am relaxing beside the TV and thought I would end the day with a little update. Johns mum has not been well of recent, so he is over in Dublin for the night. He saw his mum earlier as she had returned home from hospital. He is staying with his sister. I hope that his mum is comfortable. Sending lots of love. He just called and said Sara (his sister) was doing Indian tonight! I had to smile, she had taken from the freezer what she thought were onion bahji’s and they turned out to be meatballs. Me, sat at home on the other hand, have just downed a meal of chapatti and the vegetarian leftovers of Sunday’s curry, mutter (pea) and channa (chick pea). And ironically home made onion bahji’s. I believe Sara is having the meatballs tomorrow. I sympathise as I am so freezer focussed with cooking in bulk and portioning etc, but I’m a bit rubbish with labelling.
The children ate ‘Kiddies Cassoulet’, a favourite of mine and theirs. It’s really posh beans on toast. Easily made and scrummy too. Eight Irish sausages (cut up), one tin of Branston Baked Beans. Sorry for the defection Heinz, but yours taste too sweet (please drop the sugar content). A tin of chopped tomatoes, some seasoning and lots of freshly made breadcrumbs on top.
Since they went to bed, I have only been up three times now to quieten them down – they are now finally silent. They must have crashed with sheer exhaustion.
Gracie escaped the garden earlier and I finally found her after twenty minutes when I heard the snarls of a dog fight. She had slipped through the yew hedge and headed for a neighbours garden where she was sounding off at their Jack Russel. Naughty Gracie.
More tomorrow nite nite
Juicing grapes is a slow process. The first year I attempted to juice our first crop of grapes, in my pure ignorance, I spent two hours trying to pass them through a muslin bag. Or a white pillow case actually. It took hours to release the juice. This years bumper crop of grapes would have taken a couple of days. Anyhow, this year I cropped the vine in 4 stages. The total weight of grapes was in excess of twelve kilograms. Anyhow without child labour this year, I washed the black grapes and filled the very large saucepan I use for jamming then squeezed like mad with my hands. Once juice is released I kept topping up the pan until seventy percent full then to help release more juice I heat until boiling. Now with my trusty new sieve, I’ve gone through three so far this year, I start scooping out the pith and seeds and press firmly on the mixture with a spoon and the final juice is released. I discard the pith. Once boiled and the scum is skimmed, you have pasteurised juice that is fit to make perfect ‘Grape Jelly’.
I thought back to last September, we harvested early. It was a weekend and the weather was mild. Not sure how sunny it was, but I remember John and I had a Pims and lemonade poured. All five little ones had their swimming costumes on. We had been playing ‘The water slide’! Don’t mix up ‘water sliding’ with ‘water boarding’ now. We put down a ten metre strip of black tarpaulin and someone holds the hosepipe at the top of the children’s green slide. The kids love it, so much screaming and shouting and above all sliding. And it’s competitive too. I’ve gone off focus, back to the grape vine. Secateurs in hand and the children’s small paddling pool besides me, I’m pruning away and throwing the bunches of grapes directly into the pool. It’s not long before Tara comes running up screaming ‘Aaliyah hit me, Aaliyah hit me’, then she sees what i am doing. The vine is fifty percent done and the pool is filling up slowly. Tara doesn’t give it a second though. She jumps in and starts squishing with her feet shouting out ‘Ritza, Ritza’ to Amritsar ‘come here it’s fun’. Within minutes the others are over to investigate. First Amritsar and then Thor joins Tara in the paddling pool, both also jumping up and down laughing and screaming. ‘It’s squishy Dadda it’s squishy’ Thor screams and fists clenched tight he stamps harder, one foot after the other. Aaliyah and Caleb were bemused, sat with Daddy at the table on the terrace, under the parasol. Daddy raised his Pims and lemonade and said ‘cheers’. I continued pruning and throwing in the bunches…
So this morning we finished off the ‘Bear Bear Boulders’ and ‘Cheerios’ (we don’t have a pet name for those! I saw the scissors on the counter as I had just used them to open a frozen block of ratatouille. I don’t know why but I started cutting the flaps off each box and then both boxes into three even strips width wise. Then one by one I cut zig zags along one side of each strip. And low and behold, we had six very regal looking crowns. Needless to say the not so famous five all went off to school thinking they were princes and princesses.
The three little ones back for their lunch from preschool had elevated themselves to two Kings and a Queen. And unlike Yesterday’s fiasco, they all three of them ate all of their crunchy toast and salami. No more ‘camp run a muck’ please. Both Sindy and I had a serious word with all three of them and they are now sleeping soundly. All is quiet upstairs.
Yes it certainly is Autumnal. The mornings are dark and it is as dark as Remus’s inky black spots when the children march up the stairs at bedtime . The house has a partial view, out on to woodland. There is even a spill over into the bottom of the garden. One of these trees is a very old oak tree. It is very large, so I guess it is really quite ancient. It’s leaves turn an amazing burnt orange in early to mid September. It really is quite beautiful. It’s leaves have all shed at this point. All of the other trees are just starting their preparations for leaf fall. The vast pallet of greens are yellowing slowly, a few hints of orange, but none look as magnificent as the oak tree at the bottom of the garden…
Just before the not so famous five marched up to bed I had an altercation with Aaliyah. In recent times, since we arrived home from our summer in Provence, she has become so close to Remus and Gracie our two Dalmatians. I guess she actually missed them an awful lot! A friend of the family Jo came in thrice daily to run, walk, water and love them, so they did not have to go to kennels. Aaliyah did not see them as anything but troublesome before the holiday. Since our return home she only has love for them, insisting on hugging Gracie and Remus as much as she can. Of course, Gracie and Remus love the attention very much and they lick and lick lots. No more kissing we always insist. But Aaliyah and Gracie are the best of friends. I do love nick names and each of our five children have their own ‘baby names’… as do Remus and Gracie.
When Tara and Amritsar were just one year old we had a brilliant au pair in London called Essie. And back then she lovingly referred to Remus as Remo (something I picked up on) and I often call Gracie ‘Grace Grace’ as I do with ‘Thor Thor’ (it’s a Thai thing)!
Anyhow – the story is that I referred to Remus and Gracie as ‘Remo and Grace Grace’ and Alliyah was not happy. ‘Their names are Remus and Gracie Dadda’ she shouted and started to get very upset. ‘We all have baby names’ don’t we Bee Bee I insisted. She thought for a moment and said ‘Yes we do Andi’ (Thinking Andi was my baby name) and she giggled. Dadda had to smile.
Firstly I want to roundup my days of the week and their meanings. I completely forgot yesterday as I was so in awe of the fried torn potatoes and a big thumbs up for the deep fat fryer (sorry all). When I do fry, which is no more than once a week, I usually end up patting the excess oil off with countless pieces of kitchen towel. Using the fryer allowed me to drain and shake a few times. I tipped out on to kitchen towel and absolutely no excess oil. There is kitchen science at work here that I won’t go in to, but food absorbs less oil when immersed in very hot fat opposed to cooking in a method such as sauté! Well, back to finishing my summing up of the names of the origins of the days of the week and you probably have figured it out already! Yes, Monday is the day of the Moon, another commodity of time in our lives. Not only do we enjoy it every twenty eight days but we also have a constant reminder of it at the beginning of each and every week. And so now we come to Tuesday, so named after the Nordic god Tiw (also known as Tyr), so Tiwes daag in old English became Tuesday in modern English. Tiw is a pretty cool God and is in fact a brother of Thor and son of Odin.
I am now sat in the kitchen with a full sink of grapes immersed in water. There were a few mouldy bunches that I splatted on the terrace floor, but I think I just about caught them before the last of the crop was doomed. As I said earlier, I will juice tomorrow. The immersion in water is obviously to clean them but also it gets rid of the earwigs who love to make their homes inside these sweet, seeded vine fruits.
My thoughts have returned to the little ones nap time earlier today. Their midday sleep is almost at an end and today is proof of that. Once Sindy went on her lunch, they didn’t settle. I went up three times in the first hour to try and corral them to their beds, but they weren’t having it. On the third visit, I thought it strange that Caleb was holding his duvet completely covering himself. On closer inspection, duvet lowered, he was wearing one of Tara’s out- grown red and white polka dot dresses… it’s not the first time we have caught him in a dress, I think it has something to do with his admiration of big sister Tara (who looks out for him with much care and tenderness) I’m sure he’ll grow out of it. Though it is a worry…