Living in Limbo

I can find the Christmas plates, but not the base to the kettle.

I can find my Grandmother’s jewellery, but not my socks.

I can find 36 boxes of books, but two slow cookers have gone missing.

Taking the paper off cherished and almost-thrown-out possessions – an unknown packer treated all items of equal importance.. .


Long forgotten things tucked away out of sight for 40+ years offer new opportunities to think about them and their stories, even in our coffee-less, sock-less state. [Daughter Joy, now a blissful two doors away, rescued us with a working coffee pot…whew!] Random and completely out of order and out of place – because nothing has a place yet – each item demanding to be given a permanent resting home. A lot of decisions in a short time.

Looking at warmly familiar things in an unfamiliar environment, I’m startled at how old and worn my cookbooks have become, almost as if they had gone through a sped-up time machine I knew nothing of, and aged in the move from Bedfordshire to Herefordshire. Well, some of them are fifty years old. I just never noticed before.

This is a new experience, moving house after 4 decades living in another community, another county, another culture. The heart sinks. However can we build community when we know nothing of the life, the wants, the delights of the inhabitants around us? 

We’ve been warmly welcomed – Joy has made us a handbook with times of library, café, garbage collection, the names of everyone in the street, and much more. Biscuits, flowers, and cards have flowed in from beloved long standing friends as well as new neighbours in the street.  The living room decorator knew a heating specialist, and an expert on pond fish (a new experience), and a TV aerial expert.  But our house is not a home yet.  We haven’t yet arrived, and we haven’t yet left.  The learning curve is steep…..and exhilarating!

It’s my birthday. One of the ancient cookbooks uncovered was that of Mrs. Beaton’s Everyday Cookery.  Now faded blue, its hard cover bowed and edged in grey, the front decorated in red Vs by a toddler — the same daughter who now lives two doors away with her family.  I asked her to make Mrs. Beaton’s orange cake for the celebration..  The last time I tasted it was when I was heavily pregnant with the one who was now making it for me.  I placed it in a tin so that I could smuggle it into the Oxford hospital when I had the baby.  I didn’t want anyone to know of my cache; that would mean I’d have to share it, wouldn’t I? I used to get it out at strange hours of the night when sleep evaded, and revel in its simple flavour-bursting orangeness.  Joy made the cake a bit fancier by piercing the hot cake and pouring sweetened orange juice into it.  Served with pouring cream.  “Beautiful”, as the Brits say.  They are the only people I know who use visual adjectives to describe gustatory delights. [Cake photos by Joy Rickwood]


Orange Drizzle Cake

Line a 7 inch baking pan with baking parchment. Grease the sides.

In a mixer/food processor combing 6 ozs (175 gms ¾ cup) butter, 6 ozs (175 gms ¾ cup) sugar, 3 eggs, 8 ozs (220 gms 2 cups) plain flour, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder, and the grated rind of 1 orange and mix well.  When well combined, add the juice of one orange. Spread in prepared pan and bake in low moderate oven (around 350 degrees) for an hour.  The 7 inch cake pan will produce a cake two inches high.  If you are using a wider based pan, check for doneness earlier.   Pierce the hot cake all over and pour orange juice sweetened with icing sugar. If the juice slides off the sides, let the cake sit in it until all juice is absorbed.  When cool you can glaze with icing sugar mixed with a little milk or OJ.  Decorate with more grated orange rind.  My birthday cake came with rice paper flowers as well.


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