Gnashed teeth of jealousy but praise for Bill Bailey’s recent book. The gnashing, because he manages to write, illustrate, and publish a book during lockdown, while I, after a couple of years scratching through my first book, am nowhere near letting its fragments see the light of day. Praise, because those who read his book may be inspired to identify what makes us happy. Of course, Bill’s happiness (sky diving, dogs, swearing, gamelan playing, miniature golf, paddleboarding) won’t excite others, but it might get us thinking.
Some of mine would go something like this
Coffee. Hot strong and plentiful, especially in the morning. A house is not a home without coffee and onions. Others say beer and chocolate. Others say biscuits (cookies).
Walking. I got used to walking when I was at an international school 7000 feet up the foothills of the Indian Himalayan Mountains. My dorm was on another hill below it. Now I walk to become whole again – for beauty, healing, getting creative ideas, clearing the head, bird song, talking to others during COVID, and, oh yes, exercise.
Rivers “It sounds very ‘Sixties’” said a man from a houseboat, “but if you can love your river, then you will campaign to protect it. If you can’t, just sit by it and let it weave its charm around you. THEN campaign to protect it.” The Climate People are planning to walk the length of the River Wye, from source to mouth, testing for water quality. Can’t wait to take part.
Merry-go-rounds (Carousels, Roundabouts) . I have no idea why I love merry-go-rounds so much. It might be the careful preservation of the Victorian horses and carriages, it may be the very loud wheezing calliope that calls me through the darkening winter skies to their bright lights (carousels appear during Christmas shopping), but something makes me pile all coats and bags onto a handy mate and jump onto a horse as soon as the music stops. Wonderful!
Singing, vital to being wholly human. I’ve written about singing before (see I wish we still had the stocks). My fulness of joy comes from accompanying others who sing. When I play for singers, I don’t know what chemical is released that binds us into one, but it sure works for me.
Punjabi folk dancing (watching only). The first time I saw this was one Republic Day in India, where dancers came from each state to dance for Prime Minister Nehru (across the aisle from us). All was beautiful, graceful, colourful, and lovely. And all seemed the same as each other. Then dancers from the Punjab exploded onto the stage with throbbing drums and action, energy, power. Every dancer was smiling, having so much fun that the crowds spontaneously burst into cheering. Delightful!
Letter writing. There’s something about having a favourite pen in my hand, writing on paper to a friend, that brings me so much closer than a mere email, valuable as they are. By the time I sign off I feel as if I’ve actually been with that person. Lovely! (Cards available from Vanessa on firstname.lastname@example.org )
Cooking. I love cooking so dearly that I can usually read a recipe and know what it was going to taste like, until I saw the recipe below. A pleasant surprise.
Hospitality. The heart-aching bit about lockdown for me is not having visitors. We have a lonely guestroom and bathroom set up and it is sadly dormant. We’ve been here in our new home for almost three years, and by this time I thought we’d have had open house, teas in the garden, overnight visitors and many pop-ins. The house has taken a long time to feel “ours” and I am sure that it is because no one has been allowed to enter except us. Fortunately, with daughter and family two doors away, this isn’t entirely true, and we’ve had celebratory get-togethers that restore the soul. Others don’t always have that amazing privilege.
Of course, these “happinesses” are only pleasant diversions compared to the depth of joy that comes from cherished family and good friends past and present, and the love that surges to the top, and stays there, above the debris of clumsy day-to-day living.
In my life I have only met one person who is passionate about cabbage. She was my piano teacher in India – Irmgard George. I like cabbage, but to have a whole head each week in my organic food box sent me scrabbling for new recipes. That was when I found Mrs Vahchef who makes cabbage roti. (Just write “Mrs Vahchef Cabbage Roti” in your browser and you will find her). I couldn’t believe it, so I tried it. If you are blessed with a visitor, s/he can roll the dough and you can toast them in a pan with a bit of oil. So easy that you can continue your conversation smoothly.
Whizz cabbage in the food processor to make one cup. Add ½ teaspoon cumin seeds, 1/2 inch chilli paste, salt to taste, about 1 tablespoon of oil, and enough wholemeal flour to hand-mix it into a workable dough.
Let settle for 5 – 10 minutes, roll balls of it into flat rounds. Heat a little oil in a heavy pan/welsh griddle, and cook on either side until browned. That’s the roti. My dough made seven.
The rotis are also good with soups and stews, and warm up well.
However, Mrs Vahchef would like us to eat these breads with this chutney:
Saute in oil for a few minutes: ½ cup peanuts, 1 chopped onion, 4 cloves garlic, salt to taste and 4 green chillis (this is where Mrs V and I part company). I used one. She used seven in her demo!!!! SEVEN! Whizz up in a food processor or hand-held whizzer thingy. Add a squeeze of lime juice (optional) and bit of water to make it only thick enough to pick up with torn pieces of cabbage roti.
She assures us that we will really enjoy this. We had this for lunch. Very good, but one chilli was NOT enough.
Would love to hear your thoughts.