Author

Gill Griffin

Iden

KITCHENALIA: I can’t resist buying handy paring knives. Just when I want to peel a turnip, the best ones are in the dishwasher. Thank goodness I’m never searched by the police because I often buy one at a flea market and pop it into my handbag. It’s the whole ‘kitchen drawer syndrome isn’t it [a love of natty utensils] I got a garlic press for Christmas which pleased me no end, but we need such things don’t we, it’s amazing what a conglomeration of things become suddenly necessary when we’ve watched an episode of Master Chef. I feel a sense of completion when I look in my kitchen drawer, fifty years- worth of items, some I may only need once in a while, but they are there at least, waiting patiently for a chance to be used. I have more spatulas than I have posh frocks, but there is something endearing about utensils, something which says we are in a proper home, rather than just living quarters [I find I can trust a person who owns an egg-slice] I tried doing a Jamie Oliver, smashing a garlic clove with my hand, it was agony. How does he do it without needing a crepe bandage? How on earth I’ve lived to be a pensioner without a garlic press I’ll never know!

Village Voice

Iden

A GILDED INFLUENCE: If we were to unwind our lives, we’d find them littered with people who have influenced us profoundly, probably without their knowledge, and unless we give it some thought, even without our own. One such woman was my aunt Dingy, a ‘churchy’, religious woman who presented me with my first Bible, and told me that she never watched Television on a Sunday because it was ‘sacrilege to the Lord’s day’. Anyway, everywhere I looked in her home was there were gilt-edged photo frames, gilded statuettes and dark furniture with intricately carved legs, and I became daft about gilt frames and old wood [I do love a bit of a shine]. I can’t pass by statues or gilt objects without going into raptures. She had a huge, gilt- framed picture of the angel Gabriel over her fireplace which even as a teenager I deeply admired, but she left it to the church. Auntie Ding had no idea that a bottle-blonde niece wearing heavy eye-liner and mini- skirts would covet such a thing, [never judge a book by its cover !] So many people leave their mark upon us, don’t they? This morning We went to Rye Auction Galleries and purchased two lanterns, gilded of course. We steal other people’s tastes, other people’s words, other people’s recipes for life and claim them as our own, but when you think about it, our theft is usually borne out of a deep-seated regard, an admiration that leaves it’s mark on us – forever!

Village Voice

Iden

GRADUALLY LETTING GO: I get very attached to my old tea -towels. I have tea towels in the kitchen drawer as thin as tracing paper, and as holy as a priest, and yet I can’t bring myself to throw them out. It’s not that I have nothing to replace them with. I still have a stack of new Christmas tea towels in the airing cupboard from last year, and got another stack this year, and although the oldest of my tea towels haven’t enough material left to dry up an egg cup, I mourn them when I finally relent and settle them into the duster bag. It’s like leaving them in an old folk’s home with a bottle of barley water and a clean nightie. They have been constant companions, and like a fine wine, they’ve matured with age and become just right for drying up. New tea towels need a lot of breaking-in don’t they, a good few washes before they are fit for purpose. Oh, sentimentality isn’t just for family and old friends is it? I’ve been wearing a pair of socks for ages, totally absent of heels, but my heart still melts a little when I roll them up together snug as a bug in a rug, and I can’t get rid of them either. A resolution for 2019. Please learn to let go of inanimate objects!

Village Voice

Iden

IN THE BLEAK MIDWINTER: I love this time of the year, don’t you? The bleakness and gloom of the countryside has its very own beauty. Barren, twiggy trees, stripped of leaves reach out to us on either side of the road as we drive by, as if to remind us that this is their period of rest, a deciduous tree’s equivalent of taking time out to read the paper and put their feet up on the coffee table .Everywhere is cold and damp, and the dreg ends of fallen, brown leaves lay under trees like a wet army blanket. Deserted fields attract a crop of crows, and hedgerows drip with dew or rain, or the first few spots of snow. Only a few red berries remain to brighten them up a bit, but the birds already have their eye on them. My goodness though, the landscape is breath taking. Grey skies allow a little sunlight to filter through now and again, but let’s not get our hopes up, it won’t last. The weather is supposed to be like this. There is a muted silence in the air, full of expectation, and that muted silence is very special because it gives us cart blanche to be as cosy as we like once inside our own front doors. Lights come on, fires are lit, we turn on the stove, put a low light under a stew or place a few crumpets in our four- slice toasters. The kettle boils away merrily and we make time for a mince pie or a rock cake before dinner. We get ourselves a throw, find our slippers, and maybe switch on ‘Strictly’, or ‘Bargain Hunt’. If we hadn’t been out walking or riding through the lanes in the countryside we wouldn’t be half as appreciative of what lurks inside our own front doors, that familiar sense of being warm and being at home!

Village Voice

Iden

WHAT A WRAP: Things happen to us in life, particularly in childhood that stay with us forever. Its as though someone has pushed the equivalent of a nasturtium seed into our brains with an index finger, so we never forget. Often, it’s small things we will emulate for the rest of our lives. I remember my mum working in a chemist [drugstore] in Canada, and the boss’s wife always wrapped a Christmas present for me so beautifully that the actual present became less important than the wrapping. She etched Christmas trees onto deep green cellophane paper and decorated each one with glued on Smarties. Now, I can’t wrap anything, even a pack of wine gums without fluting the paper and making them into a cracker, and it’s all down to the chemist’s wife .My husband’s cousin Tracey came this week with a whole line of beautifully wrapped family parcels, all in silver, with a lovely bauble on each depicting Santa’s coat. They filled me with joy. They are much too nice to open, and the amount of thought behind them is what Christmas is all about.

Village Voice

Iden

OH! CHRISTMAS TREE, OH CHRISTMAS TREE: For a whole year, evergreen trees tend to stay in the background like poor old Cinderella sweeping the hearth, but Christmas time is their time to shine. Other trees have shed their leaves and become bleak, moss-covered spindles, so God forbid, someone in the tree family has to step forward, and the evergreens do it with aplomb. Lush, dark green pines, spruce, cedar and holly become the things of Hollywood movies, the poor, forgotten little shop-girl suddenly makes good and becomes feted at Christmas time. We don’t bother covering oak or ash with baubles and a fairy now do we? The evergreens reign may be short-lived, before deciduous trees come into their own again with their sweet new buds of spring, but my goodness, conifers are winter’s rock stars, and yet they are so personable. They stand still and don’t fidget as we pile them up with a loft- full of decorations, they smell nice [their personal hygiene is second to none] I even reckon that if they were mobile they would fetch the hoover and sweep up their own dropped needles ‘Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree how lovely are your branches’ is a fitting carol for a tree so valued and pampered, albeit once a year.

Village Voice

Iden

DISAPPEARING WOMEN: Women from Iden, Brede, Winchelsea and Appledore go missing from our streets at this time of the year. Their absence is unfortunate, but it isn’t a Police matter, they are merely at home, in their kitchens furtively making mincemeat. Secret recipes abound. The smell of zested lemons, cinnamon and brandy seeps through keyholes on the darkest of nights but we dare not knock, for a mincemeat recipe is a sacred thing, not to mention the Christmas cake recipe, or the puddings. Though a Christmas pudding recipe may have been the only thing bequeathed by a parent, it’s worth its weight in gold. Suet and dark brown sugar is carried home like a gift from the wise-men, followed next week by the glace cherries and the candied peel. The brandy bottle is fetched from the back of the cupboard dusted and sniffed at in order to soak the sultanas. These women have a determined demeanour, unsurprisingly for, they may have a line of puddings to make, one for aunt Ada, one for the lady next door who never goes out, one for the vicar perhaps who’s Christmas is nothing but sermons, one for a plump, lazy cousin who’s never boiled an egg in her life, but it is of no matter. To be known for one’s puddings, one’s mince pies or delectable Christmas cake is high praise indeed. These women are not missing from our streets at all . They are in their kitchens wearing Christmas aprons awaiting their accolades!

Village Voice

Iden

THE CHRISTMAS CHAIR: What is it about growing older which makes us decide upon a chair in the living room and lay claim to it. When we are young, we sit anywhere, lolling about, lounging around on any old chair, but as we mature, we sort out a chair which best suits our aches and pains and our disposition. We migrate towards such a chair, and if anyone else sits in it, it can seem an intrusion of the highest order. I have such a chair, a smallish armchair which badly needs a recover, but sitting in it is the equivalent of having a cup of hot chocolate and two aspirin. Surrounding my chair is a mess of the day’s newspaper, sewing, tea cups , and at this time of year baubles, tinsel, scissors ,ribbon material,endless lists of food and presents and red bows . It’s a work in progress, a Christmas factory , and if anyone drops in, it’s a mad rush to tidy it up and get a dustpan and brush. It is indeed Santa’s workshop. I wouldn’t be surprised to see an elf bringing me a cup of tea, but to me there is nothing quite as homely as preparing for Christmas .

Village Voice

Iden

NORMAN’S CANDLESTICKS: On Saturday evening I polished a pair of candlesticks given to my mother by her first husband Norman Donaldson. Norman was killed in El Alamein during the second world war. They had a daughter Jennifer, who only lived to be three days old. My mum eventually met my dad, a Canadian soldier, they married, and lived in Canada where my dad was killed in a mining accident three years later. My mum told me a lot about Norman, and he automatically became a part of my life through here say, as did Jennifer. After I put the candlesticks back, dust-free and shiny I watched the BBC’S beautiful service to mark the end of the First World War, and I thought of Norman dying for his country. If he had lived, I wouldn’t have had my life. A good friend of mine got me a copy of Jennifer’s birth certificate. I would have loved her because my immediate family was just my mother and myself. Most of us have been touched in some way by the sadness initiated by war, our lives, entwined with soldiers who gave their lives for us. It’s very possible to feel love for people we have never met, and yes, at the going down of the sun and in the morning, we shall remember them.

Village Voice

Iden

GETTING TO KNOW YOU: My friendship with my computer has been a gradual thing, but It’s fast becoming the kind of friendship where we share secrets and have the odd sleepover in our pyjamas. However, I have to say it’s been an arduous journey. For a very long time Imagined a little man with a pencil inside it, frantically looking up things on Encyclopaedia Britannica. Even now, we have dreadful ‘fallings out’ which I swear blind is all the computer’s fault [nothing to do with my elbow leaning on ‘Caps Lock’]. I find things out about it every day, a bit like finding out that a friend is allergic to prawns. The worst thing is wondering where my written tombs go to. They suddenly disappear, like a friend packing up and spending the summer in Cleethorpes without asking me to feed the cat. I find myself running after documents, similar to an anxious mother yelling “will you please come home for your tea”. I must say though, like the best of friendships the more I find out about its strengths, and the way it actually does save my letters, the more I look forward to switching it on, but I have to concede that it’s less fond of me than I am of it. It’s a case of “Gill, if you press my delete button one more time you can cancel the sleepover!”

Village Voice

Iden

DON’T RING ME RICHARD BRANSON: This morning the moon lingered in the sky as we had breakfast. Wispy dreg-ends of it could still be seen though the sun was out. The sky is a real enigma isn’t it, a law unto itself, a whole new ball game. It behaves as it wishes, but I don’t want to be involved with it apart from viewing its antics from a distance. Even looking up at the stars makes me giddy, no matter how much I appreciate their beauty. I can’t imagine walking on the moon, eating a dehydrated sandwich, while floating around in a space ship. Richard Branson may still hope for his ’Virgin’- trips into the abyss, but I’ll stay down here and hold the coats. In truth I can get lost on the way to Croydon, so exploring space seems a step too far. I love it down here on earth, being able to watch the sky, but I don’t actually want to become personally acquainted with it. Can you imagine being responsible for a spaceship, its bad enough checking the knobs on the cooker last thing at night. Some people are so clever and so brave, moving around weightless, catching a roast potato in mid-air, but it’ ain’t for me kid!’

Village Voice

Iden

THE DOLL-NAMER: My mum called one of her childhood dolls ‘Bluebell Metal Polish’, and the other [she insisted was Italian] she called ‘Rimo Tadini. She was full of anecdotes. “Don’t lay bricks with that butter”, she would say, and she was always telling me to ‘pull down my skirt ‘as though I was some kind of harlot rather than a girl keeping up with fashion.” When you get your home “, she would say, “I’m coming to mess it up the way you mess up mine”, or a favourite was “you turn my brain” or “ get that awful muck off your face” [I always had a penchant for eye-liner] She considered the worst crime having dead flowers in a vase, yet an even a worse crime was throwing flowers out before they were well and truly dead. She maintained that flowers have feelings. She was a widow, twice widowed as a matter of fact and when I look back I never would have had her resilience. She was amazing with money, frugal prudent, keeping every paid bill in order on a clothes peg I’ve always been so raggle-taggle, and it’s only since I’ve aged that I appreciate that she had too many worries to have my daft frivolity. Do you ever feel that, that you wish you could have someone back for an hour just to tell them thankyou?

Village Voice

Iden

SEW AND SEW: One of my favourite things in all the world is a bit of hand-sewing. Mind you, it’s not without its dangers. I don’t know how many times I prick my finger or lose my needle, and there is a frantic search lest someone in the family ends up in ‘A and E’ for exploratory surgery. There is just something about a needle and thread that makes me feel content. My husband likes it too because I rarely sew and speak. One of my fingers has even developed a bumpy, wayward look through over-use. Do you ladies remember being taught sewing? It was kind of special wasn’t it proudly coming home from school with a sampler or a shoe bag and in the days when we didn’t have a tele, there was something heartening about having our mums teach us cross stitch or embroidery to stave off boredom. One of my favourite jaunts is to a haberdashery shop to enthuse with someone else about rick-rack braid and fat quarters. If the cat gets on my lap and I find myself having to sew right up under my chin to accommodate her. I’m no good with a sewing machine [in fact I’m useless with any kind of machine], but a simple needle and thread makes me feel that my world is pared down to nothing more than a French knot and a thimble.

Village Voice

Iden

TROLLY DOLLY: One of my favourite things is having fleeting ownership of a supermarket trolley. It’s a sad ‘Old Mother Hubbard’ feeling to be left with half a wilted lettuce and a hard nubbin of cheese I couldn’t cut with a chainsaw. A full larder does gladden the heart. When I was first married, my husband would meet me from work and we would peruse the supermarket shelves together and spend all of £5 on our entire shop. I had the daft idea that the weekly shop meant as much to him as it did to me, until he began to yell out “right Gill come on, lets get this over with, do you want sugar, bread, flour”, chivvying me along as bored as a badger. My heart sank. [Who was this man I’d married who could suddenly become so flippant about romancing essential commodities?] Now I shop alone , just me and my list and spend ages thinking out what the cat would like for a change, what to put in the ‘stash bin’ for the grandchildren, and what spares I need should there be any kind of famine or invasion. These days we practically need a PHD in choosing pizza don’t we? There are so many types of everything [a person could have a panic attack selecting gravy granules.] For a whole week we’ll live in the land of plenty until once more faced with that nubbin of hard cheese. This week I bought a pumpkin for two pounds, not to eat, but to sit on the window sill next to some flowers. Purely decorative. A waste of money? Certainly not, I love it. It’s so delightfully orange!

Village Voice

Iden

STEPPING STONES: The other day I asked a checkout girl in the supermarket [so obviously a student] what A levels she was doing, and what she hoped to do as a career. I was interested, because youth to an older person like me has an enviable amount of years left, and so many opportunities. Everyone’s lives are like stepping stones. We too sat exams then worked, married, bought an ironing board and a three -piece suite, and then hopefully along came babies. We didn’t necessarily live together, most of us tended to wed and commit to the partner we’d chosen, and we hung our terry-towelling nappies on the line, put up with towels that didn’t match the bathroom and had the odd meal out, savouring it as pure decadence during those days of newly-wedded scarcity. Girls today have equal footing, the expectations of the young are higher than ours, [and our parents thought we were pretty gung ho]. I felt very much at the other side of the supermarket trolley, a little sad that I’d trodden on most of my stepping stones, while the young girl packing my frozen peas had a whole pathway to navigate. I wished her well. She looked so fresh and ready to embark on adult life. What a fabulous age!

Village Voice

Iden

MOVE DOWN THE BUS PLEASE: Last week I wore one of those 24hour blood pressure recorders and my husband said I looked like a clippie collecting bus fares. It took some getting used to, and at one point I had its tubing hanging in a pan of baked beans. Oh, it’s no fun getting old. I forget people’s names [that’s the worst] and call everything a thingamabob. Mind you, there is always an up- side, a looming second childhood is quite an advantage. I find myself getting thrilled about sniffing lavender and having my own herb garden outside the back door has me smiling fondly at the parsley, sage, chives and thyme that come back every year uninvited. I enjoy McDonald’s, re-runs of ‘Friends’, department stores, and if I was wealthy, I’d buy a carousel for the back garden and ride up and down on the horses supping ‘Slush Puppy’[the stuff that makes your tongue blue.] Old age has a richness to it, a deepening appreciation of so many things. I must say I was glad to get rid of the blood pressure machine though. I had visions of getting hung up on the bedpost by one of it’s trailing leads!

Village Voice

Iden

NAME THIS PIE: This week I made a blackberry and apple pie, and I put my husband’s name on top in pastry as a reward for painting the kitchen and a bedroom. The house was looking a bit shoddy, and there is nothing more uplifting than fresh paint is there? I’m hoping he’ll paint the boiler room [I’m sure he will if I keep him tanked up on blackberry and apple] We do get a lot of cobwebs in this little neck of the woods don’t we? It’s no wonder, the spiders that run across the living room floor are like something from ‘Jurassic Park’. I never see them making these webs. They really are secretive little spinners. Anyway, I borrowed some of my husband’s energy. I got up at four am to get a glass of water and cleaned some upholstery. I find I work well in the middle of the night. Just choosing paint colours is a conundrum isn’t it? Names like ‘Frosted Dawn’ and ‘Daisy Dreams’ sound so appealing on those paint cards, and once on the wall there is no going back, paint is expensive. We are going to have to live with that colour for the next five years. It’s almost as important as choosing a puppy!

Village Voice

Iden

LOTS TO LOOK FORWARD TO: The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness brings with its own array of pleasure doesn’t it and we are lucky enough to live in a part of England with a back-drop that shows off Harvest- Festival, Guy Fawkes night and Halloween with a special kind of glow and a background of stars. Iden’s unlit streets add just the right ambiance to dark evenings. We have neither the time nor the inclination to mourn summer because when you think about it Autumn is pretty frenetic. It’s a season of flames and vibrant colour, a little chilly maybe, a little creepy, a little smoky, but think of pumpkins, a sky lit up with fireworks, sunflowers reaching their maximum height, and maximum beauty, and conkers [who in the world doesn’t like pouncing on a conker as polished as Chippendale]. Rye Fireworks are amazing, a feast of flaming pitch- torches and witchery. Autumn can be accused of many things but being dull isn’t one of them! AFTERNOON TEA AT THE BOWLS CLUB

Village Voice

Iden

SHOULD PIGLET BE ON PROZAC?: This week I went to see Christopher Robin at the Kino in Rye. It was sweet and endearing, the way A.A. Milne intended. Before I went, one of my grandchildren filled me in on the fact that all the characters have a particular mental disorder. Apparently Pooh has a few, including impulsivity, obsessive fixations and an eating disorder. Owl has a grandiose narcissistic personality. Tigger bounces between impulsivity and hyperactivity. Rabbit has OCD and Kanga has social anxiety disorder. Piglet has generalized anxiety disorder, and poor old Eeyore has Dysthymia, a state of sadness and depression, so much so that he almost enjoys feeling down all the time. This mixture of challenging disorders is probably why the book is so well-loved and memorable. Children recognise these traits and love the characters all the more for them. Many children have a fundamental desire to be protective and kind to those who struggle to fit into society. Some of course are cruel, but not usually the one’s who are read to and brought up to respect differences. Thank God we aren’t all tarred with the same brush and thank God A.A. Milne recognised that there is a wealth of character in unconventionality.

Village Voice

Iden

MISSING A FRIEND: Nat West Bank has long been my friend. I met my husband indirectly through Nat West. A friend of his worked in Nat West Camberwell Green. He invited him to a party in a house where I lived with seven other nurses. We left the party and went to our flat upstairs, where I made him spaghetti on toast, [which was all nurses could afford if we were to buy clothes and eye shadow.] I can’t believe my bank in Rye has gone. Oh, I know I can go to the Tenterden branch, but that makes me feel as though I’m borrowing someone else’s bank. Beside my own deserted bank, the cash machine looks like a square, sad grave stone. I feel like buying a bunch of flowers and laying them at its feet. Banks have long been such stalwarts, such an integral part of our lives. Bank robberies are of course not to be recommended, but the ones in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’’ were bungling and romantic. The very word ‘bank’ suggests something true and correct. Like so many aging folk, I’m afraid of on line banking, yet my grandchildren bank on line with no trouble at all. It’s probably the biggest development which sorts the sheep from the goats, one of life’s crossroads. I can manage to lose a thank you note on the computer, so I’m scared rigid to trust my money to what is in effect a bunch of wires. I will miss talking to the person handling my money too. Being asked if I’d prefer it in fives or tens was all part of a bank’s courtesy. Pretty soon there will be no need for conversation at all in life except perhaps ‘pass the salt’. I hate change. If I had my way we’d still be making butter in a churn!

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