Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The very first time

Bridget is at her mother's New Year's Curried Turkey Dinner. She glimpses Mark Darcy for the first time "Perhaps this is the mysterious Mr Right I have been waiting my whole life to meet."
She sees the reindeer sweater. "Mmmm ... maybe not."

The first time is often memorable. Not necessarily the best time, or the most enjoyable, but almost eminently memorable. There are certain things, without doubt, that benefit from practice. The more you do it the more your confidence builds. You become more reassured and relaxed. The familiarity means the experience becomes easier and much better. I have something in mind ... but will come back to that later.

This summer is the first time that I have had my own vegetable plot (OK, so we know it is not really a vegetable plot but two growbags on my patio. But hey, I work in public relations and can add spin to anything ... including growbags). The strawberries were not terribly successful, the tomatoes were pretty fruitful , but unfortunately I have been left with quite a few unripened ones so it could be chutney for a number of friends and family this Christmas. But ... drumroll please ... the green peppers and the chillis have just ... well ... flourished.

When I first spoke to you about my first green pepper a few weeks ago there was something that I didn't mention. Although I loved my baby green pepper there was an aspect that troubled me about it. It was the fact ... that well ... the pepper was quite diddy and when I looked at it all I could think about was how that little pepper was in fact smaller than my horrid yucky lump. Anyway, time moves on, and now this is no longer the case and I would say that in a week or so that my special green pepper will be ready to eat. Not only that, but he also has a number of little pepper friends which is good news too. In fact, I am so fond of my pepper plant that I am proposing to bring it into the kitchen, as I think that there are more little peppers to come, and I want to protect them all from the frosts. However, there is a slight problem. When I say the pepper plant has flourished ... what I mean is that it is now at least two foot tall ... so I am not quite sure where it is going to reside. I might need to remove the dishwasher and put it in the area that it vacates ... well ... needs must.

When I was younger my father grew tomatoes and strawberries - and if I recall correctly - he was more successful at this than me. I don't know whether this was down to those long hot summers that we use to experience, or the weird sheep's poo concoction that he would liquidise (in a big metal container in the garden, rather than in the Kenwood Chef, I hasten to add) and use as fertiliser. What I am sure about is that he didn't grow chillis or green peppers.

I am not afraid to admit my age. I have already mentioned it twice in this blog. For me age is not an issue - it is just the dying young that is a problem. I was a child of the 70s and 80s. I would come home from school and have a couple of Rich Tea with a cuppa whilst watching Jackonory, Blue Peter or Grange Hill. Tea - not dinner or supper - would be served as the credits came up on The Magic Roundabout or Captain Pugwash. I grew up in an age of "traditional food" which is shorthand for meat, potatoes and two veg. My mother would cook steak and kidney pie, cottage pie and stew with dumplings. We would have a roast twice a week. Sunday roast would be proper roast like beef, lamb or chicken, Wednesday roast would be something like "Harz". I liked "Harz". It was soft, sweet meat which was served with apple sauce and stuffing. That is I liked it until I discovered that "Harz" was in fact hearts - as in pig hearts - and then it didn't seem at all appealing. In fact it was a significant contributing factor to me becoming vegetarian for over 20 years - though I think it was the oxtail soup which was the deal breaker.

In the early 1980s I knew of three popular music festivals locally. There was Elephant Fayre in Cornwall, Hood Fayre in South Devon, and another, somewhere in Somerset. I've heard rumours that one of the three is still ticking along nicely.

Many people regard Hood Fayre as the forerunner to Glastonbury. It attracted huge crowds for an alternative festival of music, dance, food, art and crafts. People, mostly hippies, from all over the country gathered for a summer event they knew would be different, whether it was building a bridge across the river to an island on the Dart or using a kiln on which they could fire their own pots.

I went to Hood Fayre a number of times but I the time I went when I had just turned fourteen is one of the most memorable. I am not sure if I was planning to go along, or if I bumped in to someone who suggested that I go, but I remember I went with absolutely nothing. Perhaps just a couple of pounds in my back pocket. It was like a much smaller and informal version of Glastonbury. Local bands rather than international rockstars, but still lots of mud ... oh and the same grotty toilets. On that particular visit it got to supper time and I was absolutely starving and went off the hunt for food. I came along a stall which was serving filled pittas - I am not sure what they were filled with - but one of the ingredients was fresh, crunchy, green peppers. I can't remember if there was anything else - there may have been - or it could have been chicken and as I was vegetarian by then perhaps I just had peppers. Whatever ... I was so so hungry ... I had never tried either before ... and the food just tasted so lovely. New, novel, different ... and yummy. The first time I had tried pitta ... and peppers ... and I have never forgotten it. In fact, it was a great day. A great evening. The first time that I ever slept outside. Under the moonlit sky. The first time I had ever fallen to sleep on a haybale ... the first time I saw shooting stars ...

The next day I went back home and my father wasn't very happy with me. That certainly wasn't a first. He wasn't angry because I was only fourteen and had disappeared for 24 hours. Nor the fact that I had crashed out all night in a field with a load of stoned hippies dancing to bongo drums. He was angry because I had returned home with 3 inches of dried mud on my boots.  These were my brand new white Adidas boots, with the three blue go-faster-stripes, which my mother had bought the day before, which I had worn for the first time ...

So going back to earlier, I said that the "first time" is often memorable. Not necessarily the best time, or the most enjoyable, but eminently memorable. There are certain things, without doubt, that benefit from practice. The more you do it the more your confidence builds. You become more reassured and relaxed. The familiarity means the experience becomes easier and better. And that I had something in mind ...

Well, I am sure you all know what I was referring to. Chemotherapy.  What do you mean you were thinking of something else?! Yep, this is "second time" week. Yesterday I had bloods for the second time, today I see my oncologist for the second time, and hopefully he will give me the OK to have my second chemo session tomorrow.  Don't get me wrong.  It might be the second time but I wouldn't go as far as saying I am looking forward to it, but if he says my bloods are not good enough and that the treatment is to be delayed for a week I will be gutted. So fingers crossed, it will go ahead as planned, and hopefully I will feel more prepared than I did last time. You know on this occasion I might even get through it without any tears ... now that would be a first.

This has also been the week that my hair has fallen out. Although I was prepared for it, it was still pretty shocking. It was like snow. Just a light dusting around the house to start with, but progessed to dropping bigger and thicker and started to lay as time went on. Then one day I woke up and it was almost magically gone.

Hair today, gone tomorrow. The only time I have said that.


  1. Once again, wonderful writing that makes me smile and sometimes laugh out loud! I know the topic shouldnt really make me laugh but im sorry i just had to whilst reading this one....."I might need to remove the dishwasher and put it in the area it vacates". Now that is funny!!! Jxxx

  2. As always made me laugh and cry at the same time.

    Hair or no hair still as lovely as ever.

    Big hugs



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