Memories are made of this (thank you mother)

A memory from my younger years came back to me this week. I have a lot of memories from childhood, a mixed selection as we all do, but some shine bright – and some really should stay buried. Now, one of our dogs looks like a puppy but she’s actually 16 years old. At that age – not excessive for the breed but still getting on a bit – she needs a bit of cosseting. She has special food that she eats rather reluctantly so we boil up a chicken carcass, remove all bones and make a mousse to add flavour and interest. This takes several days of slow cooking so Jacqui decided to invest in a small, modern pressure cooker. I don’t have very good memories of pressure cookers.

My father was an avid gardener and he had an allotment he used to grow a large proportion of our food. Everything from carrots to soft fruit came from this small patch of Essex clay and at the weekend he would spend much of his time working there. We would await his return with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, wondering what we would be eating that week. Like all gardeners he planted and harvested seasonally which meant an abundance of produce for a short space of time. My mother was tasked with bottling and preserving all of this for winter, a mammoth task in some weeks. And the key to all this was the pressure cooker.

My most vivid memories come from one afternoon when she stood before the overflowing kitchen counters and began to mutter to herself. Usually I was enlisted to scrub and sort fruit and vegetables but this time she sent me out of the kitchen. I was only too glad to escape another tedious hour of “veg prep” and settled down with a book. Some 30 minutes later there was a terrifying explosion. My mother appeared at the doorway to my room looking grim though there was a glint of triumph in her eyes. The kitchen was an appalling mess. Water and vegetables spattered the walls and cupboard doors. There were pieces of metal embedded in the ceiling and one of the windows was broken. It’s supposed to be impossible, blowing up a pressure cooker. Well, I can tell you it’s not.

I’ve treated them with caution bordering on paranoia ever since so the experiments with our new, smaller and supposedly foolproof version were approached with some reluctance. All went well at first except it didn’t seal properly so – no steam, no cooking. The next time it sealed and began to steam. Erring on the side of caution we turned it down as low as possible and waited for the promised whistling that would indicate it was working. After about 5 minutes there was a loud bang, the weight jumped up and a rush of steam shot out of the top. Memories of my mother came back and I turned it off completely, pulled it off the heat and stepped a long way away. We were just laughing at the shock when it happened again. Pressure cookers – tools of the devil!

We’ve spent much of this week looking after our youngest dog. In January he developed a little pimple under one eye. We took him to the vet thinking it was a tick but it turned out to be a small wart. As it was so small and not troubling him we took their advice and left it but over the year it grew and he began to scratch at it. As it was obviously troubling him we arranged to have it removed. Our vets are excellent and they froze it off and cauterized the wound so he had no stitches. They even cut his nails while he was under (he hates having them done). For the past 6 days he’s been wearing a cone and remembering how quickly Cynthia got her collar off we’ve been watching him most of the time. Jacqui’s been brushing him, which he loves, and the collar comes off tomorrow. Don’t know who’ll be more relieved – him or us.

Swan – and spot the moorhen!

The weather has been awful of course. Whilst we missed the worst of the recent storms it has rained every day and the ground is saturated. Even the occasional bright days are punctuated with sudden fierce squalls, though lightened by rainbows. The kitchen roof is holding up well as is the new guttering and soak away system. We are very, very glad we got the water system fixed before this last run of weather as I’m sure it will have affected the water adversely too. One good thing is the revival of the winter pond across the road where waterfowl swim. We even have a pair of swans this year.

So there we are – hunkering down for the winter and glad we are warm and safe. Memories of the journey we took almost 3 years ago are strong this time of year. I never thought I’d still be writing this blog either!

Thank you for reading and I hope you are all keeping well and safe.