Entries in listening (5)

Thursday
May032012

thinking about clams

Venice is one of those cities, like San Francisco and Stockholm, that I slipped into so easily that coming home felt wrong. Even the greenly dank smell of the water didn't worry me. I accepted it like the little flaws you secretly like in someone you love. Evading the crowds who trod heavily round the same few streets, the pleasures of getting lost amidst the back streets were heightened by the frequent discovery of a tiny deserted church with a centuries old fresco. I dreamed of training in fresco restoration and spending my life there. Sitting quietly with a prosecco in a neighbourhood square, watching the life move around us, we talked of how easy it would be simply not to go home. 

But for all the many good memories I have attached to Venice, surprisingly few of them are culinary. Some of the most disappointing Italian food I've eaten has been in Venice. There are glorious exceptions. Plates of cicchetti served in little bars full of raised voices and crowded with office workers. Gefilte fish eaten in on the canal side in Cannareggio. Little polpetti that were so hot and fresh that we burned out mouths in haste and greedy hunger. And the best spaghetti al vongole. There were no tomatoes or chilli - just a lot of garlic and wine and a soft, leafy green that lay across the clams like a little blanket and melted on contact with your tongue.

Listening again to this programme, I determined to celebrate all things Venetian with my own tribute to that vongole. Chard will be my leafy green, and I'll use a heavy hand with the garlic and the wine bottle. And I've just remembered there's a bottle of prosecco in the larder from the days when it was actually spring - hurray! It's so cold and grey here that a little feast is just what's needed. What are you cooking tonight?

Tuesday
Dec132011

finite

Today I found myself sketching from memory a Frink head and was surprised to discover how melancholy and odd he turned out. Replete with fiercely herbed and garlicky mushroom soup and with a cluster of newly potted tiny, fuchsia cyclamen catching this winter light on the windowsill next to me, melancholy is something far away.

Though as I drew I was listening again to a fascinating tribute to Ted Hughes, recorded to celebrate his inclusion in Westminster Abbey's poet's corner. The epigraph on his headstone consists of the concluding three lines of his poem That Morning, celebrating the magical sensation of standing amongst a shoal of salmon with his son. And perhaps the static monumentality of stone and plaster seemed suddenly a sadder, duller thing in contrast with the living, vivid flash of light and fish and atoms. With being human. 

There, in a mauve light of drifted lupins,
They hung in the cupped hands of mountains

Made of tingling atoms. It had happened.
Then for a sign that we were where we were
Two gold bears came down and swam like men

Beside us. And dived like children.
And stood in deep water as on a throne
Eating pierced salmon off their talons.

So we found the end of our journey.

So we stood, alive in the river of light,
Among the creatures of light, creatures of light.

from That Morning - Ted Hughes


Wednesday
Jun222011

perfect moments

 

Do you sometimes find that, in the middle of an otherwise ordinary day, there are little moments of near perfection? Today's little moment came about through lassitude. Idly clicking through my inbox to avoid doing any of the many things on my list I'd prefer not to do, I opened a link to the Toast blog. Did you know they had a blog? News to me. But it's surprisingly interesting, and rather lovely. On it, I discovered a little video of Maria Bosch working in her studio. It's silent, which was what made the whole perfect moment.. perfect. At the time I was listening to one of my favourite pieces, Arvo Pärt's Spiegel im Spiegel. The rain was falling heavily and audibly through the trees and tapping gently on the windows. It synched gently with the sublime melancholy of Pärt's music and provided the perfect soundtrack to the engrossing dexterity of Bosch's hands working the clay.

Desperate, suddenly, to shape something myself and with my old block of clay lying neglected, poorly wrapped and hard as stone in the shed, I hurled myself at the only thing to hand; a block of white air-dry clay in the craft cupboard. With no aim in mind I formed a few tiny little bowls similar to some we've unearthed in our garden, simply by pressing out the shape with my fingers. They were too hastily made to be lovely and I think we'll gift them back to the garden, but I may try and make some with a little more care. Now to find myself a pottery course. I hope you've had a perfect little moment today.

Sunday
Jun052011

helpless

Listening absent-mindedly to the online repeat of Desert Island Discs with Floyd's Roger Waters, I was startled to hear Neil Young's Helpless. I'm afraid I was lost then and heard little else as my mind wandered. Very little throws me so quickly to a particular time and place as music - or poetry.

Poetry is a private passion, known only to those who know me really very well. Robert Lowell is one of the first poets I read through choice and treasured more because I first discovered him in my father's own, annotated copies. I read everything I could of his, and all the books about him. I tracked down old vinyl recordings and painstakingly recorded them onto cassettes (remember those?). Hearing his voice for the first time shocked me utterly, it was so counter to the impression I'd formed.  But now, oh joyful interweb, people are putting poetry onto YouTube.

So, glass of wine in hand and vegetables roasting I can listen to Lowell, reading one of his later poems. And reminisce.

 

Thursday
May122011

nostalgia

Sometimes I'm caught out by a photo or a letter that slips out of a 'strictly in the past' album shelved out of reach amidst a tangle of gift bags that accumulate dustily. Today it was music. Two tracks that shuffled next to each other and sent me back to another lifetime. And the clouds gathered over my house and, for a while, the rain fell in bursts. Actually, not metaphorically. Weather and music combined synchronistically to induce a rush of nostalgia that took my breath away.

Now the sun's out again and I have a school cake sale to attend and swimming to cheer on, and risotto ingredients to buy and prepare. And life continues on.