This morning was another cold, dreary, grey, flattening sort of morning. Melbourne specialises in these. I have to exert a lot of energy to rise above it. But the last few weeks, as I’ve been waiting for application acceptances and grad year interviews, I’ve been a little bit wobbly on the rise. Checking emails every 5 minutes. Fretting over imagined, terrible outcomes. Wondering how I’ll ever make it to October 14th without having wasted 2 months ripping off all my cuticles.
Oy! So, instead of working on the Spring House which continues to cover the kitchen table, I tipped my needlepoint wool onto the library table and curled up under the lamp to work on my Norwegian Queen. Did you know the Norwegian word for Queen is “Dronning”. I must say, to my English speaking mind, this doesn’t conjure up the most regal notions – instead, it makes me think of a right bore of a queen, “dronning” on and on and on in a pompous and repetitive manner to her ladies in waiting about all the things the King (Konge) does that annoy her.
Yesterday, when I was thinking of all the things I could do with this wee needlepoint, I looked up lots and lots of ways to say Queen. The similarities were mostly expected – except for the enchanting Hindi word. You want to know some? Course you do – in French they say “Reine”, in Spanish it’s “Reina” and in Italian it’s “Regina”. Yup – just as expected. But in Hindu it’s “Rani”! How cool is that!! That Sanskrit and European languages share the same root is so fabulous! Just tonight I heard that lovely Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield, say that the thing he really began to feel when he was floating above our improbable jewel like world was the collectiveness of it all. Such a beautiful thought – and precisely why they say Rani in India and Reine in France.
You want to know some more – all right! In Russian they say “Koroleva”, in Czech they say “Kralovna”, and in Turkish they say “Kralice. Must be a connection there. In Malaysian they say “Ratu” and in Arabic they say “Malikah”. In Japanese I think they say “Joo” and in Vietnamese they say “Nu Hoang”. The one that made me laugh was the Maori – “Kuini”! Isn’t that gorgeous! I wish my Norwegian queen was a “Kuini” but I suppose I’d best make peace with the fact she’s a “Dronning”.
Anyways – etymological diversions aside – the needlepoint. I was at a bit of an impasse. I had – improbably – chosen gingernut brown for the background and spent last eve furiously filling and filling and filling. Then realised this morning that I couldn’t possibly fill in around all those little red flowers – they would VANISH into the gingernut. As I sat there, calculating how many hours it would take to pull out all that gingernut, I looked up and realised what was clearly inspiring me when I first settled on warm brown – this here print on the library wall!
I’m afraid I cannot remember the name or artist, but it is from the early American colonial period – one of my favourite periods of art. I just love the wonky perspective and proportions – grapes hanging from huge trees ready to torpedo the small farm houses and the garden that looks ripe for sliding down the steep hill – of gingernut brown! I’ve always looked at this painting and thought how the artist must have painted and painted the brown hill and then got to that beautiful weeping willow and thought “bugger, I can’t possibly paint in between all those delicate leaves, I know, I’ll paint around it.” And at the moment I was GLAD I’d chosen gingernut brown and knew just how to deal with those red flowers :-)
Then, I practised that ancient sport of “well, before I start a new piece of brown, I’ll just check the emails again.” Do you know that game? It goes like this – “before I wash the dishes, I’ll just check the emails again”, “I’ll hang out the washing and then I can check the emails again”, “I won’t check the emails again until I’ve added three more rows of bricks”, “goodness, I’ve been out of the house for 45 minutes, it’s time to quickly check the emails again.” Course you do. But this time – oh thank my lucky stars – there was the email I’ve been waiting for. A grad interview at the Royal Children’s Hospital for next Friday. Yes! Phew! Now I can get on with life.
Folks, I waltzed into the kitchen. I cleaned up with a spring in my step. I laughed with delight at the thought of baking for lunch :-) And so I pulled out a real favourite – Hugh’s soda bread from his lovely “Family Cookbook”. It’s such a good, solid recipe that allows for all manner of interpretations – today it was dates and oats. I just followed the basic recipe – eliminated the sugar (I always do that) and substituted 50g of oats for 50g of flour. Yum!
Popped it into the oven and did some more washing up. I must admit – I do like washing up in winter. I love filling the sink with straight hot water – no cold – and then plunging my hands in. This year I’ve either developed asbestos hands or the plumber turned the water heater temperature down when he last visited. Either way, it’s bliss. Fogs up my spectacles. The steam rises around me and floats away from the dishes as I stack them on the drainer. Oh yes, washing up, one of winter’s pleasures.
Then, whilst the soda bread baked, I got to playing with the beet tops from last night’s supper. Chopped off the leaves for the rabbits. And then, was so entranced by the ruby red liquid that dripped from the stems, that I chopped them up too and boiled them up in a bit of water. I have plans. Next time you pop into blockaday I shall either be showing you something marvellous. Or you’ll be laughing until you cry over what happened to those beet stems. We’ll just have to wait and see which it will be.
In 25 minutes, out came the soda bread – all bursting with scrumptious, piping hot dates. I hacked off some thick slabs, carefully layered them with thin slices of cold salty butter and gobbled them up at the kitchen bench. Yum!
Washed the butter from my hands, wrapped the leftovers for tomorrow morning’s breakfast – Hugh’s soda bread is marvellous toasted – and returned to my Kuini-Dronning. Spirits lifted. Belly full. New ideas for birds and borders and purposes in my mind.
Take that you dreary, winter Melbourne morning!