Posted by Tania Kindersley.
In both our books, Sarah and I put in something called the practical chapter. I think in the last one that included how to get the wax out of carpets and how not to make assumptions. In the new one, it will be things like how to make shampoo from honey and goat’s milk, or some such.
I am not tremendously good at practical things. I always forget where the hammers are. I buy endless pairs of scissors, and then can never find any. I have no clue how to tie a good sailor’s knot. Sometimes, I do something sensible like go to the chemist and make up a proper first aid kit (last time I spent ages pondering whether to buy the Germolene or the Savlon, until a nice young man came to advise me). Then I am so overcome by my own cleverness that I have to go and have a little lie-down.
But mostly I like abstract thought. This has a bad name; people associate it with those French philosophers who insist on deconstructing everything they can get their hands on. I think of it as simply the whys and hows and whats of things. I want to know why humans do the things they do and which received wisdoms are nonsense and who it was who first looked up at the sky and called it blue. I like pondering. (Can I actually say that out loud, without people calling in the Absurdity Police?)
However, after the astonishingly kind and generous response of the Dear Readers to my slightly tangled musings of yesterday, I think it is time to give you some practical things, in thanks. Everyone loves a tip, don’t they? As long as it is not too stupid and patronising. (Especially when it comes to the ladies; sometimes I want to yell: just because I have ovaries, it does not mean that all I can think of in my pink, fluffy little brain is shoes.)
So here are some useful things I was reminded of in the last few days:
I have a pretty pair of tiny glass scent bottles with silver gilt tops. I have no excuse. I bought them for sheer extravagance. On Monday, I noticed they were rather tarnished. Did I have such a thing as silver cleaner, I wondered? I rummaged under the sink, and there was an elderly pot of Goddard’s Silver Dip.
Goddard’s Silver Dip, it turns out, is a miracle of a thing. You pour it into a little bowl, put in the poor tarnished tops, take them out after two minutes, wipe them dry, and they are as glittering and shiny as new.
I understand that in these troubled times, as the economic news continues bad, and the Middle East shakes and trembles, and the endless war in Afghanistan endlessly goes on, that not everyone will be fretting about tarnished silver. There is a danger I am going a little Petit Trianon on your ass. But should you need help with your old forks, turn to Mr Goddard.
Check the Fuses.
Not long ago, I bought a new hoover. (Are you on the edge of your seats with fascination?) Today, it appeared to break. I had no idea where the guarantee was or who to call or what to do. I’ll just check the fuse, I thought. Amazingly, in a most uncharacteristic fit of efficiency, I had stocked the kitchen drawer with three different kinds of fuses. I picked the correct one, put it in the plug, and voila, the machine roared back into life. I’m not sure I ever felt quite so pleased. I had been envisioning a bleak, hoover-free week, especially worrying since the Pigeon had chosen this moment to demolish a stick all over the carpet. Bits of stick on carpet is not a very Martha Stewart look.
So: if in doubt, check the fuses. It feels like a metaphor for life.
Make a quick green soup.
This is not strictly practical, since I insist that the making of a soup is an aesthetic, soul thing. On the other hand, getting enough vitamins and minerals into the good body is a practical matter, so it counts.
The regular readers will know that I make any amount of special green soups. Here is a very quick, easy, slightly cheatish version:
Take a fat leek and three cloves of garlic. Slice up the leek as you please, wash off every last speck of earth, just cover with chicken stock and a pinch of Maldon salt if you have it, or water with a tablespoon of Marigold Bouillon if you do not. Simmer for five minutes. Add two handfuls of watercress and two handfuls of spinach. Simmer for two more minutes.
Liquidise like hell, with a gloop of extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of chilli flakes, until smooth. Check seasoning. (The green is strong, and may need quite a lot of salt, or a bit more Marigold.) If it comes up a little thick, add a tiny bit more water or stock. That’s it.
Trying just now to think if I know any more ad hoc practical tips for life. I rummage about in my brain, which stays recalcitrant. Well, I think: learn to type, travel everywhere with a notebook, buy train tickets in advance (much cheaper), make lists. It’s not exactly Enquire Within, is it?
Oh, and I suppose, if you want to be really happy, get a nice, black lab-colllie cross, who looks at you with Grace Kelly eyes. (This may not apply to everyone.)
It’s a mean old afternoon, so here are some pictures from the last couple of days:
Here are the little bottles, all gleaming and cleaned by clever Mr Goddard:
And since I was there, I took this snap of my favourite old chemist bottles:
Then back to nature, with a bit of moss and tree:
Since the Pigeon is here putting on one of her most adorable expressions, I cast it into black and white, for the full effect:
Showing the perfection of her profile:
And the hill, a little blurry:
Just thinking now, of the practical things. You are such a very clever bunch of readers, I wondered if anyone knows how to get burn out of lovely steel pans. I have a horrid habit of putting something on, going back to my desk, and quite forgetting about it. I come back to awful, stuck on charcoal. I can get the worst off, but there is still black stain.
And, since I am rather rudely asking for your advice – one of the horticultural readers tells me the cotinus has the pox. POX. It’s too fifteenth century for anything. I use no chemicals on the garden, because I’m a bit soppy about the bees and the butterflies, and secretly feel rather proud the whole thing is quite organic, so I was wondering if there was such a thing as a natural cure. I know that you will know.