Thursday, 20 March 2014

A happy birthday.

Today, the lovely Stepfather is eighty-two years old. I took him a fold of white tulips and made him a lunch.

I woke at seven-thirty this morning, planning the lunch in my head. In the end, it was:

Rare sirloin of finest Aberdeen Angus beef from our magnificent local butcher, with a flat leaf parsley sauce.

Aubergine and wilted watercress with olive oil.

New potatoes, thickly sliced and baked in the oven with rosemary and garlic.

Sautéed red peppers.

Red onions in a white sauce.

I am not terribly good at following recipes, so most of these were made up in my head. The aubergine was inspired by Nigel Slater, and the onions in white sauce are, I think, an old French stand-by. It was all very simple, but rather good, if I say so myself.

I did everything quickly this morning so I could concentrate on the lunch. I rode fast, and the mare seemed to think this was a great joke, giving me the most glorious breezing canter. Quite often, I get on and think: what I am going to do today? Shall it be a day for transitions or getting a good bend or encouraging self-carriage? Today, I had no time. I merely wanted, selfishly, the feeling of joy I get when I am on her back. I wanted a bit of wind in my face. So I did not go through the careful steps as I usually do. I just threw the reins at her and said: let’s go.

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, she said. That’s a bloody good idea.

The lightness in her was so enchanting it made me shout out loud. Perhaps sometimes a bit of what the hell is not a bad thing.

I ran to HorseBack and did my work there.

I wrote no book. Which is excessively naughty.

And then there was the lunch. My stepbrother has flown all the way from Canada, and so there was that delight. The dogs were funny, the food was good, an excellent wine from Portugal was produced. There was cake. It was a sweet family thing.

An interesting side-note to all this is that because actual humans and human things took up most of my day, I spent no time on the internet. I adore the internet. For an introvert like me, it is a glorious thing. It tells me things about distant lives I otherwise would not know. It keeps me up to date with the news. It sends me bulletins about physics, and politics, and good deeds, and adorable pandas. I may see pictures of the newest Frankel foal, or NASA shots of the unimaginable universe. There are excellent jokes, and novel facts, and fascinating strangers I shall never meet in real life.

I’ve never understand the snobbism about the internet. There are those who insist that the whole thing is a diametrical notion. Either you are a rounded human who has a proper life, or you are a saddo freak who sits peering owlishly at a screen, only capable of virtual interaction. The empirical evidence that many, many people manage both the virtual and the actual is ruthlessly ignored. Even that last sentence is wrong. There is no opposition between the virtual and the actual. The virtual may be the actual.

But today, I must admit, it was rather lovely to be immersed in the three-dimensional world. I still maintain that the idea that one has to pick one or the other is a false choice. I shall return to the adorable pandas. Yet this small caesura reminded me that sometimes I can get a little too internetty. It is not the choice that is important; it is the balance.


Today’s pictures:

Tulips and cake:

20 March 1

Potatoes ready to go in the oven:

20 March 2

20 March 3

Aubergines, with a little waft of steam coming off them:

20 March 4

Onions in white sauce:

20 March 6

Cooking the peppers:

20 March 6-001

The mighty beef. We are very, very lucky in our butcher, and that we live in the heart of Aberdeen Angus country:

20 March 8

The elegant Mother:

20 March 10

The lovely Stepbrother and Stepfather:

20 March 11

Every time I try to take pictures of food, I am lost in admiration for food photographers. I have no technical expertise, mostly just point and shoot and hope for the best. But I do try. And I have absolutely no idea how to make edible things look lovely. They always come out a little disappointing.

Still, they did taste very delicious and that is the most important thing.


  1. I am currently eating my lunch and yet these photos have my mouth watering!

  2. Happy Family Day! I have been enjoying your blog but yesterday I took the time for a long comment, and then went back to correct a typo, and it froze, again, I just didn't have the heart to start over, repeating myself,

  3. Ha! See what I mean? Maybe the problem is that I'm usually in my ipad and trying to type too fast. Love your beautiful happy lucky animals, your insight, your style.

  4. Wow, that all looks so delicious! Lucky stepfather! Rachel

  5. How delicious that food looks. There is nothing more rewarding than cooking for others. I am about to cook roast chicken for my stepson; I think I shall pick some rosemary after looking at your potatoes.


  6. I too am all for marking the day, even more so when it comes to celebrating our old wise gentle people. You did it beautifully as I knew you do and with your usual flair. I must confess to be a touch in awe of your capacity to produce all this beauty and loveliness by planning on the very morning of the event. Also inspired as usual by your food pictures authentic enough to make one want to reproduce the look of your plates and the flavours I project on them. And hurray for the odd day unplugged, back in the mindful here and now.


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