It’s here – at last…
On lighting a fire… from above
On Sunday, we were invited to a friend’s place for raclette - one of those Swiss meals that start with an apero late afternoon (on this occasion, with home baked rosemary focacccia and olives) and go on till really late… After looking at photos taken during two years living in South Africa and lots of stories, the raclette was served accompanied by a selection of raw marinated meats, putting it right up there on the top of my list of best raclettes ever. After dinner we moved to a special room with a big fireplace, some very good music and I get to learn something new – again.
In Ireland, lighting a fire was considered a vital skill and you were watched carefully while doing so – especially by a male suitor. The fact that you could light a fire proved without doubt that you were ‘good’. I’m not quite sure exactly at what – but you knew if the fire roared up the chimney, you had made a specifically good impression. An essentially important one…
At our friend’s place, I of course watched carefully and was surprised that the logs were placed in a very flat, grid-like geometric manner. On top of the big logs some shredded paper, rolled in a tightish ball, was placed and only then the lighter tinder wood. It was new to me but proved itself to be ’THE’ way to light a fire. It started above the logs and thus took much longer to burn down and went on for hours and hours till only red glowing embers remained.
I really thought I knew how to light a fire – so Felix, thanks for showing me a better way!
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painting: ‘Old Mill – at the Gate’
by Victor Cirefice
The Secret Garden
It’s deepest winter and snow-fall tends to slow things down to a speed that allows other things to start growing. Being surrounded by seeds in all shapes and sizes, I automatically begin developing plans and schemes and simply cannot help imagining next year’s garden…
Speaking with a friend recently about a possible adapatation of the Frances Hodgson Burnett classic for stage, I fall back again on the concept of the garden as a space which confers identity, in this case a meeting place of two rather selfish ten-year-olds whose lives are transformed through the discovery of the key to a secret garden and the bonds they forge through meeting there. We know that we are strongly influenced by our surroundings and the places wherein we dwell and the idea of the garden offering itself as a way of dealing with alienation and loss is not entirely new. Growth, metamorphosis and new beginnings are images not only prevelant in the world of nature but also in human life.
Back to the sorting and packing of seeds for the next season as I look out at big flakes of snow accumulating and covering the expanse of the garden with a gentle white blanket. Feeling more than grateful for the beauty of this too, coupled with anticipation for all the new things to come… The art of a seed is that it fills one with the sense of possibility as well as bringing back the memory and warmth of fertile abundance.
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Sometimes, led merely by the instructions of a friend who also misses vegetables because working in the city often means quick lunches, you find yourself going through the door of a shop that looks very much like an ordinary Asian supermarket but turns out to be a real kitchen, a little corner of Asia and in the middle the city you thought you once knew, you are transported, over lunch-break on a Tuesday, to a completely different continent.
The bell above the door tinkles as you enter and you make your way to one of the red formica tables and in the warmth of all the retro-redness (sea-side cafés in coastal areas of rural Ireland that served battered cod and chips soaked in white vinegar, come to mind) you look at the blue plastic cut stripes as door curtains opposite, acutely aware of the scent of something exotic being deep fried and very soon a glass of mangoteen juice is served by a friendly face, apologizing for the weather and you look out at the rain pelting down outside, a little bit surprised by the fact that you had already forgotten it was raining and realize, it might well be monsoon time for all you know.
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Best espresso ever…
Recently, while helping a friend move house, I decided I needed a proper good cup of coffee so I left my husband battling with an ikea instruction sheet and a half built set of drawers and made my way into town in search of a coffee shop. Following the directions I got from a young man I met, I went down the main street and took the first left and there I was supposed to find, in his words, ‘a really good cup of coffee’. I was about to give up as I couldn’t see a restaurant anywhere down that street. Then I heard him whistling behind me as he pointed to a big black arched doorway which had a very Jack Daniel’s like enamelled sign, announcing ‘Black and Blaze…’ Entering the room, which felt more like a cave or a wine-cellar, it took my eyes a few minutes to adjust to the lighting, in which time I recognized silhouettes of a few men who were standing at a high table ‘tasting’.
I wasn’t quite sure if I was in the right film so I was politely planning my retreat when I was offered a tiny cup of coffee.
Maybe it was the situation – the same way a plain cheese sandwich when savoured at an altitude of 2500 meters after a sharp ascent just tastes so much better… but it was fantastic.
At any rate, for me on that day, that little cup of coffee was a proper life-saver.