Simple pleasures

Not the outdoor type

What if something’s on t.v. and its never shown again?*

So that’s it. Summer’s almost gone. Any warm weather from now on is a bonus, not an Indian summer. As far as I’m concerned, it’s autumn and time to light even more candles and draw the blinds and curtains shut, delighting at the dying of the light.

We have just ended the summer holidays with a week in a field. And although we had a spacious yurt to stay in, it was still in a field. This meant a four hour walk with a wheelbarrow to do some bad washing up and a full blown existential crisis while even contemplating washing of bodies.

Not keen on walking to the loo in the middle of the night, which to be honest was little more than a sawdust-filled hole surrounded by a fence, I may or may not have gone really back to nature. And it was a lovely way to check on the stars, which were out of this world, even if half naked and glasses-less may have made me rush my normally contemplative astronomical gazing.

But there really is something wonderful about sausage, egg and bacon eaten with your bare feet in the mid-morning dew. The warmth of the gas barbecue ring for the kettle defrosting all of us like mammoths found beneath the ice. I honestly can’t remember ever having been so cold, and I’ve been to Newcastle.

A fire each night kept us warm for a while, we toasted marshmallows. No-one but me liked them, which I don’t understand. They are like really trashy creme brulées on a stick. Sort of. And obviously the heat is enough to remove fingerprints. Still, you need your kicks when sleeping in a field.

When the rest of the family left me to go inside, complaining, I stared at the sky for some time, thinking big thoughts, watching the moon slowly move through the night and the three constellations I can recognise slowly appear. Then, when I could no longer feel my limbs and face, I went inside and we listened to the episodes of The Archers we managed to download in the nearby town.

Food had to be simple. One night we had steaks, cooked directly on the flames (which, in a huge chest beating moment of manliness I had managed to get going by using dried corn husks as kindling thanks very much). An onion tossed fully skinned into the embers came out soft, sweet and smoky and the mushrooms, cooked quickly with sage went down very well with Noah. Maya had chopped them all for us, but refused to eat them.

We stewed some rhubarb too, for pudding. Noah chopped it and loaded it into one of the big cast-iron pans. How I love them. (The pans. Quite fond of the children too I suppose). Apart from the stringy fibres, which I forgot to remove, it was delicious. I used an indecent amount of sugar, but you have to really.

We made mint and sage tea while the children learned to build shelters and light fires. Noah didn’t think much of it, but at least he tried it. Maya looked at me from under suspicious eyebrows and backed silently away. And I kept thinking “these are the good old days.”

But, there is a certain relief of a whole night spent in your own bed, once back home. Even if there are no hooting owls. And to be honest, I can do without the moos in the middle of the night too. Perhaps it was the cows getting their own backs for the steaks we had eaten.

*Evan Dando

This week:
Watched: Despicable Me 3. I liked it. It was ok. I didn’t like it. The children did though, and to be honest, a rainy day in Norfolk needs some diversions.
Read: Halfway through A Tale of Two Cities. Each page is an exercise in perseverance, but on I go…
Eaten: Steaks on a fire, marshmallows, lots of crisps and shortbread, a screaming drive down to our favourite Indian restaurant the moment we arrived home…
Listened to: The Beatles 1967-70 that Noah found in a record shop and Miles Davis while I drank coffee and read the New Yorker on our sofa marvelling at electricity and having a sink inside.

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