Violet and I have been spending a lot of time at Hazlehead Park lately, mainly because I find the 2.5 mile uphill walk to get there physically and mentally beneficial on these long days. Normally, we go to the petting zoo or the playground*, but this time we decided do a nature walk, taking in the Queen Mother rose garden along the way.
We both picked a favourite rose, then, at home, printed off photographs of them to add to her Adventure Book. V can now recognise a few species of tree from the shape of their leaves (holly, oak, purple beech), and she was delighted to see a spider in the process of making “spider lace”. She displayed some exemplary hiding skills too; it took me forever to find her when she stuck her face in that trellis.
Born to be wild,
*Violet’s word, not mine. I prefer “park”.
My beautiful nephew enjoyed a double-whammy celebration today: it was not only his fifth birthday, but also his very first day at school! All the family gathered for a Spiderman-themed barbecue to punctuate what will hopefully be one of the most memorable days of his childhood. I wasn’t asked to bring anything sweet, but I jump at any chance to bake, as it definitely makes me more popular.
The recipe is foolproof and produces a massive yield (but can easily be scaled down). The end result is a chewy, crisp cookie that’s better than any I’ve ever bought.
Preheat the oven to 180º/fan 160º/GM4. Using an electric whisk or a wooden spoon and some ripped biceps, cream together 225g of caster sugar with 225g of butter (unsalted is the orthodox choice, but I use salted as I’m on a mission to develop gout). Stir in 350g of self-raising flour before adding *the secret ingredient*, condensed milk. I normally end up using about half a tin, which is a little less than 200g. Add whatever flavour combination you want. You can be fairly cavalier with quantities, although 150g of chocolate is roughly what I would add if I was making one type of cookie.
As it happens, at this stage, I separated the dough into three similar quantities to make three different varieties: white chocolate, milk chocolate, and salted-dark-chocolate-pistachio. For the grown-ups, you know?
Ok, “white chocolate” is something of a misnomer. I used Milkybar. And I briefly pulsed the 70% proof dark chocolate and pistachios in the food processor so it was finer than the chocolate chunks in the other batches. (I also broke my left thumbnail shelling the pistachios so it’s short and unfeminine - who the HELL is going to fancy me now?!)
I sprinkled the PG13 variety with Maldon sea salt flakes:
Bake for 12-16 minutes. I’d keep a close eye on the first batch, as you want them to be ever-so ever-so slightly underdone in the middle. Once they’re out of the oven, give them a moment to settle before transferring to a wire cooling rack. (Teaching your granny to suck eggs, I know, but some people are thick.)
Born to be wild,
Addendum: As the dough is egg-free, it can be refrigerated for up to a week, and frozen for up to one month.
FACTS ABOUT KNITTING:
(This was knitted from a Sirdar “Easy Knits” pattern, using Sirdar Baby “Crofter” DK yarn in “Florrie 158”. The Crofter series of yarn all knit up into a sort of Fairisle pattern, making the knit look more complicated than it actually is.)
Born to be wild,
I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating my bookcase lately, mainly the fact that it’s inadequate for displaying all the mementos I’ve collected over the years. How on Earth are visitors supposed to know what a cool, eclectic person I am when everything is just a mish-mash of clutter?!
Maybe I should bear in mind that the purpose of a bookcase is to house books, and that it exists to keep my beloved books safe for me. As I inspected the rows of books, I realised that my favourites haven’t changed in a long time. I don’t know if that’s because modern fiction just doesn’t connect with me, or if these books just came along at the right time. Here are a few unforgettable reads from le grande bibliothèque de Heather Bavidge-Longmuir:
“Love in the Time of Cholera”, Gabriel García Márquez
My heart broke when I read recently that GGM is suffering from dementia and won’t be writing any more books. His writing had such an impact on me in my formative years, particularly “El amor en los tiempos del cólera”. It’s the ultimate tale of unrequited love: Florentino Ariza waits fifty-one years, nine months and four days to tell his first love that she’s his only love, and still she rejects him.
My relationship with this book was cemented from the first page, when in the very first paragraph, I read what may be the greatest sentence I’ve ever known: “The Antillean refugee Jeremiah de Saint-Amour, disabled war veteran, photographer of children, and his most sympathetic opponent in chess, had escaped the torments of memory with the aromatic fumes of gold cyanide.” My mind was blown: is there another description of suicide more beautiful or evocative anywhere else in the world of literature?
“Love in the Time of Cholera” is the most passionate, hopeful story ever told.
I would also like to give Gabriel García Márquez’ 1981 short story, “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” (Crónica de una muerta anunciada) an honorary mention, for three reasons:
1. “He was healthier than the rest of us, but when you listened with the stethoscope you could hear the tears bubbling inside his heart.”
2. “…she had been born like the great queens of history, with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck.” This was never significant to me until I re-read it after Violet was born.
3. It’s wonderful and exciting.
“Rebecca”, Daphne du Maurier
I did a Standard Grade discursive essay on this upon my mum’s recommendation, and I suppose it was the first “grown-up” book I ever read. Up to that point, I was all Sweet Valley High and James Herriot (neither of which are to be sniffed at, I might add). My first revelation was the fact that the story isn’t told from the point of view of Rebecca at all, and that the protagonist is unnamed throughout the entire book. I’d never heard of anything so clever or daring in fiction.
It’s such a well-written story that getting a good grade for my essay was easy. I suppose I’m lucky that I read it so young, as I’ve been able to enjoy a richer understanding of the book as I’ve aged and read it again.
“Men are simpler than you imagine my sweet child. But what goes on in the twisted, tortuous minds of women would baffle anyone.” Now, there’s a sentence that resonates.
“What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” by Haruki Murakami
I’ve read a few of Murakami’s novels and been captivated by his unique story-telling; in contrast to the type of writing I usually prefer, descriptive words are thin on the ground, and there are long periods with no dialogue. Yet, when the text is hard work, or confusing and meta-physical, I have always been enthralled. “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” was one of those books I’d go to bed early for, and, well, “Norwegian Wood”. Norwegian fucking Wood. I suppose that’s why he’s considered a master of fiction.
I have always felt that the main characters of his novels are quite autobiographical, and you can get a good sense of Murakami’s taciturn, thoughtful nature just by examining the traits and behaviours of his leading men. So, when I picked up “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”, his memoir, I felt like I was getting an even deeper insight into someone I was already acquainted with.
Some people might be put off by the fact that it’s a running memoir, but you don’t have to run to draw inspiration from this simple tale of a man’s desire to change his life. It’s my favourite self-help book: “For me, running is both exercise and a metaphor. Running day after day, piling up the races, bit by bit I raise the bar, and by clearing each level I elevate myself. At least that’s why I’ve put in the effort day after day: to raise my own level. I’m no great runner, by any means. I’m at an ordinary – or perhaps more like mediocre – level. But that’s not the point. The point is whether or not I improved over yesterday. In long-distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.”
I have gifted “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” to several people, usually copies that have previously belonged to me, full of highlighted passages and biro underlining. It’s a powerful book, that seems to speak to you just when you need it, like a divine intervention. I read it at just the right time, in the nick of time, maybe. It changed my life.
Born this way,
With recent trips to the amusements, and recurring sightings in episodes of Woolly & Tig and Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom, Violet has developed a minor infatuation with the fairground mainstay, the ferris wheel.
Unfortunately, she’s too little to ride the “big steering wheel”; she needs to grow about another foot until she can savour the pleasures of the Aberdeen Eye. I tried to track a toy ferris wheel down, to no avail, so I made her one instead.
From the perspective of a two year old, there’s something magical about seeing a flat sheet of paper transform into anything you like. Anything you like.
I think she thinks I’m a magician now, but it was actually a really easy fold.
It had to be yellow. It’s her colour. And my hands aren’t even that orange, or leathery.
Born to be wild,
I’m not sure what made me think of this song a couple of nights ago, but I must have listened to it about twenty times since. Actually, being able to still listen to A.F.I. without judgement is my #1 favourite thing about living alone. Once Violet is in bed, I can freely indulge in not-so-guilty aural pleasures. What a hedonist! I remember listening to this in Standard Grade Maths, and thinking how much cooler, and darker, I was compared to my classmates, who generally favoured 2Pac and Cypress Hill.
Davey Havok was my first alternative crush; “Move over, Freddie Prinze Jr, I like goths now!” In that infuriating way that men do, he’s only got better with age, even if he does wear colours now. One of my favourite Davey Havok eras would be around the time I saw them at the Barras in 2003. His hair was really long, and he wore skintight white jeans and a skintight white t-shirt. He looked dainty and angelic, but so perfectly ripped. I’ll always have a soft spot for the Glenn Danzig era too though.
This song. Perfection.
Born this way,
I’ve been wanting to try a nude nail topped with glitter for ages, and No7’s Limited Edition gold top coat seems to have the ideal ratio of glitter to polish for the job.
It’s definitely less dense than Deborah Lippmann Shake Your Groove Thing, so the nude base underneath is able to shine. It’s also a warmer gold than SYGT, making it a perfect compliment to the soft blush of No7’s Practically Perfect.
No7 Stay Perfect Glitter Top Coat in Gold, and No7 Stay Perfect in 150 Practically Perfect*:
Born to be wild,
*must’ve named it after me
Toddlers are unpredictable; any parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle will tell you that. There is, however, one instance where Violet’s behaviour is guaranteed to be a predictable as the tide: if the weather is awful, she will invariably get cabin fever and I’ll be forced to get her in her buggy and take her on an adventure.
Last Wednesday, it was a bleak, drizzly day. We had the big lights on from the moment we got up in the morning, and the mist was so thick we couldn’t see the bottom of the garden. Not an ideal day to walk the two and a half miles to Hazlehead Petting Zoo, but the uphill trudge was a better proposition than staying indoors with a bored, fractious child.
The fog lifted just as we arrived, and Violet’s vibrant raincoat and Supergas brought the sunshine.
Born to be wild,
My bookcase is very tall and narrow, and filled with the usual clichéd girly curios: well-thumbed paperbacks, glossy books about fashion, manual cameras, the cast iron Batman figurine my Cabbage Patch Kid got for Christmas 1995, a Jo Calderone snowglobe, and the ubiquitous copy of Life’s Too Good by the Sugarcubes on DAT tape (everyone has one of those, right?!) My bookshelf is completely packed, and its starting to go beyond artfully cluttered.
I haven’t a staircase, there’s nowhere for an Expedit to go in my wee flat, and, my God, I adore that yellow anglepoise. Never mind; when I live in a more forgiving space, I’ll definitely make more of a feature of the bookcase.
Born to be wild,
I’m not overly taken with No Doubt’s comeback single but it did fill me with nostalgia for a band that, more than ten years ago, I considered a favourite. Gwen Stefani was my first female obsession, and yes, I did give my platinum hair a pink dip-dye. I always loved this video. The bit where she kicks the lamp then jumps up on the table - wild thing!
I fantasised that I would be the kind of bride she is in this video (strangely, the horrific eyebrows didn’t register), then when she actually did get married, I fantasised I would be that kind of bride too. Clearly, I am not married, and if I am ever lucky enough to be, I won’t have ombré pink hair, or an ombré pink wedding dress. In addition to my nostalgia for simpler, No Doubt-loving times, the fact I am a single mother adds poignancy for me when listening to this song. I thought that doing things in “the right order” was the be-all and end-all; a direct route to happiness. Things haven’t turned out like I thought they would, but better.
Born this way,