Today we are going to pick and crush the grapes. These are a Vidal Blanc grape on a root stock that will deal with the extended freezing temperatures here in the winter. I can leave the grapes on the vine until they are frozen (resulting in a really sticky white dessert wine) however I don’t really have the volume of grapes for that this year. The longer they hang on the vine the drier they get and this does concentrate the flavours. Then if they get a few good freezes this creates an extra series of taste sensations. But as you can imagine you will then have way less juice. Less juice means less wine and we all know what less wine means!
So this year we have decided to harvest a little earlier. Once again we are doing it the old fashioned way. No meters or gadgets, just observation and taste. And an old re-jiggered crusher that we found in the basement. The grapes have darkened to a blushy pink and they taste very sweet, the pips are brown. They are pulling off the stalk very easily. So. Today we pick. The time is now. A few friends are on their way over. And as soon as the fog clears and the grapes dry we will get underway.
I will take some pictures (on my rubbish camera as my good one has spat the proverbial dummy) and let you know all about it tomorrow. Now I have to get busy with my preparations. One of which is to make a nice spinach soup and some fresh bread for a casual supper out in the cool autumnal orchard when we are finished.
I have been making this soup for years so it is a great favourite. When I make it today I shall double the ingredients. In a large saucepan, (I use a wok) heat a couple of tablespoons olive oil. ADD
Cook until the onions are slightly browned and bacon is cooked but NOT crispy. Then ADD
Toss the potatoes in the bacon and onion mixture and cook until hot then ADD (why has my text suddenly shrunk!)
Serve with a swirl of cream and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Yes I am finally eating the parmesan!! It is only five months old and I know I am about 6 months too early but I can wait No longer! I have six wheels of parmesan down there so I do not feel too naughty.. Don’t tell the cheese police!
We are picking plenty of butternut now and I know I am supposed to be storing them in the basement for the winter but they are just so tasty. Eggplants or aubergine seem to have been our best fruiting plant this year and we still have some hanging, just waiting for the kitchen. In fact we seem to have been feasting on different kinds of eggplants for months and I am still not tired of them. So here is the curry I made with a lovely mild and pretty butternut and the thai eggplant.
Curry is one of my favourites in my kitchen because I can start it and leave it to cook while I go and work outside. Our winters (in the midwest) when they come, get very very cold (well very very cold for me anyway compared to my upbringing on a New Zealand beach) so I have to be very very prepared. We heat the house with a cast iron wood burning firebox in the big room and I will literally put a curry or a stew on top and it will cook quietly on the fire for the afternoon. Though not yet. We have to clean the summer birds nests out of the chimney first!!
And did I tell you that I only have one faucet (tap) for the whole wee farm. So there is plenty of exercise dragging the hose from one water barrel to the next and one garden to the next all summer. But in winter the hoses are useless, everything freezes solid. Solid! So guess how I get water out to the barn? To the three cows and five sheep and all those chooks and guineas and cats and dogs and maybe soon a pig.. yes, with buckets! I know, I hear you gasp. You can’t get more old-fashioned than that. You know some people pay to go to a gym to carry the weights I do!!
But winter is not here yet, it is still late late summer so we are still warm and active and happily dragging hoses. Below is the curry recipe and then I am giving out FIVE more awards. Exciting.
Place in pan with a little hot oil, stir together well and lightly toast just enough to excite the flavours. Then add-
Cook until cooked, serve over jasmine rice. We had a side dish of thin pork strips pan fried with sesame seeds, red chilli, honey (of course) and freshly picked coriander.
And yes – more AWARDS. I am so lucky today. Another blogging friend of mine and a very clever woman who has a very entertaining way of looking at the world – sent me another prize. chris nominated me for the Liebster Blog award. Which is just fantastic. Thank you Chris. Pop over and visit her when you have a moment. She is lovely.
And now the best and worst part, I also get to nominate 5 new recipients of this award. But only five. Though awesome to get a chance. The recipients should have less than 200 subscribers, I have no idea how to know this as not many people publish that. So I am going to take a stab within my own little blog world and hope for the best.
The blog world is such a positive and informative place to wander through each morning. Once more I am so sorry to all the wonderful pages I visit and who visit me that I do not have enough awards to go around.
I will love you and leave with these 5 really good food blogs out of so many really really good food blogs that I follow. Now, if any of you have so many subscribers that I have made an error, just say oops, then gently pass it on to five of the other little people like me on your lists, who would love the recommendation from you I am sure. And thank you again for all your neat comments. I love them. c
Drum roll please!
Look what miss valentine sent me, an award, this is wonderful! She is a stunning, sensitive, honest, hardworking girl with freckles who loves m&m’s and I would love you to drop by and say hullo. And thank you for this Miss V.
Evidently and most excitingly I am to nominate 15 more bloggers and so I shall compile a list for you. How lovely. I love lists. Awards such as these tell us that the blog world is a generous world. And really it is my pleasure to be out here with you all.
Also I am to tell you 7 things about myself that you do not already know.
1. I like to have a glass of wine when I cook because if I have a glass of wine while I cook, I cook better. They say you should never mix cooking with drinking, but I am sure just a wee sip (giggle) is OK.
2 I wear my socks inside out because I do not like that little seamy bit touching my toes.
3. Years ago when my children were school age, senior son was having trouble with a poetry assignment at school, the night before it was due, we pulled a random novel from my collection and I just read random sentences to him and he randomly wrote them down and randomly rearranged them and received a random A. I still remember the line from one of the poems. It was ‘the flip side of a lions eye’. Cool.
4. My favourite and constant companion on my travels, my cabin bag is called The Tardis. And no it does not look like a telephone booth.
5. At all times in my head there is a soundtrack playing and sometimes it escapes and I sing along! Horrors. Though sometimes the soundtrack is a song I HATE then I have to consciously change tracks! Which takes a good deal of concentration and loud humming whilst holding your hands over your ears.
6. When I was taking those shots of the bees the other day the scent of sugar was on my hands. So bees were gathering on my camera, my fingers, hands and up my arms as I was shooting and I did not scream and run away! Though I walked very smartly in the other direction.
7. I hate housework and I hate shopping. This is why I garden!!
And soon I need to go out and do some work in the gardens. This is a shot of my asparagus field. There are about 500 plants down there. More going in next year. When the fronds are yellowed I will cut it all back and heap all the beds up with compost. This is the first crop of the spring. Asparagus is a superfood.
Miss Guinea 2011 says thank you for her award. She is very happy about it. Um. On the inside I guess, she is not one for showing her emotions.
And so in the interests of social networking and the fun of playing the game I shall begin the impossible task of compiling the list of bloggers to pass this award on to.
This is the best bit and the worst bit because I am sure my list will get too long.
I adore many more sites as well. So this is only a selection of the sites I think you would enjoy visiting and who deserve an award. They are an eclectic bunch!
PS (added the day after) I just read about another person getting this award and the rule was to pass on the award to 5 more people so maybe if you like you can choose which rules to comply with.. i was given the number 15 which was tons of fun!) c
This is the last T story for a wee bit as the grapes are beginning to turn, and the animals need some extra attention with my grass going so much slower. It is still late summer ( I am quite determined about that) and that means harvest time in the pumpkin patch, prep time in the garlic beds, and then that wonderful job of clearing all the gardens, making the winter compost mountain. Then I have to sit in the barn and have a think about where I am going to fit everyone this winter. We do things slowly in the sustainably managed farm world. Plenty of time to think. And make sure that my little eco system of animals and birds and environment stays healthy.
When T was little he wore a brown velvet hat with a floppy rim for almost 2 years. It was the most miserable, crumpled, stained and bent smelly hat you are ever likely to see. You would use two fingers to pick it up. In my memory it is a pale brown, dungy colour. We insisted that it was taken off at dinner times so we could see his face. He would always wait to be told then slowly drag it off his head and hang it pathetically on the back of his chair and when he turned back we were blinded by that white farmers strip of untanned forehead. We always sat around the big table as a family for dinner. And we had to wait until everyone had finished eating and talking before anyone would leave the table. Some of these dinners lasted ages. T ate very slowly. Because he was the quietest of the family I personally think that his slow eating was one of the few times when he had complete control over his brothers and sisters. He would methodically work his way back and forth across the plate, consuming with a dogged determination, carefully cutting and piling and chewing. After the last morsel was tasted and chewed and swallowed, he would help himself to seconds and do it all over again. Then he would lay his knife and fork together as we were taught, and look up as though -oh goodness are you all still here. There would be a nod and with a wild screeching of chairs and clanging of plates into the kitchen we would be gone, and T would kneel up onto this chair, retrive his cherished hattie, pull it down onto his head right past his eyebrows to the shelf of those long eyelashes, then carry his plate to the kitchen and if his name was not on my carefully crafted absolutely fair roster for dishes or cleaning he would dissappear again.
So we had all these old bikes and T who was a very quiet but very determined little fella decided one day that it was time for him to learn to ride a bike. He never told anyone he wanted to ride a bike he just decided that he would and proceeded. So he lugged a bike over to the launching rock, stood on the rock, clambered on gave himself a push off and proceeded to wobble and then crash about a million times. Up he would get, push the battered old bike back to the rock, the handlbars at eye level, climb onto the rock, mount, wobble, crash, his legs were too short. He would tip his head back so he could see out from under the brim and attempt to push off with the tip of his toe, wobble, crash.
Now you will remember that we grew up in a sprawling beach house right beside the sea in the North Island of New Zealand.
Before I tell you the second half of T learning to ride a bike you need to be able to draw a picture in your mind of this location. The big rocks were right outside the back door. My mother loved rock gardens. With big rocks. My Dad said to her early on I will place a rock once then I will shift it once, after that you are on your own. Then there was a long tarmac drive, that sloped every so gently, down to the gate. We were not allowed out the gate without permission so we spent a lot of time walking on the gate or sitting on the fence. Anyway so imagine for me a straight line, unimpeded, the drive slopes down through lawns and rock gardens to the gate, which was open that day, past the letterbox, across the footpath, over the road, across a grassy verge, then down an almost vertical steep grassy bank, across a little more grass, onto the shore which begins as big rocks then smaller stones, soft duny sand then at low tide a wide expanse of hard sand and finally into the waves. We had gentle waves on this day. It was late summer. Low tide. You can hear gulls, and the ever present woosh of the surf. It sounds like a cool breeze in the trees.
My sister and I had finished the dishes and had come outside to sit on the fence and think about homework. Mum was in her bedroom, resting. Dad had his head stuck behind a newspaper upstairs. We sat looking at the sea for a bit, listening to the clatter and grunts of T somewhere behind us. Soon we turned our backs to the sea and watched T instead. Because watching him fall off the bike again and again was a even more entertaining than spying on surfees changing under their towels. Soon, we started helping him, picking him up and lifting him onto the seat, pushing him around a bit, as he held on, he could pedal if he was off the seat but for now he was happy being pushed around, and doing the turning. Soon we were pushing him at high speed around and around the rock garden. Great hilarity.
Then for some reason we pushed him right back to the big shed and turned and lined him up to go straight down the drive. Now here is the brake, you know how to use it, we will give you a push and see how you go by yourself. We will catch you. Fall on the grass if you have to, not into the rocks. No-one expected him to stay on.
He settled his hat further onto his head, sat on the seat with his knees up, bare feet gripping the bar. I arranged his hands on the handlebars, spreading his fingers to the brake, then we ran him forward and pushed him off as hard as we could and he shot forward like he had been shot out of a rubberband. We chased after him. Laughing.
He wooshed down the drive, brake, brake we are yelling in horrified stage whispers so as not to bother mum, putting on barefoot speed to catch up with him, he hit the downward slope in the drive, roaring past his own reflection in Mums bedroom window, crouched over the handlebars like a little devil but did not brake. A horrified silence as we saw him shoot out the drive and into the road. Across the road! Without looking! Bumped up on top of the grass verge on the other side, across the council grass and then straight over the vertical bank, he dropped straight out of sight, it was about 1o foot high this grassy bank with a goat track in it for climbing up. Not a sound. We started to run, he would have crashed. We expected screaming and blood or at least the blood as he was a quiet child after all. Then to our amazement he reappeared below us flying across the beach grass, still going in a straight line, tearing towards the beach, by now going at a terrific speed, hands grimly holding onto the handlebars, his body bumping about on top of his bike seat. Completely silent still. Across the big stones, through the little stones and out onto the sand, a missile of a child, aimed straight for the open sea, whistling along, upright now, legs flailing out, trying to keep his seat as the sand picked at his speed and then water spraying up on either side, he hit the ocean and plowed straight in. He stalled, wobbled slightly and stopped, holding his upright position, facing the ocean, no doubt grinning all over his naughty evil dirty little face, an evening stick figure sillouette, for that trembling beautiful breathless moment. Then firmly attached to this bike, silently, like a long legged crab, he crashed sideways into the sea.
Now you tell me that little bugger did not do that on purpose!! See? See how he was always getting me into trouble.
When we were kids and living in that big beach house, there was a period when my mother became unwell. For quite some time actually. And during the times when she was in bed I would take over the kitchen and the littlies and my sister A would take over the laundry and the floors. My youngest sister G did the animals and chooks.
Dad would rise very early in the morning and make a big pot of porridge. Then he would walk up and down the halls calling us all to wakefulness before he went to work at 6.30.
Our milk was delivered early in the morning in pint bottles with little silver tin foil lids. These were dropped one by one into a little wire basket. To tell the milk boy how many bottles you wanted you put that many empty bottles out on the fence the night before, with the corresponding number of plastic tokens that we bought at the dairy (little grocery store)up the road, inside the bottles. The milk boy had a trolley with crates loaded with bottles of milk and he ran clanking down the road, going to each house, pulling out empties and loading the baskets with full white fresh creamy milk and popping the baskets in a special shaded area below the letterbox with a tinkle of glass on glass. Our first morning sound. The milk was always whole, or full cream and so there was a little layer of cream on top of the milk. We were always careful of this layer as it was the best of the milk, kids would get up early in the morning to try and get this cream for their hot porridge, which was then piled high with brown sugar and eaten from the outside in. One of my sisters did not care about the cream because she would pour the milk very carefully in a moat around her porridge then lift the island of porridge away from the sides and then stir the island around and around until the milk flew across the kitchen.
After I had poured the cream off I would make egg nogs for everyone with our own eggs (Dad had chooks down the back) and this beautiful fresh milk. Everyone had a cup of egg nog every morning. This was not American Christmas eggnog which I knew nothing about until I came to America. This was special celi eggnog that we had for breakfast every morning for years. Mum was adamant that we all drink it. I think that even though my mother struggled for years with her health or maybe because if it she was probably a pioneer in health food. I will tell you about her muesli, and mama munch one day too.
So we were all upstairs in the new kitchen. I had separated 6 eggs into two separate bowls and was whisking the whites. Dad had gone to work. Mum was in bed. All the kids were milling about stuffing lunches (sandwiches that I had made the night before and wrapped in grease proof paper) into their bags, doing last minute homework and preparing their own versions of breakfast.
T was in charge of making the toast. He had been doing this for ages. Everyone worked together, had their own job and cleaned their own dishes in the mornings. We had a system, the kitchen was packed with movement but it worked. We did not have a toaster, we had a gas grill that was mounted on the wall. The grill could take 6 pieces of bread at a time, and T would sit up there munching and toasting until the orders stopped coming in. He was a bit short though being so young so to reach the grill he pulled out a drawer, stood on it then heaved his little self up onto the bench. He would squat like a grasshopper at the grill. Saying very little because he was a quiet fella.
This morning as I was making the egg nog I was listening to an even younger brother read his homework book, my sisters were eating at the breakfast bar, and my older brother was carefully sprinkling about 2 inches of brown sugar onto his porridge. I was in charge of the littlies and I took this responsibility seriously but I was right there at the bench with T, so it wasn’t like he was alone or anything.
So, I had separated the 6 eggs, the yolks were mixed with three cups of milk and a teaspoon of vanilla in one bowl. I was beating the egg whites in another bowl into peaks slowly adding three spoons of sugar.
T had that thing that you strike and it makes a spark, my sisters were shouting to each other and Mum was beeping on her intercom hoping for a cup of tea and we had not noticed that T had turned on the gas and was taking a bit longer than usual to light it. He had been doing this job for months without misshap. The repeated rasp of the lighter went unheard. The gas silently surrounded him. He was leaning right into the grill peering – all eyebrows and freckles. I turned off the beater reaching for the spatula to fold everything together when we heard the woosh as the gas lit. An instant blue flame ignited the air around his head. T was absolutely silent and motionless within it for just a moment. As we all turned to him he turned to us and he had a shocking grin on his face. Like WOW. We all just froze. The toast began to cook. I looked at him saying what just happened. His big eyes seemed bigger. He just looked back at me. Then I realised that he had no eyelashes at all and his eyebrows were singed to stubs and the front of his hair was frizzled to orange. His skin was completely untouched, he was absolutely ok, the flame had just wooshed around him burning all the hair. I reached over and swung him down off the bench and lugged him over to the mirror to look at himself. He was laughing, this little kid was laughing his head off. My sisters laughed as well and my big brother turned over the toast. My other little brother sat silently on his stool in the middle of the floor, holding his book and just watched.
I went back to the egg nog with T kneeling on another stool next to me and let him fold everything together. The other little brother resumed his reading. Everyone else started the clean-up. I did not share this job as a rule. The drink had to be light and airy or no-one would drink it. My egg nog had to be just right. He carefully poured the mix into each persons glass. It was important to get the portions exactly the same in the glasses as the pourer could not choose his glass until everyone else had. I made Mum her cup of hot weak black tea as T called the others to their drinks, he handed me mine, littler brother his, then gulped his own egg nog down (it must be drunk immediately while still fluffy and straight down the hatch), we dropped the glasses and bowls upside down in the big top-loading dishwasher as our sisters wiped benches and grabbed bags and then we went downstairs to tell Mum what had happened, but we have to run because we are late and say goodbye as we all left for school.
At this time of year the flowers have begun to fade. There is not as much food around for my friends the bees. NOT because winter is coming yet you understand! Even flowers need a break sometimes too you know.
So I set up feeders for the bees. I make a drink for them of one part water and one part sugar. They have a feed and then store this in their hives topping up their winter honey. But I have to be careful that they do not drown. So all the trays of sugar water have interesting things in them for the bees to hold onto whilst they drink.
The Gypsy summer or the last of the summer wine or something like that is yet to come. In fact the grapes are getting very close to harvest. It is so lovely outside today, and I shall be spending the whole day outside in the garden too. Perfect garden weather.
Have a lovely colourful weekend.
It was so cold yesterday morning. I have to admit that I went into shock which quickly flared into full blown denial. I refuse to light a fire, even though we have begun to stack the firewood in the Wendy house. It is not really cold because summer is NOT OVER!It is only SEPTEMBER! I am not going to bow to the forces of nature quite yet. So it looks like I will have to sit in my summer study (designed for coolness) and just shiver. Quietly.
Then I thought, why not go out into the wilderness garden and see if there is a pumpkin ready and make pumpkin soup for lunch. Pumpkin soup is not TOO wintry though it is warming to the insides. So that is what I did. There was only a butternut ripe, the pumpkins still have solid green stems (no sign of drying in the stem). But a butternut will do nicely.
Into a saucepan
Season with Peppercorns or fresh ground pepper and a little sea salt.
Boil in a good organic stock until all vegetables are soft.
Drain. Retain all the stock. When the pumpkin is a little cooler, pick out the chilli and discard. Scoop the flesh out of the butternut chunks with a spoon into a blender, discarding the peppercorns as you go.
Blend pumpkin flesh and apple and onions and chicken stock in batches. Return to saucepan for reheating.
Adjust seasoning. This soup is very thick and often a gorgeous delicious bright orange. Add up to a half cup of full cream as you reheat to achieve the consistency you want. Do not allow to boil after adding the cream.
Serve with creme freche or sour cream and chopped chives or green onions or whatever takes your fancy. And a warm crusty bread.
For the first time I thought I would take a few pictures of things in my kitchen and join the fun over at celia’s. Just a few shots today because as usual there are a number of culinary projects hanging about cluttering up the place.
I have a deep mistrust of drawers and doors. I like to keep everything I use on shelves where I can see what they are up to. Plus I am the most absent minded person I know so if I cannot see what I have I forget that I have it. Everything has a spot where it lives. I probably should have tidied and polished but that kind of felt against the rules. Anyway I am butterfly housekeeping today and everything inside is half done!
In the previous picture you will have glimpsed my pantry, I use jars to store everything. I have a long standing love affair with old glass. It bewitches me. My own grandfather (Pa) used to collect old bottles. Apparently Johns grandfather had a similiar idea with jars. There are boxes of these Blue Ball jars in The Matriarchs barn. See that Swayzee one? Ball bought out a lot of their competition. Swayzee Glass, Indiana, started up in 1894 and were bought out by Ball in 1904. The sand hill Ball used to make the blue glass (Hoosier Slide Sand) was completely mined out by 1937. This particular sand on the shores of Lake Michigan was lower in iron than other sand, resulting in this intense blue cast. No-one seems to know why this happened right there and it has not been found again anywhere else in the States, as far as I can work out. This is why these particular Ball jars were only made for a limited time. So it is safe to assume that these jars in their dusty old cardboard boxes, put into the barn by Johns grandfather are at least 80 – 100 years old. Some are even older as I can see the marks of being hand blown.
The kitchen has tall french doors that are always open onto the big covered verandah where we eat every meal until winter around a big long harvest table I made from an old barn door. This is where we work, gather and talk. We wash vegetables and sort the produce from the gardens. This is where the animals join us for a beer in the late afternoon. It is a disaster area today though, so I will show you another time. Apparently a sleepy couple are lying right outside the screen doors, just waiting.
As you know I run a small sustainably managed old fashioned farm. We like to grow the food we eat. But so that I can have this ‘on the farm’ life to which I would like to become accustomed, Our John has to go to work each day at a real job. Poor darling. And as I won’t let anyone eat processed or store bought food I cook dinner with his lunch for the next day in mind. Lunches for him to take to work. Meatloaf fits the bill nicely. As kids we ate meatloaf sandwiches and my children did too when they were at school. My mother used to make her meatloaf in two large loaf tins. I prefer to make it in the little tins. They cook faster and then the loaves are less likely to dry out.
Mama’s Meat Loaf
The best way to combine this is to use your hands. Fingers were made before forks! And if you have time, it is even better if you can combine everything except the eggs and let it sit for a couple of hours in the fridge to exchange flavours.
Pat firmly into your loaf tins. This will make four small loaves.
Pour a rich sweet Thai chilli sauce on top and then top that with grated or sliced cheese. When my children were young I topped it with tomato paste and swirls of mustard on top of that.
Cook in moderate oven for about 40 minutes to an hour. Careful not to overcook as a dry meatloaf is so dissappointing. Now, it will get juicy as it cooks. So half way through the cooking time I VERY CAREFULLY drain some of the juices out of the tin then pop it back into the oven. Oy.. someone get that bad cat off the table! .. bad cat!
We ate this with butter roasted new potatoes and fresh beans from the garden. We have been eating outside on my barn door table, every evening since spring.
THE NEXT DAY
Make a lunch box door-stop sandwich with your home made flax seed bread and a slice of cold meatloaf. If you have baked your bread and meatloaf in the same size tins then they will fit together perfectly. Add a slice of cheese, a smear of your tomato chutney, and a few leaves of fresh fall lettuce.
In New Zealand we light fireworks on Guy Fawkes’ night. It is similiar to 4th of July except that 4th of July makes sense. Guy Fawkes was an unfortunate fellow with rather an elaborate moustache who tried to blow up the House Of Lords on November 6, 1605. He was not even the ringleader. He got caught literally guarding the explosives, sitting on a keg of gunpowder playing with matches no doubt, as it appears he was not a very bright fellow. He was Catholic the guys in power at the time were Protestants. The Protestants confiscated all the gunpowder and poor old Guy came to a rather sticky end. And for some obscure reason this date has been celebrated with bonfires, fireworks and the burning of straw guys on Guy Fawkes night all over Britain and then around the commonwealth ever since. In fact in one way or another people have lit bonfires or fireworks on this night for over 400 years.
Except for us. Because our mother did not approve of Guy Fawkes Night. Aside from the obvious safety factor, and the barbaric nature of the celebration, evidently we may as well set fire to a ten dollar note. Though I have to say that we saw no logic at all in her argument. How could setting fire to a 10 bob note be in any way entertaining. However one year we outsmarted our mother (or she allowed herself to be outsmarted more like) and we were allowed to have a fireworks night of our own the night AFTER Guy Fawkes night.
I will explain to you how this worked. As you know we lived on a beach. On The Night, the beach was crammed with people cooking out, bringing their picnics, family and friends, their terrified dogs and when it was dark, lighting their bonfires and their fireworks and having a grand old time. You will know that you cannot let off fireworks until it is dark and in the dark they LOST plenty of fireworks. So my older brother hit on the idea of getting up really really early (before the other beach kids), the next morning, going down to the beach and searching for the fireworks these careless people had lost. Then when it was dark that night, we would have our own fireworks displays. It was a fine plan. There were six of us so we were able to cover a fair amount of terrain before Mum got up. We filled bags with unlit fireworks, all kinds , rockets, tom thumbs, spinning wheels, and this year I struck gold, I found a big unopened box of sparklers. I loved sparklers.
The night came and after pleading with mum for roughly 6 hours we were allowed to go to the beach and carefully light our fireworks as long as we did not shoot rockets at each other, did not approach the fizzers and carried buckets of seawater about with us, just in case. We were to stay within sight of the house and look after the Littlies. The Littlies were the three youngest. That was fine, we all took one each. I got T.
T was a lovely little boy, he had piles of hair and the sweetest freckles and navy blue eyes as big as an animated cats. His eyelashes were so long that my sisters and I wondered how he was able to keep his eyes open they looked so heavy. He did not walk until he was almost 18 months old because I carried him everywhere and did not talk until he was three and his first words were ‘go away and leave me alone!’ Which we all found hilarious.
So my sisters and I we are larking down in the shallows. I had given T a sparkler all of his own and lit four for myself, and with two in each hand I was writing my name in the dark. Heaving my arms round and round writing for all I was worth before they went out. Then I saw a funny little fire in my peripheral vision. One of my sparklers had sparked into T’s hair and it had started a wee fire. Oops. I had set my brother on fire!
He floundered about for a bit while I peered into the dark, checking that he had gone out. And just as importantly I looked about to see that no-one had noticed me setting his hair on fire. Well, it was an accident! Then he stood up, dripping, this skinny little wet cat of a kid. We puddled back to the shore and he looked at me with this really quizzical look. Why did you do that, he said quietly. I paused, then sighed and decided to tell the truth. You were on fire, I said. Oh, he said as though this was a perfectly reasonable thing to hear. As though being set on fire by your big sister and then thrown into the sea by the same sister was a perfectly ordinary occurrence.
Can I have an other sparkler, he said and held up his dead dripping little fire stick . Mine has gone out.