I find the alphabet a helpful structure in my writing, so when I came to write a list of what I feel grateful for over the past twelve months, I turned to it again to help me.
It didn't let me down.
A is for Art and creativity – admittedly, this has come in waves, but at times has been very helpful in keeping me moving forward.
B is for Black Isle Correspondent, daily videos from; a little bit of madness, kindness and real life every day, especially during the first lockdown. Grateful thanks to Anna Massie.
C is for Camomile tea. And cake – the making and partaking of it, the sharing of it with friends, when possible.
D is for Dog. My dog for making me smile every day, and often laugh too
E is for Empty beaches for walking on, I'm so lucky to live where I do.
F is for Friends and family, for staying in touch
G is for Growing things and gardening.
H is for Hugs - the ones we had before it all started, which we didn't know were so precious, and the illicit ones which were all the more precious for being so.
I is for Isolation – that may sound strange, but living at a distance from densely populated areas gave me a feeling of safety. Also, conversely - I is for Internet, for keeping us connected.
J is for Just being – some days, that was all that was required, or indeed possible.
K is for Kindness – to myself and from others
L is for Love from old friends and new
M is for Mindfulness, learning a new way of being and practicing it.
N is for Noticing nature in so many ways. The tides, the seasons, the light.
O is for Oranges and occasionally olives.
P is for Playing music on my mandolin. Also Photography - taking photos feels like a form of meditation to me.
Q is for Quiz shows on TV, especially Only Connect and Mastermind. Monday evenings’ entertainment.
R is for Refreshing my knowledge and love of languages and learning a new one or two, on Duolingo. Also, reading. Novels, poetry, familiar and new.
S is for Slowing down, social media, staying in touch. Also Soup, the making and supping of it.
T is for Tunes – playing old ones and writing new ones
U is for Unforgotten – a cold case series on TV; totally hooked. Also old murder mysteries, the familiarity of them, the satisfying resolution.
V is for Very funny radio programmes, especially some of those on at 6.30pm on Radio 4, providing lots of laughter while I make my tea.
W is for Walking. Every day. Walking and the peace of it. Sometimes walking with a friend. Also for Writing; the joy of putting words together, in a poem, a story, a post.
X is for Acceptance – I will cheat a little here perhaps – taking the X to mean being not being allowed to do things. Accepting the situation, the imposed restrictions, the fact that I could not travel anywhere and no-one could come here – all that. Accepting it all made it a whole lot easier to make the most of what I could still do – many of these things are listed here.
Y is for Yes – saying yes to new things, to taking part in online workshops and courses and exhibitions.
Z is for Zoom, which I hadn't heard of this time last year, but now value highly, for staying in touch and keeping things going.
Home baking. There is nothing quite like it. Things have been a bit grey round here recently, but a small act of kindness lifted my spirits no end last week. I was doing my usual veg deliveries when a customer appeared at her back door, holding a small, clear poly bag containing two little squares of millionaire's shortbread. "I've been baking," she said, handing them to me. I spluttered a thank you and promised to save them till after my lunch. Goodness knows why, I just felt the need to say more than just "thank you". But maybe that would have been enough. The picture on the left is of a surprise birthday cake made by a workmate last August; again, an act of kindness, by which I was really touched.
And later, while I drove through the countryside, doing the rest of my deliveries, I thought back to the kitchen at home, and my mum baking in the afternoons. I'm sure she didn't bake every afternoon, and I certainly can't have been there for many of them, as I would have been at school. But the memory is clear. Radio 4 on the radio; the afternoon play which no doubt she was trying to listen to. Only now do I understand of the lure of the afternoon play on Radio 4. Then, I would have been asking questions, or wondering if I could have more paper to paint on, or asking what was for tea. "Wait and see" was the answer. Always. So much so that I began to believe that "Wait and see" was actually a meal of some sort.
But, back to the baking. There were tray bakes, mainly. Broken biscuit cake, Sydney specials, Millionaire's shortbread (although we did not call it that way back then - I think we called it chocolate fudge cake, but am not sure.). Then there were buns. What we now call cupcakes, but to us they were buns - made in individual paper cases. Plain, or with sultanas or cherries. I don't recall them ever being iced. There were some things which my sister made - "date stodge" or date slice, and tablet. In those days we would have a "high tea" quite often, during the week - a main course of macaroni cheese or bacon and egg or ham salad, with bread and butter or toast and followed by home baking.
I have carried on the baking tradition, but do so less often and never tray bakes. It is mostly something to share with workmates or take to a gathering of some sort. Now there are fewer of us in the house, it doesn't seem worth the effort. Plus, it's probably better for us not to be eating too much cake! I tend to make banana loaf, or pear and apple cake - recipes gathered along the way, from a book I couldn't afford at the time, in a bookshop, and a friend made at antenatal group, respectively. Tomorrow it'll be a banana loaf to share with music-playing friends.