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.
I often make soup. At the organic veg farm where I work part-time, we take it in turns to bring a pot of soup to the veg shed on the day we pack veg bags for customers. One of the things I love about soup is that it is very forgiving. You can throw just about anything into it and it is usually pretty tasty and good. (The only exception seems to be kiwi fruit, which a friend reminded me of today - that did not turn out well. I do quite often put apple or pear in soup though, lends a lovely sweetness). Most of us who takes turns with the soup pot admit to making "bottom of the fridge" soup, with whatever is left and is maybe looking a little tired. Some celery, onion, a courgette, a bit of broccoli, the odd kale leaf and some carrots - add ham stock, a tin of chopped tomatoes and hey presto, it's minestrone! Minestrone is one of my favourites and yet I don't recall having it at home when I was a child. We had broth (not a favourite; I disliked the gloopy texture of the barley), and homemade tomato soup with lots of carrots and was it sago, perhaps, to thicken it? My favourite was cucumber soup, creamy and buttery and delicious. My dad loved consomme, hot or cold (brown meaty jelly with chopped chives on top). We had chicken soup too, made using a boiling fowl, with rice and leeks and chopped parsley from the garden to garnish it. We used to laugh at Mum, who would make soup from the peapods after the sweet garden peas had been shelled from them. "Is that grass soup?" we would ask. I quite often produce "green soup" of slightly dubious origins myself, these days, so I can now appreciate the greenness of her ways.
It's a real comfort food. And not just the eating of it, or supping of it, but the act of making it. I remember retreating to the kitchen of my mother-in-law's house the day after my father-in-law died very suddenly, over 25 years ago now. We went to stay with her, with our six month old son. To try to help; to organise the funeral, make endless cups of tea for people who came in to offer condolences; to try and make sense of it all. All I could do was make soup. I chopped and stirred and added stock. I left it to simmer, tasted it, ladled it into bowls for whoever wanted some. It seemed to help. It helped me, to feel I was providing comfort, of sorts. I think I maybe even baked. There was comfort in it for me too. Just the rhythm of washing and peeling and chopping, stirring and tasting and serving. Life going on, in some small way.