For the sake of it, I heart Coopers, by proxy

1. The two dogs run around fighting over THE BEST STICK IN THE WORLD while he builds a dam in the beck. His handiwork will divide the water more equally between the two paths, so the one close to the path flows better. I know it’ll be washed away next time it rains heavily but it doesn’t matter. I tell him his hands must be freezing and he just smiles. The dogs play on.

2. Smoked mackerel fishcakes with my favourite salad leaves on a mild horseradish sauce base. Perfectly cooked chicken breast with sweet potato dauphinoise, with carrots, broccoli and deliciously tangy red cabbage. Lemon and ginger cheesecake without, our favourite waiter tells us proudly, fingerprints in the dusted icing sugar.

3. We rock back and forth in a hug as I tell him about the meal. He says he enjoyed it from just what I was saying. Then he goes in the bath and I sit next to him in the warm bathroom and enjoy that by proxy as well.

100 miles north-north-east: day two

1. The happy fat cat licks his bum in the sun while the farm’s cafe’s customers bustle around him. His fluffy white tummy reflects the light and I think how much G would like to tickle it.

2. I can’t change my train ticket so have 2.5hrs to kill in a strange city. I head away from the station, up what initially seems to be a somewhat dubious alley, but it turns out to be the home of a wonderful pub. I sit on the roof terrace to read and while away the time – but when I see a meal brought out for another customer, I change my plan: I HAVE to eat there. I order steak and it’s wonderful: deep chargrilled checks on the outside, succulent pink inside. The veg is melts in the mouth without being soggy and the yorkshire pudding is a great gravy sponge. A fantastic find.

3. I open my fold-down table and find tiny pieces of yarn – wool-heavy cream and pale green, baby blanket colours. I feel a bond to the previous occupant of the seat.

4. The wait, the journey: the perfect excuse to read. I started the book at breakfast and by the end of the day, it’s closed and back on the shelf.

5. The red-dot chickens again, this time in the magic hour.

In lieu of breakfast, the most handsome cat in the world, baklava

1. After a day apart, we catch up before getting up. He tells me his news and I tell him mine. At half hour intervals, we discuss making pancakes for breakfast but neither of us moves.

2. The cats look delightful on the new duvet cover. It’s spotty (like Smarties, Katherine says) and multi-coloured, a strong contrast to their solid black. I pull my mum & dad in from the landing on their way downstairs to show them how handsome Boron looks on it.

3. The baklava there is usually delicious but chewy, as if it’s been microwaved. Today though, the pastry is fresh and the flakes melt in my mouth. I urge everyone to try it but no one does. They’re missing out but I don’t mind: more for me. ;)

Bagels, impromptu walk, cheesetastic

1. At the last second, I remember we do have some bread products in the freezer – bagels. We rush to defrost and toast them before the lovingly scrambled eggs go cold and boy, are we glad we did.

2. It starts off in a less than promising way – two dank tunnels under the bridges – but then opens up into a hidden field. Sandwiched between the train station and the river (with a tower blocks on the other side), it’s not exactly a picturesque meadow but it’s green and safe enough that I let Lily off her lead to run around. Amongst the nettles and bindweed, I spot my first fully ripe blackberries of the season.

3. The enchiladas are fantastic – not perfect but not far off – and I can’t wait until we can eat the leftovers.

31 Beautiful Things

In honour of my 31st birthday, here are 31 beautiful things from today. (Cross posted to my main blog.)

1. I’d gone to bed before John and it’s after midnight when he comes to bed. I stir as he climbs in next to me and we have a sleepy exchange, the content of which I can’t remember now. He finishes with a whisper of “happy birthday by the way” and I remember that.

2. The next time I wake up (well, it’s not the next time I wake up because I had to get up for a wee just after dawn and Carla woke me up again an hour after that, but for poetic licence, let’s say the next time I woke up), John’s stood in front of me holding something in his hands. I move the pillow from on top of my head and grab my glasses to see what it is – two carrier bags, containing chole & puree, and barfi & other sweet treats. Yum!

3. I notice that without its dust cover, my book matches the bedsheets.

4. Lily woofs and helicopter-tails around the room when George arrives. She brings him shoes and circles his legs. Lily loves George.

5. I sit on the stately patio chair – which I call “my birthday throne” – while John and George (unsuccessfully) attempt to split the giant logs. We laugh a lot at their efforts.

6. The poultry spice – a “mineral supplement and general tonic” – smells like an old fashioned sweet shop.

7. After introducing himself, the voice on the phone says simply “I’ve got good news”. His news should save us anywhere between £6,000 and £10,000, and months of coordinating building work. Very good news!

8. Despite being washed many times, my fingers still smell of the breakfast curry.

9. One of the scaredy cats from next door half-raises his tail when he sees me. When I’m feeding him & his brothers, he likes me a lot and we have big hugs but outside of those times, he’s a shy boy. The half tail raise is progress.

10. My mum breaks a 31 year tradition by buying me a birthday card without a cat on the front of it (it had a Lily-esque springer on it instead.)

11. Not-very-garlicky mushroom, olive and fresh basil.

12. Parma ham and more not-garlicky mushrooms.

13. Tuna, chilli and capers.

14. I add a new simple living blog and a new comic to my feed reader. It’s inspiring and invigorating to find new fellow travellers – but a bit of silliness is always welcome too.

15. The cats stand at right angles to each other as they drink the leftover tuna water. From directly above, the white rims of the bowls look like halos.

16. Splashes dribbling down the side of the pan produce a burning smell but every now and then, the sweet comforting warm milk smell breaks through.

17. Lily’s brown spots are strangely soft and silky today. (#notaeuphemism)

18. I squeeze the butter muslin and the curds form into a pleasingly round sphere. When I unwrap it, the cheese will be imprinted by the fine check of the fabric.

19. It’s dark – overcast and under many layers of tree cover – but still the grass and ferns glow an unearthly green.

20. The rain is heavy and sonorous but not unpleasant.

21. “Listen,” I tell John after directing him into the bedroom. A wet roar drowns out everything else but it’s not rain on trees like we both first thought: it’s the beck, flowing more heavily than it’s done in months. Just a few minutes earlier, we’d step through it on the stepping stones left by the last flood. Next time we cross it, we’ll have to navigate it anew.

22. Amongst the lines of light and shadow, the black cat sleeps in a ball.

23. The other black cat is asleep in the dog’s bed. I find him there when I get out of the bath. He looks dramatic against the neutral cushion and pastel blanket. He blinks at me as I dance around the room.

24. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of playing hide and seek with the dog. I can see why cats do it now – hide when they know they’ve not been seen then jump out. I don’t bat with the victim with my paws though, I give her a hug instead.

25. It’s at this point – after I’ve inserted an earlier beautiful thing and had to renumber the rest about five times – that I realise it would have been easier to use an ordered list (<old>) instead of doing it manually. I don’t know if the pay off is worth it now though. Oh, and I realise this isn’t really a beautiful thing but do you know how hard it is to come up with 31 of them? Even on a rather jolly pleasant day? It’s hard! ;)

26. Now we’re flanking her on the sofa, there isn’t quite so much room to stretch out length ways so she stretches across it instead. Her head dangles over the edge, her tongue lolling, her lips flapping.

27. I savour the parma ham. It feels like it’s melting on my tongue but it isn’t. I think if I could only eat one type of meat again for the rest of my life, it would be parma ham.

28. I point John at the most recent Hyperbole and a Half comic about her dog. He laughs loudly as the dog twists its head further in an attempt at understanding.

29. We watch “The Counterfeiters” – the next in my short, impromptu German language film festival. The subtitles aren’t quite right for some reason and the mistakes remind me of child language acquisition.

30. Carla sits on my knee throughout the film. I stroke her, she purrs.

31. We look at the dark window – not at the world outside but at the rooms behind us. It makes the living room seem new again and through the doorway, the dining room looks so lovely that I can’t believe it’s ours.

Splattered everywhere, happy to see him, surprise success

1. After picking some wild cherries in the park near our old house, I spend the rest of the day spotting where the juice has stained: near John’s ear in his sideburn, on the back of his shoulder, on the dog’s foot…

2. Lily’s tail tempo switches from thump-thump-thump to thumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthump when John moves into view. He plays peekaboo with her to hear the change and we laugh.

3. The leftovers combine beautifully – the spiciness of the noodles counters the potentially cloying sweetness of the chicken’s sauce.