What I did on his holidays – Part 1

My best beloved is currently at Vindolanda digging up tranches and trenches of Roman history.

( If you are not sure, http://www.vindolanda.com )

This is the first time he has been away for two weeks on a stretch since we met, so about 15 years.

Now, I lived without a live-in partner from the age of about 25 until my 40s so it is not as if I am unused to being on my own – and indeed he has spent a lot of time travelling since we have been together – but two weeks solid, after all that time, feels different.

Before I met him, in fact the last time that there was just me and the dog (different dog), I lived in Peckham, worked to earn a living, had a social life which was not based on couples.

So, now, apart from the dog thing, all of the above are different.

I knew that what I should have planned was to go away for at least parts of the fortnight he was away or I would allow the time to be swallowed up with domestic stuff, day to day stuff, Oxfam, dog walking etc etc.

But I didn’t plan, so it has.

Dear reader this is a long list of what I have actually done, so, as usual, feel free to wander off to do something more interesting.

I have purged the pantry – finding stuff that had been there since we moved in and was probably not fit for human consumption.

(Admittedly, I did that before he went but I was getting in the mood.

So, he was lying on the sofa in the sitting room reading his Economist, and my visiting lovely niece was lying on the sofa in the kitchen busy with her phone, and the dog was lying on the niece….

I did make all three of them get up off their sofas, look at the pantry and make admiring noises.

The lovely niece was best at that, BB tried hard, dog was just interested in where the dog treats had been filed.)

I have also thrown out all spices and herbs that had gone past their sell-by date and of course discovered that I had half the world’s supply of cumin and a few more juniper berries than I will ever need short of setting up a gin distillery.

Also, there were spices I bought on some holiday and thought I would use to conjure more interesting food of an evening…

And, yes dear reader, they are now in alphabetical order.

(By the way, on the subject of interesting suppers, my BB is eating ‘good solid fare’ on his dig and, I understand, he is starting to understand that my efforts at an interesting supper are to be rather appreciated. I will of course be reminding him of that thought …)

My cookery books have been purged, my dresser has been purged, and the results are now for sale on the table at Oxfam.

Cookery books are lethal. There are so many that you use for one recipe and never use for anything else.

Then there are those that are stained and splashed and generally well used.

I have one that I have kept since I was a student.

There are also those I have kept to impress other cooks but actually I never use – a lot of Jane Grigson and Yottam Ottolenghi – yes I admit, I don’t cook Yottam because getting the ingredients in Deepest Sussex require you to drive for hundreds of miles and pay a fortune and then have a BB who will say,’ I love the Jerusalem flavours of this.’

But I have kept those books because you never know when another cook will come into your kitchen and you need them to think, ‘Oh, what an impressively and eclectic collection, how interesting this cook must be.’

The other advantage of being just me and the dog is that I can eat my fave food of the moment for days on end.

She and I have been eating Nigel Slater’s cauliflower puree with chives. And we have eaten a lot of it.

She likes vegetables and will say yes to a cauliflower puree night after night. The BB although easy to please and never one to complain, might draw the line after night three – the dog however, is up for it.

I also, in this period, have replaced our kitchen bin. Perfectly serviceable though the old one was, it did have a broken lid and that was broken on the day we moved in. That, dear reader, was seven years ago.

I don’t do a Which search in the best kitchen bin category, I look for a bargain.

So, now we have one with a sensor lid – it was on half price sale. If you waft a hand 10 cm ( more or less exactly), it will open its lid for (more or less exactly 10 seconds) and then after (more or less exactly) it will close.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the BB will find it irritating and the rising lid will knock stuff out of his hand and there will be a lot of swearing. But once the batteries die and we have to open it by hand it will be fine.

Apparently, the batteries in the sensor lid will last quite a long time based on you opening the lid 20 times a day. In the last two hours since I installed it, I would guess I have opened it quite a lot more than that…

And there is an admission.

So, feeling that I really should do something with my time, I decided the dog and I should go on a trip to some ancient history – communing as it were with the BB in the Roman north.

I found Cissbury Ring and thought that would do.

Indeed it would have. My oldest friend said,’ Isn’t that the near Steynning? ‘

‘No,’ I said confidently, with the National Trust directions in my mind I was pretty sure, ‘It is much nearer than that, near Slindon.’

I should have relied on her memory ( which I have had to do since we were 18 as my memory is useless and her’s is very good.)

The dog and I pitched up at Bignor Roman Villa asking for directions to the ‘nearby’ Cissbury Ring.

‘ Well,’ said the nice young woman, ‘It is a bit of a way from here’

‘That’s fine, I said, ‘ The dog and I are up for a walk.’

‘ Mmmm, it is two or three day’s walk to Steynning’ she said.

Maybe I will make it to Cissbury some other time when the BB is away.