Posted in Nostalgic, Rambling

The Visit.

She stood outside the door, waiting, knowing they would recognize her customary thrice-rung bell. It struck her vaguely, that she was actually coming home. This used to be home once, fifteen years in the surreal past.

It was taking longer than usual, so she wondered if they were there, until she heard a muffled but distinctly exasperated voice from within.

‘Open the door, my hands aren’t clean!!’

A striding sound, accompanied by the thump of a walking stick, and the door was flung open. She still isn’t used to the long white beard that greets her now and ushers her in.

‘Come sit, she’s trying out a new recipe.’  Thump, stride, thump. He was in the middle of his daily ritual of getting some exercise by walking through all the rooms of the house, for half an hour. She tells her it actually takes him about an hour to do this, the walk is peppered with intervals of rest.

She was sitting at the table in her nightie, and it is 7:30 in the evening. There is a sedentary energy in the way she’s busy mixing dough and explaining excitedly how she’s been meaning to try out a recipe for savoury flat crisp ‘puris’ to go with the potato curry. Deja vu?

She wandered off into an empty room to change into a t-shirt and tie up her hair, and get down to the real purpose of her visit. Be the cleaning lady.

They had a maid for many many years, who came in every day to clean the house, and cook wonderful food before leaving in the afternoon, to return to her own home somewhere near the old harbour. She had seen two girls grow up in this house, get married…and leave. She didn’t speak much, just went about her work quietly, and the years went by and her bones grew weary and her heart grew weak. She could no longer climb onto a bus, get off, and walk the short distance to the house. It was time to retire, but they didn’t forget her, and sent a bit of money her way for a few years until they heard the news that she had passed, that her heart had peacefully stopped beating one day.

There had never been another maid in that house, and they decided there never would be, despite many protestations by the girls. How would they manage, this aging couple, without anyone to help with the housework? But there never had been a more stubborn set of Capricorns, and they dug in their heels and swore to protect their privacy till push came to shove.

A push might not be such a good idea, she thought, as she surveyed the surroundings, and thought of the day before when she had just dropped in for a long overdue visit to find a big broken frame in the hall, lying in the debris of broken glass. They looked on helplessly, as she got to work clearing up the mess, disposing of the jagged shards of glass and taking apart the frame.

‘God sent you to us today because he knew we were at a loss,’ she said, as her man sat down on a chair to help with the dismantling. She smiles and rolls her eyes, but is painfully aware they’re both over seventy, and it isn’t so easy to bend anymore. Every job has to be thought about twice, and either abandoned for a future date, or delegated to the Man Friday.

And when Man Friday is not around, like now, then the girls descend, like angels of mercy.

The broken frame led to vacuuming the whole room, emptying the contents of the vacuum cleaners innards, unblocking the obstruction that caused poor suction power, and a general assessment of what more needs to be cleaned. So here she was then, surveying the disrepair, feeling a bit overwhelmed but deciding to take it one thing at a time.

She opened a cabinet and saw the old cookers, once used prolifically for making delicious stews and curries, and the big pots that brought back memories of many a hearty biryani. All lying unused now, for who needs to cook large quantities anymore when there’s only two people left in the house?

She cleared the old dining table and dusted the sideboard, catching a glimpse of her, with her back to the doorway, sitting at the ancient desk….once a piece to be proud of, now a battered relic, decades of use under its folding hood, crammed with files and records and letters and certificates. An oil painting hung askew on the wall above the desk, something she had painted…when…? Thirty years? Forty years ago?

The house is full of them. It is full of the things that have made up the backdrop of such a huge chunk of their lives, and it is hard to see it all get old, and dusty, and worn-out. They kept it all together, didn’t they. They don’t believe in replacing anything…just keep fixing what you have, that’s the way to go.

So she’s here now… helping to do just that.

And she cleaned all the surfaces. and she helped warm up the food, the puris were fried, and they set the table with some old and some new crockery, and the three of them sat down for a delicious meal, an all-too-rare occasion nowadays.

Then she washed all the dishes and put them away, kissed the two goodbye…. and drove off, with a promise in her heart, into the world that she made for herself. A world at the corner of which she made a minor transgression by breaking a traffic signal in her haste, only to be let go by the most unlikely-looking candidate for a kindly cop with just a good-natured warning. No fine.

Good karma, you think?

Posted in Stuff I do

Wings, anyone?

A surefire way of getting Amu to smile with delight, is to whip up a batch of wings for her. She likes all kinds, (and there are many!) but her favourite is this recipe that I copied out of a book and saved as a card for my Most Used box.

All you need is a bag of wings. And a few every day sauces.

Now, a chicken wing essentially consists of three parts: the ‘wingette’; the ‘drummette’; and the ‘tip’. (I got this very useful bit of information from this place, where you will learn many different ways of cooking wings if you choose to click on the link).

In this recipe we shall concern ourselves only with the wingette and the drummette.

Sorry to hurt your feelings, tip, but you’re completely useless. Off with your head!

Now comes the fun part; assembling the ingredients for the marinade!
For that we need a bowl. Into this bowl we shall introduce…..

  • A teaspoon (or two) of mustard. Any mustard should work I suppose, but I used something a bit fancier than the bright yellow kind. From a jar.
  • A grated clove of garlic (or two).
  • A tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce.
  • Two tablespoons of Hoisin sauce.
  • Two tablespoons of tomato sauce (I take that to mean ketchup)

  • A tablespoon (or thereabouts) of lemon juice.
  • And a few (liberal) drops of tabasco (I used hot sauce)
  • Stir it all up vigorously into a nicely homogenised, glossy sauce.

Now take your bowl of nicely dissected wings and season them with salt and pepper. Toss ’em up.

Then pour all the marinade on top and mix it around with a wooden spoon, or your hands, depending on your mood. Leave the wings to marinate for at least two hours, or overnight for REALLY flavourful wings.

When you’re ready to eat, preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Remove the bowl of wings from the fridge and pour into an ideally single layer on the base of a large Pyrex dish.

Then stick it in the oven for 30-40 minutes.

This is how they will look when done.

And this is how they’ll be devoured by your family….and your cat.

Note: (Personally, I’d bake them a bit longer, so the sauce really STICKS to the wings, and gives them a decidedly gooey, caramelized look. But the brood was hungry, so I didn’t bake them to absolute perfection. You definitely should though.)

Posted in Gardening, Hopeless, Stuff I do

(Mis)Adventures of a DIY gardener (part-2)

My regular readers (hey Mom! *waves*) would recall part 1 of this post, in which I wrote about the gorgeous allamanda that graced the top of the trellis in my courtyard.

It took so many months for it to grow lush and dense, covering the trellis and shading the courtyard underneath….

All to be destroyed by the vile mealy bugs!! Aarghh!!

Yes, there was another infestation. And this one was worse than any I’ve seen before, so complete was the havoc it wreaked. I guess I lost not just the battle, but even the will to grow any more allamanda. It’s all over, folks.  I mean, just LOOK what it did to my beautiful trellis 😦

after i had finished cutting and dragging off ALL the horribly infested branches and stems

For the uninitiated, mealy bugs are possibly THE WORST kind of pest to infect succulent plants. They feed on plant sap by attaching themselves to the undersides of leaves (all the better not to be seen, tricksy little buggers) and secrete a waxy powdery layer to protect themselves while they suck the juices right out.

You know your plant is infected with them when you see colourless drops of honeydew appear on the leaves. A sooty mould soon forms on the honeydew secretions, the plant takes on a sickly appearance, the stem distorts and the leaves start to shrivel and drop. Weakened plants succumb to fungi and rot.

To set things straight, I TRIED. I tried VERY HARD. In fact I have been fighting mealy bugs all of my adult gardening life. I have plucked them out with tweezers. I have tweaked them off with toothpicks and cotton buds dipped in nailpolish remover. I have painstakingly and delicately spent hours wiping them off with damp cloth. I even made litres and litres of soap-water solutions and went crazy with the spray gun (apparently, soap is the only thing that penetrates the protective covering of the damned bugs), followed by further sessions with pesticides, no holds barred. I even succeeded in eradicating them a couple of times, but ultimately, those were just small battles. It was the whole damned war I lost!!

This infestation didn’t just suck the life out of my lovely allamanda….I guess it was a shoulder-slumping moment for me too.

In a way it was almost a relief to accept defeat and declare (mentally)  ”I can’t fight this anymore!!”

Sigh. It looks so desolate now….like the aftermath of a fire. The mealy bugs reproduced and spread quite literally like wildfire, the very denseness of the foliage proving to be the cause of its demise. All my vehement spraying had no effect at all, as I couldn’t quite get through to the innermost regions of entwined stems and leaves, let alone the fuzzy white armour of the little dastardly creatures.
Curse you, mealy bugs!! *shakes fist at mealy bugs* Curse you all to death!!
May you all die slowly and painfully and be pushed over the brink of extinction!!

Posted in Hopeless

Encounter of the close kind.

Me: ‘Aaack! Spider!!’

Huz: ‘Kill it, woman!’ The man has a penchant for smashing bugs with his bare hands.

Me: ‘No, it’s too pretty. Look it’s gnashing it’s jaws!’ Clearly, I’m a wimp.

Huz: ‘Look, if you don’t kill it, it’ll bite us one of these days.’

Me: ‘It isn’t one of those spindly scrawny spiders that bite.’

Huz: ‘Then what type is it?’

Me: ‘This one has more meat on its bones.’

Huz: ‘All the more reason for it to bite big chunks out of us, it probably has a bigger appetite.’

Me: ‘I don’t think it eats humans. Just flies and stuff like that.’

Huz: ‘Lemme see.’ Gets up from chair and comes over to look. ‘Where is it?’

The spider hopped off in a flash and disappeared.

It reappeared a little while later on the blinds, and the conversation repeated itself, except I had to dissuade Huz from using the bug-spray.

Thus, the spider was saved.

The End.