Can Do?

‘Guess what?’ I say to my sister, ‘I’ve made my own marmalade!’

There is a good deal of laughter from the other end of the phone and my sister goes off to share the hilarious news with Ma, who’s round there because she’s been struck down by the Mighty Cold that seems to be catching up with everyone.

‘Even I’ve never made marmalade,’ Ma mutters, sounding incredulous and impressed at the same time.

Actually, this is more about my role in the family as the opposite of a Domestic Goddess. As a former school cook, Ma’s culinary skills are pretty impressive, whereas it’s a well-known fact that if Tom didn’t cook for me, I’d live on toast and pasta. Sewing? I fell out of love with sewing in my very first lesson when I stood up and discovered that I’d stitched my square of gingham fabric very firmly to my gingham dress. My sister is the Queen of Curtains, and contrives the most amazing, lined, interlined and weighted creations. My own, much simpler, efforts are produced with a great deal of ill-temper and swearing.

The thing is, though, I’ve always believed that if I can read a book on the subject, I can do it if I want to. It’s not arrogance, truly, it’s more about being the product of one of the last grammar schools standing, where we were encouraged to believe that anything was possible if we put our mind to it. Unfortunately the downside of that legacy, for me, is that I put all the blame on myself when things don’t work out!

Dismal, overcast days and waiting for news on the writing front is a recipe that can lead to dark introspection, if I’m not careful. So this has been a week of making my own sunshine and doing rather than waiting. I’ve made fourteen jars of marmalade, picked up a tapestry that I started many years ago (the one on the left in the photo’s mine as well – now, that is boasty!), I’ve resumed my Welsh lessons, got the hang of the hula-hoop (to Groove Armada, Mags, instead of Hardcore!) and entered a poetry competition. Okay, it won’t last, especially with Novel 3 calling, but a bit of ‘can do’ has chased away the January blues and, judging from my sister and Ma’s reactions, not just for me.


mountainear said…
Well done - everybody's got a jar of marmalade in them somewhere!
Flowerpot said…
Sounds very productive Chris! My culinary skills aren't up to much either but have improved through dire necessity. V impresse by teh marmalade - Pip used to make it every January and I still have afew pots left. Good luck on the writing news front x
Fennie said…
Well done you! And the beauty of writing is that you can of course weave a story about the oranges or marmalade, so if it doesn't work (or even if it does) you can put it down to 'research' and charge your oranges to the Inland Revenue accordingly. You could always make novel 3 into a tale about Nell Gwyn and how it was the marmalade that the King fell in love with.

I love that anecdote about stitching your gingham dress.
But I am with your Mum and your sister in having never made marmalade myself. (I keep thinking of the alleged derivation of that word from French speaking Mary Queen of Scots and 'Marie est Malade' which was her maid's constant refrain and so the medicine (an orange concoction) came to be called after the sick woman - which seems a tad unlikely but that's the thing about fiction- it doesn't happen!) Anyway far easier to go to IKEA where the deliciously Swedish confection contains the secret ingredient of elderflower, which crosses the sunshine of Spain with the Spring of Northern Europe, and is most tasty.
Lins' lleisio said…
I love this post.... I hate anything domestic and like you if it wasn't for Jon I'd starve. Sewing I loathe... I am full of admiration that you have achieved some domestic goddess gold stars, me I'll stick to the DIY. Hurrah for starting up the Welsh lessons, da iawn i ti. Perhaps we can practice together?
Cait O'Connor said…
Nice to catch up here Chris, I've had a good read. I've never made marmalade(but might one day)and I hate sewing and I had a good grammar school education (those were the days) so know just what you mean.
Pondside said…
I had to have a rest after reading that, Chris! Last week I read Mountainear's post about marmalade and wanted to make some too. Good for you, you Domestic Goddess, you!
I made a huge amount of carrot dessert lately, which involved grating a kilo or two of carrots.

It made me feel like an earth mother, not to mention all virtuous and creative.
Preseli Mags said…
I love Mountainear's comment!

Well done on the marmalade, 14 jars is a fabulous hoard of cupboard treasure.

I've really tried to imagine the hula-ing to Groove Armada but I'm still getting Hawaii Five-O.

The tapestries are beauties. I have one here somewhere, neglected, dusty and unfinished.
Shirley Wells said…
Wow. Well done, you! I've never attempted marmalade - and I love it.

Have a great weekend and good luck with the writing news!
Chris Stovell said…
Mountainear, I may have found more than one in me now!

Aw, Sue - that's a tough one. More than just marmalade in those pots.

Thanks Fennie and thank you for the entertaining short story you've written for us here!

Lins, I think it may be quite a short conversation, and probably one-sided as I'm not nearly as accomplished as you!

Cait, it sounds as if you enjoyed your school too. I do feel my education opened up new worlds for me; it makes me feel very fortunate.

Pondside, are you still snowbound? I'll send you some marmalade to keep your strength up? Or perhaps you can stick to the the tyres to aid your escape!
Chris Stovell said…
Maria, I love carrot cake... I'm quite tempted to make one, but, again, it's the thought of preparing all those carrots that's putting me off!

Mags, I keep having to open the doors to look at it! Jeez, talk about being pleased with myself!! Yes, hula-hooping music less reliant on the beat and more about the mood. I'm trying to be serene, although when I catch sight of my reflection, I can tell it's not working!

Shirley, thank you... it turned out to be good news!
Liane Spicer said…
From another who's diametrically opposite to anything domestic goddess-like: I'm impressed!

(Tom cooks for you? Hold on to that treasure!)
Calico Kate said…
That is so positive Chris - v impressed with the tapestries btw - You've picked me up no end today, think I might go and make jelly (as in clear jam not with ice cream!).
elizabethm said…
I love making marmalade. Think I had better get on with it quick Seville oranges go! I have surprised myself with the satisfaction I have got over the last couple of years in domestic goddessing. Because I was always the academic one I never really thought of myself that way but producing something you can hold in your hand is a great feeling after all those years of words!

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