13 January 2010

Sunshine in a jar

"I confess I have never made marmalade.  The nearest I've got is buying a box of oranges that then reproachfully, went moldy in my pantry. I have since never even pretended to myself that I'm the sort of person who's about to turn into a bottler and canner and storer of good things, though I live in hope."                                                                                                                                - Nigella Lawson, How to Eat

Another snowy morning in Barford...

A thick, beautiful, blanket of white covers the village, and the snow shows no sign of ceasing. 

Frantic mums scurry through the slippery streets, trying to get their precious ones to school on time, only to find that all of their early morning antics and efforts are for nought -- school is scheduled to shut at noon. 

On days like these, I am thankful to have only a cat and dog to worry about.

I'd hoped that the DEB would have a "work-from-home" day, but alas, no. There's a big meeting with chaps from Swansea, and one of the guys from head office actually made it in from Holland last night, so no excuse for the locals. 

If it had been a "no work, snow day," the DEB and I had planned to snuggle down and have an epic Cranford Fest! 

We have only just discovered the joyous pleasure that is Cranford, the epic, period drama starring Dame Judi Dench. We love it! 

We have also discovered that -- wonderful period costumes aside -- Cranford is an uncannily apt depiction of where we live! Barford, is indeed "very Cranford"- in all the best ways, of course. 

And, like Cranford, the only downside for a newcomer entering such an idyllic environment is that of learning to yield to the long-established principles of how things are done -- and not done.

There is, I imagine, in every English village a certain way of doing things. Whether it's the "Cranford way," the "Barford way", the "Alveston way", or the "Dunchurch way" -- there is a 'way,' a manner in which things are done. 

Process, protocol, habit and tradition. One would be wise to take a step back, learn, and above all, listen. 

There is an innocent American tendency, I believe, to rush in, as it were, where angels fear to tread. It comes from our innate sense of adventure, a desire to give, an urge to contribute/participate, and "make a difference."

I am learning to resist these natural urges, to take things slowly and steadily, and that "making a difference" is not always necessary.

An example. I have been asked, on several separate occasions, to join the leadership committee of the Barford W.I. Of course, I am flattered, humbled and hono(u)red by the suggestion. Someone even said that one day, I would "make a wonderful W.I. President."

In the not so distance past, I would have jumped at an opportunity like this. But, now? No, no, no, no, no. I'm still very wet behind the ears, and think I need to bide my time, observe more, watch and learn.

I find it very funny, and I'm sure I'm not the first person to acknowledge the similarity between the supporting community of women in 19th century Cranford, and the modern W.I. 

Before joining the W.I.,  I was very much of a similar mind to Nigella Lawson: "not the sort of person" to perserve, pickle or bottle, but always hopeful. 

Last year, I delighted myself by successfully turning out a very nice quantity of  "Chunky Lemon, Lime and Grapefruit Marmalade." 

But, this year? 

The big kahuna. I'm having a go at making the quintessential English perserve: Orange Marmalade.

The perfect activity for a snowy morning: the kitchen windows steamed over as jam jars boil on the hob; strains of Rachminov playing on Classic FM in the background; the sweet, tangy smell of oranges percolating slowly for two hours...

If Nigella can do it, so can I!



Victoria Plum said...

I'm having a snow day and sat catching up with the Cranford Christmas special while knitting!!

Good luck with the marmalade .... I made some on the last big snow day in Feb last year ... by the time I came to put it into jars I was fed up of the stuff!!! :

Anonymous said...

John and I love Cranford!

I'm holding off on joining the W.I for a while, but I did make another batch of Pioneer Woman's cinnamon rolls for some of the snowed in elderly folks in our little village.

I'm not ready to give jam a go yet, but I do think my Hello Dollies, blackberry cobblers, and cinnamon rolls have made a serious impression (in a good way) on my new community.