Having rinsed out the tins and jars for recycling, the jars with lids carefully put to one side. Mr Issy passed comment “I put them out for recycling!”. While I explained, my thoughts drifted, back to my childhood. Somehow I missed the regularity, the seasonal time passing, the set times for set jobs.
Oh how we all would grown at Nana’s comment on August bank holiday-monday, when the last visitor had gone “Right! Let’s get ready for Christmas!” she chirped with a regularity you could put money on. Now with a family of my own I understand her thinking.
In the last few days of the summer holidays Nan would take my sister and I on a bus ride to heaven, well a shop at the ‘the Bakers Arms’. A shop specializing in dried fruit, herbs and spices. As I sit writing I can still smell that shop, I can picture the floor boards, the wooden shelves and the hessian sacks with their tops rolled down displaying there lush content. The bunches of herbs hanging from the rafters.
I spent time in wonder at the man in his brown coat and long white apron as his fingers dexterously made a neat package out of the single sheet of sugar paper. Wrapped around the plump raisins, candied peel, the sultanas and currants. Carefully weighted out with a metallic clunk of the brass scales and iron weights. And then, the best bit, the journey home. We would sit either side of Nan on the long side seat on the red route-master, her wicker basket full of the little packets labeled in handwritten copperplate. She would always buy 3 types of raisin, the fattest and juiciest packet resting on the top of the pile ” don’t you touch them” she warned us ” oh look that’s not good! he didn’t wrap this very well” there, a few raisins escaping from a split in the pack (I now know she had pulled the packet apart). She would give us one each and one for herself. Then, after a while she would whisper to me that as I was so good and sitting so nicely to sneak another but don’t let sis know, it was our secret!
The taste of that second raisin was like the best sweet from the best confectioner. If Nan said the same to sis I will never know. We never speak of our secret but adult logic dictates that she must of!
This was always the 1st act of Christmas preparation, the start to a season of making, preserving and ‘laying back’. Boxes of jars from the top shelf of the larder would come down to be washed and in time filled with pickles, jam, minced meat. Any harvest excess was ‘put by’ in readiness for Christmas celebrations. The days of excess to get us through the darkness of winter. Windfall apples from the ‘cooker’ in the garden were collected daily and peeled, cored and thickly sliced. The rings put on bamboo canes and put in the bottom oven of the aga. Beetroots cooked, peeled and packed in vinegar. A pigs head turned into brawn.
This year, now I work from home once more, I want to start to replicate that rhythm. The satisfying comfort I felt then. We don’t have a shop like the one in my childhood anymore (mores the pity) and Mum and Nan have both passed long since. But the need for the feeling of warm security is still there.