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Back yard blues

27 April 2003

Another week, and busy-busy still. Currently obsessed with gardening, or the little imitation of it that I can manage with small aptitude, no experience and no garden. More shopping for pots & seeds, more useless endeavours to get hold of a compost-bin cheap from the council - this is National Compost Awareness Week, did you know? Were you aware? - and dreams of a wormery, only resisted because I doubt my ability to keep worms alive & healthy. This has to be a passing fad, but I'm exploiting it while it lasts; I have primed & painted half my back yard, and am waiting for the good weather to come back so that I can do the other half. Meanwhile, I have the first chilli of the year starting to mature. I brought two of last year's cayenne-plants through the winter alive but distressed, almost no leaves on them; instead of growing new ones, as I had vaguely hoped, they've just gone straight into a profusion of flowers, and one has set fruit already. April really is the cruellest month. The poor things must be terribly stressed, hurling themselves into an orgy of reproduction in anticipation presumably of a swift demise; I feel guilty, but I can't think of anything to do to calm them down. Besides which, stressed plants produce hotter chillies...

Another set of proofs has come from America, so I have that to fall back on in the rain, detailed but mindless work, my favourite. And I'm having the odd nocturnal foray back into the novella - a couple of times now I've been steaming in my bath, thought 'I might just have a look at that when I get out, see where we are', and found myself hard at work an hour later. I'm beginning to wonder whether it's going to have anything ghostly in it at all; at the moment it seems to be shaping up to be straight and simple fiction. Which is okay by me, it can do what it likes so long as I like it, but I'm not sure how Pete-the-publisher would react if I offered him something that was not identifiably genre in any way. We may find out.

Last week's cassoulet should have been served with pickled walnuts. I threw everyone into panic & confusion in a search for pickled walnuts, tracked them down in Sainsbury's, and then forgot to serve them. Defended myself with the suggestion that it sounded fairly weird to me anyway; Jean quite rightly pointed out that brown sauce is a classic with baked beans, and this was just an upmarket version of that. So I tried it with the leftovers next day, and right she was: a fine combination. And, of course, I found a second vast jar of pickled walnuts in the larder. The cassoulet should also have been made with Toulouse sausages, but I couldn't lay my hands on them, so I substituted chorizo - good, but clearly not the same. So I was rootling around in the freezer this week, and what did I find? Saucissons de Toulouse. I'm just going to have to cook the cassoulet again, and get it right this time. Another day, another dinner party. Sigh.

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© Chaz Brenchley 2003
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.