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Simplicity

21 March 2005

Two meditations on the simple life:

First, I pulled the cork out of a bottle of wine yesterday afternoon, fetched a bowl of oil and some bread to dip into it, and sat down to read a story in a magazine. And thought, as I was doing this, could pleasures get much simpler, more basic, more pure?

And then I cracked up laughing at myself, because it was rather a good wine; the bread was fabulous (artisanal sun-dried tomato ciabatta, from my favourite Nícle baker); the oil was the marinade from the weekendís beetroot, flavoured with that vegetable plus my own oregano, chilli and garlic sprouts; and the story was one of mine, recently published in The Third Alternative. So actually everything that was going on there was highly complex, from the flavours in my mouth to the thoughts in my head to the relationships between me and the food and the story.

[Sidenotes: (a) I donít usually read my own work for pleasure, Iím not that arrogant. Novels I never touch once theyíre published, because Iíve been through the text a dozen times already and I canít bear it. Short stories are different, though; you only live with them for a week or two, then send íem away and donít see íem again until they appear, donít get editorís notes or proofs or anything, so by then Iíve forgotten all the intricacies and worked myself into a state over mistakes/clumsinesses/calumnies, and I do usually read them through, just the once. And (b), garlic sprouts: I think Iíve invented a new vegetable. When you grow your own garlic, youíre supposed only to plant the fat cloves from the outside of the bulb. Out of interest, eighteen months ago I planted a couple of potsful of the skinny cloves from the inside, just to see what happened. What happens is they grow and divide up into bulbs of their own, just as they ought - only the whole bulb is composed of skinny cloves, and theyíre not really worth harvesting as regular garlic. So I left most of íem in the ground to sprout again, and now Iím using them like a highly potent beansprout. The nodule at the end is garlicky and sweet, while the two or three inches of green sprout is quite harsh and oniony, and I love the contrast.]

And second, twelve hours later, four in the morning, I am sitting in the same chair sipping Chinese white tea, utterly unable to sleep. My insomnia comes in two guises just now, either this where I canít get off to sleep till dawn or later, or (my preferred version) where I go to sleep at one or half-one and wake at five and canít sleep again. So there I was this morning doing this truly simple thing, just sitting and sipping and staring at walls. I did eventually sleep about half-five, and woke as usual at eight, in time to be sat on and purred at for an interval before I was let rise to prepare her ladyshipís breakfast. And now I am like a broken robot, shuffling and mechanical and ineffective. Bleah.


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© Chaz Brenchley 2005
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.