This is about as much fun as Slow Food gets. It’s called rice pounding, which is what you do to convert ordinary sticky rice into rice cakes. It’s possible to use a machine to make the rice cakes (or mochi, as they are known in Japan), but what the Japanese much prefer to do is to get together in the open air and pound the rice in stone mortars with wooden mallets. They even let me have a go – I’m the sinister figure in black.
When I meet my brother in town we always have lunch at our favourite fish restaurant, La Poissonnerie on Sloane Avenue. We like to start with a few oysters each and last month we ordered the Whitstable No 1’s, which was a big mistake as they turned out to be far too large. Each one was about the size of the palm of my hand. I always swallow oysters whole and, very stupidly, tried to swallow one of these monsters. There was no way it could get down my throat and it got stuck in my gullet.
The design of a cow isn’t ideal for catering. The rear end is fine – that’s where you get the choice bits, such as the fillet, sirloin and rump. But the front end is basically rubbish – the fatty forequarters meat is only good for mince, which is turned into cheap dishes such as lasagne and burgers. This was always the biggest problem I had with the cattle from my farm – how was I going to dispose of half a ton of forequarters beef every fortnight?
The rainfall in Morecambe embitters me It fucks my hair and stings my cheeks But you know that I am fond of you And all the things we’re yet to do - Liar, My Dear – Joe Kondras (from “Funtimes” by The Heartbreaks)
The Winter Gardens in Morecambe was given a face lift at vast expense a few years ago, but inside it’s derelict.
This building is so strange, so ludicrous, that it’s become a bit of a tourist attraction in Osaka, but it’s special to Slow Life because it may well be the first attempt to create a “living wall” – that is, a wall of plants. It’s called The Organic Building, and the architects Oguraya Yamamoto say they got their inspiration from Mesopotamia, by which I assume they mean the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
One of the resolutions I made when I began on the garden at Yewbarrow House was that I wouldn’t give any winter protection to any plant which could be seen from the house. My reasoning was that plants which are wrapped are ugly and it would be a shame to ruin the view of the garden with unsightly wrapping. I’m afraid this resolution hasn’t held. Before I set out for Japan I gave instructions for the tree ferns to be given some winter protection- not wanting to lose them all for the second time, if the weather turns out to be bad yet again.
Condolences Please do not ask If I am now recovering Or if I see the light At the tunnel’s end. Nor speak about relief — or burdens lifted. And, worst of all, new starts. Please, please don’t ask If I am getting through -- Have come to terms Or find my life is back on track. Of course I live each day to each And gladly smile My coping, to “prepare a face To meet the faces that you meet”. What else is there to do? In any case, you would not want to know The daily loss that lasts eternally. Just, please, don’t ask. - Frances Gibb – written on the death of her husband
We chose the winter flowering cherry as the place to scatter my mother’s ashes. The tree had been a present from my sister Julia shortly before she died, after a shockingly cruel illness, 21 years ago. It was my mother’s favourite tree and in the last few months of her life, when her memory had almost entirely disappeared, she often spoke of “Julia’s Tree”. It’s a remarkable tree because when everything else in the garden has died down it bursts into life, producing hundreds of tiny pink flowers on leafless branches.
The idea of Slow Life is to take the principles of Slow Food, which are “good, clean and fair”, and extend them to life in general.
Here in the Lake District, the air is clean, the pace is slow and the atmosphere is calm. If we don’t grow food ourselves, we can buy it in friendly small shops, where you know the quality is going to be the best.
This blog is a celebration of the Slow Life, with forays into the world of design, music, the arts, gardens, and my particular weakness, Japan.