I (we, really) got back on Sunday night. The funeral on Friday had gone well: odd things funerals, they're sad, beautiful, and cheery - due to seeing and chatting to people you haven't seen for a while - all at once. You can be laughing one minute and teary the next. But one thing they do is allow you to let go and move on. So on Monday I was hoping to get back to happier things. I began to clean the house and work out a menu for the week, and generally to get things back in order so that I could begin to work again and ready myself for the new term. Then I got a phone call from Stevie to say he was on his way home as he and the company he worked for had 'parted company'.
He worked in recruitment in the banking and finance sector. It seems the economy as it heads for the bottom of the abyss has decided to take us with it. I feel like I'm in an Anglo Saxon poem, death and destruction is all around me. I am the lamenting wife.
So the last few days have seen me trying to make sense of this new phase. How to ensure we can put food on the table in the long run, if no new job comes along? How to keep those many bills up to date? My course fees are due on Monday, am I being selfish in wanting to continue my degree? As a part-time, post-grad student there doesn't seem to be any help out there. There's plenty of help for undergraduates, they are seen as potential workers, but for a middle-aged, would be writer there is nothing, I'm on my own. I know I can't complain, a Master of Letters in creative writing is a luxury. But I was hoping it would lead me into teaching as well as writing. I have no plans to lock myself permanently away in a boat-house on a loch and write my great work. I hoped the degree would enable me to become a functioning member of society too.
Not that I think those who do lock themselves away and write - or paint, solve equations, or examine the sex life of gnats - aren't contributing to society. They absolutely are. I just don't think I'm one of them, much as I fantasise. I'm too tangled up with other people to take myself off into hiding. If I lived in a croft up a mountain, who would eat my chocolate and rum Panna Cotta?
100g dark chocolate
125ml double cream
140ml full fat milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 tablespoons rum
6 leaves of gelatin
a little sugar to your taste
Soak the gelatin in cold water until it swells. Meanwhile bring the cream, milk, vanilla and sugar to the boil in a saucepan. Add the chocolate, stirring until it melts and becomes one with the milk/cream/sugar mix. Turn off the heat. Squeeze the excess water out of the gelatin and add it to the pan of chocolate sauce. Stir till incorporated. Add the rum. Pour into moulds or, as I did, tea-cups. It will stretch to six dariole moulds should you wish. Leave to cool, then put in the fridge to set for a couple of hours. Unmould, or not. Eat and forget your troubles, if only for a while. I have to confess that, not having a recipe to hand, I made this with a whole carton of double cream and just a little milk and it came out more like jellied creme brulee. Having, now, looked at a Panna Cotta recipe I have revised the quantities here. It should come out more wobbly and less dense. I enjoyed the denseness myself, even though it was wobbliness I was looking for.
Tonight I'm going to try lavender Panna Cotta. My sister-in-law assures me that it's delicious and I have lavender sugar in my larder made with my own grown flowers. And this time I will use moulds and turn them out. I'll let you know how it goes. When times are tough I cook. Until the food runs out that is.