Pearly Kings and Queens.

Sometimes, when the noise ceases, and the outside is jet black, when the cat is snoring on the bean bag and the old man has gone up to bed, sometimes when it’s dead quiet, and all around are asleep, I wake up. I know it’s bad not to sleep, but sometimes when the day has been full and I’ve not satisfied my physical, or mental self for that matter, I just cant sleep. Tonight is one of those nights. I’m tired but not yet ready for bed, even though the sheets smell of fresh air from drying on the line
So this weekend was worth noting. On Saturday I sat with my Caribbean cookbook to create a menu for Sunday.
It was off to the Spice Shop to buy plantains and cashews, a box of frozen samosas – which didn’t get used – gungo peas and an Indian sweet that flakes and melts in the mouth. Then a drive, with the roof down, on the top road, past the turn off to Penshurst Place, down the hill past Groombridge Place, over the mini roundabout to the Organic farm shop.
Spring onions, salad leaves, potatoes and carrots, then a slow turn onto the empty road to the final stop. For bread and avocados, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and cream. Meringues and apples and black juicy grapes.
I had coffee in the garden then, in the silence, cooked. Chopping and peeling, slicing and nibbling. I made a huge I-Tal curry. A Rastafarian meal of uncommon goodness.
On the back burner, bubbled the Scotch Bonnet peppers, garlic and onions, root veg, red peppers then the cauliflower and green beans in last to keep their colour and crunch. Marinaded the chicken in lemon and lime. Soaked the brown rice in water, made a dish of quinoa, and prepped the pumpkin and broad beans. The big green pods, all furry and soft into the compost.
Up early on Sunday to make pineapple and warm cabbage stir fry. The pumpkin and plantain coconut stew in the big wok, and the brown rice cooked to perfection and the tiny sausages for the kids spluttering in the frying pan.
All done in silence.
Then 11.15 and David Baddiel on Desert Island Discs, he cried at his daughter Dolly singing an Elton John song, I cried along with him, my tears plopping into the red kidney bean and gongo pea salad.
I met Jim in 1976 – having seen him on stage 6 years earlier – it was common courtesy to keep our unit small until my biological clock ticked so loudly I needed ear plugs. The dawter was born in 1987. Fear at her status, should I die before her father, forced me to the Register Office, to put up the Banns of marriage, and get hitched to the old git on May 25th 1988.
So we’ve been together now for 40 years ( and it don’t seem a day too long…. but do add one more year for accuracy) 11 years unhitched, so on May 25th this year, it was our 30th wedding anniversary.
We spent it on the beach in Brighton eating fish and chips, me shooing off the gulls whilst the idiot ‘oosbind fed them with our anniversary potatoes. The Caribbean feast, however, was for Sunday, a hot gathering of 12 of us, and an infant.
Everybody arrived at the same time. 1.45, tulips, noise, Champagne, cake, noise, children, hugs, tears, red potted geraniums, and the Pearly anniversary begun.
The sun shone, the round table was set under the trees, the food displayed on the long table, and the corks popped. The food was gobbled down, the neighbours came in, the fizzy flowed. The meringues got chucked in the whipped cream over the soft fruit, sprinkled with vanilla and lavender sugar, then for the first time that afternoon everybody sat down together, at the round table, nobody spoke as mouths were full of sweetness.
After the last strawberry was swallowed madness resumed. Then slowly the mob dispersed, by 8.00 p.m peace reigned. Just me and him and the dawter. Glasses in the dishwasher, all the bowls washed and put away. Hugh Grant on the telly then bed. I did sleep.
Today we drove to Olympia for the Mind Body Spirit Festival. I was interviewing Lorna Byrne, talking about her new book – a book of Prayers – and what is to become of us.
We must teach empathy, we must listen to our inner voice and each other, we must speak up and ‘Give Out’ to God and our Guardian Angels. We must make a difference by caring so that our children don’t lose the birds and butterflies. We must keep praying on behalf of humanity and even love the evil ones. We must love and heal the selfish ones, we must embrace ourselves, and as 500 people queued for Lorna to give them her blessing, I was touched by her humility, her power, her innocence. She blessed me when we had finished our two hour interview. I accepted it with full grace.
The roads were clear when we drove home, the ‘oosbind heated up the Caribbean vegetables, the evening air still heavy with warmth.
It’s nearly 2.00 and apart from my typing there’s not a sound in the house.
The tulips have opened, blowsy and crisp, the ceramic tile that Jim bought me for our anniversary is now hanging on the wall. It reads:
Here’s to the next 30.

4 thoughts on “Pearly Kings and Queens.”

  1. Very good, Jeni. Reading it, it’s almost as if I was there.’ Here’s to the next 30′ is pushing it a bit. X

  2. Dear Jeni
    I remember you on GFL talking about this rock star chef Anythony Bourdain who wrote a great book.
    What a terrible shock and loss. He was such a great guy. It seems so much worse after your beautiful words about life.
    Please keep writing Jeni. Just like his shows taught us humility and what it is to be true to oneself, your words mean a lot to many .
    Love and good health to you and yours

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