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September 4th, 2009

Village Life

Wednesday was spent at Wendy and Brian's house, experimenting with gingerbread recipes and an old iron mould for goldfish-shaped cakes while the rest of the family labored in the rain to put up a marquee in the garden for the wedding. There we were in their cozy kitchen, grating ginger and nutmeg and sifting flour through a sieve, and there they were, in the pouring rain, wrestling with tent pegs and yards and yards of white weatherproof fabric, consulting a set of directions Wendy had forethoughtfully encased in a plastic sleeve and laughing uproariously.

The tent went up at last, successfully. The goldfish were delicious, but a complete disaster as table decorations. Traditional American gingerbread cake is too coarse of crumb to take a delicate impression of fish scales and far too moist to be come out of an iron mold in one piece. The tails broke off, the bellies stuck to the pans, the noses crumbled. We made two batches, then ended up baking what was left of the batter in a square pan. I took it home to serve Terri & Co for dessert tonight. It was enthusiastically received, so that worked out fine for me. Wendy went back to Plan A, which was to make them out of Betty Crocker Gingerbread Cake mix.

I feel I could have arranged things better. Still, we had a lovely morning.

In the afternoon, I made a large pot of tea and sat down grimly to face The Story. It or me, and no quarter given. Some hours later, I'd written three manuscript pages I didn't hate, and we've been on fairly easy speaking terms ever since. I did a little more yesterday and this morning, and it's looking like a real story at last (knock on wood). I expect it'll hit its stride just as we're leaving to tour around Wales, but since I've set it in Wales, it's probably just as well if I get the rhythms in my ear and the countryside in my eye, and maybe even find a house that I can base Cwmlech Manor on. Right now, it's kind of like a sound stage set--two rooms with no logical connection between them, a kitchen garden, a leaky roof, and no architecture.

Sun showers have been so common yesterday and today that I no longer even notice--except when I had to run out and bring in the washing off the line. Good thing the cottage supplies a drying rack and there's an extra bedroom we can set it up in, because with 6 to dinner, there wasn't room in the conservatory/dining room. Good thing Terri's friends with the lady across the street, too, because we borrowed her canning pot to boil pasta in, since there wasn't anything nearly big enough in the cottage. It was otherwise pretty well supplied with pots, pans, a grater, chopping boards, knives (not very good ones, but they did the job), wooden spoons, and the strangest spatula I've ever seen, with a blade bent at right angles, which was just the thing for getting the gingerbread out of the pan. I made pasta with grated zucchini and yogurt sauce and poached salmon and grated Cheshire because I forgot to buy Parmesan, and it must have been okay, since it disappeared very fast.

The sun's out again today. We shall have lunch and take a long walk and life will be good. Tomorrow, we have to leave our little cottage and move into the B&B next door. It's very old and very beautiful, but someone else will be cooking breakfast and we won't have a fridge and it won't be quite so much like living here. Which I'd love to do some time, for a month or even two weeks. 7 days sounded so long in New York. But now we're here, it's no time at all.

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