Category Archives: Love

The new boy

Algernon watched the house for weeks. I’d see him sitting at the end of the drive at one in the morning, staring mournfully at the front door. His presence drove Teddywinkle up the wall. He would growl and hiss and pace the window sills, protecting his turf. I tried to reason with Algernon but whenever I would open the door, he would disappear. He waited before singing to me for the first time. I was washing the dishes, and heard an insistent miaowing from the palms. This song went on for some time; I was reminded of Aslan singing Narnia to into being in The Magician’s Nephew.


At first, I thought it was a child playing a prank. I walked outside, holding a dish cloth, and there he was, shielded by leaves, calling to me. I dropped to my knees and clicked my tongue. He tentatively approached – bony, dirty, right ear torn, head riddled with fleas. I fed him four bowls of food that night. He wolfed the food, loudly purring as he ate. I couldn’t let him in the house – he was filthy – and so sat outside on the step for a time, just stroking him.


Over the weeks, I fed and wormed him and gave him flea tablets and washed him in a hot, lavender oil scented bath and towelled him dry and rubbed antiseptic cream on his torn ear and cleaned his ears. I caressed his paws, and he would purr.


He would sing outside the house after I left him, sometimes until 3am, or paw at the doors, trying to enter. One night, he somehow leapt up onto the roof, where he sang for hours.


Which is when I realised that it was time to take him in. At first, I locked him in the warm laundry, where he sat on a piece of old green velvet on top of the washing machine. Teddywinkle held a vigil outside the laundry door, hissing under the crack. Algernon slept and slept and slept. After a week, I let him into the rest of the house. He took his place on a pale pink mohair blanket on a chair, where he could keep an eye on Teddy, who, in the way of all Devons, was soon overwhelmed by curiosity. Teddy now spends his days observing him from secret vantage points. When Algernon sees him, he narrows his eyes and softly growls.


How did he know that I would love him? I’ve never been adopted by a cat before.

Caramel banana cupcakes // cooking

Yesterday evening, the sky was the colour of the sky when it snows, although it will never snow here. As the colour of the sky was the same this morning, I decided to bake.


Nothing better than cakes warm from the oven on a chilly afternoon.


I chopped an absolutely gigantic banana and furiously mixed it with gluten-free flours, butter, caster sugar, RSPCA eggs, permeate-free milk and natural vanilla essence, if not in that order.


And then I added caramel buttons to half the cupcakes as Monkey loves caramel.


While the cupcakes baked on a low heat, I cut fresh roses from the garden.


And then they were ready. This is the first time I have used metallic cupcake wrappers and I like them. They remind me of sunlight hitting the water on late summer afternoons.


Afternoon tea. My troops fell upon the spoils.


The fragrance was a perfume.


After a long and demanding week, it feels so incredibly good to sit down.


A wonderfully witchy Hallowe’en

Having spent the past million and a half weeks sewing moons and bats and jack-o’-lanterns for our Hallowe’en bunting, I today spent five hours baking.


Five hours. I baked dozens of bat sugar cookies with lemon glace icing.


Other than the first batch, they came out very well. (The first batch was a very frilly pink rather than a bloody red as Ribena + icing sugar = Barbie’s convertible.)

But sugar bat cookies and lemon glace icing? A very happy marriage.

Hallowe'en bat cookies

I baked dozens of bone sugar cookies with lemon glace icing.


(They look like sausages here, but were fantastically horrible up close.)


I thought we would have dozens left, but so many ghoulies and ghosties and witches and monsters turned up with such sweet smiles at the door that all my cookies disappeared.

“Nibble, nibble, nubble … who gnaws my house to rubble?”” I would croak as I walked, in a black dress and my witch’s hat, to the door with a silver tray heaped with bones.


(When two little six-year-olds blanched, I had to revert to my everyday voice.)


Monkey was so happy. She loves all things spooky. So Hallowe’en? You can imagine.



She went trick or treating with Daddy, who was dressed as a pirate. Meanwhile, I baked a beautiful – BEAUTIFUL – skull cake (my very first).

Hallowe'en _skull_cake

No buttercream; I iced him with light cream cheese beaten with a mixture of icing and caster sugars and vanilla and arranged him on a wonderfully horrible old baking sheet.

Our silver mermaid goddess watched, impassive.


Mr. Cake was so realistic that cutting into his cranium was somewhat unnerving (I should have called on my old pal Erica, a neurosurgeon). I had to steel myself. Hacked into his head. The result was glorious – all white chocolate and rum. Our neighbours had seconds.


The Jack o’ Lantern grinned.


Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
                              Darkness there and nothing more.

Happy Hallowe’en!


Morning// Monkey’s photographs

Monkey took these before I awoke the other morning:

This evening

Dusk. The beach across the road, with prawn trawlers in the distance.

The Eclipse: A Memoir of Suicide (Pimennys: Itsemurhamuistelmat)

Awoke to pelting rain and a message from Lea Peuronpuro, who translated The Eclipse into Finnish. She writes:

“The Finnish Reading Centre, funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture, and a major Finnish publisher joined forces in a collection of texts titled ‘The Book That Changed My Life’. It consists of 59 declarations of love, awe and gratitude, to 59 books, from the Bible to Stephen King, by 59 readers, some famous, some anonymous. One of those texts is written by a young anonymous woman (born in 1990) and it goes like this:

“It was my first year in upper secondary school in 2006 when I first encountered The Eclipse at the school library. The bright yellow cover seemed to be screaming to me from the shelf and forcing me to pick it up and read the flap copy. Back then I was severely depressed and kept fantasizing about suicide. Just the title of the book provided reason enough for lending it, and I almost ran back to my dorm room to read it.

“I devoured the book, crying. The Eclipse made me think of suicide from a completely different angle; for the first time I considered the impact of my suicide on my loved ones, and I started to hesitate. Thanks to this book, I survived that period of depression without any professional help until the next school year.

“During the second year of upper secondary school, I went back to fantasizing about suicide and, as first aid, read The Eclipse again. Again, it enabled me to take a less selfish approach to suicide. This time the book alone didn’t carry me over depression, but it encouraged me to acquire outpatient treatment.

“At the end of that year, depression became disabling and I moved back to my parents’ house. As an outpatient, I began to plan suicide in a more determined manner than before, and before long, I was hospitalized against my will directly from an appointment with a psychologist. When I was allowed to visit home, I grabbed The Eclipse with some other books to take back to the hospital with me – to read, but more than that to bring me a sense of safety. Later, when I moved to another town and ended up in a different psychiatric hospital, The Eclipse followed with me.

“The Eclipse has been my companion through the depths of depression and it has helped me to re-emerge – time after time. It has shown me the other side of suicide – the pain and agony it imposes on loved ones, how deeply it hurts. I could imagine the guilt of my parents, had I killed myself. I could imagine the grief of my closest friends, my siblings crying themselves to sleep. Each time I’ve read The Eclipse it has become clearer and clearer to me how my suicide would affect my loved ones. It is because of this book that I’m still here – this book spared my loved ones from the crushing grasp of bereavement.

“I would like to express my gratitude to Gambotto-Burke herself: The Eclipse has saved me from suicide four times. Still an outpatient, but still alive. It is my conviction that this book should be available at mental health clinics, psychiatric hospitals and emergency rooms everywhere. It should be recommended to everybody harbouring self-destructive thoughts. Had I not found The Eclipse at the school library, I’d probably have been dead and buried for years by now.”

To the girl who wrote this essay: I embrace you from across the world.

… to read more, buy The Eclipse here.

An illustration from Angela Barrett's rapturous Beauty and the Beast. To buy this book, click here: here.

An illustration from Angela Barrett’s rapturous Beauty and the Beast. To buy this book, click here: here.


On our way home from Byron last night, I pointed to the line of trees on the horizon. “See the silhouette of the bush against the twilit sky?” I asked Monkey. “Isn’t it beautiful? We should make silhouettes tomorrow.” Once home, she disappeared into her room while I made dinner. And then she put on a show. Having taped two pieces of origami paper to the television, which had been turned on to static (our set is used exclusively as a DVD player), she turned all the lights out, and narrated her story. Mesmerized by the beauty of her theatre, I forgot to listen to the words. All I could do in that moment was see.

The protagonist.

The protagonist.

The little cat, who spoke with an American accent.

The little cat, who spoke with an American accent.

The theatre set, unpopulated.

The theatre set, unpopulated.