The Remains of the day, dignity and real gentlemen.

Mr. Stevens is a professional butler working at Darlington. He receives a letter from Miss Kenton, the former housekeeper, and by the tone of her letter he feels that Miss Kenton is not happy with her marriage and that therefore she might consider coming back to Darlington. Encouraged by his new employer to take a break, Mr. Stevens decides to go on a trip to meet her and hopefully bring her back. But is this call solely on professional basis or is there something more? And so he takes us with him on this journey, and whilst driving and lodging in different places he reminisces about the past, telling us in a beautifully melancholic way what his work meant to him. What made him a professional. What dignity is all about. He also tells us about the harmless yet meaningful bickering between him and Miss Kenton especially in the beginning of her employment. He gives us a hint that there may have been something more between them but as always Mr. Stevens is so professional he even hides his feelings from his own self. Analytic, sometimes as cold as fish and callous even, yet you can’t help admiring him for staying calm and in control even in very difficult situations. He was used to putting his feelings aside. A butler yet more of a gentleman than many, including some who were considered to be so because of a title. Is it not, in the end, a noble heart that makes a real gentleman? That gives you that kind of dignity and allows you to remain calm even when someone snaps his fingers at you? A noble heart that drives you to be, at all costs, that professional and disciplined; the utmost refusal, under any circumstance, to lose control or be vulgar. Many regard this level of servitude as weakness. I think it’s a sign of real strength. Only a strong person can be that disciplined and that gentle at the same time. That selfless… This book went down like a glass of cognac after a long day. Whenever I read from it my mind relaxed, absorbed its elegance and made me forget all the rest. I can’t remember the last time a book made me love both the story and the language itself that much. Beautiful in many ways. 5 stars.

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Beloved Puffins, breathtaking heat and cooling ice-cream.

These are some of my Puffins. Children on the Oregon Trail was one of my favourites. This one is a 1963 edition. The others are early seventies. Do you collect Puffins too? Their covers are so lovely! I even love the word and that’s what I call my son, that is, until he lets me. Here we are already experiencing some high temperatures but what makes it worse is the high level of humidity. Being a small island here it can get breathtakingly humid (that includes Lion King hairstyle too). So, to cool off I’ve made some natural, easy ice-cream. We call it the CCB. Here’s how if you want to try. If you’re allergic to nuts simply omit and if you have an ingredient missing no problem, it still comes out good, just make sure you have bananas 😉

Chocolatey Coconut Banana Ice-cream (per person)

2 bananas

1 tbsp almond butter

1 tbsp raw cocoa powder

Desiccated coconut (as much as you like, we are fans)

1 tsp Pure Maple Syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

Mixed everything together in a blender and freeze until ready to eat. If you want you can drizzle some raw chocolate (as per previous recipe post). Optional: Sprinkle with some nuts and more coconut. Have a nice weekend!

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Best days, latest finds and simple pleasures.

Finally, the best days of the week! I started off today with some errands and then some book hunting.  I found these beautiful, colourful 1960s London Mysteries Magazines (‘A quarterly anthology of the best Crime, Mystery & Detective, Fact & Fiction). Have you seen these before? I love them and I’ll be reading them soon and will do some research about them. I’ll share with you anything I get to know as I go along…

Back home and it’s cooking time.  I pay attention to what I eat during the week but on weekends I let go a bit and I bake a different pie every weekend, today it’s a typical Maltese dish – Timpana. Basically it’s a hearty meal of pasta in pastry (I am really letting go this weekend). Then for dessert I have made the easy, raw, no-bake, all natural, yummiest cherry cheesecake ever. Here are the recipes:

Timpana

Ingredients:

500g pastry (frozen sheets)
500g dried macaroni or penne
300g beef mince
300g pork mince
300g bacon, finely diced
2 onions, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
150g tasty cheese, grated
4 eggs, beaten
2tbsp tomato paste
400g tomato purée
500ml chicken or beef stock
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

For glaze you can brush with a beaten egg

Preheat oven to 180˚C.

Fry onions and garlic in olive oil for 5 minutes, then add the meat, stirring & cooking for 15 minutes. Pour the stock, mix well and bring to boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add tomato paste and tomato purée. While the sauce is cooking, cook pasta as per instructions (make sure not to over cook!). Drain and mix with sauce, adding tasty cheese. Stir in beaten eggs very slowly to give consistency to the mixture.

Line a greased baking dish with the pastry, also on the sides. Fill it with the pasta and cover the top with another layer of pastry which has been pricked all over with a knife to let steam escape. Bake for 1 hour and 15 mins.

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Jessy’s version of a Yummy Raw Cherry Cheesecake

Base:

200g raw almonds

200g pitted dates

1tsp of maple syrup

1tsp of vanilla extract

Half a banana

Filling:

20 fresh pitted cherries

200g raw cashew nuts

2 bananas

1tsp of maple syrup

1tsp of vanilla extract

I include chocolate in all my desserts because I am a chocolate freak, so for those who want to include it:

3 tbsp coconut oil

3 tbsp raw cocoa powder

3 tbsp maple syrup.

Put base in a food processor and mix until it turns into a dough like mixture. Press the mixture in 6 and 1/2 inch cake tin with a spoon. For the filling mix everything in the processor again until really creamy and pour onto the base. Freeze whilst preparing the chocolate topping by melting the coconut oil and add in the rest. Whisk until well mixed and pour on cheesecake. Freeze until time to eat.  Sprinkle with desiccated coconut and some lovely fresh cherries. Enjoy!

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June, modern poets and Pollock.

This month, after a month of lovely romantic 19th century poetry, I am going to read some modern poetry form Geoffrey Grigson, Edwin Muir & Adrian Stokes. Grigson was born in 1905, literary editor, worked for BBC and in publishing. He also wrote many books including Notes from an Odd Country and a study on flowers and plants in The Englishman’s Flora. 📚 Muir was a famous Scottish poet born in 1887.  He worked for the British Council in Edinburgh, then in Prague and later in Rome. Later he also taught at Harvard, but writing poetry was always a constant thing. 📚 Stokes was born in London in 1902 , he was a painter and writer and lived in Italy for a while and then back in the UK.  Most famous for his books about art, including The Quattro Cento (the four hundred)… The cover of this book made me think of a very wild but great artist whom I admire for his staying true to himself no matter what others thought; and that was Jackson Pollock. His art was negatively received in the beginning but he refused to follow trends and finally he became famous for his own true expressions. Not only that but thanks to him other doors were opened when it came to freedom in art. He struggled with alcoholism and died in car accident at age 44. His art goes really well with the writings of these passionate poets who also changed the way people looked at poetry.

“Since I emerged that day from the labyrinth,

Dazed with the tall and echoing passages,

The swift recoils, so many I almost feared

I’d meet myself returning at some smooth corner,

Myself or my ghost, for all there was unreal

After the straw ceased rustling and the bull

Lay dead upon the straw and I remained,

Blood-splashed, if dead or alive I could not tell

In the twilight nothingness (I might have been

A spirit seeking his body through the roads

Of intricate Hades) – ever since I came out

To the world, the still fields swift with flowers, the trees

All bright with blossom, the little green hills, the sea,

The sky and all in movement under it,

Shepherds and flocks and birds and the young and old,

(I stared in wonder at the young and the old,

For in the maze time had not been with me;

I had strayed, it seemed, past sun and season and change,

Past rest and motion, for I could not tell

At last if I moved or stayed; the maze itself

Revolved around me on its hidden axis

And swept me smoothly to its enemy,

The lovely world) – since I came out that day,

There have been times when I have heard my footsteps

Still echoing in the maze, and all the roads

That run through the noisy world, deceiving streets

That meet and part and meet, and rooms that open

Into each other – and never a final room –

Stairways and corridors and antechambers

That vacantly wait for some great audience,

That smooth sea-tracks that open and close again,

Tracks undiscoverable, undecipherable,

Paths on the earth and tunnels underground,

And bird-tracks in the air – all seemed apart

Of the great labyrinth. And then I’d stumble

In sudden blindness, hasten, almost run,

As if the maze itself were after me.

And soon must catch me up. But taking thought,

I’d tell to myself, ʻYou need not hurry. This

Is the firm good earth. All roads lie free before you’.

But my bad spirit would sneer, ʻNo, do not hurry.

No need to hurry. Haste and delay are equal

In this one world, for there’s no exit, none,

No place to come to, and you’ll end where you are,

Deep in the centre of the endless maze’.

 I could not live if this were not illusion.

It is a world, perhaps; but there’s another.

For once in a dream or trance I saw the gods

Each sitting on the top of his mountain-isle,

While down below the little ships sailed by,

Toy multitudes swarmed in the harbours, shepherds drove

Their tiny flocks to the pastures, marriage feasts

Went on below, small birthdays and holidays,

Ploughing and harvesting and life and death,

And all permissible, all acceptable,

Clear and secure as in a limpid dream.

But they, the gods, as large and bright as clouds,

Conversed across the sounds in tranquil voices

High in the sky above the untroubled sea,

And their eternal dialogue was peace

Where all these things were woven, and this our life

Was a chord deep in that dialogue,

As easy utterance of harmonious words,

Spontaneous syllables bodying forth a world.

That was the real world; I have touched it once,

And now shall know it always. But the lie,

The maze, the wild-wood waste of falsehood, roads

That run and run and never reach an end,

Embowered in error – I’d be prisoned there

But that my soul has bird wings to fly free.

 

Oh these deceits are strong almost as life.

Last night I dreamt I was in the labyrinth,

And woke far on. I did not know the place.
The Labyrinth – Muir.

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Current painting, current read and the abandon.

I just finished this painting which I have named Flowers in the sky. The inspiration came from the beautiful wild flowers of spring and I painted it whilst listening to Flower duet by Netrebko and Garanca on repeat. I cannot tell you how much I needed this! My life is getting busier everyday and only this afternoon I could allow myself such luxury and abandon. I am also looking forward to bedtime so that I can continue reading The Lord of the Flies; it was on my to be read for ages and so far I’m enjoying it as much as I imagined. Wishing you all a blessed Sunday xxx

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Greene, more facts and curiosities.

📚 Waugh was a student at Oxford at the same time Greene was and once said that Greene looked down on many, especially undergraduates.

📚 Golding described Greene as the ‘ultimate chronicler’ of man’s own thoughts and anxiety.

📚 Greene was an estranged husband to his wife and two children. He had several affairs and eventually separated from his wife, who later said he shouldn’t have married in the first place. He once said that he thought books were his children.

📚 In 1981 he won the Jerusalem Prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society – a literary prize awarded every other year to writers who wrote about human freedom.

📚 In 1986 at age 82 Greene was awarded the Order of Merit for his contribution to literature.

📚 In Switzerland he lived in the same town as Charlie Chaplin and the two became good friends.

📚 Even though he stopped going to church, Spanish Priest and friend Leopoldo Duran made sure he received all sacraments through the final years until his death.

“The sense of unhappiness is so much easier to convey than that of happiness. In misery we seem aware of our own existence, even though it may be in the form of a monstrous egotism: this pain of mine is individual, this nerve that winces belongs to me and to no other. But happiness annihilates us: we lose our identity.”

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Greene: the writer and the secret agent.

Henry Graham Greene was born on the 2nd of October 1904 in UK into a wealthy and known family; members  included RL Stevenson, the owners of Greene King Brewery, statesmen, bankers etc.. He attended the same school where his father taught but was very unhappy there especially because of bullying, so much so that he attempted suicide several times. He published his first volume of poetry when he moved to Oxford in 1925 but it wasn’t well-received. After graduating he worked as a private tutor and then as journalist, last role as a sub-editor at The Times, but quit this job in 1929 when he published his first novel The Man Within since it was successful enough to enable him to write on full-time basis. He still supported himself with freelance journalism and also by reviewing films and books for a magazine. He published The Name of Action in 1930, two years later Rumour at Nightfall and then Stamboul Train which was the most successful and later adapted into the film Orient Express (1934).  In 1937 he and the magazine were sued because of a review he did on a Shirley Temple movie and because of this he moved to Mexico where he wrote the first notes for the most famous novel The Power and the Glory (1940).  He later also wrote short stories and plays, The Living Room being the first one (1953)… Greene travelled a lot and thanks to that he was recruited with the Secret Intelligence Service MI6. This experience was of much inspiration behind his thrillers. He changed religions, suffered from bouts of depression and bipolar disorder and it is said he used set a writing limit of 500 words a day, but all this didn’t stop him from producing over 25 novels which to this day are still appreciated by many. He died and was buried in Switzerland at age 86 (more to come!).

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