She did it…

I remember nights out, trimmed with thick brocade
And stifling velvet. Trying to breathe as they hugged me goodbye
Before disappearing into the night.
And I disappeared upstairs.

The Queen’s couturier had gathered thin air and raw shot silk
In the almost-green of unfurling leaves
Making a dress that would,
One day,
Meet a real-life princess.

And there were skirts, woven in a shocking kaleidoscope
Of primary colours. Worn to family weddings and finished
With a soft, silver-grey turban. Inherited from the great aunt
And worn at a rakish angle.

Dinners on the go—tuna, rice, and Thousand Island Dressing.
Stirred. Chilled. Dolloped.
I would squidge it together between thumb and finger.
Delivering globs of starchy protein into my mouth.
Like the Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook said to.
No aspic. Thank heavens.
Who wraps their tea in jelly?
Small mercies, and all that.
A precursor to today’s tuna maki, perhaps?
Today’s love of sushi and things Japanese?
“You only like the things you dip them in,” she said.
When we talked about it.

I would sneak into her wardrobe and play dress up. The faint scent of
Saint Laurent’s Rive Gauche from the one Christmas bottle a year Catching in the air.

Bowls of chopped cheddar, raisins and apple
In front of the telly
After school.

Fire on
Waiting for
The cartoons to start.

A silk and lace negligée
Is still the most elegant drop dead gorgeous garment
I’ve ever seen.

It would trail on the floor
Behind my elfin form
Whispering secrets and whipping my shins
Threatening to trip me up all the while
If I dared to descend down the stairs
To show the babysitter
And so it stayed
Hidden away.
While she mingled
And danced
And asked question after question

She watched.
She learned.
She wrote.

Anna’s Mild Curry with three-colour rice
And her metal cups that made your teeth ring.
Jenny’s Goulash with the bay leaf that always ended up
On my plate
In my mouth
And back on my plate
Tricia’s tuna and cucumber tart
With its ice-cold filling and shortcrust pastry.

She watched. She learned.
She wrote.

Creating meal after meal
For year after year
Starting with one chopped onion
Perhaps a cheeky glass of wine
And deciding where to go
From there.

She watched. She learned.
She wrote. She did it.

By Jenny, Katherine & Jennine.

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