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    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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