Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Small summery surprises

On the whole, I take a rather Dim View of big surprises.  I love anticipation - why remove so much of the fun of a situation by preventing someone from looking forward to it? Thinking of lovely things ahead is what helps me on tough days.

However, little unexpected things brighten my day.  Like finding self-seeded flowers in bloom at the bottom of my garden, or collecting a double yolker from the nest box.

One of the hens was certainly walking bow-legged after laying this monster - 

And one of the new hen laid her first tiny egg the same day, bless her feathery wee self, and strutted about crowing her achievement for all the world to hear. You'd think no bird had ever laid an egg before for all the obvious fuss she made -

Another nice surprise was being given all these gooseberries from my next door neighbour - 

which I cooked up with sugar in my big jam pan -

 - so I could make jars of gooseberry jam for my Dad. It's one of his favourites. Funny how the colour changes from that lovely green, isn't it?

Not really a surprise, but a delightful unexpected thing I discovered this summer was the presence of a grand piano in the middle of a covered square in Ghent. The roof of the structure was just amazing, the piano rich and beautiful, and watching passers-by sit down to plink plonk out Chopsticks, play some boogie woogie or carry us away with Bach's Toccata and Fugue was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

How does that even work? Wouldn't the changes of humidity and temperature constantly send the piano out of tune? And yet it sounded wonderful to my untutored ear, even in the pouring rain.

A few weeks later I was in Leeds city centre. I'd had fun chatting on BBC Radio Leeds with my erstwhile mentor Andrew Edwards and my partner in chat Caroline Eden. I like being on the radio with Caroline, she's good fun.  Later that evening I was going out for a meal with my Women's Institute pals for the centenary celebration, so I had some time to kill between the two engagements.
Look at what I found - 

A painted grand piano in the Trinity centre! A cluster of young men were hovering around, waiting for a chance to play it, egging each other on.  This lad is a student at Trinity University. He played a lilting piece of his own composition; others played a fair few pop songs to the delight of some school kids wandering by.  I know it's only a temporary feature to celebrate the triennial International Piano Competition, but I do so wish it were a permanent feature. One of my favourite surprises this summer.

Mum and Dad came over for a visit in July, which gave me a chance to surprise Mum in the daftest way possible. 

Since first tasting Viennetta ice cream in the 80s, Mum is completely predictable. "Wouldn't you think they'd make that tray out of chocolate?" she'd say of the dark brown plastic tray the ice cream sits on.  She's right, of course, it looks just like it ought to be dark chocolate. But what makes it funny to us all is that Mum has said it every time without fail, for 30 years. She doesn't even realise she's said it out loud some of the time.

So why not? I bought a Viennetta the week they were due to stay. I removed the squiggly ice cream block and popped it back in the freezer while I washed the tray, lined it with cling film and painted it carefully with melted chocolate.  Once the chocolate had nearly set, I bobbed the ice cream back in its new chocolaty tray. 

After dinner I removed the plastic tray and clingfilm from the bottom, put the Viennetta on a serving plate and brought it over to Mum.
"Don't you wish the tray was made of chocolate?" she said, right on cue.

We laughed all evening. Couldn't stop.  The look on her face was absolutely priceless. I couldn't speak for laughing, and I'm giggling again just writing about it.
Some surprises are worth it.

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