marm1Mrs Summerhouse is on record as saying her two main retirement goals are to expand her creativity and de-clutter the house. Thus far she has been successful in the first but not the latter. She’s always been the creative type, good with her hands as my grandma used to say. We met at art college where I was a useless painter and she was, what we used to call then, a dress designer, a talented one at that, won competitions and the like. This was her first career. Gave it up for the babies. A long time ago.

The babies might have put something of a crimp in her dress-designing career but it opened up, in a perverse kind of way, a second career. Suffering from, what was then hardly recognised as, post natal depression (I know I don’t like the word but it’s short hand), she started going to yoga classes, trained as a yoga teacher and hey presto, a life time’s vocation which continues to this day.

She has also kept her hand in with the arty stuff and now, in retirement, she has chance to expand her creative empire. With her students she made cushion covers, table cloths, aprons, cards, wreaths, model buildings, a head of Beryl Burton ( a local cyclist), aboriginal art, pencil holders. In retirement, thus far, she’s carried on with her pastels, watercolours, acrylics (she couldn’t get on with oils) and added, as you know, stained glass work.

Even the sewing machine I bought her for Christmas all those years ago is now seeing service. She is going to start making clothes again. This may be a mixed blessing for me. Each week when we first started going out she would buy one metre of fabric and make a skirt for herself and a kipper tie (remember?). The tie was bigger than the skirt. Ahh, those were the days. And that wasn’t all. We still remember, with fondness, the jacket she made me at art college. Tailoring and weaving were part of her college course. She had to weave a tweed fabric and then make it into a man’s jacket – for me. The fabric was beautiful and the jacket was also beautiful– for another person. Quasimodo in fact, it would fit him perfectly. Good though it looked off the person, on me it had a life of its own. It stood proud from my shoulders in a hump, never made contact with the top half of my top half. Shame really but then when we were feeling a bit down in those early years I used to put it on and we’d collapse. Kept it for years on that basis. It wouldn’t have lasted that long if I’d worn it.

Now the latest enterprise and the clue is in the initial photo – marmalade (and jam) making. The jam was made with last year’s excellent harvest of blackberries. If there is any finer human activity than getting free fruit to make jam, then I don’t know what it is. Unfortunately she has to buy the Seville oranges that constitute the marmalade, but small price to pay for exceptionally delicious marmalade, mind you, you have to like the orange peel, but then we do. From Wikipedia “The benchmark citrus fruit for marmalade production in Britain is the Spanish Seville orange, Citrus aurantium var. aurantium, prized for its high pectin content, which gives a good set. The peel has a distinctive bitter taste which it imparts to the marmalade.” Here’s the book she uses.

marm book

I hadn’t realised until we had an in-depth conversation about marmalade and its origins (Greek and Roman although the reference in the early times was to quinces), that this year’s recipe is not the same as last year’s or the year before which in the latter’s case (i.e. the first year) was good but somewhat fluid, our neighbour to whom we gave a jar christened it moveable marmalade. Last year’s batch had lime and lemon flavour. This year’s is straight orange and nicely solid. A couple more photos to finish off with. Retirement can be a wonderful thing.

A stage further

marm2

The final productmarm fin

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