Umeň Days.

Posted by Jeni in Ad Infinitum | 8 December 2011

It's one minute to three in the afternoon but it feels like midnight in Umeň 400 kilometers, which is 248.5 miles South, of the Arctic Circle.

Its grey, dark, and the wind has a malevolent whip about it.

I'm cosied up in my studio. The heaters on, the chile lights glowing and apart from the howling wind its as silent as a night in Tunbridge Wells.

Have you been watching the repeats of GFL?

I watch them through an insomniac haze at 3.00 in the morning.

Cannot believe the size of my belly, mouth and bum.

So good to see all the boys though.

9 days since my last blog in which time my mother has been in and out of hospital, I have broken my toe, Jim has got a wonderful job in January, B is moving forward and my eye drips like a rusty old fawcet.

'Whats with the American fawcet? I hear you ask. It just sounds better than 'tap' don't you think?

The Cristmas tree is up and yesterday I polished our Danish stove. The black polish went on with a tooth brush and then a quick rub with an old pair of pyjama bottoms, I wasn't wearing them at the time, having ripped them into convenient sized dusters. I now have a shiny pot bellied pal in the alcove.

Monday I had a meet with Mr. BBC London and all is well for next year, which is lovely news.

Tuesday is a blur, whilst yesterday was driving to Brighton and having a surreal conversation with my mother who was in Brighton and Sussex Hospital.

I drove down in my little red car with my delicious nephew Dan, his long legs just managing to fit in. My mother didn't know where she was. The conversation was as out of character as she has now become.

The hospital staff were lovely. The wards jam packed with old, young, male and female patients eating lunch. The corridors full of medics in and out of uniform. We couldn't sit on the bed so I hobbled into another ward and took two chairs. I had half a mind to get them to look at my poor little toe which was crying wee wee wee all the way home.

We sat down, my mum looking fine if not flushed with confused.

'I hate it here.' she moaned.

'Where am I again?' she said in the next breath.

'I hate it here?' Pause. 'Where am I?"

After we explained for the fifth time where she was my intelligent mother declared;

'I hate being in the home its full of old people.'

Dan and I ignored her comment since my 89 year old mother can hardly be classed as an adolescent, even though her behaviour belies the fact.

She continued. 'I'm not going back to that place its full of Jews.'

Bearing in mind that my mother is Jewish, was a card carrying member of the humanitarian cause and as full of compassion as The Dalai Lama, it shocked Dan and I. Indeed so strange was her comment that we both laughed.

'Where would you like to be?' I probed.

'Back home.?'

Where is home?' I asked.

It turned out she wated to be in East London, town of her birth. 'Well' l said, 'Where you lived is now gentrified, and where you grew up is a Bangladeshi community'.

She was having none of that, she hated them too. I offered her up Brixton to which she replied;

'Oh I like them' then looking at me with half an eye she told me that I looked black.

My mother is not herself. When we do get glimpses of her its a relief. Those times are getting few and far between. Literally we get glimpses of the woman we knew for fewer moments and less often.

Dan and I left and I took him to see Hyman Fine Home. Its lovely in there. Her room is fine. Dan gave it the seal of approval. He adores his nan, she was integral to his growing up.

I tell you all this because I cannot believe I am in the middle of a kind of nightmare. When I close my eyes I see my ma, when I have a moment of space in my head I see my ma.

I know it is a period of adjystment, which is how the toe happened. My mind was somewhere between Lewes and Hove and the chair leg was somewhere in the room just waiting to trip me up.

Dan's approval of the home allowed us to celebrate, so we drove to BILLS in Lewes and had lunch. A shared platter of meze and bread, with two little bowls of chips, a pot of Rooibosh tea and a shared home made scone with full fat cream and the sweetest of strawberry jams. By the time we got home the hospital had melted into the South Downs.

Dan and B went and bought a lush tree after which Dan disappeared into the night having sawn off a lower branch which he stuck behind the moose head I have hanging on the wall. It's made out of faux fur, bought it last year from a charity shop next to Vivienne Westwood's store on The Kings Road. The moose now appears to be peering out of the bushes somewhere in Omeo, just South of the Arctic Roll. I polished the stove as B hung our ancient baubles and bells on the recyclable tree..

We ordered in a Chinese take away which was not good the broad bean dish could have been used as Christmas decorations so hard and dry were they.

The old git arrived home havng been handyman to the middle daughter, after a quick rehearsal of a song we are singing for a dear friends birthday do tomorrow night, we 3 settled down to watch GEORGE CLOONEY in DESCENDENTS. A Bafta nominee. A tender film. We all cried a little.

Today, as the wind blows a gale outside the window, I have done the accounts, cleared my drawer, sorted my emails and written my bits for Sunday.

My mother is out of the hospital. I called to make sure she hadn't ransacked the place when she was returned.

Finula, one of the fine staff, answered the phone.

'Hi', I said. 'I'm Renee's daughter Jeni. How is she?' my heart in my mouth.

'GREAT.' said Fenula with her Dublin accent. 'Absolutely Greeeeat.'

I could feel the relief ripple through my body. Another hurdle jumped.

I'm off now to make butternut squash soup with a hint of ginger and a liberal sprinkling of cumin I did think of making a venison casserole but the moose appeared to wink at me....

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes


1. At December 8, 2011 3:55 PM Keith Bratley wrote:

Just watching repeats of Christmas Live from 2005!
I had forgotten how brilliant you are.
Why don't we see you on TV these days and how do I start a campaign to get you back on?
Have a great Christmas!

2. At December 9, 2011 8:01 AM Rhianon wrote:

I caught a few moments of the repeats. Yeah, they were outstanding shows. Never mind how big your belly, mouth and bum were, look at how good you were. My Dad always said you were the finest mind on the telly. Quick, adaptable, in control, funny and professional. And trust me, he's not easily impressed!

Strange how illness turns our mothers into strangers. I know how it goes. The sicker my Mother got the weirder she became. She didn't always know whether she was at home or in the hospital. Explaining seemed to take up all out time with her.

Take care, Jeni. And to all my fellow bloggers, Happy Christmas. Have a wonderful, peaceful and healthy time.

3. At December 13, 2011 8:00 PM Susan wrote:

Why arent you here on our tellys to make us laugh like you used to, i loved GFL, It was brilliant , please come back in our living rooms Jeni. Are the tv producers mad at not having you on our screens !!! xx
Have a lovely Christmas xxx

4. At December 13, 2011 8:12 PM Gail Brooks wrote:

Oh Jenny I so miss your Good Food Live bring it back please - miss the stories of Jim and your daughter!!! The show was witty informative and great fun Market Kitchen is just so crap in comparison - think we need to start a campaign!

Copyright 2007, Jeni Barnett. Website produced by Chopstix.