One day, a picnic on the beach and a coastal walk, the next, lunch with friends in the back garden.
It was far too beautiful, weather-wise, I informed Mr B, to eat indoors.
It was my intention, therefore, to lay our lunch table in the open air, where food always - but always - tastes more delicious.
Mr B, who was planning to cook Chicken with Leeks and a White Wine Sauce, acquiesced,
despite being unconvinced that the weather and / or the Great Outdoors would have any bearing on the deliciousness of his dish.
What might damage his chances of turning out a culinary masterpiece, he commented,
was if I continued to interfere in his preparations. "Leave me alone!" he complained, every time I popped my head around the kitchen door to see if I could help in any way. It was all my fault, he reminded me, that his last attempt at this particular dish
had fallen short of his high expectations. I had thought it tasted perfectly lovely myself, but possibly I do not have such finely tuned taste buds as Mr B. Though as One Who Is Always Thinking About My Stomach, you would think my helpful input might have
been more appreciated than it was.
In my defence I think I should explain that, because Mr B was cooking for four people, from a recipe which lists the ingredients for a dish serving just two people, I wanted
to make sure that he was doubling up on the white wine, the creme fraiche and the flat leaf parsley. Also that, in the interests of improving on last time, he wasn't overdosing on garlic. "Leave me be!" he retorted, when I tried to explain. I expect he thought
I was implying that he didn't know his two times table but it wasn't that. Anyone, but anyone, can forget to double up on an ingredient or two when trying to read a recipe, crush garlic, chop parsley and slash chicken breasts all at one and the same time.
"I can handle it!" he grumbled, sprinkling garlic salt and black pepper liberally over the chicken, the work surface and the kitchen floor.
In the end I left him to it, though I did peel the spuds and prepare
the carrots and beans. I think I served in the role of sous-chef. Or kitchen factotum. Whichever sounds most important, you choose. And, guess what? The meal was a triumph. Our friends sang the chef's praises - the leeks were cooked to perfection, the peppery
taste brought the chicken alive (well, not literally, that would have been scary) and the white wine sauce was to die for. Nobody mentioned the mashed potatoes or the vegetable medley but I am sure they were a fitting accompaniment for the Dish of the Day.
Though I say it myself, as shouldn't.
Just one thing spoilt our perfect lunch. Our new neighbours are renovating the house next door so our conversation was punctuated by the sound of drills, hammers and other
tools of a Noisy Nature. To add to the General Hubbub, over the back fence, an Unknown Gardener started up a lawn mower and proceeded to mow what must have been an extensive plot, judging by the time it took from start to noisy finish. I have never known our
garden to be less peaceful.
After our friends had left, Mr B took himself into the sitting room to watch the golf on TV, secure in the knowledge of a Job Well Done, despite having been almost derailed by my
well- intentioned interference. Chicken with Leeks and White Wine Sauce may yet find itself up there with Mr B's Roast Beef Dinner and my Madras Beef Curry in the family's Hall of Culinary Fame.
I poured myself
another glass of wine, fetched my book and sat out in the garden a little longer. Now that our guests had departed, so had the workmen next door and the keen gardener over the fence. The whole garden suddenly fell quiet. Apart, that is, from the bird song
and you can never have too much of that - though Mr B would argue the point every morning when the Dawn Chorus strikes up.
The daffodils - favourite flower of the Youngest of the Darling Daughters - were dancing
in the borders, the shrubs were proudly sprouting green shoots, the greedy birds were back at the feeder and will soon be eating us out of house and home again. My beetroot seedlings look as if they have taken - "but you don't even like beetroot!" laughed
my youngest daughter. Last year, I pointed out, I grew tomatoes and I don't like them either. I just like growing things. I don't have to go as far as liking them, I'm sure I will find someone to take my beetroot off my hands.
When I was about twelve, our teacher had us all keep a diary - a fictional diary, that is. I chose to keep a diary of a gardener, though I have completely forgotten the name I gave him. I wish I could remember; hopefully it may come back to me and if
it does I will be sure to let you know. I grew very fond of my alter ego. I do remember how I had my trusty gardener signing off one day of digging and delving by quoting good old Dorothy Frances Gurney:
kiss of the sun for pardon, the song of the birds for mirth. One is nearer God's heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth."
Well said, Mrs Gurney! My (peaceful) garden and I salute you.