Saturday, 31 March 2007

Weed Cocktails and Lucozade with Anne Stevenson

So Boo (Beloved Only Offspring) intends to arrive today wreathed in the sound of maternal clucking and the intention to cook me a ‘nice’ surprise tea. Role reversal is a wonderful thing. She has always loved to create concoctions in the kitchen. I envisage her being able to create something interesting with eggs, cream cheese, strawberry jelly and soft cod roes.

Bizarre non-alcoholic cocktails were her specialty when she was a small child. One favourite was lime cordial, dandelion and burdock, orange squash and apple juice, decorated with a fresh dandelion plucked form the wildlife area (the patch formally called a lawn by previous tenants). “It’s a fruit and weeds drink” she said. Subsequently she has introduced me to home-brewed chai, bristling with vanilla sticks and carpeted with whole cardamom pods. I have felt righteously alternative whilst stirring it on the hob.

I think at the moment I have a craving for Lucozade…not that cunningly marketed power drink it flaunts itself as now but the old fashioned slightly dimpled glass bottle wrapped in cellophane. It was borne to the beds of the ailing with due reverence. You had to be really ill to merit its presence in the house. It was expensive and was used to pump the pale and limp full of sugar. As a child a Lucozade purchase validated your absence from school, no mother would purchase a bottle unless the ailment was beyond a mere cold or uncomplicated chicken pox or measles. I had pneumonia and it appeared by magic to tempt my appetite. Mr D who lived two doors up when I was a child, was classified as the deserving sick, he was downing a bottle a day for weeks, his wife still managed to pour it from a feeding cup between his protesting lips three times a day towards the end. Despite her ministrations, he died.
“It was diabetes they said” my mother told me years later. “Sad really, he may have been a bit of a bastard to her for years but when he needed her she was there for him.” My mother seemed blissfully unaware of the relationship between huge doses of sugar and diabetes.

Despite this tale I still always fancy Lucozade when a bit off colour, it is my comfort food, my passport to pukka poorly status. Think I will text the Boo to pick up a bottle complete with cellophane on her way here. Of course I will cluck about whether she is eating properly when she arrives, examine her face for signs of stress, unhappiness, vitamin deficiency, man problems, writer’s block, in-growing toe nails and lack of sleep. She in turn will do the same thing with me and will also point out that she is twenty-five, very capable and can knock up a healthy beverage now without the use of weeds but with the judicious use of herbs. Of course a weed is merely a herb or flower in the wrong place.

In recognition of the Boo’s imminent arrival with TLC and culinary skills, hopefully minus dandelion garnish, I’ll point you to the wonderfully wise Anne Stevenson and her Poem For A Daughter’…mothers of daughters will get this poem at an immediate visceral level. This poem is for anyone who has said ‘Yummy’ to a fruit and weed cocktail delivered by a beaming five year old or wondered why they are worrying about whether their twenty something child is wearing damp socks in cold weather or thinking they should take one carbon footprint less so that their child isn’t forced to live on a boat in the fens like a bad remake of Water World as the melting Polar ice caps make Cambridge a tasteful seaside resort with pier and £200,000 beach huts.

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