Monday, December 31, 2012


It’s been more than two weeks since I flew back from Southeast Asia to Toronto, and that same amount of time since I posted a blogpost. Disgraceful, you might well say. I enjoy writing here, thinking on the page, so to speak. So what is it that’s caused this lacuna? I ask myself.

There are the obvious reasons: jetlag and disorientation after the flights from Rangoon via Bangkok etc, and the busy-ness of seeing friends after a travel gap, with the added intensity and expectations that come during the Christmas season.

But it felt like there was more to it. I think I was more wrecked by the whirlwind of book tour than I was prepared to acknowledge. I’m not complaining, especially not after having had the chance to recharge in Chiang Mai, but somehow the deep tiredness, more emotional than physical, continued long after and left me empty of initiative for ideas. I displaced my energies into baking and cooking and seeing friends, but could never quite feel the deep juiciness that I love to feel when I sit down to write here.

And now at last that richer energy is back, as of two or three days ago. I rejoice.

On this last day of the year that marks a dozen years since 2000, that’s been a leap-year/election year and a year that for me was all about the BURMA book, I’m feeling mighty grateful to be alive and in good health, with projects to look forward to and friends to rejoice with.

The holidays have been multi-layered. In our house we don’t have any particular holiday ritual. The only rule is that no-one gets imposed upon, in fact basically the only rule is that there are no rules. It makes things very relaxed, somewhat shapeless, and very pleasurable. 

This year we ate a huge meal with friends, family-style, on Chrstmas evening, beginning with PEI oysters and some extraordinary shrimp, moving on to a Berkshire pork rib roast with brilliant crackling, as well as several Burmese salads (the grapefruit salad was especially delish with the pork), and then following up with a choice of sweets that included mince tarts and pumpkin pie, as well as home-made chestnut ice cream. Are you having indigestion reading this list? I am.  

And all week we’ve been snacking on various biscotti, made from my recipes in HomeBaking. Cooking was part of my way of dealing with patchy tiredness from jetlag. I made jars of mincemeat a week ago, using homemade candied peel, suet, currants, sultanas, chopped apple, lemon and orange zest and juice, and a good splash of brandy. Some went into the mince tarts, some has gone as presents, but I have to confess that there’s one open jar in the fridge that I dip into every once in a while - with a clean spoon, I swear - to take a lovely rich and intense mouthful. It’s like an over-the-top version of the classic scoop-a-finger-into-the-peanut butter jar, and to me way more tempting and delicious.

So it is that most of us emerge into 2013 having to loosen our belts and opt for those less-fitted garments that allow us to breath easily. The wonderful sereendipitous ski that I had in the city a few days ago, up ravines etc, after our huge snowfall last Wednesday-Thursday, was not enough to work off all this indulgence, nor was the fabulous dancing we all did last night. 

But so what? It’s not worth worrying about weight and tight clothing. Life is too short to focus on such trivial “first world problems”. I prefer to turn my imagination to wider less me-centred horizons, those which beckon endlessly, and remind me that the world is an infinitely fascinating place, where people of all kinds face intractable problems and conflicts and try to do so with courage and dignity. 

So I’ll close with a wish. Sorry if it seems preachy or pretentious, for it’s heartfelt: May this coming year bring more justice and more peace: more negotiation and less conflict, more respect and less arrogance, to us all.

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