It’s my own fault, probably. For Christmas I bought him a subscription to The Spicery.
Every month he gets packs of spices (from the ‘Indian Restaurant Favourites’ selection) and a recipe for a curry. They have all, I have to say, been delicious but as they include all the ‘extras’ too (not the hot towels and After Eights, but things like pakoras and naan breads), they do take quite a long time to make…
We had Chicken Bhuna, vegetable rice, pakora, pooris, raita & tamarind chutney. Delicious!
This weekend I also had one of those heart-stopping moments (not connected to the curry, I hasten to add).
I was reading an interview with award-winning novelist Maggie O’Farrell in the latest issue of Writing magazine and she said that a turning point in her career was the encouragement she received, while writing her first novel, from novelist-tutors Barbara Trapido and Elspeth Barker on an Arvon course at Lumb Bank.
Wait a minute…! I went on an Arvon course at Lumb Bank, in the ‘90s (O’Farrell’s After You’d Gone was published in 2000, so the timing was about right) AND my tutors were also Barbara Trapido and Elspeth Barker!
Could it be that Maggie O’Farrell had been on the same week-long residential course as me, all those years ago?! Why could I not remember her?
I wracked my brains.
All I could remember about the course was sharing a ‘dorm’ with 3 other women (something I would never do now!*), and that one of the other attendees was a posh woman who boasted she could fly a plane and had been to school with Princess Anne. We were all rather mystified as to how she got a bursary to go on the course, as she was clearly loaded! She was also very rude to the guest speaker (“Don’t you think there are enough books about the Brontes?” she said to the man who’d just published a book about.. you’ve guessed it) and then she just up and left early one morning, without so much as a goodbye (and, significantly, before we could hear her read any of her work out that evening..).
I also remembered the rather eccentric but really lovely tutors.. but I couldn’t remember Maggie O’Farrell. What a missed opportunity, I thought! We could have become besties! (Not that I want to hang on the coat tails of successful writers, or anything..)
And then, in almost the same moment, I thought.. WAIT! She’s published 7 novels and won the Costa Novel Prize since that Arvon Course. WHAT HAVE I DONE?! (Tell me I’m not the only one who thinks like this).
So I started some research (because I’ve got nothing better to do). And in two interviews I read on-line, Maggie O’Farrell clearly stated that the Arvon course she was referring to took place in the winter. In one, it said it was in December, in another, it was in January. She remembered because she was so overcome by the encouraging comments from the tutors that she ran outside, ‘into the middle of nowhere and fell into a ditch at the side of the road. I was up to my armpits in frozen water. For a moment I thought, I am going to die here. I did manage to stagger out.’
I breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn’t the same course. Because mine was definitely in the summer. August, I think. Phew! I’m not quite sure why but just phew!
*don’t let me put you off Arvon! I think, now, the rooms are mostly singles.