Monday, December 14, 2015

The pie transporter

So, there I was today, sitting in Oxford's "Sheffield Pie Shop" and tucking into to one of their, rather tasty, apricot pies when I had one of those strange flashbacks to the mid-1960s. In the wink of an eye, I traversed 50 years of apricot pie eating to arrive at the classic apricot pie - Lyons Individual Apricot Pies.

These are the pies that started a 50-year addiction to apricot pies. These pies were so special that each one came wrapped in its own cardboard box and, despite the advertisement, cost 6d each, by the time I discovered them. The cunningly shaped corners ensured you never got one with broken pastry and the tangy filling was always discoverable on the very first bite.  There were other flavours, of course, including apple and strawberry, which sometimes substituted when the apricot pies were all sold out. But the apricot pie was the best - until they were discontinued in 1968. They were replaced by a round pie, the Harvest pie, which was only a 6/10 pie, unworthy to succeed the octagonal beauty of the original.

In case you doubt my claims on behalf of this pie, just type "Lyons individual fruit pies" into Google. This search will yield over 300,000 hits - 47 years after the last one was sold! These pies, which pre-date Google, the internet and even solid state computers are still being discussed in awe-filled terms, in 2015.

If you ever ate a Lyons apricot pie, then visit the Sheffield pie shop and be transported back in time ...

Friday, December 4, 2015

Content not to be haunted

A friend commented that, he tried to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack him at once.

It got me wondering, why do we feel the need to take (cope, handle, tackle) a day? Why does a day become an obstacle to be overcome, and several days seem like an impossible hurdle? Of course, as with my friend, health issues can make getting through each day difficult. But I wonder if sometimes our expectations about what each day should be like, are too idealistic, too demanding for our situation. Didn't the apostle Paul say that he had learned to be content whatever his condition? I wonder, when things get too much, if we are actually finding ourselves a little wanting in the 'contentment' department?

Many years ago, I made a conscious decision to try and cultivate contentment. Initially, I was concerned with possessions - I wanted to learn to be content with less; to live more simply. It wasn't easy to shift the goal-posts, it wasn't easy to detach from want, and less easy to let go of what I was already holding - even in an emotional sense. I don't think I was entirely successful, but I do now lead a simpler life.

A few years back, I got sick in a debilitatingly permanent way and, over time, another shifting of goal-posts occurred - a shifting of expectations about my senior years. I had to learn to be content within the limitations of my health. That didn't mean laying down and waiting to die, but it did mean not expecting too much of tomorrow. If the day turns out well, then I can grasp it and wring as much out of it as possible but, if it turns out to be a bad day, then I need to work with that; to go with the flow. As far as I know, this is the only way to embrace contentment in the midst of sickness and uncertainty.

Mentally planning tomorrow can upset contentment. If I plan tomorrow in anything but the most general of ways, then I set myself up for discontent should the day turn on me. Those who practise mindfulness or other meditative techniques understand the importance of the present moment, the 'now' in which we live. My diary contains plenty of future events which may or may not come to pass, but 'now' is the only reality; everything else, including all those future events, is imaginary - until and unless they become 'now'.

I like 'now'. Right now, I am being a writer. As a writer, I am feeling no more sick than the healthiest of you. Right now is good and I intend to experience every drop of its goodness while writing this and listening to Brooke Fraser. But, even if I were on my sick bed, it would still be for 'now'. Now is not tomorrow. Tomorrow is not 'now'; tomorrow is a dream; a spectre.  By living 'now' as fully as I am able, I can embrace contentment and prevent several days ganging up on me and haunting my life.