Making soup again

Image from the February 1912 issue of Pictorial Review, courtesy of the Old Design Shop, a vintage image treasury.

These days I refuse to sigh
for cooked up futures.
Potatoes from a friend
and a bag of mixed root veg for £1
assure companionship.
This bounty grated, cooked with stock and bay leaves,
will be ladled out for half-a-dozen bowls
dressed up with haricot beans.
The appraising birds perch in the top bare branches,
more interested in other messes.

London kitchen, January 2015

I cook a great deal from scratch; partially because I have the time, mostly because it’s an attempt to stretch my budget. In autumn and winter, soup-making is a regular activity. Last winter (2013/2014), all my soups were restricted to three items from the grocery aisle, and cooked up with either red or brown lentils. This year I have discovered the mixed veg. packets at budget retailers, so I have broadened my ingredients list. Whatever the concoction that results, half is put aside for the freezer. This way I have a couple of flavours on rotation.

Chopping or grating vegetables for soup is both a mindless and thought-encouraging activity. I’ll think about things in my life, and I’ll think about nothing except scooping up the peelings for the bin. The other satisfying bonus of soup is that you can leave it to simmer while you continue with other tasks, like writing.

Today’s poem is a response to “In this place, I eat butternut soup,” written in 2012. You are astute readers, so there is no need for me to hammer home the points of contrast between the two poems. If you would like to share your own observations, please do so in the comments. I would be interested to read them.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

118A Creighton Avenue

This basket of potatoes is an image from the collection at the Old Design Shop.

Behind cardboard boxes,
I’m in the corner.
Leaning on a cushion,
I’m in the dark.
Potatoes are humming
rich smells from the oven.
Getting the girls to bed:
they have to be given a bottle each;
it’s tea and bath before.

When they’ve gone to sleep
The grownups eat
tired potatoes at 9pm.

It’s always a long day.


When I first arrived in North London, I was adopted by a fellow bohemian type, her jovial husband and beautiful daughters. “118A Creighton Avenue” is my voyeuristic take on the joys and chaos of family life.

Some readers have thought the speaker to be everything from the au pair to a homeless person, a soft toy to a spider, fly or insect on the wall. All these speculations about point of view locate the speaker’s voyeurism in disappearance. All of these would be on the side-lines of the scene, out of sight and out of mind.

I did have to ‘disappear’ when that time of the evening came to put the girls to bed. They were so little and found it disruptive to know that the visitor was still in the house. I would then have to hide in the playpen behind the stack of flattened cardboard boxes piled up for the impending move from 118A.

They moved to a new flat in the September of that year.

“118A Creighton Avenue” features in my first book of poetry
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012
I have produced two additional volumes –
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill