Damson Coulis & Figs

The damson coulis pools in my porridge. I’m sitting across from Maggie the artist, who brought out the jug of damson elixir from the cook’s fridge a few minutes ago, and she’s grinning over her booty. My hands are still cold from an hour of Tai Chi down by the lake. At the water’s edge, a heron flies low over the water with a fish in her mouth. I gasp, it’s so beautiful. I listen to the gentle lapping of water, and watch leaves fall, whilst I move slowly on the little jetty. Later, I run downstairs to get better coverage, so that I can speak to the Italian in Cork, who’s having to deal, not just with our children, but the fact that the builders cut the telly / internet wire, on the day of the Great British Bake Off final. Kids are distraught, he has three presentations in Rome next week to prepare for and no internet, and me in Co. Monaghan. As we talk, I go out the main doors of the house, walk around to the right, and up through the patterned gardens, still full of red and white chequered dahlias, pale roses and orange-pink geraniums. Morag came into the kitchen yesterday with a handful of ripe figs, which we devoured. She’d found them in the old glasshouse, and that’s where I’m heading now, up between blossoms, and the low stone curves of formal beds, now half-buried in moss. I pull the bolt to the glasshouse open with one hand, still chatting to the Italian, who has to get Virgin to come deal with wires. The fig has gone wild, and ranges across the floor and up to the roof, I reach in and pick a ripe fig, and then another. Figs in October! They were in season in July, this past summer in Italy. After I’ve got off the phone, I run back upstairs to my gorgeous room, and place three figs on the desk. I’m thinking I’ll save them for elevenses, but it’s too much to resist, and so I sit in the window, and gorge two of them, their rich sweetness and impossible presence, somehow meeting the moment of being here in this extraordinary place: Annaghmakerrig.

Sebastian, the composer, is ensconced in one of the artists’ studios, where he’s wired up his mac to a boom box that looks like it’s from the 1980s, his viola on the floor, and music on an easel. We meet up in the late afternoon, and share ideas. He’s busy weaving wonders with my text and his music. I write stories, and wait for rain.

Back at breakfast, one of the women who comes in and works in the kitchen is discussing my skinniness, and ends by saying ‘nibblers have big knickers.’ I choke on my green tea as I cackle. Up in my room again, a jay flies by in all its rusty pinkness. It, too, is hoarding for winter. I’m tempted to do the same if it were possible, to take home desserts of meringue and raspberries, dinners of pork loin and vegetable curries, ginger cake and spicy salads. And figs. I’d like to take the figs.

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