One hour

Between the time I finish work and the time I pick up Chotto-ma from school, I have one hour. An hour, if I’m ruthlessly thrifty with it: if I overtake old ladies on oedemic feet, and brush past sweet children selling cookies for charity. If I soften, I lose a quarter of that hour. A quarter; that’s one slice of a four-slice pizza, when all the food you have for the whole day is that, one pizza.

That’s all there is to it; it’s my hour. Groceries might need buying, but not in that time. A phonecall might need to be returned, answered. But later. It’s not that I do much with The Time. I certainly don’t use it well; I don’t know if I use it at all. I just know that I need it. I need an hour by myself like I need a drink of water.

I usually walk to the same café every day. It has an old, draughty door, through which the clatter of crockery and the clutter of conversation slip out onto the pavement. I take a coffee, go up the rickety stairs, take a table by the large sash windows, face the wall covered in books, and then, and then I do nothing much. Sometimes, I read. Sometimes, I’m too caught up in Nothing to read. Sometimes I just stare at the yellow-orange trees outside. Their leaves are leaving them now.

Do you have an hour like that?

My café smells pungent, of old drapes and spilled wine. There’s such comfort in old, imperfect places don’t you think? Even in old, imperfect people, for that matter. Doris Lessing died yesterday, at 94. Her books are here, on the bookshelf, at the café; there are some on my bookshelf at home; all filled with her chiselled, articulate thoughts; 94 years of carrying that mind inside her body. Couldn’t have been easy.

The leaves have piled up in an hour. They’re waiting there for Chotto-ma to crunch on when we walk home from school. What other purpose could they possibly have? Some of the best things in my day serve no purpose at all. Like autumn leaves on street-sides, like my empty hour, like the way I never let D climb stairs without tickling him from behind so he has to run up helter-skelter, with heavy grocery bags in both hands. No purpose other than to keep my day from disappearing.

And from those grocery bags, here’s something I cooked this weekend. It came together from what I had at home; unplanned. It serves no real purpose either, apart from tasting very good. And that’s all there is to it.

Halloumi, Avocado & Pomegranate Bruschetta
drizzled with Chilli-Aniseed Oil


Slices of halloumi
1 avocado, coarsely mashed, or sliced into slivers
Olive oil
Dry red chillies

Grill the slices of halloumi on a flat pan, with a drizzle of olive oil, till lightly browned. Heat olive oil in a small pan, drop in a few red chillies and a tsp of aniseed. The chillies don’t add much heat, just a lovely smokey flavour. When the aniseed is lightly browned, take it off the heat. Cut slices of rustic bread, layer it first with the avocado, then the halloumi and top it with the pomegranate. Drizzle your bruschetta with the aniseed oil, making sure some of the aniseed get in there too.

“Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible” – Doris Lessing


20 thoughts on “One hour

  1. I am going to make it my mission to read some of Doris Lessing's works, as I haven't which is shocking I know. Gorgeous pictures, and I wish I had some halloumi and pomegranate to make that for lunch, it looks delicious…

  2. Oh, don't get me started on all the authors I haven't read that I should've. A life's too less a time!
    This was such an easy meal to make. You must try it sometime 🙂

  3. I want an hour like that! To do something or, may be nothing. I may give my mind a rest and let it go blank in that hour to only be filled to the brim with everything Lil Dumpling does and talks about. And then store them somewhere safe 🙂 oh yes! I wish I had one hour like that!
    Lovely thoughts, photographs and recipe, Pia!

  4. Your writing always blows me away… but this is a recent favourite. Beautiful. Evocative. Love the myriad tiny pictures of the world and of life that you have painted, just in these few paragraphs.

  5. I love Halloumi and I'm totally going to try this 'Nothing, no-purpose' recipe. But what am I going to do about your writing?? It makes me smile, it makes me think, it transports me to another world, and it makes me envious. I wish I could write like you Pia!

  6. Sia, I know what you mean. Maybe you can steal an hour just like that soon, and then you'll have to tell me what you did with it 🙂

  7. To have you spending time here, reading this, writing in – YOU make me smile, Swati. Thank you. And if I've transported you to my world for a little while – well, good! Because I think we'd get along just fine, sitting across each other chatting about… things 🙂

  8. A beautiful post, Pia. The words and pictures weave your story so beautifully. And I envy you your hour (but certainly don't begrudge you it). New to your blog as I am, I've just read a few of your older posts too and 'You, At Five' made my heart wonderfully heavy. Look forward to more.

  9. Matt, thank you so much for such a lovely note. To know that 'You, at five' touched you in some way, made me happy.
    It's wonderful to have you here, and I hope you come back.

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