From the archives:
“Just posting the magpies…”
“I thought you’d got stuck..”
“I’ll let you see the magpie if it comes out okay”
“Cool. Remember – fast shutter equals sharp penguins!”
“Sadly a lot of the penguins are so far out they are not up to scratch.”
“We need to find a way for you to shoot RAW. You won’t be disappointed.”
“I can shoot it… just not process it. ”
“It’s a confused penguin”
“Very confused that high up a fir tree…”
Before you start getting too worried, this post has nothing to do with cooking or cruelty to spaced out penguins. Sons, however, are a lot like curry.
I was with my son… I won’t say which one in order to protect his street-cred by at least 50%… snapping away through his window at the birds in the garden, the bluest of skies and the steam rising from the damp wood in the unseasonable December sunlight. Having established, with the usual laughter, that magpies do a creditable impersonation of penguins, he proceeded with my education with the camera, discussing the benefits of shooting in RAW format. It got technical. I’ll draw a veil over the next bits.
He went on to tell me about a programme he’d been watching the night before… about composition. “You’d have enjoyed it, Mum.” It had begun with a history of art, starting with petroglyphs and cave art, progressing through the pyramids to the Dark Ages, the Renaissance, through surrealism.And before you know it we were deep in discussion.
We speculated on the reason for art in the first place… and whatever its motivation it all boils down to communication, we decided. We talked about the evolution of communication, discussing the complexity of transmittable knowledge even 5000 years ago by looking at the ancient Egyptian texts. We commented on the similarities between prehistoric man and his modern counterpart, the underlying motivations being identical in essence if not in detail. There was a digression into speculative anthropology and the nature of Neanderthal and Homo Sapiens before we moved through Giotto and Botticelli, to Dali… via da Vinci and Michelangelo… and the entire conversation was a delight. We sat there for hours, punctuating the debate with hot chocolate and croissants. Just a few short years ago we would not have had that conversation… it would have held no interest for him. He raised that point himself, in wonder at the broadening tastes and appreciation that is unfolding for him.
Which is why, on the drive home, he reminded me of a curry.
A good curry is made with many, many herbs and spices, carefully blended so that none of them overshadow the others. Each should be discernible, the taste developing, unfolding in stages with each forkful; the whole a delicate balance allowing each spice its place in the aromatic and fragrant gastronomic experience. It is blended and crafted with as much care as a french perfume.
As a parent of small boys it was, once upon a time, my delight to share knowledge with my sons, teaching them as much as I could, showing them the world through eyes that knew wonder and watching them absorb it all like blotting paper.
We cover such a lot of ground in those early years and the opportunities arise to share so many things. We place knowledge in their tiny hands and fold their fingers around it… and what they are given then may lie dormant and unrecognised for many years, jewels buried in the treasury of the mind.
They pass through their teens and young adulthood and it can seem at these times as if the things you tried to share have held no meaning for them as they rebel against conformity, getting into the almost inevitable scrapes…and all to a soundtrack that probably hurts your ears, annoys the neighbours and goes by the misnomer of ‘tunes’.
Then, like the spices in a curry, there is the next stage of joy as you watch all you enfolded begin to unfurl. Not as a carbon copy, a ‘mini-me’, but as a delightful and new combination that is all their own, flavoured by the seasoning of their own experience and tastes. Very like a curry, where no two are ever the same… even when similar spices go in, there is always that minute difference in quantity that changes the flavour completely.
Like a cook we, as parents, are responsible for what we put in as the basic ingredients. We have neither scale nor measure but can only work by ‘feel’ and having done our best, regardless of the inevitable mistakes we will make without a recipe, we have to hope that what is eventually served will be palatable. It is wonderful to get a taste of the result and know it will only get better with time. Even more so when you see them take over, adding the finishing touches to the recipe to make it unique, crafting something with those basic ingredients that is theirs alone.