She stops writing, her hands ache, she is simply not used to using a pen for this long.
She is almost scared to read back what she has written, doesn’t know where the story came from, cannot tell whether it’s good or bad.
It’s got dark while she has been scribbling, she is not sure how much time has passed, but is suddenly aware that she is starving,she needs to eat now.
So, she stands, surprised that she feels so cold, so stiff, clearly hours have passed.
Standing in the kitchen, she cannot decide what to eat. She has brought provisions, good bread, cheeses, little bowls of olives, sun dried tomatoes, but none of these feel right, none of these feel as if they will go any way to fill this gnawing hunger.
She realises that what she wants, the only thing that can possibly satisfy her is her mothers’ staple dish offered when any illness, heartbreak, disappointment loomed. She wants to eat Heinz Cream of tomato soup, served with fingers of toast and when she was particularly lucky, Laughing Cow cheese triangles.
She can see the tray in front of her, special poorly girl soup bowl, toast fingers laid out like party food and on the side, a Wagon Wheel biscuit.
Her mother would sit on the side of the bed or perch on the sofa, watching her eat, sipping at a cup of tea and then,with quick, neat bites, she too would devour a Wagon Wheel too.
” We won’t tell your father” she would say ” this is just a treat for us” and she would smile back, complicit and feel the marshmallow melt in her soup warmed mouth.
Now, standing in the kitchen, she almost taste the chocolate again, she doesn’t eat biscuits or cakes or chocolate. She is proud, in her early 40s of her still neat size 10 body,is happy to make the small sacrifices needed to maintain it, but at this very moment, she could, she knows, devour packets of the cheap biscuits that represented treats in their home.
She wonders what might still be in the larder.
The larder was her mothers’ preserve. Not a food horder as such, just someone who remembered war time restrictions, the frugal 50s, someone who took a quiet pleasure in well stocked shelves, bargains bought and put aside for a rainy day.
Her parents made jams, it was the only kitchen task her father got involved with. She suspects that he liked the science, the maths of jam making and after her mother died, he continued to make jams, widened his repertoire to include marmalade, chutneys and pickles.
At the end of every visit,he would hand her a small box, 6, 7 jars,each carefully labelled, dated. He overestimated the quantity of jams that a single careful eating woman can actually consume and she was reduced at some point each term in leaving a selection in the staff room, a post-it stuck on a jar ” help yourselves, – enjoy”.
The longing for tomato soup is so strong that she finds herself opening the larder door and staring,hopefully at the shelves.
Someone, a carer, one of the volunteers who visited him,has been here.
The vegetable rack has been emptied, washed out, the shelves has been wiped, dusted and the tins, the larder standbys so beloved of her mother, have gone.
But, the jams, black currant, gooseberry, damson, all dated 2 years ago, before he drifted into confusion, before he was deemed not safe enough to use a cooker without supervision, before he forgot to eat for days on end, are still there.
Neat, serried rows, evidence of purposeful activity, busyness.
Of course, there is no tomato soup,no white sliced bread and for a moment she feels like a small child again, has to bite back tears of disappointment.
To gather herself, she runs her fingers across the jars of jam and then stops.
There is another of the little newspaper clippings, again stuck firmly,this time to the shelf itself and this time, even more difficult to understand.
This time it is not even a headline, a story, this time it is an advert but from before her father was even born.
She removes the drawing pins, lifts the scrap of paper.
It shows a smiling woman, clutching a baby to her chest, an advert for some sort of nerve tonic, calmer, obviously aimed at new mothers.
Without thinking,she pops this advert,this clipping into her jeans pocket and then, suddenly decisive, remembers the corner shop, sure to have Heinz tinned soup, cheap sliced bread.
She will fill this hunger with childhood food,,may even see if Wagon Wheels still even exist and knows,that if they do, she will buy a packet and eat them, wrapped in a duvet, on her parents sofa.
And knows, that, somehow, this comfort food will make her feel better.