comments 14

Cakes, orchids, Open Gardens, and something nice about my mum

orchidI noticed the other day that my orchid was flowering.  Big flowers.  Big flowers, like my mum gets on her orchids.

In fact, I think this one was given to me by my mum.  Last time she came to visit, she said, that window ledge is too sunny.  It won’t flower if you put it there.  So I moved it and there we are, she was right.

In my life, I’ve complained a lot about my mum, but I do realise she has good points as well.  I suppose half of me comes from her, and we do have similarities, which I have picked up.  As well as being a good keeper of orchids:

1) My mum is a really hard worker and I picked this up from  her, just by watching her.  It was as if there was no other way I could imagine being when I was younger.  This has good and bad points.  The hard work is partly driven by an insecurity about being good enough and having to prove ourselves all the time, that we are worthwhile people.   But I do appreciate being given the idea of ambition from my mum.

2) My mum makes the best of situations.  Her family were refugees from the revolution in China and from having a comfortable life, they arrived in Macau with nothing.  When I was a child, my mum decided to give up her job and work from home as a piano teacher, and later as a tutor, so that she could look after me and my sister.  I don’t know if it was what she wanted to do, but it was what she thought was for the best.  This has its good and bad points too.  Practicality is good too, but I think it’s best if it’s balanced against knowing what you want for yourself too.  That way other people around you will be happier.

3) My mum likes to look nice and have nice clothes.   When we were children, we didn’t have much money for nice clothes.  When I was eleven, twelve, thirteen and beyond, this was really hard.  It’s why I always want to be wearing something I love now, every day.  It’s probably why my mum does, too.   Anyway this is something we share.

Today, I went to help out at an Open Garden.  I like doing this because it’s a group of the other mums and we get together to fundraise for the primary school.  My Lovely Daughters don’t even go to that school any more, but I really like keeping in touch with the people I was friendly with a few years ago.  One of the mums lives on a beautiful farm with her parents and they open the garden to charity several times a year, which is really good of them.  They are generous enough to let our school have one of the slots, even though like me all their children/grandchildren have now left.


The entrance


The garden


The garden again

On the way in to the tea room

On the way in to the tea room

Close up of that really big pumpkin

Close up of that really big pumpkin

I made this chocolate cake:


I said to Lovely Daughter #2 while I was making it, “It’s a bit pale.”  She said, “Don’t worry.  Sometimes they just go like that.”  I think she was right, because it turned out OK in the end.  Although, as she pointed out, it was a bit wonky.

Today was a lot of fun.  We got to chat and eat lots of cake.  And as is often the case, there was lots of cake left over too!  Depending on whether I have jam or cocoa powder in the house, the Open Garden scheme gets either a Victoria or chocolate sponge off me.  Now I am almost the only mum who turns up at these bunfights with a Victoria-or-chocolate-sponge.   We are usually treated to a variety of adventurous bakes including damp apple; blackcurrant and almond; peaky butter iced; gluten free fruity fun. So I bought up this plate of upside down pineapple cake and some swiss roll:


and was also given this home grown cucumber:


Which was all very moist and fruity and beautiful but I have to say that Lovely Daughters were most unimpressed with the swap.

When I got home, I tried phoning my mum.  Unfortunately, she was out.  I’d wanted to tell her my orchid was flowering.  I’d had a mellow day and was reflecting about holding onto anger.  Sometimes I do feel angry with things my mum does, and things she did, and things she won’t acknowledge.  But it doesn’t mean that I should turn this into a default setting, blinding me to the positive things.

I will phone again tomorrow, and probably also finish Me Before You and get back to book blogging again.



  1. Okay–so building on what they teach in American creative writing classes… if we were workshopping, I would point out this little gem in the middle of this lovely piece. The language and the images are concrete and yet fun, very interesting and slightly wacky-sounding. It makes a reader (on this side of the pond, anyway) sit up and take notice:

    “I am almost the only mum who turns up at these bunfights with a Victoria-or-chocolate-sponge. We are usually treated to a variety of adventurous bakes including damp apple; blackcurrant and almond; peaky butter iced; gluten free fruity fun. So I bought up this plate of upside down pineapple cake and some swiss roll:

    and was also given this home grown cucumber.”

    Very poetic to my ears. Did this just roll off your fingers, or did you have to think about it and revise it to make it flow like this?

    • I had to rewrite once. It was in the wrong order when I read it through the first time. Often I have a perfect vision of how the words should come out. But it’s maintaining concentration and vision long enough to get it out onto paper.

      See, you are so *professional* in the things you notice in writing.

      Your best TV shows I think are better than ours too. We tend to copy your best productions.

      It was very sweet of you to point out positive things about my writing. Thank you.

      • Oh, there are a a plethora of positive things about your writing! But I just loved that little bit–it could almost be put to music and sung (and I’m a sucker for musical-sounding language).

  2. There’s so much more going on in this article Denise than cakes! Your mum, her background (wow!) and your relationship with her too. I did enjoy reading this and getting to know you better.
    I think us mums have a way of making our daughters angry without even trying. It seems to go down the line…but, as you say, it is good to try and focus on the positive things which helps temper the annoyances which can so often take over, if we let them, as we well know 😉
    I love open gardens, haven’t been to one in a long time. I love the pumpkins too, reminded me very much of this time of year in California. Feel a blog post coming on… sounds like you had a good weekend 🙂

    • Yes, I am sure I can be a terribly annoying mum.

      Getting angry hardly ever helps a situation. Generally people don’t mean to do the wrong thing. There are situations where being angry is the right thing, but it should be a last resort.

      Now I just need to take my own advice!

  3. Great post Denise. I find it really heartening that you’ve been so kind about your mum :o) I’ve also learned why my orchid was a disaster! Cakes looked fab…and I bet the cucumber tasted much better than it looked. I loved Me Before You, look forward to your review.

  4. Denise your mum appears to be a treasure. I have always liked the concept of the open garden’s and the pictures you took of it are beautiful

  5. Great post, loved the way daughter number 2 is lovely daughter no 2, its a great title to bestow on your kids. I love wonky cakes they often taste the best. Great pictures too.

    • Daughters are lovely. I really appreciate having them round as they bring a little conversation, company and perspective to my life.

  6. Moms are the best 🙂 And you seem like an awesome one as well! Congrats on the orchid!

    The open garden looks so lovely. It’s has such a classic look to it! Man, I’d love to just sit at a place like that and read the day away.

    • No congrats needed – it was all my mum’s doing.

      I think she’s been out and about these last few days as no-one has been in when I phoned! Seems like she has a secret life too.

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