Saturday, June 03, 2006

The staff of life


If milkmen avoided free-range cows, then it was no surprise that breadmen wouldn't set foot in the field at all, possibly for fear of an attack by die-hard cereals. So three times a week my parents placed our green, enamelled breadbin onto a nook on a stone wall half-way up the lane. Coming home after school at 3 o'clock, I'd pause beside it in the laneway, open its lid a crack and gaze in at the beautiful white turnover loaves that would be nestling inside, their newly baked smell wafting out deliciously. Occasionally I'd succumb to the sin of greed and take a large pinch of white bread out of the side and pop it into my mouth. Wonderful!

Then I struggled the breadbin with its far-too-small carrying handles up the lane, through the middle gate, across the field and into my mother's kitchen.

"I think," she said to me one day, "we'll we'll have to stop putting the breadbin down the lane."

"Why?" I asked.

She lowered her voice, conspiratorialy:

"A rat or something is getting into it and eating a hole in the bread."

Oh-oh. I'd been rumbled. Apart from anything else, my suddenly big red face was a dead giveaway. I had to confess. My mother took it well enough, but made sure I knew if I wanted any more bread it would have to be cut with a knife in the kitchen, and not pinched in the lane.

When the priest came round on Wednesday to the school to hear confessions, I went into him in the spare classroom and knelt down.

"Bless me father, for I have sinned. It's two weeks since my last confession. Here are my sins. I was cursing. I was telling lies. I pinched bread from the bin in the lane..."

"You did what, my son?"

"The lane, father."

"What about it?"

"We have our breadbin in the lane, and I took bread out of it."

There was a pause, as the priest considered our domestic arrangements.

"The breadbin is in the lane?"

"Yes, father."

The priest was probably vaguely aware that such things as breadbins existed. Likely in the Augustinian college where he stayed, an underling would appear in the evening with a serving of a thickly-sliced piece of buttered turnover that must have come from somewhere. But probably not a lane. Obviously, he'd have to follow this one up later.

When the rest of the class had filed in and received absolution one by one, he came in to speak with Miss Egan. They whispered away and he nodded towards me. She shook her head. Then they both shrugged. I suppose he was asking her if I lived in a hedge or something. Anything peculiar in the family? Does he ever say strange things in class? Health Board ever involved?

I was in a fancy home-interiors store a couple of weeks ago and I saw a new enamel breadbin for sale. It was almost the same size as our old one (long since lost in a house move, to my regret), but cream in colour rather than green. I'm still trying to decide if maybe a new, cream-coloured one might go well in the kitchen we're building. At the moment, our plastic-packaged supermarket breads are stuck on a shelf in a cupboard. I miss the opening up and peering into an enamel breadbin, the smell of bread, trapped inside, wafting out, and the sound the lid made when it was dropped back on.

Maybe I'll speak with Herself about it.

5 comments:

Angh said...

oh Willie...will this work for Sunday Miscellany? Is that show still being aired? I haven't listened in awhile, shame on me.

What a lovely vignette. I read it to Himself and really...it's SO important. The sharing of things so many of us never experienced...bless your Mom, and bless you for remembering. It's really charming and so comforting.

Willie_W said...

Thanks Angh.

Sunday Miscellany

When: Sunday, 9.10am
Producer: Cliodhna Ní Anluain
Broadcasting Assistant: Sinéad Renshaw

Email: sundaymiscellany@rte.ie

Now in its fourth decade on the airwaves Sunday Miscellany is one of Ireland's longest running shows on RTE Radio 1. Today the programme's mix of 'music and musings' continues to be as fresh as ever with contributions to the programme coming from open submissions and commissioned work delivered on the air with new voices complementing more established writers across each programme. From radio essays to reportage, appreciations, memory pieces, poetry, travel writing to personal accounts of events and happenings this programme is essential listening on the radio and the web to thousands of people all over the world.

Sunday Miscellany Books
"Sunday Miscellany": A Selection from 2003 and 2004

More info and links on the www.rte.ie website

Peter in Dublin said...

Hmmm. Turnover.

Oh boy it's been a long time since I experienced fresh, still warm turnover.

Sometimes the crust would be charcoal-like but still gorgeous. Like eating honeycomb without the sugar.

I was always fascinated by the range of colours in the crust. Black through to milky brown. And how the side would lend itself to peeling off small flakes and wisps of bread.

Yum. Who needs butter with bread like that ?

I'll bet I won't find it in Tesco either...

Willie_W said...

Nope. But you'll find it in Dunnes Stores. Sliced, unfortunately, but still the same recipe.

fitz said...

I could be persuaded to make a trip to Benny D's....