Thursday, 7 April 2016

Chutney: what we can learn about the art of waiting patiently

It's autumn; with determined frugality I'm knee-deep in chutney production so that nothing in our garden be wasted with the coming of the first frosts.

For the first time I have made peach chutney. It looks beautiful; midnight amber. It smells deep, rich and sweet. It tastes... like being smacked around the head with a vinegar stick. WHOA! Mixed spice and mustard just shoved their fingers up my nose and poked me violently in the sinuses. Clawing sweetness has me in a choke hold and my eyes are beginning to water. 

I'd thought that the careful combination of flavours were going to join in a sweet embrace and dance softly, symbiotically into the night, moved by the same tender emotions... No, no, no. Here we have a group of inebriated football yobs stumbling out of the pub trying to dance the rumba.

What have we learned? Stop being so bloody impatient. Find the grace in waiting patiently.


I'd love to blame it on my generation; our addiction to the instant gratification of modern day life. The 1-click-to-buy world in which we live. But frankly, that's a cop-out. It is just ill discipline on my part. 

The fact of the matter is, things take time. Especially good things, big things, life altering things, the things you want SO badly. There is a process to undergo. Fact. Just because I can see where I'm going doesn't mean there is any way to get there faster than the natural process allows. That's how accidents happen, and preferably, I don't want to end up in a sticky, jammy mess.

I have to remind myself constantly that there is beauty in the process and that the journey is more important than the destination. That perhaps, the journey is the destination. Who ever has any plan of stopping and staying in one spot? That isn't growth, nor transition, nor improvement.

The Japanese have a word for striving for continual improvement, it's kaizen, which simply means 'change for better.


I've been trying to remember what that was for ages. Thanks Google. Maybe I should get a cat and call it Kaizen so it can wander around the house reminding me of that lesson. I just wouldn't ever want to discover the little wretch crapping on the carpet.

I digress...

Recently I wrote 'THE END' on a manuscript for a children's book. 


It was a glorious moment, I did a little dance and turned immediately to social media to obtain instant gratification from everyones 'likes' on the matter. Thanks, that felt really good. But I know it needs a lot of work, so I'm keeping that puppy locked in the office while I go through the arduous process of redrafting, revisions, rewriting, proofing; engaging beta readers, script assessors, editors etc. Needless to say, there will be a lot of crap to clean off the carpet between now and then. Once I feel it is as good as it can possibly ever be, only then will I send it out into the world to be tested by the shrewd eyes of agents and publishers.

You see, the manuscript, it's like the peach chutney. I read it out to my sister during story time on our three day writers retreat to Kaikoura. She liked it, which was nice. But she was hearing it for the first time. For me reading it, well, let's just say I was glad to be doing so after two glasses of wine. It reeked of incongruities, cliches, grammatical errors, typos, clunky metaphors and a structural issue so brazen it was just hanging out there like dogs bollocks. 

This writing business, bears no fruits when it comes to instant gratification, not if you want to produce something you can be really proud of. 


(Ok, that is a bit tongue in cheek; thank god for blogging I say. But hey, we've all got to let our hair down once in a while.) So I'm learning the lesson that chutney can teach us. I've put the chutney away for the flavours to meld together in the cupboard for a while. I hope over the next few months it will be diligently practising the rumba. For me, I'll just make another cup of coffee and go back to work, patiently, gracefully 'kaizening' the bollocks out of that manuscript.