• The Tenuous Purpose

    This Blog is built - not, as some might expect, on a flimsy whim but on a strong and single minded principle.

    That principle concerns Biscuits and their position in the world.

    We are really very keen on biscuits.
    As are many of you out there.
    We think.

    We wish to create an archive of Arrowroot, a backlog of Bourbons and a catalogue of Chocolate Fingers. Anybody can contribute an entry - or dispute somebody else's - provided they are not dull.
    Even Americans who perhaps don't really have the heritage of biscuitry that we are fortunate to have here.

    Or maybe they do and we are unaware of the full glory of the cookie.

    We realise that this whole subject is admirably and concisely dealt with by that excellent and unbeatable website A Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down. Our feeble efforts will be as the kicking of a gadfly in the face of their wisdom and experience but we hope that we may have a small contribution to make.

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    James Alexander-Sinclair of Blackpitts
    Gardener, Blogger, Journalist, Lecturer etc, etc. Much of his life is spent loafing around other people’s gardens issuing directives and generally cluttering up the place. However, like the great Mr Kipling, he does (occasionally) make exceptionally good gardens. (Although even Mr Kipling messed up a bit with the Carrot and Walnut Mini Classics.)

    Mark Diacono of Otter Farm
    He does sterling work growing many inappropriate plants in Devon. He dedicates a great deal of time and effort nurturing a plethora of plants that are (mostly) totally unsuited to our climate. His is a life of such extreme eccentric dedication that to start a Blog about Biscuits seems perfectly normal. He treads gently in the footsteps of people like the great William Buckland,a professor of Geology who claimed that he could tell location by tasting the local topsoil.

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Stale Biscuits

My mother phones… she is crying.

This both saddens and shocks me – my mother doesn’t cry. As an only child brought up in a northern, working class family she quickly learnt to look after herself and she is tough, hard even, lacking the empathy and sympathy for others that she has never asked for herself. “Crying never helped anything, Dorothy” she was told as a child, a lie that was oft repeated to me. Old age has softened her hard edges but has also weakened her mind, she is still physically more than capable but mentally..? Well, just a tad demented. The onset of senility takes the form of forgetfulness, endless repetition of the same conversations and an exacerbation of what were once eccentricities but are now obsessions. “Waste not want not, Dorothy” she was told as a child and as a good Yorkshirewoman growing up with rationing, she has never wasted anything. Now this thriftiness been taken to extremes.

She has just returned from an old ladies afternon club, she has been there before but on this occasion she has been taken aside by one of the women and chastized “It has been noticed that you have been taking more than two biscuits, Dorothy…”

My mother is upset and mortified. She has been told off like a sticky-fingered child and as to a small child I coo and fuss down the phone until she collects herself. “Who are these people anyway” I say “the biscuit police!? How rude of them to even notice how many biscuits you took, how petty that they would count them. Take no notice, they are just being silly… you should laugh at them.” After a while she comes to see it as an amusing anecdote and not an act of criminality. The tears dry up, she is reassured. Deep inside I know that it won’t just be that she has taken more than two biscuits – a good few more will have disappeared into her handbag to be consumed later instead of a proper meal.

Some weeks later my brother visits her, she is well, she is active but the fridge is full of decaying food and remnants of half eaten meals. He sends me a picture of a tin full of cheap, stale, biscuits which she refuses to throw away.

I cry for her. I cry for me. I wonder how long I will still be ‘best before’.

Arabella Sock


11 Responses

  1. Beautifully written Arbella; it is odd how these biscuit related stories can touch one so deeply. My best wishes to your mother and all the family. x

  2. Can’t think of anything other than trite shite to write so apologies, but there’s one or two posts that make the blog worth it on their own, and this is one of them. thank you. Beautifully written too

  3. Arabella – like Mark there is nothing I can really say. A close friend of mine is going through the same thing and I know how distressing he finds it. I agree with the others that this is a beautiful piece of writing.

  4. Thank you all – I’ve never written anything except the silliness that is my blog so your words are very encouraging.

    My mother is, and always has been, very healthy and physically capable. She has a more active social life than most people, OAP lunch clubs, church outings, U3A singing group. She still manages all these and the worry is that stuff like the “biscuit incident” will knock her confidence. At the moment she is generally happy enough and not aware of just how much her short term memory is going. The food thing is a worry – she could easily afford to buy good stuff to eat, she just won’t but at least she gets fed at her social clubs.

    I know several friends who have parents going through the same thing or worse and I just feel thankful at the moment that Mum can still deal well enough with everyday life.

    Thank you for your good wishes for her.

  5. Careful! This is verging on the maudlin.

    I remember an occasion a few years ago at a Pizza Hut in Richmond upon Thames where a very well dressed lady of mature years was enjoying the eat-as-much-as-you-can buffet. I was surprised at how many slices of pizza she was putting on her plate – until I saw her very carefull wrapping several of them up & putting them in her bag.

    I think I might also mention meeting a very fragrant sock very recently, well yesterday actually, & enjoying a coffee & bite to eat with her. Imagine my surprise when we got up to leave seeing numerous small packets of salt & pepper falling to the floor from various parts of her 100% cashmere clothing where she had secreted them. Now, that best before date………

  6. LOL! Ms B. I’m afraid that I am an inveterate stealer of salt and pepper packets – they are so useful for picnics! Pocketing food runs in the family I’m afraid.

    I thought they had cut-down those eat-as-much-as-you-can-buffets as people ate too much. Years ago Mum took one of my schoolfriends and myself to a carvery in Cardiff where you just went up and carved what you wanted off various roasts. After we had gorged ourselves on turkey, beef etc. Mum then went back and carved off a few turkey legs and put them in a ready and waiting plastic bag in her handbag! My schoolfriend was astonished particularly as Mum asked did she want to take some home as well. We had several meals of turkey after that which all tasted distinctly plastic baggy.

  7. Agree with all above. Very touching and one of the most beautiful posts of the year. x

  8. ((((Hugs Arabella))))

    This is all too familiar territory as the same is happening with my husband’s mother.

    And then there’s my mum…

    Last year she claimed she’d won lots of biscuits and Mars bars at various of her club days, but when she opened the cupboard to show them off, there was nothing there even though she swore blind there was 😦

  9. I wrote my little comment as I too have experienced senility in my family and indeed my husband’s family, through strokes and alzheimers. I thank you for sharing your story I always feel we ought to share our pain – you always find you are not alone.

  10. I am never sure about the style of writing and dry humor from writers across the pond, is it serious or not. Beautifully written and poignant. Thank you.

  11. Just makes me want to slap the biscuit police on your mother’s behalf. Sometimes these people can be shut up by a generous bringing of biscuits by the rule-infringer – well that’s my tactic anyway. I buy far more expensive biscuits than anyone else does, preferably from M&S, and then they can’t whinge

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