Sardines Again

So this evening I opened another tin of sardines. To eat on toast of course. We all like variety so I have to sell it to myself. “Heavens” I say. “The tin opens more easily if you hold it with your left hand”. I ruminate on that as I munch the meal which tastes very similar to the last sardines on toast I had two days ago.

“If you examine it closely, the packet is pretty green. A sort of Limy Green. “I wonder how they came up with that colour” Another questions gets me through another meal and so it goes on. We search for variety and new points of view in a life which is largely built on routine. We love routine because it provides structure to the day, but variety makes the routine bearable.

I have always been averse to what I consider self indulgence and can live a very minimalist life. Sometimes circumstances make that minimalism so stark that even I struggle to put some light and shade into it. The strange thing is that, with other people ,I am pretty indulgent and don’t mind how vaguely they construct a routine and hide it behind any new experience they can thrust into their life.

Why I am so hard on myself is difficult to say. My childhood had much oddness but a couple of things stick out on the catering front. Once in the kitchen when I was about ten years old I saw a fruit cake my mother had bought for a church ladies tea party I asked her if I could have a slice. “Why” she enquired. Not being able to think of a good reason I replied, “Because I’m hungry”. “You’re not hungry “,she said, “You’re greedy. If you were hungry you would eat dry bread”. Going on holiday for a fortnight she packed twenty four tins of stewing steak with  similar numbered tins of  potatoes and peas. In her mind that solved the catering problem for the holiday. Don’t get me wrong. She was a lovely lady with many qualities to admire, but her appetite for stripping things down to their basic essentials could occasionally be overdone.

Ok that is a bit nutty, and it’s not an example I got anywhere near following with my own children but it has had an influence on me. Why I am soft on others yet hard on myself is question I ask myself. The answer is I don’t really know. What I can say is I have grown more indulgent with myself as the years pass. Can we say more forgiving ?

There is line near the end of the film, “Girl Interrupted” when she speaks of her fellow inmates at a psychiatric unit as she finally leaves the building.  “They were not perfect, but they were my friends”. That chimes with my approach to life.  Let us hope the feeling is mutual

About Peter Wells aka Countingducks

Trying to remember what my future is
This entry was posted in character, childhood, creative writing, Life, life2, Relationships and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Sardines Again

  1. barbara says:

    I think we all question what’s normal Peter. Coming from a dysfunctional family gives you lots of room for improvement. You decide to be more generous, supportive, compassionate than what you knew.
    I never thought about being poor. I don’t think most children do. Then one evening my grandmother brought over a pot of bean soup (my fave) and corn bread for dinner. I was excited. After the meal a neighbor knocked on the door and my grandmother said, “Clear the table, you don’t want them thinking you had to eat beans for supper.”
    I couldn’t imagine that being a bad thing. Then I realized she thought it was a symbol of being poor. Well, we were but that’s beside the point. I felt betrayed by bean soup.


    • Lady E says:

      Hey Barbara, I wonder if there is such a thing as a functional family actually? Families all have their peculiarities, histories and flaws… The more I know about my own and other people’s families, the more I think the line is pretty blurry.
      Glad you did better than what you knew.

      Counting Ducks, thanks for the post!


  2. Lafemmeroar says:

    We’re all works in progress. An imperfect life is an interesting life …
    BTW, I’ve tossed sardines in pasta with a bit chili and it was delicious in case you want a little sardine variety.


  3. Ina says:

    Indulge yourself every now and then 🙂

    I can remember how I wasn’t suppose to say I was hungry, according one uncle by marriage.(not my fav.). If you were too young to remember the war, you didn’t know what hunger was. So when I was staying with a friend, the mother asked me if I was hungry (I hadn’t eaten much all day and I was) and I said no. She then gave the extra piece of cake to the father. Thank you uncle!

    Good piece! 🙂


  4. I can’t stop laughing at this line.. “I saw a fruit cake my mother had bought for a church ladies tea party I asked her if I could have a slice. “Why” she enquired. Not being able to think of a good reason I replied, “Because I’m hungry”. “You’re not hungry “,she said, “You’re greedy.” I think everyone is greedy to a degree and we reserve the right to be 😉


  5. We spend a lifetime trying to get over out childhood, don’t we? I try very hard to accept whatever happens as just an event, neither good or bad, right or wrong. It’s just one thing that happened, and then move on to the next thing that happens and e as neutral as possible. It’s hard to do, but getting rid of the judgments we make about ourselves, the past, other people, the future, whatever, makes life seem so much more…well, enjoyable. The sardines taste better if they are a new experience and not judged as “not this again.”

    Forgive me, I went to my Buddhist meditation group last night and I must still be hung over from all the letting go! 😉


  6. This is humorous and poignant and gentle and sad and sharply observational all at the same time, with memories from the past casting light on the present. Beautifully written.


  7. Kirri White says:

    I so want to invite you over for dinner and have my whole family spoil you rotten!! Living minimalist is a worthwhile endeavor for sure, but being stingy with yourself while lavishing on others is not..IMHO. You deserve the frills and luxuries of caring as well.


  8. backonmyown says:

    Great post, Ducks. As I mentioned to you earlier, I thought by the title it would be funny piece but instead it was very thought provoking. I’m glad you’re learning to ease up on yourself. Buy yourself a fruit cake and have a slice or two. 🙂


  9. rumpydog says:

    I don’t get how it is that childhood stuff has to haunt me my whole life. When I am around young children I catch myself watching them and wondering what baggage is being dumped on them to have to deal with for the rest of their lives. Sometimes I wish I was like Rumpy with no thought of the past or the future.


  10. Abby says:

    I don’t know why I’m telling you this, but I’m not one to lavish praise on others openly unless I really mean it. With that said, every post I read of yours makes me adore you and your writing more by leaps and bounds. The whole post painted over my own thoughts in broad brush strokes. Although the details are different–be it avocado instead of sardines or an overindulgent mother that I compensate for with minimalism–I get this 103 percent.

    My OCD is a big part of it, but I do always feel that I can survive on so much less than everyone else, although I’ve never been explicitly asked to. I do it “just in case,” although I’m not sure what for. It’s almost as if I’ve numbed the desire part of myself and have come to desire contentment. I’m rambling, as my words are the one thing that are not succeptable to minimalism 😉


  11. Big Al says:

    To begin with, anyone that can eat fruitcake has my undying admiration. Then there’s the beautiful way you write……….


  12. —Ducky,
    Another insightful, lovely perspective about life.
    -Sometimes the inperfections are what truly makes us beautiful… X


  13. nelle says:

    We are always hardest on ourselves, something I’ve had honed to a science, and still tangle with, although on the other shoulder is my Reiki training urging me to be gentle and considerate of self.
    Indeed, ‘they were my friends’ sort of goes with ‘I am the problem relative’. 🙂


  14. Ugh! Sardines! Do me a favor and indulge yourself! Enjoy at least one night of take – out 🙂

    Another lovely post!


  15. eof737 says:

    You’ve earned he right to be a bit indulgent… please go for it. Life is short. Enjoy the sardines and anything else you like. Trifle? 🙂


  16. Debbie says:

    Well, there are worse things than being stingy with oneself – many are very stingy with others and generous with their own selves. I think that’s worse, Few seem to find a spot right in the middle of it. There must be a line somewhere between simple and stingy, don’t you think?
    At the very least, I think your Mother’s response that your were greedy was rather mean (not that she was mean, just that that comment was mean). I expect that has led to some extra leanness in your life. I had a mother who loved people with food. Interesting contrast. She though, like you, was stingy in giving to herself while always generous with others.


  17. Tilly Bud says:

    I love your mother’s practical approach to catering. I may copy it on our next self-catering holiday, as ‘self-catering’ always means ‘Tilly does the catering’.


  18. Larry Lilly says:

    Sardines and most seafood are not good for people with gout.

    And to make the meal sound more grand, say sardines on toast points. That sounds so much better than just plain toast.


  19. Shonnie says:

    I totally understand where you are coming from Ducky.

    I am not completely sure where “we” as people get the idea that we are not worth the good things in life, but it does find it’s way into our hearts from the things people say and things like your mother’s reply about the cake.

    I spent the better part of my life being generous with others and stingy with myself. One day I was praying and I felt like God asked me why–aren’t you worth it? I shockingly answered NO. When I saw that I thought I was unworthy it made me cry and question why I felt this way. I started right then giving myself little treats everytime I went shopping. I bought pretty plates and saucers–not all matched because I couldn’t afford a full set–but it was GREAT FUN.

    I know I learned a LOT of myself-loathing from my mother, I work very hard to help her see that SHE is very worth it–we all are. It is so fun when I see her break free from her bonds of self-loathing. 🙂

    Blessings ….shonnie


  20. says:

    I’m concerned that you should perhaps be mixing it up a little bit more in the kitchen with greens, yellows and reds!



  21. Have your tried sardines in tomato and piri piri sauce? Delicious


  22. enermazing says:

    It’s great that The Others aren’t perfect – just imagine how life would be like in the company of unceasingly wonderful, beautiful AND perfect people. I’d certainly feel inappropriate and underdressed… 😉


  23. Shonnie says:


    Where you are? Are you tryin’ ta clean up the mess before your partner gets back? Missin’ ya


  24. renxkyoko says:

    Being stingent on yourself but indulgent for others is more often the norm, rather than the rule. I think everyone is like that… more like trying to please others.



  25. Dawne Webber says:

    When I’m eating alone, I read. It makes everything taste better.

    We do become more forgiving of ourselves as we age, don’t we? It would have helped when I was younger, but better late than never I guess.


  26. Aurora, HSP says:

    Sardines are good straight up out of the can. Don’t do them often but when I get the urge, that’s the way they taste best. Love the simple things in life and your simply lovely way of sharing them. Yes, it’s mutual. 🙂


  27. You are too quiet! I hope you are enjoying a quiet vacation and will resume posting soon 🙂


  28. Julie says:

    Hi CD. Thank you for this look into you. I read recently that we are most violent with ourselves and that is the worst kind of violence — or at least I remember it that way. I think it was in Miguel Ruiz´s book, “The Four Agreements”.


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