A busy news day at Benmore

Courtyard

Lichens - Climate researchMost people have paperclips and piles of paper by their photocopier. We have a microscope and a crate full of moss and lichen samples.

I’d like to tell you more about the lichens and the important climate-related-research being done at Benmore Botanic Garden but, I’m afraid the scientific stuff will have to wait until tomorrow, because there is more pressing news… much more pressing news.

Sound of heralds playing a loud fanfare on golden trumpets.

Sybil has made cupcakes.

Sybil's cupcakes

And, at risk of sounding like the M&S TV advert, these aren’t just any cupcakes. These are soft and luscious, melt-in-the-mouth, sweet-treat mountains of deliciousness made with care, skill and chocolate containing 85% cocoa.

Which is an ideal, opportunity for me to explain that Theobroma cacao is a small (4–8 m tall) evergreen tree in the family Malvaceae. It’s native to the deep tropical region of South America. Its seeds are used to make cocoa powder and chocolate.

But oh dear, already I’m back to the chocolate containing 85% cocoa and the 200% pleasure.

The reason for these chocolate temptations is that four students (three from Slovenia and one from France) leave Benmore at the weekend, as do I.

I’m trying hard not to think about that sad day so will move on quickly to thanking Sybil for her much appreciated chocolate creations; to apologizing to Neil for making the lichens wait until tomorrow and to posting two poems about chocolate.

Hunger
When you call round, demanding
the last of your things, I make tea,
tip chocolates from a bag
into your cupped hand. They spill
until you hold just one—
a heart. We stare at
the awful power of chance. And I know
I’ll never smell chocolate again
without thinking of this. Us. Bravely,
I pick it up, careful
not to touch your palm. I let it melt
on my tongue. Eat another,
another—even the spilled ones.
Outside in sleet your dark hair
is plastered wet to your head
as you load your car—books, socks, ties.
Two shirts escape, ghosts
in a fight. One flies down the lane.
One waves.

Sue Butler

Escape
Some cut to forget. Sleeves or trousers hide
that and needle marks. Some drink
too much, work an artery hardening
ninety hours a week. I eat

sitting on the floor by the open fridge,
swallowing envy of my brother’s success,
cheese, profiteroles, potato salad,
the child I never had. I eat

her 70% cocoa eyes, her roast chicken flesh,
feel sick, bin what’s left. At night
a fox, ripping the bag, drags out her
bones and pizza boxes.

Sue Butler

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