Saturday 28 February 2009

After Proust...

On my last trip to Paris, I visited the Louvre, 
and daunted by the prospect of so much great Art and so little time to view it,
 I settled on a plan to visit only one gallery - 
that which housed the works of Jean-Baptiste Chardin. 

What I hadn't realised was that this was the plan devised by Proust, in an essay, 
to quieten the feelings of envy felt by a young man of modest means but expensive tastes.

'After an encounter with Chardin, Proust had high hopes for the spiritual transformation of his sad young man... He would learn that metal and earthenware could also be enchanting, and common crockery as beautiful as precious stones... Proust promised:
" when you walk around a kitchen, you will say to yourself, this is interesting, this is grand, this is beautiful like a Chardin." '

From 'How Proust Can Change Your Life' by Alain de Boton.

John Lane calls this savouring the ordinary.
'The painting Glass of Water and Coffee Pot 
says almost everything I'd like to say...about simplicity, probity and calm.'

From 'Timeless Simplicity' by John Lane.

'Proust was demonstrating how happiness and contentment can come from learning a new way of looking at ones surroundings... Proust believed that by studying the everyday objects depicted - " bowls of fruit, jugs, coffee pots, loaves of bread, knives, glasses of wine, slabs of meat " the discontented young man would realise he was already surrounded by beauty.'

From Easy Living by Terence Conran.

 I can never look at this painting without thinking how exactly she looks like I feel, 
when I get home from Sainsbury's. 
And it's high time she took those bottles out to the recycling bin.

Friday 27 February 2009

Happy Birthday

After a bit of judicious pruning of privet, choisya and pittosporum
 the sun shone in through the 
utility room window directly onto my recipe books for the first time this year.

Birthday supper from Jamie at Home -
Roast Carrot and Avocado salad with orange and lemon dressing.
Good for the jet-lagged.

The moon tonight was a very thin crescent in the Western sky
 with Venus shining vertically above.
And then I remembered this from the dim and distant past.
Perry Como singing 'Catch a Falling Star'.

Thursday 26 February 2009


From Flower Fairies of the Garden,
Poems and Pictures by Cicely Mary Barker

Wednesday 25 February 2009

Anyone for tennis...

...squash, badminton, cricket, lacrosse, hockey, boxing, rugby, table tennis, fishing, trampolining, swimming, running, football, baseball,cycling, fencing, rowing, sailing?

An audit of the understairs cupboard, the garage and a little used umbrella stand,
unearthed evidence of all of the above sports having been tried, 
and largely abandoned.
My display  represents only a fraction of the equipment that has been bought over the years.
None of it was wasted. 
We may not have been the sportiest of families, but at least we had a go 
and had some pretty good fun too.
The fishing may well be resurrected, sailing is on the cards this summer 
for one of us in Turkey
and I have started running again.
  Walking is still loved by the whole family

and table football, a wild purchase for Christmas 2002
has been a source of endless hilarity, 
even though I do sometimes bemoan its bulk 
in what would otherwise be quite an elegant room.

It stands silent this colourless mid-afternoon, 
like all the things in Where's Patsy?,
waiting for people to come home from work in New York,
school and university.

Tuesday 24 February 2009

Has anyone fed the fish recently?

A little dip into the holiday albums.
And a bit of fun in the side bar.
The fish will come to investigate your cursor,
and feed if you click them some food.

Monday 23 February 2009

First Tulips

Tulipomania by Wilfrid Blunt tells the following story:

A syndicate of Haarlem florists on hearing that a cobbler at The Hague had succeeded in growing a black tulip, visited him and after some haggling purchased the bulb for fifteen hundred florins. No sooner was it in their possession than they threw it on the ground and trampled it underfoot. 
'Idiot!' cried one of them when the astonished cobbler began to protest; 
' We have the black tulip too, and chance will never favour you again. 
We would have given you ten thousand florins if you had asked for it.'
The wretched cobbler inconsolable at the thought of the wealth which might have been his, took to his bed and promptly expired.

Sunday 22 February 2009

a Leafy Seadragon

A gloomy day, so I amused myself thus,
Google, in quotation marks, the words
"unfortunately ------" and your first name.
This is what I found:

 Unfortunately Lucille is too distracted.

 Unfortunately Lucille's no longer takes reservations so be prepared for a long wait.

and my favourite -

 Unfortunately Lucille wants to be like her cousin Leslie, 
a Leafy Seadragon. 
 After several adventures Lucille realises that being yourself is the most important thing.

by happy coincidence I have a cousin Lesley
in the fruit bowl we had this beautiful Dragonfruit.

Saturday 21 February 2009

A useful day

One of the raised vegetable beds needed repairing,
so we bought timber at an old fashioned timber merchants, 
cut exactly and willingly, to size.
The rat was evicted from the collapsing compost bin
 where he had admittedly done an excellent job of turning the pile,
and well rotted kitchen waste was spread onto the waiting bean bed.
It's too shady there but I'll give it one more year.

A quick fire dealt with garden debris
with some welcome warmth from the sun
we were not the only creatures with a quickened pulse.

Friday 20 February 2009


Restaurant not chapel. 

Three days works experience for son two in the kitchen at 409.
We did not manage a convincing disguise like Ruth Reichl in Garlic and Sapphires,
when we booked a table on his last night,
 so we were quickly rumbled.

We had a fantastic meal.

It's spicy pumpkin risotto and frozen chocolate truffles for 8 friends tonight.
We're going out.

I may never have to cook again.

Thursday 19 February 2009

Late winter woods walk

Wood Not yet Out

closed and containing everything, the land
leaning all around to block it from the wind,
a squirrel sprinting in startles and sees
sections of distance tilted through the trees
and where you jump the fence a flap of sacking
does for a stile, you walk through webs, the cracking
bushtwigs break their secrecies, the sun
vanishes up, instantly come and gone.
once in, you hardly notice as you move,
the wood keeps lifting up its hope, I love
to stand among the trees listening down
to the releasing branches where I've been -
the rain, thinking I've gone, crackles the air
and calls by name the leaves that aren't yet there

A Wood Coming into Leaf

A greenwood through a blackwood
passes (like the moon's halves
meet and go behind themselves)

And you and I, quarter- alight, our boots in shadow

Birch, oak, rowan, ash,
chinese-whispering the change.

Wednesday 18 February 2009


The London Lyric Opera, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,
Philharmonia Chorus
and Queen's College Chapel Choir -

some of whom came here between rehearsals and performance,
for a meal and
Special House Hot chocolate and
somewhere to dress. 
It was lovely to meet them and the concert was magnificent.
I don't know how they fit it all in with their studies.
Next stop Amiens in March.

Monday 16 February 2009


cleaned the windows

and let in some tentative Spring sunshine.

So after Pilates,
(this is my view from the mat)

I went to buy some post-Valentine's Day flowers.

Sunday 15 February 2009

Fire breathing dragon

Nigel Slater's spicy pork and noodles,
Skye Gyngell's Sauteed Savoy cabbage with chilli and garlic oils,
for lunch,

a cup of Violet tea from a 1960s caddy by Jie Gantofta of Sweden,

a slice of lemon and poppyseed madeira cake,
for tea,

and can anyone else see the fire breathing dragon?

Thursday 12 February 2009

In the wings

In my King Penguin Book of Ducks,
 by Phyllis Barclay-Smith,
plates by Peter Shepheard,

I read that ducks belong to the family Anatidae 
which also includes the swans and geese.
They may be divided into two groups, the surface feeding and the diving ducks.
Mallard and Shoveller belong to the surface feeding group,

the Pochard and tufted to the second group.

And here's what was on stage this morning.

A morose pigeon,

 a shifty looking Canada Goose

and three off-duty coots.

I'll come back later.