Wednesday 30 September 2009

Conkers for Kelli

a tutorial
(I've been longing to do one of these, they seem to be
obligatory on blogs)

This seven fingered leaf is scarred by a leaf miner moth

and many of our trees are threatened
by a condition known as bleeding canker,
(what a difference an 'a' makes)

but for the moment they are still producing the iconic
conker crop, so beloved of children.

The spiny husk splits into three sections
when it falls from the tree,

revealing one large shiny brown conker,
(the seed of the Horse Chestnut tree)

or sometimes, two,
often resulting in one flat sided conker,
commonly called a cheese cutter in these parts.

This invaluable book,
Something to Do
300 games, hobbies and pastimes for all the year round
tells you how to make furniture from conkers,

and most importantly,
how to play conkers.

More of which,

As you see, conkers come into the October chapter
because everything used to arrive more slowly in the olden days
but before September closes,
here is what Something to Do

celebrate the end of summer and the beginning of autumn,(there is information about saint's days), bowl your hoop with a stick, collect fungi - older children only, care for your sports equipment, collect stamps, make an Indian head-dress, decorate polythene pots, make wax pictures, a parachute man, orange balls (for Christmas), paper butterflies, doll's house furniture out of cork, musical instruments, toffee apples, plant conkers and acorns, dry flowers for Christmas bunches, try invisible writing, play battleships, have a scavenger hunt, make up a cardboard code game,
play a card game called donkey and
make a magic cotton reel.

First published in 1966,
the book is described as every mother's vade mecum
(literally go with me)
or a reference book that you carry with you at all times
and it answers the question 'What can I do?'
with numerous suggestions for things children can do at home,
indoors and outside, 'without spending much money or being a terrible nuisance'.
Each month has a separate chapter so that games and ideas will fit with the proper season.

So no time to lose then.
Pack away that Playstation,
turn the TV to the wall,
put the computer to sleep.

I can hardly wait to share October with you.

Tuesday 29 September 2009


Paperwhite narcissi
planted up over pebbles
in glass containers.
The packet promises perfumed
flowers in profusion in six weeks.

Monday 28 September 2009

At my feet

Conkers are well nigh irresistible aren't they?

Sunday 27 September 2009

The Cats are back in town

After a long journey,

from our family home,

via a friend of my mother's,

who asked for them after she died,

but who now needs to downsize after being recently widowed,

these beautiful serval cats,

have been reunited with the tabby,

to sit on the mantlepiece,
next to my father's clock.

Saturday 26 September 2009

Side light

and hall window
in Japanese woodblock print for fabric.

Friday 25 September 2009

The Lunch

Alice invited seven of us to lunch today.
'It will just be something simple.'
She made it seem effortless which is the hallmark of a good host.
It was not all about her, but all about us
getting together and having a good time.

I really enjoy cooking and years ago, before children I suppose,
we used to entertain quite formally and quite frequently
but these days I seem to be paralysed by the prospect of
an impending event called 'lunch' or 'dinner'
and so seldom commit to inviting people over to eat.

I am less fazed by an impromptu take-me-as-you-find-me event,
but really I am just being silly about this and should worry less about me
and what to cook and just make something simple.

That ought to be my new Autumn resolution.

Something Simple, 2000
Martin Decent

Thursday 24 September 2009

The River

When the pull of the house becomes a little too insistent,

it's time to get on a train

and go to The River.

'So - this - is - a - River!' (says Mole)
' The River,' corrected Rat.

'And you really live by the river? What a jolly life!'

'By it and with it and on it and in it,' said the Rat.
"It's brother and sister to me, and aunts, and company, and food and drink,
and (naturally) washing. It's my world,
and I don't want any other. What it hasn't got is not worth having,
and what it doesn't know isn't worth knowing.

Lord! the times we've had together! Whether in winter or summer,
spring or autumn, it's always got its fun and excitements.'

and if you walk far enough

it has the Petersham Nurseries.

and the mown meadows outside Ham House,

sadly shut today even though I had my National Trust ticket with me.

We used to play a game at school called
Ferry Me Across the River,*

we would chant,

'Ferry me across the river, do boatman do,
for I've a penny in my purse and my eyes are blue.' (Even if they weren't.)

The ferryman would then demand that you produce something in a colour of her choice
and if you had it you could cross safely,
if not you had to run and evade her.

The trick here was to be able to produce a hanky with every colour of the rainbow on it,
because our uniform was brown.

So none of these chaps would have had a chance.

* I have since discovered that this must have been adapted from Christina Rossetti's poem,
'Ferry me across the Water.'

Tuesday 22 September 2009

The Bright Field

The Bright Field

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after

an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

R. S. Thomas

Harvesting - Samuel Palmer

Away with the Fairies

I didn't sleep very well last night.
I should have remembered my failsafe method for getting to sleep from childhood -
not counting sheep, but counting fairies
in this picture The Fairy Way by Margaret W. Tarrant,
which used to hang above my bed.