Sunday 31 January 2010

Virginia and I talk interior design

Virginia, March 13th 1921, 
outlining a frenetic schedule of work and travels, 
announces en passant,

'tomorrow I distemper the kitchen rose pink & leaf green.'

Exactly what I intend to do in our kitchen 
although nobody knows this yet.
There is already a pink wall

but perhaps V.W had something paler in mind.

 It is the introduction of a leaf green 
that I would like to discuss with her.
I don't suppose it took her long to choose the colour. 
Even in the sixties and seventies when my father 
was in charge of all the decorating
the colour swatches were pretty limited.
Primrose yellow, magnolia and brilliant white featured prominently 
and I think there was a green called eau-de-nil 
and a pale blue called forget-me-not,
but now one is expected to be much more discriminating.

Farrow and Ball offer Arsenic, Saxon, Folly and Cooking Apple.
I can't countenance Arsenic near food,
so it would have to be Cooking Apple
 (bottom) but is that leafy enough?
Maybe the Lovatt jug on the shelf holds the key.

Saturday 30 January 2010

In the meantime

General James Wolfe, who commanded the British Forces
at Quebec against the French and won a great victory
at the cost of his life,

surveys London

from the top of the hill


The donkeys at Duke Humphrey Way.

Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester enclosed Greenwich Park and had a tower which was demolished to make way for the Royal Observatory.
'To dine with Duke Humphrey' was an Elizabethan saying used 
by poor people to avoid mentioning 
that they did not have the money to pay for food.
 At dinnertime they would excuse themselves 
by saying they would be eating with the Duke.
I am indebted to Wikipedia for this piece of information
 although it does rather bring to mind  a game called 'Call my Bluff'.

Friday 29 January 2010

Writer's block

'More & more do  I become in a state of undress.
I believe this affects my writing - or its the other way about.'

So said Virginia Woolf in her diary entry for February 16th 1921.

Nina Hamnett a contemporary of Virginia Woolf
looking surprisingly modern in this portrait by Roger Fry.

Thursday 28 January 2010

Going for a song

I'm rather pleased with my little yellow vase;
a pleasing charity shop find, in amongst the tat.
My local thrift stores are not the happy hunting grounds 
that seem to exist only in dreams 
or transatlantic blogs.
There, a cornucopia of exquisite embroidered cloths,
vintage china, milk vases, kitchenalia,
 heirloom quilts and cashmere jumpers
are 'going for a song'.

Oh... the late lamented Arthur Negus and Humph.
So sedate. 
Watch this if you feel at all agitated and all will be well.

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Hyacinth sandwich

Last night's sunset and this morning's sunrise;
as arresting as the hyacinth's scent
and just as evanescent. 

Tuesday 26 January 2010

The playground

Children have been let out to play in the nearby 
junior school playground.
The wind carries their shrieks and screams in eddies,
a chaotic descending and ascending chromatic scale 
from F sharp to D.

An occasional piercing top note is unidentifiable.

Playground by P.J. Crook

Monday 25 January 2010


When the world outside your window is still 
mainly in black and white,

make marmalade.

Sunday 24 January 2010

Home maintenance

What started as a small repair 
to a faulty kitchen downlighter,
has turned into a sixteen hour
rip out and reinstall -
so that's the bedroom furniture out,
carpet up, floorboards up,
earlier lethal work uncovered,
grit, plaster, debris and dirt showering down...
the irony is not lost on me.

 7 year old Charlie Simpson 
is raising money for the victims of the earthquake in Haiti 
by cycling round his local park in London today.
He hoped to raise £500. 
When I last looked he had raised
over £62,000.00

Friday 22 January 2010

When first I heard


I was staying in a house on the shore of Lough Hyne
in Skibbereen, West Cork.
I was 19 years old and a guest 
of the parents of one of my college friends.
The reason I have remembered exactly where I was
is because of the curious circumstances in which it 
impressed itself on me.

This was a holiday like no other I had experienced.
The house was all faded Georgian grandeur.
(Many of Molly Keane's books will convey 
the atmosphere of that place.)
We spent hours fishing on the Lough,
 pulling in lines full of pollack and mackerel,
and when we gutted the pollack we found that they were magically 
stuffed with mackerel.
In the evenings we dined on potatoes, cabbage and grilled mackerel,
or cabbage, potatoes and grilled pollack,
in a cold and cavernous kitchen.

One evening we expected a special guest.
I knew she was important because the table was laid in the
pink dining room and a fire was lit. 

Her name was Anna Freud,
the sixth child of Sigmund Freud.

This is exactly how I remember her. 
She must have been nearly 80 years old.
There was an atmosphere of nearly reverential solemnity
and I was suitably awestruck, but utterly ignorant of her work.
Luckily I merited only a cursory glance and 
was not called upon to perform.
Why she was there, I have no idea, but nothing was ordinary;
everything was charmed.
And so one night as I slept, in a lumpy bed piled with ancient eiderdowns,
some beautiful music percolated my dreams
and when I awoke, it was still playing.
These trickling notes poured through the bedroom
and I thought I had never heard anything so beautiful.

In the morning I asked if anyone else had heard it
and my friend's mother said that she played music
because of her insomnia and that 
Schubert's Impromptu in E flat major
was what I had heard.

I chose this recording because it's muffled quality 
most nearly matched
the sound I heard, through the walls, that night.

Thursday 21 January 2010

A gentleman's haberdashery...

...full of fascinating fixings
and mysterious implements.

And then there are

the books.

Wednesday 20 January 2010

Heads up

A curious expression, used by my sons,
meaning I think, to give me fair warning
or notice of something.

Well, this is a heads up
of a new item in my wardrobe of headers.
We inherited some original tiles in our bathroom.
The grouting isn't pristine
and the tiles are crazed,
but I love the green flower 
that pops up randomly.

Tuesday 19 January 2010


This morning
for a 
in the
some tatt
the toe of 
mboot &
lo anbe

Monday 18 January 2010



will always need emptying.


will always need cleaning.

will always need putting on,

and drying

and ironing

and putting away.


will always need repainting.

Crumbs will always need sweeping up.

Dishes will always need

drying up.

Dishwashers will always need stacking.

Beds will always need making.

I should be glad while they will.
I may rail against the repetitiveness of these tasks,
but humdrum is vastly underrated.

By the by, has anyone read this?

And this, found at Elspeth Thompson's site.

                                                      I BELIEVE NOTHING
I believe nothing – what need
Surrounded as I am with marvels of what is,
This familiar room, books, shabby carpet on the floor,
Autumn yellow jasmine, chrysanthemums, my mother’s flower,
Earth-scent of memories, daily miracles,
Yet media-people ask, “Is there a God?”
What does the word mean
To the fish in his ocean, birds
In his skies, and stars?
I only know that when I turn in sleep
Into the invisible, it seems
I am upheld by love, and what seems is
Inexplicable here and now of joy and sorrow,
This inexhaustible, untidy world -
I would not have it otherwise.
by Kathleen Raine

* original post edited because my mawkishness monitor went off.

Saturday 16 January 2010


I have been allocating keywords to all my photos -
a gargantuan task.
I'm hoping that Paul Cornies at
will include the word gargantuan in his quest
but I don't think he does requests.

In the absence of any sunlight today,
I am picking brightly coloured photos more or less at random
to give myself a fillip
and have just spotted this poem
at oxymoronic-paradoxologies.

Being mugged by cockerels in a car park.

Stained glass roundel.



Painting by Porter.




Moon in cerulean.


Rainbows from prisms.