Sunday 31 October 2010

Best in show













All at The Savill Garden.

Must end soon.

Friday 29 October 2010

Rave review

In this stupendous work, we scarcely know which to admire most - 
the extensive erudition, or the unwearied, 
we might say super-human, labour of its author.
Dr P. may well exclaim, with the Roman bard,
'Momentum exegi aere perennius.'
Dr Johnson's great Dictionary, in four volumes, 
cost not one tenth the pains and research that
 Dr. P's Pentaglot must have done.
Dr P. will not be rewarded during his life-time, 
for the labour he has undergone
 and the wear and tear of mind and body 
which he must have experienced in the construction of a book,
 that might be considered a hard task for a long life of
 literary drudgery in the study,
 free from every other avocation or pursuit. 
What, then, must have been the destructive toil 
by the midnight lamp, stolen from rest and sleep, 
during the compilation of this 
immense cyclopedia of dry technical terms,
 definitions, and derivations.

 A genuine review for the life's work 
of a distant forbear which it was my privilege to peruse
in the British Library yesterday.

If only I could say,
'Momentum exegi aere perennius.'
about my humble scribblings.
In fact I have no idea what it means as Google translate 
is no help at all,
so unless Mr M. is looking in...
I must just hope that it isn't rude.

Thursday 28 October 2010

Je cherche

Marie Josephine.

I would want to find her,
even if we weren't related.

This sweet portrait,
by Jean Francois Bosio is called
Girl Feeding a Canary.

I have to confess,
it may not be her,
but she had a pet canary
and it escaped from its cage.
She followed it into the vineyard and called to it 
and returned to the house
with the bird perched on her finger
which pleased her people so much that
 they had her portrait taken lifesize
with the bird on her finger.

So it will do for me.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Brain gym

Please excuse the brevity of my posts for a while.
I have been firing up the little grey cells,
unaccustomed as they are 
to the rigours of academe,
in the pursuit of an elusive ancestor;
a fugitive of the French Revolution.

Monday 25 October 2010

Good advice...

... in ten words,
with no word longer than two letters:

If it is to be,
it is up to me.

A pithy mantra from an essay called,
The Pleasure of Litter-picking by Valerie Grove
in Simple Pleasures,
Little Things that make Life worth Living
produced by The National Trust.

Sunday 24 October 2010

Happy Valley

A walk first taken over thirty years ago,
and revisited today.
A golf course has taken some heathland;
a new housing estate encroaches,

but not all the jewels were plundered.

Thursday 21 October 2010

The perfect tea-table?

When the cocktail fashion was in full swing
there was a particular tea-table in London that remained notable.
Whether you were hungry as a hunter 
or merely wanted tea and talk,
it met the case perfectly.
I must describe it because it seemed to me 
the apotheosis of the tea-table.
Its beauty did not lie only in old silver and delicate china,
but in the intelligent way the food was served.
For the hungry there were different breads on a wooden platter
 to be cut thick or thin as you pleased. 
There were cheeses also on a wooden board 
and a long dish of lettuce hearts and radishes.

There were home-made jams and exotic jams and aromatic honeys. 
There was dark, sticky gingerbread and cream 
to eat with it if you chose; 
there might be an ethereal orange cake.
Lady Portarlington, whose table it was, 
has a gift for associating beauty with essentials. 
That combination of the elegant with the robust - 
the wood and silver touch - stays in my mind.
Lest you think it unseemly to describe 
so rich a feast in these austere days, 
let me point out that the principle is perfectly suitable now. 
No food cut about, no sandwiches to go stale, 
nothing left to waste because it was uneaten.

Cheese from Neal's Yard,
 breads from The Tassajara Bread Book- 
so now I just have to choose the cake recipes.
Nigel Slater has a Double Ginger Cake,
Nigella has Fresh Gingerbread with Lemon Icing 
and John Pawson has the ethereal
Orange and Almond Cake
with cardamom syrup.

text from Come into the Garden Cook by Constance Spry 1942 .

Painting Still Life of Salt cellar, Cheeses, Bread and Radishes.
 by Maerten Boelema de Stomme 1611 

Wednesday 20 October 2010

All things bright and beautiful

Early morning mantlepiece,

mid morning Pilates, 

early afternoon

supermarket car park,

mid afternoon cosmos,

late afternoon washing.

A freezingly,
dazzlingly, spotlit day.

Which version did you sing?

Monday 18 October 2010

Strip the Willow

Once upon a time
there grew
a little twisty twig.
It grew out of a low wall.

The little twisty twig grew little twisty branches
and was viewed as an interesting 
and welcome addition to
the low wall.

The little twisty bush was novel and ornamental,
a charming, serendipitous curio.

The little twisty bush
surreptitiously lengthened its trunk
and became a little twisty tree -

a twisted willow tree.
It shed its twisted yellow leaves decoratively,

each autumn

and shaded the greenhouse

a little too effectively,
because quite without anyone noticing
it had grown into
an enormous, jumbled mass
of serpentine branches.

It grew until you could no longer see
the gigantic Leylandii
behind it.
Some feat.

One day it outgrew its strength
and one of its twisty branches split and crashed 
onto the ancient but little apple tree cowering in its shadow.

Tree surgeons came and said, business-like,
'It fulfills two of the 4 Ds -
dead, diseased,
dangerous and damaged.'

And so the work began.

It took four hours.

It's amazing how much light
has returned.
I'm going to grow some peas
up some little twisty twigs
next year.

Saturday 16 October 2010

Shameless toadying

My walnut whip cake.
Using my mother's walnut cake recipe
with a chocolate ganache icing.

My Carlton ware lustre garlic bowl.

Thursday 14 October 2010


I saw the first of the twelve men 
who landed on the moon's surface
over 230,000 miles away in 1969,
but I have been at least as moved and impressed 
by the landings on the Earth's surface
of each of the thirty-three men
who were trapped
2,300 feet 
beneath it.

Wednesday 13 October 2010


Two hours!
Two hours!
With Sunil and Saurabh and Salil
and many other anonymous men and women
in Delhi.
Many 'please hold the line' s
long, long silences on hold,
many new numbers,
wrong numbers,
many transfers,
to new departments,
floor managers,
line managers,
system crashes,
complete abandonments,
promises to call back,
today, tomorrow, next week,
send a form,
credit a card,
write a cheque,
Many 'Please bear with me' s.
Many reiterations of name and account number,
demented repetitions of the whole sorry story.
The telephone battery even gave out.
And that was just today.

I have been trying to get a refund
for the money that B.T took twice every month
for nine months
for our broadband account.
And today another man said,
'I'll sort this out for you.'
and I didn't believe him.
But he did.
The money is in our account,
but It has tainted this forever.

Roses from Bella

A vase of Roses.
The link goes to Wikipedia (where else?)
and makes nerdy chocoholic reading.
I too miss several of the discontinued varieties,
the Chunky Truffle, Bournville,
Almond Charm and Turkish Delight in particular.

And now I must fortify myself
for round 5 with B.T.
see here for the back story.

Tuesday 12 October 2010


I'm always happy to see the rainbows again.

It's a seasonal event,

a spring and autumn,


when the sun is low enough to catch the prisms

on the landing window.

But you have to be vigilant.

It's a fleeting touch.