Tuesday 30 November 2010

Treasure Hunting

I am devouring anything I can find on the shelves
by Molly Keane.
At the moment it is Treasure Hunt.
My Virago Modern Classic edition has an introduction 
by Dirk Bogarde who says,

'If you are presently holding your very first copy of a novel 
by Molly Keane, then you are indeed blessed.
You are, of course, unaware at this moment that
 you are standing on the threshold of untold delights and splendours, 
quite apart from all the glorious fun that waits you.'

An emergency exit from real life,
via glorious literary fun is exactly what is required at present.

Here is a barking mad Anglo-Irish household trying,
ineffectually,to come to terms with the reality of their 
impoverished existence.
They are having difficulty finding any acceptable ways to economise,
but agree reluctantly to take in rich English paying guests.

I have just come across this wonderful portrait.

'Delightedly, Consuelo paused in the doorway.
For all her size and height she seemed as light as air. 
She wore a dark cyclamen coloured jersey, big and soft,
her tiny bird's head was tied in a man's purple silk handkerchief.
She looked as rich and sweet as a very well-grown bed of violets -
Princess of Wales - grown on lots of leaf mould and old manure.
She carried a basket and a walking stick 
and radiated aristocratic country activity.
As she advanced into her drawing room, wet hazel thickets,
the district nurse, the music of hounds,
your own grapes and peaches with the bloom warm on their skins,
wood fires, subscriptions to the Church and
The Times Library came with her, intangible and undeniable.'

Every day I wonder what will advance into the drawing room with you.

 Blue and white china?
A lively menagerie?
Monsoon rains?
Knitting needles?
A new wood floor?
Birds at a feeder?
A Barbie Doll leg?
A dictionary and thesaurus?
An embroidery hoop?
Old photographs?
A Maori poem?
A loch?
Granny squares?
Oak leaves?
Thrifted finds?

Monday 29 November 2010

The Persimmon bowl

I have taken this from a folder labelled 
'a warm November day'.

I like this bowl.
It has splashy leaves and flowers on it,
clumsily and quirkily painted 
in a slightly oriental style.
 Something about it makes me think of 
Quentin Blake's drawings.
His website is well worth a root around,
especially for the videos about the way he works
and the interactive children's page.

Saturday 27 November 2010

Aide memoire

There are some lovely photos trapped in my camera.
The memory card will not yield them up to the computer.

I rescued three pale ivory roses and a spray of vermillion rose hips
 from the bitter cold and brought them into a sunny room.
They are in a heavy square glass bottle -
not an expensive vase,
it used to hold balsamic vinegar.

The petals are densely packed, 
multi-layered and quartered.
They have frayed frilled edges 
as fragile as old manuscripts.

The wiry stems, 
too thin to support the heavy heads
bristle with tiny pink thorns 
and glisten with glassy air bubbles.

The rose hips are waxy bright, 
the shadows they cast sharply defined
and slightly exaggerated by the slanting sun.

The scent is a watery faint

Thursday 25 November 2010

Condensation and Christmas cake

So cold -
but with a beneficial side effect -
the condensation on our windows
produced this mystical landscape.

More steam produced later in the day.
I made nine Christmas cakes 
while waiting in for the burglar alarm man.
Nine tiny ramekin sized cakes.
Such a good idea from Sarah Raven
for a family that struggles to finish 
a regular sized cake.

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Same place, same time,

always different.

Monday 22 November 2010

Hanging about with Jamie Oliver

So I popped into Sainsbury's for my mincemeat ingredients
and found my trolley blocked at every turn by




 and this.

The usual customers

 and staff

 had been replaced by




and this.

So I did what any sane woman with a blog to feed would do
and rushed back home for my camera.

Which is why I spent the next hour

hanging about with Jamie Oliver.
He was filming for next year's Monster Red Nose Day
and had been there for eleven hours.
I doubt that he took a fee for it.

Saturday 20 November 2010

Music to clean to

Take your pick.
(Pun not intended)

Friday 19 November 2010

Claustrophobia cure

The perpetual production of dust, grit, 
and little lumps of plaster, 
the sudden power cuts and cold draughts
from the ever-open back door,
the rucked-up dust sheets and the obstructing ladders,
became suddenly intolerable.
I made an abrupt decision to leave
and headed for the wide high spaces of Greenwich Park.

It is a good deal quieter here in winter
and if you avoid the area around the Observatory,

you can have the place pretty much to yourself.

The rooks watched me from afar,

dogs looked for their owners,

a tourist-fattened squirrel tried to mug me,
but apart from that

all was tranquil.


Thursday 18 November 2010

The List

Every year the same thing happened.
At the beginning of November she made up her mind that this time,
for once, she would get her Christmas shopping done early.
She went as far as writing out a list - and there,
for several weeks, the matter rested.
At intervals she tried to pretend that Christmas Day 
fell on the 5th of December,
or, alternatively, that all her friends
and relations lived in South Africa
and that she had to catch an early mail;
but it was no use.
The feeling of temporal urgency cannot be artificially  reproduced,
any more than the feeling of financial distress...
Mrs Miniver knew perfectly well that Christmas 
was not until the 25th December,
and that all the people on her list lived in England.

From Mrs Miniver by Jan Struther

I remember when a Christmas list looked like this:

 bath salts
pipe cleaners
 Black Magic chocolates
Princess Annual
*felt comb case*
*knit scarf*
 talcum powder

Everything could be bought on one exciting 
 dark, wet, shopping expedition
to Boots, W.H. Smith and Woolworth's 
and nothing had to be posted anywhere,
it just had to be well hidden in your bedroom,
(moved and hidden again,)
ready for wrapping on Christmas Eve.

How late do you leave it?

Wednesday 17 November 2010


The act or habit of describing or regarding something as unimportant
often cited as the longest non-technical word in the English language.

I am floccinaucinihilipilificating the fact 
that I have passed the two year anniversary of my blog.

Such a trifling matter was this event,
that it came and went unmarked back in October.
But the word may come in useful
and so I am going to give it a little airing.
Full etymology here.

Its first recorded appearance was in a letter from the poet
William Shenstone:

'I loved him for nothing so much as his
floccinaucinihilipilification of money.'

The first time I heard of him was at the Design Museum
exhibition Plain Space, about the work of architect John Pawson.

I like the idea of the eye loving liberty.

John Pawson likes it very much indeed.

I just don't think I could ever manage
to maintain such a pared down existence.

Where would I put all my jugs?

Monday 15 November 2010

Head of Invention

Though human genius 
in its various inventions
with various instruments 
may answer the same end,
it will never find an invention
more beautiful 
or more simple
or direct 
than nature,
because in her inventions
nothing is lacking
and nothing superfluous.

Leonard da Vinci
on a sculpture by Eduardo Paolozzi
on a dull day,
at the South Bank outside the Design Museum

and near to these offices.

I have been silenced online by
corroded batteries in my keyboard.
The good people at Apple have replaced it free of charge,
(no pun intended).