Monday 31 January 2011

Flower show

I cut my collapsed Paperwhites
and put them in a pressed glass jug 

in the sun
at Rachel and Jane's behest.

Sunday 30 January 2011

The sun breaks through

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.

The Bright Field by R.S Thomas

All photos taken from a moving car,
on our house quest.

Friday 28 January 2011

Thursday 27 January 2011

The fisherman's float

'She slept till very late the next morning -
a lovely sleep,
all the time she felt as if
she was sliding
between glass
and water.'

From The Rising Tide - by Molly Keane

Photo taken from my archives,
since light levels and energy levels
rather too low for photography.

An important decision re house was taken today
and I am relieved but tired.
Thoughts being marshalled.
New avenues being explored.
Enthusiasm being rekindled.

Now I must sleep on it.

Wednesday 26 January 2011


I had cold feet all morning.
The Gas man came,
switched the central heating back on,
 I stood well back.
'Running sweetly,' he says.
'Must've been an airlock'.
'That noise was the pressure building up.'

Lloyd, the missing electrician rang.
Came and put a temporary fix on the kitchen lights.
'There's a live earth in your lighting circuit,' he said.
'You're not protected.'
Offered to return late February.
I thought we should move more quickly.

The opticians rang twice.
The estate agent rang.
No decision from second vendor.
Rang again while I was wielding a red hot wok.
 The offer now accepted.
They'd like to move quickly.
The pressure is building up.
I had cold feet all evening.
Can't see the way forward
even with all the lights blazing.

I need to take a step back.
Here's my temporary fox.

Sleeping sweetly.

Tuesday 25 January 2011


meaning listless, despondent, inactive, stagnant, 
in a slump.

The cure for this?

Empty one kitchen cupboard,
decant all useable comestibles into clean jars,
throw out, reluctantly,
anything with a sell by date circa 2006,
clean the shelves,
put everything back.

We interrupt this post to report 
a sudden terrifying roaring, rumbling
thunderous, house-shaking cacophany
emanating from the airing cupboard.
With a pounding heart and shaking hands
I have just managed 
to switch everything off in there,
all the while expecting to be
sprayed with exploding fragments of copper pipe 
and scalding water.

The Emergency Home Care service
which we pay through the nose for
has offered a visit sometime between midday and six p.m
They lack the sense of urgency that 
this plumbing calamity warrants.

I will never complain about the
doldrums again.
I have allowed myself two Youtubes
to settle my nerves.

On a more positive note,
someone did come to switch all our lights off in the kitchen.
We can't switch them on now,
but I feel this is less wasteful.

Monday 24 January 2011

Just the interesting days

When my eldest son was three years old
I was telling him the names of the days of the week 
and explained that there were just seven and
that they went round and round.
'When does it stop?' he asked.

'It doesn't, they just go on while you grow up.'

'It's too long. I want it to stop.'

'But you'd miss your birthday and Christmas!'

'Well let's just have the interesting days.'

Was my day interesting?
Well let me see...
We can't turn any of the kitchen lights off.
I have lost the electrician's phone number.
There is some black mould underneath a window.
The amaryllis has three buds.
I converted three bags of unwanted books into a £10 note.
A friend recommended Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way.
I put an offer on a house.
I ironed a duvet cover.
I felt a painful twinge in my toe and wondered if I had gout.
I made a Sicilian sausage and lentil casserole.
I was able to answer some questions on University Challenge.

Have you had an interesting day today?

Sunday 23 January 2011

The Leek harvest

I decided to make a chicken and leek pie for lunch,
but had no leeks.
And then I remembered an exciting thing.
Hadn't I planted some leeks as an experiment
back in the hopeful days of last Spring?
I went to have a look.

There they were, all six of them,
standing bravely, patiently, in a neglected row,
waiting for their moment.

I even found a song to celebrate the glut.
But I think the compulsive You Tube linking must stop soon.

Saturday 22 January 2011

How to Handel money

'What right have you to take the word 'wealth' 
which originally meant 'well-being' 
and degrade and narrow it by confining it 
to certain sorts of material objects measured by money?'

John Ruskin

A question remains about the validity of a particular acquisition -
 where, if anywhere does one draw the line 
between self-indulgence and potential need? 
To take but one example, is it justifiable to spend money 
purchasing a recording of Handel's Oratorio Theodora, 
or to invite a group of friends to dine 
in a relatively expensive restaurant?

There is no easy answer to this puzzle -
simplicity is about acceptance of limits, 
yet it cannot exclude the enrichment of music 
and the celebration of friendship. 
Both are rich in ends. Both contribute in subtle, meaningful ways. 
So the answer depends on motivations and frequencies, 
priorities and budget as well as the maintenance of balance between 
kindling the spirit and living the virtues of a simple life.

From Timeless Simplicity by John Lane.

It is better to have fewer wants than to have larger resources.
St. Augustine.

(I want to be able to sight sing-along
to Handel's Oratorio,
but no amount of money is ever going to make that happen.)

Friday 21 January 2011

Catching the rays

Every minute counts
when the sun shines in winter.
It was worth taking a detour off road for this.

Thursday 20 January 2011

Blog soup

(Nigel's Pumpkin and Lentil soup from his Diaries
and Monty and Sarah's Savoury Bread from Home Cookbook.)

That new Global knife is very sharp.
One of these days I'm terribly afraid it's going to 
be responsible for a mystery ingredient in the soup.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Monday 17 January 2011

Gracious living

'Basil and I will meet you at Oxford. 
Could you bring a box of Charbonel's chocolates - chiefly No.9's.
Put it down to Mother. I'll pay her.'

But Easter has forgotten them.

'Well what was to be done? 
A thousand times over would she have exchanged 
her new dressing-case 
for a brown papered parcel of chocolates.'
No matter -
'If I wire for them,' Easter thought,
'they'd be here in the morning.' 

from Mad Puppetstown by Molly Keane.

Then of course I had to know -
what flavour is a No.9?
And Victoria Leadbitter at Charbonnel et Walker
was happy to help.
It is the Café Charbonnel a coffee flavoured dark chocolate.

Is it still available and what are the other flavours?
She wrote again from her splendid address:
1 Royal Arcade,
28 Old Bond Street,

'The chocolates are not really numbered anymore,' but
Many of them are still made today; 
we just tend to refer to them as their names rather than their numbers. 
Although plenty of our customers who have been shopping with us 
for many years still refer to them in numbers. 
We often receive handwritten notes
 from customers requesting boxes filled with 
certain numbers to be sent to their homes.
 We still custom fill boxes for our customers all the time. 
Customers can call, email and drop in store 
to have a box filled with whatever they prefer.
 We can keep a record of your purchase and preferred chocolates 
so you just need to give your name and ask for a repeat order.
We pride ourselves on our personal service
and remembering our customers by name.
Our most popular chocolate today 
is our Pink Marc de Champagne Truffle.
Although this one is only six years old.
Our most popular traditional chocolates are our English Rose
& Violet Creams which we have been making 
since 1875, to Madame  Charbonnel's original recipe.

As soon as the list arrives I will place my hand-written order.
The large crocodile dressing case with gold fittings from Asprey
with its legion of gold-topped boxes
 may be a superfluous accoutrement these days
but chocolates will never date.

Sunday 16 January 2011

Tea towel swatch

I'm inordinately pleased with these tea towels,
because the green one 
(just visible, as they say so annoyingly in magazines)
is exactly the shade of green I have been searching for
to paint a kitchen wall.
First seen here but not easy to memorise,
I will be able to take this to be scanned and 
 mixed up for me at Homebase.
The blue one exactly matches my Le Creuset pan.

Saturday 15 January 2011

All Passion Spent

All is best, though oft we doubt,
What th'unsearchable dispose
Of highest wisdom brings about,
And ever best found in the close.
Oft he seems to hide his face,
But unexpectedly returns
And to his faithful Champion hath in place
Bore witness gloriously; whence Gaza mourns
And all that band them to resist
His uncontroulable intent.
His servants he with new acquist
Of true experience from this great event
With peace and consolation hath dismist,
And calm of mind all passion spent.

John Milton Samson Agonistes

Friday 14 January 2011

Thursday 13 January 2011

Hokusai* at the car wash

How to derive mild entertainment
from mundane chores.
(An occasional series.)

* The Great Wave off the Coast of Kanagawa
by Hokusai.

Wednesday 12 January 2011

What am I?

This post had me thinking,
not for the first time,
about the quandary so many of us face 
when asked to put down our occupations on a form.
I have in my time been occupied (and sometimes paid)
 as a painter, illustrator, archivist,
photographer, archaeologist,
gardener, teacher, nurse, 
mother, book editor, researcher, 
writer, special needs tutor,
cleaner, cook, furniture restorer, 
driver, decorator
and blogger.

Of course I haven't always been paid,
and there's the rub.
Does the question on the form want to know
what my skills are worth in monetary terms?
Does it want to know where I rank
 in an employment hierarchy?
Does it want to assess how interesting and important I am?

Certainly, in social situations, 
it often serves as a shorthand;
a box to put you in. 
Indeed it is usually the first question 
you are asked by strangers.
(Are you more or less interesting, important,
well paid, than me?)

But for most of these forms it is utterly irrelevant.
They might just as usefully ask you for your shoe size.

 Even if I could quite legitimately write,
opera singer, obstetrician or oligarch,
baker, broadcaster or ballerina,
it would only represent a snapshot,
a tiny fleeting sample
of all the occupations,jobs and careers 
that make up many lifetime's experience.

Leaving that space blank though -
well it allows for some ambiguity,
a refusal to be boxed,
but it also feels self-effacing
and slightly stroppy.

I'm not yet of retirement age
so retd. won't wash.
I quite like the idea of being
a bon viveur,
in its literal sense.
Perhaps lifer would be less self-congratulatory
but has the criminal overtones of a mal viveur.

Well, hungry is what I am now.
Luckily I have no forms to fill in 
or I would have to write 
sandwich maker in the box.

I leave the last word to the inestimable
Matt Pritchett.


Tuesday 11 January 2011

Sugar high

My new camera is sticky.

I must be getting more used to it.