Monday 28 February 2011

The evidence

I know the sun must have shone



I have

the evidence. 

I know we must have had birthday cake for P.
because I have the evidence for that too.
Sarah Raven's Chocolate cake with lime.
Limes are essential for vitamin C.
Chocolate is essential for February.

Friday 25 February 2011

Bring it in

New electrician.
Black grit showers down from loft.
Pink blossom opens.

Thursday 24 February 2011

Walking on

'Sentries and cardboard shields: parallel gestures,
it seemed, in a world of bombing planes and motor traffic.
But perhaps the making of the gesture was what mattered.

She pulled herself together and walked on.'

From The First Day of Spring by Jan Struther.
On being able to accept that 
you are unable to right all the world's ills
but that you must do what you feel you can
and then walk on.

Tuesday 22 February 2011

A lovely morning interlude*

because it isn't all errant electricians,
leaky plumbing
and Black Mould round here.

Sometimes people just offer to come and play
Fauré and Saint-Saëns 
'if you wouldn't mind',
before a return-to-the-concert-platform event
following surgery.

*See also A lovely evening interlude

Monday 21 February 2011

Wish fulfillment

Whilst going through a folder of magazine cuttings
I notice that I have twice torn out pictures of

They were produced to celebrate the chair's 60th anniversary.
At £536 each they are beyond reach,
but I spotted a bentwood chair in the top picture,
(price £99) and thought,

I've got one of those,

and a paintbrush.
The paint cost £9.49.
So I'm pretty happy.

Saturday 19 February 2011

Large Tummies

With nary a child in the house
and a hard afternoon spent cleaning and 
re-assembling the linen cupboard,
we treated ourselves to a curry 
at our local Indian restaurant.
The guava and green raisin kulfi
was a delicious
but quite unnecessary indulgence.

P.S I have found a new electrician.
The carpet is drying out again.

Friday 18 February 2011

Spoke too soon

The radiator has been leaking all night.
This is the second leak, 
the first occurring when the radiator was removed for painting
allowing just enough time for the carpet to dry out
leaving a watermark that I could just about tolerate.
(See below - I didn't trouble you with this news the first time)

Now it has leaked on being re-fitted.
Paul the painter has switched his phone to voicemail.

Meanwhile Lloyd the 'lectrician,
is four hours late and I am 
in a state somewhere between resignation and despair.

Edited to add: Lloyd never came. 
Why I do not know. He didn't ring either.
Paul eventually got my message and has been back
to repair the connection.
Let's hope it holds.

Thursday 17 February 2011

The fun bit

Paul has finished painting the bedroom, 
so now I can turn my attention to furnishing it.
I need look no further than my 1940 copy
of Housewife magazine for inspiration.

Gay colours in chintz bedspread and curtains glow against the
neutral coloured background created by plain waxed furniture,
fawn carpet and cream walls.
The curtains are made from a novel, tufted fabric 
called Rathkelle (from Old Bleach), consisting of 
charming blue tufts like little bows on linen-coloured ground.
The bedspread has a broad panel of gaily-coloured washable
glazed chintz from Sandersons, mostly in pinks and blues
and the chintz motif is repeated 
in the lampshades each side of the bed. 
The pale blue of the curtains is echoed in 
the pale linen cover of the easy chair 
and the rugs either side of the bed are a soft pink.

(Amanpuri in original chintz from Sanderson) 

I haven't found the tufted fabric yet except for 
somewhere in the deep recesses of my memory.

Wednesday 16 February 2011

The tiresome touches of time

All is not lost.
I bring you this double chin remedy from 
The Family Weekend Book by Beryl Irving 1941.

Take a deep breath and incline the neck forwards.
Exhale, relax neck muscles,
and drop head on chest.
Take a deep breath, lift head,
stiffening neck muscles,
and drop head backwards.
Take a deep breath, stiffen neck muscles
and incline head sideways to the left.
Breathe out, lift head,
and repeat to the right.
These exercises, taken in conjunction with 
the use of a good reducing cream, patted in,
followed by an astringent lotion, and,
if you really mean to go at it wholeheartedly,
a chinstrap worn at night,
should work wonders. 

I don't believe Audrey Hepburn
ever needed a chin strap
but she appears to be wearing one anyway.

Tuesday 15 February 2011

I feel bad about my neck*

I'll let Nora Ephron explain.

I feel bad about my neck. Truly I do. If you saw my neck, 
you might feel bad about it too,
but you'd probably be too polite to let on.
If I said something to you on the subject -
something like 'I absolutely cannot stand my neck' -
you'd undoubtedly respond by saying something nice like,
'I don't know what you're talking about.'
You'd be lying of course, but I forgive you...
My experience is that 'I don't know what you're talking about'
is code for 'I see what you mean, but if you think
you're going to trap me into engaging on the subject,
you're crazy.'

Sometimes I go out to lunch with my girlfriends ... 
and I look around the table
and realize we're all wearing turtleneck sweaters.
Sometimes, instead, we're all wearing scarves,
like Katherine Hepburn in 'On Golden Pond'...
It's sort of funny and it's sort of sad,
because we're not neurotic about our age -
none of us lies about how old she is, for instance,
and none of us dresses in a way that's inappropriate for our years.
We all look good for our age.
Except for our necks.
Oh, the necks.
There are chicken necks. 
There are turkey gobbler necks.
There are elephant necks. 
There are necks with wattles
and necks with creases that are on the verge of becoming wattles.
There are scrawny necks and fat necks,
loose necks, crepey necks, banded necks,
wrinkled necks, stringy necks, saggy necks,
flabby necks, mottled necks.
There are necks that are an amazing combination 
of all of the above.
According to my dermatologist, 
the neck starts to go at forty-three
and that's that.

I often do what so many women of my age do
when stuck in front of a mirror:
I gently pull the skin of my neck back
and stare wistfully at a younger version of myself...

One of my biggest regrets...
is that I didn't spend my youth staring lovingly at my neck.
It never crossed my mind to be grateful for it.

*I Feel Bad about my Neck 
and other thoughts on being a woman
by Nora Ephron.

With thanks to Belinda
who introduced me to this book.

Monday 14 February 2011

Another stray coin

The best of England, thought Mrs Miniver,
as opposed to countries with reasonable climates,
is that it is not only once a year that you can say,
"This is the first day of spring."

Today was one of those days
when the sun shone a little more warmly,
the birds sang a little more sweetly
and even the garden of doom 
had snowdrops and crocuses
to show off.

While it lasted that day had been part of 
the authentic currency of spring -
a stray coin tossed down carelessly on account.

Sunday 13 February 2011

The Bill

I was just getting one of Nigel Slater's double ginger cakes 
out of the oven when 
there was a sharp rapping at my front door.

A neighbour, I was told, had called the police 
because she saw two men in the garden
on the other side of the fence
'who shouldn't be there'.

Radio crackling he hot-footed out to my garden
and peered over the fence.
I saw snowdrops and crocuses
where once there were brambles.

A police helicopter arrived and
wheeled in tight circles overhead.

Dog handlers raced up the alleyway.

Then suddenly, the show was over.
Apparently everything was just fine.
The men who shouldn't be there,
 live in the house.
I doubt that they were gardening
and there may be more to this than meets the eye
but I wasn't being told.
I was complemented on my hall wallpaper.
They apologised for the mud on 
the newly-washed floor and departed.

The cake had cooled,
so I cut myself a slice 
and had it with a nice cup of tea.

Saturday 12 February 2011

A walk by the river

Emerging from the long tunnel of winter darkness.

Friday 11 February 2011


The sun came out for fully thirty seconds,

so I nipped into the soon-to-be guest bedroom,
(we expect guests from the East this summer) 

to admire the pristine new plaster.

The Black Mould is banishéd.
I can't tell you how good that feels.

Wednesday 9 February 2011

The Linen Cupboard

Today the linen cupboard had to be dismantled
and moved out of the room with the Black Mould.

And once it was in pieces it was obvious that
the disgorged contents would have to be sorted.

Four drawers and three shelves worth
of sheets (single and double), duvet covers, pillow cases,
vintage curtains, lace panels, embroidered tablecloths,
napkins, quilts, baby blankets, shawls, towels,
counterpanes, eiderdowns, picnic cloths, tray cloths...

four drawers and three shelves worth of memories
stretching back past first big bed, to cot, to Moses basket,
to first flat, to first house, to student digs,
to childhood home, to aunty's room, to grandparents' home
and then suddenly pre-me, into real history.

It was 1941, and a baby, a sister I was never to meet, 
born that Christmas Eve,
 was to be christened.

A christening robe had to be made, in wartime,
from whatever was available.

I think it might even have been
a lace curtain,

lined with silky fabric
perhaps from one of my mother's slips,

and decorated with a length of brittle gold ribbon.
It survived the Blitz.
I am astonished that it has survived my casual custodianship.
I will buy some acid-free tissue paper
and re-store it with the care that it deserves.

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Good Day. Sunshine

Wall to wall
blue sky,

from dawn

 until dusk.

It couldn't have been more welcome.

Paul got all the pointing on the brickwork finished
and is ready to move indoors
to tackle the Black Mould.
I sorted out a door that wouldn't close
and gave it a new handle.
During the purchase of said handle
I bumped into someone
 who had dropped rather abruptly 
and inexplicably out of my life four years ago.

Good Day.