Tuesday 31 January 2012

Being stared at by sheep

I am reminded of a childish diversion,
(from the days when there were only two television channels)
called 'Staring Out'.
It was quite simple.
You would simply assert,
whenever there was a slack moment,
'I bet I can stare you out.'
It worked best if you happened to be sitting opposite each other,
perhaps at the dinner table,
or on a train journey.
You then widened your eyes,
lowered your head
and stared.
If they blinked,
you shouted,'You blinked, you blinked.'
They would then hotly deny that they had
and the game would end with mutterings.
Holding your eyelids open was cheating.

In the above impromptu contest,
both sheep won.

Monday 30 January 2012

Clippetty clop

The percussion of distant hooves on firm sand -
exactly like clapped coconut shells.

There's a young woman who knows a thing or two about horses
You might want to go and wish her a happy birthday.

Friday 27 January 2012

On the sands today

The lug worm collector,
bringing in his catch for the
Here's how he does it.

Living up to my remit.
Useful. Beautiful.
What do you mean you didn't have time to watch it all?

Wednesday 25 January 2012

The rest room

Re. Alice's comment,
I do like the idea of people benignly lounging
in my comments box.
So much more companionable than having lurkers.
How pleasant to picture people
lazing on the chaise longues,

putting their feet up on the battered recliner,
rocking in the swing seat,

dozing in the hammock.

 While you're here, why not
leaf through the diary on the hall table,
browse through the albums in the sitting room
take a sideways look at the books,
(they're alphabetically ordered for your convenience).
Indulge in some nostalgia.
Listen to some music.
Brew some coffee.
Have a slice of cake.
Talk amongst yourselves,
or find a quiet corner
 in the garden.
Take one of our favourite walks,
look at the shadows,
the sunrises and the sunsets.

Or perhaps you just popped your head round the door
and thought you'd come back later.
That's fine.
Leave a card if you have one.

I'm out visiting too.

Play on

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.
These arrived in my inbox to lighten my day from
 son two and JofIndia.

Saturday 21 January 2012


I have been finding very few opportunities for taking photos.
 The light, or lack of it,
the humdrum nature of recent days' activities,
a certain loss of va va voom
(it's in the Concise Oxford Dictionary),
have all contributed to this sad state of affairs.
Time to visit the archives.
As I scrolled back
I saw that I was feeling much the same as this last year
and the year before that and the year before that.
I derived some comfort from that.
January 21st last year,
yielded this:

a defiantly shrivelled berry
and an incipient bud.
Quite apposite I thought.

This is what I tuned into on Radio 3 
at 5.50 a.m today
when I got too bored with being awake.
What I would give for a full uninterrupted night's sleep
and a spring in my step in the morning.

Friday 20 January 2012

Etta James

First heard here.

Thursday 19 January 2012

Fair weather or foul

Even though we are officially suffering from a winter drought,
and I should be glad of the rain,
I'd like this weather back please.

I'd also like to have this back:

insured for £500,000, melted down for scrap worth £750,
I rather took it for granted as I ran past it most mornings,
but now that it is gone, it does indeed feel as though,

Barbara Hepworth said that she related her large works
to her diagnosis of cancer in 1966.

'It was the same in 1938. If war is imminent, or you're very ill
or something's threatening, you want to put something down
for big work while you can.
I was an absolute fever of ideas, without much hope of fulfillment.'

Some more big work is urgently needed.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

We are scattered

but the same sun rises over us all,
(even in Moscow).
доброе утро.

Thursday 12 January 2012

Orange reverie

The house smells the colour of the kitchen tiles.
I'm making marmalade -
a little later than last year,
but much earlier than the year before that.

Here's some Marmalade
I heard earlier.
Compare and contrast.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Little irises

 The sun is out.
So are my dwarf irises.

Monday 9 January 2012

We all have walls*

I pass on some rather queenly advice
in an article by this name*,
from Vita Sackville-West to the readers 
of the Observer newspaper in the 1940s and 50s.

Often I hear people say,
'How lucky you are to have these old walls;
(at Sissinghurst)
you can grow anything against them',
and then when I point out that every house 
means at least four walls -north, south, east, and west -
they say, 'I never thought of that.'
Against the north and west sides you can grow
magnolias or camellias;
on the east side, which catches the morning sun,
you can grow practically any of the
hardy shrubs or climbers, from the beautiful
ornamental quinces, commonly, though incorrectly called
japonicas (the right name is chaenomeles),
to the more robust varieties of ceanothus,
powdery blue, or a blue fringing on purple;
on the south side the choice is even larger -
a vine, for instance, will soon cover a wide high space,
and in a reasonable summer will ripen its bunches
of small sweet grapes (I recommend Royal Muscadine,
if you can get it), or, if you want a purely decorative effect,
the fast growing Solanum crispum will reach to the
eaves of the house and will flower in deep mauve
for at least two months in early summer.

*It is the 'at least four walls' that amuses me.
She seems not to be able to conceive of anyone
living in a house that it not detached.
Even today you can hear certain of our TV gardeners earnestly
consoling the viewers that even if they don't have a garden,
they can always grow some herbs on a windowsill.
This, as they stagger up the garden path 
with a wheelbarrow load of basil
ready to make a year's supply of pesto.

Some people's walls are higher than others'.

Sunday 8 January 2012

Expectations fulfilled

FAIRFIELD. St Thomas of Canterbury.
By itself on the Marsh, and mellowed with yellow lichen.
The illustration in Oyler's Churches of the Diocese of Canterbury 
(1912) shows a tottering ruin by the dyke, mostly of timber.
W.D.Caröe rebuilt it from the ground in 1913,
with great care and sensibility.
Some of the old materials were re-used.

The box pews, pulpit and reading desk are painted white
picked out in black.

The oval text boards add character.

So wrote John Piper when he was sent by King Penguin books
to stay for a time in Romney Marsh, Kent.
Long before I knew of the BBC 's intention to film
Great Expectations, I had formulated a plan 
 to visit the churches of the Marsh
which he painted.

All we had to do was collect the key
 hanging by the back door of a nearby farm,

and let ourselves in.

It was great.

Friday 6 January 2012

Urban river

 This river is in a surprising oasis of rural tranquility
in a less than idyllic urban desert.

We're very glad that they cleaned up the abandoned
supermarket trolleys and burnt out cars,

but the ducks have the right idea, 

you feel safer in pairs.

Thursday 5 January 2012

Wind swept

Strong winds blew in today.

They tore my wardrobe doors open
and a whirlwind plucked at the hangers
and strew my clothes across the floor.
Holey jumpers, ill-advised buys,
shrunken and marked garments,
bad bargains,
the faded, torn and aged
the unworn and the forlorn,
all in a storm
bundled and crammed into
waiting charity bags,
and before there was any chance of
rescuing them,
swept out of the house
never to be seen again.

A few things escaped the maelstrom
and as the winds died down,
looked, even, slightly refreshed;
ready for their moment in the sun.

A gale forced decision was made,
as I once again struggled to find anything to wear
in a wardrobe full of clothes.
I am a reluctant shopper,
with a hard-to-dress lifestyle
in a hard-to-place age group.
This morning I recognised the truth 
of the well meant advice:
that if you haven't worn it for a year
(or in my case more likely ten years)
you aren't going to wear it today or any other day.
It masquerades as a real outfit,
freighted with unhelpful reasons for a reprieve,
such as Wasteful, Will fit one day,
Worn once, Well loved but worn out.

My wardrobe is purged
but there is another cupboard that holds tightly
things I know full well I will never wear again:
my wedding dress, my back to work jacket size 8,
my vintage dresses, my Liberty rose shirt,
my Chinese silk jacket from Art College,
an Indian sari coat,
a velvet evening cloak,
my school Panama hat.

 It would take a hurricane to empty that
and no hurricanes have been forecast.