Thursday 31 May 2012

A stand-in day

Summer ... is here at last.
That is to say, she was here yesterday 
and she will probably be back again tomorrow.
Today is one of those nondescript bits of weather 
which she leaves behind in her stead 
when she wants to play truant;
like that pathetic creature, the "stand-in",
who takes the place of a film actress during the tedious hours
while the electricians are adjusting the lights,
and who never appears in the finished film at all.
She may spend more time on the set than the actress herself,
but no record is made of her; just as nobody remembers afterwards
those in-between days, cold grey and gusty,
which do not fit in with our conventional idea of summer;
though there may be fifty of them between May and September.*


I hope the star comes back soon.
There are parties to attend.

* Out of Doors by Jan Struther 

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Out of doors*

While our son works through the heatwave for his exams,

I remember the many years
that I spent trying to revise in similar weather conditions.
It was futile of course.
I used to sit out on the baking asphalt balcony
with a text book slipping from my grasp

and the red sun pulsating behind my heavy eyelids.

Summer, after all our weary waiting, is here at last...
On one of these days, leaning out of the window after breakfast
and sniffing ecstatically at perfection, you decide that
it would be a crime to sit indoors at a writing table
on a morning like this: you will take your work
out into the garden and do it there.
What could be a pleasanter and a nobler occupation 
than to sit in the sunshine, green grass beneath your feet,
balmy zephyrs playing with your hair, 
the scent of flowers in every breath you take,
and to write immortal poetry - or even,
for that matter, perishable prose.

But then the snags manifest themselves.
The dewy grass soaks your shoes, the balmy zephyrs, 

flutter the corners of the paper you are writing on 
and scatter the lawn with pages you have already finished...

The sun is the greatest possible hindrance to the profession of letters.
Its light, reflected from the white paper, dazzles the eyes;
its warmth lulls the brain and saps resolution. 
Lids tend to close, coherent thoughts to 
relapse into random daydreaming.
It takes a stern effort of will to write as many as
fifty words without a break...

Lastly there is the garden itself:
and this is the most distracting thing of all...

It is dramatic: things are happening all the time,
clamouring for your attention.
Look again after five minutes, and a big hairy poppy bud,
which was recently all green, is slashed with scarlet.
In another quarter of an hour the crumpled silk
will be bursting right out of it.

*from A Pocketful of Pebbles by Jan Struther 

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Readers' queries

You may pose by a rose
in pale linen
but this is the only outfit I can recommend 

if you plan to eat Bolognese.

Mise - was this the aqua outfit you were wearing for Brunch?
In which case all is forgiven.

Monday 28 May 2012

Hints and tips 2

Here, I am modelling
the perfect outfit to go with 

a melting Fab lolly.

Making it last


 High noon.

Late afternoon.



Time out this weekend.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Hints and tips

This summer, why not co-ordinate
your clothes with your menus?
Here I am modelling my outfit for spiced beetroot and
minted pea soups from Nigella's Forever Summer.

It will save on laundry bills.

See how these ladies have completely matched themselves
to their surroundings.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

The shop with the yellow AGA

My candles and I had an outing last weekend.
Going Shopping has never been so much fun.
Luckily someone else was in charge of the cash register.
All I had to do was lean against the yellow AGA
and pass the time of day with the customers.

Here comes


At last.

So good they named it thrice

Whether you call these 

because aquila is the Latin for eagle
and the petals remind you of an eagle's claw,
or columbine

because columba is Latin for dove
and the flowers remind you of a dove's wing*
or Granny's Bonnet,

because, well you get the picture. . .

this early summer naturalised flower has never been so abundant,

or so welcome, in my otherwise untended flowerbeds.

* See Sue's pictures last year for the whole bird!

Monday 21 May 2012

Close to you 2




Thursday 17 May 2012

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Product placement

I am in need of a compact new washing line

as it happens.

Monday 14 May 2012

Homeward bound

Lately I have been here:

Widnes, the birthplace of the chemical industry.

In 1888 the town was described as,
'the dirtiest, ugliest and most depressing town in England.' 
and in 1905, as 'a poisonous hell-town'.

'Their especial ugliness is, however, never more marked than when
spring is making beautiful every nook and corner of England,
for the spring never comes hither.
It never comes because, neither at Widnes nor St Helens,
is there any place in which it can manifest itself.
The foul gases which, belched forth night and day
from the many factories, rot the clothes, the teeth,
and, in the end, the bodies of the workers,
have killed every tree and blade of grass for miles around.* 

So, not beautiful but no doubt I have found useful
many of the products that issue from there. 
Much of the land previously polluted by the old dirty chemical process 
has been reclaimed and old heavy chemical factories have been 
closed to be replaced by more modern factories.
Nevertheless, I was never so glad to be homeward bound.
Paul Simon felt the same way.

'If you know Widnes, then you'll understand how I was desperately
trying to get back to London as soon as possible. 
Homeward Bound came out of that feeling.'

*Robert Sherard The White Slaves of England, Being True Pictures of Certain Social Conditions in the Kingdom of England in the Year 1897, p. 47

Wednesday 9 May 2012

Brief glory

Unless they are right by the front door,

or immediately outside the windows,

I'm in danger of missing the flowers struggling on

regardless of the incessant rain

and giving their all.

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Low tide

It is hard to find quiet and empty spaces
on this crowded island.
But if you wait until the tide recedes,
and the light is failing,
and almost everybody has gone home,
you can see the sands new washed
and stand alone.

Thursday 3 May 2012

Carrot cake (to help you see in the dark)

If you are going to make a carrot cake,
and I am,
this is the mummy of them all.

Cranks' carrot cake was a variation of a traditional Swiss recipe.
They added grated carrot to give it a moist texture.
I put the icing in the middle instead of on top
to sandwich together my rather too thin layers.
I also left out the cinnamon, because I am not overly keen on it.
(You will thank me for this later I know.)

They might have been listening to this
back in 1961 when they opened their first restaurant,
in yet to be swinging Carnaby Street.