Thursday 28 June 2012

Considering the alternative

While 'dancing round the D word' 
Nora Ephron made the following observations:

Chances of dying.

When you cross into your sixties, your odds of dying -
or merely getting horribly sick on the way to dying - spike.
Death is a sniper. It strikes people you love,
people you like, people you know,
it's everywhere.
You could be next.
But then you turn out not to be.
But then again you could be.


Here are some questions I am constantly noodling over:
Do you splurge or do you hoard?
Do you live every day as if it's your last,
or do you save your money 
on the chance you'll live twenty more years?
Is life too short,
or is it going to be too long?
Do you work as hard as you can,
or do you slow down to smell the roses?
And where do carbohydrates fit into all this?
And what about chocolate?
There's a question for you, Gertrude Stein - 
(who as she lay dying was asked by
Alice B. Toklas, "What is the answer?")
  what about chocolate?

The final prognosis.

Before you get sick, you have absolutely no idea
of how you're going to feel once you do.
You can imagine you'll be brave,
but it's just as possible you'll be terrified.
You can hope that you'll find a way to accept death,
but you could just as easily end up raging against it.

The funeral.

I know what sort of food I would like served:
those little finger sandwiches 
from this place on Lexington Avenue called William Poll.
And champagne would be nice. I love champagne.
It's so festive.
But otherwise I don't have a clue.

Burial or cremation?

I haven't even figured out whether I want to be 
buried or cremated -largely because I've always worried
 that cremation in some way lowers your
chances of being reincarnated.
(If there is such a thing.) (Which I know there isn't.)
(And yet.)

Life goes on.

I need more bath oil.
And that reminds me to say something about bath oil.
I use this bath oil I happen to love.
It's called Dr. Hauschka's lemon bath.
It costs about twenty dollars, which
is enough for about two weeks of baths
if you follow the instructions.
The instructions say one capful per bath.
But a capful gets you nowhere. 
A capful is not enough. I have known this for a long time.
But if the events of the last few years have taught me anything,
it's that I'm going to feel an idiot if I die tomorrow
and I skimped on bath oil today.
So I use quite a lot of bath oil.
More than you could ever imagine.
After I take a bath,
my bathtub is as dangerous as an oil slick.
But thanks to the bath oil, I'm as smooth as silk.
I am going out to buy more, right now.

* I Feel Bad About My Neck 
Nora Ephron 1941 -2012

Wednesday 27 June 2012

How I learnt to row

Rowing is hard work, and you may find it best to sit by a friend
and row with one oar each.
Sit with your back to the front of the boat 
and the way you want to go,
with an oar each side of the boat.
To take a stroke, move your end of the oars forward
so that the blades dip into the water behind you.
Then pull the oars towards you, 
so that the blades pull through the water.
Lift the blades out, and take another stroke.
Look at the track of a rowing boat and the eddies will show you
where the blobs of water pulled by the oars 
are still moving through the water around them,
while the boat has moved away in the opposite direction.
If you use only one paddle or oar 
the boat will tend to turn round in circles,
but you can stop this by paddling first one side, then the other. 
Remember the wind will blow the boat about,
and if there is a current you will be carried with it.
Never set out in a boat unless you are certain
you can manage the wind and currents ...

There was never any danger of this in my cardboard box
rowing boat on its linoleum river,
but inspired by my copy of Swallows and Amazons
I took the instructions very seriously.

If you do capsize, hold on to the boat
and do not try to swim for land for it is easier
for rescuers to see a boat than a swimmer.*

Capsizing was the best bit.
I flailed convincingly on the surface
as the currents swirled and threatened to carry me away 
downstream to the far end of the room.

The theme tune to the 1962 BBC series Swallows and Amazons.

A very short clip from the original series.

*Something to Do - June

Monday 25 June 2012

The daily grind

So there I was, peacefully eating an artichoke,

when a man drives by

the window

 on his digger

and hoists up the mill wheel.

Yes, we've got the men in at last.
Seven at the last count.

It's very exciting
and very loud out there.

I must brush up my Blokeish.

Friday 22 June 2012

Living in the past

June 22nd 2011

June 22nd 2012

I didn't even bother buying my pelargoniums until yesterday,
the dead remnants of last year's window box planting
rather suiting my mood.
Then I rallied, and bought orange and pink ones
for an artificial shock of brightness.
This is the brief moment in the year when our kitchen 
should be touched by the sun.
The only way that is going to happen
is by revisiting the past.

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Hats off

I'm not really a hat person,
but I used to like the idea of a new hat for spring
and once bought a yellow felt hat 
with a sprig of fabric flowers pinned to its brim.
I miss that hat.
This one is alright for gardening but rather reminds me
of my school Panama.

I probably won't be wearing a hat to the wedding,
they mostly make me look like a mushroom,
but I certainly won't be wearing a fascinator instead.
If they are not good enough for the Royal Enclosure at Ascot
then they are not good enough for me.

Friday 15 June 2012

Changeable weather





Tuesday 12 June 2012


Result! Today I acquired a 100W dimmable (as if!)
 halogen bulb with an E27 screw cap fitting.
I went to considerable trouble to get it,
but 100 whole watty watts!
That's bright.
The Tolomeo Artemide Mega floor lamp will
blaze forth with energising light once again.
The room will be flooded with its vital rays.
Brilliance will be my byword.
Illuminations to rival Blackpool.

Like this.

(4.48 p.m. in a south facing room.
With the curtains open.
Not dimmed.)

Monday 11 June 2012


Why is the weather so awful?
Google that and others have got there first
with the same tearful wail.
Blame lies with the jet stream which is slumped
further south than usual bringing 
sluggish bands of low pressure
which means rain, rain and more rain.

I believe I have tried to put a brave face on it. 
I admired the green lushness,
laughed at the redundant hose pipe,
and donned an extra jumper 
but there is no getting away from it-
it's just so damnably depressing.
The light-filled light-weight days 
that I longed for all winter 
are slipping through my fingers.
The house closes in, dark by five p.m.
The stupid dim low energy light bulbs
cast their wan winter light on my work,
and a wrinkly wintry menu brought out of retirement
displaces the sprightly young salads
and carb light meals of summer.

Small streams have risen from beneath the lawn and run
rippling towards the house, audibly.
Worms are drowning, the leaking pond has refilled.
I ordered a sun hat 
when summer seemed plausible.
It is made of woven paper.
Wear it today
and it will be papier maché.

But show me just one sliver of sunlight,
one tiny blue tear in the clouds
and my optimistic soul will say,
'Look! It's going to be a sunny day.'

Saturday 9 June 2012

Eleven beautiful bottles


First seen here.

If I can't enjoy the flowers outside
I must bring them in.

But which to choose?
All expensive, but certainly not the sprayed on colour
that you only crossly discover on cheap bottles 
through over diligent washing.

There are often good glass vases to be found

This one was less than a tenner a while back
 and it has come in very useful.

One day I will place a shelf in a sunny window
so that I can bring coloured glass to life against it.

Friday 8 June 2012

A visit to Sissinghurst 2

The White Garden shone on that dismal day. 

Harold (Nicholson) wrote to Vita on July 5th 1949,
'I believe that when we scrap the delphiniums,
we shall find the grey and white garden very beautiful...
I want the garden as a whole to be superb in 1951
for the British Fair or Festival,
with heaps of overseas visitors,
and many will come down by car.'*

When Vita died in June 1962, she knew she had created
something of lasting value.
'We have done our best,' she wrote to Harold in November 1961, 
'and made a garden where none was.'*

*Sissinghurst - An Unfinished History  by Adam Nicholson.

Thursday 7 June 2012

A visit to Sissinghurst

The heavy golden sunshine enriched the old brick 
with a kind of patina, and made the tower 
cast a long shadow across the grass,
like the finger of a gigantic sundial veering slowly with the sun.

Everything was hushed and drowsy and silent,
but for the coo of the white pigeons 
sitting alone together on the roof.

They climbed the seventy-six steps of her tower
and stood on the leaden flat,
leaning their elbows on the parapet,

and looking out in silence over the fields,
the woods, the hop gardens,
and the lake down in the hollow
from which a faint mist was rising.

Vita Sackville-West

Wednesday 6 June 2012


I bring to the festive round up
 no soggy bunting,
no street party, 
no flotilla, 
no concert or fly past
(unless you count this one
spotted from the bedroom window),

but mercifully there were Morris dancers

and a sunset 

 of great majesty

to herald the lighting of the beacon.