Sunday, October 31, 2004

Iron, spies and sparks.

1. My new ironing board cover. It's pink and decorated with Barbaraella-style girls posing in front of a futuristic city

2. Went for a walk with PaulV through town. We looked in through people's windows and alternately giggled about and envied their living rooms.

3. Watching fireworks from my window.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Half awake, problem hair and warm hands.

1. Instead of getting up with the alarm, I lay in the dark, snuggled deep in my bed drifting in and out of sleep.

2. My hair felt so strawish and yuck that I avoided my reflection almost all day. But I happened to glance in a mirror late afternoon and it looked perfectly all right.

3. Warming my hands on a mug of camomile tea last thing at night.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Speed, snap and snuggle.

1. When there is no queue at the Post Office.

2. Found photographs.

3. Hot water bottles. My one has a red and pink striped knitted cover.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

First post, chills and cross-stitch charted territory.

1. Came home to find my mother had brought my post over - including Mslexia - the excellent magazine for women who write.

2. Victorian-style gothic novels - I'm listening to The Mist in the Mirror by Susan Hill. So far a man has got lost in London and been frightened by a parrot.

3. Starting a new piece of cross stitch. I've designed this one myself, so I'm a bit apprehensive. But it's all part of life's great adventure - one woman, a needle and a vast tract of 12-count aida. Actually, it's about 10cm by 4cm.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

John Peel, art and half task.

1. Everyone saying how much they loved John Peel who died suddenly yesterday. Read about him on BBC Radio One and on Radio Four. His quirky Home Truths up until now has been an important part of my Saturday morning. As I pottered through the washing up or ironing or whatever, I would go from tears to laughter to hairs prickling on my neck and back again as he charmed wonderful, truth is stranger than fiction stories out of the public. I love the philosophy that it's not just celebs who are of interest. I know the programme won't be the same without him.

2. Discovering mail art on A1 Mail Art Archive. Altered envelopes. Cool.

3. When the ironing pile is not nearly as big as you thought it was.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Biscuits, dinner and sparkly.

1. Liebniz biscuits. You can bite the chocolate off.

2. I crammed a couple of garlic cloves under the chicken at the bottom of my casserole. I cooked it under a sauce of leeks, potato, onion and celery. The meat subtly absorbed the flavour of the garlic, but the sauce was not overpowered.

3. My shower was grim and now it's not because I've cleaned it.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Wet, sheep and swans.

1. Took the train down to the coast. It has rained heavily in the past few days and there was a lot of water in places where there isn't usually water, eg halfway up tree trunks. The River Rother looked fat and brown and in a hurry.

2. Sheep in a puddley field. Their reflections came and went as they wandered around.

3. Ten swans sitting in a cabbage field on Romney Marsh. There is a choice of collective nouns for swans - you can have bevy, lamentation or herd. If they are flying, they are a wedge.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Decorate, neighbours and discovery.

1. A man in a cherry-picker very carefully putting fairy lights in the small branches of the plane trees up and down Mount Pleasant.

2. Gossipping with Fenella for so long that her boyfriend got worried and texted to find out where she was.

3. My nearest supermarket has changed to a Morrisons. During the transition, stock has been very low and I've been stamping round furious at not being able to find my usual groceries. However, I discovered that they do amazingly cheap candles. Also, there were two treaty things in the reduced-to-clear shelves - a bottle of fresh orange and raspberry and two smoked salmon terrines.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Turning year, suck and naughty shoes.

1. A street of cherry trees. They are turning red and gold and every time I walk past the colours are brighter.

2. Aniseed balls.

3. My pink silk trainers. They are gloriously impractical, being un-waterproof and too tight.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Hocus pocus, beach boy and Boris.

1. A magician who made me close my hand around a red spongey ball. When I opened my hand, there were two. And he made about ten appear in my boss' hand. Then he gave me a pack of cards to hold and told Ed think of a card. 'Six of clubs'. It was the only one up-turned in the whole pack.

2. A lone surfer on a very brisk day.

3. Discovering that Boris Johnson - who is rather a hero of mine - has a weblog. I don't care what he said about Liverpool. I still think he should be prime minister and lead us all into a new age of glory.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Edged, mild and artistic licence.

1. A horse chestnut tree that was just starting to turn - but only round the edges of the leaves. It looked as if someone had carefully painted a yellow border round the edge of each green leaf.

2. Wet days in autumn.

3. In Bournemouth, among all the pale cream and white and pale pink stucco and pebbledashing is a surfers' hostel with flowers painted on it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Naked garden, dancing lantern and sight.

1. A strange rubrus with fine, tangled dark green stems studded with tiny, pearly white thorns. In an autumn garden, stems are very important.

2. Physallis growing at Sissinghurst. These are the 'Chinese lanterns' that every other restaurant is dressing pudding plates with these days. The brown papery shell hides a yellowish berry that just tastes sour. However, in the garden, the lanterns are bright, beautiful orange.

3. Learning to see my aura.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Shrinking harpy, old star and back in time.

1. Between the ages of nine and 13, Miss L terrified me. She was loomingly tall, skinny and strict and never hesitated to remind me of how rubbish my needlework was. While queuing in the Post Office, I spotted her and realised that I am now taller than she is. And she praised the clerk for his stamp-sticking speed.

2. I inherited my jewelry box from my grandmother. Its red velvet lining is marked with the star imprint of a cut-glass scent bottle that was broken long ago.

3. While tidying my dressing table a plait of intensely bright rainbow strings reminded me of a boy called Hamish Lemmens, who complimented me on it when I was 12 or so. I was at school with him from three to 13 and he was always doing or saying something that made people laugh.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Flip, granddam and moonling.

1. Pancakes for breakfast.

2. Discovering that Hastings is going up in the world. I've always been fond of the town even if they do call it the suicide capital of the south east. In the past, it has reminded me of a relative who has lost the will to live and just sits about in a dressing gown all day eating all her meals off the same plate. But yesterday Bruv and I wandered through the Old Town and thought we'd slipped into another dimension. There seemed to be a whole load of new shops - a teeth-achingly cool retro furniture shop; vintage clothing stores; art galleries; an independent cinema; a micro brewery. Everything looked freshly painted and loved and cared for.

3. Walking down a street towards the sea and noticing a long sliver of nearly new moon.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Drops, might have been snow and crush.

1. Pearls. They always seem so erotic and yet so innocent.

2. The block opposite me has a balustrade round the roof. A filthy
balustrade. I woke up to see that a painter had started work on it
and it looked as if snow had fallen.

3. Was watching the street instead of writing and saw a chap I used
to adore achingly and wordlessly from a distance. He has pudged up
and the cheekbones I used to so admire are no longer on show. And he
was walking hand-in-hand with a sour-looking... yeah, I'm almost sure
it was a woman.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Workmen, trim and language.

1. Two men from the council bickering about the best way to mend a bench.

2. The Malaysian lady who cut my hair didn't speak English so well, and I ended up getting more taken off than I normally would. I just said 'yes' to everything - she seemed to know what I ought to have. I like it. I keep smirking every time I pass a shop window. I think that when her English improves, she won't stay long with a cheap-chirpy walk-in hairdresser.

3. Plus, despite the difficulties communicating over the hair, we had a good hair-cut conversation about travelling and mosquitoes. I always feel shy about chatting to people with whom I don't have a common language (i.e. anyone who doesn't have much English) so it felt like a good achievement.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Fear, glossy and cheferie.

1. This is the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear from Frank Herbert's Dune.

'I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.'

2. Conkers in my pocket.

3. Toad in the hole. It's made of things that look unappetising raw (batter and sausages) but once it's baked, it is a thing of beauty.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Shut up, everyone came and filthy lucre.

1. Finally getting the chance to tell the 'silent calls' telemarketing company that has been bothering me for the past month exactly how much I did not want to hear from them. You, too, can avoid these calls (UK only) by registering with the Telephone Preference Service.

2. A full house at meeting that I was responsible for publicising.

3. Expenses cheques.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Wet, lunch and scrawl.

1. Before I opened my curtains I knew it was raining because of the swooshing noise made by passing cars.

2. An amusing and eccentric pharma rep made John take us out to lunch. He told us good stories, many of them opening with: 'I shouldn't be telling you this but...'

3. When you are working on a story that almost writes itself.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Radiator, strides and gammon and spinach.

1. The radiator in our office went on for the first time today. It smelt of burning dust. The temperature has dropped, and it really is starting to feel like winter. I ran my cold knuckles over its ridges and felt real warmth coming into my hands.

2. At the end of work, I walked home a very long way to warm up. At first I was stiff and every step jarred, but gradually my muscles loosened up and the blood came back into my extremities.

3. A comforting supper of bacon and lentils.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Confisserie, careful what you wish for and treat.

1. I baked a lemon cake. It went badly, badly wrong. I didn't check whether I had all the ingredients and had to substitute wholemeal bread flour for self-raising and halve the quantity of sugar - but that's all right because my baking tray was too small anyway. Then I switched on the grill instead of the oven and had to hack a burnt crust off the top of the cake halfway through cooking. It tastes OK, though. Bit rough, but perfectly edible (I tested it on PaulV and he's still alive).

2. I set out to get a newspaper. But the newsagents at the end of the street was closed. So was the one on the Pantiles. In a monumental sulk, I turned round to go home. But lo and behold, there, propped against a wall, was a copy of the paper I wanted.

3. Eighths of an orange with chocolate sauce.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Financial diet, Bean there done that, interruptions.

1. Going shopping but not actually buying anything.

2. Except this one thing... which doesn't count because Katie bought half of it. Bean on Camden Road, Tunbridge Wells, does special chocolates like chilli and marzipan; Earl Grey tea; mango truffle. We bought 12 between us to eat with our tea.

3. I was trying to have a quiet day with Katie. But... Lunch was interrupted by a phone call from Cat. Tea was crashed by Rob. And PaulV arrived in the middle of supper.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Dark deeds, tree surgery and hallucinations.

1. Dark pubs which have junk on all the walls and stacked on shelves, and mis-matched tables and chairs.

2. Pollarded trees. The older plane trees on the street where I work have had their branches taken off. They look like they've been packed up for winter.

3. Fly agarics - those red toadstools with white spots so loved by fairytale illustrators. I found a good patch of them in a clearing on my way home from work. The older ones have perfectly flat tops, while the new ones push out of the matted grass like little fists.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Birdie with a yellow bill, communications and findings.

1. A goldfinch landed on the scaffolding outside our office window.

2. I have a new phone. It takes pictures so now I might just stand a chance against Ed and his shooting from the hip photography.

3. Paul V revealed that he is a secret charity shop record fan. 'You go through the boxes and you find something and you think: "how could anyone have not wanted this?"'

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Paint, sophisticates and slam.

1. The outside of our office building is being painted. Every time I go in or out a different coat in a different colour has been put on.

2. Ed leaves work half an hour before me. I noticed that it was chucking it down with rain and laughed. He replied:
As Clare walks home down the lane
Let there be a hurricane.


Obviously I couldn't let that go and cursed him with:
Cold winds batter Edwin Birch
To make his footsteps veer and lurch.


3. A call from my neighbour Fenella. 'When you get home, can you do me a HUGE favour? Can you pop down and let Andy out of my study?' Apparently, the doorknob had 'come off in his hand.'

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Kip, book sale and The Mymble.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us1. If I feel like it, I can have an hour's lie-in on a schoolday.

2. Selling four of my unwanted books in two days.

3. A colleague asked about 'themymble' - my username. I told him about the character, The Mymble, from Tove Jansson's Moomin books. Here she is, pert as ever. Her boots are red.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Buzz, conkers and tempus fugit.

1. A fly and its shadow.

2. Conkers. I can't pass a horse chestnut tree this time of year without wanting to fill my pockets with them. I love the way they bounce when they fall and they are so pleasing to hold - polished smooth and slightly yielding.

3. I can't get to sleep and I don't feel tired. So I get up and potter around. It feels as if I've been given some extra hours.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Aubergines, curled up and green fairy.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us 1. I cooked moussaka, which will be my suppers for the next few days. It felt good to be making something complicated and dinner partyish just for me. And aubergines are such beautiful things. The more you look at them, the more colours you see - glossy black, deep purple, deep brown.

2. I spent most of the day reading - mainly Mrs Dalloway (Virginia Woolf) and A Clash of Kings (George R R Martin).

3. Absinthe. It requires equipment (sugar lump, special spoon, jug of iced water); it louches (this fantastic word is used only of spirits that turn cloudy when water is added) and it tastes of aniseed. Plus it seems so dangerous and with every sip I feel as if I am on a downward spiral to destitution and disrepute.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

First thing, boys and Miss Fix-it.

1. After a week of squatting in the middle of a pine wood, I have breakfast in bed involving hot chocolate.

2. James has been having a torrid time in Australia. I have missed him terribly, and now he is home. He comes to lunch and we eat bread and cheese and catch up. Then Paul V appears because he doesn't want to be left out.

3. The front door appears to be broken. Badly. It won't shut except when you slam it, and then it won't open. The neighbours are not quite sure which is worse and are considering locksmiths. I hear my voice saying: 'I'll just fetch my screwdriver.' I take the lock off the door and hand the screws to James. I jiggle a joggly bit and put it all back together. And then it works. From the hall side and the street side, both opening and shutting.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Yes Rose, breakfast and green.

1. In the middle of the night Rosey shouts 'Help' in her sleep. I give her a cuddle and tell her to go back to sleep. She mutters something about being chased. At breakfast, I complain about having to share a tent with certain people who can't keep their dreams to themselves. 'Well I was woken up twice,' says Robert virtuously. 'Once by Rose and once by you shouting that we couldn't leave yet because we weren't ready.'

2. We drink tiny cups of coffee in the airport at Alghero.

3. England’s greenness.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Witch, fallen civilisation and moonrise.

1. Fuili Gorge is full of oleander – Sardinia’s version of Britain’s rhododendron problem. The long snakey branches twist across the path, barring our way at every turn. Where they collapse under their own weight they throw up vertical stems like fences. Nothing else grows in the half light. A white fungus like disembodied paws groped its way along dead branches. Someone had marked the path in strange and subtle ways – here a white pebble pushed into a forked branch; there a little cairn. ‘It’s a witch’s wood. Don’t eat anything you find.’ ‘Not even figs?’ ‘Especially not figs.’ Then we heard goat bells clonking, and suddenly we were out in the sunshine again.

2. We drove out into the country to visit a nuraghic ruin. The tower is built of huge basalt blocks – no mortar – and stood two storeys tall, watching the coast. We realised that we were directly above the beach where we had left Robert and Rose climbing – when the sea level was higher, this bay would have been an important strategic landing place. Apart from the tower, no other structure stands more than four courses tall. Much of the site is overgrown with tough bushes and olive trees block the tower’s view. It is strange to think that 3,500 years ago the surrounding hectares were covered in a village of little round houses full of people who didn’t know about writing. Then 2,000 years ago the Romans chased them out and took down some of the beehive houses to put up a few square buildings of their own.

3. ‘Where’s the moon?’ Each evening so far, we had been treated to a fat full moon rolling out a silvery path over the sea. But it was a little cloudy and we were eating early, and it hadn’t risen. Just as the waitress took our order, the moon appeared bright red through the clouds above the harbour bar. ‘The hunters’ moon,’ I commented darkly. ‘You’re just making that up. It’s an omen of doom.’ But by the time our pasta arrived, the moon was well away across the vault of the heavens and a friendly silver once again.