Friday, December 31, 2004

High, light and pennies.

1. An aeroplane circling above town.

2. When streetlights go on while it's still just about light. It makes me feel as if the days are getting longer again.

3. While I was in Oxfam an assistant came downstairs with an Asia earthquakes flood disaster collection box. He handed it to the chap behind the counter, saying: 'There you are. I've emptied it again. I've never seen so much money in my life.'

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Special guest

Fenella's postcard from Jamaica arrived yesterday and she wanted to share her beautiful things, so here they are.

1. Water - from the turquoise sea where we've snorkeled and seen octopus, dived amongst the coral, canoed (or in Andy's case sat back while I did all the work - no really) to the crashing cascades of clear sparkling water of the 975 foot Dunn River Falls which we climbed to the top of.

2. Food - copious amounts of fresh, yummy food - papaya, watermelon, pineapple, seven-course candle-lit dinners, open-air beach parties and Andy's first (and last) sampling of lobster.

3. Swimming with dolphins - we are doing it tomorrow. Need I say any more?

I made them tell me all about this last and they showed me the pictures. It was hard to say who was smiling most - Fenella, Andy or the dolphins. 'We conducted and they sang to us.' And 'Male dolphins have rough skins and female dolphins have smooth skins.' And 'We made smoochy faces and they kissed us.'

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Laundry, Chinese and blow.

1. Washing machines. With two loads of washing to do on the trot I remember a conversation I had this summer with a friend's mother. She told me how when she was a very little girl she helped her own mother doing washing a copper - heating up water and stirring the clothes round and round and round. They had to be put through a mangle and then hung out to dry. 'It was hard on our arms and it was very hard on the clothes.'

2. Takeaway food.

3. Clean handkerchiefs.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Bird, sweets and TV.

1. Turkey sandwiches on thick bread.

2. Cherry-flavour candy sticks.

3. Using being ill as an excuse to watch The Italian Job and Tomb Raider. Both are very silly, rather cool and very non-demanding.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Hot water, letters and lotus.

1. Having two really hot baths in one day. There is no bath at the flat - just a shower.

2. A whole new Terry Pratchett book to read. And as I get into Going Postal I realise I am going to enjoy reading it again one day.

3. The strange and vivid dreams you get from taking paracetamol against a fevery cold and then having a small drink just to be sociable on Boxing Day.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Huh, pop and glass.

1. Half-remembering a strange, sleepy conversation with my mother about a CD. 'Have you heard of a band called Four-something?' 'Wha?' 'Can't be for your stocking then. Go back to sleep, darling'.

2. Drinking fizzy wine at 10am.

3. The windscreen of a burned-out car at the top of the road had melted into stalactites. The passenger window flopped over and hung down the inside of the door.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Return, parcels and greenery.

1. Being driven home with torrential rain splooshing off the windscreen and hammering down on the roof.

2. As people arrive, presents pile up under the tree. We look at the heap wondering. 'That's too many for just ten of us. How can we be giving and getting so much?'

3. Wreathing ivy around the chimneypiece and holly along the beams so it looks as if the old wood is sprouting a-new when all is dead outside.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Cannon, masked man and chill.

1. Cardboard tubes that use compressed air to spit sparkly confetti over the table. To the waiters who cleared up after us - I am so, so sorry.

2. A normally shy and retiring co-worker pulled on a mask and hitting the dance floor.

3. Basement flats with miles and miles of sofa and large televisions showing French films. And I'm pretty sure there was some gin involved.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Tidy, burdens and eggs.

1. I have been waiting since Friday for the boiler man to come, which has meant that my stereo has been balancing on a not-quite large enough stool, and hyacinth which normally sits on the stool has been migrating round the room depending on what surface I am using. But the boiler man came, did his thing and now the flat is tidy(ish) again.

2. The boiler man taught me how to undo a bolt with a broken thread. This is the bolt which was preventing me from repressurising the boiler. Being defeated in this way made me feel like a weak and feeble woman, and not being able to repressurise the boiler made me worry that it might explode at any moment, so that was two loads off my mind. He also fixed the leak which has been giving me nightmares about downstairs paddling knee deep in water, which was a third load lifted. Yay.

3. I was trying to work out whether the thought of going without supper was less desirable than a trip to the supermarket. Then I opened the fridge and found a box of eggs.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Twinkle, tart and laundry.

1. A postman wearing a jacket covered in little lights.

2. Jason's little dog Jessy jumping on to the sofa and sitting up on her back legs to have her tummy rubbed.

3. The smell of clean washing.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Red and white, prepared and warmer.

1. Cheese and tomato sandwiches.

2. Going through my Christmas shopping and wrapping a few gifts in white paper with a red and gold retro design of Russian castles and fairytale forests. I have to leave the rest for now because they are shared with my brother and sister.

3. Hot stew on a cold night.

Monday, December 20, 2004

They shut the road through the woods, table and terror.

1. 'This used to be the carriageway down to the Abbey,' Lou explained as her mother's dogs walked us down a long, straight path through the woods. 'It's haunted. Sometimes you can hear hooves and carriage wheels.'

2. Having Christmas dinner cooked for you. Fenella roasted a chicken and we had roast veggies, carrots, mash, courgettes, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts - which is probably more than I normally eat in a week of suppers. Later, I heated a little brandy in a ladle until it caught light and then poured the blue flames over the Christmas pudding. As I washed up and Fenella hovered anxiously round her best china, Andy suggested conspiratorially to PaulV 'Do you want some ice cream?' I suppose it makes a change from port and cigars.

3. Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. I don't think I've mentioned how much I like these subtle and imaginative books. The film is great. It is fantastically gothic and has a squalid, timeless beauty. It's a smashing yarn, too, with plenty of action, inventing, reading and biting.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Hanging around, grasshopper and salt fish.

1. My Christmas mobile. It comes from Habitat and features a big green felt Christmas tree balanced a family of six in red felt. Their hats and hair are fantastically curly and ornate so it casts wonderful shadows on the floor. I love watching it revolve gently in a draught.

2. A bizarre exercise in my writing course - it asked me to contemplate a single blade of grass. 'If you are doing it right, you will understand the point of this exercise.' As it was dark and the nearest grass is on the Common, I contemplated a leaf of my spider plant: the blade is part of a whole, and it is itself made of cells. It made me recall squinting at a sliver of onion tissue through a toy microscope, astonished that the cells were laid out like tiny bricks. It made me remember learning how cells are tiny factories. And it seemed wonderful that this was repeated throughout my body and throughout every living thing.

3. Being seized by a sudden yearning, longing desire for anchovies and then being informed that I was to join friends for a pizza.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Bread, fun and sweeties.

1. Peshwari Naan - it's the one stuffed with sweet coconut. Steamy, floppy and fragrant. Yum.

2. Playing board games and drinking wine and laughing hysterically.

3. Eating Quality Street and really enjoying them - specially the orange crunch and the malt toffee. I love the bright jewelish colours of the wrappings. Some come in plain tin foil (the green nutty triangle ones) and some come in cellophane-covered foil (the purple hazelnut caramel). Either way, the wrappers can be scrunched up and used to amuse the cat.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Falling, easy food and

1. English rain is falling and the sky has that a Tupperware lid look that Bill Bryson hates so much. But it is so bright that I can't help feeling the weather will dry up soon.

2. Baked potatoes because you can just stick them in the oven and forget about them until you are ready to eat. And they don't dirty any pans.

3. Those moments during pub quizzes when you suddenly remember the answer you couldn't quite recall five questions ago.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Book, doves and citrus

1. John Updike's Seek My Face. It's written from the point of view of an elderly artist, Hope, who is being interviewed by a journalist. I find this unusual viewpoint fascinating.

2. Grey doves sitting in an oak tree.

3. The smell of tangerines.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Legend, bowl and mentor.

1. A white dog running in the woods. It reminded me of King Pellinore's hound in Sword in the Stone. I half expected to hear the Questing Beast's call which is said to be like the baying of 50 hounds.

2. My new fruit bowl. It's lathed from a slice of maple by Ross Lockhart, who is going to be famous one day. The base is squared off inside and out, but the top has been left. At the moment it is full of satsumas, amber beads and purple Christmas balls.

3. Failing miserably at writing a difficult letter I call Fenella and suddenly it all seems much simpler.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Caught on the wind, verses and crocus.

1. Birds diving off tall lime trees into thin air.

2. Buying poetry books as presents - it's the thought that the person might find something that really sings to them.

3. Using tiny threads of saffron in risotto. I love the sunset orange colour and the squeaky new shoes smell.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Bread and butter, winter gathering and timing.

1. Heavy wholemeal bread with butter and homemade apple jelly

2. Walking on the common I smelt woodsmoke and heard men chatting quietly in the middle of a holly thicket.

3. Just as I decided it was time to stop working for the day, my doorbell rang. James had come round for a catch-up.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Light, offspring and lady of leisure.

1. It's the weekend so I get to see the morning sun in my flat. I usually miss it because I leave for work before it reaches my window. It reaches right in and lights up the photos stuck on my fridge.

2. 'Come on, George.' A child coming out of a shop was holding everyone up bumbling along attending only to the world at the level of our knees. The thought made me smile and I caught its father's eye and he smiled too, sticking his tongue out a little to pretend he didn't think his child was completely perfect in every way.

3. Buying three handmade chocolates to eat in bed while reading a magazine.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Completion, let go and warmth.

1. Looking back over a week's work and realising that you have completed several hefty tasks which on Monday seemed insurmountable.

2. Trying to relax and finding it harder than expect. By the time I get down to my ankles, my jaw is clenched again. It feels so good to let go of a muscle I'm holding on to without realising. And once you've got them all to settle - even if it's just for a moment - it is fantastic.

3. Wrapping myself in a woollen shawl to read before going to sleep.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Float away, flaneur and look.

1. An almost spherical grandmother with a walking stick standing next to a small boy holding some balloons.

2. The Idler squeezed through my letterbox. A whole big book full of subversive writing and cartoons offering alternatives to living for work.

3. Cats with big round eyes.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Orange, engrossed and victory.

1. The colour of peeled carrots.

2. A man walking up the hill from the station still reading his book.

3. Walking out of a supermarket carrying nothing but a pint of milk and some fruit.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Countdown, architecture and gate.

1. This advent calendar - each day has a fun thing, a Christmas memory and a mystery weblink.
2. White houses with black window frames.

3. A brand new gate in the middle of a tumbledown fence.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Settle down, spices and covering pages.

1. Little birdies twittering outside as the light fades.

2. The speckles inside a nutmeg.

3. I edit a newsletter for my writers' group, and after the last issue it was suggested that I might like add two more pages. My heart sank a little as I looked at the blank sheets. But after a couple of hours in the pub with another member, they are are covered in scribbles that will shortly become articles, announcements and notices.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Tones, tin and fry up.

1. A man on the radio explaining an invention that makes supermarkets sing. He's been colourblind since birth and cunning scientists have togged him out with a box that plays a different tone for each colour. 'The fruit and vegetable section of the supermarket is very noisy,' he said.

2. Opening a new tin of coffee. I love the tearing metal and the hiss as the pressure equalises and the smell that rises up.

3. Bacon that goes crispy and makes proper fat instead of weird white foamy stuff.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Sing, sharing and stroll.

1. At the moment the singing man's lyrics are: 'Sorry to bother you, to bother you, to bother you, so-o-o-ry to bo-ther you.' He sings 'Sorry to bother you' to everyone he passes and opens shop doors to sing it people inside. Sometimes he pauses on the pavement, one hand in the air to give a little recital. It's funny to watch different people's reactions as he parades down the street - a youth in the shop opposite got the giggles; some people reply 'That's quite all right'. Other people jump - it's a bit ironic that they have been bothered by him apologising for bothering them.

2. When people understand how important it is for a girl to be allowed to share their pudding even though she didn't order any for herself.

3. Walking in the dark because your feet know where to go.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Where is everyone, it works and garnish.

1. Walking into a bank at lunchtime and finding there was NO QUEUE.

2. Cracking a tricky animation effect on a PowerPoint presentation.

3. Sour plain yoghurt on a rich chocolate pudding.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Look where you're going, ooh egg and bug in rug.

1. The self-righteous feeling you get from nearly being run over.

2. Poaching an egg in smoked fish chowder. The bright yellow yolk is very pleasing to look at and the saltiness of the soup compliments such a heavy, bland proteiny flavour.

3. Pulling a duvet up round me on a cold night.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Cousins, proposal and needle.

1. Cousins. We didn't have any until we were quite old and I always felt jealous of people who had loads. Whenever I see our four I remember how it felt not to have any, and it makes the having seem all the better.

2. At my grandfather's funeral, they told the story of how my grandfather proposed to my grandmother: he used the words 'Let's get married and get the hell out of here.' They met in Freetown, Sierra Leone, which my grandmother described as 'the arsehole of the world.'

3. Brightling Needle.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

BBC, sparkle and camphor.

1. Kate Adie's memoir, The Kindness of Strangers. It reminded me of why I am so keen to keep up with the news.

2. Clean windows.

3. My mother's linen chest. It's carved with oriental scenes and made of camphor wood that makes the bed linen smell medicinal and clean and homey.