Saturday, December 31, 2005

Ow, sandwich and The Coral.

1. My leg muscles feel very stretched by yesterday's walk. According to Rose, the pain means they are improving somehow. I am dubious.

2. Cold ham and mango chutney in a sandwich.

3. I'm really loving The Coral's album The Invisible Invasion. There are some great sounds in the lyrics -- lots of words used for their noise value, rather than for their meaning. 'Open the door / If you dare / Venus fly trap on the stairs.' and 'Arabian sand / feel it slipping through your hands.'

Friday, December 30, 2005

Setting out, dessert and male art.

1. Going on a long walk round Tunbridge Wells -- we covered eight miles: not bad for a day's work. Highlights included the taste of chocolate; the strange rattling noise that stones make when you skitter them across thin ice; finding places called Modest Corner and Constitution Hill; discovering that the trains to Tonbridge go over a hugh viaduct with cathedral-like brick arches; and settling into a warm pub with beer and ham, egg and chips.

2. Bananas dipped in chocolate mousse.

3. The two perfect rows of knitting that PaulV added to the square lying round my flat -- he claims Sarah taught him when he was very young.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Parallel lines, string bags and b&b.

1. There is about three quarters of an inch of snow in the Grove and it is covered in sledge tracks.

2. A lady at the checkout asked me all about my string bags: how useful did I find them and where did I get them from. I try not to take plastic supermarket bags -- except when I've run out of binliners. Instead I have some string bags, which are great because they fit in my handbag; they stretch to accomodate anything from an onion to an entire week's shopping; they are easy on the hands; and they come in pretty colours, so I can match them to whatever I'm wearing (if I feel inclined). The bags I use, from The String Bag Lady, are made from jute by a ladies' fair-trade co-operative in India. The only bad thing is, the String Bag Lady is presently on a gap year. Hope she hurries home.

3. The taste of fresh bread and butter.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Softly, birches and TV.

1. The quietness of snow. I like the way it dulls sound in the forest.

2. Birch trees with snow on them.

3. Watching My family and other animals on TV. It's one of my favourite books ever -- I love it for the strange animals and for the colours in the sunlight. Seeing the sunshine on the olive trees made me forget that it was freezing midwinter outside.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

So unfair, overhead and white feathers.

1. Robert sulking because he wasn't a beautiful thing yesterday, unlike Rose.

2.Sun in the tree tops.

3. In the middle of supper it started snowing.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Me first, stories for children and triadic colours.

1. Being woken by Rose because she doesn't want to be the first one to start opening her stocking.

2. A new fairy tale book. It has a terrifying picture on the front of a child hiding under a sofa on which is sitting a grotesque and toothy man brandishing an axe. This picture would be less frightening if I could find the story to which it relates and discover what happens -- because OBVIOUSLY the child doesn't get eaten. Does he?

3. Flowers from the garden. This year Daddy found some bright orange iris berries cracking out of their pods and glossy periwinkle leaves with a few mauve flowers.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Glitter, presents and stockings.

1. Great showers of glitter have fallen off my wrapping paper and now the carpet will sparkle slightly for weeks.

2. A box full of parcels.

3. Putting together Christmas stockings -- we have all been buying for each other in secret and finally on Christmas Eve all the little gifts come together.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Shades, destination and bouncy.

1. My first ever pair of prescription sunnies -- I can now see even when the sun is eye-screwing bright.

2. Seeing a bus with 'Happy Christmas' on the destination board.

3. Getting drunk on Champagne with my brother and feeling all bouncy happy as we walked to the pub.

Friday, December 23, 2005

No. 7, taking to my heels and how we laughed.

1. The smell of No. 7 lippy, because it makes me feel as if I look beautiful.

2. The extra height from high heels.

3. Laughing at the poem Chris wrote to mark his leaving the company until my eye-makeup was quite ruined.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Longer days, gathering and gifts.

1. It's Yule, which is the shortest day of year, so from now on the days will get longer. Also, it's midsummer in South Africa, which is a nice thought.

2. Lots of good things happen if you encourage like-minded people to meet up. I love the way that the pagan moot has brought us all together. I have made real friendships of my own; and I like watching how other people have come together. There are two couples in particular, one new to Tunbridge Wells and the other keen to make more friends, who have really hit it off.

3. Jason gave us all identical presents at the moot. We carefully tucked them away in our bags and then one by one, people gave into the temptation. Anna opened the end of hers to see what it was without spoiling the surprise for anyone else. And I suddenly thought: 'This is a Yule present, damn it, so I shall open it on Yule.'

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Done it, game and Sara.

1. My father has achieved his 2005 aim of getting 1,000 photos on to the photo library Alamy.

2. A sparrow scooting around the shed roof -- for mysterious sparrow reasons -- with a leaf in its beak.

3. Suddenly recalling a girl I knew at uni. Sara Gardiner McNeil was a few years older than us, and at the time was incredibly sophisticated compared with us kiddies come straight from school. She kept a flat in Newcastle and when I was dumped by a boyfriend she kidnapped me and took me there for the night. We went grocery shopping in Fenwick's food court and ate smoked salmon straight from the packet without bread or lemon or anything. Sara once passed me on the stairs and announced that she was going to find her kalos kagathos -- it's ancient Greek for young nobleman, or a knight, or a young man that everyone talks about. Sara, wherever you are, hope you found him in the end.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Brave girl, Bach and stuffed.

1. Poor Madie slipped on the ice and has mashed up her car quite badly on a fence. It's at the garage now. She only passed her test this summer, so it's all a bit upsetting. But she was very brave about it, and we hardly knew anything was wrong.

2. Radio 3 is playing nothing but Bach. I like baroque music -- I'm not very well up on all the technicalities of it; what I like is the counter tenors and the plinky harpsicords.

3. Oli saying he would like to gorge himself on smoked salmon or parma ham.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Ray of sun, festive food.

1. Swimming in the daytime so that I can feel the warmth of the sun pouring in through the windows.

2. Christmas lunch of fizzy wine, red wine, roast chicken, two kinds of stuffing, sausages, bacon, roast potatoes and parsnips, carrots, leeks and broccoli, gravy and bread sauce. Later, we had Christmas pudding with real brandy flames made in a ladle over the gas ring. Then there were little chocolates in the shape of Christmas puddings. And crackers -- mustn't forget the crackers. Afterwards the three of us retired to the sitting room to complain about having eaten too much. Thank you Fenella and Andy!

3. Singing carols by candlelight. The flame gets passed along the rows until everyone is holding lit candle.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Feed the birds, getting late and party games.

1. Watching nuthatches scoping out a pile of sunflower seeds. There were also two robins, but they were more interested in chasing each other away than eating.

2. Popping into a cafe for a drink and then deciding to have dinner.

3. I love jenga -- it's the game where you have to stack up finger-shaped blocks and then pull them out and softly softly add them to the top. If you do it wrong, the whole thing tumbles down with a fantastic crash.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

LED, moonlight and festive.

1. My hall is windowless and I discovered (after living here for nearly three years) that when it is completely dark and I have my night eyes, I can see the light from my smoke detector making stripes on the floor.

2. The moon is very fat and bright at the moment -- according to the BBC it's the biggest it has been for 18 years.

3. Walking up Chaple Place and seeing the lights strung across the road.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Cake, woods and hairful.

1. Visitors at work who bring cakes.

2. Madie took us on an adventure walk, but the path seemed to be taking us further and further from home and into a scary part of the woods. There were mossy fallen trees lying across the way, and great root plates that looked as if they hadn't been touched since the great storm of 1987. And there was a sinister pond with trees growing out of the water. I liked finding the gate back into the field.

3. Coming back from a walk and finding twigs in my hair.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Victory, Christmas tune and value.

1. Beating Ed at pool.

2. My number one Christmas piece of music ever in the entire world is the Troika from Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kije. It illustrates a drunken ride in a three-horse sleigh. You can read about the Lieutenant's life and times in Wikipedia -- there's a link to the Troika there.

3. A venerable member of the writers' circle saying that she needed a little help going up the path because 'I'm old and I'm frail and I'm precious.'

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Arrival, phew and hanging.

1. Coming to the front of a long queue.

2. Losing my phone and then finding it again -- this time it was in a bag of old phones to be recycled by Oxfam. Sigh.

3. Looking for Christmas cards, I find my Christmas decorations and put a few up, including the red and green mobile.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Traveller's tales, hygienic and free.

1. The dentist spends longer telling me what to look out for in Africa than he does looking at my teeth.

2. I am officially free from yellow fever and have a certificate to prove it.

3. Having the day off work.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Reading, washers and apples.

1. Sitting in bed with a brand new Quality Women's Fiction -- it's a very much a writer's zine full of not-too-literary short stories. I like short stories -- good quality ones, and I'm a woman. What more do I need?

2. My shower hasn't been working; when I unscrew it a lot of perished washers fall out -- this is a cheap and easy problem to solve: no plumber needed. Also the hilarious moment when I realise that yes, when you unscrew the shower tap, water shoots out of the screw holes until you turn it off at the mains.

3. Stewed apples with lots of spices and big fat raisins.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Spicy, absorbed and expedition.

1. The scent of spiced apple juice.

2. I am making a top secret card for someone. I sit down to tweak part of it and get up again two hours later.

3. Putting stickers on my map of Africa to show where we are going.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Soggy, veil and chemicals.

1. When mist lies low so that you can see the trees and hedges sticking out of it. It hides the mud and the dead things... 'and gremlins,' adds Ellen.

2. Pale sun peering through the fog.

3. Seeing a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher let off. Dry ice smoke whirled around our feet.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Stars, deep blue and toast.

1. Japanese maple leaves pressed into the pavement look like little Christmas decorations.

2. A garden path of swimming pool blue tiles.

3. A small boy eating toast and jam in the sandwich shop.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Old saw, blue light and funfair.

1. When the phrase 'fortune favours the brave' turns out to be true.

2. The lights on Regent Street in London are beautiful this year. They are sheets of tiny bright blue bulbs with large white stars on them, and you can look down the whole road and see sheet after sheet.

3. There is a fair on Leicester Square -- which sounds like a song. There is a huge roundabout with galloping horses and strange birds, and a little pipe organ, and some chairoplanes.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Roll on, look out and fry up.

1. Summer in the City by the Lovin' Spoonful playing in the car on a frosty drive to work.

2. Coming out of the woods on the road to work and seeing the view right across to Crowborough.

3. Cooking pancakes for everyone at work -- thanks Joe in Vegas -- Rita brought in a little stove, and Ellen brought a frying pan. They were eaten with maple syrup almost faster than I could cook them.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Home, root and lick.

1. Getting my very own domain -- the official address of this blog is now http://threebeautifulthings.co.uk so why not bookmark it?

2. Peeling fresh ginger root. I like the way the skin comes off easily under the knife, and the smell.

3. Sticking down the envelope of a chatty letter to a friend.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Sunday trading, that's mine and back to summer.

1. Christmas shopping is hard work, but all my favourite shops are open on Sunday.

2. In Waterstones there is one copy of the latest Series of Unfortunate Events books left. And it's half price.

3. It's dark and cold here, but I'm reading Ellis Peters' An Excellent Mystery which is set in a sultry 12th century August. The heat, the blue skies, the harvesting and the dust make me feel as if summer has not gone away forever.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Fast, salesman and jollity.

1. Breakfast when I'm starving hungry.

2. A small boy selling Santa's grotto to another small boy: 'Would you like to see Father Christmas?'

3. I have had my head down working all this week, so it was good to spend a merry evening watching television and drinking wine with Andy and Fenella.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Delivery, all lit up and choices.

1. Two parcels of books arrived -- mostly Christmas shopping, but there was one thing in there for me (The Found Book).

2. Leaving work in the dark because you can look across the valley at the lights in Crowborough.

3. Choosing supper from the deli in Carluccio's.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Black and white, box and catch-up.

1. Pied wagtails on the roof outside our office.

2. Receiving an enormous parcel at work. Everyone wanted to know what was in it -- maple syrup and pancake mix from Joe in Vegas. We are going to have a special pancake day on Monday.

3. Playing running-round table tennis until I was out of breath from laughing.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Warm up, herbs and apples.

1. Doing the washing up when my hands are cold.

2. Fresh herbs in cous cous.

3. The smell of apples.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Best bits, diagonal and new threads.

1. Madie has taken to coming out with me at lunchtime. I like showing her my favourite things about each walk.

2. Paths that go straight across the middle of a field.

3. Starting a new area of my embroidery.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Oils, visas and dumplings.

1. It's tangerine season again and in the afternoon when we are snacking on fruit a faint citrus smell wafts through the office.

2. The visas in my old passport. I like the textured paper and the different coloured stamps and the foreign lettering. At the time, it was cross-making to pay so much for them, but I still enjoy them years later.

3. Dumplings puffing up in a pot of stew.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Brew, complete and bundle.

1. The noises my coffee pot makes -- the lid rattles a little, and the top and bottom rasp as I screw them together. I like tiny hiss as the pressure builds up, and the quiet bubbling as the coffee comes up into the top half.

2. Putting aside the first half of a difficult task.

3. Bundling up with a hot water bottle and my quilt on the sofa before I go to bed.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Photographer, dryer and afternoon tea.

1. I have to get a passport picture, which I have been putting off and off. The picture has to last ten years, so I don't want one I hate. Also, there is added pressure because I am quite fond of the present picture: Ali grabbed my ankle as the shutter went and it caught me at the moment I was about to laugh. Picking a photoshop at random I went in and found Caroline, a friend of a friend, working there. So I got my picture taken by someone who cared a little about me having a photo I liked. It's not brilliant, but it's not a picture I'm going to resent until 2015.

2. I know tumble dryers aren't green, but on days like this when it's too cold and damp to get washing dry, they are wonderful.

3. Eating sticky ginger cake and drinking tea while catching up with Fenella and Andy.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Tables turned, something for nothing and romance.

1. Last winter in the old office, I spent the entire time shivering, partly because Ed would find it too hot and switch the heating off. This year, for some reason to do with weird heating physics, Ed is constantly cold (despite his seat next to the heater) and I am just right. Which is very satisfying.

2. Just before I was about to go home, a user rang in with a problem that I didn't understand. I told him I would look into it and call him back. In the morning I looked again at his question and realised there was no problem at all. So I got the benefit of pleasing a user without doing much work.

3. Watched a few episodes of Futurama. I like the episode where Fry -- in a few hours of uncharacteristic romantic eptness -- moves stars to write a love note across the sky.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Woolly, greeters and still.

1. The snuggly warmness of my bed in the morning, with a blanket wrapped around my feet and a shawl from Nepal around my shoulders.

2. Just as night fell, the wind got up, blustered around for quarter of an hour, and then all was still again.

3. The jewellers shops round here all employ large men to stand around outside in heavy coats. Today, two of them were gossipping as I walked past.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Hot air, discard and berries.

1. Standing by a row of houses on a cold morning and watching steam and smoke curling out of chimneys and vents.

2. Fallen hornbeam leaves the colour of polished copper.

3. The leaves are mostly fallen and now there seem to be shiney red berries everywhere for the birds to gobble up.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Patter, pool and news.


1. The larches have turned gold after the frost. I like the pattering of their needles falling.

2. I haven't been swimming for nearly two years. I had forgotten the how much I enjoy feeling of lightness, and the warmth that infuses my muscles after a couple of lengths.

3. Hearing the voice of a friend who hasn't been in touch for a while. She is full of baby news, and invites me round for Christmas drinks.

Picture by Michael Grant

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Fairytale, crunchy and flowers.

1. A white deer among the herd grazing in the field.

2. Walking on nearly-frozen mud so that it crunches.

3. Coming home and finding a few pink orchids have been left for me.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Green things, turkey cock and selfless.

1. The flower market in Columbia Road -- it's solid with people, and the stallholders shouting out 'Lovely sunflowers' and 'Five for a tenner' and 'Wholesale prices to the public' and 'I'm selling all these at a loss. Got to sell them today -- I'm going on my holidays tomorrow.'

2. The thought that the males of our species do not have wobbly wrinkled things on their heads like turkeys. However, turkeys do have strange square feathers that change colour in the sunlight. We saw the turkey cock at Hackney City Farm, which is free and well worth a visit. There were also enormous pigs hoping we would scratch their backs.

3. Postman's Park -- it's next to the old national Post Office, so it would once have been full of off-duty posties enjoying the greenery. It's also home to a set of ceramic plaques commemorating acts of selfless and hopeless bravery.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Supergeeks, bump and conversation stopper.

1. I like seeing the trainspotters at London Bridge -- look at the very ends of platforms one to six as you come in from the country; or you can see them photographing the engines on the concourse of the terminal platforms.

2. The way my friend Cat is glowing in the last third of her pregnancy.

3. After a day chewing over life and love with one friend, watching television with another.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Mod cons, woodsmoke and social divide.

1. I got a different lift today and, fond as I am of Oli and his car, I do like to see out of the whole windscreen and to have real heating.

2. The sleepy feeling you get from a real log fire in a pub.

3. We rent our office from a gentleman farmer type. We ran into his rather grand mother as we were tumbling back from the pub at 2.15pm. We all piled into each other to make shy, polite conversation. If we'd had caps, we'd have been twisting them in our hands, feeling as if we were speaking two different languages. It's all a bit like meeting the queen.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Icing, comrade and cutting.


1. The first frost on the edges of fallen leaves.

2. Walking up to the witch's tower with Madie. It's good to have some company on a walk sometimes.

3. The miracle of hairdressers. 'When did you last wash your hair?' 'Um... cough cough mumble ago.' I went in expecting to have my hair washed and then cut. But Filip wanted to cut it dry. How did he manage to make it look shiny newly washed with only a bottle of water and comb?
Picture by Michael Grant

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Stalks, goo and voices.

1. Walking on a stubbly field because of the way the stalks pop under your feet.

2. Coming to the end of a rather wambly cup of hot chocolate and finding most of the chocolate waiting for you there.

3. Hearing the voices of your friends as you walk into the pub.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Warm hands, herd and Mr Moon.

1. Having warm hands because they are protected by a pair of thick wool mittens -- thank you Christine!

2. Coming across ten deer grazing in a field.

3. An enormous full moon rolling up over the roof.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Green road, autumn sunset and stars.

1. One of those moments of complete silence on a green road between two fields.

2. An autumn sunset that had us all hanging out of the windows.

3. Two bright planets appearing as the sky turns dark.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Geisha, salmon and dog.

1. A tea set decorated with orange and gold knobbly dragons (very much for the European market according the antiques shop owner) made of the finest translucent porcelain. As you drain your cup a geisha appears in the bottom -- her image is created by different thicknesses of china.

2. 'I've never had this picture on the wall since I painted it,' says our grandmother. So we hang her leaping salmon at the bottom of the stairs where she can see it often.

3. Granny told us about her puppy, Jason. 'I used to cycle to work with him in a basket on my bike. But as he got bigger, first his front legs and then his back legs hung out. And then he got so heavy I couldn't steer. So I told him he had to run along behind.' Jason was an Alsation.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Seeking, quitter and extras.

1. When you go looking for something -- like mushrooms -- you get better at spotting them very quickly.

2. I have a friend who has given up smoking, and now when he laughs, he doesn't cough any more.

3. Adding extra toppings to a supermarket pizza.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Inside, trim and film.

1. I like scurrying into a pub on a hill top when cold rain is coming down.

2. Rosey's new haircut.

3. Going to see Nanny McPhee. I liked the bold Edwardian colours in the set and costumes; and Celia Imrie as the marriage-hungry super-vulgar Mrs Quickly was very funny indeed.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

On a string, slattern and snooze.

1. Strings of buttons for sale in a charity shop.

2. I like cooking, but sometimes it's nice to just shove a (healthy and good quality) ready meal in the oven.

3. Going to bed early.

Low sun, orange and coffee.

1. Low November sun slanting through a wood with pine needles, beech leaves and autumn bracken on the ground.

2. A sunset that turned the sky the colour of the heart of a log fire.

3. Caroline sharing the smell of a newly opened jar of coffee with me.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Frills, fungus and critters.

1. The crispy edges of a pancake.

2. Finding mushrooms in a field.

3. The Futurama episode where they visit the moon. It includes animatronic gophers made by genetic modification giant Monsanto.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Running water, catch of the day and family history.

1. Paddling across a stream and feeling the coolness through my boots.

2. Gutting a fish, because it's never as difficult or as yucky as I think it's going to be.

3. I like this story from my grandfather's memoirs:



...a worried group of men looking in the direction of my carrier where I could just see the figure of Bernard Todd, my driver. Sgt. Lawes told me that Todd had received a cable telling him that a missile, it would have been one of the massive V 2 rockets which were doing terrible destruction round London at that time, had destroyed his family home and killed his wife and other members of the family. He was understandably distraught and Sgt. Lawes feared he might do something stupid. He had a loaded rifle with him.

I walked over to talk with Bernard racking my brains for a way of helping him get on top of his grief. He said he didn't care if he lived or died, he wanted to kill Germans, he would transfer to a rifle company.

I replied that this could be arranged but that I would miss him if he went and that meanwhile he ought to think about his remaining family and he could apply for compassionate leave to go back home and see them.

He became a little more coherent and then I had my inspiration. "Get in the carrier" I said. "Let's go for a spin." Driving a carrier at any speed over 25 mph on a hard road required a lot of concentration and it has all the exhilaration of driving an open car at high speed. Too much adjustment of the steering applies the break to one track and in a split second you are spinning off the road. We moved slowly back on to the main road which was free of traffic. "Get a move on!" I said.

He did. We must have got up to 40 mph before he eased off and look up at me. I wouldn't say he was smiling but he seemed much calmer. We went back to the convoy and in a day or so he was back to the UK.

I probably would not have heard any more but just after Pat and I were married in 1948 we came face to face with him shopping in London. He had a girl with him whom he introduced as his new wife. He showed me the gold ring on her
finger. He announced proudly:

"I had that made from the gold sovereign you gave me for my 21st. birthday just before we got to Termoli."

Monday, November 07, 2005

Slice, smooth and teapot.

1. Hot water with a slice of lemon in one of my heavy highball glasses.

2. Finding my nail file - it was under some papers on my desk - so that I can do something more than just getting cross about my index fingernail, which has got so long I can hardly type.

3. My little white single cup teapot because it looks like I stole it from a cafe. Which I didn't. But if I was going to steal a teapot, this is the teapot I would steal to brew up my orange pekoe in the morning and my Whittard red fruit last thing at night.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Early, sparkly and ravenous.

1. Jon has an early meeting and Steve has work so I roll off the sofa and we walk down across the park in before-nine-o'clock-sunshine.

2. Watching an admin secretary's annual salary-worth of fireworks exploding over Crowborough. The best ones burst into dancing fireflies. And the two enormous golden weeping willows at the end.

3. Sitting down at a restaurant table when I am pathetic with hunger. It's particularly good if soon after an enormous plate of poppadums appears.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Gale, cupboard love and looker.

1. It's been stormy all week, so a sunny day is a relief. I like it when I can stand in the warm sun while I wait for Oli to come and pick me up for work.

2. A colleague has a coffee morning each year for a charity that raises money for babies who live with their mothers in prison. We've bought raffle tickets and jam and cyclamens and pansies and guessed the number of sweets in a jar and suffered the emotional rollercoaster of the tombola more because we hope she'll bring us leftover cake on Monday than because we want to help what we secretly call 'Babies behind bars' and 'Babies on death row'.

3. Jon's friend Steve for having really unusual shiney bluey-greyish-greeny eyes and uber-super-good cheekbones.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Blowing, gumboots and comfort.

1. I like seeing the wind whipping rain across the fields.

2. Ed's new pair of wellington boots. Boots are never quite the same after you've worn them once, so I think it's important to savour the bloom of newness while you can.

3. A bowl of hot chicken and sweetcorn soup when the weather is foul.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Glee, dream cake and life skill.

1. I like the cheery girl in my favourite coffee shop. She is Canadian and has a funny munchkin voice that makes me smile every time I hear it. She acts as if she is delighted to dish out coffee and cakes to everyone, no matter how early the hour or foul the weather.

2. The chocolate brownie that I didn't eat at lunchtime. It tastes so much better in my imagination than it would have if I bought and eaten it. No really.

3. At the back of my mind is always the fear that should I be called upon to do first aid, I don't actually know how to do CPR -- not any more though. I've been on a course. They've even given me a special sheet to keep in my handbag in case the patient is not very hygienic. And they told that the chorus of Nellie the Elephant keeps you in rhythm and gives you the 15 compressions before you need to do two rescue breaths. But they said not to do it out loud because it offends by-standers.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Spice, creepy camp and clay.

1. The smell of toasting buns.

2. Going for a walk with Madie -- who very gamely picked her way across some extreme mud -- to discover a sinister abandoned caravan. There were brambles growing through the windows, which were still hung with rotting curtains. Beside it was a mobile office with 'please pay he...' written above the door.

3. Went to see Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were Rabbit. There is this scene where Gromit takes to the air in a plane from a roundabout -- he removes the child-lock first, naturally -- with the villain's toothy bullterrier sidekick Philip in pursuit. During this... er dog fight... at roof level, Gromit's craft runs out of coins. They stop the fight, only for Wallace to discover that he doesn't have the right change. So Philip, looking exasperated, goes for his money, which is in a beaded evening bag.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

On the map, swoosh and over the wall.

1. I like knowing I'm on the right path because I can recognise the shape of the land from the contours on the map.

2. The swooshy noise that wet leaves make when you walk through them. And the glowy colours of very newly-fallen autumn leaves.

3. There is a deer fence across the path, and I'm not entirely sure if I can get past it. Then I spot a gate -- which turns out not to be padlocked. Hurrah.

Monday, October 31, 2005

PTerry, swing and Frodo lives.

1. Settling down with the new Terry Pratchett book.

2. Groombridge Place had a spooky night in the enchanted forest, so we went along. There were tableaus and models and lost souls rising out of the bushes; but the best fright was the creepy moving swings in the deserted children's playground.

3. One of the scenes was a man tangled in the middle of a spider web. 'It's going to eat him, and he's still alive,' explained the guide. A little boy wondered: 'Is it Frodo?'

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Eyebrow pencil, not alone and howay.

1. Drawing an evil pencil moustache and devil beard on PaulV -- he looked satanic.

2. Meeting another singleton who is really positive about the lifestyle.

3. Chatting to a couple of girls from South Shields with broad Sunderland accents. I felt nostalgic for Durham and my housemate Other Claire, who came from Sunderland; and for the boyfriend I had at uni, who used to laugh at my barths and glarsses and parths.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Long way round, voices and viewing.

1. I walk home the long way by making a loop round the Grove. It is full of golden leaves and it's fun to scrooch through them.

2. Really enjoying a play, Sound Barriers, on Radio 4. It was about noisy journalist single mother who suddenly befriends her lonely neighbours -- a deaf man and a widow. The story is told by the neighbours and by the journalist's social worker.

3. Moving my armchair into the kitchen to watch a DVD on my laptop.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Soft going, over the park and irresponsible.

1. The hunt has properly chewed up the footpath down into the woods. But it is good to walk on soft bare soil. I like the squelchy noise mud makes, and wearing wellies gives you a feeling of invulnerability. To dirty trouser cuffs, that is.

2. I like the view from the two towers near work. They are follies built on the Eridge Park estate to conceal from view two labourers cottages. They stand on a hill top and you can look across the valley -- it is all fields now, but you can see from the scattered trees and lack of hedges that it was once parkland.

3. The chance to help someone to be creative. I like that because I get to pop out ideas that I am not expected to do anything about myself.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

View halloo, tally-ho and look out.

1. Hearing hunting horns in the distance.

2. Watching the hunt go past -- there were lots of stout old ladies bouncing up and down on sturdy horses, and then the kids came past on their fat little ponies. Finally two pink-coated men appeared with the hounds. Ever since hearing a rousing tally-ho hunting song put to music by Handel I always think of hounds as merry-mouthed. View Ed's interpretation of the incident here.

3. Although we are in the middle of the middle of no-where, there actually seems to be more things to look at than when we were in town. Now, anything passing by -- a car, a hunt, some sheep, a cow, cyclists, dogs, a tractor, a load of hay -- is likely to put a face in every window in the building.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Clear up, gush and pink.

1. When the rainspewing sky clears just before lunchtime so I can go for a walk.

2. Last time I passed it, the stream at the bottom of the hill was a languid trickle that I paddled through. Two days of rain had turned it into a fat, muddy torrent that carried wads of leaves and sticks across the path.

3. Finding some pink wafers in the kitchen left over from Madie's Pink Day in aid of breast cancer research. Ed and I have been quietly eating them with our tea.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Twinkle, find it and in the round.

1. Oli's unashamed excitement at his fiancee's engagement ring. 'I can't stop looking at it.'

2. Websites with hidden content. I don't even want wallpaper and buddy icons, but by golly, I'll search until I find them. The Corpse Bride is a beautiful example, and so is A Series of Unfortunate Events.

3. We decided to hold a meeting in the boardroom. This new office is a converted oast, and the boardroom is in the top of the roundel. The room is round with a cone-shaped ceiling, which makes the acoustics do strange things. People's voices echo and roll about disconcertingly. And then a strange, deep squarking noise started up -- the cowl on the roof revolving in the howling gale outside. This, combined with the fact that we were in the board room instead of meeting at our desks as usual do, was too much, and we all got the giggles.

PS: If you don't know what an oast house is, you can find out here.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Your choice, gale and bird.

1. Waking up to the radio -- it was Farming Today talking about cows who are allowed to decide when they want to be milked. They queue up to use a robot milking machine and when they're empty, they wander off to graze or if they like they can stand in a barn, or go next to a fan that blows the flies off them.

2. Autumn leaves blowing past my window.

3. The sizzling sound of a roasting chicken. Oh, and discovering the bag of gibblets tucked inside the carcass before I started cooking.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Zoo, dahhhling and bring it home.

1. One of the things I really miss on TV is wildlife programmes so I bought The Private Life of Plants on DVD. It's presented by David Attenborough, so it's perfect viewing for hangover mornings.

2. Buying flowers for myself -- a bunch of mixed dahlias from the farmers' market. I'm not sure if I like the orange pom-pons best; or the floppy white stars; or the random pink streaky one that clashes slightly with all the others.

3. Ordering the week's groceries from Sainsbury's on-line. It's so worth a fiver not to have to trail round; queue up and then walk home with the bags.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Bold, hilarity and pink entertainments.

1. Sitting on the beam that crosses our office when no-one else dared to.

2. Ellen laughing so hard she cried because I had 'Clean tiara' written on my hand.

3. Sitting at my desk eating pink icecream and pink wafers while listening to Oli and Chris playing their guitars and singing.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Tower, song and melancholy.

1. I look up at a tower. The clouds are scudding, and the brickwork seems to move.

2. Introducing Fenella to Beautiful South's haunting cover of You're the One that I Want and discovering that she loves it too.

3. To settle a supper argument about the four humours I get out Brewers Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. I can never remember the official name of black bile -- it's melancholy, which is a lovely word for a really useful emotion. I might spend some time being melancholic later in the year. Being cheerful all the time just can't be good for one.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Meeting up, mmm and last pages.

1. I miss my train by moments and as a result I run into someone I know and we talk all the way home -- quietly, of course, because it's a commuter train -- taking in custard, modern manners and inadequate supermarkets.

2. Gü chocolate and amaretto truffles eaten with a silver teaspoon while curled up on the sofa. It is silky smooth and properly bitter sweet. Lucky they come in packs of two, really.

3. Turning over the last page of the book I am copy editing. A stack of marked-up pages with neat Post-it notes on each change is very satisfying indeed.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

My way, behind and sweet chestnuts.

1. I like walking by myself because I can set my pace. I lose my breath on hills if I go too fast, but if I go my own speed I usually judge it pretty well so I don't need to catch my breath at the top.

2. Seeing deer's bottoms in the woods. They are white with a dark ring, almost like a target. I was trying to think of all the reasons why deer seem so magical. I think it's the way they leap along like merry-go-round horses; or perhaps its just that they are so shy and so quick that if you see them at all it seems like a miracle. Or maybe it's their size and wildness. They must be nearly the largest wild animal we have left, and seeing them always makes me think of King Arthur stories.

3. Sweet chestnut husks. These were all empty, but the inside was still velvetty, and I still enjoyed remembering one of my classmates at primary school finding one and carrying it back wrapped in a handkerchief for the nature table. We all pretended it was a little green hedgehog.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Clearing up, spire and millrace.

1. I love days that start off so clammy and foggy you can hardly see your hand at the end of your arm that turn out clear and bright by noon.

2. When a green road running down between two fields suddenly opens out at a gate so you can see a church spire on a hilltop across the valley. I like especially opening my map and working out which village it's in.

3. Coming down a bridleway that got narrower and narrower I heard the sound of running water. At the bottom of the hill was a mill with the stream running under a road bridge into a round shady pond. I guess all those paths meeting and the water gave the place a bit of extra energy, because I felt very refreshed as I walked on down the lane.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Produce, on their way and paint in my head.

1. Wet walnuts and peaches and sharon fruit piled up at the French market.

2. Late at night I hear geese honking. They must have been flying over the High Street on their way to somewhere warmer. As the moon is nearly full now, this is an good time to salute the song These are a few of my favourite things, which helped inspire this blog. It lists 'wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings' as well as raindrops on kittens and warm woollen sleighbells.

2. Olivia Findlay shares a beautiful thing: 'Having my face painted with imaginary paint (a dry paint brush).'

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Brushing, laid out and village life.

1. From Olivia Findlay: 'Having my hair brushed until it's dry after a bath.'

2. It is a crisp, hazy autumn day and the trees and hedges looks like cutouts done on card in progressively paler blue-grey.

3. Seeing how my grandmother's village is supporting her and helping her to adjust to being a widow. Everyone we pass says hallo to her, and her calendar is full of events -- keep fit, coffee, lunches, meetings.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Jumping, spices and feeding time.

1. Guest contributer Olivia Findlay says: 'Popping bubble wrap by jumping on it with bare feet.'

2. Mixing hot oil and spices for a curry.

3. When dinner guests walk in and say: 'That smells good.' The other nice thing they can say is: 'We brought a bottle of plonk.'

Friday, October 14, 2005

Sand, devil and boots.

1. Guest contributor, Olivia Findlay aged five, says: 'Falling asleep on warm sand at the beach.' Items from her little list will be appearing over the next few days.

2. I know you're not supposed to eat blackberries after October 1 -- apparently the devil wees on them the night before -- but it had been raining since so I thought they would probably be all right, and they were so sweet and delicious. There was hardly a handful to pick anyway -- just enough for a fruit compote.

3. My past experience of the staff in Bay Trading: they don't much care to help you and then continue gossiping to each other while they serve you. But today a really friendly knowledgeable girl helped me choose a pair of boots. They were the first pair I tried, and when I wanted to leave them under the counter while I scouted out the rest of town, she agreed: 'Try Faith, too, and New Look have good shoes, and my mum says BHS has some good boots this year.' And when I came back an hour later, she greeted me cheerfully and chatted about boot buying and why these were the best in town while I paid. Not bad for late shopping night. Bet she goes far.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Resting, boink and micro pingpong.

1. Hearing a story about a five year old girl, who told her teacher that she didn't want to go back to work after breaktime. She was told that she really did have to go back in, to which she responded: 'When I am at home and I get tired of doing something, I have a sleep, and that is what I would like to do now.' Very sensible if you ask me.

2. Office games. We have discovered that if you throw a ball of paper at the ceiling fan, it bounces off in a random direction. Hours of fun.

3. As it was raining, we played table tennis at lunchtime instead of going out. It turned into micro pingpong -- the idea is to bounce the ball into Wolfy's snooker trophy put in the middle of the table. It's harder than you might think.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Open jar, berries and orangutans.

1. Opening my first jar of damson jam. I had it with malt loaf; and it was fine -- a bit stiff perhaps. Next time maybe I won't cook it so long.

2. Berries in the hedges. There's ropes and ropes of glowing scarlet bryony on twisted vines; clusters of red holly in its dark green leaves; rosehips, which stand out all the more because the leaves are going; blackberries (which don't last long with me around); and best of all, spindle berries. These are a bright silky pink colour and the burst open to reveal bright orange seeds. They look like little plastic toys that someone has thrown away.

3. Marion Hough came to talk to the writers about her life. The story I liked best was about the time she went on a PR jolly to meet some orangutans at London zoo. She was propositioned by the alpha male 'He winked at me!'; and chatted about babies with a nursing female. 'Their eyes are so full of understanding and gentleness,' she said.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Moos, new way and better eating.

1. A dun cow with an enormous white calf sitting in the sun.

2. Walking on a new path through the woods. I saw an enormous beech tree with streaks of golden leaves, and a red fairytale mushroom. And a deer leapt across the path in front of me.

3. Our local supermarket is closing down -- which could be bad because I will probably starve to death; but it also could be good because it might get bought by Waitrose, a classy establishment which would never, ever put mouldy veggies on a stand labelled 'Still fresh -- reduced for quick sale' and I don't suppose they would run out of milk on a Sunday, either. And I bet they sell fresh dates, and avocados that don't bounce.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Scots, stairs and luxury.

1. My Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra and Peter and the Wolf record has a very comforting narration by Sean Connery.

2. The way very little children think walking up and down steps is the most fun you can have ever.

3. The ultimate decadence -- sitting in bed with a DVD playing on your laptop and a mug of hot chocolate.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Long dresses, high steppers and vocalists.

1. We went for a day out on the coast and happened upon a likely-looking bridesmaid dress shop, so we went in and I tried some on. We found two we liked almost immediately. 'It's the little grin as she comes out of the changing room,' said the shop lady.

2. Two peacocks stepping across the road. Even though it's moulting time and they are looking a bit moth-eaten, the colour is still magical.

3. Andy and Jim's rendition of Suspicious Minds, which was nearly as good as Mr Paul Elvis Chan's Hound Dog down at Tunbridge Wells' very own themed Chinese restaurant, Gracelands Palace.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Woof, tally-ho and creamy.

1. The farm collie has discovered that Madie is a sucker for dogs and now rolls on its back for a tummy rub every time it sees her.

2. We are experimenting with new pubs for lunch -- today we tried The Huntsman at Eridge. The garden is a cascade of colourful bedding plants, and they serve a light-on-its-toes bitter called Badger.

3. I was taken out to dinner, which is a beautiful thing in itself, but pudding was extra special beautiful. I guessed at random and got chunks of ripe banana in a bowl of warm, sweet-salty coconut cream, and it was very delicious.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Driven, happy event and bats.

1. The surprisingly hygienic state of John P's car.

2. Discovering that the sheep being loaded into a truck under our office window were going away to be impregnated, not made into mutton pies.

3. Playing pingpong with Ellen at lunchtime.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Dusk, the end and floating.

1. Curtains on a day when the sun makes my eyes hurt.

2. Discovering that the last 20 pages of a worthy self-help book are bibliography and can safely be ignored.

3. The strange floaty feeling you get when you are about to fall asleep.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Eclipse, new office and rural.

1. My little brother rang me at the start of the morning -- 'There's an eclipse: it's really good.' So I raced outside with a CD (don't look through the hole, use the disc bit). Sure enough a big old bite was missing from the sun. The light outside was strange, very pale and wan, and the dogs on the farm were barking like anything. Later Robert said that the first he knew about it was that the shadows outside were all short as if it was noon. 'I rang you up in case I was the only one in the world who had noticed.'

2. A shiny new office to cover with pin holes and bluetack marks. There is also a massive, wall-sized window to look out of, with a view of a robin that lives on the shed roof opposite. Downstairs we have our own youth club area -- a pool table, ping-pong and table football.

3. Our new office is deep in the countryside, so I went for a walk in my lunch hour. I covered about 5km of bridleways and footpaths and country lanes. I saw two cars and saw no people, apart from a man up a ladder on a cottage.

Monday, October 03, 2005

From the sky, hot tea and full size.

1. Seeing St Paul's Cathedral and The Millennium Bridge and The Tate Modern from the plane.

2. Wrapping my hands around a mug of real English tea that had been made with a fresh teabag and boiling water.

3. Lying diagonally across my double bed after a week of skimpy single beds.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Outlook, pin drop and cheeky.

1. Stopping to look out at a 100 mile view from Hog's Back Ridge -- mountains covered with turning trees behind us and a misty valley before us.

2. We picked a lunchstop town more or less at random from the map. It turned out that New Haven was the home of Yale University with its ornate red buildings and very formally dressed students.

3. A very small girl making faces at me in the mirror of the airport lavatory.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Found them, room for pudding and log fire.


1. Seeing Autumn leaves when we thought we wouldn't see any at all.

2. Dinner with portions small enough to finish. Food in the States comes in such huge platefuls that you can't eat everything; so the West Dover Inn's delicate portions of truly delicious, beautifully presented and very imaginative food were very welcome.

3. Our room at the Deerfield Valley Inn had a log fire, so we sat in front of it knitting away, long into the night.


Picture by Katie Skinner

Friday, September 30, 2005

Rain coming, B&J and apple pie order.

1. 'It's get your women and children inside weather coming,' say Wes and Linda of the excellent Tuc Me Inn at Wolfeboro. Oh. We had planned to go for a long walk. Instead, we do two short walks and go into the village to watch the storm coming in across the lake. We see a little white dog running along a jetty snapping and barking at the waves as they slop over the side.

2. Sitting in Ben and Jerry's icecream parlour eating huge banana splits while the rain throws down outside. We felt very English.

3. The scene in When Harry Met Sally where she orders the apple pie. I like it because it is an intrinsically funny speech and it is a neat and simple way of telling you all about her.

PS: If you're ever in Wolfeboro, I can't say enough good things about Tuc Me Inn -- The innkeepers made us feel right at home and did wonderful things with maple syrup for breakfast.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Breakfast, froggies and knight of the road.

1. At breakfast in the hostel, we see a New Zealand backpacker travelling with his own personal jar of marmite. Later, we have second breakfast in in a non-chain coffee house with the demon drink in thick white china mugs and a slice of cake to share.

2. The bronze frogs on the Frog Pond.

3. Our tyre is more than a bit flat and with an unfamiliar car, Katie feels a bit helpless. But the mechanic in Wolfboro kindly puts more air into it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bags, wilderness and barman.

1. The shopping in Mystic is great. We stand with our noses against the window of a closed craft shop. The owner hurries up, clutching her coffee. 'Just a moment ladies, I'll open up for you.' She says: 'In the cafe they said: "You have customers waiting," but I had to get my coffee first.' Later we discover a needlepoint shop. We are bowled over by the range of handpainted canvases, and chat to the owner, who has found her passion in life and made a trade of it.

2. A public loo in Newport with a jungle painted on the walls.

3. The restaurant where we have lunch is short staffed, so a pretty barman with an astonishing gravelly voice serves us.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Parental units, free cup, our song, tasting, blowing in, discard, going alone and crickets.

Sometimes you just have to be a bit flexible with your numbering.

1. We met Rich's parents, Lucille and Fred, and you could see where he gets his kindness and generosity from. They welcomed us like long-lost friends, and I loved being 'The girls' right from the start. Later, we set out in Lucille's vast and beautiful 1980s Cadillac ('I'm the original little old lady who you want to buy a car from.' We went to the graveyard so we could salute Rich and give him some flowers. His stone is artful -- simple but full of meaning for anyone who knows how he gave Lucille gardenias, that he achieved Scouting honours and that he loved books.

1a. Driving towards the end of Long Island, we stopped at a Starbucks where the barista asked 'Are you on holiday?' I said: 'Yes.' Seems this was the right answer, because it got me a free coffee! 'He's probably used to dealing with some very rude and demanding people,' commented Bob.

2. 'Switch on your radio at 3.30,' said Bob. 'It's a good show.' And they played a special song for Clare and Katie driving through Long Island: Gilbert O'Sullivan's Clare. I never realised there was a song for my name -- and it's even spelt right.

2a. Visiting Pindar Vineyards Winery. When Rich visited us, he brought over some bottles of really quite nice wine and a big packet of bottle labels, which I used to decorate a little chest of drawers in my bathroom. We saw the original paintings used to make the labels, and tasted (and bought) some wine.

2b. Watching a storm blowing in towards Orient Point while we waited for the ferry. The wind whipped our hair and battered at our coats. After hot New York the sea air was a blast.

2c. Horseshoe crab shells. I've never seen these before except in pictures and I couldn't believe they were big enough to use as helmets.

3. On the other side of the ferry was our first solo US driving -- Katie's first solo US driving, I mean -- and we were both very scared. So arriving safely at the motel in Mystic was a great relief.

3a. I hadn't expected to hear so many whirring churring croaking things -- I like these noises because they make it feel as if you are properly on holiday.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Bronzes, look at the lights and what's left.



1. We didn't have long in Central Park, so we picked and choosed -- the statues of Alice in Wonderland and Hans Christian Andersen. Children were climbing all over Alice, and she seemed to have been designed with them in mind, because there were cunning footholds in the bronze. Hans Christian Andersen's ugly duckling was rubbed shiny.

2. We saw some Mennonite-type people preaching fire and brimstone in a park. The women all wore little muslim caps, and the men wore high trouser and braces. Later, I saw a little huddle of them standing in the middle of Times Square gawping at the lights.

3. During supper, I remembered that I hadn't seen any Andy Warhol sights. 'Oh we can go see where the Factory was,' said Bob. 'It's only a couple of blocks from here.' So we did. There's a Petco there now.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Pineapple, vine and running dogs.


1. They served pineapple for breakfast in the hotel, and it was like dream pineapple. Instead of veering between scalding acidity, fermented sloppiness and fiberous chewiness like certain English pineapples, it was sweet and tender and tasted of... pineapple.

2. An enormous wisteria growing over three fire escapes in Greenwich Village.

3. The parks all had dog enclosures. They seem to be pretty much the only place that dogs can run wild and free in New York. The owners sit around watching as the dogs frollick merrily -- while following to the letter the long list of rules -- and it looks like a good way to meet people.


Picture by Katie Skinner

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Cocoa, temperature and Rich's car.

1. Went to Chez Gerard for breakfast on our way to New York. I had toasted brioche with special chocolate spread. It seemed to be made with mostly cocoa and very little sugar.

2. I always think you know your holiday has begun when you climb off a plane and find the air is much hotter than at home.

3. Rich's friend Bob picked us up at the airport. We loaded into a pale gold Chevrolet. 'This is Rich's car. His parents gave it to me since I spent so much time in it.' Rich had often mentioned his car, and we knew he was tremendously proud of it, so it was a good link -- if he couldn't be here to meet us, at least his wheels were.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Suitcase, old boy network and patterns.

1. Bad news -- I broke my suitcase moments after leaving the flat. Good news -- finding a luggage shop minutes before it closed.

2. Seeing an old school friend again after about six years. His choirboy voice has roughened and deepened and he has picked up a really cute posh end of London accent from somewhere.

3. Beautiful chunky sweater men running along beaches in Katie's knitting pattern books.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Gossomer, access and bag.

1. Oli contributes 18 spider webs in a row on the station railings, all covered in dew from the mist.

2. Bean -- our favourite chocolate shop -- where you can slurp on milkshakes and frozen yoghurt. But it's upstairs, so people who don't climb can't get to it. When I went in for my chocolates, a man in a wheelchair was sitting in the shop downstairs enjoying a little cup of icecream and making faces at a baby parked next to him in a buggy.

3. The packed and luggage-labelled bag at the end of my bed.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Psychic, crossing paths and Alison Lapper and a guest.

1. When you are talking about someone and they phone.

2. Our designer works from Capetown, so I haven't met her yet. She has come to England for a holiday, so we took her out to dinner in London. It's good to finally put a face to the e-mails.

3. We went out to Trafalgar Square to see the sculpture on the Fourth Plinth. It's made of white stone and it's called Alison Lapper Pregnant. Alison Lapper is an artist who was born with no arms and very small legs. The statue really does challenge ideas of what ought to be put on plinths in the middle of Trafalgar Square. Heavily pregnant disabled women aren't your usual subject, so this statue has really thumbed its nose at the parade of dead war heroes on horses.

And a guest contributor Douglas Findlay adds his own Beautiful Thing: 'When you're in the bath and you put your head underwater and move it from side to side so water goes in your ears.'

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Cake, geek and cypher.

1. Cakes with walnuts in them. And the naughtiness of eating cake for breakfast.

2. Memory sticks. Pop them in the USB port, move the files over, and you are ready to go. Wow. How do they get so much on to that little chip?

3. I love reading back my shorthand. I spent nearly a year learning it back in the late 1990s, and though I rarely get to exercise it, it is so useful when I need it. Sometimes a word can puzzle me, but I usually get there in the end. You have to note down the letters you have, and look at the context, and after a bit the answer leaps out.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Those Magnificent Men, meat and green bobbles.

1. Waking up to the Sally Army band, sunlight glinting off the silver, marching down the High Street to the happy-clappy church. It was the anniversary of the Battle of Britain this week, so they stopped outside the church and played Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines. I saw Fenella and Andy peeping out of their window, too, and we waved at each other.

2. I love the fat off a piece of cold roast lamb. After two days in the fridge, it has absorbed the flavours of garlic and rosemary.

3. Seeing conker shells on the trees. They are just about ready to burst -- any day now, I reckon. It's sad, too, because it means Autumn is on the way.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Blue sky, love affair and ting.

1. Waking up to blue sky and sunshine was very invigorating after several chilly, grey days.

2. Discovering a little romance is budding among my friends.

3. A garden full of candles and mirrors and chiming things.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Up and down, stroll and egg whites.

1. When the temperature changes from place to place. In the sun, it is positively balmy, but in air in the woods has definite damp edge to it.

2. An elderly couple -- he pushing she in a wheelchair -- walking down the Common with their huge and fluffy dog.

3. Cooking for people who encourage you to make experimental puddings. Fenella and I -- supervised by Andy -- made rhubarb topped with a fluffy cloud of meringue.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Jam, taut and progress.

1. Frankly, the contents of the pan looks like pebbles in sand. Not promising. But suddenly, the juice comes out of the damsons, turning it pink and syrupy. Then the sugar melts, and it all begins to look like jam.

2. When you cover jam pots with a circle of cellophane and an elastic band, it's impossible to get them smooth. But if you wet the cellophane, it miraculously tightens up to a drum-like tautness. How does it work? Anyone know?

3. When checking corrections on a manuscript, I like it when there is a big wodge of pages with no marks. It's very satisfying to see the 'done' pile growing quickly.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Seeds, mash and remember.

1. Little lawns covered in dandylion clocks.

2. I made mashed potato. But not any old mashed potato. Because I'm cooking for one, all sorts of things go in the pot to save washing-up. Last night, it was: one potato, a chunk of swede and a clove of garlic, with a leeks and some little pieces of chilli in a steamer above. When they were boiled I added milk, butter, pepper and salt and mashed it all up. Then the leeks and chilli went in, with a bit of parsley.

3. In this Year to Success programme, they tell you the secret of memorising numbers. See, you associate each digit with consonant sound and then you can make words -- or strings of words out of a long number -- which are easy to remember.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Warm, plums and pink tea.

1. A cool morning makes the warmth of my bed seem so enticing.

2. Plums for lunch. They are the green sort, and they are sweet and squishy.

3. Discovering that Whittard's red fruit tea is refreshing, pink and doesn't make my mouth hurt.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Tee hee, sitters and boing.

1. I enjoyed this post from The Old Professor about his giggling three-year-old son.

2. Every bench up on the Common near Wellington Rocks had someone sitting on it, waiting, or watching the world go by.

3. As I come off the Common, I see a man on the traffic island with tennis balls falling out of his bag. About dozen go rolling and bouncing across the road and the traffic stops while he gathers them up again.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Public, images and cut.

1. Eating chocolates in the street.

2. The magic of my scanner. You can put three photos on the plate, and understanding this without being told, it scans three separate files. And it squares them off, too.

3. Cropping photos, either with a scalpel or in Photoshop. I love the way it improves the picture; and it makes you notice what's in the photograph - a wheelie bin, some pillars, a distracting headless passer-by in the background, a blurred bottle in the foreground. Next time I have my camera out, I will frame my shots better.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Free cake, head and warm hands.

1. The banana bread lady gave me a free loaf for being a regular -- it's her last market because she's starting an art course.

2. The moment when a headline falls into place. The process goes like this: Heading heading heading head... First meeting with smiles... Smiles at start of... Laughs for all at first... First meeting to make you... Season starts with a smile.

3. My new American mittens - thank you Christine! They are knitted in thick turquoise wool, with pink and orange and green and purple diamonds on the back.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Out back, visitors and happy days.

1. Got so into a short story -- Rear Window by Cornell Woodrich -- that I was late for work. Hitchcock made it into a film.

2. Our office is right next to the kitchen, so everyone always drops in for a chat. If we are too busy, we just ignore them until they get bored and give up.

Sailing boats at anchor in the harbour at Bosham on a calm summer's evening.


3. Getting a pack of photos back. This film covers The Isle of Wight Festival, a day sailing and the office go-karting evening.

PS: Ed says I spelt his name wrong on Thursday, but I'm not to change it because he doesn't want people knowing he writes on this blog.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Cherry, almonds and discovery.

1. Cherry scones for breakfast.

2. Amaretto coffee.

3. Finding my passport, which I thought I'd lost, on the scanner. Can't even imagine how long it's been there.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The de Grey Birch method

These beautiful things are written by guest contributor Ed.

1. Slapping routine on the bottom by getting dressed for work on the stairs.

2. The taste of Bush -- Belgium's strongest beer (12%).

3. Clare Grant's nose.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Burnt sugar, pink wine and familiarity.

1. Oli's Toffee Aero. I didn't actually have any because I am too stuck-up to eat chocolate containing less than 40 per cent cocoabutter; but the caramel smell was divine. It filled the office for an entire afternoon.

2. Fenella coming through the door with a bottle of pink wine and a whole pile of news.

3. Wandering into a pub where people know your name.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Take a bow, naked ladies and sherry.

1. Doing it for the fat lady. In JD Salinger's Franny and Zooey, a child having a tantrum because he doesn't want to polish his shoes before going on a radio show is told to 'do it for the fat lady.' He imagines this anonymous listener, sitting in a wicker chair swatting flies with her radio going full blast all day, as she waits for the show to come on.

2. Autumn crocuses. Yesterday I wrote autumn crocuses on my pad, possibly as a reminder to write about them. Or perhaps not. Anyway, there is a circle of them in my parents' garden. They appear among the dry grass as if from no-where, just the flowers in little groups of four or five, with cold white stems and pale mauve petals.

3. The soup I plan to make tomorrow needs to simmer for an hour. In her recipe, Delia Smith suggests spending this time in a hot bath with glass of sherry.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Daily walk, undertaker and warm weather.

1. I like the Three Chimneys pub between Biddenden and Sissinghurst. It doesn't have three chimneys, though, and the sign shows a man in blue looking at a crossroads. The name comes from the days when there were French prisoners of the Napoleonic war in Sissinghurst Castle. They were allowed to walk as far as the crossroads, which they called 'Trois chemains'.

2. After lunch, Rosey and I fall asleep on the lawn. When I wake up, the pattern of the grass is pressed into my arms.

3. While we were visting Grandpa's grave, the undertaker and his wife, who were walking their dogs along the footpath, came over to say hallo and help admire the new headstone. This undertaker has done lots of our family's funerals - the year before I was born, he helped bring my other grandfather home from Sicily after he died on holiday. At my great aunt's funeral he told me that doing the reading was a very brave and honourable thing. And at my other grandmother's funeral, he said he would miss her: 'We had an understanding, your grandmother and I'.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Lost to view, newtling and pink.

1. Back in 1987, great swathes of English woodland were flattened by a freak storm. We used to climb to the top of Starvegoose bank in Bedgebury Forest to look out at the view. You could see out across the valley to Goudhurst. Yesterday, we climbed up and the trees have grown so much that you can't see anything. I don't suppose there'll be another storm in my lifetime, so I shall be able to boast to my children about seeing the view.

2. Spotted an eft in a tiny pond. An eft is a baby newt. They look like the little dagger marks used to indicate footnotes; or one of Tove Jansson's hattifatteners.

3. Sunset changed the light in the valley so that the pink geraniums by the front door seemed to glow.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Spinny chair, tales of Peru and Holly

1. Robert inherited a bright orange leather armchair that revolves. When it was in Granny Nichola's house we liked to sit in it and spin until we were dizzy. Apart from the fact that it spins, I think we loved the colour - we were used to upholstery in cream or brown or faded colours. He has it in his room, which has a clear-night-sky coloured carpet. Orange and blue is one of my favourite colour combinations. Not particularly to wear or in my flat, I mean - I just like to see it around.

2. Last thing at night, I sit (in the orange chair) with my knitting and quiz Robert about Peru. I learn that in the market you see sacks of guinea pigs for sale; and that you can get a bed for the night for £3 and chicken and chips and salad for 80p. And that Peruvian pop music is not much to listen to, but that people do salsa dancing in the nightclubs.

3. Breakfast at Tiffany's - my new favourite novella. Holly is full of contradictions - inconstant yet faithful, savvy yet naive, slovenly yet impeccably elegant. I love her for kicking out the cat and then running after him; and for keeping secrets and sharing intimacies. I love the way the story ends - how did she get to Africa? Where did she finish up? I guess we'll never know for sure.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Little birdies, two wheels and gumshoe.

1. There is something in the fir tree outside our office window that is irresistable. A scruffy blue tit - or possibly a coal tit - and a great tit have been jiggling in the branches, gobbling up whatever it is. It might be an insect; or it might be an oil - when my parents' house was new, we used to get woken up in the morning by blue tits pecking at the putty round the windows.

2. Skirting the games field on the Common, I hear shouts of 'Come on, come on, you're doing it, you're doing it! Keep pedaling.' A man is teaching a little boy to ride a bicycle. The boy waggles the handlebars as he goes, trying to keep his balance.

3. Genre fiction. I am reading a big fat red book of American mystery stories. There are private eyes; puzzles; capers and tales of love and horror.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Flutter, cruet and silver balls.

1. Hearing about Cat's baby-to-be. 'It's not strong enough to kick, but sometimes I feel something moving inside me.'

2. The way PaulV's face lights up at the sight of burger relishes.

3. As we walked down the Pantiles towards closing time, we saw about 20 people gathered under a floodlight on the far side of the bandstand. 'What are they up to?' Brawling? Play rehearsal? Looking for a lost diamond? They were playing petanque, which seemed a very civilised thing to do on a hot summers' night.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Catch up, take that and it really works.

1. Some mornings I see Johnny P rolling up the hill in front of me. He's a slow walker, so I can usually catch him up by trotting quickly until I'm within calling distance.

2. The 'poo slinging' going on at Tale of Two Sisters, a take-off of another site. The writer of the other site has threatened to sue The Fabulous Goldsteins for stealing her words and changing them. The Goldstein's friends and the other site's toadies clash in the comments section, with ill-informed legal threats and literary insults. You can read the whole sorry history here.

NB I am siding with TOTS because I really do think the other site is a stuck-up second-rate Sex in the City pastiche, not because I'm jealous of her book deal or anything. I'm sure she worked very hard for it.

3. A cunning pudding device. Morrison's own caramel custards come in little yoghurt pots with scalloped insides. 'Hmm, that's going to be annoying to eat - shame you can't turn them out,' I thought. But what's this tab on the bottom of the pot? It conceals a little hole that by some miracle of vacuums allows the pudding to slide out neatly on to a plate.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

No work, summer fruit and book buying.

1. Waking up on a Monday morning two and a half hours after I would have been at work had it not been August Bank Holiday.

2. Ice cream with whole blackcurrants in it.

3. Finding nearly-new copies of three children's fantasies that I have been wanting to read for ages - The Neverending Story, Shadowmancer and Mortal Engines.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Thistledown, leap and accompaniment.

1. Fluffy seeds catching the light as they float off into the blue sky.

2. There is a cat lounging on the lawn, half asleep. A dragonfly goes by and suddenly, the cat is in the air, paws outstretched.

3. Being walked home.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Regular, cobs and warmth.

1. A number of beautiful things happened while I was marketing today: 'You're running a bit late this morning.' 'And I'm going to throw in a free foccacia.' 'Oh don't worry if you haven't got that pound - give it to me next time. You're a regular.'

2. Kentish cob nuts. The shells in their ribbed hoods are still greenish, downy and soft enough to crack with my back teeth. The nut inside is ripe, sweet, juicy and crunchy. I used to love picking them from the overgrown hedge in my parents' garden.

3. A comforting hot water bottle for an aching midriff. I also love the warm patch left behind when you move it round to some other complaining muscle.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Recovery, he slays himself and bitter sweet.

1. I wake up cross and scratchy after a 20-minute nap: Don't want to get up; don't want to get dressed; don't want to go out to dinner. But I do all these things, and by the time I've put on my make-up and filled my bag with the pudding I promised I'd take, I feel ready to glitter.

2. The way Rob tells jokes. Before he's even halfway through, he's having wheezy hysterics at the thought of the punchline.

3. I like rich chocolate things with acid fruit - say, warm chocolate brownie with fresh strawberries.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Green, Nurse Matilda and Charlie.


1. Having fresh herbs to snip over supper, and a homegrown cucumber.

2. When I was very small, we had a series of books about Nurse Matilda. Mrs Covelli read us the first one at school, and I came home demanding the rest. They went down a storm with the whole family - helped along because Edward Ardizzone drew the pictures, and he is The Mother's favouritest illustrator in the whole entire world. Christianna Brand tells about the Brown children, who do things like fill the family's boots with syrup, feed paper to the poodle to try and make him stammer and steal grapes from hospital patients and tread them into wine in a hip bath. There is also a baby with starfish hands and falling-down nappies. One day, a mysterious nanny arrives to look after them. Nurse Matilda is ferociously ugly, with a tooth like a tombstone. When she bangs her big black stick, the children are forced to continue with whatever mischief they are making. Yesterday, I saw a poster for a film called Nanny McPhee, which is based on those books.

3. Rosey, The Mother and I watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was quite, quite magical. I was glad it kept so close to Roald Dahl's text, too. I loved the way it played Willy Wonka as a Peter Pan character - childlike in nice ways, as well as in slighty sinister ways.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Words, shivers and fungus.

1. Oli has written a poem describing how Tunbridge Wells makes him veer between wanting to fall in love and wanting to shoot people. Which is nice. What I like is the number of details he picks out that made me go 'Oh yeah! I noticed that too!', such as the apparent coldness of the army surplus shop. I have put the poem (I would have used the word 'verse' here so as not to repeat 'poem' but Oli got cross yesterday when I called it 'verse'. Given the theme, I'm trying to stay on his good side) up on Tunbridge Wells Tells, my celebration of 400 years of the town.

2. I got caught in the rain again, but I enjoyed warming up under a hot shower.

3. Dried mushrooms because they magically expand when cooked.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Validation, from sun to shade and harvest.

1. I am on a bench in the sunshine, knitting in hand. A couple walks past, and the lady says, with a strong German accent: 'You've picked a lovely spot.'

2. Stepping from a warm patch of sunlight to a cool patch of shade.

3. Picking blackberries in the sunshine.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Falling, hot drink and clean linen.

1. I like the way the world changes in the rain. I like seeing water racing down hills and hearing it gurgling in gutters. I like the horizon drawing near, and the hills hiding in the mist. I like the wet road shining, and I like the way the woods smell of earth and mushrooms.

2. I am more than a little damp around the edges from walking home in the rain, so I put on dry clothes and make myself a hot chocolate.

3. Throwing a clean duvet over my bed.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Watering, strange smells and the names of colours.

1. My watering can seems un-necessarily complicated - the water must go into the handle, towards the back of the can, down across the bottom of the can and then out of the spout. I don't fully understand why it needs to do this, but I do like the gurgling noise it makes as you pour.

2. Cooked celeriac smells like the smoke from fireworks.

3. I got ten tubes of acryllic paint. I like the names of colours - cadmium yellow, raw umber, lemon yellow, pure rose, crimson, phthalo green, ochre, cerulean blue.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Jackets off, Mediterranean and way out west.

1. The way a cooked beetroot's skin just slips off.

2. Bread and olive oil.

3. At 7.30pm PaulV turns up wondering if I will accompany him on a job, leaving in five minutes. Since it's at an outdoor concert, and we'll be travelling west on a warm evening with a thrilling sunset, I say yes.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Tipping down, little people and thinking of Anna.

1. It rained and rained and rained. I always wonder at how much water can be held in air; and how it all suddenly falls out when the temperature drops.

2. Learning a little about illustrator Rosie Cecil O'Neil, who created the Kewpies, at Toonpedia. In the divorce proceedings with her second husband, he cited her incessant baby-talk and she cited his taciturn moodiness. And the idea of Kewpies came to her in a dream.

3. Last night, I dreamed about Anna, an old university friend who I haven't seen since graduating. Her photo fell down the other day, so I'm racking my brains to think why I should be remembering her. The photo isn't a particularly flattering one - she's at her desk and in her dressing gown. I love it because despite having her studies interrupted by a camera flash, she has an enormous Anna grin on her face. I can almost hear her sensible, comforting advice, freely doled out in a Wigan accent: 'It'll be better in the morning.' 'Well I've got some paracetamol if you want it.' And her AWFUL jokes... 'You all right, chuck?' 'Yes.' 'No yer not, yer half left!' Got me every time.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Being fed, girls and slightly concerning.

1. Not only did Fenella cook supper for me, she also plied me with caramel shortbread made by Andy's parents. Mmmmm sticky.

2. I like knitting while chatting about comfortable, girly things.

3. As I left, Andy announced that he had finished his computer game, Doom. 'Well done. So everyone's dead now?' 'Only the bad people. I'm like Father Christmas.' Hmmm.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

All change, princesses and warmth.

1. When the key changes in a song.

2. Pictures of princesses by Edmund DuLac in Stories from the Arabian Nights

3. Just before I fall asleep on a hot night I throw my covers off. I wake up chilly a few hours later and pull the cooled covers round myself.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Race that knows Joseph, secret garden and rolling rock.

1. In L. M. Montgomery's Anne books, a character called Miss Cornelia Bryant describes people she likes and who understand her as 'The race that knows Joseph'. I don't know where the phrase comes from - I always imagined it must be from the Bible. A Google search turns up nothing but Anne references.

2. Sitting in a little garden behind high privet hedges talking and drinking wine as the sun goes down.

3. Watching a fat, egg-shaped moon roll over the rooftops.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Foamy, ginger and manners.

1. A new bar of soap.

2. The syrup in a jar of stem ginger. In fact, stem ginger in general. There are not many things I like more than three pieces of stem ginger in a small dish with a little cream. It's very nice straight out of the jar, too.

3. Four skateboarders were practising something complicated on the kerb underneath my window at about 11.30pm. Rrrrr-ollll clatter clatter crash. Rrrrr-ollll clatter clatter crash. 'Would you chaps mind awfully doing that somewhere else? I want to go to sleep now.' 'Of course, no problem.' 'Thank you!' And they were gone before I'd got back up the stairs to my flat.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Hot chocolate, all aboard and gardens.

1. I like making hot chocolate that you have to stir and stir. One moment it is the consistency of milk, the next it is thick and nourishing and must be served that second.

2. The sound of a steam train's whistle.

3. Large gardens with secret woodlandy bits and concealed statues and hidden ponds.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Yellow, little doggies and what can that terrible crunching and clatter be?

1. Picking sunflowers from a field and carrying them back to the house over my shoulders.

2. Puppies. They widdle on your skirt, nip your fingers with little pin teeth, fall asleep in your lap and snarl at each other in silly high-pitched voices. You feel a tugging behind you and realise that three of them are fighting over your shirt tail, while another is chewing on your sandle strap. When you try to leave, they all stop what they are doing and look up at you with little button eyes.

3. Last night while I nodded nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, as of someone gently... no, it was more of a snorting and a huffing and a clattering. A steam roller - a really-o truly-o road roller powered by a coal-smelling, red glowing steam engine - was being escorted up the High Street by a police car.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Tummy fat, apples and thinking of Rich.

1. Men with large tummies playing cricket - or more precisely, looking for their ball in a nettle patch. There was a barbecue back at the pavillion.

2. I like small apples because they disappear in a few crunches.

3. Back in February, my friend Rich died very suddenly and long before his time. I wrote an entry about him. I love the way his friends keep commenting and e-mailing me about him. Each account adds a bit more to the picture.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Meat, apples and gourd.

1. Buying meat from a real butcher because you can ask for 'enough for two' or say that you want the other piece with a bit less fat. And because it doesn't come in those polystyrene and clingfilm coffins that supermarkets use.

2. English apples have appeared in the greengrocers.

3. I like splitting open a marrow because of the cracking noise the rind makes.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Singed bread, hey Mr Postman and needles.

1. The smell of toast.

2. Scrawling 'No longer at this address - return to sender' on some letters addressed to a troublesome neighbour who has moved away.

3. When 'just one more row' of knitting turns into an entire sock heel.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Webs, beans and crimp.

1. The cobwebs all over the lawn between Inner and Outer London Road. They are very thick and about the size of the circle made by a thumb and forefinger. First thing, they are covered in dew and catch the light with tiny rainbow sparkles.

2. Runner beans are my favourite vegetable in the entire world, for their taste and their rough texture. I like them lightly boiled with a little salt and butter. I like eating one or two raw as I prepare them.

3. The curliness of wool when you unravel knitting.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Orange, pudding and wild food.

1. Walking through a dewy garden to pick a bunch of marigolds for my desk at work.

2. When people come round for dinner and bring a tub of icecream.

3. Early blackberries, particularly the one off the end of the bramble. I think they are all the more delicious because you haven't tasted blackberries since last year.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Little zoo, cake and tee hee.

1. We found a cow parsley plant with at least seven different kinds of fly on it. Some of them were yellow and black to imitate bees and wasps, while others were metalic blue and green. There were armies of soldier beetles, too, and black and white chequered ladybirds.

2. Homemade chocolate cake with red jam inside. And meringues that are squishy from being stored in a tin with a cake.

3. Making Rose giggle so much that the mother told us off for making the bed shake.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Toms, sneaking in and flicker.

1. The bag of tomatoes in my veggie box actually smells of tomatoes.

2. Walking through the Bateman's herb garden at 8pm. Herb gardens are particularly scentsome in the twilight and the naughtiness of being in a National Trust property after hours made it all the more exciting.

3. The noise a cinema projector makes. We were watching Vanity Fair in an outdoor cinema.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

All in, blueberries and washed.

1. Katie has made me a new tote bag - it is in a pretty shade of smokey blue trimmed with a wide strip of blue flowery and green ferny curtain material. It is so capacious and strong that it will take two bottles of wine, a change of clothes, a book and my knitting.

2. Oli brought a box of M&S blueberries back from lunch. They were from Norfolk, and labelled with the name of the farm that grew that. Pat on the back for Mr Marks and Mr Spencer for reminding us of where food comes from. Plus they were absolutely delicious - not those bitter little bags of pips that blueberries can be at their worst. These were sweet and plump, begging to be eaten.

3. The smell of clean sheets.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Little blue, crossing and olives.

1. In a desert of sand-coloured August grass a cluster of bright blue harebells smiles at the sky. They are that sort of blue that makes you want to crinkle up your eyes and look away.

2. The path that cuts straight through the Common. When I am halfway down, I like looking back up towards Mount Ephraim Road.

3. A little dish of small black olives.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Mmm tasty, watching me watching you and fungus.

1. Three of us had ordered prawn ciabattas for lunch. The barman bought them up from the kitchen and shouted what sounded like 'Three salmonella sandwiches and a brie salad'. We collapsed in giggles.

2. Spotted a goldfinch eating thistle seeds along Mount Ephraim. I stopped, and he stopped and we *watched* one another for a while, until I realised that people passing were watching me. (Photo by Michael Grant)

3. Also on the way home, I ran into Ed. He spotted some white lumpy things under a tree to one side of the path. 'What are those?' I couldn't tell from where we were standing so we yomped into the long grass for a proper look. Their leggy proportions and light shagginess made me think they were parasol mushrooms, but I wasn't sure enough to pick them for supper.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Chocolate, vapours and banged grains.

1. Buying three expensive chocolates from Bean and eating them. One was a syrupy cherry and marzipan in dark chocolate; one was white chocolate with dark chocolate ganache flavoured with cinnamon inside; and the third was a tirmisu truffle - shaggy on the outside with smooth toffee-coloured cream inside.

2. The sun has come out again and the woods smell good after the rain.

3. Making popcorn - I've done it loads of times, but I still can't quite believe, when I tip the hard grains into a hot pan, that they will pop. I love the way the pops speed up and then slow down again, and I love the way one last bang surprises you when you take the lid off the pan.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Tears, fly and right all along.

1. A lady on a mobility scooter having her tears mopped up by a stout Chinese man. Not sure if she was laughing, or just having a sad moment.

2. Small child making wild cries as he chases pigeons in the precinct.

3. I'm finally reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Apart from enjoying the ratchetting tension and the new cheeky sixth year Harry, I was right about Harry's love interest from the moment she joined the series.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Games, words and chips.

1. There were unsupervised children everywhere - I saw two little girls walking back from the supermarket, each with a plastic bag full of sweets and comics; and three small boys were charging round the Grove carrying a length of metal pipe between them; and three kids in Calverley Rec had set up a game involving little plastic tiles on one of the paths.

2. Jon's latest comforting saying: 'It's better to be a star on a cloudy night than a teardrop in the rain.'

3. Other people's chips.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Blue-grey, luxury and after hours.

1. My new fleece, which is the colour of a very clear sea reflecting thunder clouds.

2. Having lobster and steak cooked for us - thank you Andy. We didn't have anything to crack the lobster with, so it was all a bit savage with people passing round greasy bits of meat, saying 'have a bite of this.'

3. Lock-ins at the pub.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Here's how, ash and space.

1. Writing instructions. I'm writing a help file for work and the words go down very easily. I think it must appeal to my bossiness. Or possibly I get it from my grandmother - her seaside house was full of instructions: 'Window keys on piano'. 'Close lid on loo before opening cupboard or contents may fall in.' 'Kettle may be hot.'

2. Vacuuming up the little piles of ash and matches left after burning incense.

3. The way a good tidy-up makes the flat look about four times bigger.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Caffeine, DD and editing.

1. Coffee with cinnamon.

2. Utilities by direct debit, because by the time you get your bills they have already been paid.

3. Finding a writing competition with subject matter that really inspired me: The Editor From Hell. You have to write 600 words, and it gets printed on a T-shirt.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Low cloud, less travel and social conscience.

1. A damp mist has fallen over town, which is not usual in summer. It is curious to see trees in full leaf but veiled and indistinct with their tops disappearing into the whiteness.

2. Tesco for labelling their frozen peas as British. Well done for helping us keep an eye on our food miles. Hope you'll think about adding a county soon - or better still, the name of the farm.

3. Fenella and Andy for standing up to a man-pig caught trying to turn our block of flats into a pissoir.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Willows, piebald and indulgent.

1. Walking into a charity shop and seeing a beautiful 1950s Wind in the Willows illustrated by E.H. Shepard. Wind in the Willows is one of those books I like to read and re-read. I have had an edition illustrated by Michael Hague since I was seven, and flipping through this new copy I've already spotted some familiar compositions.

2. I saw five magpies, and it reminded me of the counting rhyme One for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy. Five for silver, six for gold and seven's a secret that's never been told. I like counting rhymes because they have a good walking rhythm. And the ones to help you remember the alphabet, too.

3. Walking home across The Common and seeing other people out enjoying the rain, too, including a lady walking a big white poodle, and someone far off with a bright crimson umberella.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Wet, stars and Lark Rise.

1. The smell of woods after it's been raining.

2. Spotting six-pointed stars moulded on the drainpipes at the Church of King Charles the Martyr.

3. Lark Rise to Candleford. Flora Thompson's autobiography is a very readable account of farm labourer's life at the end of the 19th century. My father introduced me to it when I was about seven or eight and it was probably one of the first 'proper' books I ever read. I'm not sure why he lent it to me - possibly because I'd been reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books - but I was very impressed by its thickness, and I remember being puzzled by a paragraph about a bull 'justifying his existence'. I loved the accounts of children's games, too.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Moving up, lair and monks.

1. I am trying to do 100 pages for Project Gutenberg's Distributed Proofreaders in July. I like seeing my name creep up the league table for number of pages completed.

2. Saw Fantastic Four - their lair is in the Baxter Building, which has these beautiful inlaid wood-pannelled lifts and a dramatic domed top that sparks satisfyingly whenever Reed carries out experiments.

3. Sitting in bed with a Cadfael novel. Brother Cadfael is Ellis Peters' Medieval monk detective. The history is so well explained and the setting so carefully researched that the books really do come to life. I also like the skilfully dropped hints and neatly laid red-herrings. As with any good detective novel, once you've read a few and got a feel for the author's style, you can often solve the mystery.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Bread not bombs, books and ink.

1. I dreamed about walnut bread, and when I got to the Flour Power stall, there was one loaf left, so I bought it.

2. Selling a few old books and spending all my profits at the deli.

3. It's about time I had some new pens, so I go into the stationer's and spend a happy half hour deliberating over the merits of roller balls and gel in pens - fine and broad - in a selection of colours, before leaving with the same brand I have always used.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Numbers, nibbles and lift.

1. Oli teaching me how to do sudoku.

2. While eating tapas and drinking wine on the High Street, we rescue Joe who is sitting by himself - he is friends with one of the waiters.

3. I set off for home, but PaulV comes racing after me in his car so I don't have to walk alone at night.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Gadget, flag and Mother Hubbard.

1. Discovering that I can put an MSWord document on my personal organiser; and they actually come out on the little screen looking like the original.

2. The building opposite me has replaced its grubby St George cross flag with a shiney clean red, white and blue Union Jack.

3. Discovering a last tin of sardines in the back of the cupboard after a brief panic about supper.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Zoom, purple and dinner at last.

1. Work took us all go-karting yesterday. I was pretty apprehensive, being someone who doesn't much like driving, but when it came to it, we had a really good time. They never turn the engines off, so you don't have to worry about stopping and starting; and there are no gears, either. All you have to trouble with is two pedals, one for go fast and one for go slow.

2. Buddleja in late sun. There is something about low-angled sun that makes the mauve flowers almost glow.

3. Being fed when you are really, really hungry.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Best of Now, greys and Star Wars.

1. I like reading Best of Now because the writer, Joe Hyam, lives near me. I imagine we must pass each other in the High Street or in the park without knowing each other, but both on the look-out for beautiful things.

2. Watching a squirrel eating a nut. I know grey squirrels are plaguiferous tree rats, but this one was posing five feet above me with his fluffy tail curled up over his head, nibbling on an acorn.

3. The Star Wars: Clone Wars animated series. I love the blocky artwork; and I love the fourteen to one action to talking about stuff ratio. And also the awesome moves that you just can't do in live action.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Wordplay, awe and salon.

1. The word rambutan. It's a sort of fruit.

2. The strange street sweeper (see previous post about South American musicians) leaving his barrow and, brush still in hand, wandering into the greengrocers with a beatific smile on his face. I'm thinking that perhaps he likes the colours of the fruit and veggies on display -- and who doesn't?

3. Getting people together who can help and advise each other. I had PaulV and Jon round to dinner, and they schemed and plotted all evening, pausing frequently to gawp out of the window at passing 'totty', leaving me in peace to get on with the cooking .

Monday, July 18, 2005

Feeding, job done and artists.

1. Being bought lunch by my mother.

2. When people ask how the proofreading is going, being able to say: 'I've reached my target for the day.'

3. Going to an art exhibition and seeing paintings by people you know.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Red, midges and duties.

1. A slice of cured beef from the Italian market. It is a deep, glowing red, and it tastes of the best, juciest, tenderest roast beef imagineable. It's almost too nice to eat with anything else.

2. Midges dancing in golden end-of-the-day sunlight.

3. Discovering that as bridesmaid I have to organise Fenella's hen party. Chocolate cake and waterpistols all round.