Monday, February 28, 2005

White, tiny bird and outdoor work.

1. Waking up to a curious brightness at the tops of the curtains that can only mean one thing: SNOW DAY. A good foot had fallen in the night, covering the half-arsed efforts from earlier in the week.

2. A wren scrabbiting about under the azaeleas. It looked like a little ball of feathers with a too-long tail.

3. Cutting beanpoles in the woods. 'It has to be done this weekend or something'll stop me next weekend and then suddenly it'll be too late.' So we took the billhook and the loppers and dived off the road into uncharted territory. Every step we took made the ground under the snow release a rotty smell. It's a strange sort of place, a coppiced wood in the snow. You can see the road; and you can see the fields and hedge and you know the trees are like this because man has cultivated them; but you still feel as if you are trespassing a little. It's the sort of place where you might put your bill hook down for a moment and find that it's vanished when you turn back.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Coffee, smoke and fire.

1. The sound of my father's coffee pot. When it gets going, it makes a bubbling, rattling snoring noise that always reminds me of weekend breakfasts. He has had it since before I was born and now the lid is gone and the plug is cracked open. He won't have a new one because he doesn't believe any other pot could make such good coffee.

2. The smell of woodsmoke - I think nothing is more homely.

3. The blue part of flames; and watching the gum boiling out of cherry wood and catching light.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Loaded, starlight and anemones.

1. Flatpack furniture is heavy if you don't have a car; so getting it home is a beautiful thing. And the floaty feeling in your arms have after you put down a heavy load. Plus the funny wobbly feeling that makes it difficult to do anything with accuracy - 'I'm sorry, I can't lay the table. I'd probably drop a glass.'

2. My parents live in the middle of dark forest, far from streelights and smog, so I love arriving there at night and seeing the stars for the first time in weeks.

3. The deep midnight blues and jewelly reds of anemones.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Indoors, goal and bacon.

1. Not being outside in the vile... I'm not sure what to call it, because I'm not going to dignify with the word 'snow' the horrible, freezing stuff that falls out of the sky and won't settle on the ground or anywhere attractive, but cakes quite happily on my coat and glasses and slides down my collar.

2. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named has tidied the empty desk and underneath all the old computers and Christmas decorations he discovered... the football which disappeared just before Christmas. We've been batting about the office while we discuss things.

3. Really crispy bacon. The smoked, streaky sort that makes loads of grease when you fry it.


Thursday, February 24, 2005

Tea, blackbird singing and supper.

1. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named explaining that he doesn't like camomile tea because 'It smells like geese.'

2. Blackbirds chuck chuck-CHUCKing in the dusk.

3. Perfectly ripe avocado pear with Lea and Perrin's.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Snowman, misty and teleworker.

1. About an inch of snow has fallen, but someone has managed to build a snowman on the green between Inner and Outer London Road.

2. The trees on the Common all covered in snow. It makes the woods look misty and impenetrable.

3. Working from home in the afternoon - the novelty made the task go a lot quicker.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

I believe, reclaim the streets and Rose.

1. My blue radio. The story of how I got the battery-powered radio in my bathroom makes me believe in magic. Two moves ago, I was packing the last of my stuff and getting ready to give the flat a good clean. I was quite sorry to be leaving that place and felt a bit lonely without all my stuff around, so I wasn't looking forward to dusting skirting boards and swabbing out the fridge. 'If only I had a radio,' I said aloud to the echoey walls. Just then, there was a knock at the door. 'Parcel for you,' said the postman, handing me a jiffy bag. Inside was the blue radio and a pack of batteries. There was no card and no return address. I never did find out where it came from.

2. Watching snow racing down the High Street. There is something about a coating of snow that makes people walk where they want - I saw several umbrellaed commuters strolling right down the middle of the road. Perhaps there were fewer cars than normal and they were driving slower; or perhaps people just like making footprints.

3. Rosey, who shares a student kitchen, was making her lunch for tomorrow while we chatted on the phone. 'Where have my crisps gone? They've forgotten to put the salt and vinegar ones in this variety pack. Or did I eat them?' It didn't even occur to her - as it would have to me - that one of her housemates might have 'borrowed' them.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Pet, man of steel and food.

1. Andy calls Fenella 'sugarplum'.

2. PaulV's devotion to Superman.

3. Going round to Liz's for Sunday supper and having rare roast beef and enormous Yorkshire pudding.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Clear, red and green and films.

1. The warm fuzzy feeling you get from donating a good pile of books to Oxfam, and the resulting shelf space.

2. Making tomato salad with olive oil and basil and salt and pepper.

3. Now I have this new laptop, I can watch DVDs. In bed. Which is splendid.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Miracle, analgesic and red.

1. We were parked on the hardshoulder of the M25. Uncaring juggernauts rolled past and Gritty rain splattered all around mocking the suddenly not working windscreen wipers. John called the AA, reeling off lists of details, from car make to numberplate to address. In frustration at the blurry windscreen, he jabbed at the wiper control. All I could do was laugh and point... 'What's wrong? Nothing now,' he told the AA operater. 'The windscreen wipers have just started working again.'

2. The relief of being reunited with my stash of paracetamol at the wrong time of the month.

3. A glass of wine at the end of a long day.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Reader, march and grill.

1. Being told off by Chris downstairs for not blogging fast enough.

2. Two little girls reading as they followed their mother down the colonade in front of our Greek temple-style branch of Habitat.

3. Pushing bits of garlic and rosemary into lamb steaks so that the flavours infuse the meat while it cooks.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Maggotpies, ring and stories.

1. Magpies sitting in the top of a birch tree.

2. On my way to work, my phone rings. As I have just passed Rob's work, I am guessing he's calling to say he can see me.

3. In the pub, Rob tries to tell us a story but is interrupted with bawdy comments. 'This is what it must have been like for bards. No wonder they all went off travelling - it was to get away from their bloody friends.'

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Rich, Rich and Rich.

My friend Rich Troll died at the weekend. We met over the internet when I was 17. I met him twice - he lived in New York, so our friendship was mainly conducted by email. He was only forty or so, and his death was so sudden that I still can't quite believe he is not going to be checking his email again. There are so many beautiful things about him, that it's hard to confine myself to just three. But as a writer himself, I'm sure he would appreciate the discipline.

1. If you sent Rich your novel asking for his thoughts, he would actually read it and then send back a long report, pulling no punches at all.

2. Rich encouraged me in my webzine days, contributing, commenting and subbing. He shepherded me through a German expressionist film fad. He sent me flatteringly intellectual books to help my writing or to answer some of my many questions.

3. He was a dedicated parcel poster. Every birthday and every Christmas, and oftentimes in between, a box would appear with a book, CD or afilm he thought might please me, usually packed round with a few sweets and a small extra present for a friend I might have mentioned.

For the last ten years I have been saying: 'One day, I'm going to visit New York and Rich will show me round.' I never did because it never even crossed my mind that one day it might be too late. But now it is and I've missed an entertaining, quirky tour that would take in film sights, historical oddities and curious miscellanea, spiced by his thoughtful opinions. Readers: never assume it can wait.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Blush, pineapple and lime.

1. Finding a single red rose on my doorstep. I have no idea at all who might have brought it round. Thank you, whoever you are.

2. Pineapple and lime juice. What a fantastic combination.

3. Fenella has been on a chocolate-making course and she gave me an enormous Belgian chocolate heart decorated with a dark chocolate spiral. I have been nibbling it last thing at night.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Pop, pages and lifesaver

1. Popcorn because it is so light and floaty.

2. Mending my printer. It's broken again now, but I was very excited by the one page it printed off yesterday.

3. Oh help! What have I done? I only meant to delete Freecell and now the email programme and the web brower are both gone, along with Paint, the wordprocessor and the calculator. I have visions of going to my computer man: 'Um... I didn't touch anything...' I imagine The Look. Then I discover system restore. THANK GOD.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Planet, foreigners and boho.

1. A printer refill store that has a loyalty card scheme - eight stamps and they plant a tree. Ahhhh.

2. Running into Denmark. His real name is not Denmark, but he is called that because there aren't many Danes in town.

4. PaulV calls me at 1am. I am in bed. 'Come, come! You've got to come now.' So I go over to the pub in my nightie. I was admired - 'Fabulous figure. You must let me wear your coat.' Then PaulV invited everyone - including a lone guy at the bar and some people we picked up in the street - back to mine for a cup of tea. They left at 4am.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Bacon, strings and slap.

1. Crispy bacon.

2. Bass mandolins. Mandolins are tinny and a bit annoying. Bass mandolins are deep and sexy. Although not as sexy as, say, a 'cello, because they have huge bottoms.


3. The bass player from Fairport Convention sticking his plectrum to his bald head when he wasn't using it.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Supercali..., chocolate and shhh.

1. Mary Poppins - because P L Travers made the books quite dark, but also very reassuring and wonderfully imaginative. I like best the story about Neleus coming down off his pedestal just for one hour to play with Jane and Michael.

2. Making my hot chocolate in a smaller mug than usual made it properly thick and chocolatey. Mmmm.

3. Waking at about 4am, hearing birdsong and then going back to sleep again.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Footprints, script and going home.

1. Crossing a newly-surfaced road that is still a little spongey and smells really strongly of tar.

2. Gel pens because they write so smoothly it's hard to believe you're making a mark.

3. The chance to wind PaulV up about moving back home to his mum's.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Lunch, flowers and mojo.

1. Sankey's fishcakes - they are chunky, fat, crispy on the outside and nearly all fish with just a bit of potato.

2. Fenella's flowers that Andy gave her - they are enormous and red, including velvety roses, and he sent them to her at work. Top marks, boyo. Also he brings her tulips.

3. When you find your mojo so that when you toss your pancake, it doesn't stick or end up on the floor or the ceiling or someone's head. And the pancake turns out perfectly - brown and crisp on one side and pale with dark brown spots on the other.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Tea, drawing out and good news.

1. Woke up and blundered into the kitchen in search of my pot of tea. No water came out of the taps. At that moment, my phone went - Fenella texting to let me know the waterboard was dealing with a burst main. So thirsty and unwashed I arrived at work and made myself a sweet, sweet cup of tea.

2. When you notice for the first time in the year that it's daylight when you leave work.

3. I went to the supermarket on my way home. As my bottle of water went through, the check-out girl smiled and said: 'Water's back on.' I bought it anyway for emergencies.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Sunny, feet and time.

1. 'The woods are lovely, dark and deep', but they are also, frankly, damp and chilly, so it's a pleasure to come out into the sun.

2. Crunching last year's beechmasts under my feet.

3. When it is earlier than you think. We were working over lunch, so we went to Wagamama for early supper, which made for a good long evening.

Zip, success and quiet.

1. My new computer is blue and it goes fast.

2. Seeing a cards on sale that are illustrated by a girl I knew at university.

3. The rugby has finished. The big screen is rolled into the ceiling and the landlord goes round switching all the TVs off.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Pastry, risotto and news.

1. Almond croissants.

2. Making risotto because pouring dry rice into a pan of half-cooked onions seems so disgusting, and yet it results in such a filling and delicious supper. Plus you need to pour in a glass of wine, which means the rest of the bottle must then be drunk.

3. The News Quiz.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Cool, purple and May.

1. The coolness of pearls when you first put them on.

2. My book of Siegfried Sassoon's poetry. It has gorgeous thick pages and a cover the colour of a blackberry juice stain after it has been washed.

3. In Sons and Lovers the passage where Mrs Morell and Paul walk in the woods in May. It made me forget it was February outside.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Tweet, la-la-light and listening.

1. A thrush singing in a garden I pass on my way to work. I love thrushes because they sing as it gets dark.

2. Leaving work while it's still light.

3. Unabridged talking books because it's like reading but you can do other stuff at the same time. I'm listening to D. H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers - a dour tale of a benighted marriage and adored children.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Man of letters, beer and organised.

1. This text from PaulV: 'The sun feels hot on my neck. Winter is dying.' Yay for spring.

2. The price of beer in Whetherspoons pubs, which makes me feel as if I am at university again. Also, the fact that they don't have background music.

3. Coming home after an evening out when I've done the washing-up for the day.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Oh la la, dodo and lazy.

1. My new fishnet tights, which are black-coffee-with-sun-shining-through-it brown.

2. I have bought myself a cook's notebook - the Dodo sort. I've wanted a book to organise my stash of torn-out recipes for ages and ages; and I've been looking for an excuse to buy one of Dodo's slightly expensive but whimsical books. So I did it. I love the thought of my future children trying to decipher my scrawled notes - 'Couldn't get goose. Used a partridge.' And 'Much improved by a few spoonfuls of whiskey.' And 'soap works.' And 'NB not technically vegetarian, but no-one noticed.'

3. The amount of washing up left by a pizza, ie, not much.