Saturday, April 30, 2005

Granny, bubbles and working relationship.

1. As I prepared my lunchbox and breakfast my thoughts turned to my forefathers and to ancestor worship - did I ever mention that my great grandfather was an admiral? At that moment, one of the Beanie cats that I inherited from my grandmother flopped off the CD rack where it has been lounging for the last three months. Yes, all right - foreMOTHERS, too. Thank heavens she didn't choose to communicate through the Wedgewood dinner service.

2. Ed and I both like the froth on top of cafetiere coffee, so it has to be carefully shared out when pouring. Although I sort of wish I hadn't mentioned it so I could have it all to myself, it's nice to know that someone else enjoys the same out-of-the-way things that you like.

3. I have been going to the same beautician for about six years now. Strongly recommended, that. If you build up a good relationship with a professional - whatever service they are providing - you don't have feel funny about asking questions. And also, it avoids the annoying 'So where are you going on your holidays' questions. You can get straight to the interesting stuff about philosophy and books and Christmas Day Aga crises.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Pink, allium and speckled things.

1. My piece of rose quartz. It is not polished, so it is quite sharp, but it catches the light wonderfully. I like to carry it in my pocket because it's large enough to make its presence felt.

2. The way the smell of garlic alters subtley depending on what you cook it with.

3. Grating nutmeg into mashed potato. I like cooking with nutmeg because when you grate it, the speckled inside is revealed.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Thick chocolate, better than soap and seedy.

1. PaulV took me out for hot chocolate at Carluccio's. They make it by putting very thick chocolate saucey stuff in the bottom of a glass mug and then they float milk and foam on the top.
2. Making PaulV admit that despite everything he likes me better than Brookside. On the grounds that: although I am demanding, Brookie was more so because it was on three times a week at set times; there is less incest, drugs and spouse murder in my life; and also, Brookside Close has been bulldozed to make way for a sliproad, but I am still here.

3. Sesame prawn toast.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Determination, poodle and milk phenomenon.

1. There are violets growing up out of the tarmac under the wall between the pavement and the carpark.

2. A white poodle and a black sheepdog racing for a ball. The black dog was so winning that the poodle turned round and stepped back to its people in a dignified manner, pretending that it hadn't wanted the ball anyway. It looked like it was wearing white disco trousers.

3. When you forget about a milky cup of coffee for 24 hours, the cream in the milk makes a strange white swirl on the surface.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Parsley, quiet and redolence.

1. The taste of fresh parsley.

2. It stopped raining for an hour towards the end of the morning. All was still outside, except the smoke from the hospital incinerator, because the wind was too little to move the water heavy leaves.

3. I went round Fenwicks looking for new handcream. All the different ranges - Crabtree and Evelyn Jojoba, Summer Hill and Nantucket Briar; Roger et Gallet's sandal wood; Bronnley White Iris and English Fern - remind me of friends and relatives and all the years of my life.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Little madam, exultation and mystery veggies.

1. A father and two very blonde daughters came to our stall at the boot fair. The big one must have been about nine and was dressed in an icecream pink poncho with matching skirt and books. The little one was about seven and very skinny with flossy, tangled hair. She was wearing jeans, a pink frilly top and a knitted jacket the colour of 1970s orange squash. She came right up to the 10p corner. 'You should put this' (a plastic Kinder Egg goldfish) 'in this.' (A round glass tealight holder that did look a little like a fish bowl.) As they walked off, her sister clung closer to her dad. 'Are you cold? You could always borrow my jacket,' said the little sister with an enormous, naughty smile. I thought they must have been teasing her about that jacket earlier.

2. Sky larks hovering above the boot fair field. They become a little less beautiful when you realise that their song is not paen to the wonderousness of creation viewed from above. It's better translated as 'Geddorf geddorf geddorf my laaaaaaahnd.'

3. One of the stalls at the farmers' market sold strange salad greens. In the interests of science, I bought some texel and some turnip tops. Turnip tops are quite sharp and hot. Texel is a bit more subtle. I wonder if it will be the Next Big Thing - like rocket, or lollo rosso?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Part payment, little'un and manners.

1. 'How much for this rhubarb and a bunch of parsley?' 'That'll be 80p and one of your smiles.'

2. A small girl of about four - bundled up against the marketday wind so she was nearly as wide as she was tall - wearing red and pink stripy tights waddling about holding on to the backs of her knees, with a concentratey look on her face.

3. Granny Pat describing how she ticked off two men in her local pub for 'effing and blinding'. She told them: 'When I was in the army if anyone said f-this or f-that the sergeant would say: 'There's a lady in the room.''

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Dark path, goodbye and friends.

1. Johnny Vegas because he makes money from parading his darker aspects for the world's amusement.

2. When you are drinking perched on uncomfortably on barstools and quite unexpectedly eight people get up and leave the sofa and armchairs beside you.

3. Going out for a drink with the pagans and having ordinary, everyday conversations that aren't about theology or dilemmas. I realise that we are no longer just a movement. We are mates.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Pink, blue and bubbles.

1. I am delighted to announce that the cherry trees up Mount Edgcombe Road are now in full glorious pink bloom. They make me think of pink coconut cakes.

2. A few bluebells growing under the scrubby, scratchy hedge round the Vale Road Hotel.

3. Outside the Early Learning Centre they have set up a bubble-blowing machine. When children see it, they wriggle away from their parents and run towards it.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Reaching out, indoor gardener and purple.

1. I have been trying to write about buds on beech trees for weeks now, but I keep getting sidetracked by other beautiful things. However, they look as if they are about to explode any day, so it's now or never. I love them because they look like little furled tan and orange umbrellas reaching out into the air. I love the way the branches shake even when there is only a very little wind.

2. I come into the office to find that someone has found a funky grey rubber pot for my spider plant - up until now it's been sitting in a sugar bowl of a lime green shade that clashes rather with its leaves.

3. The way beetroot and vinegar go well together.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Multi-media, gardening and needles.

1. Books written in a mixture of diary, letter and novel. I am reading Possession by A.S. Byatt, which is an academic romance thriller. The story of two damaged and disaffected modern academics weaves in and out of a love affair between two Victorian poets.

2. Harvesting the cress that we grew ourselves on the office window sill.

3. I'm embroidery a present for one of my friends, and frankly, it's a bloody nuisance. The fabric is raw silk - woven blue one way and white the other. It makes my eyes go funny. And the the threads are enormously thick and take real effort to sew. Also, the item in question is part made-up in a way that makes some of the embroidery awkward to do. But my friend - who shall not be named so as not to spoil the surprise - has the sort of eyes that go magic colours depending on what she is wearing, particularly bluey-greens. It is this thought that keeps me going.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Cowslips, Chat and post.

1. Cowslips are growing on the common. They are a much braver yellow than primroses, and rarer, too, although they are getting more common. I remember reading about them in children's books and thinking they were mythical like unicorns. Someone has been on a cowslip conserving mission, though, and you often see drifts of them on motorway banks.

2. Those really scurrilous women's mags full of stories like 'My mate's husband ripped my son's head off for sitting in the dog's chair' and 'My baby looks like a frog' and 'He's my neighbour's youngest son, but we will be together'. If it involves crime, love, betrayal and a medical procedure, it's there.

3. A little pile of letters, in neatly stamped and addressed evelopes, ready for the post box tomorrow on the way to work.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Clare, Robert and Rosey.

I got some news that reminded me of just how precious siblings are, so here are three beautiful things about my two:

1. When I look at them I can see bits of me - Rosey has the same colour hair and Robert has the same chin.

2. We share memories. It's good to have what you remember of your childhood confirmed by people who saw it all from the same height.

3. We have special names for each other that no-one else uses.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Petal snow, red light and good eating.

1. The railway backs on to the gardens of a long row of terraced houses. In one, a little girl is lying on a large round trampoline next to a pear tree that is showering her with blossom.

2. Looking down the platform I see a bright red billboard to lean against. It is in the sun and shelters me from the slightly sneapy wind.

3. Making an enormous pan of bolognese sauce because I don't have to think too hard about it, and so long as there is meat, onions and a tin of tomatoes, it doesn't much matter what goes in. Also, one pan makes about three meals, which are easy and quick - simply cook some pasta while the sauce heats up.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Feisty, youth and sparest spare room.

1. Finding in Oxfam a copy of The Secret World of Polly Flint, a book I read when I was about seven and loved. As a downtrodden school girl, I admired Polly tremendously for her rhyming and her silent remarks to adults who crossed her: 'I'm a younger and worser, I suppose. Why does getting older make you a better?'. And she shouts 'Mustard tarts to you' at a boy who teases her. The story concerns magic between Mayday and Midsummer and a lost village whose church bells you can hear if you press your ear to village green.

2. Walking into a club and discovering that you are not the oldest people there. We went to The 100 Club on Oxford Street to see The Martin Harley Band - man in hat makes extraordinary noises with guitar - and Omar and the Howlers - giant Texan singer belts out blues in rumbling bass.

3. Going to sleep in a spare room with a proper duvet and a furry blanket and lovely bit fat pillows. And also, Katie and Jonathan have a lampshade made of metal flowers and leaves - it comes in a sheet and you scrunch it round the light fitting to whatever shape you like.

Friday, April 15, 2005

I'll eat what I want, sink me and companion.

1. Living alone because no-one accuses you of embezzlement when you eat the nose of the brie.

2. The Scarlet Pimpernell. I can never resist a gentleman adventurer, and the tight trousers and caperesque escapes make Clive Donner's 1982 film as welcome as a last-minute rescue.

3. Walking home late at night I run into a friend, so we walk together. Company is always good on a dark road.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Blue grey, puppy dog and English weather.

1. The colour of a slate roof when the rain is falling. It has a special sort of gleam to it that makes you want to reach up and give it a good polish.

2. John P's lovely soft brown eyes.

3. When the day starts off rainy and finishes up in sunshine.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Flying solo, steam and new paper.

1. Seeing an ugly couple bickering in ugly voices about pinching each other. I felt a great swoop of joy because I am all alone in the world.

2. When the hot water doesn't run out just as you put conditioner in your hair. And when it is actually hot water, not just cold water and imagination.

3. Writing on the last page of a notebook. I am sorry to say goodbye to my Jordi Labanda lady, but the thought of starting the jumbo A5 pad from Woolworth makes up for it. My cousin gave me this book two Christmases ago, and ever since it has been sitting in my notebook stash waiting. Last thing at night, I get it out ready for the morning. It has a translucent plastic cover, which means I can put it down in puddles of coffee whenever I like. It has a red elastic strap so it won't fly open at awkward moments, and this strap is embellished by three fat clear plastic rainbow striped beads, which are almost more exciting than the writing I plan to do.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Dream, fast set and have a go.

1. A dream about exploring a sea covered in vastly thick but clear ice on the back of a mammoth. It was night and there were more stars than I have ever seen.

2. When the freelance detective in a crime novel steps aside, giving up the girl he loves because he prefers single life. I've been reading about Albert Campion in Margery Allingham's Mystery Mile

3. The more I think about it, the more I like the motto William Morris put up all over The Red House: Si je puis - If I can. He meant that he would give anything a whirl.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Race, tan and The Doctor.

1. The way dogs racing after a ball or each other or just running for sheer joy at being let off the lead tuck their legs right under themselves and for a moment seem to hang in the air.

2. Coming home and realising that you've caught the sun a little.

3. Dr Who, because you never quite know what sort of story will be presented - last week it was a sci-fi murder mystery. This week it was a tale of Victorian-zombie-spiritualism.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Food of the gods, print and they're off.

1. A bacon and egg sandwich - cooked by someone else - when you have a hangover.

2. At the Red House, where William Morris of wallpaper fame lived, the ceilings are painted. 'The pattern of holes,' explained the guide, 'helps with the design. It means that you can invite your friends round and get them each to do a section.'

3. Pretending to browse on a market stall but really listening to the Grand National on the trader's radio, and realising that three other people are doing the same thing. And then walking round the rest of the market hearing the traders shouting 'My horse came in! It won!' and 'Mine came nowhere.'

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Olives, minty and agreement.

1. Two indie boys sitting on the train eating pimento olives from a 1kg jar.

2. The smell of crushed mint when a mojito is being mixed. It's a bit like tripping up when drunk at a summer party and falling into a badly kept herb garden.

3. When you are STARVING and fading away from hunger because you haven't had time to eat before going out and when someone suggests a noodle place they really like, no-one says anything cross-making like: 'I don't do Japanese.'

Friday, April 08, 2005

Coo, surface and fruit.

1. Fat collared doves sitting in a hawthorn tree covered in bright green leaf buds.

2. My new computer table. I have been working off a child's desk which is most unsatisfactory. So a honey-coloured pine table that I can actually get my knees under and that doesn't wobble perilously when I move the mouse is much appreciated. It has that lovely new wooden furniture smell - which is probably mostly turpentine and woodstain.

3. Tinned apricots - they look like egg yolks.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Anticipation, ready cash and beauty benefits.

1. There is an avenue of cherry trees on a road across the Common. Every day I walk past and the blossom buds are little redder and a little fatter.

2. Chinese Hell Money - as recommended by Meggiecat. I love the idea of supplying your ancestors with home comforts and pocket money.

3. I massage some almond oil into my hair to deep condition it. Afterward my nails feel all glossy and strong.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Blue, parklife and long evenings.

1. The municiple flowerbed outside the library has been planted with China blue hyacinths. Their gorgeous smell rolls around you as you walk past - a little treat in a bustling town centre.

2. There is a parklife exhibition in the gallery over the library. Tunbridge Wells has some good open spaces that I use all the time in the summer. The room was flooded with a soundscape - a collage of park interviews played quite low. It was a bit unnerving at first, but as I got used to it, it seemed more comforting - although I was alone in the room, I didn't feel as if I was.

3. I went out for a swift half at 7pm and it was still daylight.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Ho ho, journals and space-maker.

1. Coming through the carpark outside my backdoor, I heard a shout of laughter. I turned the corner to see two security guards doubled up in hysterics: 'I couldn't believe...' 'And then the barrier came down...' 'Actually going to...'

2. Discovering these notepads made from old books. They are properly unique and the maker uses all the odd bits and pieces she finds tucked inside them to add interest and intriguement.

3. The flat is small, as I've mentioned before, so drying washing takes up a fair old chunk of breathing space. I like how airy and roomy it becomes when the washing is put away and the clothes horse folded up under the bed again.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Soapy, flying and magnolia.

1. A horse being washed in the sunshine by the side of the road.

2. Sending messages up a kitestring. A Mr Kipling's mini pie case is exceedingly good, but failing that a dead leaf or a bit of stiff paper will do. Once the kite is flying, simply thread the 'message' on to the string and watch it whizz up.

3. Magnolia trees. They are in bloom now, and because most other trees are almost bare, they really stand out. I love the huge variation in flowers - there are so many different cultivars. Best of all I like the delicate starry ones as opposed to the deep cuppy ones; and I like the pure white flowers, rather than those with a bruise-coloured blush. Although the soapy off-whites are very stylish, too.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Papers, terminology and bounce.

1. The papertole on the Pantiles. It sells supplies for card-making. I love it for the decoupage scraps and the handmade papers. As well as papery things it does secondhand books and ephemera - old postcards and so on. So when I go in there I hardly know where to look first.

2. The term 'Window licker'. When asked to explain, Tena said: 'It's like a bicycle saddle sniffer'.

3. Seeing boys playing with a giant inflatable football in the Pantiles after closing time. It was so light that it bounced off the walls at first-floor height. I bet the residents loved it.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Silence, out and bang.

1. The fire alarm in the block has been making horrid beeping noises for a week. I managed to get the inspector round and he did magic things to the fuses and some wires and it stopped. What a relief.

2. Being let off work early.

3. As I was strolling home I spotted a craft kit sale in the stationers over the road. I dived in and bought a punching device - it's a heavy pen barrel thing with screw-on heads like little icing nozzles. There's a star, a flower, a heart and various squares and circles. The idea is that - leaning on the cutting mat - you hit it with a hammer and it punches a little hole through your paper. It takes a bit of practice, but it's very satisfying when it comes right. And the punched out shapes look as if they might be useful, too.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Nutkin, Radley Place and apples.

1. A squirrel sitting dab in the middle of the road, right on the white line.

2. Walking down one of the posher roads in Tunbridge Wells I discover what is probably best described as a murder house. I can't believe I never noticed it before. A 1960s car covered in green tree dust and bird shit decays on the overgrown drive. And there are tattered curtains at the windows - shreds of filthy brown lining in one, and in the other, rags of lace that twitched slightly as I passed. I shivered.

3. Apple juice.