Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Kale, terns and talk.

1. The kale is blooming under the cliffs. The flowers are white and look like frothy petticoats. They have a rather sweet, pretty smell that you wouldn't think comes from a cabbage.

2. Terns diving for fish. Shoulders hunched around their black faces, they fly into the wind so they can hover and then drop suddenly with a little splash, appearing again a moment later.

3. We raced up to the pub for last orders and ran into some people PaulV sort of knows. 'Join us,' they said, so we did, and the conversation about music and Star Wars and working in off-licences wanted to carry on even after we'd been chucked out of the pub.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Sparrows, last minute and food of kings.

1. Being woken by a noisy birdsnest in the eaves.

2. When copy called for at the last minute arrives unexpectedly early.

3. Poached eggs with runny yolks and ham.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Little blue, whipped up and Star Wars.

1. Speedwell flowers because they look like little chips of blue china.

2. A windy Saturday perfect for kite-flying after a heavy, still Friday spent in the office.

3. Revenge of the Sith. Yoda walking into the Emperor's lair and taking out two lofty imperial guards with a wave. And the dark planet with the giant luminous lilies. And the peppery lizard-dragon creature that Obi Wan rides on while fighting General Grievous for its bizzare hollowing cry and even stranger random gait.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Pink socks, balm and flowers.

1. In the precinct, a lady from the Eastern European Big Issue gang took off her shoes and stood selling in her pink socks. Two girls in short school uniform dresses were walking barefoot, too.

2. Warm, balmy evenings when you don't need to put on a jacket to go out.

3. Yellow roses for friendship.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Apple, green path and joints.

1. Kentish apple juice that comes in green glass bottles. It's much sharper than the supermarket juice, which I think is too sickly sweet (although it is great for cooking).

2. On a really hot day, walking off the road and into the woods.

3. Stretching.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Tea break, nectarine and strip off.

1. Yogi tea - the cinnamon one makes the whole office smell spicy. But I like licorice best.

2. The first nectarine of the year was ripe. I was so afraid it would be woolly and woody, but it wasn't and I had to lick the juice off my fingers.

3. Walking home carrying a jumper because it's hotter than it was this morning. Just waiting to see my first shirtless chav and then I'll know summer is really here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Convivial, shower and Judy.

1. Fenella cooked me shepherd's pie and huge quantities of vegetables and then we watched Dr Who. It was scary, involving physical trauma as plague, so I'm glad I didn't have to do it alone.

2. Borrowed Fenella's shower as the boiler is on the blink again - hot water for as long as I wanted. Bliss.

3. Curling up with Daddy-Long-Legs. It's the story of a orphan girl sent to college by an eccentric rich man so that she can learn to be a writer. She is told to write a letter to him once a month and to not expect a reply. The book, published in 1910, is her letters, liberally illustrated by her stick figures. As well as being rather romantic, it deals with (quite subtly) with social reform. Judy talks about orphanages, food colouring and women deserving the vote, eventually deciding that she is a Fabian. These issues are not preached, but offered in a way that would encourage a bright reader to look for more information. It would also encourage any girl to go to college by describing an enjoyable, fun and accepting education. Judy's determination to be independent is also a lesson for women everywhere, and although the twist ending is very comforting, I find it a bit of a cop-out.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Whiter than white, chocolate and walk on.

1. The people that built these flats thought that white plastic sinks would be suitable to catch our iron-rich chalybeate water. They turn an attractive brown colour over time and there is nothing you can do without bleach. But I hate the idea of pouring chlorine into the water system, so I have been trying to live with it. But yesterday I discovered that a spoonful of Ecover laundry bleach fizzes satisfactorily and does the job very well. It's made of percarbonate - according to the box this is 'the most ecological bleach except for sunshine!'

2. Pret a Manger brownies - they are squishy and sweet and properly chocolatey and not too big.

3. Walking into the station at the time the train before the one you were going to catch is supposed to be leaving but finding it has been delayed for a minute, enabling you to catch it.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Map, bread and bluebells.

1. Maps. Tunbridge Wells lies on the corner of three Ordnance Survey Maps. I bought the second yesterday - it's the southwest corner. I love looking at the contours and imagining the lumps and wrinkles in the land. And I like the place names, too - Plumyfeather Farm, Little Wigsell, Friar's Gate, Jumper's Town, Chuck Hatch.

2. A sandwich made with walnut bread. I like the nubbliness of nuts in bread - it gives you something to think about while you eat. I had ham salad, but something walnut-friendly like soft cheese would have been even better.

3. I've missed the bluebells this year, but while walking on Ashdown Forest, I found a late patch - they must be on the cold side of the hill, because everywhere else they are looking a bit tired. These were fresh as anything and the smell was wonderful. It has all the sweetness and sharpness of hyacinths, but it's less overbearing.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Give it a go, honey and stopping.

1. Markets where they encourage you to taste and try before you buy.

2. Buying Mediterranean cakes - kadafi is my favourite. They are made with shredded pastry and look like unruly guineapigs.

3. Waiting at someone's house until the rain stops.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Artists, duckers and strength to your arm.

1. James' stepmother Victoria has put stones with holes in on strings and hung them in odd places. I also spotted a toy crown hanging rakishly on a light fitting, and bits of purple ribbon woven in and out of a chandelier.

2. Ducks trying to get their babies into a duckhouse for the night. They kept escaping back into the pond for one last swim.

3. Jon's story about his new housemate. He was struggling with 20 boxes of books and bad back, when Sephira came home. 'Let me help you with those, Jon.' 'Thanks, but don't carry more than you can manage.' 'Jon, in Africa I can kill a cow.'

Friday, May 20, 2005

Blowing, quiet and beat.

1. The wind has changed and instead of cutting straight through you, it's warm and gusty. A puff of dead leaves and fallen flowers - about a dustpanful - is skittering up the pavement ahead of me, weaving and snaking round as if it were alive.

2. Sitting in silence at dusk. Far away, a peacock yelled. They seem so prideful and foolish close up, but from a long way off, they are so mournful that you wonder if they really are as stupid as all that.

3. We sat round a fire and drummed as it got dark. You could listen for a bit to what everyone else was doing and pick up whatever part of the rhythm you fancied.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Munch, flames and bitter.

1. Colleagues who bring in chocolate banana muffins.

2. Discovering that if I adjust my walk home from work a little I can pass a house with a garden full of azaleas. They are in full bloom at the moment, and come in sunshiney yellows, oranges and reds of all kinds. They also smell wonderful - it's light and sweet with a sharp citrusy tweak at the end.

3. A pint of Harvey's Sussex Bitter. The sweetness at the end of a mouthful shouldn't still be surprising me after nearly ten years.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Scrawch, kick and last thing.

Today is the first birthday of Three Beautiful Things. Just wanted to say thanks to all the people who read, and all the people who comment, and all the people who 3BT on their own sites. I feel immensely flattered that the idea has beeen picked up - I never imagined such a thing would happen.

Here is an update of the first post:

The sky is blue only in small patches, so it's not very holidayish. The clouds are fluffy, though so it's still very happy-making.

The pastie was devoured and much enjoyed. Today, Chris has a ham roll for lunch and the window is closed against a nasty cold wind, so there is no chance of a repeat. We are currently giggling over the fact that spammers have signed Chris up for Gaychattyboy.

The pansies are no longer growing by the wall.

1. Starlings are hard to like - they are noisy and quarrelsome and they make me think of apples that have rotted in storage - you know, when they get dotted with white mould. They also make me think of oil-slicked seabirds, I think because they look so greasy. But I do like the petrol-on-wet-pavement colours in their feathers, and the keeness with which pick worms out of lawns.

2. Four boys playing football on the cricket ground with jumpers for goal posts.

3. Sitting on the sofa in my night things drinking white wine from a tumbler and reading my book.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Cake, water and strawberries.

1. Banana bread for breakfast. I bought it from a lady in a shocking pink beret at the farmer's market. It's low fat and made with local eggs and flour.

2. Walking on the Common with James and finding a secret pond. Tunbridge Wells is on sandstone, so ponds aren't all that common. This was more of a soggy hollow, but there was some clear water with bullrushes and a plant with white beany flowers.

3. The strawberries that Fenella brought round for our pudding. We ate them sliced up and sprinkled with vanilla sugar.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Cow parsley, boating and botanist.

1. The smell of Queen Anne's lace. It's not specially pleasant in itself, being heavy and nose tickly, but when you smell it, you know it's summer.

2. We crossed the Thames on a foot ferry run by a man with tiny arms. It cut about a mile off our journey home. It was a long open boat, loaded with parents, pushchairs, bikes, scooters and children.

3. As we walked through the park on the way back to the station, a little boy pulled down a low horse chestnut branch and looked carefully at the candle flower.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Paint, fish and English fruit.

1. Really good make-up brushes because the bristles feel flicky.

2. Buying tiny shrimps and a skate wing from the fishmonger. The shrimps were delicious - salty-sweet and soft. The skate wing is in the freezer - Delia explains how it should be cooked: 'I have evocative memories of my grandmother shallow-frying skate wings, her favourite fish, which she first dipped in seasoned flour - they were golden and crisp at the edges and there were always special Victorian bone-handled fish knives and forks on the table.'

3. Munching on an apple while thinking about something else.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Tooth, travel and thread.

1. On my phone is an option called Bluetooth. If you switch it on, you can see who else nearby is also switched on. It's meant for swapping phone numbers and small files, but you can also use it to randomly send pictures to complete strangers.

2. Planning a journey to be taken for its own sake with a map, guidebook and lots of little stickers.

3. Finally cracking the dreaded French knot. It's an embroidery stitch used for making flowers, and it's very hard to explain using words and pictures - the best way to learn it is to keep trying to do it until you end up with a neat little knotty dot on the fabric. If you do it wrong, you just get a stitch.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Shoots, comrade and dissolution.

1. Seeing asparagus in the shops because it means summer is coming. Although at £4.25 a bunch, it's not quite the right time of year to eat it.

2. Playing Morrowind I come across a lady pilgrim who wishes to be escorted to a shrine. She is not as fit as my character, and I have to walk where I would normally run. I am tempted to abandon her so I can get on with my quest. She is unarmoured and unarmed, but she wades into a scrap, shouting 'Die!' and hacking away with her fists. When a cliff racer kills her, I consider taking the money she promised me and running off - my journal piously observes that 'She is closer to her god now.' - but instead I restore the saved game and take better care of her until we reach Kummu Fields.

3. Soluable vitamin pills because they dance up and down in a glass of water.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Jet set Fenella, Lo-lo-lola and biscuits.

1. Fenella usually shoots off to London at first light, but today she had a morning appointment at the top of town, so she walked with me to work. She told me that she was going to Paris in the afternoon. I just hope the glamour rubs off on me.

2. The Kinks - particularly Lola and Sunny afternoon and David Watts.

3. Morrison's jaffa cakes. The smashing orangey bit goes right to the edge of the sponge - which is more than you can say for McVitie's ones.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Chinese, stew and glorious matrimony.

1. Crispy seaweed and sesame prawn toasts.

2. Cooking a vast pan of spicy lamb tagine for my brother and PaulV.

3. PaulV's stories about disasterous weddings - this one involved poor wine, the bride going to punch her mother-in-law, the groom suggesting an anullment and revolving-restaurant-induced vertigo.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Flutter, fruit and light supper.

1. Jeremy's Homestore is selling rainbow coloured pinwheels and flags and other amusements for the wind.

2. The smell of a ripe melon.

3. Spinach and poached eggs. The colours go so well together.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Wavy light, reading while you eat and limber.

1. Windows with old glass in them because of the waviness. And I like thinking about all the people who must have looked through them over the years.

2. Eating icecream while reading a popular-novel-of-the-day. In this case The Jane Austen Book Club. It's light and frothy, combining intimate details about people's lives - the sort of thing you wouldn't say out loud at a book club - with the study of literature.

3. Reading that 'You will not be able to do this (yoga position) if your spine is not correctly aligned' and discovering that I could do the stretch easily. The next one - the plough - was a different matter. I got the giggles with my knees round my ears. But it reminded me of how much fun yoga is - or should be.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Sour, summer birds and gold.

1. Hot lemon and honey.

2. As I walked through my parents' front door, I heard the cuckoo. And then I was dive-bombed by a swallow.

3. The last glints of the sun seen through the trees on the horizon.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Beer, chop-chop and come alive.

1. Feeling rich enough to buy a round of drinks.

2. When fish and chips really is fast food because you don't have to queue for twenty minutes.

3. Hearing one of my favourite Saki stories dramatised on Radio 4.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Acer tree, juicey and counting.

1. A little Japanese maple with leaves that look like stars.

2. Eating an orange by cutting it into thin rounds.

3. BBC Radio 4's reporting of Sunderland South's obsession with getting its general election result out before anyone else. Relay teams of sixth formers bring ballot boxes in; a bus stop is dismantled so it doesn't block the door; and traffic lights are rigged throughout the city. They have also demanded extra thin ballot papers to make it easier to count quickly.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Bark, reality and Charlie.

1. Calvin and Hobbes because I like the way it switches between the real world and Calvin's imagination.

2. Two naughty bull terriers in coats against the unseasonable cold racing round in circles and scrapping and rolling in the grass while their owner, an oldish and very skinny man with big, thick framed-glasses, sat on a bench scribbling in a notepad.

3. I saw a fox on my way home. He saw me first, though. When he spotted me coming down the path he turned and set off into the woods. I heard him scuffling dead leaves and watched him trotting away. Apart from that first rustle, he hardly made a sound.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Song, aubergines and back-up.

1. Crash! Whirr! Clatter! Thud! Vroooo! It's 5.30 in the morning. I have just been woken from an elegant dream of flowers and cake by a delivery to the shop across the street. Who the hell do these people think they... Then I hear the birds twittering. Imagine living in the centre of town and being able to enjoy the dawn chorus.

2. Grilled aubergines.

3. The sense of smug security you get from backing up your documents.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Fairies, whistle and hysterics.

1. It seemed still, but it couldn't have been because tiny dots of willow fluff were floating about. It catches the sun and looks like something from a fairy tale book.

2. As I walked round Monson Road in the fading light, I heard a shout from one of the flats above the shops. I look up, and see a man leaning out of a lighted window. 'Hallo gorgeous!' he says again. Do I know him? I can't actually see, so I overcome my maidenly qualms and ask -- it's Beltane after all. 'No,' he says, 'But I'd like you to.' I give him a cheery wave and hurry on to the pub. When I look back, he whistles.

3. Laughing at a theatrical drunkard until tears come.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Graveyard, lounge and bare.

1. Went to Bessels Green Unitarian Church to support some of the pagans who were leading the service there to mark Beltane. The church is very rather plain and very homely, and obviously very much loved. The paint is fresh and the whole place is immaculate - it's cleaned by someone who loves their job, I think. But best of all, the graveyard has been allowed to do its own thing - apart from the grass being cut. It is an ancient meadow, and there are herbs and flowers of all kinds growing among the grass - I counted at least six different kinds of grass.

2. A big fat Sunday paper and a pot of coffee.

3. Walking out of the house for the first time with no coat or jumper. It's my favourite thing about May.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Hyacinthoides, the stranger and natter.

1. The smell of bluebells. Katie bought me a bunch from her parents' woods. They smell like hyacinths but less vulgar and overbearing.

2. Going out with a crowd of people you don't know very well because you don't have to worry about their personal problems.

3. When people (i.e., Katie) turn up for a cup of tea at half past ten at night.