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