Sunday, December 31, 2006

Gale, DIY and witches.

1. The wind and rain woke me at 2am and I couldn't get back to sleep so I played Morrowind until 5am. After that, knowing that there were fewer Ash Zombies, priests of Dagoth Ur and Cliff Racers on Vvardenfell because of me and my glass longsword Magebane, I slept well.

2. My father describing his work on my French windows as 'vampire-proofing'.

3. Terry Pratchett's latest -- Wintersmith. I finished it last night, and I decided one of the things I really like about the Tiffany books is that although she is a very self-assured, competant and powerful witch, the reader never forgets that she is also a young teenager who enjoys letters from her mother, a paintbox and spending afternoon not knowing what to say to Roland-who-is-not-her-young-man. And although she has complete professional confidence as a witch, she has moments of self-doubt which she overcomes in a very human fashion.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

What I want, unpacking and Bugs.

1. I love hot puddings with icecream -- but for some reason, even when this offered on the menu, the order often gets confused and I end up with pudding and custard (which I loathe). This time, instead of quietly eating it up, I stood my ground and sent it back.

2. Getting my laptop off the sofa and on to the desk in my room.

3. Discovering a bonus Bugs Bunny cartoon on the DVD of March of the Penguins.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Morning tea, revenge and hostess.

1. I am tapping away in the sitting room first thing and Katie comes in with a mug of tea.

2. PaulV goes into Katie's room to get changed and emerges wearing her pyjama bottoms. To get him back, I put a bra in his coat pocket. Wish I'd thought, as Kim suggested, of putting a thong in his wallet.

3. Guests sitting on our big red sofas eating icecream and chocolate sauce.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Donkey work, gardening and network.

1. My father dropping me off and staying to help put books on shelves.

2. The smell of sage, oregano and thyme (present from my cousin) and compost (present from my father) as I planted them in a big blue ceramic pot (present from my aunt) out on the balcony.

3. The magic of Freecycle means that instead of cluttering up our new flat, the boxes I moved with are helping other people.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A bit of height, the others and shhh.

1. Riding high up in the front of my brother's van so I can see over hedges and into gardens.

2. Walking in the woods and seeing other families darting in and out of trees.

3. Sharing a room with my brother and sister and giggling with them before we went to sleep. Robert teased Rosey, who was poking at her phone in the dark with: 'Rose and [a selection of boys she may or may not have fancied in the past] in a tree T-E-X-T-I-N-G.' We retorted: 'Robert Grant in a tree S-H-U-T--U-P.'

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Family resemblance, photos and TLC.

1. My father saying that dressed up for Christmas day I reminded him of my great aunt -- who was always said to be very stylish.

2. The grandmother twittering with pleasure about the photo album our cousins made for her.

3. My brother making me a hugely strong gin and tonic because he thought I needed cheering up; and Rosey sitting on me for a cuddle; and settling down to do a jigsaw of old books with my mother.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Quilt, eggses and Christmas decorations.

Extra special Midwinter Beautiful Things to Sgt Dub in Afghanistan, and to Kimono Hime in case she is homesick for England; and to everyone who is far away from the ones they love.

1. Waking up under my new blue cotton quilt from India. It's a present from Katie. She has a matching one in red in her room. She carried them both for nearly her whole holiday.

2. Scrambled eggs on crispy toast. They are bright yellow because they come from freerange chickens; and they are the first thing we've cooked in the new flat.

3. Opening a box and finding the Christmas decorations.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

My boots, zoned and Christmas Eve in the drunk tank.

1. Finding the boots that I have needed since October in a sale with 25 per cent off. They are mid-calf high and made of scuffed brown leather and they have lacing up the front. I like this because I have slender ankles, so boots often don't fit as they should. The lacing means I get to show them off to the best advantage.

2.Katie and Lou agreeing that when I drink when I'm tired I stare off into space.

3. Every drunk we passed in the street wished us a happy Christmas.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Clean teeth, new sounds and in the light.

1. Finding my toothbrush and toothpaste when I thought they had been left behind.

2. Waking up and hearing birdsong.

3. At our office Christmas do, looking down the darkened dining room and seeing Jason and Charlotte sitting in a spot light.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Parents, butterscotch and pomegranets

1. Parents who are willing to give up a Christmas preparation day to help me move and who leave bottles of Champagne in the fridge.

2. Our man with a van freely offering Werthers Originals because they help with moving.

3. Oli once again cheering me up -- this time by arriving at the front door of the new flat with a pomegranet, a traditional Mediterranen housewarming gift.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Frost, sunlight and aid.

1. Dark green holly leaves edged with a rime of frost; and in the window, frosted cobwebs have been arousing wonder.

2. Watching sunlight move across the office as the day progresses. It turns from orange at sunrise, to pale yellow, to pink at sunset. As the sun sinks, on the hills to the east of the office, a high window in a house hidden by the woods reflects a little spark of the sunset.

3. In exchange for dinner, Andy comes round to get things off top shelves, laugh at my shoes and help me deal with more frightening items hidden in dark cupboards and high places.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Fogged in, call taker and Chinese whispers.

1. The cosy feeling of an office surrounded by fog.

2. The jolly and helpful man at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council who took my call about moving house.

3. Feeding a comment about 3BT from a Chinese language blog into Babelfish and seeing myself described as an eldest sister. I love the cryptic phrasing -- what is 'the psychological stratification plane' and who is the abundant guest? The comment: 'The record happy present, actually will be the forecast happy future,' is not in conventional English, but I think I get the idea!

Driving with Douglas, sunrise and help.

1. Douglas for his luxurious car and his clockwork reliability at providing lifts into work.

2. Coming into work early as the rising sun turns the sky salmon pink.

3. Lou's help made packing up the breakables a simple and pleasant task.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Packing, the wolves are running and meals on wheels.

1. All the shop assistants who took the time in a busy day to find boxes to help me move.

2. BBC 7 is playing one of my favourite Christmas books -- The Box of Delights.

3. The cavalry arriving in the form of Katie with pheasant stew, vegetables and baked potatoes.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Greeting, let's party and somewhere to sit.

Check out England's Dreamers for a magical collection of Tunbridge Wells street scenes. Cheers Anonymous Bosch.

1. The greengrocer at the market waving to me as I zipped through on my way to somewhere else.

2. Geoffrey in the card shop telling me that he's going to a Christmas party with 30 women.

3. Amid all the chaos of packing for a move, managing to keep the sofa clear.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Teddyboy, cheeky and throw it out.

1. Oli's tales of his neighbour. 'At the neighbours' association meeting, he kept calling me Oliver and poking me with his finger and saying the windows needed repainting.' Afterwards, once it had mellowed into a sociable drink, Oli learnt that this undesirable sideburned character, who sunbathes naked in the shared garden, was once a Teddy Boy. Complete with flick knife, which he still has. And he doesn't like the previous owner of Oli's flat. The story is: 'That bugger, 'e took the floor up. 'E shouldn'ta dun that.' So we spent the day threatening each other in raspy criminal tones. 'Mr Flicky doesn't like that.' And 'That bugger took the floor up and nah 'e's undah it.'

2. Ellen bemoaning the fact that it was her last day working with He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named and she missed her chance to pinch his bottom, which is described as 'like a peach caught in a wood vice' by those who like that sort of thing. HWSNBN has made no statement on this matter, beyond complaining that he can't seem to find trousers that aren't tight.

3. Packing for a move because it gives me an excuse to ditch all sorts of things that I've been hoarding because 'they might come in useful.'

Friday, December 15, 2006

Long legs, support and pearly kings.

1. Oli standing up and saying 'I feel so tall in these boots. I can see Crowborough! Crowboooorough.'

2. Support and encouragement when it is really needed.

3. This year's Christmas stamps are not very attractive because they are of the snowman-Father Christmas-reideer variety, but while I am gumming them to a stack of envelopes, I notice that they have a pearlescent sheen to them.

PS: Erin over at Dress A Day is drabbling this week -- she's writing 100-word stories in the voices of some of her dresses. Do go over and have a look.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Chocolate, little angels and skis.

1. Remembering the two pieces of Toblerone in my lunch bag.

2. All the way down the road I spot white tinsel-edged gowns peeping out from beneath children's coats. At the bottom of the hill there is a long queue to get into the church where the nativity play is being performed.

3. One of the writers telling me that the pleasure in his winter holidays are not such much his own skiing any more but rather seeing his grandchildren skiing. This resonates particularly for me because I remember my own grandfather teaching me to ski, and the pleasure he got from just being in the Alps.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Adaptation, can do and when monkeys attack.

1. I was totally determined to do homemade Midwinter cards this year. I designed them; bought the card; created a house moving announcement that would fit in the envelopes; bought new printer ink... and then discovered that my up-until-now saintly printer prefers not to work with card. The beautiful thing in this festive drama is the moment I decided that I wasn't going to die on this mound and redesigned the cards and moving announcement to fit on a sheet of A4 paper folded into quarters.

2. Running against a problem at work and feeling that I can resolve it.

3. Madie and I decide on a New Year's resolution. We are not going to feel rejected when we ring people and they say they are too busy to talk to us. They don't mean that they don't want to talk to us ever -- they are merely too busy to talk right now this minute. To underline our intention, we will only feel rejected if:

  • Monkeys in the zoo point and laugh at us
  • The sun moves a cloud over us so that it doesn't have to shine on us
  • When we walk under street lamps they go out so other people don't have to see us
  • Rain falls around us because it doesn't want to touch us.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Shut eye, hats on and found dog.

1. For some reason, sleeping at work is frowned upon. Today has been one of those days when I resemble a narcoleptic Beano character -- Howay, readers, this abandoned pillow factory is the perfect place for 40 winks... Gleep! How was I to know it was being demolished using extra loud explosives today. I think it's something to do with a lack of daylight hours. Anyway, coming home this evening and having a snooze before supper and then another one after supper was very beautiful.

2. The White Hat People. Not last Sunday but the Sunday before a card appeared on Postsecret about going to the cinema alone but full of hope about meeting someone there who would understand. Another person responded, saying that they would go to the movies alone, too, and they would wear a white hat. And suddenly everyone wants to go to the movies alone, wearing a white hat.

3. Katie's mother lost her dog at the end of last week. I get a text from Katie saying it has been found alive and mostly well.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Pennies from heaven, biscuits and tea.

1. Some mischief has glued a handful of change to the pavement near the station.

2. My parents ordering a plate of biscuits to go with our hot chocolate at Carluccio's.

3. The waiter at Dim Tee explaining the ways of tea -- including tea that is picked by monkeys, tea that looks like Buddha's eyebrows and tea that unwinds as it brews.

Paper patch, challenger and great man.

1. Seeing all the places I used to read about when I was subbing the local paper -- Chipstead and its lake, Downe, Biggin Hill, Knockholt and Pratts Bottom.

2. Andy has been teaching me backgammon, and I'm now good enough to beat him sometimes; and for him not to hold back. I feel as if I'm starting to be interesting to play against.

3. Visiting Down House and walking the Sand Path the Darwin used to help him think. And learning something about the homelife of a great thinker. His household seems to have been a very warm and cheery place, with children sliding downstairs on a stairboard, and punting about the drawing room on a wheeled microscope stool, and the great man playing billiards with his butler.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Wordsmith, something for the weekend and job done.

Notice: In the past I have mentioned a funny man who walks around Tunbridge Wells apologising to everyone he meets ('Sorry to bother you, sorry to bother you') and singing about sin. I often hear him in the street when I am working in my flat, and I always run to the window to enjoy the reactions of passers-by -- mostly bemusement and smiles. On YouTube yesterday we found a film of him in action. It's not very good quality, but I think it's a great little picture of one of the joys of Tunbridge Wells.

1. The confidence which comes from knowing that the diligent He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named has done an editorial check of a story I am about to send out.

2. On Friday morning, getting an email about plans for Saturday.

3. Finding a man-with-a-van to help me move four days before Christmas.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Fresh gravel, out for a walk and meat.

1. Fresh gravel has been put down outside JP's house. Even on a day of torrential rain, it makes the lane look much more spacious and light.

2. The sound of children's voices makes us run to the window. About twenty littlies are out for a farm walk. It reminds me rather of The Gashlycrumb Tinies, but we wave to them anyway, and they wave back.

3. The rough pleasure in Oli's voice as he described the pork chop he was going to have for dinner because his vegetarian wife is out.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

One more cup of coffee, clearing up and pairwork.

1. There aren't many of us in the office today, so I get two mugs of coffee from the pot.

2. After days of wet and rain, a calm, clear day followed by a clear evening lit by a huge gibbous moon rolling round behind the trees.

3. Yoga is a very selfish practice because it one needs to really focus on oneself to do it well -- if you worry about what other people are doing, you tend to fall over. But sometimes our teacher makes us work in pairs. I don't much like the whole welcoming a near-stranger into your personal space, but it often adds a different dimension to the pose, and I like the way it changes the atmosphere. There is always a giggly, bubbly atmosphere in the hall, with everyone smiling at each other and chatting quietly about the pose. And I also like it when we go on to the next pose and everything calms down again.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Partytime, fangs for the memory and multi-tasking.

1. We had a leaving party for a colleague at lunchtime. To start with, everyone was awkward and didn't quite know what to say or where to stand. Then gradually the drinks took effect and the people settled into chairs. There was even some dancing.

2. Ellie and me eating chocolate fingers and making them into fangs.

3. Working on something creative that doesn't involve words so I can listen to the radio at the same time.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Absorbed, brothers and rewards of industry.

1. Getting so into a story that I nearly make myself late for work.

2. Most mornings I see two little blonde bespectacled brothers, aged about nine and seven, on their way to school. Up until the start of this term, their mother was always with them. But now they are allowed to go it alone. They usually seem to be having a serious conversation about something -- but perhaps it's just the glasses that give them such an air of solemnity.

3. Seeing a friend growing in confidence because a supportive and perceptive managing director has taken a special interest in him.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Boys together, agriculture and baking tray.


1. At around midnight my brother Robert phones. I can't quite make out what he's saying because he's giggling over drunken boy shouts of 'Rob's gay' and 'We're all in bed together.'

2. Waking up to Farming Today on the radio when it's about free range hens, because they make such comfortable noises.

3. From the contents of Joe in Vegas' exciting parcel of Tollhouse Chocolate Morsels, I made some cookies. The first tray were hideous mutants that had to be eaten immediately... I mean humanely destroyed. But the second tray was golden brown and crisp on top but moist in the middle. I have two left for lunch tomorrow, but the rest walked out of the flat inside people or in parcels for sick grandmothers and deserving neighbours and colleagues. Joe says he normally eats quite a few of the chocolate morsels. I would like to reassure readers that most of the morsels made it into the cookies -- you just can't see it because they sunk to the bottom. Photo by Katie Skinner

Sunday, December 03, 2006

First man, first tree and music.

1. Today, Adam gets to be a beautiful thing. He is moving to Spain to be with the woman he loves. He has been a leading light in the pagan community in Tunbridge Wells for a couple of years now. Moderating message boards, guiding walks, leading moots and encouraging study groups. What I really like about him -- apart from his gap-toothed grin and give-anything-a-go attitude -- is that he is not after a circle of adoring acolytes. He saw that the group needed someone to take charge, so he did it. My favourite Adam story is him telling me with some surprise about something that happened on Tonbridge Station on his way to a moot. 'These girls came up to me and went: "Are you a pilgrim?" and I thought about it and said: "Yes I am," because we're all pilgrims in life, aren't we.' Adam, hope everything is good in Spain -- and I don't resent Mika a bit for stealing you from us.

2. A Christmas tree, still wrapped in its net, in the corner of the pub.

3. We had settled into the Royal Oak to give Adam a farewell drink when two guys turned up with guitars and amps. One of them looked like Fred Flintstone, with an American accent to go with it. He really got into his music, throwing wildcat yowls and drumming on his guitar. At the end of the song, he would look at the crowd as if he didn't quite know what we were doing there, and then come back to himself with a jolly grin. At the end of the evening, I thanked him, and he shook my hand, bowed and said 'No, thank you, Ma'am'.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Bird's nest, out of the rain and in this together.

1. I order my Szechuan King Prawns in a bird's nest. This turns out to be cripsy noodles formed into a dish.

2. Coming in out of the rain to a warm house and something good on the radio.

3. Possible disaster on the new flat; but I'm not in this all alone because Katie is fighting beside me.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Illustration, quiet spot and cookies.

1. A whiteboard appears in the office, intended to improve efficiency and productivity. Within 24 hours it has been covered in drawings of everyone in the building.

2. At lunchtime, desperate for some peace, I go down to our half-moved-into breakroom. There are no chairs yet, but the heating is on, so I sit against the radiator for a snooze.

3. A mysterious parcel of strange, bobbly texture has come in the post. It turns out to be a bag of Tollhouse chocolate morsels sent by Joe in Vegas. He hopes I will use them for making Tollhouse cookies and send him photographs of the result. (That would be photos of the cookies, not my fat bot after eating all the cookies.)

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ox bow, yellow submarine and whistler.

1. Flying over London and seeing the loops of the Thames. And later seeing the shadows of loops whose rivers have moved on.

2. The Yellow Submarine has apparently crashed into the forecourt of the John Lennon Airport. Oli noticed numerous signs directing people to it

3. The happy messages from BBC Radio 2 listeners about David Morris, whistling world champion.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Porcelain, film and leave it for someone else.

Two recent posts that I have enjoyed about 3BT -- one on Now's the Time marking Joe's 500th entry; and one in Coulter's Heaven.

1. Oli's excitement about his new bathroom.

2. Going to the cinema with people who play 'Guess what this is advertising.'

3. The wanton destruction in James Bond because no-one appears to worry about who is going to clear it up.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Small person, men at work and joyous.

Items of interest
And now, back to normal service.

1. Being allowed to hold the nephew of He Who Shall Not Be Named. The baby was very sweet -- even if he did posset, hiccup and suffer from a bit of wind. It was also good to meet HWSNBN's sister, having heard so much about her, and it's always fun to have a baby to pass round the office.

2. A mysterious noise outside my window turns out to be the Men From the Council stringing Christmas lights across the High Street. They were working just a couple of bay windows away from me.

3. Being told that 'joyous' is a 'very Clare word.'

Monday, November 27, 2006

Mole rats, lost treasures and crowd.

1. A wildlife documentary involving naked mole rats. I like mole rats because they live in bee-like colonies, with a queen running the show. I think this shows an admirable determination to do their own thing.

2. A programme of BBC radio shows believed lost but then recovered. My favourites were The Green Machine -- a factory worker bonds with his vibrating sprocket press causing chaos on the factory floor; and The Great Fire of London -- a collection of eyewitness accounts of historical events.

3. Something Andy said to me on Saturday -- the more I think about it, the more I like it, which is why it counts for today. He pointed out that the 180 hits each day on Three Beautiful Things is about the same number of people as a primary school assembly. So... uh... play nicely, and please note that the loos by the adventure playground are out of bounds until the plumber removes the tennis ball from the soil pipe.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Afternoon tea, cowshed and heels.

1. Being invited downstairs for afternoon tea with scones and jam and cream and teapot tea.

2. Ellen saying that when she was little, she used to go into the cowshed on the farm where she grew up and sit with the cows. Because of this, the smell of cows and silage makes her happy

3. Not falling off my heels all evening.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Nearly home, just made it and synchronicity.

1. Towards the end of a journey, spotting 'Tunbridge Wells' on a roadsign.

2. Getting back to the office moments before Oli, who usually gives me a lift to and from work, leaves for the day. This mean that I didn't have to make anyone go out of their way.

3. Katie calls and she sounds as tired as I do. We chat for a while discover that we are both about to curl up with comforting DVDs -- Nanny McPhee for Katie and Kiki's Delivery Service for me.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Snap, meeting and sea views.

1. Our director talking about his photography -- more particularly, the pictures that he missed because the traffic was bad and he couldn't stop -- and sounding just like my father.

2. When waiting somewhere cold and damp for a friend, seeing them pull up in their car.

3. Being shown my hotel room and discovering that it has a view of the sea from two sides.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Watching for mother, swift Douglas and Newfoundland

1. A little girl peering round the school gate watching her mother walking back to the car.

2. Every lunchtime Douglas drops in on us on his way to the shower so we can tell him how wonderful he is for going out running in his lunch hour.

3. The Shipping News -- this time the film version. It's one of my favourite books ever for the eccentric local newspaper and because it is the story of a man learning that he is allowed to be happy. The film is fantastic -- it looks exactly like the pictures I imagined while reading book.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Duvet man, userfriendly and old songs.

1. On my way to work I see a man apparently naked apart from a duvet and a pair of shorts sitting on a bench shaking and muttering. It's a pretty cold morning, so I stop to see if he's OK. His eyes snap open -- they are twinkly and clear -- and he smiles at me, showing a mouthful of discoloured teeth. 'I'm fine,' he says cheerfully. 'Just having a pray. I choose to live like this, but if you happen to have a couple of quid so I can buy some food...' He isn't at all grumpy about having his prayers interrupted. We chat a bit about Sainsbury's and where he might get his breakfast. He reminds me of the holy men I saw in Nepal -- at a certain time in a man's life, he hands all his responsibilities over to his sons and goes off for a wander. He grows his beard and hair and lives on whatever people give him. In due course, he comes home and settles back into the household as if he has never left.

2. At work we have had a new website installed. It's a huge change and has caused chaos, with lots of new skills to be learnt. Things are starting to settle down and we are learning the site's ways. Yesterday a new feature that users have been clamouring for was added, much to everyone's relief. Now we just have to teach them how to use it.

3. Finding an ancient mixtape of mine. It plays some songs that I haven't heard in years, and I find myself singing along, remembering the key changes and the tricky rhythms as if they'd never been away.

Monday, November 20, 2006

I owe you, anything might happen and chatting.

1. He-who-shall-not-be-named driving me all the way home from work so I could turn the grill off. And hardly teasing me at all about this. We are thinking of something I can do to return the favour.

2. Changeable weather -- distant showers blowing in across the fields; the sun lighting up the raindrops on yellow oak leaves and a rainbow over the barn.

3. Phonecalls to and from: My grandmother; Katie; Claire M; Rosey; Lou and Rosey again. We were gossipping; organising; catching up and checking up.

Ideas, textile and comradeship.

1. The row of Christmas card proofs pinned to my notice board. I giving myself time to get used to the wording and typography.

2. Looking down at my cross-stitch and feeling as if I've achieved something. Cross-stitch scratches the same itch as sudoku and jigsaws, but at the end (if I've picked a good design) I have something pleasing to look at.

3. Being walked home on a revolting night of rain and high winds. Good company makes me bold, so we take all the shortcuts across the Common that I don't dare to use at night by myself.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Twinkle, convenience food and gravy.

1. One of my favourite Christmas-is-coming sights -- a council man in a cherrypicker carefully winding a string of lights round the small branches of the lime trees on the Pantiles.

2. Apples -- because I can eat them while I'm typing or reading without worrying about stickiness.

3. Sherry in a beef stew. Beef gravy and sherry are made for each other.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

New baby, repairs and good neighbours.

1. He-who-shall-not-be-named's video of his very new nephew. What's this talk of miracles and the wonders of the hiccups of a five-hours-old baby? Surely the nameless one isn't broody.

2. My computer has been wrong for a while. I keep tweaking and testing, but the error keeps occurring. What I like is when I test for the umpteenth time and the pause between clicking the icon and something happening is just a bit too long; and then it works.

3. Very slightly pissed Fenella and Andy draped over my sofa telling me that I can't move out.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Father, grandfather and bread.

1. It was a sad day today because it was PaulV's dad's funeral. But the packed church was a tribute to a good and friendly man whose pride in his son's achievements have helped Paul blossom. My favourite bits were the vicar handing cough sweets to people with November caught in their throats; and the story about PaulV's dad taking a shortcut over the wall when he was late for church.

2. Reminiscing with my grandmother about my grandfather. I remembered him rolling down the lawn in their garden with me, Robert and Rosey when we were tiny. She said that he did the same at Dunorlan Park once.

3. Fenella brings me some French bread back from her business trip to Paris.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Ten minute's grace, meeting point and stillness.

1. I race out of the house late and hurry down the High Street, jabbing at my phone to call John P who is giving me a lift. 'I'm late. Please don't leave without me!' 'That's fine, I'm just getting out of the bath. I'll be about ten minutes. Go and have a coffee.' So I go for a stroll round the park and admire the leaves which have suddenly turned yellow and gold.

2. A schoolgirl waiting for her friend in the middle of the park. All the secondary schoolgirls round here have a short skirt for their uniform. It makes them look very leggy and a bit awkward.

3. Before yoga, our hall is used by a very noisy children's group. They always run late, so we've taken to going in as they are clearing up. There is always shouting: 'Whose is this jacket?' 'Whose rubbish?' 'Pick up that bag and take it to the car!' 'Come on Becky! Hurry up!' and I really like the silence after the door bangs behind the last one.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Carpool, office sounds and homeward bound.

1. All the people who are happy to ferry me to and from work.

2. The cheery beep of the sandwich van's horn and the cries of 'Sandwiches!' 'Sandwiches!' that chain around the building.

3. Late at night the sound of someone whistling as they meander down the High Street.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Marmalade, going down and dark.

1. Hilary brings a marmalade cake into work. We eat it for elevensies at 9.45am and then again for elevensies at 11am.

2. The sunset call. At this time of year, at around 4.20pm, one of the people sitting on the west-facing desks will say: 'Look at the sky!' and we all run to the windows -- or out into the carpark if it's an especially good one -- to admire the orange and red and pink stained sky.

3. Proper darkness -- living in a town I don't often see proper, pitch black, can't see my hand in front of my face. I grew up in the countryside, and I really miss it. However, now that the nights have drawn in and we never leave work, which is in the middle of nowhere, before nightfall, my darkness craving is satisfied.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Well red, vicar's bicycle and boots.

I don't mention Now's the Time nearly often enough -- Plutarch 3BTs here in Tunbridge Wells, and in my opinion, he is one of the most skilled 3BTers.

1. I've mentioned guelder rose and its gleaming red berries before; I'm going to mention it again because the leaves have now turned crimson.

2. A bike leaning against the back wall of a country churchyard at service time.

3. My Berghaus walking boots. Since I bought them back in 2000, they've taken me to Nepal, China and round Africa. They've been up and down mountains and tramped across the mud of Kent and Sussex farmlands. They've protected my feet on a volunteering holiday and walked me safely to work on snowy days. They've been paddled through streams and shuffled through sand -- desert and beach. They've moved house three times with me. They've waited patiently in ski lockers for me to come back and marvel at how light they feel after a day in ski boots. So far, they show no signs of wearing out, so I hope they've got a good few miles left in them.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Discovery, style guidance and stand still.

1. There is something new on the apple juice man's stall. Bottles of pinkish Discovery juice. Being a sucker for anything pink, I put some bottles in my order. 'Have you tasted it?' 'No.' 'Have a try. Normally it doesn't make good juice, but this year...' He's right. It has a fantastic appley smell and it's sweet and sour all at once. While I drink it, I can imagine eating a Discovery apple and feeling the juice running down my chin.

2. Woman of a certain age overheard in a shoe shop: 'I've got to be tactful about what I wear: I'm a twin, you see.'

3. Everything stopping for the two-minute silence on the 11th of November at 11am. Gradually the stalls stop serving and everyone turns towards the war memorial to stand still and think about all those who died protecting our way of life.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Wonderment, vocals and ready meal.

1. He-who-shall-not-be-named is normally unmoved by anything; but a random gust of wind whirling leaves past our first floor window makes him marvel a little.

2. Ellen comes in to say that Douglas-downstairs is alone in the office and singing 'and he's rather good!' We crowd to the top of the stairs to try and hear him.

3. A neat little homemade shepherd's pie in an earthenware dish. I made it last night with some leftover mince and mashed potato. Much more satisfying than a ready meal.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Knife, assistance and tunes.

Note: Norm Geras has interviewed me on his eclectic Norm Blog -- it will appear sometime today. I've never been interviewed before, and was tremendously flattered, but also a bit blinded by the lights. If I sound like a moron, that's why. But anyway, I recommend poking around beyond the interview on Norm Blog as there seems to be something for everyone.

1. The easy way a brioche loaf slices. The knife seems to slip through it as if it wants to be in slices.

2. Now that Ellie is taking all our phone calls, it's much easier to concentrate on the work that I really enjoy.

3. Finding a CD that I've forgotten I own. Looking down the track list, I can't recall any of the songs; but once it's playing it all comes flooding back. The Coral -- The Invisible Invasion

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Shoot the messenger, long view and local news.

1. Responding to the office next door's cheeky request for a share of our biscuits by sending their messenger back with an handful of broken pieces.

2. Looking out from the carpark at work across the dark fields and woods to Crowborough, a mound of twinkles and sparks rising out of the mist.

3. Reading The Framley Examiner and spotting knowing references to all sorts of things. I'm convinced the writers are rogue subs from a middle England newspaper. Who else would know about community news correspondents who try to file their copy by emailing you an 8MB bitmap scan of their minutes?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Crumbs, computer whizz and snore.

1. The free box of biscuits that came with our 7.5kg tea bag order at work.

2. Ellie's story about a schoolfriend who somehow managed to put a macro on MSWord that closed it down every time she tried to launch it.

3. The chance to have an early night.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Warm comfort, shadow play and steamed buns.

1. Rolling over in the night and finding a still-warm hotwater bottle with my cold back.

2. Sunbeams slanting through trees so that the almost bare branches make shadows on the mist.

3. Showing James, Kim and PaulV the ways of Chinese steamed buns. They are light and sweet and fluffy, and I imagine that when we have evolved into Eloi this is the sort of thing we will pluck from trees and eat.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

House in order, been here before and reflection.

I've posted on One-at-all. That is all.

1. Feeling that my blog housekeeping is under control... if only the same could be said for real housekeeping.

2. While listening to a radio play, getting a very strong mental picture from it. Then I realise that the picture is the cover of the book version that I read when I was 13. The Blade of the Poisoner is on Radio 7 this week. The story is the efforts of band of adventurers to save a boy marked by a poisoned blade. The scratch will kill him in a month unless... unless... my memory doesn't go back that far, but I'm sure it involves a disparate band on a mission apparently doomed to fail through a lavish fantasy landscape, all the while pursued by the Poisoner, his stupid guards and their trained spiders.

3. I know there is a wonderful sunset visible from the back window on the landing because the white walls of the buildings over the street from the window in my flat take on a warm pinkish glow.

Valued customer, little indie boys and one mind.

1. My favourite vegetable man has not been at the Farmers' Market on Civic Way recently. It was a relief to find that he has defected to the Pantiles Market and that he hasn't forgotten me. And while browsing in one of my favourite bookshops, the Pantile Papertole -- it's the sort that stocks a jumble of used and new -- I am offered a cup of tea by the owner. That's service for you.

2. At the Dunorlan Park fireworks, a little indie boys wearing a long striped top and his hair gelled down into a lank fringe at the front and up into tufts at the back. He had his arms around two girls. He made me think of a Rolling Stone. They almost fell over three more little indie boys who asked in cracking adolescent voices: 'Are you gonna stay in town after this?' 'He's got to be home by 10 o'clock,' said one of the girls.

3. The joy with which the crowd greeted the fireworks. At first there were some sarcastic oohs and ahhs, but these were quickly replaced by genuine gasps of amazement at high rockets exploding overhead in umbrellas of coloured stars and smoke; and clouds of bright fireflies falling slowly earthwards before twinkling out one by one.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Letters, children's classic and still alive.

1. Two lovely long emails from friends, and text message full of news from another friend, and a note from Fenella's mother with a wedding photograph.

2. The bit in Swallows and Amazons where Titty is left alone on the island to put candles in the leading lights. I like it because she enjoys her own company so much, but then wishes she could go back to Holly Howe after her mother comes to visit.

3. My neighbours coming round to check that I'm still alive; and a get well soon note from work in the comments for yesterday's post.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Biscuits, cranes and small things.

1. The venue we use for our London conference has a conservatory with a glass roof. While we had lunch there, we saw a crane on a nearby building site moving a skip high overhead. My father always says that while there are cranes in the city, everything's all right.

2. The biscuits at the conference venue, and seeing one of our speakers pocketing a few packs. He said he'd come back because he'd forgotten his coat.

3. The O. Henry story, The Head-Hunter.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Lucky pills, hear no evil and Welsh myth.

1. Ow ow wisdom teeth alert. My jaw hurts, my ear aches, my throat is sore and I am hot and cold all over. Woe is me. Then I remember talking to my dentist about wisdom teeth-related emergencies while I was in Africa earlier this year. He gave me course of antibiotics just in case. Are they still in date? Yes. And the capsules are a cheery and reliable-looking red and yellow.

2. My work computer has no speakers. Boo. But this means I have to use earphones if I want to listen to the radio at lunch time which means almost no interruptions by the phone and people wanting things, because I can't hear them.

3. BBC Radio 7 had a dramatisation of The Owl Service. It's a novel by Alan Garner inspired by the Welsh Blodeuwedd myth. I read it when I was very young and didn't really appreciate the whole love-triangle class tensions plot, but this time I got a lot more out of it.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Arrogance, praise and flying fish.

1. The special kind of arrogance required to be a writer. If I don't have it, I don't believe my work is worth reading and therefore I don't write anything. When it's in full flow words come out of my fingertips and know that what I am saying is fascinating and compelling. I imagine this is what being a man is like.

2. The people at work who oh and ah over my cross-stitch. It's easy to forget when I keep my nose to the fabric, thinking only of the next stitch, just how much I have done.

3. The fish that swim through the air in Mirrormask.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Snooze, last rose and yellow soup.

1. Going back to sleep for half an hour.

2. A last rose in the midst of leafless briars. It is an unremarkable plastic pink colour by day, but at night it glows.

3. A large bowl of bright yellow butternut squash soup. And the smell of coriander as I am chopping it to add to this soup.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Croquet, victory and chores.

1. Hearing an odd thwocking sound in the park, and then coming up out of the sunken garden and seeing a croquet match being played on the bowling green.

2. Winning convincingly at backgamon.

3. Having the washing up done for me -- cheers Andy.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Untwist, united and dressing up.

1. Waking up and almost immediately thinking of a way to resolve the short story that I am writing.

2.One at all. It's a new blog that is collecting one person from each country to write on a variety of topics. Projects like this make the world seem a happier, safer place, while celebrating our differences. I am honoured to have been asked to join -- I made my first post yesterday.

3. I'm not really a great shopper in boutiques, but I thought that this time, since the outfit was my reward to myself for finishing a story, I would give it a try. I mooned about for a few minutes looking vaguely at the racks, and then an assistant bore down on me. 'Can I help?' Instead of my usual 'Just having a look.' I told her: 'I'm after a wedding outfit for November. I like a deep neckline and proper shoulders so I can wear a bra.' Minutes later I was whisked into the changing room with five outfits lined up. I was made to come out in each and the good and bad points were discussed. 'That one makes you look matronly.' 'I love the way the lacy panels show off my ankles.' 'This one is great -- you can wear the top again with jeans, put the skirt with a belt and a different top.' 'You really have got a waist -- look how this shows it off.'

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Blinding yellow, building and wild chickens.

1. The yellow leaves on a tulip tree. The road to work is all in shade, but the top of this tree was in the sun. The leaves were so bright I could hardly stand to look at them. They reminded me of a bowl of lemons on a sunny table at the height of summer.

2. On the other side of the road, a house is been going up. Today three men are hanging tiles on the roof. I think the family who is going to live there will be in by Christmas.

3. Pheasants. I like the way their feathers whistle as they fly up. I love seeing them scurry off along the path ahead of me. And if I sneak up really close, I can hear them brooding to themselves like contented chickens. (Photograph by Michael Grant)



Friday, October 27, 2006

Tasks, autumnals and onions.

1. We have got a temp in at work and he's doing all the tasks that need doing but get put to one side because they are boring.

2. I set out late for my walk and meet my boss coming back from his. 'It's wonderful,' he says. 'All the colours!' Going down the lane I spot guelder rose trees bowed down by bloated, glossy scarlet berries; holly trees with thick clusters of waxy red berries; bloomy grey blue sloes; silk pink spindle berries and leaves in all shades of orange and red and brown.

3. Nibbling at fried onions while I wait for my dinner. It's meant to go in the pasta, but I'm cooking for myself, so there's no-one to tell me not to pick and spoil my supper.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

In/out, memorabilia and I can.

1. I leave my curtains open when I get home at 5.30pm to let in the last of the day light and so I can compare the driving grey blue foggy rain outside with the warm creams and browns colours in my flat.

2. Reminders of Africa and all the beautiful things that trip generated. In particular, roibos tea that recalls a refreshing drink after a long walk; and the noise of my boiler starting up the central heating, which makes me think of the 'blissful ablutions' at Umvuvu Bush Camp..

3. In yoga we did a pose that I always think I shouldn't be able to do, but I can. It is Vasisthasana -- the side plank pose.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Hot chocolate, games and puns.

Special mention to Beth over at Shades of Bliss for finding 3BT in a bad experience.

1. I am working from home so I get to have hot chocolate (yes, the special hot chocolate) for my elevensies, and it is good. It foams up as good cocoa should; it is just the right sort of creaminess; and it has all the bitter notes that I like.

2. It's half term so the park is full of children.

3. Getting puns in a book, because it makes me feel like I am in a secret gang with the writer and their cleverer readers. I also like that feeling that there might be pun that I'm not seeing, because I anticipate the moment when all becomes clear. I am reading Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Wild west, I can't hear you and drifting off.

1. Our Monday morning meeting is interrupted by the bellowing of cattle being moved into the barn and the shouts of the cowmen.

2. Ignoring the phone because I am on my lunch break.

3. Just as I am falling asleep, a vision of smoky dragons dancing in a blue-green sky.

Monday, October 23, 2006

High society, champion and intense chocolate.

1. It's been a bit quiet with Fenella and Andy away. They're back now, however, and to ease them into the routine of married life, I watched Revenge of the Sith with them, and allowed them to give me dinner -- which was both jolly and delicious.

2. Winning a competition on Word Imperfect. This is a game where you have to guess the definition of a word -- the most creative wins. I defined termagant as... well you'll just have to go over and have a look.

3. The smell of a packet of special cocoa powder. Can't wait to try it -- but the milk's gone a bit solid today.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Mervyn Peake, artistic licence and little legs.

Yesterday was spent with Cat, Alan and my goddaughter Ellie. We were looking at pictures and eating dumplings.

1. Mervyn Peake's pictures. We went to Chris Beetle's Art Gallery which has an exhibition of Peake's work. We saw the original drawings he did for Quest for Sita, which I have loved since the moment I first saw them. They so far out of my reach it's not even worth considering them. But the gallery man chatted to us and assured me that one day, I would own a Peake. I have faith, and I have a 30th birthday coming up. The gallery always has some Peakes in stock and will pull a selection out of the archives with a bit of notice. I am very much looking forward to a trip up to town a bit nearer the time to go and choose my Peake. Also exciting was that Peake's son Sebastian had come in to see how the sale was going. There was another exhibition -- Ronald Searle, who I know and love from Gerald Willan's Moleworth. We were told that he correpsonds only by telephone or preferably fax. His faxes scroll out covered in little doodles, 'So we want to keep our fax machine!'

2. Sitting in the National Gallery I overheard a mother and her little boy's conversation. The boy was copying a detail from a portrait of the Capel family and I was making notes for one of my Other Projects. My occasional comments to Cat, who was leaning against my back, wove in and out of the mother and son's dialogue: 'Look at his green stockings,' 'They remind me of Malvolio's [in Twelfth Night] yellow stockings with cross garters.' 'That little girl on the right is holding something. I bet it's a mouse.' 'Did you hear what that lady said? She thinks the little girl is holding a mouse.' 'What's the baby got?' 'It's a chilli pepper.' 'I think it's something for it to chew on.' 'That portrait over there of the King of France has one too, look.' 'I've got every colour but red, I'm afraid. You'll have to do the chair in black and colour it later.' 'Only the baby is looking at the artist.' 'The girl on the right looks so sad. She looks as if she's about to burst into tears.' 'She has tummy ache and wants to go to the loo.' 'I think the mother is saying to the dad: can we have a break? She needs to go to the loo. But he's saying: no, just a bit longer.'

3. Obligatory Ellie Beautiful Things: She is trying to crawl, but can't quite work out how to get that second leg behind her. It's a tricky movement -- try sitting with your legs in front of you, knees akimbo, and see if you can tip forward on to all-fours. It helps if you imagine there is someting you are reaching for (probably something digusting that your parents don't want you to stuff in your mouth). It's funny to think that in a few weeks when she is scooting around clearing low shelves of books and poking things into electric sockets, Cat and Alan will be nostalgic for the time when she stayed where you put her.

And I love the way people respond to her. They say that Londoners are unfriendly, but the number of people who smiled at her sleeping in her pushchair with her hood pulled over her face was phenomenal.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Shh, autumnals and soup.

1. The quiet of the office when everyone has gone to the pub at lunchtime. And having colleagues who don't think I am being stand-offish or unfriendly if I don't feel like joining them.

2. The turkey oak has filled the corner of the Grove with its angular orange and red leaves.

3. The sound of what will be a pan of soup simmering on the hob.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Nutting, mushrooms and pictures.

1. Rolling spiny chestnut husks under my boots. I can feel sound nuts 'squeaking' against each other -- the deflated duds don't seem to rub against each other in the same way. Once the husks have split open, I can pick the glossy brown nuts out of the mud.

2. While hunting for chestnuts, I find a few porcini mushrooms on a mossy bank. I take the best one of them home for supper. The yellow flesh tinges blue when it is sliced -- which I reckon makes it Boletus badius. Fried with butter and added to pasta with a few sweet tomatoes and herbs, it is delicious.

3. New photos. A package from Boots -- including a lovely one of my sister crossing her eyes, and several of Andy and Fenella, battling with the veil at the wedding; and PaulV emails a few over -- two scenes from last weekend in Wales. One is a group shot and one is a B&W picture of me sitting on a ruin looking severe and stern, which will cause great hilarity at work.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Tech support, coffee pot and blue smoke.

1. The waiter helping the lady at the next table to work her laptop.

2. The coffee pot at work tends to be ignored once it's empty -- no-one likes cleaning out the grounds. I thought I'd better do it while I was making a round of teas. As I put my hand in, expecting the horrid feeling of coffee grounds in my fingernails. Instead, the most obvious sensation was the smell of oranges and spice -- we'd been drinking flavoured coffee.

3. While walking along a footpath between the backs of two rows of houses, I catch a whiff of cigar smoke. I imagine someone had exiled themselves to the garden to enjoy their cigar in peace.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Girls together, faces at the window and Sussex hills.

1. A mother walking her ten-year-old daughter to school. They were playing a game that involved trying to hit the back of each other's legs and giggling like mad.

2. As I left work at 1pm, seeing the boys pressing their faces against the window to see who I was going out to lunch with. I think they were disappointed that it was just my family.

3. The Mother standing entranced by the view of Sussex fields, hills and woods from the terrace doors of the Mark Cross Inn.


Special mention to Featherhead, 3BTer extraordinaire under trying conditions.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Service, sisters and settling.

1. A mug of hot coffee being brought to my desk.

2. Hilary at work describing how her two daughters went off shopping together to get a birthday outfit for the youngest one. We often hear about their squabbles, and Hilary was obviously thrilled that they co-operated long enough to do this.

2. Last time I spoke to the mother of my goddaughter, she was a bit frayed because the little rascal wasn't sleeping for more than two hours at a stretch. But I phoned her yesterday and she sounded so relaxed and contented. The baby is sleeping eight hours at a go, and now has two little teeth.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Paddle, peel and warming things.

1. Learning the ways of kyaking. When I first start, I turn round in circles. But our instructors explain the secret ways and quite soon I am darting around in a straight line, turning when I want to turn and not bumping into the others. I really liked the way he corrected a bad paddling technique. 'You're moving your hands with each stroke, which is good because it gives you more leverage, but it's better to keep them still so you've got a grip on your paddle.' I enjoyed the manoeuvrability -- it was great being able to get into the water so easily; and to paddle into a sea cave or right up against the cliffs. Kim reports that it's a wonderful way to get close to wildlife, because they don't hear you coming. 'I've made friends with moorhens.'

2. The gear you wear for outdoor pursuits -- specially if it's borrowed -- can be smelly and uncomfortable. One of life's great pleasures is taking it off.

3. Hot chocolate after a couple of hours on the water. And back at the lodge, a lunch of warming soup full of potatoes and lentils and vegetables with doorsteps of bread and butter.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Cold water, the zone and scenes from the cliffs.

We are staying at Preseli Venture, Pembrokeshire for a weekend of outdoor activities celebrating James' 30th birthday. Our adventures for today are coasteering and hiking.

1. I'm scared of jumping into water. I'm not scared of water or heights -- it's the act of stepping off the edge that frightens me. And I really suffer from cold shock when I jump in -- I lose breath control and for a couple of minutes can do nothing but gasp uncontrollably, sucking down whatever air and water get into my nose and mouth. So my first beautiful thing is... every time I jump into water, I know that I am beating the fear; and that the next time I want to jump in, it'll be easier. And also, I always get used to the water, and after the first ducking, I'm in control of my breathing again.

2. Coasteering takes you to places that you are normally not supposed to go. Cliffs, for example; the white water at the bottom of cliffs, and rocks just offshore.

3. Julia -- the American girl that we stole from her group to be our friend -- spots a sign saying 'Access to burial chamber' so we divert from the prescribed walk along the coast path and investigate five stones with an enormous boulder balanced on the top. Other Points of Interest include: some very cuddly-looking black cows; a furry bear caterpiller; seals rolling in the blue water far below us; a shiney black beetle.

Scrambled eggs, extra time and over the water.

1. For lots of reasons -- two egg yolks left over from the souflé; bacon needing to be eaten; bread has to be finished; uncertainty about lunch; gap between lunch and dinner expected to be long -- a cooked breakfast seems a great idea. I have a creamy heap of very yellow scrambled eggs and some crispy bacon on toast. Then I finish the last slice of chocolate torte from last night.

2. My travelling companions are held up; but that's all right, because it gives me a chance to do a bit more work; which means less to do on Monday.

3. Crossing a suspension bridge is rather magical, because it seems such a daring piece of engineering. The slope of the Severn Bridge and the fineness of the cables made it seem as if we are flying. PaulV had me film it, and the footage is full of laughter and exclamations.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Without even trying, culinary and zoology.

I'm away from computers this weekend. Normal service will be resumed on Monday.

1. Calls where users swear blind that they can't log on but when you talk them through it step-by-step, the site opens up as if it has never done anything else.

2. The moussey noise of a soufflé being served.

3. After dinner, Caroline catches sight of my animal dictionary with cries of joy. We look up paradox frogs and bush babies.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Behind the scenes, noises and chores done.

Thank you to all the commenters and emailers for letting me know what you think of 3BT. Lots of you have said you are inspired -- I feel inspired, too, knowing I'm pleasing so many people. To all those who asked if they can link, please do! I am a bit behind with the Roll of Honour (see right) but I'm doing a few links each day, and it will be ready soon.

1. Following my flight of fancy about the woods being covered in fog because They were getting them ready for autumn, Douglas said that it was because They were resetting all the spring bulbs now so they wouldn't have to do it in a huge rush at the end of winter.

2. Katie appears with an enormous parcel. I can't guess what it is, but when I get through the tape, I discover that she has acquired (somehow) a set of speakers for my computer so that my radio doesn't sound tinny.

3. When all the washing up is stacked up in the drying rack and I am free to flollop down in front of the TV.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Foot in the door, calm down and basket case.

1. Working out in the middle of nowhere makes shopping hell, particularly if I want something now, damn it. I get to Trevor Mottram's kitchen shop with just minutes to spare at the end of the day not only do they have the souffle dish that I want, but they are not at all cross about having to serve someone right before they close.

2. Watching people who have come into the pub all edgy and wound up gradually relax and step back from the edge as they move further away from the little stresses of their working day.

3. In The Breakfast Club the look of glee on Allison's face as she adds 'snow' to her picture by shaking dandruff out of her hair.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sounds, red and green and clean washing.

1. Listening to Oli's songs on the car stereo on the way into work. He recorded himself playing and singing all the parts on 8-track over the weekend. It's a very strange effect to hear him harmonising with himself and playing two sorts of guitar. I wonder what the other band members of Oli and 8-tracks would be like. I imagine a sort of Jekyll, Jekyll, Hyde and Hyde scenario where he slips between band members, and has to get each one out of trouble.

2. The crimson of ruby chard and the green of runner beans in the stir fry that I cook for me and Katie.

3. The softness of my knitted coat when it has been washed and rinsed in fabric conditioner. And I love how light it feels when the water has been spun out of it in the washing machine.

Monday, October 09, 2006

White hart, naughty dogs and siblings.

The comments are still coming -- thank you everyone.

1. Louise wakes me at 7am to peer out of her bathroom window at a white hart standing the end of the field. If I hadn't been so sleepy, we might have followed it through the woods to an adventure with knights and pavillions and jousting and falcons.

2. Hearing that Louise's naughty little dog Minty has recently been in a bit of trouble for burying her bone upstairs under the pillow of the spare bed.

3. My brother's latest scheme to get a mention in Three Beautiful Things. He asked our sister Rosey if she would tell me that he had died -- which, he thought, might earn him a special tribute -- and then a few days later, tell me that he had miraculously survived -- which I would consider a beautiful thing, too, apparently. But just to show him, the beautiful thing about all this was Rose phoning me for a chat, during which she brought this up.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Celebration, dogcart and legend.

The comments and emails are still pouring in -- thank you so much, everyone, especially those who are trying it for themselves, and those who have asked incisive questions about what I am trying to achieve. I read every single one, and I'm trying to check out all your blogs and reply to your questions, but it may take some time for me to respond. I am totally bowled over by the number of notes, and the compliments have put a big glowy smile on my face. To all those who ask if it's OK to link to 3BT, go ahead, no need to ask!

1. Being made a Blog of Note (thank you, oh Gods of Blogger) and using it as an excuse to buy pink Champagne and ring my parents very early in the morning.

2. Walking round the French Market on the Pantiles I spot a very large dog hitched to a little wooden shopping cart. A small crowd has gathered round to admire this arrangement.

3. There is a new Robin Hood series on BBC 1. I like Robin Hood because it is so very English, and because it involves lots of cheeky verbal jousting with the Norman invaders, daring rescues and some fancy arrow work. And this one features a very dishy Dominic Green.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Friday talk, snug and eating while you read.

Good morning all -- welcome to all those who surfed in off Blogs of Note, and all the regulars too. I am thrilled at being a Blog of Note -- really glad to have the opportunity of telling more people about the idea of Three Beautiful Things. I have read all the comments and I am delighted by all the compliments and very pleased that so many people are enjoying 3BT. Hope you stick around.

1. The Friday conversation: 'So what are you doing this weekend?'

2. We can't see the hills, and the clouds are racing overhead. The wind is howling, and the rain is lashing against our big window. It makes the office seem very cosy and safe.

3. Having a slice of pizza in one hand and a book in the other.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Lost and found, sophistication and cafe society.

1. Thinking we've lost our office spider, and then realising I'm looking out of the wrong bit of window.

2. Teasing Charlotte, our latest recruit, about working on a publication called Pooley's:
HWSNBN: Clare used to do Pooley's when she first arrived.
Me: Yeah, I remember you doing Pooley's in the corner of the old office.
HWSNBN: We all have to do Pooley's at some point.
Me: At certain times of year, there's piles of Pooley's all over the office.
Etc until we are laughing too much to go on.

3. Drinking hot chocolate in a cafe and writing a list of 50 things that make me happy.

Computer says no, a moment's peace and heat vampire.

1. The huge satisfaction of being unhelpful to a rude customer.

2. Just before 8pm, I pass a shop that is being refitted. There are tools and wood and dust everywhere. In the midst of all the muddle sits a builder reading the paper.

3. Coming in out of the cold night to find my flat is a comfortable 23C. This warmth is partly leftovers from the morning sun and partly my neighbours' central heating.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Growing up, puff and crumpets.

1. A little boy who one moment begs his mother to be carried, and the next moment spots his friends and runs off.

2. Making puffball mushrooms blow out clouds of spores.

3. It is cold enough to eat crumpets.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Scrunch, peace at last and smirk.

The wedding post is now up.

In other news, I have had another Postcrossing card including Three Beautiful Things. Nettie says: 1. My son; 2. Where I live; 3. A surprise visit from my brother and sister-in-law.

1. The layer of acorns on the ground in the car park.

2. Finally getting a go with some of my new books (see Friday's entry about the Amazon parcel). Flight 3 -- short comics with a link to flying, including a softly-coloured fable about a rebel cloud; and a Calvin and Hobbes-ish girl and her dragon holding a tea party; and a girl and a fairy hunting through the woods for a wicked bear. I liked the stories because they are so short that they leave open heaps of possibilities. The other book was Vimanarama, which I know I'm going to like because the first pages see the hero racing to the rescue on his bike while a Bollywood chorus line dances around him.

3. He who shall not be named smiling secretly about something. He claims it is because I'm in a bad mood with slowness of the website and must be cheered up.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Poplar trees, dogs and gameplay.

1. The smell of poplar trees.

2. Dogs that are adored by their owners.

3. Learning to play backgammon.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Alien heads, bride, spectators, night scents, is she here, chatelaine, forbidden fruit, Latina and finery.

As is customary, large post for special day.

1. The curlers in our hair made us look like the Mysterons.

2. Fenella looked so beautiful in her wedding dress that I cried. Lucky the make-up was completely tear-proof, really. What I liked best of all (apart from her enormous smile) was that she loved her full-length veil so much that she kept it on for the whole day.

3. My mother turning up to watch us going into the church. Later I learnt that Oli's wife Caroline was there, too. And I loved all the passing children ohhing at Fenella and getting in the way of the camera.

4. Smelling the lavender bushes with Emma in the twilight, and spotting a flash of white on the other side of the hedge where the bride and groom were stealing a moment alone.

5. Jim telling us that while they waited in the church for the bride, every time the organ came to the end of a song, Andy would whisper: 'It's showtime.' Then the organ would start up again. 'And I would swear the opening chords were the wedding march every time, but it never was'.

6. I nipped upstairs to use the bridal dressing room in the castle, and once I met a tiny little dog on the landing and heard the laughter of a very old lady. Another time, just as it got dark, I met the lady herself, elegantly dressed and very sharp-looking. 'Oh you look beautiful,' she said. 'Are you having a good time?' I was more than a little starry by this time, so I babbled rather about how beautiful the castle looked, and how happy I was to be there and how much fun I was having.

7. The naughty look on the other Claire's face as she stole strawberries from the chocolate fountain table.

8. Andy's mother dancing to Macarena.

9. Fiona, Jim and Dan sitting in Wetherspoons in their wedding finery. Our Wetherspoons is the old opera house, and secretly, I thought they were the only ones properly dressed for the occasion.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Joys, man of the cloth and daddy's girl.

1. Ellie saying that I looked like a child at Christmas when opening my package from Amazon.

2. The vicar, because he is so jolly-looking. He looks like a vicar who would aid the heroine of a novel, either with philosophical conversation that calms a spirit in turmoil, or by providing madeira, biscuits and dry clothes, or by opening a useful but unsuitable book on the table and then leaving the room.

3. Fenella cuddling up to her dad on the sofa the night before her wedding.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Fungus, friends and voices.

1. Two fat toadstools pushing up through the dust between the pavement and a wall.

2. Walking with with Jason and Jessy the dog because they knows so many people.

3. Two girls working in Marks and Sparks practising all the accents they can do as they wait for their late shift to end.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Trio, push and sinking.

1. Three littlies all holding hands as they walk into nursery school.

2.When the plunger of the coffee pot really pushes back, because it means the coffee is going to be strong.

3. I stay up late because I feel as if I can't settle, but when I finally go to bed I fall straight into a deep and dreamy sleep.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Daily grind, warm clothes and card trick.

A kind Anonymous has commented with an answer to a question I posted back in August 2005 about the origins of the phrase 'The race that knows Joseph' .

1. The new website is running at work, so it is a time of fear and uncertainty. This makes a each simple routine task seem like a huge achievement.

2. Wearing summer clothes for the last time. There was a sharp nip in the air that made me feel decidely chilly under my skirts. An awful lot of people were wearing dark trousers and closed shoes, too, and I saw a few scarves. A few people were wearing sandals and short sleeves as well, but I think we all knew we were out of place, even in the golden afternoon sunshine. I'm looking forward to pulling old friends out of my winter wardrobe, and seeing what I need to buy -- a good pair of slippers; a pair of vintage-style brown leather boots with horizontal stitching across the foot; a couple more knitted frock coats; and a hat, scarf and gloves set.

3. Sitting in the window of the Guinea Butt watching a stranger teach Bluety to throw playing cards. The stranger's fly catch the wind and fly over the building opposite; or in through the window of a passing car, or across the road and into a litter bin. Bluety's land at his feet, or hit him in the face. The stranger tries to explain the trick -- it appears to be all in the wrist.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

New machine, excitement and comfort.

1. Unpacking a new computer. I like the cunning tabs you have to pull to free the batteries in the mouse; and the setting it up so it's exactly the way I like it.

2. A wildlife documentary with lots of enthusiastic handwaving and gasps of amazement.

3. A comforting phone call to PaulV in which we realign my universe so that everything is in the right proportion.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Words, summoning and green skirt.

1. The comments and emails I get about 3BT usually brighten my morning routine and often change the way I think about the day. Cheers everyone.

2. Sunday morning text messages that are a call to brunch.

3. My green skirt. The end has come for this beloved garment: the tatter on the left hip where my bag rubs, has grown so large as to be indecent, and summer is over, so it's time for our ways to part. I love green as a base colour for summer, so I always have a green skirt or two. This has been one of my favourites: soft linen is a pleasure to wear and easy to care for; the generous cut makes it easy to move in; the shade of green is pretty and easy to match. If you hear the last post at the recycling centre, you'll know why.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Misty moisty, swish and domestic.

1. Waking up to a strange and misty morning. It makes people going about their Saturday morning tasks look mysterious and full of stories.

2. Trying on my bridesmaid dress so it can altered. I love walking up and down and feeling and hearing the skirts swishing.

3. Coming home and finding supper ready to go because Katie has done the potatoes and got the pan hot ready for my lamb noisette.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Glass wall, good cheer and neat habits.

1. Having an office with a huge window through which we can watch the rain.

2. Jason comes round to borrow the internet, bringing a drinkable bottle of wine.

3. When the ratheap of papers covering the table has been sorted out and put away.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Glimpse, half a hundred and jelly.

1. A glimpse between the houses of the landscape beyond the edge of town.

2. Being asked to make a list of 50 things that make me happy.

3. Ladelling golden apple jelly into hot jars.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Conker, corset and curve.

1. Finding a glossy brown conker on the ground.

2. I've lost weight (yay) and now my corset needs adjusting (boo) to avoid scandalising the wedding party. I go to Manuela's Retoucherie and Manuela and her African tailor tut over me. When I explain to him what I want to achieve with the corset. The tailor throws up his hands in horror. 'You women... you women...' He wonders how I will breathe, how I will eat. In my darker moments, I wonder too, but the thought of leaving the house with bare shoulders (bare shoulders!) and a properly secured bust soon chases this away. And the way a corset forces me to sit up and to move very elegantly. Also it is very pleasing to look down and see my bust tucked into a neat little shelf.

3. A pan of apples have been slowly cooking in my oven. Now I pour them into the jelly bag, which is suspended on the legs of a stool over a large bowl. The pulp in the bag makes a beautiful pregnant belly shape, complete with a little drip that looks like a navel.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Cooler, closure and pommes.

1. The temperature has dropped, so leaving the house is very refreshing.

2. Finishing things -- House on the Strand came to a chilling conclusion on BBC Radio 7, while I completed my response to a wedding invitation.

3. The smell of apples and cinnamon cooking.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Autumn, staff of life and time for bed.

1. The orange leaves on the horse chestnut trees signal that change is on its way.

2. Troll bread -- Flour Power City's caraway and raisin -- is so filling that if I have a couple of slices with my lunch, I don't think about eating again until suppertime.

3. I watched The Magic Roundabout movie, which I'm not going to recommend, but there were certain things I liked -- the ice-fanatic Zeebad looks like a Siberian shaman; and Dougal pretending that he was scared of sugar lumps so that Zeebad's henchman fed him 26 thinking it was torture.

Monday, September 18, 2006

70s style, view and double line.

1. Finding one of the Oz books in Oxfam when I was looking for something light to read. It has a funky 1970s cover with Ozma and Dorothy retro print dresses.

2. Looking back down South Grove and seeing a face at Fenella's window.

3. The avenue of trees on the Common. It was planted for Queen Victoria, and I like thinking about all the people who have walked down it over the years. There was once a bandstand somewhere near by, but there seems to be no trace of it now.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Boing, skirts and for the driver.

1. Walking down a footpath between the backs of two streets, I hear a strange squeaching springy noise. It's two little boys bouncing on a trampoline.

2. Maxine's Marilyn-style dress. It has a halter neck and a big pouffy skirt and is made of crisp white fabric with little raised black dots on it. We demanded to know where she got it -- her sister's wardrobe, it turned out. It was made for a school ball by Maxine's mother.

3. Ordering a complicated mocktail for Paul V. It involved fresh mint and crushed ice and took so long to make that other people queuing for the bartender's attention looked on in awe and asked: 'What did you order?'

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Phew, pider and jam pots.

1. Waking up just in time when the alarm clock fails to go off.

2. The fat spider hanging on the office window. His body is as large as a pea, and it has a white star in the middle, which makes me think he must have run away from the circus. We watch with horrid fascination as he snatches flies from the centre of his web and bundles them up in thread before sucking their blood at his leisure. Glad he's on the outside of the glass.

3. Making damson jam, and discovering that the damsons are easy to stone -- not like the last year's batch, which were so unwilling to give up their pips that I left them in. It made eating the jam a bit of a mission (but it was still very good). This year's lot are plumper, and twist apart easily once they've been slit open with a knife.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Costumes, drunk and rite of passage.

1. The whimsical hats, asymetrical buttonings and strange lop-sided hoopskirts worn by the chorus in Wicked.

2. A drunken man in a suit weaving and stumbling about the station. He lurched across as if to speak to the driver of a train waiting at the other platform. Then his legs seemed to collapse, but the beer gods kept him upright until he reached a bench, where he sat with his head in his hands. The people sitting in front of us were watching, too. 'He's going to be sick.' 'Is he going to be sick?' 'Don't look at him, poor guy.' As the train pulled out, he was looking at his phone as if he wasn't quite sure what it would do.

3. Drunken kids tumbled on to the train at Sevenoaks. 'Where's Harry, where's Harry?' Harry was standing at the other end of the carriage with another blonde 18-year-old. I thought he might have been embarrassed by the loudness of his rabble. He waved at them. When we got to Tonbridge, we heard the big group whispering: 'Let's sing Happy Birthday to Harry as we get off.' They trooped away down the platform and broke into bellowed song. Everyone turned to look, and one man left his seat to smile indulgently at them through the door. Lucky Harry.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Warmth, furniture and storm.

1. A hotwater bottle on my aching back.

2. Monica's shelves. Robert and I were on our way to the pub when we spotted a set of designer stacking shelves labeled £25 standing outside a large house. We rang the doorbell and a man stuck his head out of the top floor window. I offered him our £20 beer money. 'I'm sure Monica will take £20. I'll come down.' So we walked away through the rain carrying the shelves. I only hope Monica wasn't the victim of a malicious prank by her housemates.

3. Watching the thunderstorm from the safety of my flat.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Ducks, puzzle and time out.

1. The track runs along an embankment between two ponds. I can see ducks on both, but they can't see each other, so they quack loudly to stay in touch.

2. Doing the crossword with my grandmother over the phone. She says that the secret of a long life is the Telegraph crossword.

3. My computer is not very happy, but that's OK, because while it defrags, I catch up with a few postcards.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Lie-in, games and to the future.

1. Turning off the alarm and going back to sleep for half an hour.

2. When playing boule, catching the right spot so that my ball hits the ground and rolls exactly where I want it to go. I like the weightiness of the balls themselves, and the sound they make when they hit each other.

3. Walking past our flat-to-be and seeing the balcony all lit up with the evening sun. Hope we get there early enough in autumn to enjoy the last of the warm evenings.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Hats, rock down and everyone's friend.

1. Sunday hats in Brixton.

2. Discovering that there is a real Electric Avenue.

3. The staff at the local cafe all know and love my goddaughter Ellie. The waiter coos over her in every spare moment, and says the most wonderful moment in a child's development is when they get numbers for the first time. And the Australian waitress carries her off for a tour of the kitchen.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Day dress, free time and tea.

1. Swanning around town in a new frock and getting it mentioned on A dress a day, my new exemplar of style. The one pictured is what I am wearing today.

2. Spending a day not househunting.

3. When there is just about time for a cup of tea.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Hunting over, woodland and babytalk.

Following the mission on Thursday -- the Three Beautiful Things Roll of Honour:

  • Christine Bourne wrote a cheering comment on a BBC Have Your Say Board -- flip back through the pages until you come to Thursday 7 September and look for Christine, New York.
  • I commented on this BBC board -- again, flip back to Thursday 7 September and look for Clare Grant, Tunbridge Wells.

Anyone else?

1. Having an offer accepted on a flat Katie and I really like.

2. Cleared woodland on a bright day. The canopy is high and the sun shines down through the haze among the tree trunks.

3. I ring Cat to firm up some arrangements for a visit, and I can hear Ellie babbling away in the background. She's trying to grab the phone so she can press the buttons.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Little deer, eclipse and drama.

1. Robert ringing me with an important annoucement. Our family has a cabinet of curiousities, which includes a very small deer leg. It's about the length of a little finger but thinner. I am happy to believe in it, -- they have something called a Mouse Deer in Malaysia -- but Bruvsie has long been unconvinced. So he was bussing through Prague last week, and having a couple of hours to waste, he went to the national museum where they had a tiny stuffed whole deer. He says he is now more willing to believe in the existence of deer with finger-sized legs.

2. There was a lunar eclipse last night, and a full moon and I saw it. There was a little shadowy bite taken out of the top of the moon as I walked home.

3. I'm really loving The House on the Strand on Radio 7. Daphne du Maurier is a mistress of the novelwriting craft. I love the way she packs in stacks of extra meaning -- the narrator can say one thing, but mean something else entirely.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

To Russia with love, Chrysanthemum Throne and toadstools.

1. A couple from Newbury wrote to the family of a Russian prisoner in 1971. The story on BBC News, told by one of the Russian children, is heartwarming, and the comments from readers at the end are fantastic too. Several readers admitted they were typing with tears rolling down their faces; and one lady knew the couple in question. It makes a lovely change from the usual gloom and doom that fills the BBC message board.

So... your mission for today: go on the BBC Have Your Say and write one happy comment about something. Then report back with a link to the story and the name that you filed your comment under. All responders -- whether they are published or not -- will go on a role of honour to be published this Saturday. And if you feel energetic, your second mission is to go to the Amnesty International site, choose a campaign and write a letter.

2. Princess Kiko of Japan has produced the first male heir to the Chrysanthemum throne (what a splendid phrase) in forty years. Firstly, congratulations. And secondly, what a beautiful response from politician Shinzo Abe: "It feels refreshing like the clear skies of autumn."

3. Mushrooms starting to appear under the hedges.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Changes, woodsmoke and transformation.

1. Arriving at work very early so that the shadows and light are different, and it's much quieter.

2. The smell of a bonfire suffusing through the office. A tree fell down last week, and has now been chopped up for fire wood. The farmer is burning the bits that are too small to be worth saving.

3. When the contents of the saucepan changes from a greasy looking mess to a glossy sauce.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Little birds, traveller and good book

1. Sparrows splashing in a puddle outside the office.

2. Ringing home and finding the my little bro has arrived home safely after travelling from Turkey to Sofia, from Sofia to Prague and from Prague to London.

3. Making time at the very end of the day to curl up on the sofa with a book -- Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which is hard work but tremendously enjoyable. The reason it is hard work is that I always want to make an occasion of reading it. For me, it's not a book to pick up in odd moments -- I think because its rich descriptions transport me into the world, and I want to be totally immersed. The best way of doing this is to enclose myself in the little circle of light at the end of the sofa and the little circle of time right before bed.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Alone, writer and wake up Donnie.

1. Spending some time by myself.

2. Re-reading and replying to an inspiring email from a writer friend. I particularly like the idea of Christine writing while wearing a nametag to remind herself that this is a proper job. You can see the results here at Really Bad Cleveland Accent.

3. Donnie Darko. I once asked a friend about this film, and she said 'Teenagers love it.' This made me file it somewhere between Heathers and Grease, but having watched it, I reckon it belongs somewhere else entirely. It's a hauntingly beautiful story about mental illness and time travel. It set my mind racing, which was a shame on a Sunday night; but I'm so glad I've seen it now.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Big shopping, safe and second thoughts.

1. Putting an offer in on a house. I have to pretend it's a game: otherwise it's all too upsetting if it doesn't work out, and paralysingly scary because of the amounts of money involved. It's also like shopping with other people's money as most of the purchase price is picked up by the mortgage.

2. Sitting inside while the rain blows horizontally down the street outside.

3. Last week I said my favourite moment in all the Star Wars films is in A New Hope between the end of the Fox Fanfare and the first notes of the Star Wars March. This week, it's when Princess Leia calls Han Solo a stuck-up, scruffy-looking nurf herder. No, wait, it's not. It's when Yoda says 'Do or do not. There is no try.' Or possibly when Darth Vader says 'Apology accepted, Captain Needa,' and then steps over the captain's strangled body. No, on second thoughts, these are beautiful things, but I think last week's moment is still my all-time favourite.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Steam, flag and staying strong.

1. Bamboo steamers each containing three delicious, tender, tasty dumplings.

2. PaulV declaring independence from the tyranny of women who treat him as an incompetant.

3. Having someone else to support making a code red situation easier to bear.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Just me, knowing what I want and saving the best till last.

1. Working from home because I only have to make drinks for myself and not for everyone else.

2. Househunting and having very definite feelings about a place -- in this case, a definite 'no'.

3. I buy myself three chocolates. The third one is a rich and smooth chilli and dark chocolate truffle and it's the best of the lot.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Apples, nuts and running.

1. A glass of sharp apple juice.

2. Cracking cobnuts with my teeth.

3. Leaning on a bridge looking down into the millrace.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Pip pip, crumble and broadcasting.

1. Ed's friend the beardog Pip coming up the stairs into the office.

2. The smell of blackberry crumble baking.

3. Listening to the comedy and drama on BBC Radio 7 because I've now got broadband. I listened to Just William and Journey into Space on Mondy, and Dr Who, Hancock's Half Hour and part of a mystery story about a strange French village yesterday.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Rain, smoothie and sardines.

1. Getting inside just before the rain starts throwing down, filling cups left on the outside tables at the cafe. And everyone turning to watch the sky emptying on us.

2. Yoghurt collecting round the frozen blackberry decorating the top of my smoothie.

3. Finding a tin of sardines and eating them with nubbly bread and some slices of homegrown cucumber.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Herbs, mollusc and skyline.

1. The smell of wild oregano.

2. Finding a giant snail -- he was as big as a victoria plum.

3. Looking at London from a viewpoint and seeing as little dots on the horizon such giants as St Paul's, the Post Office Tower and Canary Wharf.

Picture by Michael Grant

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Romance, family scene and geek and some other stuff.

Yesterday was a bit of a Beautiful Things bonanza, and I'm feeling too lazy to exercise discipline and discernment.

  1. Two postmen holding... one postman and one postwoman holding hands.
  2. A boy with an elfin face caught my eye while I was having coffee in Hoopers. He was with his mum, who had the same almond eyes and sharp angles, but she looked so tired that she was changlingish rather than elfin. An older sister manoeuvered the wheelchair carrying the youngest sister. She was about six, with huge thick glasses eyes and extraordinary hair the colour of a stormy sunset. As they settled at their table, the brother reached across and moved her damp fringe out of her eyes.
  3. Amid all the drinking and live music on the Pantiles, a geeky boy reading a book called Financial Calculus.
  4. Talking to someone I know vaguely from school and being told 'your name often comes up in conversation.'
  5. A friend giggling about a new 'possible' on the boy front. It's important to be wary at this stage, but I can't help but like all the 'when this happened, it might have meant that.'
  6. The Pantiles is all about seeing and being seen -- a man trolling up and down wearing a panama hat and smoking a meerscham pipe.
  7. A very teenage songwriter getting up on stage with his guitar and harmonica and playing his songs. Of course they were clunky and full of angst -- he's 18. But he was on his way, and his friends loved him -- he had a little gang of eight mouthing his words and cheering him on.
  8. Giving goodbye kisses to a line of people.
  9. The quiet bit between the Fox Fanfare and the Star Wars March where it says 'A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...' because even thinking about it sends a shiver down my spine.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Hill top, farewell and puppetry.

1. The view of Sussex woods and fields from the Mark Cross Inn.

2. Madie opening her leaving card very slowly and reading each signature in front of us all.

3. The hysterical cackling drawn from me and Andy at Team America. This political commentary and Thunderbirds spoof was lovingly and lavishly created by the guys behind Southpark. It uses puppets to jibe at over-simplified good vs evil views in the war on terror. The humour is crude -- one of our favourite scenes featured the hero throwing up outside a bar. And it lovingly exaggerates Supermarionation's slightly-off scaling, sometimes visible strings and always unsatisfactory puppet walking. But the puppets were also sophisticated, with actual recognisable expression. I really enjoyed the numerous international locations, too -- often cliched to good effect, they were so lavish that I want this film on DVD so I can stop and take a look at the conference of world leaders, and Kim Juong Il's lair, and Cairo.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Scarlet, nibble and stalks.

1. Honeysuckle berries of such translucent redness that they seem to glow.

2. Munching on a few baby sweetcorns while dinner cooks.

3. A slice of rhubarb tart with a crumbly sweet topping.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Chips, beauty spot and listening.

1. Fat chips in a jenga tower with bit salt crystals.

2. BBC Radio 4 is asking people to talk about their favourite landmarks. I've been enjoying reading listener's comments here -- it's pleasant to read positive thoughts, rather than endless complaints. And some of the comments are pure 3BT. Here's the official Today Programme page.

3. I can't get over how much I am enjoying my yoga class. From school I am used to games lessons and gym classes where I was yelled at for not trying, and now it's wonderful to have a teacher who accepts whatever I care to achieve.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Psychotruck, caramel and rolling.

1. At the end of work I wander down the lane to pick some blackberries and sloes. I am just in time, because the hedge cutter is 100 yards down the road and coming towards me.

2.The smell of brown sugar.

3. Footage of a seal sleeping in an underwater field of eel grass on The Blue Planet. It looked so fat and contented rolling gently in the current.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Coffee pot, wolf and wallpaper.

1. He-who-shall-not-be-named producing a pot of real coffee as if by magic.

2. There is a small boy in the lobby of the supermarket. He has his hand in the letterbox and is muttering to himself 'I'm stuck, I'm stuck.' 'Are you all right there? Are you stu... I see -- you're just pretending.' Phew.

3. Fenella's desktop wallpaper is a picture of Andy trying to conceal himself with a newspaper while chasing her out of the bathroom.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Homely, crime solving and relief.

1. House hunting and looking round a really beautiful place. It's not quite in the right location, though. But I enjoyed seeing what makes a house lovely -- same coloured carpets all through and nice fresh paintwork and not too much clutter.

2. Discovering that after I left the party Team Fenella intercepted a suspicious box of money. A car pulled into a parking space on the High Street. When it left, there was a Chinese box sitting on the kerb. Naturally, the girls picked it up. Another car pulled up and then left pretty quickly. They called the police, and handed the box in. The police said it probably wasn't drugs, more likely Chinese takeaway profits.

3. When you're a bit hungover and very hungry -- a plate of food.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Knights, goths and kisses.

1. Coming down into the field at Hever Castle and seeing medieval pavilions and flags waiting for the jousting to begin. It looked as if a page had fallen out of a King Arthur book. Further down the hill four white horses with long curly manes were waiting patiently, and the knights and the squires were drinking tea.

2. Four goths reaching the centre of Hever Castle Maze. 'Get a picture of Squeaky,' said the... the... uh one in dark black. Squeaky was a large black rubber rat. They set him on the plinth in the centre and photographed him on their phones.

4. We set Fenella a series of hen night challenges -- kiss a man with a moustache; get marriage tips from a divorced guy; kiss 15 men on the cheek leaving lipstick marks on them; find a man wearing white socks and kiss him. But the best one was watching her sitting on the knee of a poor boy out celebrating his 21st birthday, flirting with him until he bought her a drink. Oh, and the look of fear on the waiter's face as we asked him if he was wearing white socks. I enjoyed watching how people reacted to us -- a couple trying to enjoy a quiet dinner which had been interrupted by the 15 kiss mission watched the girls' progress round the room with big grins on their faces. And every time a new challenge came up, the 21st birthday boys perked up. Girlfriends were generously tolerant about allowing their dates to accept kisses from the bride-to-be.