Friday, June 30, 2006

Consciousness, fruit and thought-provoking.

1. Waking up before the alarm goes off so that I can ease into the day without the help of news about Israel and Palastine.

2. Finding cheap Kentish strawberries (all shapes and sizes, apparently) that had been reduced, and then finding expensive Hertfordshire strawberries that had been reduced to the same price.

3. A film that leaves you with a whole mouthful of questions -- Lou and I watched the Lakehouse, a story of lovers separated by two years.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Sea of green, chirpy and gardener.

1. Walking on Little Mount Sion and looking down towards the High Street because I am level with the tops of the trees on the Common.

2. Sparrows, because their scrawchy song sounds exactly like: 'This is my bit of guttering.' 'This is my patch of hedge.'

3. Before my yoga class, the hall is used by a troupe of majorettes. During the session, the father of the lady who runs it waits outside to help transport the batons and hoops and what-have-you. He usually has a box of sweets for the children, too. This week, he had three tomato plants, the pots standing in a cardboard Guinness tray, for one of the mothers. 'Don't forget they're yellow,' he shouted after her as she hurried to her car with dozens of children in tow. 'If she waits for them to turn red, they never will,' he added for our benefit.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Know-all, writing and celebration.

1. An omniscient narrator. I know it's not fashionable and is considered very patronising and Victorian, but I'm loving the voice of whoever tells the story of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Anyone got an idea of who they might be?

2. Robert turning up unexpectedly with an article he is putting together about living in his van. His writing has improved, and he has some good thoughts and pictures going. We talk about where he might send it and how to cast it for each market.

3. The waitresses bring my pudding with a little pink candle stuck in the top -- but whether James told them we were celebrating my birthday; or whether they overheard us talking, I cannot tell.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Bubbles, progress and postcard.

1. The bubbles that appear in puddles when it is raining. When I was little I had a book called The Log of the Ark. It's a Noah's ark story, and at the start when the rain begins there is a very sad scene in which a whole species, the chidders, becomes extinct because they dissolve when rained on. The book says that puddle bubbles are the chidders trying to reform themselves.

2. My mother ringing up to say she's in a secondhand bookshop and they have a volume of all three Sherston books for £4.50.

3. Receiving a postcard with an orange typewriter on it.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Eyes, with child and good eating.

1. Moving to a seat in the window and finding that the light is much better

2. The marvellousness of Deliza's bump -- not only does it contain a baby, but it also doesn't show from the back, or if you look at her straight on.

3. Experimental cookery -- assisted by Lou I made knuckle sandwiches, as described in Nanny Ogg's Cookbook. They were nice, but I don't think the effort and the energy used in preparing a pig's trotter justifies the tablespoon of meat that I wrested from it. The book suggests that such fayre is poor man's food, and that you are better off getting a dinner invitation from the rich man.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Box o' books, going and flowers.

1. The postman knocking before he has another Amazon parcel for me -- this from Cat, Alan and Ellie contains: If on a winter's night a traveller by Italo Calvino; Death: the High Cost of Living by Neil Gaiman and Conrad's Fate by Diana Wynne Jones. Will this birthday never end?

2. Buying a travel mug so I can:
    a. take my tea with me when I am running late.
    b. say 'no' to paper cups.
3. The sound of rose petals falling off the mantelpiece.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Pop, housekeeping and herbivores.

1. Fentiman's gingerbeer.

2. Coming home to find that Robert has done the washing up.

3. Walking across the Common just before 8pm and seeing tiny bunnies grazing on the verges.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Fete, missives and light supper.

1. Yesterday was Oli's last day of work before his wedding, so we celebrated him by filling his keyboard with confetti and firing party poppers at the ceiling fan. The streamers tangled up in the blade and whirled around.

2. A good pile of post: A Postcrossing card from Taiwan; birthday card full of illustrations from James; a birthday present book from Katie (Little Big by John Crowley) and a volunteer pack from the Kent High Weald Project.

3. A salad of oranges and smoke mackerel.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Midsummer, feeding and cakes.

1. The shortest night and the longest day. I was up at Wellington Rocks with Anna, Paul and Jason. We couldn't see the sun through the mizzling clouds, but we had got up at 4am and were there observing the moment it came up, and that's what counts.

2. Food at The Junction Inn, Groombridge. All four lunchclub members were impressed by the quality -- although the portions were rather small. I had smoked eel with beetroot cream (Oli says that sounds like witch food, but it was delicious, and didn't taste of beetroot at all); Ed and Doug had wild mushroom risotto; and Johnny P got his face round a huge homemade burger. It had chips with it that were very good too -- I know this because I stole some.

3. Taking The Mother's homemade cakes to work. There were three -- one chocolate, one coffee and walnut and one lemon with homemade jam in the middle. There was a lot of stickiness in the office for most of the afternoon.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Homefront, missing link and meringue.

1. Good neighbours. I am trying to work from home but my laptop is broken. Aaaargh! Who rescues me by sharing her PC? Fenella. It's my birthday and I fancy going out to lunch. Who rearranges her schedule so she can work from home? Fenella. My boiler is in pieces and there's no hot water. Who lets me use her shower? Fenella.

2. Introducing my mother to one of my friends and watching them discover that they went to the same nursery school (quite a long time apart).

3. Baked Alaska with pink icecream inside.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Trumpets, new coat and to the door.

1. Spotting some honeysuckle in full bloom. Last time I passed, the trumpets were shut tight. I stopped to smell them, because honeysuckle is one of the best things about summer. Later, when it's out full, I won't have to put my nose up to them -- the smell will be all around.

2. Pip the bear dog at work has been clipped for the summer. I didn't recognise her until she rolled over on to her back to have her tummy rubbed.

3. Having my groceries delivered by Sainsbury's, because it means that someone else has trailed round the supermarket and that I haven't walked all the way home with my arms being pulled out of their sockets.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Looking at the ceiling, guidance and family.

Dear All, there are going to have to be a few changes round here for Creative Reasons. For a while now (ever since my internet provider changed the cut-off time for my free minutes from 8am to 7am and I decided the 3BTing first thing at work as Not On) I've been posting last thing at night. This has caused problems such as:
  1. staring at the screen trying to remember what I did yesterday
  2. pacing round the flat trying to remember what I did yesterday
  3. weeping and trying to remember what I did yesterday
  4. posting while drunk
  5. falling asleep at my desk
  6. trying to wash the dishes and myself, post and do yoga at the same time
  7. not posting till the next morning and doing 1-3, except that it's now the day before yesterday -- this normally leads to 4, which ultimately leads to 5 and then none of 6 get done at all.
However, my internet people have restored my internet access between 7am and 8am, so I'm going to post first thing in the morning from now on. Please don't choke on your Konditor and Cook sandwiches.


1. A wobbly old lady helping a young blind man to negotiate the bus. I thought they might be grandmother and grandson because they seemed very close -- she held on to him even while they were sitting down.

2. Ellie -- that's my goddaughter -- is impeccably behaved, even at six months, because she is totally absorbed by everything around her. She loves ceilings and lightfittings, apparently, and can gaze enraptured for hours at a good ornate chandelier. Her grandparent's Brighton pied-a-terre has wonderful plaster scrollwork round the edges of the ceilings, and splendid ceiling roses. I could gaze enraptured, too, if it wasn't considered strange in a nearly-29-year-old.

3. Cat has a rambling family, and I love the way friends get sucked in. When I phone her I am fascinated by all the gossip. I wish my family was like that, but we aren't. We're what LM Montgomery calls "clannish", and we prefer our own company, so friends are not invited to family parties. I wonder if this could be changed. It might be geography: it's a complete mission to get to my parents', but it's as easy for me to reach Cat's parents' as it is to visit her in London, so I am as likely to be invited down for a family event as I am up to London. When I get my new house, it's going to have room for the entire tribe. And a garden.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Wigglers, vertical take-off and samba.


1. I'm very fond of frogs, so it's always a pleasure to see tadpoles. These were dividing their time between battling the current in a woodland stream and basking at the bottom of a deep pool. They looked pretty hefty, so legs should be appearing any day.

2. Dragon flies that change colour -- one moment they looked black, the next electric blue, the next bottle green. I like their manoeuvering as well -- they are like helicopters ought to be. Picture by Michael Grant

3. I hear a racket outside and come to the window just in time to see a samba band marching down the high street. They were dressed in red tunics and yellow trousers and were very much more visible than the fluorescent tabarded marshalls that flanked them. At the head of the parade was the town crier, who had been marching round all day advertising a concert in the Pantiles. He was trying very hard not to put an un-towncrierly shake in his step; but his wife, plainly not bound by such conventions, clapped and danced as the mood took her.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Scooters, this way and compliment.

1. Two little girls scootering to school. In my commuting days -- this was the height of the scooter craze-- I used to walk along the King's Road, which is a place where people are so rich they can afford to make their children look like little freaks. Anyway, I used to walk past two small girls on scooters and they would always be wearing: red pixi hats with long tassels and royal blue capes that came down to their knees and red tights. They looked rather sweet, it must be said, but they wouldn't have survived five minutes at my primary school.

2. Green footpath signs.

3. Being told that Nicky wants to make her room look like my flat -- I'm guessing she means the floor-to-ceiling books, rather my 'add stuff I like and hope it doesn't clash with the curtains' philosophy of interior decor. Anyway, I'm very flattered and I'm glad she likes my gaff.

Friday, June 16, 2006

School run, foxgloves and blonde.

1. Children walking to school with their dads.

2. The foxgloves are out now. The unopened buds are covered in fine silky hair; and the flowers are a pinky-purple with white-ringed brown spots inside. They are a huge hit with the bees, and I stood on the path listening to the contented hum, which has got to be one of my favourite noises. Photograph by Michael Grant

3. I had a deep conditioning treatment on my hair -- I had to sit with my head swaddled in clingfilm under a heater reading Hello. The beautiful thing is the way it changed the colour of my hair -- it's gone slightly more ash blonder than it was before.

I thought of another beautiful thing, but I'm not going to number it because I've had COMPLAINTS in the past if I do too many things. I was walking home from work just as an England World Cup match was starting, and everyone was hurrying (except me) to get to a TV. There were people crowded outside the electronics shop on Chapel Place; and people piled up against the open window of the Grape Vine, which has a big screen.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Cooling, lunch and follow the numbers.

1. The temperature has dropped after a few days of heat.

2. An enormous plateful of lamb chops almost hidden by a garden of salad.

3. Novels with lots of distracting footnotes. I'm reading Mr Norrell and Jonathan Strange. The narrator (so far it's not clear who they are) is rather scholarly and every so often will stop to enlarge on something mentioned in passing. The book is set in an unfamiliar Victorian England where magicians used to have fairy servants but now no longer do magic, so there's a fair bit to explain.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Water, cows and wet feet.

1. Coming to the top of a long, hot hill and hearing a water trough quietly filling.

2. Passing a field and smelling cows.

3. Horses had broken up the path into mud so I had to wade through the stream to clean my sandals.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Wild places, rhododendrons and tunes.

1. The huge gate in the deer fence is off its hinges and leaning against the post. I struggle to open it enough to squeeze through the gap, feeling as if I shouldn't be doing this. This odd feeling is magnified by the darkness in the woods -- now that the leaves are out in full, it's very dark and deep and things that I can't see rustle on either side of the path. The wood feels very wild and ancient.

2. Cresting the witch's tower hill and seeing great drifts of pink and purple rhododenrons.

3. A compilation CD intriguingly labelled: 'Clare's compilation of American indie, prog rock, literate songwriters etc' -- in exchange I'm going to make a pair of portraits just as soon as I am given the photographs. I like working in exchange for stuff because it's intriguing finding out what people can do and what value they place on an hour, my idea of a good colour combinations and my thoughts on what bits of their faces are important.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Fences, scattering petals and good reading.

1. Exploring a new footpath through town. It goes between Claremont Primary School and Hawkenbury -- most of the way it runs between high back fences so there isn't much to see. I could hear hoses and dogs and children playing.

2. Ducking under a dog rose and catching the fragrance -- but only just.

3. A story called 'The Man Who Saw the Elephant' by Avram Davidson. The man is a quaker, Friend Ezra Simmons, and the elephant is... well, track down the story, because it is gentle and wholesome and will leave you knowing that the world is full of wonders.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Mewling, horrors and flowers.

1. Chatting to Cat on the phone and listening to my goddaughter crowing I began to feel quite broody. Suddenly, there was a spluttering noise... 'Oh, it's all right, just some posset, but we're used to that... oh darling, not in your hair... I'd better go.' And suddenly my wistful feelings for the miracle that is motherhood vanished.

2. Watching the second part of the excruciatingly exciting Dr Who two-parter, The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit. It combines Alien-style space opera horror with the old ancient-evil-released story. I liked the way Danny, who was basically a slavemaster, had the title of 'Ethics officer' and I enjoyed the philosophical problem posed by the Oud -- they are a slave race and if you don't give them orders, they just waste away. I loved the way all the one-off characters had little back stories -- why was the captain so afraid of being in charge? What happened to Jefferson's wife? Why was Ida Scott trying to escape from her father? What was the lie Danny told? I wonder if we'll ever find out? Also note that it came out in the week that we survived the date 6/6/2006 and the new Omen film. Devilish.

3. Damo does the flowers in his household. He gets them from the flower man outside Habitat and has built up such a good relationship that he often gets little extras.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Map reading, fantasy and meal.

1. Ellie and Mark repositioning my cross-stitch map so I could see it while I worked.

2. Conversation with Oli: 'This always makes me think of Diagon Alley. I don't know what it's really called.' 'It's C...' 'Don't tell me! I don't want to know.'

3. Caroline has come over all housewifely. She cooked a dinner of tomatoes baked with a dollop of pesto and a sprinkling of parmasan cheese, a roasted vegetable flan and salad nicoise full of crisp beans and quarters of eggs with bright yellow soft yolks. She said that her colleague (who used to be a chef) told her that she wouldn't get the yolks right as most people overcook them -- but I reckon she got them perfect.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Steps, garden and ginger.

1. The way very tiny children walk by rolling their whole leg round.

2. Eating lunch in the garden of an English country pub. There were neat flowerbeds and willow trees with long branches that swept the deep green grass.

3. The colour of Douglas' hair as seen through sunglasses -- it actually glows orange.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Gravel, antiques roadshow and ahhh.

1. Scrunching on gravel.

2. Pete popping round while he waits to see a client. I get a good load of gossip with light analysis and information about my furniture -- my mirror might be Regency or it might be an Edwardian revival (in either case it could do with a clean) and my table is 1900s French and much influenced by arts and crafts.

3. A yoga position that stretches out my aching muscles.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Twigs, customer service and keys.

1. Playing Pooh Sticks with Madie and Ellie and Doug. We walked down the hill that I am one day going to run up and spent 20 minutes leaning on the bridge over the stream at the bottom enjoying the sound of the water and the sunlight dappling through the foliage.

2. Coming home to find Sainsbury's has sent me a birthday card. It has a picture of some little cakes on the front, which are so thickly iced with in sweetie colours and sprinkled with hundreds and thousands and tiny flowers that they are nearly as good as the real thing; and also a voucher for a free litre of frozen yoghurt.

3. Oli commenting that he likes the sound of a door being unlocked.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The other place, boing and commissariat.

1. A dream in which a friend who I fell out with a couple of years ago called round with a bottle of wine and a book I might like.

2. He who shall not be named (pictured) calling me to the window to watch him drop his new bouncy ball. It goes higher than the roof of the oast and lands on the other side of the road.

3. A fridge so full of food that you can't see the light.

Also a postcard arrived from Fenella and Andy in Fuerteventura. Their beautiful things are:
1. Sleeping - hadn't realised how tired we were, commuting really takes it out of us.

2. Dozing by the pool, whilst sunbathing and between reading the many paperbacks we needed to catch up on.

3. Eating (then sleeping) enjoying the paella and potatoes. Been trying to stick to salad bar, but discovered banana splits today, so fear it will all go down hill.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Demons, heroes and peers of the realm.

1. For some reason, I never like the finishing part of a piece of needlework. If I am not careful I end up with sad pieces of cross-stitch waiting to be framed or made-up into bookmarks and glasses cases and whatever. Today I forced myself to assemble the stumpwork of flowers and a butterfly that I have been labouring over. It was satisfying to know I've overcome a difficult part of myself. It doesn't look as good as the picture on the box -- to be honest there's something wrong with the scale, and one of the butterfly's wings is too big. But I've made it, damn it, and I'm going to march into the framing shop and ask for the best shadow box they've got. Well, maybe the best priced shadow box.

2. Falling in love with the hero of a book.

3. Earl Grey Tea with lemon.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Buttercup days, pinewood and green gold.

1. Fields of bright yellow buttercups.

2. Walking past a line of conifers and smelling the resin. Katie said it reminded her of one of our favourite books: The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge.

3. The footpath runs straight and narrow through a field of half-grown wheat. The blades are already thigh high and it's quite hypnotic watching them go by.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Cherries, social niceties and wrestling.

1. Stopping to buy a bag of Kent cherries on the way home from work.

2. A girl we used to know quite well walks into the courtyard where we are enjoying an evening drink. We wave at her and say hi. She holds up one finger and then walks off, returning shortly with her friends. They sit down on the other side of the garden. We can see her watching us, but she doesn't come over or wave or even smile. I can't say I specially like being 'cut' like this... but the righteous indignation of 'Well! What on earth is her problem?' is rather satisfying; and then we made ourselves feel even better by forgiving her with: 'maybe she didn't have her glasses on. Or she could have been really drunk.'

3. If I was Lou, my beautiful thing would be the sight of me trying to put a duvet cover on sideways after a few too many glasses of wine.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Scorch, Wales and ill-repair.

1. The smell of freshly ironed clothes.

2. I picked up a double LP of Under Milk Wood from my parents' a few weeks ago. I like listening to people speaking with Welsh accents. And I love Dylan Thomas' tumbly prose -- the words seem to pour out with no regard for their intended purpose and I see commonplace things like never before.

3. Science fiction movies with machines that don't work properly. I've been watching parts two and three of Matrix. The dirty, sparking machines remind me of the gear in Star Wars and Alien.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Decision, subaqua and sleep.

1. The moment after I decide I am ill enough not to go to work but before the guilt kicks in.

2. A dream about being able to breathe water.

3. Feeling as if I have had as much sleep as I want.