Monday, July 31, 2006

Joanna, breeze and tantrum.

1. Overhearing my neighbour playing the piano. I texted her to say I was enjoying it; turns out she'll do requests. I could track down some tunes and slip them under her door.

2. Making a cooling cross draught through the flat by strategically wedging some doors open.

3. A small child shouting: 'Can I not like... can I not like...' as if someone was refusing to let it dislike something.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Fetch, fixing a hole and meateater.

1. DIY shops where you ask for things and men bring them for you.

2. Filling holes in the wall. There is something very satisfying about poking Polyfilla into a hole and smoothing it out.

3. Really juicy steak and grilled mushrooms.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Two wheels, a quiet moment and evening meal.

1. Kids on bikes. Three boys in racing helmets were swooping through the Pantiles among all the early evening drinkers. As they zoomed away past me, one of them hitched up his very baggy trousers.

2. A little time to sit down with my book and a cup of tea.
3. Having dinner cooked for me -- cheers Bart.

Friday, July 28, 2006

No words, brotherhood and they're out there.

1. A long-wanted book arriving -- In The Land of Pain by Alphonse Dudonet. It's a book of notes and quotations and observations about pain, something that is notoriously hard to describe. The notes were meant for a book but Dudonet was too ill to work on it. It seems a strange subject, but one that has been neglected. When I used to go to the physio, she would manipulate my hip and ask me 'is this your pain?', but I would not know. 'Describe your pain' is a question that patients dread -- if you can feel your pain, you are in no condition to describe it; and if you can't, you don't remember what it felt like.

2. Reading about writers. There was a quote I read yesterday (in Dudonet again) about the 'second me' who watches and commentates on everything they do. Dudonet wrote about his father's howl of grief at the death of his young son: 'My first Me was in tears, but my second Me was thinking "What a terrific cry! It would be really good in theatre."'

3. Listening to bats. The bat warden had a machine that picked up bat calls and translated them into frequences that we could hear. The noises were slightly alien -- little squeaks and clicks that seemed to come from far away. We sat on a bank in the park and whenever a bat flew across the sky, the little boxes went wild.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Splash, dust and monsters under the bed.

1. Cool splashes of rain when the temperature is in the 30s.

2. The smell of rain on dry earth -- it's very hot and we've been having a couple of short sharp showers each day, so this is a frequent treat at present. I discovered a few days ago that this smell is partly aromatic oils from ancient vegetation that has turned to dust.

3. I finally summoned enough courage to clean the dust out from under my bed -- this is a bit of a mission because I store an awful lot of stuff there, and it all has to be moved so the bed can be folded into the wall. But it's all done now -- and I discovered that since the bootfair there is less junk down there, and it's all more neatly packed now, too.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Words, page to stage and endeavour.

1. Getting into a character's head and hearing their voice as I type.

2. We watched Trinity Theatre Club's Summer Lightning, an adaptation by Giles Havergal of a PG Wodehouse novel. The script (and the scenery) acknowledge the story's roots -- characters often break off to describe themselves in Wodehouseian terms and the scenery has a curiously painted paper look to it.

3. Looking at a huge project and feeling that it can be done, and knowing you have a friend to help you out.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Scented day, postcard and pass it on.

1. Walking into work, Oli remarked that he could feel the pollen in the air. There was a certain sweet smell in the car park, and the lime tree just outside was buzzing with flies and bees. In the evening walking across town, I passed a garden that wafted the scent of buddleja, and the park was full of lavender.

2. I've been joining in at Postcrossing and today I got a card from a lady in Japan. I asked for Three Beautiful Things and she has shared:

  • The letter reached...
  • The flower of the veranda bloomed.
  • One problem of the work decreased.

Each one is illustrated with a little picture, and the rest of the card contains the same poetic English. Plus there are two gorgeous stamps -- one of a Geisha and one of cartoon rabbit postman.

3. Through the magic of Freecyle, I now have a sliderule. There are some good people out there.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Fairy, green mile and co-ordination.

1. A tiny little girl with very thin and straight blonde hair sitting right close to her dad in the National Trust cafe on the Ashridge Estate. We had seen them earlier cycling in the woods -- at least the father was cycling, she was in a seat on the back of his bike. I thought she looked like a fairy child.

2. Looking 2km down straight ride from the Ashridge Monument to Ashridge College.

3. There were salsa classes on Trafalger square. I liked seeing all different sorts of people moving at the same time.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Wrong address right house, education and interesting people.

1. The estate agents sent us to the wrong address, but in many ways (sweet little garden, cool door handles, huge living room, lots of storage) it turned out to more right than the right address (backs on to school playing field, evidence of weird neighbours, scruffy outside and too-high ceilings).

2. The queue steadily building up at the fishman's while he carefully explains how to cook the fish you are buying. While I waited, I learnt how to clean a lobster, and how to make a dressing for lobster salad.

3. Meeting interesting people -- a man whose car runs on liquid propane gas; a man who is going to cycle round the world and a sculpture restorer.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Chaos, mystery ingredient and waiting.

1. Discovering that our new air con has a setting called chaos -- apparently it creates a natural breeze effect.

2. The lady behind the bar in our pub asking the landlord to put the drops of angostura bitters in my sodawater 'because I'm afraid of poisoning you.'

3. The comedian Rich Hall was held up by trains. The audience was sitting outside Trinity enjoying a warm evening and drinks, and by the time he arrived, we were all mellow and happy. When he arrived, he walked in alone through the crowd to the front of the theatre and a cheer went up.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Back to work, scrunchy and new home.

1. Handing the admin duties back to Sarah. I have been doing admin for two weeks while she is on holiday. I am not naturally organised like she is, and I don't entirely understand the system, so it was a relief to email back to her all the spreadsheets and requests for name changes and region switches and exam applications.

2. There is a drift of fallen rhododendron leaves all down the edge of the pavement. I walk close into the wall so I can feel them crackle under my sandals.

3. Being shown round Caroline and Ian's new house. Her excitement at the view and the greenness of the setting and all the plans for the kitchen and the garden are catching.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Adapting, treat and reincarnation.

1. Wrapping a wet tea towl round my neck and my office chair getting so hot that standing up is a joy. Also, Oli's successful mission not to complain about the heat all day.

2. Bosses who bring ice lollies.

3. Being told that good things are happening in this life because I've been generous in a past life. This is a lovely thought that underlines the idea that when you do good for other people you are doing good for yourself too.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Cooling down, little breeze and wine.

1. Walking out of the office into the cool landing.

2. Finding a spot in the shade that catches the breeze on a really hot day.

3. Being invited in to drink muscadet at Caroline and Oli's.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bowl of cherries, agreement and connected.

1. On my way home from my parents' on a Monday morning, I would use the wait at Tonbridge Station to pick up some breakfast -- a coffee and a just-baked cherry scone. This would cost about £1.50. Then they changed to cafe to some poncey bloody coffee shop that sold coffee for £1.65 and offered pre-packed muffins and leathery pastries. Yesterday, the coffee was still expensive, but they had fresh-baked cherry scones. So fresh that the lady had get me one from the oven.

2. He-who-shall-not-be-named and I argue a lot -- mainly these days about the heat. I really feel the cold and he really feels the heat, which leads to some interesting... conversations in the office. Yesterday, for the first time, I felt properly hot.

3. Getting my laptop back.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Middle of nowhere, chucks and drinks.

1. Walking along a green lane and discovering a house with carvings in the garden.

2. Leaning on a gate a listening to contented chickens.

3. The cool weight of a tumbler of gin and tonic.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Fight, snack and watermelon.

1. Rose and Robert arguing over who has been mentioned in Three Beautiful Things the most. They have decided that the first one to be all three things for a day is the winner.

2. A bowl of salted nuts.

3. The different greens on a watermelon rind.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Pudding, travel plans and florals.

1. Sharing a pudding, because you get the taste without having to eat the whole thing.

2. Not being a driver, I sometimes have to be a bit creative in my travel plans -- there are often ways of getting about that don't follow roads. I realised that a colleague's journey home takes her near the back of the forest where my parents live, so I cadged a lift and got myself dropped off. I met Rosey for a fine stroll through the pine woods full of low sun and wildflowers and bracken smells. The Mother met us on the road too, and Daddy walked the last part with us.

3. Fresh flowers in my bedroom. There is a pale pink rose and some deep purple clematis. Rosey has some flowers to -- sweetpeas; and there is a white jug of orange marigolds on the kitchen table.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Al forno, tea and flying fists.

1. A really good lasagne -- the one at the Huntsman, Eridge, is specially recommended.

2. Chai tea with lots of milk -- it's one of the fragrant teas and is redolent with different spices. It has a slightly gingery warmth to it, and milk softens it perfectly.

3. The brawl in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. I also went slack-jawed with wonderment at Davey Jones and his crew -- their sea creature faces are works of art that surprise over and over again.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Helios, hero and what do you care.

1. Sitting in the sun for a few minutes.

2. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a letter to one of my favourite childhood authors -- Diana Wynne Jones. A reply arrived yesterday. I wasn't expecting one; I wasn't even expecting an acknowledgement -- she must get piles and piles of letters from adoring fans. But here was a personal letter, responding to my comments and promising a sequel to one of my favourite books ever in the autumn. (Go to 43 Things to find out why I wrote the letter in the first place.)

3. I read Richard Feynman's book What do you care what other people think? while I was travelling. The title sounds like self-help, but it's not. It's memoirs and essays by a genius. The title piece is the story of his first wife who often asked him that question. It made me think about how I squirm and feel small and hot at the noise made by my friends having fun, wondering 'What must people be thinking?' I wondered why I cared so much about what total strangers thought -- so much so that I felt bad about people I like and respect having fun. Anyway, last night, I sat in a restaurant among friends drinking cocktails and laughing loudly, and towards the end of the evening, I realised that I hadn't once felt squirmy, small or hot. Which sounds like progress to me.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Roses, jungle and pile of stones.

1. The washing-up liquid at work smells (to me, anyway) faintly and pleasingly of roses -- it's Cusson's Morning Fresh.

2. Walking down a path almost lost in chest-high bracken. I imagined what it would be like to be too small to see over the top, to only have a view of stalks and underbrush.

3. Finding a mysterious cairn at the side of the path.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Black and white, lost and humid.

1. A wagtail chasing something across the roof outside the office.

2. Walking with someone who has a sense of direction. I navigate by landmarks and always want to know exactly where I am on the map. I went for a stroll with Douglas at lunchtime and because he always knows where he is in relation to things like roads and witch's towers, we ended up wandering off the path and into the woods.

3. Walking up the high street on my way home when the air is heavy with water and full of good smells.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Shelter, tip and muscles.

1. The windproofness of my Northface flight fleece.

2. Dropping things off at the dump. I think it's the busyness of the place; and I like seeing all the rubbish separated for recycling; and watching the attendants carefully putting to one side things that they like.

3. A masseur who appreciates that because I'm at the more tightly coiled end of the scale, a deep massage is pretty painful, and that a softer touch is much more useful.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Tick, Dr Who and drinking boots.

1. Getting things done. I'm arranging Fenella's hen party, which means a long To Do List. I like ticking things off on it.

2. Dr Who. I enjoyed the last episode of this seaon because:
  • I guessed how it would end.
  • The story arcs were all tied up.
  • I liked the exploration of the emotional carnage the Doctor leaves in his wake.
3. Having my drinking boots on. I achieved yummy drunkness without falling asleep or feeling sick.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Chore, British food and de-clutter.

1. One task I dread at work is sending out a mailer. The process involves lots of steps -- and a mistake at any point makes the whole thing fail. The software is arcane and makes bizzare demands that I don't understand. And the result of an error (100 people getting an e-mail telling them to take a course that doesn't exist) is lots of apologising and hard work. So when I manage one successful mailing, I am pleased; but to do two in an afternoon, well you can imagine the transports of delight.

2. John P buys me a warm paper parcel of fish and chips.

3. Making a bootfair pile and seeing how much space there is in the flat.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Re-use, free food and tunes.

1. Using things twice at work. We use a lot of paper because there is nothing like a paper proof for editing. However, we save the pages and print on the back too. Once a page has been used twice, it goes in a box to be recycled -- since they don't pick up our paper here, He-who-shall-not-be-named takes the box to the recycling centre once it is full. Another thing we re-use is coffee -- the grounds go in a box in the kitchen and are taken home by Ellen. She uses them to frighten slugs in her garden.

2. A catering accident that left us with two huges dishes of sandwiches to share round the office.

3. Two songs on the White Stripes album White Blood Cells -- I am specially enjoying Hotel Yorba, which I think must be about a musician deciding he's had enough of being shoved around by his public; and We're going to be friends -- a cheery little picture of school life. I like them because they stand out among the discordant punk-rock tracks.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Blowing in the wind, balance and open doors.

1. Behind the carpark at work is a hayfield that has not yet been cut. I like watching all the different grass heads waving the in the wind. I like the way their colours change as they move, and with the passing days. After these last few heatwave days, most of them have faded a little.

2. Struggling with a yoga pose and then finding that it's really easy when I try with the other leg.
3. Walking down a quiet road and seeing people's front doors standing open.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Easy tiger, cherries and sorted.

1. Falling asleep at 7pm and waking up at 6.30am feeling as if I could have taken on a tiger. Not that I think it's right to attack endangered big cats, and I wouldn't have gone looking for a fight with a tiger -- but should one have started on me at 6.33am yesterday in my flat, I would not have confined myself to screeching to an unpredicatable companion 'Leave it aaht, 'e's not werfit', or tried to employ any Jedi mind-tricks.

2. Cherries from Aragon Farm in my lunchbox. Thanks, Skinner family. If you are driving between Sissinghurst and Biddenden, stop and buy some -- they are yum.

3. I don't do organising until something is lost or my filing cabinet threatens to burst. This sounds lazy, but it means that I spend less time tweaking elaborate filing systems and more time feeling satisfied after a huge clear-out. I went through the file marked 'Bills' and ditched final demands going back to 2003 (I never pay before a final demand because red is such a pretty colour).

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Conductor, milking time and tall pots.

1. My favourite train guard, spotting my map, quizzed me about what I was up to. I explained that I was planning to take the footpaths from Wadhurst station to work. We chatted for a while about the countryside, and he told me that what he really likes is coastline. His job gives him a free train pass, and he said he uses it travel to all sorts of places. 'Shoreham -- people never think of going to Shoreham. What's there?' he went on to explain that there was a fine beach, some sea locks and that he liked to watch the deep sea trawlers going past. I have chatted to him before, and he strikes me as a natural 3BTer.

2. I walk through a farm -- the front doors of the houses are open, but there is no sign of life (apart from a dog that cannons into my legs) until I come to the cow yard, where there is a great mooing and commotion. It must be milking time. Cats are everywhere -- a biggish kitten races over and then feints back, and a tabby with a stumpy tail.

3. Catching sight of some fine Tudor brick chimneys. The Tudors really knew a thing or two about chimneys, making them very tall and lavishly decorated.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Spray, cordial and no alternative.

1. The sound of a dog shaking itself dry, and the rainbows from the spray coming off its coat.

2. Drinking elderflower cordial with borage flowers floating in it.

3. Lying in the shade with a book because it is too hot to do anything else.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Coloured light, come on in and you have to drink.

1. I love my sunglasses. They make certain colours look wonderful -- ginger people; foxgloves and copper beeches in the early morning. Particularly copper beeches with the sun shining through them. The sunnies mean I can look straight up through the branches and see the colours, rather than being dazzled.

2. The Woodland Trust. Being a walker, I have boundless love for any group that buys land and asks people in. I walked through Hargate Forest -- it's an intriguing patch of woodland not far from the centre of Tunbridge Wells, and it includes: a carriage drive from the Eridge Estate; ancient woodland; heathland; piney areas that smell gorgeous on a hot day.

2b. My new walking map. Tunbridge Wells falls over four different Explorer maps, so you can imagine how this turns me into a strolling map library. Not any more. A late birthday present from my father is a custom Ordnance Survey map -- give them a postcode and they make you a map that centres on it. Now my territory is all one one inkjet printed map with my name on the front.

3. Drinking games. We played 'A ship sailed in with a shitload of...' You have to say what the ship sailed in with -- magazines, say, or trees, and then the turn passes round the circle, and everyone has to say a magazine (or a tree) without pausing or repeating. Players who mess up must drink, and then load up another ship. It was funny that the part that caused the most trouble was 'A ship sailed in...' We had 'A ship sailed into the bay loaded with' and 'A ship came to harbour with...' I don't know if it was unwillingness to say a rude word with ladies present, or just the drink speaking.

3b. Sophy describing how on an accidentally long walk through Ashdown Forest ('We had to ring my aunt and ask her to pick us up from Tunbridge Wells') she and her uncles and cousins discovered an abandoned Tudor farm.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Ices, variety and idlers.

1. Mini-Milk ice lollies. They are tiny, cheap and very delicious, a bit like condensed milk. Plus, by some miracle, they are only 29 calories.

2. Variety performances -- short sketches are great because I don't have to concentrate for too long; and if I don't enjoy something, I know I'm not stuck there for a whole two hours. We went to Trinity Theatre Club's Gala, and it was tremendous fun. I liked the father and son watching Hamlet as if it were a football match; and I liked Romeo making his 'Soft what light from yonder window' speech to Lady Macbeth. After the interval, a band came on and the audience scrambled out of their seats and joined them on the stage.

3. Sitting chatting about nothing in particular in the bar at Trinity while the clearing up goes on around us.