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.