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.