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.)