Monday, December 31, 2007
1. When I was young Mrs Thatcher was Prime Minister, and she made me think that a woman could do anything, even if there were lots of things that a little girl was not supposed to do or want or hope for. But along the way, it seemed to me, Mrs Thatcher had given up a few of the things I looked forward to being as a woman -- you'd never think of her as beautiful or feminine. And then I would see Benazir Bhutto on the news, and it seemed to me that it might be possible to have it all.
2. I never did get a kitchen timer for Christmas, so I take myself off to Trevor Mottram's cavern of delights. They have all sorts of kitchen timers; including a single red model of the sort I have been particularly hankering after. It is unboxed, and unpriced, so I ask how much it is. The assistant disappears into the back of the shop and comes back sometime later (I have been admiring copper saucepans and earwigging on a conversation about a member of staff dropping a knife on their foot). 'It's not in the catalogue, and it's not in the stocklist and I've asked the owner, and she doesn't know where it came from.' In the end, we agree that £3 seems a fair price. I set off home feeling very lucky indeed.
3. The taste of a fried mushroom. Or a raw mushroom.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
2. I come home to find Abel and Cole have taken away our empty vegetable boxes and replaced them with two full ones.
3. After supper, the box of chocolates comes out and is passed around while we play cards on the rug.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
2. At Etchingham station, the newspapers are laid out and labelled with the names of their commuters. The station is somehow very cheerful, and I always expect to turn round and see a fire in the grate.
3. While we wait for the pizza, Nick and Tim are going through the papers for old roleplaying campaigns. I am not really listening, but hear a reference to pirates and an animal husbandry: parrots skill. I wonder aloud if my character in the present game could have a parrot. Later that evening, as if by magic, a mechanical bird enters the game. The Professor immediately wants to take it apart, but Sister Justinia is convinced it's alive and has named it 'Birdie'.
Friday, December 28, 2007
2. In the Natural History Museum is a collection of coloured diamonds. The display cycles between normal light and UV light, revealing magical colour changes and strange fluorescence.
3. We finally get to meet Rosey's mysterious boyfriend -- Matt has been mentioned an awful lot and appears frequently in photographs, but so far he has kept his head down. As a dutiful big sister, I have been nearly eaten up with curiosity, so it was a relief to meet him at last.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
2. My littlest cousin (who is rapidly becoming not little any more) is shy at first, and doesn't much like talking. She has a Nintendo DS. We discover that it can talk to my pink Nintendo DS Lite, and send each other horrid pictures of owls and dark mountains.
3. Gingerbread with apricot jam covered in chocolate.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
2. One parcel in particular has been thoroughly investigated, poked, speculated on and prodded by me, Katie and Rosey. But all we can say for certain is that there's lots of tissue paper. Finally I open it and find that my darling man has picked a darling cardigan from one of my favourite shops. It's love at first sight.
3. The cry of 'Dr Who, Dr Who!' goes through the house.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
1. Nick's tea comes with a timer to show him the proper time to take the infuser out of the pot. The teapot is glass so one can enjoy the gold-red colour of the tea.
2. A bhutanese felt hat with rain-diverting tentacles has appeared in my father's study. Coming home after my parents have been away is a game of spot the difference. There are new bells hanging on striped cords, and baskets hanging where there were none before.
3. The Mother has put decorations in all our bedrooms. Mine is the pink polar bear, a sheep with dangly legs and a pair of gold musical instruments. She says it because we're not having stockings this year.
Monday, December 24, 2007
2. Katie comes round to my way of thinking that it's nice to unwrap a present when the person who gave it to you can see (thank you Jules!) So we take time out in the afternoon. We have raided each other's Amazon lists. She is as thrilled by the book of erotic knitting patterns as I am by my Loony Tunes DVDs. I wonder about the ideas of our homelife this little vignette will generate, however.
3. It is so foggy that familiar things take on strange shapes -- a lumpy tree trunk appears to have someone hugging it, so much so that I worry that they are lost and confused.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
2. In the dark, a man walks towards me. A streetlight shines through his orange plastic bag so it glows like a lantern.
3. A kind boyfriend who calls quarter of an hour later than I said I'd be with him 'prompt'.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
1. The company gives me a hotel voucher, which I'll use for a weekend away. It comes in a smart dark green box tied with a grey ribbon. I'm looking forward to researching the perfect break.
1b part 1. Spending a cold day at work in the warmer office playing at drawing films on the whiteboard for people to guess.
1b. part 2. A large slice of cloudlike chocolate torte.
2. Nigel tries to explain what he means when he says I have 'an edge'.
3. When I say goodbye at the end of the evening, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named picks me up and whirls me round.
4. Nick comments that he hates waiting for taxis: 'They're always late, and I don't like people who are late.' I comment glumly that I'm always late for everything and he assures me that that's entirely different. It makes me even more determined to be on time from now on.
Friday, December 21, 2007
2. A line of present bags in Nick's hall. 'That one's for you.'
3. My chicken gun ga ree is served in a blue ceramic chicken.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
2. I challenge Oli about the fact that his presents to both He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named and me included water pistols. He laughs.
3. A previously sterile and echoey pub is turned into an Arabian palace with low brass tables, pierced metal lanterns and huge cushions.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
2. Oli comes to the door with a just-woken-up Elodie in his arms. I thank her for surprise presents yesterday. She breaks out a huge smile, so I'm thinking she must understand.
3. Getting into bed when I am still warm from a shower.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
2. Baby Elodie comes to visit, wearing a very silly red hat, bringing us stockings stuffed with tiny presents. She dribbles on us all
3. In a crisis, people who do what needs to be done without asking questions. And later, getting the 'all clear' text message.
Monday, December 17, 2007
1. I am doing housework and there is a man who is all my own getting under my feet.
2. My hands are sore because I made pastry for mince pies yesterday.
3. Washing up my best glasses so that they sparkle.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
1b. When I ask to tip my hairdresser, in her drawer are a few coins and a USB stick. In the drawer belonging to the hairwash girl, there is a packet of chewing gum.
1. Five bunches of daffodils for £2. 'It's because they're open,' says the flower boy.
2. A respectable middle-aged couple hurry up the hill carrying a Christmas tree between them.
3. I describe the vaguely-remembered work of a steam-punkesque scientist to Nick. He knows exactly who I mean. I feel as if I have met some sort of soulmate.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
2. We crowd to the window to watch the shoot. A wire-haired dacshund races around nearly expiring with excitement. Earlier this week, it came to greet Oli and me as we went into work. It was wearing a coat, and seemed very pleased to see us, wriggling right down on the ground and wagging its tail.
3. Printing my own wrapping paper with a large rubber stamp.
Friday, December 14, 2007
1. Enjoying a Singapore Sling in Raffles, admiring the fan mechanisms , throwing monkey nuts to the floor and noting how little the long bar has changed since colonial times.
2. Swimming in one of the world's top 50 swimming pools overlooking green padi fields and lush palm vegetation with dragon flies overhead and monkeys swining in the trees.
3. Massages; the Balinese style involves not just two hands but four - kneading and stroking away all worries and knots to leave you relaxed; smelling like a coconut and with enough change for another one tomorrow.
Honourary fourth mention of Andy's beloved rice cooker which is currently enjoying a tour of Indonesia.
1. The gravel drive is solid with frost.
2. When I come to put the news together, I notice that I have given Oli a lot of rubbish stories. I feel a bit guilty for not checking the list properly, but don't say anything. As we are leaving, he comments that the day has gone really quickly because he's had stories about Welsh statistics to do. I am absolved.
3. Making a pile of pistachio nut shells on Nick's kitchen table.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
2. Every leaf has a careful edging of frost.
3. Most evenings when I get home, I catch a clean baby smell coming up from the garden flat.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
1. We added pomegranete juice to our fizzy wine and wondered at the colour of it.
2. A dish of flying saucers in pink and green and orange and blue.
3. Jules dares me to see how long I can go just wearing pyjamas. It's tempting, but Katie is unimpressed.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
2. The car in front of us is run into by someone coming out of a side road. Oli comments that life is made up of a million misfortunes that one avoids because they happen to other people. Later I remember this while reading The Pinhoe Egg. Characters fall victim to a 'nudge' spell, which makes accidents more likely to happen than they are to almost happen.
3. On a cold night, turning up the heating and pulling a dressing gown around me.
Monday, December 10, 2007
2. Heroic saga. 3D glasses. Need I say more about Beowulf?
3. My aunt presses a small packet of sweets 'for the journey' into my hand as I leave.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
2. We stand in front of a painting at the Tate Modern. It looks as if someone has thrown green and orange paint at a canvas and smeared it around. My aunt says: 'Does this remind you of something?' I nod slowly and say: 'Yes. Monet's waterlilies.' 'Me too.' But we don't know why.
3. My aunt teaches me crochet -- I 'discover' several 'new stitches' before I get it right.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
2. My cousins' particular brand of creativity that covers the kitchen in models of wrinkly tree-stump dwelling creatures with fat bellies and long toes; and allows them to appreciate the photo of me and Rosey in which I am trying to look beautiful and Rosey is cross-eyed. We spend dinner defending the fantasy corner against people who think making up words and worlds is silly.
3. Hearing my aunt up-dating a former colleague about their patients. Some of them now have grandchildren.
Friday, December 07, 2007
2. Tomorrow, it is two weeks til I leave this job. We are starting to realise what this will mean. I feel like crying when He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named looks up from his work and says: 'I know you're laughing because of the way you coughed.'
3. All the sweet and silly things Nick and I tell each other about the four days we've been apart.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
- Soor plooms
- Raspberries and blackberries
- Colour changing popping candy
- Lemon crystals
- Apple crumble fudge
- Treacle bangers
- Twin cherries
- Stockleys fruit rock
- Strawberry sherbert
- Cherry cola bottles
2. I am about to ask for my usual evening beauty appointment, when I remember that as I am about to take three months off, I can book a slot at half past ten on a weekday morning if I like.
3. I get home to find Katie and Jules surrounded by bags of Christmas shopping.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
2. I love Fair Play by Tove Jansson. It's a novel about two lady artists whose lives are tightly twined. They have problems and they resolve them in short, gentle chapters.
3. I come home from writing to find Katie has made stirfry with tonnes of crunchy vegetables dressed in honey and soy sauce with oily noodles.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
1. A lady whose house is on the edge of the park calling her cat in. She bangs a spoon on the railings and in between each call, her other cat calls too: 'Puss!' 'Miaou!' 'Puss' 'Miaou!' 'Puss!' 'Miaou!'
2. Amanda brings a fat and fruit-filled pannetone to the writing class, and we eat it to celebrate the end of term.
3. Walking up the hill late at night I catch sight of the hind quarters of a familiar dog going round a corner. By the time I reach the top of the hill, he and whoever he was walking with have gone.
Monday, December 03, 2007
2. Katie is practising along with a recording of Handel's Messiah. I swear there is this one bit where they sing: 'We like cheese.' She is not amused when I point this out. Later, Emma confirms that the words are 'We like sheep', which is nearly as funny.
3. A concert in the Royal Albert Hall where the singers far outnumbered the audience. I loved the way the different parts called to each other across the hall. I've only ever heard Messiah sung by a small choir in a church -- this was a very different experience, and I could almost feel the force of the sound.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
'See you later, Dad,' says the stallholder.
The cakes are a huge hit at the drinks party I am attending.
'This sparkly one,' says Grace, 'I think it's topped with gold and real rubies.'
Elaine takes photos of the cakes in the box and on the plate.
Later, 'Look at the dinosaur sprinkles. You can name them. T. Rex, pleisiosaur...'
'I thought you meant like James and Ian.'
2. Walking into Habitat. I have suffered a certain sadness since they closed the Tunbridge Wells branch of Habitat. I used to love walking round imagining what I would have if, say, all my crockery disappeared, or if I could have a new kitchen. There is huge branch on the King's Road, so I go in.
3. Three girlies and lots of cocktails, and the possibility that a bored rich man might come and ask if he could join us, chat to us for an hour or so, then pay our bill.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
2. The gap in the conversation during eating.
3. Being taken on an adventure that someone else is generating in reaction to my choices.
Friday, November 30, 2007
2. Coming out of the office into the rainwashed darkness and smelling clean winter air.
3. I beat Andy at backgammon -- it's not a particularly convincing victory as we are racing at the end to get our counters off the board, but it is a satisfaction none the less.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
2. Getting some wise advice from Caroline. Oli says that she is like the fixer in Pulp Fiction.
3. I arrive at Nick's cold, damp and hungry. He says: 'Shall I rub you with a towel?'
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
2. The pharmacist asks me a few questions to check that I've understood my GP's instructions. 'So you're winding down, are you?' he says, seeing that my dose has been reduced to every other day. 'That's good news. Well done.'
3. I like it when the writing class gets the giggles -- this week it was because of Sarah's stories about a mischievous writing trip Venice.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
2. A very small girl stands on one side of the bus stop glass; her mother is sitting on the other. They are playing a game in which the girl has to put her hands where her mother's hands are. They are both giggling.
3. I leave for writing a bit early so Katie and I can go and inspect the Hooper's window. We work along the story of Sleeping Beauty as represented using shop dummies and costumes from the National Ballet. We guess which characters are which, and discuss which dresses we like best (my favourite is a grey tutu, but the White Cat's fur striped frock comes a close second). In the wedding scene, the story says that Red Ridinghood is among the guests. 'Where is she?' wonders Katie. A passerby points her out, standing in the corner with her wolf nearby.
Monday, November 26, 2007
2. A phone call from my mother to say that she and Daddy are safely back from their holiday and have had a magical time. She gossips about other members of the group and listens to my woes and describes the things she has seen and gives me some advice.
3. Nick and I have our favourite restaurant all to ourselves. It has wood-fired pizza oven, and Nick says that next time, I must sit facing the kitchen so I can see it, rather than having to watch the flames reflected in the window.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
2. Cat takes a no hurry attitude with her children. There is no rush to get up the stairs, so Ellie can climb by herself without being carried.
3. Although she is not yet two, Ellie recognises letters, even in an unfamiliar font. Cat has taught her using people's names and a cushion embroidered with the alphabet. A shopping bag suddenly becomes a family album, as Ellie shouts out the names.
4. Nick and I are caught Alan admiring the baby who has been left lying on the sofa for a moment. 'You're communing with Daniel,' says Alan, seeing that Daniel has one of our fingers in each of his fists.
5. Cat excuses herself to feed a fussy Daniel in my room 'The bed might be a more familiar set-up'. When I go in to check she is all right, she has snuggled herself under the covers, and is looking at my slightly disordered quarters with the sort of new-eye attitude that I ought to use all the time. Later Ellie comes in and stands at the side of the bed, her head just above the level of the mattress. I lift her up so she can admire the metalwork flowers and leaves at the foot of the bed. She counts them. 'Number one, number two...'
6. Ellie knows Each Peach Pear Plum, just like her godmother.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Friday, November 23, 2007
2. A small and determined-looking year 7 girl sits at the front of the bus. When the time comes for her to get off, she is joined by a boy about twice her height who has been sitting at the back of the bus. They look very alike, so I guess they must be siblings. I think she must wonder when her brother got so tall.
3. Katie brings home bags and boxes from John Lewis. She has been shopping for Christmas decorations in red and gold.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
1. What I have always thought of as a clogged ditch has swollen into a stream after the rain.
2. The call to dinner -- a pan of spicy red sauce in which two chicken thighs have been cooking.
3. I catch sight of the faint white line under my eye from where I cut my face open in Africa. I remember never being worried that it might be disfiguring -- even when I looked in the mirror and saw the wounds hanging open. Even when I woke up the next morning in hospital and really thought about what I had done. I think this was partly because at uni I had a housemate with a scar. When Ali was cold or excited, a scar as long as my middle finger showed up red on her cheek from where, aged 11, she had fallen through a window. She was beautiful and confident and men came up to her and wanted to know about the scar. It was never seen as an ugly thing, or something to be ashamed of -- rather, a badge of honour and a good story.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
2. The man in the chippie tells me he is from the Medway towns, 'where kids treat you like you're nothing when you work in a food shop. Here they called me "Sir" and said "Thank you".'
3. Nick at I watched a documentary about Albert Khan, an early French photographer and cinematographer. His colour photos are Edwardian, but look surprisingly modern, apart from details like horse-drawn vehicles and roads clear of cars. The colours, achieved using grains of starch dyed red, blue and green on glass plates, are astonishing.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
1. Taking my gloves off the radiator and putting them on my cold hands.
2. My boss's (and everyone else's, actually) excitement at his new iPhone. It went round the office and we were all allowed to have a go at typing in messages and looking at his pictures.
3. A mug of hot soup at lunchtime.
Monday, November 19, 2007
2. Nick takes me to a sale of military books in a hotel, bribing me with the promise of tea. While he searches for bargins in two green boxes, I perch on the windowseat and admire the grounds. I can see in through the window of another wing of the hotel, where a pair of hands is carefully laying a tea table with a white cloth and crisp napkins. I imagine it might be ours. When the time comes, we go back to the lounge and are led to that very table.
3. Halfway through tea, a lady in a primrose yellow frock with many layers of net and a very sparkly tiara walks in and starts playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow on the harp. I wonder if Nick has arranged it just to please me.
4. An extra beautiful thing -- The sisters of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named and the Nameless Mother walk in and take a table near ours. The Nameless Mother has never met me, but recognises me from the HWSNBN photo library.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
2. An oldish woman, perfectly coiffed and dressed, stands outside Hoopers. She is wearing startling glossy red lipstick. I imagine she must be a fairy godmother.
3. Gnawing sweetcorn off the cob.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
2. Choosing a slice of cake from the sandwich van -- they are laid out in boxes wrapped in cellophane and have icing in appetising colours. Some of them are decorated with cherries, coconut or peel.
3. The smell of thyme and rosemary baking with my supper of chicken and mushrooms in a white wine gravy.
Friday, November 16, 2007
1. By way of celebration, I put sugar on my Rice Krispies. It sits on the top, soaking up the milk while I carry my breakfast into the office, and at the bottom of the bowl, there is a comforting sweet sludge of milk and sugar.
2. Oli gives me half his muffin, leading to some minutes of bawdy jokes.
3. A bath, a large glass of gin and tonic and a new science fiction magazine.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
2. Sliding a heavy red pot of stew into the oven.
3. As I leave, Katie tells me to take the longer, safer route because it's dark and cold.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
2. Three mothers with babies sit at a table near us. I think I recognise one of the mothers -- perhaps I went to school with her. We smile at each other, but don't speak. I admire the way the mothers chat and eat and drink with their babies on their arms.
3. My grandmother's sitting room is warm and small, full of photographs and portraits of my family. Thick curtains shut out November, and thoughts of the crossword shut out our problems. I doze in my wingbacked chair, my tea cooling at my side.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
2. The school kids behind me on the bus:
'I know him from Ticehurst Primary School.'
'I do. I went in year two.'
'You never. You went to Stone Cross.'
'I did, in year two.'
'I can't believe you didn't know that, you rubbish girlfriend.'
'I'm a fucking good girlfriend.'
3. I tell Robert what Rosey and I had for supper and he says: 'I wanted that, too.'
Monday, November 12, 2007
I recently started a blog and wrote a book with the somewhat less than beautiful title It Is Just You, Everything's Not Shit but lots of beautiful things have happened as a result. Here are three of them:
1. Meeting Oliver Postgate, the creator of Bagpuss, Clangers and Ivor the Engine. Still going strong in his eighties, he was one hero that did not disappoint in the flesh.
2. Receiving a wooden chest of sweets from the lovely people at ww.aquarterof.com. It was like opening a gateway to my childhood - flying saucers, sherbet pips, space dust and bucketloads more.
3. Hearing from lost friends who have stumbled across the book in shops and emailed me. Some very welcome blasts from the past.
The book is available from Waterstones and Amazon or from It Is Just You, Everything's Not Shit.
1. Sitting in bed with Nick and the Sunday papers.
2. Finding a secret garden and imagining that it was there solely for our benefit. It is arranged in concentric circles around a pond where sedges have dipped into the water, forming hoops with their reflections.
3. As we go over Ashdown Forest, the taxi driver says that if he has to wait around, he sometimes comes up here with a flask of coffee and a sandwich.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
2. Standing on a jetty watching carp kiss the water below us.
3. Tucked between the pages of my new Moomin book, I find again the gift tag that Nick up on the wrapping.
4. The view of the grey hotel among autumn trees on the other side of the valley.
5. Slices of tender, pink venison surrounded by a chilli-chocolate sauce.
6. Coming back to our room after dinner and finding that bed that was rumpled from our afternoon nap has been made and turned down; and the towels and bathrobes that we left strewn around the room have been carefully hung up.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
2. As we turn into the drive of the hotel, a shaft of sunlight shines through a beech tree in full autumn glory.
3. We are shown to our tea table, which is covered in a white cloth. It's by the fire, and there's a large and soft sofa waiting for us.
4. Chatting to Nick while I wash my hair. I love the way he enjoys something as simple as me taking a bath or putting on a pair of tights.
Friday, November 09, 2007
On Monday, I'm hosting a leg of the It is just you, everything's not shit tour.
1. The sound of sheep munching.
2. A mole hill that is still fresh.
3. Towards the end of the day, a sudden storm lashes the windows. At first, after so many crisp sunny days, we are confused by the sound.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
2. Sitting in the cinema with salty popcorn and a small bag of sour jelly sweets.
3. A film involving cross-dressing sky pirates, a fallen star, a rapidly aging witch, a innkeeper who used to be a goat, a wall between England and fairy land, seven murderous brothers, a market where you can buy tiny elephants and a captive princess. Stardust needs to be seen.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
2. Plump ginger biscuits with drizzled stripes of hard caramel.
3. I am cold, and remember I have a fleece dressing gown.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
2. Shuffling leaves at the side of the road and feeling as if I might be told off for making a mess, but enjoying the sound too much to stop.
3. For weeks I've been struggling to 'get' a character's voice in my radio play. Each time I offer him up to the class, heads are shaken. But yesterday, it was decided that he had arrived aboard the ship. It's a relief -- and I know I can do this again the next time I run into the same problem.
Monday, November 05, 2007
2. The sunset pours golden light between rooftops and chimneys.
3. Wearing a new hat, scarf and gloves that match.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
2. A loud, old-fashioned mobile phone rings. 'I'm in a cafe in Tunbridge Wells,' explains an elderly lady. 'Eating,' she replies after a pause. Then, with some irritation: 'My appointment was in Tunbridge Wells... I got the bus.' I imagine that the caller is a daughter-in-law who feels guilty about not giving Granny a lift to her appointment.
3. The colour of raw carrots.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
2. Douglas uses a radio comedy to prove that all gingers are descended from angels.
3. The prospect of spending the greater part of the weekend alone.
Friday, November 02, 2007
2. Ed turns up a video of me twirling round in my fairy costume. It induces near hysteria in the office.
3. Listening to knowledgeable and passionate people talking about food
Thursday, November 01, 2007
1. Coming home to a house with somebody home. Katie has arrived early so she can start work on the Halloween party. I also liked seeing the signs that other people are celebrating, too -- children out in costume, and pumpkin lanterns in windows.
2. Whirling round and round to make my tutu puff out until I am too giddy to go on.
3. A large bowl full of sweeties and the sound of people talking.
See the pictures here.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
2. A wonderful lamp in a sphere of glass crystals.
3. I come home to find an industrious Jules hollowing out pumpkins. Katie points out that he has 'found the pick 'n' mix' that we bought for any trick or treaters.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
2. I see a long creature chasing a cyclist and at first I think it's a squirrel. It's a dachsund puppy out for a walk with a mother and two sons. It plays in the fallen leaves, savaging any that look as if they might step out of line.
3. Creating a character for a Hollow Earth Expedition, discovering what she's good at and what her talents are and trying to play the game as if I were her.
Monday, October 29, 2007
2. A table laid for supper with shining glasses and cutlery.
3. In the night, I feel with my feet my ballet shoes which are hanging from the end of the bed, tied with their ribbons.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
2. Running into Nick in M&S and getting a small kiss by way of greeting.
3. Watching my Halloween costume take shape under Katie's sewing machine.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
2. I meet a real live writer for a drink. I was a bit in awe of her the first time we met, but she is so kind and encouraging that this time, I anticipate our drink with hardly any nervousness. And again, she is interesting and charming and passes on tips and shares a little gossip. See Sarah's other project here.
3. My bed is so warm and welcoming that as I get in, I giggle to myself in a way that reminds me of my goddaughter Ellie (nearly two) giggling when we played some game or other.
Friday, October 26, 2007
2. I am reading while I wait. Through the story I hear the voice I am waiting for, and it pulls me back to the London street.
3. As we take our seats on the train, Nick lifts the armrest between us.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
2. In the last few months I have been reminded of something important. After the not-a-badger incident I wailed to Chrissie 'I feel like such a girl' and she told me firmly 'But Clare, you are a girl'. And later, telling my woes to Oli, I am advised: 'To be honest, you wouldn't be a woman if you didn't feel like that.' I remember both these incidents, and wonder when in my life I lost my pride in this part of my identity.
3. I hear the front door go and then a shriek that indicates Katie has been 'got' by the same trick she played on me first thing in the morning.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
2. The sound archives of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. He has collected such gems as me saying 'Sheep and potatoes'; Oli apologising for phoning me late at night from Bratislava; Tricky Dicky selling printing services; Pip barking; Ellen wondering where a ladder is when you need one.
3. A shepherd's pie covered in expertly forked mash browning in the oven.
Monday, October 22, 2007
2. Dozing on the sofa leaning on Nick.
3. Finishing both packets of pills on the same day.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
2. After expert teaching from Glamour Puss, I can now twirl nipple tassels. Another achievement ticked off the list.
3. We lost the rugby, but the South African team looked so happy to have won. I was impressed that Thabo Mbeki was there to celebrate with them.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
2. We celebrate Neil's birthday by sitting in the sun with a beer.
3. Bobby explains the awesome power of his new kitten. 'Girls come to see the kitten, not me.'
Friday, October 19, 2007
2. Wrapping myself up in a new soft fleece dressing gown.
3. Nick and I are teaching ourselves to play go. We spend a little time doing some problems, working through them. Although the game is competitive, we are doing something as a team.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
2. My skein of hemp has tangled. But with some help from Katie, I follow the thread and wind it into a pleasing ball.
3. Sitting up in bed, a skein of yarn around my knees, listening to the shivery Book at Bedtime. It's Susan Hill's The Man in the Picture. I'm rather a fan of her ghost stories.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
2. Ice cream that comes in a cardboard box.
3. Completing a piece of work that has been hanging over me for the last few days.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
3. The pop when I bite into a chocolate.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Sprite: yes, I was at the thread and yarn show at Ally Pally -- my housemate had a stand there.
Chrissie: I think of punctuation as breaths or pauses -- a comma is a short pause; a semicolon is longer; a colon is longer still; and a full stop is longest of all to mark the end of a thought. I use semicolons in lists, too, if the items are more than one word. I try to write as I would (like to) speak -- my lips probably move as I type! I think a lot about the rhythm of prose, which is probably why I scatter semi colons so generously.
Sandy Kessler -- I think Blueridge Muse must have found the ideal place to live!
1. Walking through the park I pass the Turkish Oak. Its large leaves have nearly all come down and they cover the ground so thickly that the grass is not visible. A mother and two tinies are flinging handfuls of coppery leaves at each other and giggling hysterically.
2. On our way to breakfast I make Fenella walk up the steep street to the park so she can see the leaves. 'I can see them from the window,' she says. But when we get there, she gasps.
3. Over dinner we bat ideas back and forth for a steampunk-hollow earth game. Tim and I are all up for a trip to the Antarctic -- 'And there'll be dinosaurs, and they're going there to rescue a previous expedition that got lost and to bring the word of god to the natives...'
'It's set in Hertfordshire,' says Nick, who is running the game.
There's a pause while we digest this improbable fact. 'What, there's an entrance to the hollow earth in Hertfordshire?'
Sunday, October 14, 2007
2. Coming to Alexandra Palace and seeing on one side the shell of the palace's outer wall and on the other London spread out like a toy city. Once inside, I walk round the exhibition hall, dazed by all the stands. Something makes me look up and I take in the rose window at one end and the huge organ at the other.
3. A mouthful of someone else's pudding.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
2. A radio play in which two people who have met only briefly in real life exchange love letters across the world and decide to get married.
3. Nick has learnt to play go so that he can teach me.
Friday, October 12, 2007
2. I help a user find a presentation on our site. She tells me how much she likes what we offer -- customer delight is very satisfying.
3. Making kittens chase something round and round and round until you're sure they're going to trip over their tail or fall over from dizziness -- but they never do. Nicky says this is because they have a leg at each corner.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
2. A variety of autumn leaves -- a drift of orange beech leaves, stiff as if they had been beaten out of copper; scrolls of red and green sumac leaflets; and berry red leaves from a cherry tree.
3. Water drops on the bonnet of a car seem to have been carefully organised to make a diagonal pattern.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
2. Playing a slick and atmospheric computer game. Nightmares: The Adventure comes in four parts. I liked the sinister voice-over and the concept of neutralising the fears of a small boy by doing good deeds.
3. We liked the bamboo forest fight in House of Flying Daggers so much that we watch it all over again.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
2. On most mornings I pass tiny blonde twins hurrying to school with their mother. The girl is often lagging behind to pick something up from a hedge or to look at something important. She looks as if she might be a natural 3BTer, and we exchange understanding smiles.
3. Rosey rings -- she's waiting for a bus and I'm waiting for the printer to finish with my script. We chat about dreams and siblings and how people she hasn't seen for ages know what she's doing because it's mentioned in 3BT.
Monday, October 08, 2007
2. Channel surfing and finding a Monty Python double bill.
3. Tidying up a little.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
2. We take a walk called 'Passport to Pimlico' which weaves through wedding cake streets of white stucco houses and tantalises us with hints of views -- 'look down this street and see an Italianate water tower.' 'Look up here and see the Apollo theatre.' 'From here you can see three of Battersea Powerstations chimneys.'
3. Last week, when we planned this day out, I said I wanted to watch the film Passport to Pimlico and wondered idly where we could get hold a DVD. Then Nick discovers that it's on TV at a time that fits in perfectly with our plans for the day.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
2. Fuchsias -- in particular, the magical purple inner petals. It is a deep indigo that glows in such a way that I imagine it reflecting colours outside that my eyes pick up, but my brain can't register.
3. The ridge of the hill that runs parallel to the lane is still green, but with smudges and highlights of orange and russett.
Friday, October 05, 2007
2. Treading on a laurel berry for the wet crunch.
3. On my way home I see a man I once met at a party walking down the street with his nose in a book.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
1. A telephone consultation with my GP -- instead of taking the morning off work, I take a three minute phone call.
2. The sound of a cock pheasant calling chock! chock! chock! at the far end of the field at the end of the day.
3. Scattering a few green salad leaves over a plate of tomatoes with sheep's cheese, olive oil and basil vinegar.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
2. A normally slippery brick pavement is covered in a fine layer of sand.
3. I take a different route home. A lady who I normally pass on the footpath meets me at the corner, stops and says: 'You've come a different way, too!' We discuss the whys of this -- she because it's getting too dark for footpaths, me because roadworks were blocking my way.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
2. I like hurrying through the park to my script writing class and seeing commuters coming the other way, hurrying towards their homes and families.
3. In the dark, a couple wrapped around each other peer into the window of an estate agent telling each other about their dream house.
Monday, October 01, 2007
2. Stand-up Josie Long explained that she hated her middle because she tended to collect fat there. Then she lifted up her top to reveal her midriff, on which she had written 'marvellous' and drawn a picture of the sea. 'Ocean in motion. I love this bit of the show.'
3. After each joke, Simon Amstell squints into the dark audience as if he is tasting our response.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
2. Having Nick take dictated corrections to my manuscript while I lie in the bath.
3. Porco Rosso's lair -- it is a beach surrounded by high cliffs and apparently only accessable through a sea arch. On the beach is a chair and table shaded by an umbrella; a radio; a telephone; and a tent. His red seaplane is moored to a pontoon made from planks and floating barrels.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
2. Katie has had a bad day. But a martini, a shower and the prospect of a night out with Paul Elvis Chan cheer her up.
3. Mark B has asked that his lovely soft jumper be mentioned.
Friday, September 28, 2007
2. On hearing that Nick has decided to take me to see a one-woman production of Bacchae, Oli says: 'He's a cerebral guy, isn't he.'
3. Watching a single actress perform a conversation between two very different characters while eight feet off the stage on a rope.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
2. The scent of lavender wafting out of Katie's bedroom. Jules has been trying to warm himself up with a bubble bath.
3. Shaking up my pillows to keep them plump.
PS: 3BT is going to sponsor The Adventurists on their trip to Mongolia in a one litre car.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
2. When a rainstorm finishes at around sunset, the light takes on a hard, yellow quality.
3. A film at which people laugh out loud. We saw Molière at Trinity. It's a costume drama with farcical elements -- a lover disguised as a priest; a foolish father with social aspirations; a predatory noble with money problems; a stubbornly stupid young couple.
PS: There's a film about us in the trees at Where I am Working.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
2. Being splashed by a car when I am wearing waterproofs.
3. The words 'Do you want a chocolate pudding or a jelly?'
Monday, September 24, 2007
2. We breakfast outside at a coffee shop. We watch a girl little enough to still have baby hair swinging on the bike rails -- they are just the right height for her.
3. We meet James and Kim for lunch and a catch-up. Old news for us is new news for them, so I enjoy telling and hearing all the stories again.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
2. Holding the feisty and wriggly Rory and watching him suck on his bottle.
3. At the top of the hill is a bench. There are three teenage girls sitting on it, and two sitting in front of it. They are surrounded by bottles and bags. 'So we're gonna meet them there. They're not going to the meal.'
'Can we skip the meal too?'
'Can we eat something cheap?'
Saturday, September 22, 2007
1. Feeling excited about something, but not feeling sick. I took courage from the fact that Fenella, who is scared of heights, had done it and enjoyed it. The first real course was terrifying and left me wondering if I could bear to do the rest. But the second course saw me sauntering across a single log 30 feet up in the canopy, and suddenly I felt a lot better about it all.
2. I liked seeing flashes of the others ahead of us on the course and hearing them whoop and shriek and cheer and encourage. I loved seeing Oli and Doug romping across obstacles; and hearing Hilary checking that Emma and Charlotte were properly attached.
3. Going down the last zip wire and seeing all my colleagues waiting at the far end, Doug standing on the fence, Charlotte brushing the wood chips off herself, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named with his camera in hand.
Friday, September 21, 2007
2. Ellie drops me off just as the bus comes round the corner. I jump up and down and wave and the driver waves back, slows and pulls out of the traffic and into the bus stop so I can race across the road and thank him as I board.
3. Fenella brings five bubblegum pink gerberas.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
2. There is no longer a hole in my ceiling because the plasterer has filled it in.
3. Throwing a pill into a full dishwasher and setting it off.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
2. The sofa bed has arrived and is filling Nick's living room with its cloudlike sofa-ness. We pull out the bed and lie on top of the plastic wrapper to try it out. There is so much space.
3. One of the things I love about being an adult is that I can arrive late for classes and no-one shouts at me like they would have at school. I know it's a bad and disruptive thing to do, but it was a genuine mistake this time and I won't do it again.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
1. A large square box containing a bowler hat and a top hat. My father says as we bring them down from the attic: 'I don't know what your grandfather would think of you using his hats for a burlesque course.'
2. A phone call from Cat in which I can hear Ellie in the background saying 'Clare'. I also hear Daniel noises.
3. Curling up with Italo Calvino's Castle of Crossed Destinies and comparing the stories to the tarot spread.
2. A dish containing shank of lamb, sticky dark gravy and creamed potatoes.
3. Walking in the dark and seeing a skyful of stars.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
2. Oli leaning into Elodie's car seat to quiet her with some white noise shhhhing.
3. Filling someone's glass with red wine.
Friday, September 14, 2007
2. Neopolitan icecream -- the sort that comes in tubs with a stripe of pink, white and brown.
3. A tray of brownies in the oven.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
2. Checking the menu of a restaurant about to open and imagining meals yet to be eaten.
3. It must be frustrating for Katie watching me work on the book. I spend a lot of time playing computer games, lying on the sofa, not doing any housework, laying out slips of paper with beautiful things written on them and dozing. She neither comments that slightly more time editing would be helpful; nor wonders why I don't spend some of the not-writing time doing housework. But the second guidance is asked for, she -- and Rosey -- come out with exactly what I need to hear.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
2. Walking down our street and seeing the afternoon sun shining into our living room and on to the newly-decorated green walls.
3. Getting my lap top back from the menders.
Monday, September 10, 2007
1. Reading that St Augustine's church was once described as a 'tent' and that it helps worshippers recall the nomadic roots of their religion. It's a low modern building laid out in a square -- the congregation must feel very involved with the services. Nick thought its high rafters made it like a Medieval hall. The guide who greeted us said that when the church was first opened in 1974, she didn't get on very well with the modern architecture, but it has grown on her.
2. The stained glass window at the back of the stage in Trinity Arts Centre. Trinity is a converted church and the window is normally hidden by a curtain.
3. Going upstairs in the Opera House. It's been a pub since I moved to Tunbridge Wells. Before that, it was a bingo hall, and before that a cinema, and before it was a theatre. The dress circle has recently restored red tip-up seats. But I didn't know there was an upper circle, too, which hasn't been used since the last film in 1968. The seats look rather hard and uncomfortable, and it is strange to think that no-one has sat in them since before I was born. It was very grimy, very eerie, with toilets full of dust and stacks of unwanted doors and old furniture lying around. I was so glad of the chance to go behind the scenes in this familiar place.
Saturday, September 08, 2007
2. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named has ants to put in his ant farm. We gave him the tank full of blue goo for his birthday, but the ants had to be ordered separately. He puts them in, and we spend the day checking to see if they've started burrowing yet.
3. I am what my boss calls 'demob happy' because it's the end of Friday and I have a whole week off.
1. Here's a presentation given by Erin McKean. Watching it made me remember what a beautiful thing she is.
1a. Erin's dress. Reading Erin's Dress A Day made clothes a pleasure for me. Her philosophy made me brave enough to buy, accessorise and wear dresses.
1b. The idea of letting the writers, rather than dictionary editors, decide what words can be used.
2. Meeting my mother for coffee.
3. I think I'm not hungry, but when the food comes, I am.
Friday, September 07, 2007
2. Hearing that Goddaughter Ellie has a new brother -- who weighed 8lb 12oz. Well done Cat and Alan.
3. Nick and I watch a documentary that shows a statue of Buddha surrounded by adoring worshippers covered in coloured powder and milk.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
2. Teenagers chasing a squirrel. 'We'll never have to crack nuts for ourselves again.'
3. Settling into bed and leaving all the day's problem's behind.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
2. Clasping a warm, paper-wrapped bag of chips to my chest.
3. Burning some incense -- I'd forgotten how much I enjoy the sparks going across the charcoal and sniffing my resins to see which I'm going to use.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
2. Housemates who notice when I forget my key and make sensible arrangements.
3.A thread card loaded with DMC stranded cotton, ready for me to start a new cross stitch.
Monday, September 03, 2007
2. A mysterious clacking noise in the sitting room turns out to be a contented Nick playing shut-the-box.
3. Spotting a photo of Andy finishing the London Marathon.
Sunday, September 02, 2007
2. Crowds of morris men waving handkerchiefs on the Pantiles.
3. We walk into a restaurant and the waiter says: 'Welcome to the madhouse.' We are confronted by what looks like a scene from Nurse Matilda:
Coriander was lifting Amelie up so she could climb a pillar, much to the horror of the dating couple trying to have a date behind it.
Gregory was banging a spoon on the table.
Holly and Daisy were having a screaming match.
Marcus was tipping salt into the packets of sugar and putting them back in the bowl.
Noah was seeing how many breadsticks he could get up his nose.
Victoria, Joshua and Jacob were trying to get round the entire table without touching the ground.
All the other children were doing simply dreadful things too.
Saturday, September 01, 2007
2. Ellie brings us donuts.
3. When reading a book makes me feel as if I am in the hands of a master -- in this case Kurt Busiek's Astro City and The Virgin in the Ice by Ellie Peters.
Friday, August 31, 2007
2. Elodie, aged six days, waves at me through the kitchen window because I have a cold. Oli shows me her tiny feet, and Caroline points out her eyelashes and perfect fingers. Elodie is trying out her face, showing all sorts of expressions that don't mean anything yet. She looks as if she is systematically making sense of a wonderful world. Oli says that she is very good so long as they keep her full of milk. I can't wait till I'm better so I can go round and have a cuddle.
3. Nick and I are too tired to spend the night together, so he takes me home, walking me right across town. But first he lends me what must be the softest fleece in the world.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
2. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named waves his damp sock in my face, so I throw it out of the window.
3. Closing the blinds at the end of a working day.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
2. Oli drops in to see us -- mother and baby are still a bit shy but will visit soon. He says: 'I'm different. I walked out of the birthing centre and I saw the sky, and I thought "How beautiful". And I saw my tomato plants had all died because I haven't watered them and I thought: "I don't care. It's not important."'
3. When I was six, they lined us up on the wall in front of the school and told us to count passing cars. We struggled, and they taught us how to tally -- using four lines struck through with a fifth to keep count. I thought of it as a little fence to keep sheep in order. It's one of the few things I learnt in maths that I still use today -- often when I'm keeping track of a repetitive task.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
2. At a festival of local live music on the Pantiles, the town's toddlers wiggle to the front and dance unsteadily before the bandstand. Occasionally an ambitious one climbs on to the stage, only to be quickly hooked back by more sensible people.
3. I struggled with perspective at school -- I was off sick the week they taught it. I have ideas about parallel lines and vanishing points, and roads appearing narrower as they approach the horizon, but they don't connect terribly well in my head. While watching a documentary about Byzantine icons, all becomes clear, and some of the tricks artists can play with perspective are exposed for my delight and understanding.
Monday, August 27, 2007
1. Among all the guns and pikes and fighting, a neolithic man sits in front of a deer hide tent knapping flints. We chat about his cordage -- nettle stem, rawhide and tendon -- and about tanning. He explained that his soft leather shirt and trousers were yellowish because they had been smoked to keep them supple.
2. A War of the Roses pikeman shows me the weight of his gear by piling it up in my arms. It's heavy, and I'm glad I'm not wearing the padded coat, wool tabard, helmet and armour on this sunny day. He explains that he's not a full 'tinny', and that once the armour is on, it doesn't feel heavy.
3. Two women dressed as Scythians trying on World War II great coats.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
2. Following workings of the machines in Heath Robinson pictures. We spent a happy hour in the Cartoon Museum enjoying the improbabl contraptions and complicated rescues, followed by some time browsing the collection of Dandys and Beanos upstairs
3. A long thin curl of orange peel forms wings over a cocktail called 'Dark Angel'.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
2. At 8am I get a text from Oli reading 'Baby!' At work, the girls from the other company crowd in, asking us for updates, as if the birth is happening under Oli's desk. We shake our heads and wait for news. At last, the proud father rings to tell us that he has a daughter.
3. The spaces in my lunch box are crammed with home grown tomatoes that are splitting with ripeness.
Friday, August 24, 2007
2. Peter comes in to supervise the news. I sit with him and go over my commentary. I don't much like writing commentaries -- I feel like a fraud because I've never been directly involved with the National Health Service; and I'm not clever at organising my thoughts into arguments. But with the help of an experienced journalist, my facts and ideas line up and I feel proud to see the piece at the head of the news.
3. Looking down at my newly-painted toenails. I had a pedicure and we picked the colour 'bus stop'. We also spent some time giggling about some of the other colours -- 'basket case', a bright,wild bubblegum pink, springs to mind.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
2. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named has discovered the Bristol Stool Chart. Copies of it have appeared all over the building with advice that we should be aiming for three or four.
3. Katie's boyfriend Jules has contributed a large and heavy box of chocolates to the household. We have strict instructions not to touch the one shaped like a butterfly on the second level.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
2. Most days in Frant we pass a lady sweeping the pavement. She has put a 30 sign on the handle of her broom to remind drivers of the speed limit.
3. We go to a South Indian restaurant specialising in dosas. The menu describes these variously as 'crumpets', 'pancakes' and 'pizza'. We try one of each kind, and they are all good -- very different from the curry and rice I am used to.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
2. Katie is away so I drink a pot of that lapsang souchong tea that she hates so much.
3. I spend a happy evening channel-hopping with our new Sky box. Chariot racing in Welsh! America's most haunted rednecks! Veronese jewellery! Only Jesus can save you from the fires of hell-ah!
Monday, August 20, 2007
2. Rosey's birthday was at the end of June, and I have been waiting weeks to see her so I could give her the present I was so proud of -- I commissioned illustrator Rosie Brooks to do a little cartoon of us in Africa.
3. They bring Nick's tea in a heavy black cast iron tetsubin, which he seems to like very much. It has pleasing nubbles on its flanks, and its weight makes is good to hold.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
2. Smashing up the leaf shelters and throwing the support sticks and leafmould around the woods so that the next lot of students will have to find their own materials when their turn comes.
3. Katie comes home to find me up to my neck in bubbles. She makes up a tray of tea things and sits outside the bathroom door hearing my stories of life in the woods.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
2. The softness of my new beanie hat. I saw one bobbled with raindrops on Di's head and coverted it. When the mobile shop came round, my card was out of my tent before you could say 'Mud'. It hasn't been off my head since I cut the tags.
3. Russ patiently shows me how to take tiny slivers off the bowl of my spoon with a crook knife. I work at this until it gets too dark and am surprised at how quickly and neatly the bowl forms.
Friday, August 17, 2007
2. As we are choosing chestnut poles, Dan warns us to step back. 'I think there's a snake...' I catch a flash of emerald and back off quickly. 'A snake collector has lost some snakes. I think it's the Algerian Green.' We are warned to stand right away, while the snake is caught and bagged. I am still jumpy from my murderous roll mat last night, until Di whispers 'I bet it's a fake.'
3. James the instructor explains his joyful handling of the salmon we are about to eat for supper by mentioning that he worked in a fish shop. 'Which gave lots of opportunities for jokes. I once put a cod's head in the toilet for my housemate to find.'
Thursday, August 16, 2007
2. Showering under a yew tree from a canvas bag filled with hot water carried in a can from the fire. As I rinse my hair and rain patters around me, I wonder if I will ever be dry and free from dead yew leaves again. A few minutes later I am fully dressed in clean(ish) clothes and tingling as my skin warms up again.
3. Just before settling into my bivi bag, I turn off my torch and stash it where I can reach it. I wriggle down in my sleeping bag and slide down my self-inflating mat into the bivi bag. I am startled by a scuttering noise at my feet, and then terrified by a movement at the end of the bivi bag. My thoughts run in this order:
a. What the hell is that?
b. Get out of the bivi bag.
c. Who is screaming?
d. It's me.
Out of the dark come shouts of 'Don't move' and 'Come here' and 'Are you all right?' and 'Don't worry, it's nothing' and 'Where are you?' and 'Who's that?' and 'What's happening?' Then Dave appears out of the darkness with a torch an 'Are you decent?'
I pull on my trousers with one hand and point gibbering at the bulge in the bottom of my bivi. Shaking his head, Dave turns the bag upside down. My mat falls out and nothing else -- no adders, no badgers, no rats. The mat, however, has a large blister at the foot end where the lining has split.
Then the instructors come running from the far end of the site: 'What's happened?' and 'Our ears are bleeding' and 'I'd just got to sleep.'
Dave asks if I would like him to explain to them. I decline, and have to explain, between gasps of relieved laughter, in my own words how a malfunctioning sleeping mat made me produce proper Dr Who screams.
Chrissie makes me sit under her tarp until I stop catch my breath again.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
2. It's raining and we are crouched under a yew tree digging for long roots. I like this sort of exercise much better than carving or making fires. It's very satisfying to grub down in the earth and find a root, follow first in one direction and then in another and then pull it free.
3. I am sleeping under a tarpaulin strung between two trees. It was raining when I crawled into my bivi bag. I wake in the night to find stars in a clear sky sparkling between the chestnut leaves. In the morning, it's raining again.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
2. Learning new knots and the stories that go with them. 'This one is used by Siberian goat herders because they don't have to take their gloves off for long when they are making it. Wave to your friend over here... if there's a triangle there you're doing it right...' 'Round this one twice then both once...'
3. Building a shelter by piling armfuls of leafmould and bracken on to a frame of sticks. It forms a dark little cave large enough for two that blends perfectly with the woods.
Monday, August 13, 2007
'It's full,' they say.
'Oh,' he says, 'Just pile in. Everyone else is sharing tables.'
2. 'Where shall we have tea?'
'Wherever you like, Clarey.'
'Can we have it in my room?'
So we do. Nick says it's like a literary salon.
3. Sitting round a campfire hearing on one side a conversation about atl-atl throwing and on the other a conversation about colonic irrigation. I think I'm going to like these people.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
I'm off for a week's holiday. As usual, I'll post a full set of 3BTs when I return. It should be an interesting selection, as I'll be camping and learning the basics of living in the wild.
1. On Friday night, Katie took me out to the hen arks and we collected six eggs -- I try to carry them in a fold of my skirt, but this proves impossible without flashing my knickers or dropping the eggs. We use my long vest instead. In the morning, she made them into pancakes.
2. Choosing new pens from a huge and many coloured selection and wondering if I would write something entirely different if I bought unusual tools.
3. We eat late -- Speldhurst bacon, runner beans, tomatoes and pasta -- and it tastes wonderful because I am hungry.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
2. A wriggly black and white puppy worrying at dogs four times her size, chewing my fingers with pin teeth, trying to catch my skirt hem and going upstairs when she shouldn't.
3. Sitting with a sleeping baby on my lap and wondering what he's dreaming about. I suspect milk features quite strongly. His father says he now recognises the sound of the kettle.
Friday, August 10, 2007
2. On my walk, I hear a miaow and a tinkle. A slender tortoise shell cat comes running across a garden to see what I am up to.
3. Another diner spots us gazing into each other's eyes. -- 'Don't do that: you'll end up with children.' He indicates his clutch of tweenies sitting at the table behind us. We laugh and he pays his bill. As he leaves the restaurant he adds: 'Don't mind me. Having children was the best thing that ever happened to me.'
Thursday, August 09, 2007
2. Seeing someone coming out of a secondhand bookshop with a full plastic bag; and having a few moments to run my eye over the line of 50p books outside.
3. The sweetness of our very own runner beans.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
2. A dish of blackberry and apple crumble decorated with mint leaves and fresh blackberries.
3. Dancing with Nick because I'm used to being close to him -- I really struggle with being so near a stranger. I hope Nick takes to it so we can dance often.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
I had a meeting with Jessica at Long Barn Books about the 300 Beautiful Things book. We seem to be on the same wavelength, which makes me feel even more excited about the project (if that's possible!). They have a graphic designer on board, and we're looking at a few small illustrations, too. It'll be available in spring 2008. If you would like to be kept updated, please send an email to: book at threebeautifulthings dot co dot uk -- addresses supplied will not be sold or passed on, but will be used by me, or by Long Barn, to contact you about the book and other 3BT projects.
1. Jessica's pink whistling stovetop kettle.
2. Ellie climbing up on to my lap for a story. She stops me halfway through Green Eggs and Ham, firmly closing the book. Cat explains: 'She does that to me, too. She likes to see other people's interpretations.'
3. At London Bridge, I am sent a platform that is not normal for Tunbridge Wells trains. With some misgivings, I dig in for the twenty minute wait. Two minutes before the train is due, they announce 'a platform alteration.' I sigh, get to my feet and expect a frantic dash down to the subway and up again on a hot day with uncomfortable shoes and heavy bags. Then the announcement continues, directing me to turn around and get on the train pulling in right behind me.
Monday, August 06, 2007
2. Hunting for frogs, wild strawberries and strange plants in my aunt's garden.
3. The sound of blackberries dropping into a box as I pick them.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
1. The orange juice man in his hat covered in plastic oranges, and a stand that sold purple lemonade. And great dishes of paella dotted with whole prawns.
2. Strange outfits at Camden market -- we saw cyberpunk clubbing gear in Cyberdog: accessories designed to glow in UV light and inflatable trousers and shirts with LED message attachments. We saw aristocratic goth outfits with frogging and red velvet waistcoats. There was an orange maxidress with a fringe of purple fluff, and Norah Batty-style housecoats.
3. An enormous glass of coffee and chocolate and icecream with squirty cream on the top and a spoon and a straw.
Saturday, August 04, 2007
2. Bouncing home from work knowing that in about an hour I'll be on my way to a weekend of fun with my aunt, uncle and cousin.
3. That moment when, after arriving at a strange station and I'm not sure if I'm where I'm meant to be, I see a familiar face.
Friday, August 03, 2007
2. On my way home I pass two elderly neighbours chatting over their wheelie bins. I overhear a fragment of conversation: 'I do apologise. I was hasty and I didn't think.' I wonder if he was telling a story, or if he was making up a squabble.
3. Sitting in a pub we hear a scuffle behind us. A barman is crawling behind a sofa. 'What are you doing?' 'Playing hide and seek'. Business is slow and the staff are bored.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
2. The movie Clerks, for the line 'I'm not even supposed to be here today.'
3. Covering a pad of paper with a spider diagram showing what I'm planning.
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
2. Walking under trees and seeing flies with the sun on their wings in a shaft of light.
3. Katie rides on our trolley to bust through the automatic doors at the supermarket.
Monday, July 30, 2007
In other news, Lauren B has been hard at work inspired by 3BT -- see All the Good Blog Names Were Taken for more. Isn't it fun?
1. At lunch, as is customary on hot days, there is a small group of men sitting the gravelled car park discussing important man things like table tennis tactics. I spot a piece of ancient broken blue china on the ground, pick it up and put it on the table. Then I see a larger piece of Willow Pattern in the hedge. Next time I look up, more people are searching for bits of blue china, wondering aloud if this piece belongs with the Willow Pattern, or a different plate.
2. The faint tick that weather-boarded houses make when the sun is hot and the air is quiet.
3. A sofa, an open door, a glass of wine, some trashy women's magazines and graphic novels and a free evening.