Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The city, strike and chocolate.

More delightful emails from Saga readers -- thank you once again. Les Moody shares a beautiful thing that I liked very much:
To have that lovely smile from my 16months old grandaughter Lydia. Sunday we walked on the beach at Leigh-on Solent and the nicest feeling is a little hand reaching up for a couple of fingers to hold on to for support in walking over the stones.

1. The Knight City Chronicles. A former housemate of mine is story telling a small but loyal group through the rainwashed streets of Knight City. This is a place of mystery and gothic horrors, yet it is strangely familiar to anyone from around Tunbridge Wells -- I feel at home despite the abandoned hospitals and sinister circus tents on the Common; despite the porn king dwarf with the hook-hand and the Paddock Wood Old China Town, I know these places. Sometimes when I'm out in town I imagine that if I turn round quickly enough, I'll see Wolfram & Hart's glass edifice; and that Fiveways will transform into White Square.

2. Crossing off a 'to do' list item on the whiteboard at work. It's very satisfying the way the line actually cuts through the ink already on the board.

3. Chocolate because of the way it melts in my mouth. I remember a friend telling me about giving her baby his first piece of chocolate. 'His face just lit up.' That's what I thought about as I ate my chocolate today.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Idle chatter, big thoughts and knight of the road.

1. Coming into work and finding everyone full of gossip about Friday night's jaunt round the pubs of Tunbridge Wells. secrets were shared; questions were asked; people were carried home; poker was played; He-who-shall-not-be-named was sick the next day at noon.

2. Settling into The Structure of Evolutionary Theory. It is an enormous book that I got for Christmas (it was on my Amazon list), and I've been working away at it ever since. The material is complex, although the language (as you'd expect from Gould) is very engaging. I feel a real sense of achievement in building on my understanding of evolution; even more so when I am using knowledge picked up from other books on this subject to question some of the thinking.

3. He-who-shall-not-be-named coming out to rescue us because Oli's car is broken down. And Lorna giving us a lift home at the end of the day.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Roman gumshoe, child alone and complete.

1. Starting a Falco novel and thinking that I'm going to have a lot of fun reading it.

2. In between typing, I watch a small boy playing by himself in the garden opposite.

3. Coming to the end of the day and feeling that I have done good work today.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Out, marching order and cake.

1. Getting a load of rubbish out of our house. The thing I really like about the dump is seeing the guys who work there going over whatever you've just thrown out and carrying certain things off for secret purposes of their own.

2. My three pairs of boots lined up neatly with boot stretchers in them.

3. My mother brings me a ginger cake. There is a large hole in one edge where persons unknown have picked at it on the way over.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Pain relief, nice try and mot juste

1. Ibuprofen and hot water bottles.

2. Ian trying to get a mention here by suggesting I write about his curly hair or possibly his thoughts on Tyrannosaurus rexes pleasuring each other.

3. Talking to the man next to me about a mutual friend and trying to explain what it is I like about her. Later in the evening, when everyone is drunk and making confessions to each other, I overhear him telling our friend that 'someone used the most wonderful word to describe you earlier...'

Friday, January 26, 2007

Challenge, TV and domestic bliss.

You Saga readers are a lovely lot -- thank you so much for the kind emails.

1. A dusting of snow makes my walk to work totally different -- stretches of pavement that I stride over confidently on a normal day must be checked for ice before I can cross them. Details that usually fade into the background are picked out with a dusting of white.

2. Coming home in time for The Simpsons. I love watching the opening sequence knowing that I have raced hom just like they are.

3. We are having the neighbours round for drinks later. Katie had the afternoon off work and has hidden away clutter and made the sitting room look warm and inviting.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Snow day, lighting effects and first shoulder stand.

1. Waking up to find that in the night without a sound, the world has filled with snow.

2. The snow clouds create a wonderful sunset. We watch not so much the western sky, but the woods in the east. The bare branches turn orange and then pink and then black as the sun goes down. And when we come to leave work at 5pm, it's still -- just about -- light.

3. A new lady in my yoga class giggling to herself as she does a shoulder stand against the wall. It is a bit of an absurd sight -- a line of people lying with their legs and hips pressed against the wall.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I don't remember, dragons and hot drink.

1. Looking for an email I sent recently, I realise I have items in my folders going back to 2005. I spot a set of correspondence that was very hard to read and to write. Looking over them again, the misery I felt at the time doesn't come back, except as a vague memory. It feels as if I am being told about something that has happened to someone else. I select them all, click delete, and they are gone.

2. Paper Dragons by James P. Blaylock. This story is heavy with mist and wet trees and waiting. It's about a man who is building a dragons from silk, oil, 'a spray of fine wire spun into a braid', silver scales, piano wire, copper and bones. And it's about a scientist camping on the cliffs waiting for a behemoth hermit crab, 'blind and gnarled from spectacular pressures'. And it's about suspecting -- but not knowing -- that there might be boney, beaky creatures floating unseen in cloud chasms. It's one of my favourite short stories; and every so often, I'll think of it and want to read it again. Tonight, while Katie cooks supper, I curl up on my sofa and read it.

3. Katie brings me a mug of hot chocolate to help keep out the cold.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

To everyone who has come in from Saga magazine, welcome. Don't miss Joe 'Plutarch' Hyam's blog Now's the Time. To everyone else, you can read the article here. It's about the 50 wisest people for 2007. You can vote for five favourites, too.

1. It wasn't snow, it was more like sleet -- but whatever it was, it whirled past the window in fat, white, flakes.

2. Oli for two reasons -- one for the vast chocolate cake with thick fudge icing that he made for us; and two, for the moment just before we normally turn into his drive when he says: 'I'll take you all the way -- you can't walk home in weather like this.'

3. A table reading of the early scenes in my radio play. I was afraid I had been over-ambitious in the opening -- a cacophony of complaining tenants. But hearing it in real voices made me think that it would work.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Getting dressed slowly, magnetism and simile.

1. Having time to put on lots of a moisturiser with a light fruity scent.

2. While putting up a magnetic knife rack, Katie makes the mistake of putting it down on the hob. We discover that the magnet is so strong that you us it to pick up the thing you stand the pans on.

3. Andy explaining that leading while dancing is a lot like using a game console. 'I push back and you go backwards, I push sideways and you go sideways.' Let's hope he doesn't discover how to make his partner explode.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Comfort, order and a good meal.

1. The amazing difference that a new loo seat makes to my bathroom.

2. Tidying our cloakroom and finding that with some extra shelves, it might just be possible to use it as a sort of shed-chic guest loo as well as a storage room.

3. Getting compliments for a meal I've made -- rabbit stew and crumble made from whatever had fallen to the bottom of the fruit bowl.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Google, spectacle and smoke-free.

1. Spending a merry ten minutes on a Friday afternoon giggling about a Google game. What you do is you feed in '[name of someone you know] needs'.

2. Posh people in knee socks and plus fours. They converged on the farm for a duck hunt and caused much amusement to us under-stimulated office workers.

3. Spending an evening in a non-smoking pub.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Obstacle, period features and home comforts.

1. A fallen hazel tree blocks our road. I tell Oli we'll have to turn round. He says: 'No, let's move it. This is an adventure.' It's too heavy and springy for us to shift, but he's right -- in the dark, buffeted by the wind, heaving together at branches is an adventure.

2. The hallway of a house converted into flats is sometimes rather a sad place full of misdirected mail and bicycles and unwanted furniture. But in this particular hallway, there is a fireplace with bright turquoise and deep bottle green tiles.

3. Coming home to a plate warming in the oven and some supper.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Fragment, fruit and travel plans.

1. A glimpse through a kitchen window with a narrow gap in the curtains of someone's hands shaking a piece of paper. I wondered if they were overcome with emotion by something in the post; or whether they were getting the last crumbs out of the cereal bag.

2. Katie coming home with piles of fruit so we can make smoothies.

3. An email with flight options and holiday plans.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The sleep, empty day and a novel.

1. Oversleeping by an hour and a half.

2. Having a whole day ahead of me with nothing in it -- it was my first official day off work (not counting Christmas) since I got back from Africa last year.

3. A good stretch of reading, in which I finish the Anonymous Lawyer novel. I've really enjoyed it as a metafiction -- the story is told by blog entries and by emails about the blog entries. The blog entries often tell an intriguingly different story to the emails. And I've really enjoyed the way I ended up feeling sympathy for an unlikeable character with values very different from my own.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ensemble, go go go and brainstorming.


1. I have found a coral-coloured cardigan to go with one of my day dresses. I wore the ensemble and kept smirking to myself at the prettiness of it.

2. Katie finishing cooking dinner so I can get ready to go out the minute I've eaten.

3. At my script writing class, we read my plot and the teacher says: 'Everyone, let's brainstorm this.' And within minutes, the other students have produced a selection of ideas from which I can write the first couple of scenes.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Light of day, resolved and dancing.

1. I'm not often in the flat at the time of day when sunlight is pouring through my bedroom and the living room windows. I loved showering and dressing in the slatted light coming through the blinds. I liked basking on the sofa in the warmth of these stripes, and how the blue and red glass in the windows made coloured shadows on the floor. I enjoyed the way the light showed up the glas greens and caramel colours on the tiles surrounding my bedroom fireplace. Back in the bathroom, the scraps of carpet padding the Saniflo are not dark blue -- they're bottle green. And the sun on my lunch! The morels, which I assumed were black and wrinkly, are slightly translucent and the colour of black coffee in the sun when the light is behind them. And it picked out the little wisps of blue steam rising from the scrambled eggs.

2. Catching up with Fenella and Andy. I only went round to pick up my post, but I was offered a mug of Winter Pimm's under Andy's new year's resolution. He is trying to drink more -- which is unusual, but admirable in its way.

3. Despite having to be dragged kicking and screaming to a salsa class, I had a really good time. We did the warm up, and as I found myself stepping forward to the left when I should be going right and tripping over my feet; I thought all my worst fears had been realised. But as the class progressed, I got hold of the idea. The ladies had to pass round the ring from partner to partner, which is a fantastic way to learn because sometimes you get someone good who does the leading arm signals so you learn how to follow; and sometimes you get someone less confident, and you have to concentrate on your feet and remember all the steps.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Success, Chinoiserie opulence and good triangle.

1. Seeing other bloggers making it into print. Anonymous Lawyer now has a book out -- and the publishers have considered me influential enough to merit a review copy (I think that's why they sent it -- I was a bit afraid to ask why they thought I should have one in case they thought they'd made a mistake and decided not to let me have it). I used to read Anonymous Lawyer way back when -- it's the darker side of Ally McBeal without all the fantasy and love interest.

2. Showing people round my new flat and hearing them ohh and ahh over things that I haven't thought of as beautiful yet. In particular, our deep red hall elicits a lot of comments. One of the first things Katie and I said to each other as we walked in, we said: 'That'll have to go.' But when three people say they love its Chinoiserie opulence in less than 24 hours, it makes you wonder...

3. Supermarket cheese is a bit hit and miss -- sometimes it's jolly good; sometimes it's yuck. But I like the satisfaction of finding I have bought a good piece -- in this case a long triangle of gooey soft Somerset brie.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Guests, freedom and apprentice.

1. Flatmates who don't mind brothers sleeping on the sofa.

2. Most mornings we see a man and a woman riding past our office window at about 10am. I often feel a moment of longing for the freedom to ride a horse out into the countryside on a weekday morning.

3. Andy complimenting me on my improved backgammon and saying that I have a new confidence. I still make stupid mistakes, and sometimes need him to guide me a bit; but the turns when I have no idea what move to make are getting fewer.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Cocoon, zap and nosy neighbours.

All those interested in typing gloves: here is a pattern. Katie is working on one for her family's wool business, Aragorn yarns, and this will be available soon.

1. My sleeping bag for being so warm when the morning is cold.

2. Running Adaware and actually finding a nasty is very satisfying.

3. Our street is full of net curtain twitchers. It's very funny wondering what they must be thinking watching as my brother parks his unmarked white van and settles it in for the night while I unload my shopping in a selection of scruffy string bags and reused plastic bags. The other day, an old man came out and shook his stick at Katie's mother, who was waiting on the wrong side of the road for us to come down.

Flying fingers, middle stone age and housemate.

1. I rarely get to do any straight copy typing at work; but today I am asked to do some as a favour to a colleague and I am pleasantly surprised at how fast I can do it. It's also good to have a task that doesn't involve too much thinking.

2. Ray Mears speculating about how hunter gatherers might have survived on the coasts of Britain. A lot of hardwork grinding things pulled from the bottom of ponds, and chewing things knocked off rocks, apparently.

3. Last thing before I go to bed, Katie saying 'Goodnight' and asking if I've finished in the sitting room.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Wuthering, EVP and knitting.

1. The noise of the wind howling round the oast, and feeling secure and warm because it is outside and I am not.

2. The reaction of our website contractor when I told him that just after their phone line dropped halfway through our conversation, I heard an electronic voice phenomenon saying: 'Doom.' He said: 'I'm going to report that to our service providers. It just shouldn't happen. Was it a distinct voice?'

3. Rumaging through a large Aragon Yarns box to choose wool for my new typing gloves. I'm doing them in heron and raspberry.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Lady of leisure, yellow bill and scripts

1. Now that the new holiday year has started, I can book a day off work next week to do some tasks around the house. After a year of no holiday (Africa wasn't a holiday -- it was travelling) this is the height of luxury.

2. A male blackbird with a bright orange beak flinging clumps of moss around the roof outside the office -- I'm guessing he was hunting for something wriggly.

3. Anticipating a scriptwriting class all day and coming out of it with the germ of a story. Also, I like the idea of fiction writers being solvers of other people's problems.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Duck, new book and chocs.

1. A supper of roast wild duck, shot by Katie's dad down on the marsh, carrots, potatoes and sprout tops. And having a machine to do most of the washing up.

2. Starting to read the biography of E. Nesbit that I got for Christmas.

3. Just when I thought all the Christmas sweeties have been gobbled up, Katie produces a box of chocolates.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Providing, how long and reconnected.

1. Cooking dinner and seeing someone else enjoying it.

2. Longterm 3BTers may remember the transports of delight I experienced in Africa when a male vervet monkey stalked past me with his bright blue balls on display. Imagine, then, my jaw hitting the floor as in the course of the BBC's wonderful and highly educational The Life of Mammals, David Attenborough narrated very delicately footage of right whales mating. Twelve feet long and highly mobile, apparently.

3. My laptop now has a reliable source of internet that really belongs to us.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Snooze, sunshine and fairy tales.

1. Dozing off in the break room at work, waking up and realising that it was after two. Luckily, everyone was out at the pub.

2. A thunderous-looking ticket lady stomps down the train. But a few seats away, something that a passenger says -- or something in the way that they say it -- makes her transform her face with a smile.

3. Hearing Fenella laughing at Grimms: The Final Chapter. It was a set of very silly fairy tales presented by six actors on a tiny stage hung with costumes and stacked with props. Two rows in front of us was a small boy, still in his school uniform, who asked questions in a piercing voice: 'Is she really dead? Yes but she stabbed her.' They included two of my favourites -- The Three Sillies and The Little Girl and Baba Yaga.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Praise, forgiven and make contact.

Happy birthday to The Mother.

Apologies for erratic posting -- the internet connection only seems to work when the wind is in the north (although it's very good when it does work).

1. Katie and Oli both read one of my recent stories today. Neither of them are big sci fi fans; but they both said that although the story puzzled them at first the writing was so assured that they kept going. And they both praised my 'show-don't-tell'. I feel real satisfaction at an act of creation well done.

2. A mother telling her 12-year-old son off for getting lost in the shopping centre and switching his mobile phone off. 'How could you? I've been phoning for half an hour and it kept going straight to the answering service.' And then the real reason for her crossness came out. 'I was so worried about you. I didn't know where you were.' When I turned round, she was giving him a cuddle.

3. This fortnight's missions from my lifecoach include a command to interact with men in unfamiliar situations. This basically means that I need to chat with strangers. Apparently, this includes things like asking bookshop staff if they've read the book I'm buying; paying a compliment; or asking how his day has been. I also have to commit a random act of kindness.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Squabble, last sale of the day and missing one.

1. Ed has been bickering with me about: which Simpsons characters we most resemble; whether the ban on talking about yoga covers classes or just positions; whether when I offered to make a drink I told Ed I was making real coffee and whether I should have known that when he said he wanted tea, what he really wanted was coffee. Oli listened for a while and then asked Charlotte if she wasn't pleased to be back at work.

2. Making a big fuss about leaving work on time and reaching the bed shop in the last half hour of their sale.

3. Opening a box and finding a book I thought I had lost.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Polished leaves, permission and woolwork.

1. The sunset reflecting off ivy leaves on the oak trees outside our window.

2. I've been quietly borrowing an unsecured broadband connection and feeling a bit guilty about it. But it seems it belongs to a colleague, who is happy for us to use it.

3. Katie putting on her newly-knitted beanie hat for the first time.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Spotty, green leaves in winter and glorious mud.

I am proud to announce that I have completed the last part of the Tunbridge Wells Circular Walk.

Southborough quarter -- 30 December 2005 -- 8.25 miles
Sussex quarter -- 3 June 2006 -- 15 miles
Pembury quarter -- 10 November 2006 -- 13 miles
Speldhust quarter -- 1 January 2006 -- 10 miles

1. A flock of 16-spot ladybirds. Almost every fence post for half a kilometer has a little cluster of these tiny insects that look like varnished clockwork toys.

2. We round the end of a wood and then I stop in surprise. 'Look!'

Rosey and my father look, and at first they don't see what has made me exclaim.

Then they see a 300-year-old oak tree in full leaf, bright and tender as if it was 1 May, not 1 January. It's an evergreen Lucombe oak, but the leaves are soft and fresh, not leathery and dark. My father says that if he had one in his garden, every Christmas he would deck the halls with boughs of oak.

3. Small boy in red wellies: mumble mumble psssp-psssp?
Father: I'm sure there will be mud, yes.
There is a fair bit of mud around. Particularly... well anywhere that isn't under concrete, actually. It creeps up our trousers and splashes on our faces and hands. And it squelches in a very satisfying way under our feet.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Flip, angels and watchers.

1. Katie's wonderful pancake pan is light and thin, so tossing pancakes is miraculously easy.

2. Our neighbours running round the halls in fancy dress trying to sort out the fire alarm.

3. While I was doing the last-thing-at-night kitchen tidying, I heard voices from the window next to ours. It was a mother and child watching the fireworks.