Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Fridge cake, home and citrus.

1. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named brings to work fridge cake full of pecans and laced with brandy.

2. Finding out that a former colleague has ditched his crazy pscyho girlfriend and is now safely back with his parents.

3. A tangerine with pips in it.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Curls, ambrosia and a few minutes.

1. A little girl with curly hair and stout legs passes me most days on my way to work. This time last year, she was in a pushchair. She usually has something to amuse herself -- yesterday it was a red and white spotted handkerchief.

2. Coming out of a tricky phonecall and finding Charlotte has made a round of tea.

3. Mugs of hot chocolate to hand, Katie and I sit in her room chatting until it's time to go to bed.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Curl, joy and wish I was you.

1. A curl of plastic appears at the drill tip as make drainage holes in a new planter.

2. Feeling inexplicably happy as I walk through the rain to the pub. I think it was some quality of the buttery sunlight which was pushing through the clouds.

3. Andy comes back with a bottle of wine and says that the barmaid envies the four of us and our couple of hours on a Sunday to enjoy a laugh and a few drinks.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Insects, fair maids and refreshment.

1. A fly on the outside of the window because it's a sign of warmer weather to come.

2. Pots of snowdrops at the farmers' market.

3. Gin with a slice of lime.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Apple, bat and the kingdom.

1. Biting into a crisp apple.

2. Playing office tennis with Charlotte using a furry die and our notepads.

3. Kingdom Hospital. It's a bit like Casualty but with ghosts and a giant talking anteater that only some people can see.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Birds in the rain, stand up and sea dogs.

1. When rain drops make rings on puddles, and water is pattering off the eaves, hearing birds singing.

2. Went to see the Bootleg Beatles. Being Tunbridge Wells, it took a long time for the audience to join in. The first lone lady in standing up in the middle of the stalls dancing is a beautiful thing.

3. My copy of Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor has arrived. I like the ship's cook with a cork for a nose, and Timothy Twitch, who 'was the most elegant in battle, his left hand especially.' It's another Mervyn Peake book -- this time his own words as well as the pictures.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Wake up, spring and toasted cheese.

Picture of Monkey and Whale posted.

1. Having a flatmate to poke me if I oversleep.

2. Sunshine at the end of winter.

3. Cheese on toast.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Dry goods, can't see and offspring.

1. Spotting a brick-sized packet of coffee on the desk of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, I volunteer for making drinks. As I result, I get to enjoy: the satisfaction of opening a vacuum pack and feeling the brick disintegrate into ground coffee; and the smell of new coffee.

2. Towards the end of the morning fog closes round the office. It turns a familiar landscape into a mysterious new world.

3. Men being broody over a visiting baby.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Pages, sounds and chocolates.

1. Getting a book through the post -- this time, Coleridge's 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'. It's illustrated by Mervyn Peake, which is why I bought it. The pictures are ink drawings on white paper, but the shading is so dense for this dark work that it almost looks as if the light areas are drawn in, rather than the shadows.

2. Tiny Tin Lady. Particularly the song Moon Moves.


3. Sharing a box of chocolates with Katie.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Easy morning, among the branches and broken pine.

1. Sitting up in bed with Lou drinking tea and chatting vaguely as we read magazines.

2. Climbing up a hunting tower to get a different perspective on the woods.

3. A pine tree has fallen recently. The trunk has shattered like matchwood and the clearing smells of resin.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Home help, shots and cult film

Four things today. No special reason, except that I've been having fun.

1. A wonderful flatmate who does Saturday morning tasks so I can further my writing career.

2. A dubious drink made of warm rum and avocaat topped with whipped cream. It is drunk through a straw so you can fully appreciate the mixture of hot and cold.

3. I comment that there are a lot of familiar songs on Lou's iPod. This is because we both own the Empire Records soundtrack. We decide that this is a film that needs watching tonight.

4. Whipping cream and making white sauce -- and showing Lou the miraculous transformations that occur when doing these things.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Spices, cheese and with a good book.

1. The smell of a hot cross bun toasting.

2. Tiny curls of grated cheese to sprinkle on a fish pie.

3. Curling up on the sofa under my duvet with a Cadfael book.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Waterfalls, light and quiet music.

1. As I walk up the hill to Frant Road running water in a tiny gulley beside the pavement falls over clots of leaves and twigs.

2. Coming to the end of work and finding it's still broad daylight.

3. Walking along a residential street and hearing someone playing a saxophone in one of the houses.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Office hours, lamb bone and talk.


1. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named's new PG chimp. It is knitted in grey-green cotton and stuffed with beans. Being quite weighty, it adds a frisson of danger to the whale game (an office amusement in which soft toys are thrown into the ceiling fan causing howls of laugher when they fly off in unpredictable directions. Further points are awarded if the boss comes in).

2. The sound of lamb stock boiling on the stove.

3. The sound of Katie and Lou chatting in the living room.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

He's a baby, herbs and romance.

1. Douglas has shaved his head and looks like a large baby.

2. On Monday my parents bought us a bag of bayleaves and rosemary. I wreathe the bayleaves over the mirror so they can dry out. I add bayleaf to most of my meat dishes almost unconsciously but I don't notice the spicy, resiny taste except by its absence if I forget to add one. I won't deal with the rosemary until our veggie box comes on Thursday. It'll include apples in a paper bag that I can put the rosemary in while it dries. That way, the needles don't shed everywhere.

3. Oli saying that although he hadn't got a Valentine's card for his wife yet, he had written her a song. Oli told us on Monday that he is going to be a father, which caused much celebration in the office. We called people in so we could watch him telling them.

PS: The idea of gratitude journals comes up quite often in the comments, so some of you might be interested in what Dr Michelle Tempest's post about feeling and expressing gratitude.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

He's here, celebrate and syrup sponge.


Hi to all Tim Kevan's legal newsletter people. Hope some of you stick around to read on.

1. My father calling me to say that my brother Robert just happens to be home and is coming out to dinner with us tonight.

2. Coming home to a housemate who has bought me a bottle of Champagne to celebrate 3BT's 100,000th hit. I made her take this photo of me so everyone could see how pleased I was.

3. Spooning hot syrup over my treacle pudding with vanilla icecream.

PS: Forgot a beautiful thing from yesterday:

-- A friend hears about 3BT for the first time and looks a bit puzzled, and then says: 'Would Madeline (her toddler) saving a worm that was going to be trodden on be a beautiful thing?'

Monday, February 12, 2007

Successful shopping, roasties and salsaros

1. Running into three lots of people that I know on an expedition into town.

2. Shaking up parboiled potatoes in the pan to make them fluffy for roasting.

3. Men who are brave enough to join a salsa class, especially those who become confident enough to lead well.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Really, colours and wine-tasting.

Comments: First, thanks for all the kind comments and emails about the Courier article and the 1,000th post. Much appreciated -- it's good to hear from lurkers as well as regulars! Cheers everyone.

Second, I have switched off the character recognition doojab (
here's one reason why, and the other reason was that one sad email saying: 'I wanted to comment, but the random characters wouldn't appear' is one too many). I have switched on anonymous comments. And I have switched on comment moderation, so your comments will not appear until I've seen them.

1. Conversation overheard on the train between small boy with new comic and his dad:
Dad: It comes with a free video. I'll look after it.
Small boy: A video?
Dad: Yes.
Small boy: Is it really a video, Dad?
Dad: Yes.
Small boy: That we can watch?
Dad: Yes.
Small boy: That goes in the telly?
Dad: Yes.
Small boy: A video that we can watch on the telly?

2. At the National Portrait gallery, a mother talking passionately and loudly about 16th century painting to her tiny daughter: 'I like these because of the blues and the greens and look at the colours and it's not just what the paintings actually about but the figures, they're actually people look at the faces and the animals and the little scenes in the background.' The small girl looked slightly surprised and a bit mystified. But I'm pretty sure she'll come to love 14th century art eventually.

3. We celebrated Fenella's birthday in the traditional manner -- getting pissed under the guise of self-improvement. We toured Vinopolis tasting wines and learning about viticulture. My notebook contains gems of literary expression such as: 'smells of wee' and 'thin and dirty red' and 'too gulpable for the price' and 'much improved by swirling'.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Bull's eye, settling and under the desk.

1. What Ellie calls 'the ugly dog' coming upstairs to our office. I think it's a bull terrier. Whatever it is, it's short, dense coat is very pleasing to stroke, and I like the solidness of it under my hand.

2. Giving some technical support and feeling the caller calming down and regaining their sense of proportion.

3. Warming my feet on the radiator under my desk on a freezing cold night.

To mark my 1,000 post, I'm going to re-post nine favourite beautiful things from the last few years. Some are my own favourites, and others have been suggested by readers. In no particular order...

15 December 2004
1. My new fruit bowl. It's lathed from a slice of maple by Ross Lockhart, who is going to be famous one day. The base is squared off inside and out, but the top has been left. At the moment it is full of satsumas, amber beads and purple Christmas balls.

29 November 2004
2. An ancient man in the pub. We went to see a band at the top of town, and the crowd was all ages. The oldest man - whose name is Jack - is everyone's favourite. People come up to him and shake his hand. He is very short and bent, wears thick glasses and a big hearing aid. He wears a trim grey jacket and a knitted tank top, with old man trousers right up to his chest. He has more gaps than teeth and he mumbles terribly. He pretends to shove some of the bigger men around, safe in the knowledge that everybody loves him. Every time he passed us, he caught my hand and made me dance with him.

23 November 2004
3. Biting into a little cake covered in sesame seeds and being zoomed back to a trip I took to China back in 2001. I recalled a dark cake shop in Xian where I was told off for not helping myself quickly enough. But the cakes - little balls of pastry covered in sesame seeds - were delicious.

28 September 2004 -- Sardinia
4. Crickets. Their sober grey coats are perfectly camouflaged against the limestoney soil. When you step near them, they fly up in a surprising direction, showing off their electric blue waistcoats. We also found a mole cricket dressed in baggy brown velvet. He is rather large – as long as my thumb – and he doesn’t jump, preferring to burrow.

28 September 2004 -- Sardinia
5. I like fig trees – apart from the amusingly-shaped leaves and the figs, there is also the smell. But this particular tree offered something else. Its splitting fruit was a feast for ginormous butterflies. Their plain-chocolate-brown wings were the width of my two palms and were decorated with a flashing purple and white pattern. They were so numerous that the tree rustled with their wingbeats.

8 December 2006
6. 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.

5 June 2005
7. A bent old man in too short trousers making baby talk to a puppy tied up outside Morrisons. The puppy ignores him.

3 June 2005
8. I am embroidering quietly, and suddenly the thread shortens dramatically. On the back of my fabric a knot has appeared strangling a long loop of thread that will get in the way of any other stitches I try to do. Curses. I give it an experimental tug to see if it will come apart on its own. No luck. The only thing to do is to patiently tease it apart and work out where it came from. I like the moment when it all falls apart and thread comes free.

19 February 2006 -- Blantyre, Malawi
9. 6am conversation in the Grant Tent:
Clare: What are you writing?
Rosey: Nothing.
Clare: Is it a note to that cyclist from last night?
Rosey: It's just my e-mail address. I told him I'd leave it for him.
Scribble scribble scribble pause
Rosey: How do you spell ganglion?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Eggs for breakfast, diamonds and standing on the shoulders of giants.

Hallo Courier readers. Thanks for dropping by, and I hope some of you stick around, or even share your own beautiful things.

To everyone else -- I was interviewed last week by the local paper, and it came out today. There's a 2-column pic of me 'in my office' -- I'm at work, really, but it makes it sound like it's the HQ of The Three Beautiful Things Company. It's a good piece of work -- the reporter really got hold of the idea of 3BT. Follow this link to see a copy of the story.

1. Katie bringing our scrambled eggs into my room so we can eat breakfast together while I take a brief screen break.

2. Watching sparkling drops of water forming as the snow melts on the lime tree outside my window.

3. A little boy being lifted up by his grandfather so he can see the garden on the other side of the fence.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Sunrise, I'm going and weather warning.

1. Coming into work early when the sunlight is still orange. And catching a spark of that orange light that has somehow bounced into a room with no east-facing windows.

2. Listening to someone talk about their travel plans for the next year.

3. Snow warnings have gone out. The last fall a couple of weeks ago caught everyone off-guard, but this time we'll be ready. Probably. The disaster recovery plan is in place, with a phone chain and all the files we need stored on-line. Everyone's taken work home with them, too.

**Update: woke up to a snow day. An inch or so and more threatened, I reckon.**

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Installation, signs of spring and my country.

1. A sphere of found objects strung on monofilament in Tunbridge Wells Art Gallery.

2. Hazel catkins and bluebell shoots in the woods.

3. Showing off the English countryside to Christine.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I can't hear you, chores and lovely Richard.

We are approaching a milestone. It looks as if Sunday will be my 1,000 post day. Co-incidentally, I'm expecting the hit counter to click over to 100,000 next week. I'm thinking of a few ways to celebrate -- possibly my nine bestest beautiful things of all time. But do you recall any beautiful thing that struck you as particularly memorable? (even if it is for all the wrong reasons).

1. Spending the day refusing to answer the phone because I had proof-reading to do. I plugged my ears with some hot salsa tunes, which effectively blocked the piteous cries of the untechnically supported.

2. Coming home from script writing to find the washing up done and my wet clothes hung out to dry.

3. Hearing Katie whooping next door as her North and South DVD ends -- I'm guessing Richard Armitage has wandered on screen looking Victorian.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Baby talk, degrees of separation and moves.

1. Ellie sitting in the washing basket laughing at her rattle appearing and disappearing. And also laughing when we were pretending to be Godzilla and Mothra smashing a Manhatten made of wooden blocks. And Cat reading a story about mouse and giraffe who are in love. And Ellie conducting for her father while he played the piano.

2. Cat's mother mentioned me and Sgt Dub in a talk at her Unitarian church this Sunday. She used us as an example of how people can lead very different lives in far flung parts of the world yet still affect each other.

3. A salsa class that gave me tonnes more confidence.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Have at thee, new territory and magic that the camera makes.

1. A couple walking up Madeira Park fencing with pieces of dowel.

2. Exploring a new bit of woodland with Lou.

3. The BBC recently did a short feature on local goths, which included the presenter dressing up to show how the look is achieved. The sample goth used in the programme explained that he had lent the presenter a pair of trousers, and they hadn't fitted over his paunch. But luckily the gaping fly was artfully hidden under a frilly shirt.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Malteasers, Neil Gaiman and slick moves.

1. In the afternoon, Ellie produces bags of Malteasers for the three of us, and we spend twenty minutes happily crunching (or sucking the chocolate off and then crunching in my case).

2. 'There's some post for you,' said Fenella on the way back from the restaurant. 'A postcard and some magazines. Nothing important. Do you want them?' Last time she handed me some post, it went straight in the litter bin on the High Street.
But I caught sight of the signature on the postcard and gasped.
'What? What is it?'
Gasp.
'What is it?'
'Neil Gaiman. Neil Gaiman?'
'Who is Neil Gaiman?'
'SandmanCoralineMirrormaskNeverwhereAmericanGodsWriter.'
'Clare, please breathe. You have to breathe.'
So between hysterics, I explained I had been sending letters to writers I admire; and that Neil Gaiman had sent me an encouraging handwritten postcard.

3. Andy and Fenella showing off their dancing -- they demonstrated a complicated cross-over which looked fantastic. And hearing Katie telling the stories behind the moves -- 'He's pushed you a bit too hard, so you need to get him back by wiggling your hips at every other man on the dancefloor.'

Friday, February 02, 2007

Rare roast beef, all's well and wage of sin.

1. Discovering that our sandwich van does really good roast beef sandwiches.

2. We've been talking about Oli all day because he's in hospital having his nose improved so he doesn't snore. At the end of the day, a text arrives saying he's 'feeling rather poo', but is consoling himself with 'a large party bag of generic drugs'.

3. The fish and chip shop man has won £300 on the horses, so most people in the queue get extra fish. I also learn that he can get oysters sometimes -- you just have to ask.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Vicar, Saki and fancy meeting you here.

1. Reading a news story about boxing being introduced back into British schools reminded me of the chaplain at my prep school, who was rumoured to have been a boxer in his youth. Commonly known as Trev the Rev (Mr Vicary to his face), he always made me think of a baby because he was mostly bald with some wispy white fair hair and he had a wide open mouthed smile that made people want to smile right back. The other thing he made me think of was Dungeon Master from the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, which in some ways was quite appropriate -- although Mr Vicary wore black, rather than red, and I'm pretty sure the bishop would have had something to say if he had grown his hair as long as Dungeon Master's.

2. Passing a field of chickens called to mind a quote from the Saki story The Mappined Life about the dullness of the local social life and how 'A moonlight hen-stealing raid with the merry-eyed curate would be infinitely more exciting; imagine the pleasure of carrying off all those white minorcas that the Chibfords are always bragging about.' Whenever I am bored in a social situation, I often think of moonlight hen raids with merry-eyed curates.

3. A friend turns up to my yoga class and I get to use the phrase 'fancy meeting you here' in natural conversation. And it's a merry and cheerful friend, so I am very pleased to see her.