Thursday, May 31, 2007

Copy writing, meadow and writer.

1. One of the trade journals that we get at work has been offering some decorative jars. Previous issues had blurry pictures -- it's one of those magazines that manage that make pictures look like dead people. This month, however, they've changed tactics. The jars are described without pictures, and suddenly they sound lovely: 'Viper lozenge jars -- replicas of a jar inscribed "T DE CARABE", an abbreviation of the Latin for viper lozenges, coral lozenges and extract of Peruvian bark, decorated in blue with Apollo and two peacock.'

2. A meadow garden full of scarlet poppies, blue cornflowers and yellow daisies. I am so absorbed by it that I walk into the aromatic cupressus hedge of the next garden along.

3. Listening to Sarah Salway reading from her new book of short stories. I always imagine that listening to a writer reading their own work will reveal all sorts of secrets about the story. Later, I buy the special edition of the book -- it's a slim scarlet hardback, and I am drawn to it immediately. The normal edition is cheaper, but I read and re-read short stories, so it's worth getting the hardback, particularly one that will give me a lot of pleasure.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Slow moving, malt loaf and dancer.

New post up at 12 Old Masters.

1. It's cold, so I get up by degrees, wandering round wrapped in my duvet, sitting on the sofa, going back to bed, and then finally making a run for it.

2. For breakfast, Katie has slices of malt loaf piled with butter.

3. I drag PaulV along to salsa and he is so up for it. He is really keen to learn more so he can show off. It's great having a partner I know well, because I can tell him off for putting his hands in the wrong place, or for not leading enough -- with a stranger, you can't do that.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tremble, banana and chocolate and game.

1. A lime tree in the wind. The leaves flicker so they show their silver green underneaths then their bright green tops. The rustle and sigh so loudly that I can hear it over the road behind my closed window.

2. Eating a banana and a couple of squares of bitter chocolate.

3. The sound of dice rolling.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Hot chocolate, sticky child and core stability.

OK, sorry. I should have explained Cthulhu yesterday. It is a betentacled creation of the writer H.P. Lovecraft, a troubled product of the darker aspects of New England life. Tim introduced me to Lovecraft, so when the time came to write in his and Rachel's wedding guest book, I put that I hoped the foul dreamer would have no part in their marriage. Because nobody wants squamous and bactrian creatures from before the dawn of time rising from dead cities deep beneath the Pacific in the glaucous light of the gibbous moon when they're trying to iron shirts, watch a romantic comedy or defrost the freezer.

1. Drinking a mug of hot chocolate with my breakfast because it's raining.

2. We go out for early dinner, so the pizza place appears to be hosting nursery tea. A small, blond and chocolately boy stands on his chair to speak to the slightly older child at the next table: 'Hallo, little girl.'

3. I manage to balance on Katie's Swiss ball for the first time, which means my core stability is improving.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Now, lie in and soup.

1. Radio on the internet so I can listen to what I like when I like.

2. Waking up and realising it's 4pm.

3. Miso soup with pieces of tofu and seaweed. That doesn't even sound like food.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Wedding bells, imperial march and welcome.

1. Tim and Rachel looking so happy on their wedding day.

2. Rachel and her entourage entered to The Imperial March from Star Wars; and as a surprise for Tim, she hired Darth Vader to bring the rings up.

3. I know Tim because I lived with him for a year at the start of the 2000s, but I only knew other people at the wedding very vaguely. It's pretty scary going to a social occasion by yourself, but actually, it was fine. People remembered me from very brief meetings and I find that lots of the things I like about Tim (encylopaedic knowledge of sci fi and fantasy), I like about them, too. I am told about a friend who lives in a half-built house the south of France where you have to take a bath under the stars; and a terrifying story of a flashflood while canyoning. I find myself squired for the evening -- even to the lengths of sitting by while I talk newspaper shop with a former colleague; and advising me on the spelling of Cthulhu (don't ask). When I look lost for a moment, a girl squeezes my arm companionably. Someone invites me to share a taxi at the end of the evening -- and sorts out the payment.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Smell the coffee, yellow bills and forecast.

1. He Who Shall Not Be Named asks me to make the coffee because he knows I like opening a new vacuum pack to hear it hiss and smell the coffee. Once it's cut open, it gets passed round the office so everyone can have a sniff.

2. Two male blackbirds hanging around on the roof. They were one of the first birds I learnt to identify -- they are black with bright orange beaks.

3. The Future is Wild with its promises of flying fish birds and arboreal squid. That's programmes later on the DVD -- last night I saw gannets that had evolved until they were as bit as walruses; and burrowing quails that sang to each other in their dark tunnels.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Sparrow fart, hanging out and my routine.

1. Coming into work super early so I get to enjoy long, low shadows and coming out of the misty valley on to the sunny hilltop.

2. Catching up with PaulV. He rescues me because I can't get a lift home from work. We hang out at my office a bit while he works on some photographs and then we go to the supermarket.

3. Pottering on the balcony in the early evening. I check our vegetables for greenfly and do the watering. I feel very much like a person who has a calm and regular daily routine.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Breaking in, writing talk and ironing.

A new post is up at 12 Old Masters.

1. Feeling as if I'm winning the fight with a pair of new shoes.

2. Sitting in a sunny cafe drinking white wine with a Tunbridge Wells writer.

3. The colours in my dress become brighter when I'm ironing it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bed tea, one mind and meat.

1. Katie brings me a cup of tea before I am properly awake.

2. Catching the eye of a colleague in a meeting and knowing that they are thinking what I'm thinking.

3. Cold chicken picked off the remains of yesterday's roast eaten with chutney and new potato salad.

Monday, May 21, 2007

East west, roast dinner and moving in.

1. We do a circle walk taking in the High Rocks. When we get there, a wedding is in full swing. It's an Indian wedding, so everyone is wearing exotic costumes -- there are saris and salwars in vivid turquoise, carmine and gold, all glittering with metalic threads. There are veiled women, and men with long beards in kurta, as well as men in western suits. Children run around everywhere and we can hear them shrieking among the rocks.

2. The sound of a chicken roasting.

3. Katie's brother Peter comes to put together some temporary bookshelves for us. He is making a fitted set for the sitting room, but is so in demand that we have to wait our turn. The temporary shelves mean that finally I can unpack my books. It's such a relief to have them available again. And it's wonderful to not have quite so many boxes stacked around the place.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

How long, moult and guerilla tactics.

1. Looking back over a long piece of work and running a word count on it.

2. Pippin, a golden retriever, is moulting -- fluffs of white blonde undercoat are poking through her red gold topcoat. It is tremendously satisfying to pull them out and let them fly away.

3. Stripping the cardboard off a four-pack of tins and leaving it at the checkout so that we don't have to take it home, store it and then bring it back to the recycling centre. I secretly hope that other people will do it too and supermarkets will start to take more responsibility for their share of domestic waste.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Time, twist and avast.

1. The surveyor is in a tizzy because an unexpected appointment has made him an hour late. I am working from home anyway, so it's no skin off my nose. His concern for my time makes me even happier to let him know that it's really no bother. He says that a temporary repair can be made to our roof -- and then to my ceiling once the water stops pouring through. This is a relief, as having a hole in your ceiling is surprisingly drafty, and I didn't want to wait six months while the freeholders wrangle over having the whole roof done.

2. The relief of having my back untwisted by the osteopath. He does it by pressing down and suddenly letting go. It makes me gasp -- not because it hurts, but perhaps because of tension being released.

3. Heroes who swagger -- been watching Pirates of the Caribbean.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Accident, feed and reports.

1. A colleage flips his car on to its side in the lane. He is not hurt, but very shaken. The driver's side roof is stove in where it hit the road, and two windows are smashed. The men right the car and bring it back to the office. Other people move all the gubbins out of the boot so it doesn't get rained on. Photographs are taken because we can't quite believe what has happened, and thoughts turn to our own mortality. When the phone call comes to let us know that all is well, a cloud is lifted from the building. The line of cars leaving at 5pm is more hesitant than normal.

2. Getting lunch when I am really, really hungry.

3. Most evenings Katie and I catch up at some point -- I really appreciate telling someone about my day.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Italics, national treasure and dancing queen.

1. My pencil point has a square shape to it, like an italic nib.

2. My Neighbour Totoro -- another treasure from Studio Ghibli. It's one of those sweet films where not an awful lot happens. It is the story of two little girls discovering the secrets of a new home in the country, including soot sprites and Totoro and friends in the garden.

3. My mother forwards my cousin's birthday list. She has asked for bits of outfit for her school ball. The list includes pictures of the dress and accessories, and we agree that she is going to look beautiful.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Timing, lighting and hunter's stew.

There is a new post up at 12 Old Masters -- Allegory of Love I-IV by Paolo Veronese.

1. I come to the zebra crossing at the same moment Oli does on his way up from the station.

2. Having a bedside lamp makes me want to go to bed really early so I can read.

3. Katie cooks pigeon with mushrooms and chunky oven chips.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Order, nuts and grasshopper.

1. Choosing clothes from a wardrobe, not piles on the floor.

2. The taste of pinenuts in my couscous.

3. A patience grasshopper moment. Elated at having written 'THE END' on my script, I talk of bringing a new story to the next class. I am told that I must polish this one, first, write a hook and make a list of possible producers.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Sploosh, cardboard and wardrobe.

1. We spot an unusual and powerful-looking silver car in the toll queue at the Dartford Bridge. A few minutes later we overtake it as it drives along the slow lane through the huge puddles that everyone else is avoiding.

2. We buy packs of cardboard storage boxes which fold together very pleasingly. It feels a bit like making a particularly satisfying origmi model.

3. Building my wardrobe and putting away all the clothes which have been lying in heaps around the room. Also, housemates who can work out the fine adjustments needed to make wardrobe doors hang evenly.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Red, white and Europe.

1. Boxes of homegrown strawberries at the farmers' market.

2. White raddishes -- slightly translucent, they seem to glow.

3. I am swept away in an unexpected wave of pizza and Eurovision. We spend a happy evening shouting at Eastern Europe and their misguided votes for Serbia, rather than the UK. I liked Bulgaria's song best -- wailing, messy hair and impassioned drumming. My favourite to win was Ukraine's bizzare tinman techno act.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Lie-in, persistent and we who are about to die.

1. Sleeping on after the alarm has gone off.

2. A green vine has worked its way into the attic at work and down into the meeting room.

3. Timewatch describes the finds in a gladiator's cemetary. The Austrian team that investigated the bones enlisted the help of a crazy professor who fought gladiator-style to get a better idea of how it all worked. When I was at university my tutors used to tell us about the German classicists, who had a reputation for not being armchair historians. One of them marched up and down a field in Athens wearing full hoplite armour to demonstrate a point about battle formation. Another munched his way through a pile of laurel leaves to see if they caused the prophetic hallucinations that influenced the Delphic oracle.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Gathering, trim and steak.

1. A small boy squatting down on the pavement to collect fallen rhododenron flowers.

2. Watching three inches being sliced off my hair. 'I bet that feels lighter already,' says the hairdresser when she is halfway round.

3. Katie cooks us a piece of dark red steak from our favourite butcher. It is juicy and delicious and I appreciate every mouthful.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Toffee crisp, bath and play.

1. Ellie gives me the last bite of her toffee crisp.

2. Sparrows bathing in a puddle. They dip their heads down and then jerk back up, scattering drops. It must be the first time they've been able to do this in a while.

3. Daisy Pulls it Off -- for bringing back happy memories of the school stories I loved reading when I was little.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Slurp, greens and

There is a new post over at 12 Old Masters. Go over and check it out, and please leave a comment.

1. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named has some toffee. He eats it with contented sucking noises.

2. There is asparagus, and we eat it out of the pan, dipping the spears into butter on a saucer.

3. It's cold for May. I like pulling my covers up over my ears and snuggling down between piles of pillows.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Rain at last, House of Exile and lime to come.

1. My father comes in with a cup of tea and opens the curtains. 'It's a bit dull,' he says. The longed-for rain has come.

2. One of my favourites among the library of old Penguins at my parents' is called House of Exile. It describes the time Nora Waln spent with a Chinese family between World War I and World War II. She lived as a daughter of the family, joining in their work, their happinesses and their sadnesses. I loved this book because it was about a woman traveller -- most of the titles were men's stories -- and because it was about home life, rather than man conquering the wilderness.

3. I arrive home to see that the lime trees on our road are now in full leaf. My father mentions that it will be lovely when it flowers. He recalls a walk we did once on the Isle of Skye -- A terrifying rainstorm had swelled the stream blocking our path so we were forced camp on a circle of flat ground barely big enough for our wet tent. The next morning, crawling out of sodden sleepingbags we found the stream had gone down and could now be crossed safely. We walked out of the hills and then home along a mile of lime trees in flower. The scent of lime blossom is mixed up with a feeling of relief for me, so I am looking forward to the high summer day when 'our' lime trees bloom.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Again, it's coming and meringues.

1. Conversations with my grandmother can be a bit trying. Again and again she asks why I have walked 40 miles this week. Instead of my usual exasperation mixed with dull misery, I find myself patiently repeating the information, changing my words slightly, or adding a bit more detail each time. Eventually, it seems to stick, and she tells me that it's the sort of thing she might have done at my age.

2. After a dry month, waking up to a dull and misty morning that promises wet weather.

3. My mother's meringues.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Artful nature, babies and a view.

Another leg of the High Weald Landscape Trail -- Tenterden to Rye.

1. A perfect wood -- hazel trees with fortnight-old leaves, a stream, wild garlic and bluebells.

2. Lambs jumping so that their back legs are thrown out sideways, and calves running with their tails in the air.

3. A view across the marshes: The town of Rye piled up on its hill, with Dungeness powerstation over its shoulder.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Summer flowers, radio and fruit salad.

1. Yellow and orange azaleas.

2. I stretch out on the sofa, wrap myself in a duvet and listen to several radio plays, one after the other.

3. Sharing a big bowl of fruit salad and eating it with our fingers.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Digger, first through and yellow.

I walked from Cranbrook to Tenterden along the High Weald Landscape Trail.

1. Early in the day I come to a narrow strip of field marked by long gouges. A lone archaeologist is having a cigarette break. He says that he is checking a long line of trenches to make sure there is nothing valuable in the way of a development. It seems to be dull work. 'I found a flint blade about a mile that way,' he says.

2. I am crossing an unfriendly estate (a sign warns of 'pitballs [sic] patrolling') and the path runs through a damp tunnel with rhododendrons on one side and an unkempt larch wood on the other. Turning a corner, I see daylight and fields and sky and a man at work. As I approach, he opens the gate he has been building and says: 'You can be the first to use it.'

3. Walking through a field of flowering oilseed rape. The path goes right through the middle of the crop, which stands shoulder high. My vision is filled with yellow flowers and the glaucous leaves. It is so bright that I have to squint a little. My nose is filled with the honey scent, mixed with a faintly cabbagey smell. The effect is hypnotic -- I think it's something to do with having two senses overwhelmed.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Mine now, come back and favourite.

1. While staying at my parents' house I find a black hooded top in the back of my wardrobe. I don't know whose it is, but it fits me neatly, so I'm wearing it.

2. The gardener's naughty dog running round the lawn with its lead trailing, after a dramatic escape from the wheelbarrow to which it should have been tethered.

3. I'm the only child at home so I'm number one favourite. Which is nice.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

High places, sleeping beauty and looking down.

12 Old Masters is now live. Hope you like it.

Today I walked another stretch of the High Weald Landscape Trail, specifically Tunbridge Wells to Goudhurst.

1. I could write all today's beautiful things about the lane from High Woods to Pembury. It's a ridgeway, an ancient track along the top of a hill. I was told that it used to be the path used by people going to a mill down in the woods back in prehistoric times. There are lots of good reasons to use a road along the top of a hill -- it's easy to navigate, because you can see everything. It's likely to be less muddy -- if you've ever tried walking with what feels like a tonne of Wealden clay stuck to each foot, you'll know what I mean. You should be able to see anyone approaching. If you have to run away, you can get more speed up going down hill. And there is the sheer pleasure of walking in a high place. I don't need to worry about navigation, and I don't have to worry about approaching enemies. But me and neolithic man, we're both avoiding the heavy clay, and we're both loving standing on top of the world.

2. The path turns off the road and over a stile. I find myself on a narrow path with thick undergrowth either side and arching overhead. For a moment I am confused, and then I understand. It's an orchard. The apple trees, neglected for a few years, are veiled in brambles. Oak and ash saplings spring up among them. But the apple trees are still bravely blossoming. Pink and white petals flutter around me as I walk. I imagine the path closing behind me and I feel as if I might find Sleeping Beauty's castle around the next corner.

3. After climbing a long hill, turning round and looking back down it. I like seeing the view open up; and I like seeing the places I've already walked. I like noting that I'm above the top of a wood, or a building and higher than I was when I was at the top of the last hill.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Made manifest, Moomins and take note.

1. In the middle of last week I walked out early to get some milk and passed a smell that I couldn't place, but stopped me for a moment. It was a cistus that nearly filled a front garden. I have smelt it in Sardinia; and during an incense workshop; and my father always complains that his bushes never smell, apart from on very still, very hot days. I must have caught this one at exactly the right moment. Anyway, fast forward. I'm walking past in the late afternoon, and the street is in shade. This time, the bush is covered in crinkly hot pink flowers, each one with a splotch of yellow and of burgundy at its centre.

2. A new book with a pleasing design. I treated myself to the first volume of the Moomin comic strips. It has satisfyingly thick pages and a cloth cover. The stories are full of the old Tove Jansson magic. The format gives her more space to be whimsical than the books do, and it's a pleasure to see more of her artwork.

3. My writing teacher has -- as usual -- written notes on my script during the class. Things like 'Pacy' and 'Good' I look at them and feel pleased. Then I wonder why I've been throwing out the pages each week once I've made the changes she suggests. Writers starting out get little enough praise -- why waste it?