Saturday, June 30, 2007

They know me too well, follower of fashion and right time.

1. I am on the phone so I miss out on the calls for the tea round. But a mug of redbush-with-no-milk is brought to my desk anyway.

2. In the pub is a short man wearing low slung jeans -- the back pockets must be somewhere about his knees and the waistband looped around his bum -- a pornstar moustache and a trilby hat.

3. Looking up at the clock and seeing that it is exactly midnight.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Window cleaner, sofa and hands.

Good news, everybody! We are a loo book. I think my head might explode from smiling too much.

1. Water shadows ripple on the blinds because the window cleaner is at work outside in the sun.

2. The sofa in the break room is leather and very cold when I fall asleep. When I wake up, it has warmed up and seems so comfortable that I don't want to leave.

3. Somebody's hand reaching for mine as we walk.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Surface mail, loose change and total recall.

1. Packing up a parcel for a school we visited in Tanzania. The contents and the postage are a birthday present to me from Rosey. I hope it arrives safely, and that the paints, coloured paper and musical instruments are enjoyed. I'm sure it's not even a fraction of what they need in their bare classrooms -- but I hope the kind thoughts of someone far away will be welcomed.

2. Finding that between us, we have just enough money for the fish and chips we want.

3. Writing thank you cards brings back all sorts of wonderful memories from my birthday.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Anne Worboys, working together and three books.

There is a new post up at 12 Old Masters.

1. I went to a funeral -- Anne Worboys was one of the writing ladies. The word 'caustic' often appeared connected to her name and comments on your novel, but there was no malice to her, and she knew her stuff, so we usually sat back and enjoyed the show. If a speaker to the writing circle ever asked 'Can you hear me at the back' amid the polite mumbles, there would be (if necessary) a clear 'NO' from Anne. A couple of times, I helped her with her computer and was rewarded by gin (Bombay Sapphire) and tonics in her elegant blue living room -- curtains drawn to protect the furniture -- all but a crack through which a shaft of evening sunlight fell between us. When I had boy trouble she showed me a paragraph from a book that told me what direction to take, and for the first time, I felt as if someone understood this particular problem. Thank you Anne -- I am delighted to have known you.

2. A frustrating day of painfully slow internet, vanishing IT men and endless uploads of large files is made less awful because I know Oli is working beside me, and we are both terribly proud of the new courses.

3. A trilogy in uniform volumes -- Nurse Matilda, Nurse Matilda goes to Town and Nurse Matilda goes to Hospital. They are small hardbacks, with jackets illustrated by Edward Ardizzone -- under this, they are clothbound in red, green and brown with gold tooling. Also, a beautiful thing is the baby in this book, with its falling-down nappies and starfish hands.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sweetmeats, gossip and drops in a row.

1. Boxes of chocolates stacked up in the sitting room -- and telling Katie to dig in.

2. A flurry of post-party emails and conversations -- thank yous, requests for clarification (Which one was your sister? Who were the two girls with the pink hair? How do you know so-and-so? Was he the one who...) and compliments (your family is so kind! The Barn has a lovely atmosphere. The garden looked wonderful).

3. A line of raindrops on a wire.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Many hands, mud and my people.

1. Waking up in a tent beside someone of whom I am quite fond.

2. My aunts, uncles, cousins and brother work together to clear up the house while my parents are taking Rosey to the station. When they return, the Mother looks around the house in wonder. 'This was going to be my work for the next few days.'

3. Squishing through mud wearing sandals; and stealing water from my father's waterfall by kicking a breach in the other side of the puddle.

4. Finally having time to pick apart my birthday picture to see who made which square. Thank you to my parents, Daena, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, Louise, Fenella (particularly), Jo, Giselle, Ian and Caroline, Katie (also particularly), Caroline from the writers circle, Joe in Vegas, Rosey, Andy R, Andry C, Jason (and Jessy), Janey and Catri. I'll publish a picture very soon so you can see how well Fenella and Katie did.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Small person, bridesmaid, creatives, rain, gathering and sacrifices.

1. Ellie giggling like crazy at a blue balloon; standing still to have her photo taken; babbling to her father about a stroll we've just had round the garden, complete with squelchy grass sound effects; dancing in the garden room; offering the rose on her dress so that I could smell it; feeding me spoonfuls of her yoghurt; and walking round clutching a piece of ice.

2. Realising that all the people that have been bridesmaids to are in the same room -- my two aunts, Cat and Fenella.

3. The beautiful things that people created for my birthday. The magical cake that Janey decorated with 30 beautiful things; and the wonderful picture of 10cm squares collected from my friends and family by Katie and Fenella; the psychodelic birthday card from my cousin Amy; the unfinished picture that my cousin Laura very kindly showed me; and the welcome created by my parents.

4. It rained, but it was interesting, thundery, downpouring rain interspersed with sunny periods, rather than a full day of drizzle.

5. A party small enough that I could talk with almost everyone.

6. Caroline came despite having a bad back. Other people arrived safely despite the rubbish directions I gave (I'm so sorry). Rosey missed a lift to Germany so she could be there. Robert took a day off work and missed a trip to the Alps. Cat, Alan and Ellie hired a car to come down. My aunts, uncles and cousins battled round the M25. My mother organised a party knowing it would probably wipe her out for the next few days. And my father let her do it.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Fruit, R&R and aged Ps.

1. A breakfast of mango cut into a hedgehog with raspberries and strawberries. I think it was Douglas Adams who said that the only dignified way to eat a mango was to take off all your clothes and stand in a washing-up bowl. But Katie manages to make it neat and easily edible.

2. Spending the day looking forward to seeing my siblings.

3. Arriving home and seeing how much time and effort my parents have put into my birthday party.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Linden, root vegetable and Red Dwarf.

1. I catch a subtle perfume as I walk round the corner. The lime trees are in blossom again.

2. Chopping a carrot because of the crunchy thunk as the knife hits the board.

3. Watching a sitcom that I loved as a child and, armed with two terms of scripwriting, seeing that I had good taste.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Crispies, flowers and celebration.

Over dinner, Fenella asks what the highlights of my twenties have been. I have started a list here.

Answer: Because he's in denial. I'm so sorry.

1. Hilary has made me a tin of chocolate crispies, and there's enough for everyone in the building and some to save for those who aren't in.

2. Nick sends a basket of yellow and orange flowers which arrives at lunchtime. No-one has ever sent flowers to me at work before. All the girls marvelled and I was amazed at the detective work that must have gone on, because I'm sure I never told him where I worked.

3. My friends sitting round a table covered in delicious food at the Himalaya Ghurka restaurant. Little dishes are passed backwards and forwards and the conversation flows freely. I was proud of how our party, although the largest in the place, wasn't obnoxious or (too) loud; and of how when it came to bill paying time, exact change appeared as if by magic -- thank you Fenella for making that so easy. As we left, one of the other customers wished us well.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Green acres, nightwatch and after the storm.

1a. Today I am 30.

2a. There is a new post up at 12 Old Masters.

3a. My book proposal is one of six shortlisted in the Long Barn Books loo book competition. The results are posted on Susan Hill's blog. I'll hear on 30 June if it has won a publishing contract. I can't stop smiling.

4a. My new favourite riddle: 'A man in Egypt jumps into a river and shouts "I am not wet." Why?' Guesses in the comments, please, and I'll give the official answer tomorrow.

1. My brother has bought me half an acre of rainforest from Cool Earth. I love the idea that there's a little slip of land in Brazil that belongs to me, containing 22 mature hardwoods and thousands of species of insects. The purchase price will be used to pay for rangers from the area and to support income generating schemes that work with the forest rather than against it.

2. Hearing owls -- this reminds me of a line from a Siegfried Sassoon Poem called 'Middle-Ages':
'Owls in the wood were shrill
And the moon sank red.'
And a bat flies over my head, which makes me think of William Blakes' 'Augeries of Innocence':
'The bat that flits at close of eve
Has left the soul that won't believe.'

3. Louise is taking me home after a cheery supper at her parents'. A thunder storm has rolled away and we find ourselves under a sky lit up by silent flashes of lightening. Louise says that she likes it when it is still warm after the rain. 'It's softened the air,' she says.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Cakes, bookman and scutter.

1. I come home from a weekend away and find in the kitchen tins of homemade brownies and... uh... artistic fairy cakes covered in blue and pink icing with silver balls, hundreds and thousands and sugar flowers.

2. A colleague is moving, and he's keen to shift a few books before he leaves. I go round deliberately not taking a bag so I don't collect too much. I spend a happy half hour meeting up with old friends like Noel Langley's Land of Green Ginger. I leave with a cardboard box full of treasures.

3. A serious-looking and respectable gentlemen kicking a bottlecap as he walks down the street.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Father, foliage and tycoon.

1. It's father's day, so there's only one real beautiful thing to mention today! Daddy, thanks for your support and for reading 3BT with your sandwich, and for supplying pictures and advice, and for being as excited as me about what I've achieved here.

2. A string of leaf-shaped fairy lights along the beam.

3. Settling in with a book -- The Birthday Party by Panos Karnezis -- that I know I'm really enjoying. I'm finding the prose in this rise-of-a-tycoon very easy-going. Although there's much not to like about the jealous, wife-beating protagonist who has organised a birthday party for his daughter so he can convince her to abort the child of a man he considers unsuitable, I'm feeling a gruding admiration for him. Also, I was sent this book to review by the publishers, which makes me feel wanted and important.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

TV time, older brother and strawberry.

1. Wrapped in towels and dressing gowns, cups of tea in hand, Katie and I watch a few Saturday morning cartoons.

2. While we are queuing for coffee, I watch the father in front of us with small child clinging to each hand. He lifts them up alternately -- 'Hold on tight, both hands... and up.' He is distracted for a moment by the arrival of his coffees. The girl, who must be about two, takes this opportunity to poke her four-year-old brother in the face so she can get hold of both her father's hands. The brother rubs his eyes, but doesn't say a word.

3. Filling my mouth with a giant strawberry.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Hols, teahouse and jazzman.

1. Char is all excited because she is off on holiday. Her fella is driving her down to the South of France in his sports car. He has provided a cushion and some earplugs.


2. In a London park, a man sits on a teahouse terrace with a coffee and a Penguin book.



3. The chance to see national treasure, wit and jazzman Humphrey Lyttelton live and for free.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Chip, break and rain.

1. The flint-knapping sound of two robins competing over a boundary.

2. Having a sleep on the breakroom sofa at lunchtime.

3. The smell of a little rain on dry ground.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Last page, ginger tom and nougat.

A new entry has gone up on 12 Old Masters.


1. The feeling of completeness that comes from turning the last page of a book.


2. Two women crouch on the pavement to fuss a ginger cat lying on a garden step.


3. A nougat ice cream pudding that comes with an espresso to pour over it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Dribble, water and not alone.

1. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named lifts his teething nephew up high and gets dribble down the back of his neck.

2. Cool stream water in my sandals on a hot day.

3. When everything else is dark and quiet, when of all the windows I can see, only mine is lit, I get a text message from PaulV. Somewhere on the other side of town, he too is wakeful.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dress code, pigment and to err is human.

1. The morning is cool and the air is full of something halfway between rain and mist. I worry that I have put the wrong clothes on and that I'm going to spend the whole day shivering and curling my legs up under my skirt. But at work, the temperature creeps up to 27 degrees, and I am glad of my cotton dress.

2. The amazing ability of my skin to change colour in the sun. I'm not a fan of deep tans -- but there is something magical about the white between my fingers against the brown backs of my hands.

3. Going to my scriptwriting class and knowing that it is safe to make mistakes.

Monday, June 11, 2007

One way, sign this and refuge.

1. All of Tunbridge Wells seems to be hurrying towards the Cricket Ground with bags and coolers and folding chairs.

2. Small boys with tiny cricket bats lean over the boundary line asking fielders for autographs. The players would sign, all the time glancing towards the game. If a ball came their way, they would take off towards it, scattering autograph books and bats.

3. The dark and quiet of my room after a long, crowded day in the sun.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Eye wear, artistic date and green vegetables.

1. The optician thinks I take good care of my glasses. If only he could see me scrubbing them on the hem of my skirt, putting them in with the washing up, falling asleep with them beside me in bed and forgetting I'm wearing them and trying to rub my eyes.

2. I carve a little space in the day to sit in a coffee shop.

3. Asparagus to nibble while I wait for dinner.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Changeable, bobbies on bicycles and street life.

There is a new post up at Tunbridge Wells Tells -- Jason explains why he loves the town.

1. A thundery night brings a cool, wet morning.

2. A policeman on a bicycle passes me. A few minutes later, I see him in the Pantiles helping a little girl take pictures.

3. A cool, wet morning turns into a balmy afternoon and evening to be spent sitting on the Pantiles with friend and a glass of white wine.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Spatter, sweet things and Wales.

1. A few spots of rain land on the pages of my book.

2. My mother rings to tell me about the puddings she has planned for my birthday. 'Strawberries and cream, pavlova, Eton mess, chocolate hazelnut torte, cheesecake...' I haven't had my supper yet and I start to feel light-headed.

3. Hearing a Welsh accent on the radio.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

To wake the dead, click and lady of leisure.

I forgot to say yesterday -- a new post is up at 12 Old Masters.

1. When the morning coffee comes out stronger than usual and I can tell because of the way it pours.

2. The clicking sound followed by a hush as He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named switches off his fan at the end of the day.

3. Luxuriating on the sofa with a bottle of wine and a bar of chocolate while piles of dinner dishes teeter in the kitchen.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Yellow tassles, waves and laundry.

1. Walking under a laburnum tree and looking up into the bright yellow flowers.

2. Standing on the balcony and seeing a friend walking into our street.

3. The smell of washing that has just come out of the machine.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Friendly face, tale told and light in the window.

1. When I am waiting for a lift, seeing a car coming with a familiar face behind the windscreen.

2. The night is shut out by red checked curtains and deep red sofas. I am drinking wine with fascinating people who tell sparkling stories -- the dancer who married a bigamous waiter; the decorator who was searching for his lost son ('but it won't affect my work'); a French woman who wouldn't let her children speak French; a family that has steadily moved west through the generations.

3. Coming home late, I see from the street that Katie has put the light on in my bedroom. When I get in, I find she has made my bed as well.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Clang, clatter and Skara Brae.

1. The men taking down the scaffolding are taking a break. They are slurping on ice pops from the news agents across the road.

2. The sound of mancala beads. Katie's board uses those glass nuggets which are so satisfying to hold.

3. I switch on the TV while I eat my supper and come across a programme about life on Shetland and Orkney. We holidayed on Orkney once, and it was good to see familiar places like The Old Man of Hoy and Skara Brae. Skara Brae is a village that was deserted around 3000 BC -- when we were there, we ran wherever we wanted, trying the stone seats and imagining an ancient fire in the hearth, crawling into the sleeping chambers and bundling up in pretend furs, putting our hands into the stone dressers to take out imaginary dishes. Today, the presenter explained that all this was 'privileged access'.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Try and try again, copy, pattern recognition and bricks.

1. Watching Ellie -- she's now 16 months old -- negotiating the step from the path to the lawn. She practises again and again until she can do it.

2. She is at the copying stage -- at lunch I catch her resting her face on her hand like I am. And she pretends to re-fill our glasses from an empty bottle. She also walks up and down the garden 'sniffing' at flowers -- she hasn't quite got sniffing yet; she blows instead. Alan and Cat say that she got this idea from her grandmother.

3. It is remarkable to see Ellie starting to make sense of the world. She points at the green man on the street crossing; and she spots and identifies a stencilled graffiti cat. And she recognises that her toy lion, a lion in a picture book and the Lion King logo are all lions -- which is quite an achievement to my mind.

4. Ellie's wicked laugh as she destroys my towers of bricks. 'That's a new laugh,' comments Cat. 'Where did she get the bending double from?' But even more pleasing is Ellie starting to build her own towers. At first, she's rubbish at it and they fall down because she doesn't balance the blocks properly, and tries to pile things on the orange curved brick; but after a few tries she gets it, and her tower begins to grow -- although she gets excited and knocks it down before it is very tall.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Speech, creamy and pirates.

1. I ring Cat and Ellie for a chat. Ellie is persuaded to share some of her first words -- 'orange juice'. Cat doesn't know where she gets it from -- 'she doesn't even have orange juice that often. It's obviously important to her, though.'

2. I turn round for a second and when I turn back Katie has put what appears to be half a dairy farm into the mashed potato -- butter, milk and creme fraiche. It tastes delicious.

3. Watching Captain Jack Sparrow sail The Black Pearl down a sand dune in Pirates of the Caribbean III. And the scene where they sail across the Milky Way.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Tappity-tap, beans and open the door.

1. The sound of Katie tapping on my door in the morning. I pull the covers around me, and as she comes in, she says: 'Ohh, a bed bug,' before handing me a cup of tea.

2. Beans on toast.

3. Recognising a word in a Japanese film -- 'Kaimun' -- which we used in China to ask the chamber maids to let us into our hotel rooms. In Akira Kurosawa's Ran it is used by an general invading a castle to mean 'Open the gate!'