Friday, February 29, 2008

Kicking off, musical interlude and a strange request.

1. Watching Daniel trying to push himself up into a crawling position. Cat gives him loads of cheers for this, but he looks slightly puzzled: all he wanted was the toy that was just out of reach.

2. Drumming with Ellie. I am told off for not doing 'middle middle edge edge' and for pitter pattering in an unsatisfactory manner. Later we hang out with a story book and she switches on her father's stereo. It's Beethoven's Ode to Joy. She can already spot the swells that come at the end of each movement: 'Finish.' I tell her about the twiddly-twiddly-dee bits, and how they sound like people riding horses. She laughs.

3. A man on a mobile phone is demanding: 'Really bright light... yeah, like moonlight. Smear a load of grease on it.'

Thursday, February 28, 2008

At the door, talking and chocolate.

1. We both need to eat and run this evening, so I proudly present dinner to Katie almost the moment she walks through the door.

2. I never really wanted satellite before. But I've found that having piles of Simpsons episodes available every night (instead of just one, with dodgy reception) means I no longer feel frustrated and resentful when I must switch it off to have a conversation.

3. For nibbles at writing class we have discs of smooth milk chocolate flavoured with Earl Grey tea.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Blue sky, all colours and Nick.

1. Seeing a sky start off grim and wet turn into clear bright blue.

2. The flowershop has a bucket of ranunculuses, as big as a child's fist.

3. It was Nick's birthday yesterday, so of course he is the main beautiful thing. There are an awful lot of things I like about him, many of which are too shy-making to list here. But I don't mind saying that as the kindest and most loving and most sympathetic and most supportive person I have ever met, he is everything I never dared to hope for.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Wisdom, a break and cheese.

1. A young man leaving the pub calls: 'Thanks for the advice, mon,' to a grizzled old drinker.

2. The script class is relaxed and chatty because no-one has brought anything to read -- except me.

3. Goats cheese spread on thin poppy seed biscuits.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Bagged, raw food and longing for summer.

1. Waking up in a sleeping bag and making faces at Rosey.

2. A supper plate with raw carrot sticks and half an avocado pear.

3. Watching Time Team working in high summer -- they were complaining that the bright light made it very hard to spot post holes -- and longing for sun on my back.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Transport, long dress and a suit.

1. A man who looks old enough to know better rolls down the street sitting on a skateboard with a gas cylinder between his knees.

2. Rosey comes out of the bathroom in a full length cream dress that sweeps the ground. She looks beautiful, and as always, I envy her for having the sort of figure that favours simple, elegant dresses, rather the expanses of organza and net that I need.

3. Robert -- all this dressing up was for a ball in aid of his trek in Greenland -- isn't really a black tie sort of person and had been fretting about finding something to wear. We arrive to find him dressed in a wool suit bought for £6 from the Salvation Army (apparently Oxfam is too expensive). The legs and arms are too short for him and the trousers have a 50in waist.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Back to work, dizzy and my ring.

1. Finding an ad for a job that really piques my interest, and having fun applying for it.

2. Watching dogs chasing each other in circles.

3. A friend shows off her delicate new engagement ring and proudly says that her fiancé picked it out all by himself.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Veils, boing and yes dear.

1. In a flowershop bucket, anemones hide deep red and purple petals behind a lace of green sepals.

2. An unattended rubber ball bounces down a London street, noticed only by Caroline, who points it out to me.

3. Hilary tells a true story that makes me giggle every time I catch her eye. It involves 93-year-old charity shop volunteer who was so short-sighted that she whipped out a magnifying glass whenever anyone asked her to look at something. One day, a flasher came into the shop... and I think you can see where this is going.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Caw, nostalgia and a warm room.

1. A crow sits on the topmost branch of a tree in the park and caws that this is his territory.

2. I visit Caroline to drink tea, get solutions to all my problems and bounce Deedee on my knee. Then Oli comes home and we have lunch -- he serves up pasta (cooked in stock) with sundried tomato paste, olives and basil. Hearing him describe it makes me nostalgic for our old drive to work, when he would talk lyrically about what he made for dinner the evening before.

3. Coming out of the cold night into a room with a log fire and a red-shaded light.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Gone, warm and TV.

1. Looking up from my work and discovering that a whole hour has vanished.

2. I love having a shower when I'm shivery. I like drying of and getting dressed and feeling loose-limbed and warm.

3. Catching sight of my volunteering friends on Country File. There's even a shot with me in the background -- I'm crouching over a slit trench planting a tree.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Surprise, setting of the sun and lost in a book.

1. Quite unexpectedly, finding the book I want in the wrong section of the bookshop.

2. The red sunlight hits a metal light fitting and bounces all around the room. We watch as it changes colour. I walk around the park once the sun has gone behind the houses and enjoy the golden light. Later, I sit at my computer catching up with work and think how lucky I am to have a view of the western sky. I admire the black roofline spiked with chimneys and go back to my work. When I look up again, the lower sky is a richer orange, and the line where the grey upper night sky begins has dropped a little. I wonder a little at the orange light shining through the holes in a chimney pot, and turn back to the screen. Work continues this way until the sky is dark.

3. Sitting in bed with a book so thrilling that I don't even notice how cold I am and how late it has become.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Horse sense, jammy dodgers and dancing.

1. We walk Saiya over to the local riding stables to keep her out from under her parents' feet on the morning of her birthday party. A girl in blue sparkly eye liner is grooming her pony in the barn. She peels off all the rugs and explains that the pony was clipped yesterday but had rolled in the sand school. The girl shows Saiya her pony's hooves, her teeth and the heart that has been clipped into her rump. She encourages Saiya to pat the pony's flank. Saiya is a bit overcome, but hazards a touch. Then the girl brings a handful of pony nuts, and very kindly helps Saiya to offer them up. Saiya says later that it dribbled on her hand.

2. Opening packets of biscuits and putting them on plates for a party.

3. The entertainer announces a selection of dancing competitions and the kids go for it as if nobody is watching.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Half for you, a run and conjunctions.

1. Having a boyfriend who needs to share my lunch.

2. We messed up the timing on our journey and got to St Pancras with only minutes to spare. We had to run the whole length of the station, dodging other travellers and hefting our cases up and down stairs. We leapt on to the train with a minute to spare, and Nick kissed me and told me how impressed he was that I had kept up.

3. We helped Saiya with her homework -- write what you did over half term. 'It's got to have speech marks and commas and full stops and conjunctions.' I mouth to Nick over her head: 'What's a conjunction.' Luckily Saiya knows already: 'It's 'ands' and 'buts'.'

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Announcements, foliage and soup.

1. Text messages and Facebook updates indicating that a crowd of my friends have got engaged on Valentine's Day.

2. Gardeners carrying the remains of a laurel tree to a trailer look like shaggy leaf monsters.

3. The smell of chicken soup creeps through the house, quietly putting everything to rights.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Message, balloons and presentation.

1. A Valentine's card arrives by post from an affectionate mystery person.

2. Katie, in an unusual moment of Not-Thinking-Things-Through, buys a generous bunch of helium heart balloons right before we go out to lunch. They raise a few smiles as they bob in her wake.

3. I am presented with a shiney red bag containing: (a) Large padded red velvet heart-shaped box of chocolates. (b) Copy of Charles Addams' My Crowd previously admired by me in the window of a second hand book shop.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

New year, another fine mess and secret garden.

1. I walk through Soho and red lanterns bob overhead.

2. Overheard conversation: 'All I wanted was a c***ing sandwich and you've f***ed it up again.'

3. Nick takes me down narrow alleys and ancient streets to a secret city garden hidden away behind Oxford Street.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Too hot, mother and studies.

I have now caught up with my holiday posts.

1. Going out and feeling that it's too hot for a coat.

2. Having lunch with my mother.

3. We have dinner with a friend who has been worried about her university course, but now seems to have it under control.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Disappeared, all mod cons and little mother.

1. We wake to a world hidden by fog. The tops of buildings and the ends of streets disappear.

2. Getting on a train and discovering not only a socket with which to charge my phone, but also free internet access. I spend a happy two hours checking job ads on Google Reader.

3. A little girl in the park pushes her doll in a baby swing. When the swing next it comes free, she puts her lanky stuffed monkey into it.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Lines, sploosh and colonisation.

1. Cobbled streets with washing strung across them.

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2. Chucking stones into a trench full of muddy water.

3. Playing Settlers of Catan -- Rosey wanted it for Christmas, and I can see why. It has all sorts of interesting cards and pieces, including a robber, knights, a university, flocks of sheep and some rocks.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Clean sweep, dirty ears and click.

1. The basecamp is tidied much faster than we expect, so we leave early for the station.

2. A man teases his little girl: her ears are so dirty that he can see a giraffe and rhinos in there. When I was small, my mother said that there were carrots and potatoes growing behind mine.

3. Rosey says she likes the sound of my knitting needles.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Free standing, hot weather and camera.

1. Looking down a tree guard and seeing that the sapling I have just planted is not caught up in the ties that hold the guard to its stake.


2. Being warm enough take off my fleece and hang it on a nearby stake.


3. During the afternoon, we are interviewed by the production team from the BBC's Countryfile. For the rest of the afternoon I can hear the occasional giggle as people remember something stupid they said to the camera. The programme will be broadcast on Sunday 17 February at 11am on BBC One.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Abandoned, dogs and hack.

1. Birds nests in winter trees.

2. Bill's dogs Gwen and Sweep. Gwen is small and wriggly; Sweep is more sedate and coming up for retirement. He waits patiently when Bill goes out of sight, but Gwen runs around looking for him.

3. Using a bill hook to hack at the base of a hawthorn branch so that it lies flat to make a hedge.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Old acres, small and white and division.

1. The four-acre vegetable garden is empty -- just a walled field with a few faithful espaliered trees still spreading themselves across the bricks.

2. A drift of snowdrops in a wood.

3. Mark, who is not supposed to eat dessert, has a treacle sponge on his birthday. He cuts it up carefully and eats each piece slowly.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Amphibian, raked and blue water.

1. When I am raking moss out of a wildflower meadow, a frog hops into the ditch.

2. Looking back over the scarified ground and seeing rolls of debris like waves on the sea.

3. Clive shows us a blue lagoon at the back of the quarry. The roof of a working has collapsed, cutting a water filled cave off from the rest of the lake.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A good morning, planting and ground cover.

1. On a morning when the sun is raising steam from the ground; wet leaves shine too bright to see; and a crust of frost crunches underfoot, Diane remarks: 'It's good to be alive.'

2. Pushing a spade into the soil and pushing it back and forth to make a slit trench in which to plant a tree.

3. An area which was this morning a mess of trampled bracken and scrawny briars is now planted with stakes and tree guards, each containing a sapling.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Chooks, leaf and lost bridge.

1. Barnevelder chickens scratching in a pen. A mud path is worn round the edge, where Gwen the sheepdog has been rounding them up. I ask Bill the warden about the chickens, and he says: 'They're lovely when the light hits them.' I look again and spot the peacock irridescence, and that each feather has a brown chevron.


2. An ivy leaf burnt to a charred flake has an electric blue sheen.


3. Among the trees covering the spoil heaps at Ticknall lime yards is an old bridge that once carried the tramway. Through the arch, I can see the turquoise water of a flooded quarry.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Station, wait and see and meringue.

I have been at Calke Abbey in Leicestershire on a National Trust working holiday.


1. St Pancras Station with its smokey blue metalwork and glass through which a clear sky shines.


2. Coming to a place in the dark and catching glimpses of a long avenue, a huge house and a red-brick farm.


3. Meringue nests with cream and raspberries.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Packing, potatoes and best boyfriend ever.

I am away now until 11 February -- I will catch up then. Meanwhile, why not amuse yourselves on the Roll of Honour.

1. A pile of clothes and equipment ready for a holiday.

2. I am not convinced that the little Arran Victory potatoes will cook through, strung on skewers and baked. But I keep faith, and they come out floury and soft as promised.

3. Nick has brought one of his favourite films -- The Sea Hawk -- for me to watch. But I am still keyed up and tense from the reading on Thursday; and feeling skittish because I'm about to go on holiday. I keep shifting and wriggling. Nick remarks that I need to go to girlfriend school, so I explain. Later he rubs my back and some of the tension shifts.

Friday, February 01, 2008

What will the neighbours think, Cinderella and it wasn't so bad.

1. In an ordinary suburban street, a pink front door and a milk bottle holder planted with little daffodils.

2. I went to the launch of Your Messages, the book which came out of the Write Your Messages Project. Gina at Trying to Write came all the way from Texas to read her piece. She came to the front and said that she was a little overdressed, but so many good things were happening that she felt like Cinderella and it seemed appropriate to dress up.

3. I had been thinking all day about reading my piece. I'd been practising, and worrying a little. I was pleased that I wasn't sick with nerves, but I could feel myself tensing up. It wasn't so bad in the end, and people laughed in all the right places.