Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Falling water, drying off and bullies.

1. Waiting to cross the road and hearing nothing but the gentle rush of falling rain.

2. A towel when I'm feeling cold and wet.

3. In a documentary about the Congo, footage of elephants bullying the other animals at a waterhole. The adult elephants chase buffalo, while the young chase antelope. And then there was footage of a baby elephant running after a sparrow.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Honey, tweenies and sharpness.

1. White bread with sesame seeds, toasted and spread with butter and honey.
2. Two leggy girls in pink rollerskates glide backwards and forwards between the park gate and the crest of the hill.

3. The air is sharpened by the scent of cupressus. From the dark top branches, a robin scatters shards and drops of music.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Planting a seed, motherhood and wake up.

1. Big sister Ellie and Alan plant a seed for Daniel's naming day. Later, Alan says that Ellie demanded that he pour on 'More water'. Daniel himself sits wide-eyed through the whole ceremony, and bounces joyfully to a song he recognises.

2. Cat gives a speech in the ceremony, and at tea moves in and out of the guests chatting here and greeting there. I tell Nick that I think she looks much more assured and confident than she did when I first met her. He says: 'That's motherhood for you.'

3. Tired out by walking round Brighton, pink Champagne, small talk, fairy cakes, Ellie's ostrich and holding babies, I fall asleep on the train. Nick wakes me up because there's a rainbow.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Egg whites, shirt and cherry blossom.

1. Nicky's poached eggs arrive, gleaming white with the yolks hanging inside. They lie on wilted spinach.

2. Nick hangs a crisp shirt in my wardrobe, ready for tomorrow.

3. A crowd of teenagers walk up the hill carrying twigs of cherry blossom acquired from a tree that overhangs the road.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Extra time, a laugh and the woods we know.

1. It is not raining, so instead of dashing straight into town for breakfast, I walk all the way to the cross roads with Nick.

2. The man at the table next to me is giggling out loud at items in his newspaper. He sounds like a small child, not a serious man on his way to work.

3. PaulV takes me to the woods when he goes for a run. I spend a happy hour walking round in circles. I naviate mainly by landmarks -- this is a female trait, apparently. It's very effective sometimes, but it's better to combine it with knowing which way you are pointing and a feeling for the lie of the land (that's what men do, as a general rule). A new bit of woodland is good practice.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Linked up, toms and ahem ahem.

1. Making a webpage work.

2. The Able and Cole box had five or six tomatoes. I noticed their smell as soon as I cut the string. Today I have one in a sandwich with some super strong Cheddar.

3. Caroline says that Deedee aged 8 months has taken to faking coughing fits to get attention. Sure enough, we are treated to a baby cough, and then when we offer concern and sympathy, a huge grin.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pigeons in the rain, the extra hour and cheer up chives.

1. It is throwing it down. From the office we watch two pigeons on a flat roof. They are surrounded by rain splashes and trying to shelter under each other. One gets its head under the others body. The other moves, to try and get its head under the first pigeon.


2. I work through lunch to get a 90-page document proof-read. Then, since the weather has improved and I am paid by the hour, I get permission to leave at 4pm.

3. The poor chive plant has been looking very sad because it is covered in greenfly. I have sprayed it liberally with soapy water, which is supposed to be good for such things. Today, the chive stems are covered in tiny corpses.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Camellia, shut up and caramel.

1. Under every camellia in the street is a pile of discarded blossoms.

2. An unpleasant lady flumphs herself down on the sofa in the middle of the gallery to have a stressy phone conversation -- 'I want to speak to a man, not a woman... I said I wanted to speak to a man.' I stop enjoying the pictures, and feel myself stiffening.
Then the museum attendant comes across the hall and tells her off: 'We don't allow phones in the gallery.'
'I'm sorry, I'm on the phone.'
'I said we don't allow phones in the gallery.'
The phone lady stomps out.

3. Watching sugar melt; and the smell of caramel in the flat.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The garden, mystery greens and still light.

1. Tiny soft leaves are pushing out of the earth in the salad box on my balcony. I'm looking forward to cut-and-come-again greenery later this month.


2. Marsh samphire for its bright glassy green.


3. The nights are drawing out, so I hurry to script writing in daylight, taking a short cut across the park.

Monday, April 21, 2008

On the edge, biscuit and miracle.

1. Books that end with cliff hangers -- I've just finished reading the last available book in George RR Martin's Song of Ice and Fire. One character is in prison, another has been blinded, another is about the be hanged, a fourth has found his love turned to hate, another is wondering exactly who betrayed her -- her father knows, but won't tell her.

2. A home made biscuit that tastes faintly of lemons.

3. A miracle must have happened -- there is a walking stick lying in the middle of the park.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mist, ducks and cake.

1. Fine rain silvers my fleece.

2. Ducks come swimming over to see what we have for them. The female flattens herself to the lake.

3. A heavy slice of fruitcake.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

P'tit dej, pants to you and the return.

1. Dipping my croissant in my coffee.

2. At Christmas, there was much debate in the office about the suitability of the secret Santa gift I proposed for the new girl in the room next door. It was a pair of pretty knickers from Accessorize. I met up with the old crew last night, and she raved about them, saying they were her favourites ever and that she showed them to everyone (!). I turned to He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named: 'I told you so.' He shook his head: 'Still weird.'

3. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named has just got back from a round-the-world trip. He seems to have enjoyed himself: highlights included stalking a penguin, vegetarian food in Hong Kong and being surprised at how full his cutlery drawer was when he got home.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Getting there, a ride and faces of dog.

1. I am still very much a learner with Adobe Go Live, and even changing the colour of a table cell is an achievement.

2. When I am running late, getting a lift.

3. We watch a documentary about the Medieval mind and the problems thrown up by the dog-faced people who were rumoured to live in the blank parts of the map. Should they be preached to, or not. And once explorers got to the blank parts of the map, the residents said they thought the dog-faces lived in Europe.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Muffin, time to tidy and hairwash.

1. I bite into my breakfast muffin and find unexpected nuts.

2. At the end of a happy evening knitting and chatting with friends, Katie looks around the room rather tiredly and says: 'You always pull so much stuff out to show people when they come to visit.'

3. My hair has been staticky and itchy today, so I have been looking forward to getting in a hot shower and washing it in Oilatum.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Half-light, treat and kindness of ticket inspectors.

1. Coming into the sitting room in the morning while the curtains are still drawn.

2. A chocolate cookie with my first coffee of the day.

3. I had a return ticket this morning, and now I don't. Luckily, although the barrier objects to my offering it the outward portion, the attendant hardly looks and zaps me through. The inspector on the train spots that I am covering the word 'out' with my thumb, winks at me and lets it pass.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Heroine, more important things and fat cakes.

1. I am hurrying up the stairs to a seminar. Ahead of me is a lady, hurrying too. She says: 'Is this the way to the children's book seminar.' 'I think so -- the one with Jane Nissen.' 'Oh that's me.' So I get a chance to quickly tell her how much I appreciate her rescuing Marigold in Godmother's House. The seminar was about resurrecting children's books that had fallen out of print -- the market is parents who want to share the books they loved with the next generation.

2. The lift comes, but Elizabeth and I are too busy looking out of the window at London.

3. A mysterious box of birthday cakes with thick swirls of creamy icing has been delivered to the house by the Fenella Fairy.

Monday, April 14, 2008

April showers, shoe fans and heating off.

1. Sun and storm roll across town in waves.

2. Nick is sitting on his doorstep with a half circle of adoring shoes gazing lovingly at him as they wait to be cleaned.

3. Katie asks me to change the heating to come on later and go off earlier -- definitely a sign of Spring. Today is her birthday -- so this post comes with wishes and hopes for all good things in the coming year.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Giant buttercups, take note and melted cheese.

1. At the farmers market are pots of ranunculuses. Katie says they remind her of cabbages. I can see the resemblance in size, but I secretly wonder what the hell sort of cabbages leaves are egg yolk yellow with scarlet edges.

2. Today, I have decided, is appreciate your musical friends day. One of my favourite muscial friends is Oli the songwriter-- I spent a happy hour or two listening to his subversive tunes, which can be tried out on Amie Street. My favourites from the days when he gave me lifts into work to a soundtrack of demo tapes are Bald Eagle and Tunbridge Wells. Since I last checked, he has put up California of the Mind, in which you can find a stash of Beach Boys references. But perhaps most subversive of all is Bored of the Beatles.

3. Cheese on toast -- I love watching it cook.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Three admirable women, shine and smokers.

1. Finding three speakers I really admire at the London Book Fair: Xinran, Jane Nissen and Kate Mosse.

2. April showers because they make the world sparkle, and make everyone appreciate the sunny hours.

3. A couple of terms ago, my writing teacher recommended a series called The Smoking Room. The TV announces a two-episode run later in the evening. So I slip in another hour of writing and then settle down to watch. And I fall in love. It's like watching a tiny tobacco-stained stage play with characters so familiar that I feel as if I ought to be asking them how they're doing and if there's any gossip.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Art appreciation, stitches and pottery.

1. A party of school children sitting in a gallery. A teacher from the Fitzwilliam Museum is asking them to interpret the symbols in a painting: 'This is all about what you think. Don't worry about what your neighbour has put. Write down what's important to you.' and 'We don't have time to read all of them, but if you want to send them in to us, we do like to read them. We're thinking about maybe publishing a book one day.'

2. In a darkened room -- it reminds me of the nocturnal house in the zoo -- delicate samplers are on display. I imagine the girls and women who made them shyly presenting their work, blinking at the attention paid to their needlework practice. I think these treasures are more precious than the great works because their survival is so unlikely.

3. Finding a room of Chinese pottery -- I like this because I can spot Tang dynasty and Sung dynasty, which makes me feel superior. Also, the Tang's bright glazes and gurning figures and high stepping horses with arched necks are always a joy.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The backs, mystery lady and dressing for dinner.

1. We walk round the backs of the colleges, glancing through curled gates and over moats at gardens and lawns forbidden to us. I imagine this might be the sort of experience that inspired Lewis Carroll to write about Alice longing to get through the tiny gate. One garden in particular was carpeted with spring flowers -- primroses, cowslips and wood anemones, and something blue that I couldn't identify.

2. In a near-empty gallery finding a portrait of Queen Mary I -- who is sometimes rudely called 'The Farmer's Wife' -- looking rather fey. The label in the gallery says that's who it is, and so does my postcard; but the Fitzwilliam Museum catalogue disagrees.

3. Changing for dinner and being told I look lovely.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Snow storm, architecture and evening bath.

1. A very large bed with blizzard white linen.

2. Turning a corner and seeing the knobbly Gothic spires of King's College against a bright blue sky.

3. The bath is out in the bedroom, rather than tucked away in a windowless bathroom. As the light fades, we fill it with hot water and clouds of bubbles and sink into it -- with no arguing about who gets the taps, because they are in the middle.

We were staying in the Hotel du Vin, Cambridge.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

After the snow, leg of pork and painting.

I will be away for the next few days.

1. I hurry to work across the common and clots of snow splat to the ground as the sun warms the world. The new green gold birch leaves have already shaken themselves free, but the limp fingers on the horse chestnut tree are still covered in snow.

2. For lunch, Nick has scrumpy pork hock, which is a huge piece of bone covered in tender, sticky meat. It has sunk into a bed of mash and sunshine yellow sweetcorn.

3. Painting my nails. I enjoy the ritual of filing and polishing my nails; and I like choosing the colour, which I put on in three long sweeps.

Monday, April 07, 2008

White stuff, hound and all change.

1. Dragging Nick out of the shower to look out of the window... it snowed in the night, and fat flakes are still falling.

2. We venture out to look for lunch and settle in a pub. In the corner, lying on a red blanket is a sleek brindled hound.

3. Crossing town and passing snowmen in parks and gardens and families using their toboggans for the first time this winter. The slopes on the common were almost worn bald. Bowed daffodils look like fallen stars hidden in the snow. And cherry trees carry extra marshmallow puffs on their pink blossoms.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Stretching, missing link and music.

1. In the quiet hour before everyone gets up, I do some yoga and feel my muscles stretch out. My favourite part is the relaxing at the end -- having spent nearly an hour concentrating on my body, it's lovely to ignore it for a bit.

2. Realising just how stressful I am finding struggling to get an internet connection, I talk with Katie about some possible solutions. We come up with a temporary arrangement, and now, although a phone wire is draped over door frames and under sofas, I have a reliable connection again.

3. On a whim, Nick takes me a cello recital at King Charles the Martyr -- the church with the ceiling of plaster fruits and palm leaves. They play a piece -- Faure's Sicilienne (you have to wait a minute for the musicians to stop talking) -- which we both recognise. 'What's it from?' I whisper between numbers.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Growing things, brass and a good book.

1. Scattering seeds on warm soil.

2. I put the radio on and discover a programme about brass bands from the North East playing arrangements of folk tunes. One of the bands is the Reg Vardy Band -- I remember seeing 'Reg Vardy' stickers on most secondhand cars in Durham.

3. Reading until I fall asleep.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Solving, elevensies and cleaning.

1. Cracking a problem with a webpage.

2. In the middle of the morning, taking a proper coffee break, away from the computer and with real coffee and conversation, with my boss.

3. Getting our vacuum cleaner back -- it finally gave up, possibly from shock, after the man came and steam cleaned our carpets. The repair man said that the clutch had gone, but now it's mended and our carpets no longer crunch.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Wake up, rain dots and forgotten works.

1. Nick wakes from a nightmare and I comfort him. I don't mean that it's beautiful for him to have nightmares, but I like being there to look after him.

2. I see rain dots on the ground that are rapidly turning into one big wet pavement and turn to go back for my umbrella. Then I remember that I have it in my bag.

3. Hunting for work samples to go on my website, I come across several pieces I'd forgotten about, and suddenly feel as if I've achieved more than I thought I had.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

When hippies attack, daylight hours and detectives.

1. A new term is coined following an argument about whether the office junior is right to be aiming for money and career goals, rather than family or sporting goals, or travel. He shrugs, having been rounded on by a pack of hippies, and says: 'It's all gravy, not pickle.'

2. Hurrying up to Nick's, and even though it's slightly later than usual, there is still light in the sky and birds are singing.

3. Another old friend is on telly tonight -- Mma Ramotswe of the Number One Ladies' Detective Agency.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Gold, got mail and paper kingdom.

1. Finding a gold pen in among the work-a-day blacks and blues and reds.

2. Seeing two sacks of envelopes -- packed by and labelled by me -- being carried out of the building by the postman.

3. In a fit of spring cleaning, I have bought a new file. I come down on my system like the Assyrian, slashing and hacking as I go, wondering why I kept this, shredding that and tearing stamps off the other. When the job is done, everything I own is in alpha order -- I'm hoping this will mean no more wondering if my P45 is under 'tax' or 'work' or in the mysterious folder labelled gardening, because obviously now it can only be under 'P'. There are some worries -- will I look for a poem by my grandmother to mark my confirmation under G, P or C? My mantra from now on is: 'Got to trust the system.'