Saturday, May 31, 2008

Blackcurrants, a second chance and alternatives.

1. Elizabeth serves pudding and says: 'These are blackcurrants from the garden.'

2. A festival gazed upon with longing and then put away with a sigh because money is short. Then Kim and James remember that they promised me theatre for my birthday last year; they wonder if this is an acceptable alternative.

3. PaulV and his lurid speculation about his friends' alternative lifestyle. We decide they are probably a thruple in a threlationship.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Purple piles, gastropods and queen of the river.

Got a small spam problem, so I'm going to moderate comments for a while.

1. The rain has beaten rhododendron flowers to the ground. They lie everywhere in white and pink and purple piles.

2. Halfway up a cupressus hedge, for reasons of their own, are a dozen snails. While Nick waits in the rain I look closely at their deep-wrinkled flanks and their questing eye stalks.

3. Nick shows me his favourite film ever -- The African Queen. I like it, too, despite the rafting flashbacks
and the leeches. I like the story of two people transcending their natures to become something better than the sum of their parts; and I have more affection than I care to admit for rough diamonds.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sending the lads round, fairy skirt and love story.

1. Asked to research someone to collect payment from a recalitrant bookseller, I am wary. I have images of monosyllabic people with scarred knuckles, unsavoury practitioners to a man. Instead I find professional and, I think, compassionate, people who do a task that other people don't have the skills to do for themselves.

2. Tiny rain drops soak the air and my hood. Walking up the hill in front of me is a mother towing a bawling six-year-old wearing a sparkly fairy skirt that ends in long points, each tipped with a green bobble.

3. Last thing at night, I finally get to finish reading a story in Interzone. Endra - From Memory is a magical tale of a beautiful captain who comes into port, charms a landbound official and then disappears in search of a mythical city. It's set in a place where the oceans are rising and place names are half-familiar. I've never noticed the writer, Chelsea Quinn Yarboro, before, but she's very prolific, so I reckon there are some treats in store.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Green potatoes, device and golden fleece.

1. Using my hand blender to make green mashed potato from left-over mange tout.

2. A handy blue basket allows one to lift the cubes of feta out of the brine.

3. Watching footage of people who live in thousand-year-old tower houses four days drive from the nearest main road using fleeces to extract gold from rivers. In the background, a deep blue sky and snow-capped mountains.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Restraint, plans and gathering.

There is now a Facebook group for 3BT for those interested in that sort of thing. I know some people use FB every day, and it seems a good way to keep them up-to-date with changes and excitements. Also, I'm hoping it will encourage people to chat about the 3BT way.

I have also added buttons allowing you to share favourite posts.

Also, I've finally updated my holiday posts -- scroll down to see them, starting here:
Collector, small comforts and night journey.

1. I am tapping away at a script outline. I can hear Nick not swearing to himself as he measures up the bathroom.

2. Planning a new bathroom, and choosing the fittings. Now that we've picked out the bath and the taps, it seems possible to imagine paint and curtains.

3. In the afternoon, I get a call from long-lost Louise, who happens to be in town. So we meet up for a cup of tea.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The rain has come, one worker and pulp.

1. There is smell of wet woods and growing things, as if the Common has drunk deeply in the rain and has let out a fragrant sigh into the sunshine.

2. At the edge of the cricket ground, on a Sunday when everyone else is playing or walking or simply looking on, a serious teenage girl sits studying from a language book.

3. Putting on a pulpy podcast and curling up on the sofa to thrill at the adventures of Doc Savage and the crimson-fingered man who is trying to kill him.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Breakfast, Linden Lea and scissors.

Today, being Tim and Rachel's first anniversary, it is a year since I met Nick, who in his own well-ordered way has turned my life upside down.

1. Spreading Marmite on toast for Nick. I spend more nights at his house than he does at mine, so usually it's him making breakfast for me.

2. We go to a concert in the lovely Church of King Charles The Martyr. They sing Vaughn Williams' Linden Lea, which makes me feel as if I've made the right choice in my life with regards to not dreading 'peevish masters'.

3. Nick sits me down on the sofa and presents me with a beautiful pair of embroidery scissors -- here's a man who has been paying attention, because only a couple of weeks ago I bored him rigid with a Maison Sajou embroidery catalogue. He laughs when I solemnly hand him a penny to make it a purchase, rather than a bladed gift that might cut our love.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Clapping, potatoes and aging.

1. As we drink coffee in the garden, we hear a burst of applause from the cricket.

2. Opening the potato sack, I discover a bag of Jersey Royals smelling of earth and summer.

3. The evening park is crowded with teenagers. It's as if the babies and toddlers from the afternoon have all grown up.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Waiting to begin, caller and bracken.

1. Rose buds hold their petals in tight fists but can't resist showing a peep of red and yellow silk.

2. The doorbell goes just before four, and I know that it's Nick in his sunhat, smelling faintly of sunscreen after a day at the cricket.

3. On the Common, pale green horns of new bracken push up through the grass where eight weeks ago people were toboganning.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Deep blue, journey, petrol and part of the moon.

1. I come to the end of the bay. The sea bed drops away suddenly into darkness and I have a feeling of things unseen below me. I turn to swim back to the beach and in a cleft see a rich orange starfish lying languidly in the blue gloom.

2. Every car journey this week has involved bouncing and jolting in clouds of red dust. It is a relief to speed along a smooth highway. The journey is punctuated by cries of 'Tortoise' and speculations about what people are harvesting and growing.

3. We stop for petrol and Katie and I recall the days when our friends were just starting to drive. 'Do you remember getting £2.17 worth of petrol and paying in pennies?'

4. While we wait to take off, Pauline tells me to look out at the full moon coming over the hills.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Glass, apple tea, journals and eggs.

1. Touching glass beads.

2. Drinking apple tea with Tailor Yusef in his shop, surrounded by clothes in sands and beiges and all kinds of soft green.

3. Trying the catches on magical leather journals -- some with strange faces on the cover, others with glass eyes or starfish bursting out.

4. Breaking eggs into a small glass before adding them to the mixing bowl.

In my absence: One of my favourite 3BT blogs -- Life ain't THAT bad.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Underwater love, wind and sun, fabulous feast, walkers, watcher and work.

1. I feel as if I am flying. Far belwo the rocks on the sea bed fall away into the ultramarine gloom. Flying around me are tiny silver fish, fat black fish and once, a pipefish -- all bones and beak.

2. Sitting on the front deck of the boat and letting the wind and sun dry me.

3. Dish of food keep appearing -- long pancake rolls full of feta and fresh herbs; a salad of fat white raddish slices dressed with lemon flesh and juice; green leaves and tomatoes; chicken thighs spiced and cooked without the bone; crisp-skinned fish with sweet white flesh; and pickled runner beans. Later come dishes of ice piled with water melon, apricots, oranges, bananas and tart green plums.

4. Bobbing at anchor, we spot a forlorn group of walkers wilting on the beach. A tall ship comes in, makes fast and sends a dinghy over to collect them.

5. With sketchbook in hand I am free to observe the colours in the sea without interruption.

6. All holiday, worries about money have been digging cold fingers into my mind. I pick up a message suggesting that there might be some editing work on my return.

In my absence: Generous crafter Meggiecat shares information.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The water, a beer and not my job.

1. At the bottom of a dusty hill, over sharp rocks, the surface of the sea waits to receive me.

2. In Bob's shop, a respectable auntie with beautiful white teeth enjoys a glass of beer at noon.

3. The sounds of someone else lighting a barbecue.

In my absence: The ever thoughtful Sarah Salway enjoys
A Quiet Sit Down with her catalogue of wonderful benches.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Watching, heart of the town, bathing, the word and snack.


1. Many pavements and walls have a blue glass evil eye charm in them. Even the corporate pavement outside a bank has a few pressed into the grout between the tiles. I imagine builders carrying a pocketful and surreptitiously dropping a few where they are needed.

2. In the centre of town, we spot a raised and red-painted heart on a wall of undressed honey-coloured stone.

3. During our Turkish bath, they fill a wet pillowcase with air and squeeze a cloud of bubbles over us. The bath is full of sensations -- warm water poured over my heels; heat from the marble slab; exfoliation; a four-handed massage. Whenever a ministration tickles, it makes me laugh, and I catch the attendant's eye. He smiles right back.

4. We have been been struggling for two days with 'Thank you' -- 'Teşekkür ederim'. Our waiter tells us to 'think of three English words. The first is "tea". The second is "sugar". And say dream. And say it quickly -- "tea-sugar-dream".

5. A tiny cup of Turkish coffee and a large square of very sticky cake.

Picture: Katie Skinner

In my absence: A project of admirable scale can be found at
The Daily Mammal.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Genuine fake, Turkish children and waves.


1. The stallholders all have patter: 'Buy now, pay next year.' 'How much?' 'Cheap as chips.' 'Free bag.' 'Genuine fake'. My favourite, though, is the lad who wafts us with a crate lid, claiming his stall has free air conditioning.

2. Children in school uniform. The basic outfits are the same -- a blue dress, or a blue sailor suit with a white collar. But every single one is different. Some collars are lacy; others are embroidered with toy trains or alphabets. The children come down from the green school at the top of the hill and buy their lunch from the kebab van. Then, carrying their cup of ayran (a yoghurt drink, similar to lassi), they wander through the market inspecting the goods and commenting on the toys.

3. Bunches of mint seem to fill the whole vegetable market.

4. Last thing at night, hearing the waves washing the beach far below.

Picture by Katie Skinner

In my absence: Entertain yourselves by going Out with Mol on a walk into the French countryside.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Collector, small comforts and night journey.

1. Katie comes in from town and reports a selection of beautiful things including a man painting the local garage with an unlit pipe between his teeth.

2. The stewards on our flight to Turkey are the best ever. They have a way of getting passengers to do things that makes us feel as if we are being given a choice, rather than ordered by a bullying airline. They also show hundreds of small kindnesses, looking out for discomforts, sharing tips, and bending rules a little to make sure our flight is as good as possible.

3. We make our transfer by night. Peering through the windows of the minibus, I catch a glimpse of silvered sea between the deep black hills.

In my absence: Elspeth Thompson is converting railway carriages into a whimsical eco home by the sea.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mark-up, literature bugs and a game.

1. Marking a piece of black cloth with tailor's chalk.

2. Sarah Salway messages me to ask if I want to be a book fairy -- if so, come to the park now, with five books. Well, of course I do, so we spend twenty minutes dropping literature in the park.

3. A friend holds her daughter while we chat in the park. First one blue wellie falls to the ground. I pick it up. Then another blue wellie falls. I pick it up. Then the first blue wellie falls again, this time accompanied by a cheeky giggle.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

May flowers, green fingers and company.

1. As I turn the corner, the scent of pink and yellow azaleas fills my head and heart.

2. Cutting a bunch of salad leaves from the box on the balcony, and knowing that I grew them myself.

3. Katie's door is shut when I come home, and I am sorry because I'm full of things I want to tell her. But then she calls me in -- not asleep after all.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Home place, our summer and I see the moon.

1. Nick wants to visit a tile shop that he's sure is down a street where I once lived. Privately I think it's not, but I let him go on leading me until we reach the old house. It's still there, still unpainted. From a certain spot in the street I can see down the passageway and into the garden -- just a sliver of deckchaired arm and some snatches of conversation.

2. We are into our second weekend of glorious weather. Over the impromptu games of cricket and rounders on the Common, there seems to be a bubble of gratitude.

3. Late at night I look up and see a thread of moon looking down through the slats of the blind.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Greens, odd one out and cool sheets.

1. I like the sound asparagus makes as I pull the bundles apart. It's a waxy squeak.


2. Among the hawthorn trees with foamy white blossom is one pink one; and in its branches hangs a blue glove.

3. On a hot night, slipping between cool, clean sheets.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Checking, baby's view and a good deed.

1. The pile of pages still to be read gets smaller, and the pile of proofed pages gets bigger.

2. Watching Dee Dee appreciate bubbles and cats. Spending time with babies makes me look at the world quite differently.

3. Fenella and I go up to the park to enjoy warm evening. She says: 'Andy will come up later, and he's going to go to the fish and chip shop to get your supper.' What a wonderful husband.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Good fit, interview and cricket.

The Bog of Eternal Stench recipe is on League Against Boring Lunches -- thanks Katie.


1. Trying on some charity shop clothes and seeing that they fit well. I think someone of a similar size and shape to me has dropped off a bag of clothes. And like me, she cuts her labels out.


2. I come into a job interview out of the hot street and everyone comment on how cool my hands are. Later I am told that I interview well.


3. On the Common, a man and a little boy are playing cricket with a tennis ball and imaginary stumps. They run backwards and forwards, their golden retriever running beside them.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Air, phone and mango.

1. When I get home from work I throw open all the windows to get some air going around the flat. Then I change my dress. This, it seems to me, is what summer is all about.

2. Lying on the sofa having a long chat on the phone with my mother.

3. 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. He was right. The inedible skin that doesn't peel off. The sticky juice that splashes on to my knees and gets in my hair. The tempting, tempting fragrance. That strange shaped stone that seems to be everywhere at once. The slipperyness. The need for a sharp knife. Fruit contributes to 6,000 accidents every year in the UK (see note 1) -- how many involved mangos? Despite this, it's worth it to serve up a dish of creamy Greek yoghurt and mango.

Note 1: Source: Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Afternoon off, swifts and entertainment.

1. The park is full of mothers with babies -- mostly larking on the swings; and a few people who, like me, are lucky enough to have the afternoon off, who are mostly lying on the grass with books and sunglasses or on benches gazing up at the sky.


2. Lying on the grass watching swifts high in the blue sky, calling 'skree, skree' and they turn and whirl.


3. Cooking a large and chocolately pudding -- Miss Skinner's famous Bog of Eternal Stench -- and serving it to friends while watching Labyrinth.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Adornment, stories and on the march.

1. Leaves copper plated, smeared and sketched with blues and greens and oranges.

2. Chatting to stallholders at a craft fair. I hear stories about ocarinas, am complimented on my voice, overhear a description of a green man, discover how flowers end up in paper weights and discover that the metal leaf man got his machine from someone who was emigrating.

3. Watching ants going about their tiny business up and down the leg of a bench.

Monday, May 05, 2008

All good things, warmth and white.

1. I am half-awake, half-asleep, listening to shaving noises and kettle noises and thinking that I should get up any minute now... any minute... just one last... and then a tray of tea and Nutella toast appears overhead.

2. Stepping outside into warm air.

3. Remembering to take a moment to enjoy the balcony -- last week I took advantage of a hot, bright afternoon that just begged for a wet pursuit and scrubbed the green off it. Now it shines white (apart from the bits I've missed), but I haven't really stood back and enjoyed the work I put into it.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Mudlarks, flint and rust.

Nick took me to The National History Show.

1. The Mudlarks, who spend their weekends digging around in the mud on the Thames foreshore looking for coins, buckles, musket balls, Medieval tiles, pieces of jug, tin toys, medals, tokens, bottles and anything else preserved in the oxygen-starved mud of London's mother river. One of them talked about giving his son a jar of ashes from the Fire of the London (1666) to take to school.

2. Seeing Phil Harding from Time Team talking about flint knapping. He had to show us a video, rather than actually demonstrating -- because of the demons Health and Safety. He talked about spending night after night practising the techniques, and about what a magical material flint is. You can see him at work here.

3. I tell Nick that the vintage Jeep smells like my grandfathers old Land Rover. It's petrol and oil and rust and webbing and leather.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Edits, time out and tonic.

1. Sending an article off to the editor, and a couple of hours later, getting it back with improvements.

2. Sitting in the park with Katie. We take our gin and tonics -- she says it so people know we are local. These times are important because we catch up on each other's lives and loves. It seems strange to actively set aside time for someone you share a house with -- but we're busy people.

3. Tonic under sunlight takes on a cloudy blue appearance.

Friday, May 02, 2008

New leaves, rainfall and poncho.

1. The shadow of leaves dances on the ceiling, coming in through a crack in the curtains on a shaft of sunlight.

2. Outside it is raining very hard, but I am inside with a mug of coffee and some work to do.

3. A very small child with bandy legs in striped tights totters around the park wearing a knitted poncho.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Smooth operator, play on words and

This morning, I got a message from a lady saying that 3BT had helped her when she was feeling down. To anyone else who feels overwhelmed: whenever I think I can't be bothered to write, I remember that you might be out there wanting to read.

1. Sometimes when I make white sauce, it comes out lumpy. This time, I remembered once being told to make sure the roux was one big lump before adding the milk. And I was patient enough to add the milk in drips and drops. It still seemed like a miracle, though, to see a smooth and glossy sauce at the end.

2. Going off to the theatre excited because I'm about to see a play that was workshopped in my scripts class.

3. Late at night, I get a text message from my brother saying that he's had some positive noises from a newspaper about a piece of his writing.