Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Salt, frost and post.

1. Early frosty morning outside the chip shop, he shakes spirals of salt on to the pavement.

2. Dark blue station railings with a velvet coat of frost.

3. A pile of thank-you letters ready to post.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Beads, threads and last thing.

I have tagged most of the posts referring to Nick for those who wanted this. It's really not a narrative, as 3BT was never intended to be used as such. These posts are an unsorted bundle of unimportant and important moments in our relationship. Some turning points in the story are not there, because I never wrote about them.

Here is a link to the first page of the list. The oldest posts are at the bottom of the page, and there is a link to the newer posts at the bottom of the page.

1. I am wearing a few strings of sandalwood beads that my parents brought me from India. Every so often, I can smell them, warm, musky and woody.

2. Splitting the threads and recombining them plumps them up and make the colours as rich as fruitcake.

3. Click by click, the house darkens.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The ribbon, making friends and blue star.

Nick and I are delighted by the kind messages coming in -- thanks, everyone.

To the Anonymous who wanted the whole Nick story, post-by-post, I do mean to sit down and do it at some point: you're not the only one who has asked.

To Rashmi about My Family and Other Animals: Buy it, buy it, buy it! It's a wonderful account of an eccentric family's extended stay on a Greek island. Gerald Durrell's style and joyful eye for detail are a huge influence on me (The New Noah was one of the first 'grown-up' mostly-words books I ever read). You can read the beginning of My Family here.

1. A Christmas present from my cousins comes wrapped in a thick piece of gold ribbon spotted with jewelly red, green and purple. Later, Ellie and Daniel laugh like loons as we play peek-a-boo along its length -- it's just wide enough to hide our eyes.

2. Ellie has been solemn and silent up until now, turning away from eye contact. 'She likes to be ignored at first,' says Cat. But just before we leave for lunch, I find Ellie standing in the hall in front of her blue boots. She lets me help her on with them, and we step outside together to scrunch in the gravel up the drive.

3. Daniel, packed into an all-in-one padded puddle suit, sets off on a private expedition, lurching, almost over-balancing as he hurries towards the road. I pick him up and turn him round to face a safer direction, and he spins away -- a determined blue wandering star.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Still working, paint and bedsocks.

1. Half the team is in and we are working in a huge empty office. It's very quiet, so we put the radio on.

2. The skirting boards in the bathroom are turning -- bit by bit -- snowy white.

3. Woollen bedsocks (which I knitted myself) keep the falling temperatures from disturbing my night.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ill, the picture and a book

Thanks for the good wishes everyone -- much appreciated.

1. My cold has come back -- which means mugs of hot tea and meals on trays.

2. My mother has had a picture re-framed as my Christmas present. I lie dozing and hearing Nick trying to work out how to hang it on a brick wall that bends nails. When it's done, he wakes me: 'Come and look, darling girl.' For me, it adds a bit more home to the kitchen.

3. Digging out My Family and Other Animals. The hot Corfu air creeps into the bedroom.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The fairytale, an answer and ladybirds.


1. We stop on The Common, in the December woods. Nick has something for me: a question and a ring.

2. I hug Nick and I feel as if I never want to let him go. But we have roast beef waiting for us at his parents' house, and some news to share. I put my gloves in my bag and we hurry on down the hill holding my hand so we can both see my great grandmother's Victorian diamonds in their new setting.

3. Chocolate ladybirds in red and black foil hide in the fruit bowl.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

It'll do you good, tea and brandy butter.

1. From his Christmas Eve shopping, Nick brings me back a bottle of vile, sticky black cough mixture.

2. Christmas cake -- on one of the best blue plates -- and mug of tea is brought to me in bed.

3. I mix and mix, with a warmed spoon in a warmed bowl, and slowly, the butter, sugar and brandy combine.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

From the other side, lunch and I'm going home.

1. I expect a noseful of rubbish from the dustcart on my left but instead get wet woods from the stream on my right.

2. A bowl of salty chips splashed with vinegar and a glass of red wine.

3. In our work clothes we pick our way back from the pub along footpaths through the woods. At the office I wave goodbye to my colleagues who still have things to do, and then I head for home.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

New walk, going out and a message waiting.

Cake picture showing hellebore and holly details. Isn't my aunt clever!

1. After more than a week of taking the bus, the walk to work is full of new wonders. Bare earth has grass. The sun is in new places.

2. Cancelled. But we go out anyway, the two of us, to eat dim sum and drink tea at a table for four. The others are missed, but understood.

3. I've missed a phone call. Pick up the message to find a friend has heard the news along the grapevine that holds us all together.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Not catching the sunrise, clothing and doing it.

1. We wake late on midwinter, and to sleepy Nick's surprise, I am out of the door a moment later, buttoning my coat over my pyjamas as I run up the still silent street to catch a sunrise that happened 20 minutes before.

2. My mother hands me a paper bag. 'I've bought you an outfit.' It's a graphite grey and blackcurrant pink dress with a matching cardigan. I love the colours immediately.

3. A heavy, leathery guilt slug has been lying across my legs because there are letters I have not written. The longer I leave this, the heavier the slug, and the more difficult the writing becomes. I sit down, and I do it. That feels good.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

50 golden years, adding to the family and a transformation.

My small sister has been at it again with the camera. She found a smirking grasshopper, which we both think is superb.

1. Nick's parents are celebrating a grand achievement: their Golden Wedding.

2. Meeting Nick's sister, neice and great nephew for the first time. It's great to be able to put faces to names and voices heard on the phone.

3. The risotto's orange colour warms and deepens with every slosh of stock.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Silence!, lunch in the bag and a mystery

Festive message to anyone who would expect a Christmas card from me: I've spent the money on badgers, instead. I hope everyone enjoys a magical midwinter and a happy, successful 2009.

1. On Friday morning, the alarm clock is switched off until Sunday night.

2. As I pay for my sewing bits, the smell of the pastie in my bag breaks free.

3. A book, Fiona Robyn's The Letters, arrives by post. I sit in the bath with it and later curl up on the sofa to finish it. I can't escape its clutches until I understand all its twists and mysteries. I felt the same way about Anita Shreve's book, The Pilot's Wife. But The Letters is funny and English and gently domestic as well as enticing. The heroine, Violet, has got along pretty well in her life by being an un-bending workaholic. But now she is 51 and living alone. There are things she wants -- reconciliation with her lover; a better relationship with her exasperating grown-up children -- and she is beginning to realise that she can't have them without changing. Then a letter arrives. It was written in 1959 by a young woman waiting to give birth in a mothers and babies home. Who is this mother-to-be and what does her story have to do with Violet? Fiona, who also writes the blog A Small Stone, and its spin-off A Handful of Stones, has promised to visit 3BT on her blog-tour, which I'm very much looking forward to.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Freedom, on foot and the parcels.

1. Days when the computers at work give access to sites normally forbidden (i.e., anything interesting).

2. Walking past a traffic jam.

3. Wrapping the last few presents.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sunrise, at the Post Office and grown marvels.

1. The sky is blushed pink-orange. Fluffs of high cloud shine like metal.

2. Her shock of brunette curls just reaches the counter. She tells everyone: 'We're waiting our turn.'

3. Our vegetable box is full of wonders: A squash resembles two green croquet balls run together in a physics mishap; a brown paper bag of wrinkled fudgy dates that might have flown in on a magic carpet from The Thousand and One Nights; and two green and red giant beans that turn out to be mangos.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Growing up, extra present and Nepali.

1. Two men on the bus -- one can't quite believe he's got a missus, a flat and a cat called Rampage.

2. I bring my secret Santa present back to the office. Under the strip lights, the organza bag of sweets is not just Arabian Nights purple: it's cranberry juice red, too.

3. A second Christmas celebration in one day. Tiny tastes and roti starred with coriander.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Better, hot food and celebration cake.

1. After nearly a week of grey, plodding cold misery and discouragement: I laugh out loud.

2. Coming home and smelling dinner in the oven.

3. My aunt brings us a cake decorated with holly and ivy and Christmas roses. It has a sugar arch, hung with snowflakes and snow men and Christmas trees decked with silver balls.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The day before, sleeping in and having my way.

1. Waking early and discovering it's not Monday -- it's still Sunday.

2. The sky was clear enough when I got up, but now the earth has rolled over, pulled the fog around itself and gone back to sleep.

3. While waiting to pay: 'They're three for two.' So I bring him the rejected third book. It's an old favourite of mine.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Your wish is my command, space and desert.

I've been getting such lovely messages and comments lately -- thank you very much, everyone.

1. 'Crate of apple juice' was written on my to-do list. I wasn't looking forward to walking down in the storm to order a delivery from the farmers' market. I come home from meeting friends for breakfast to find a clanking box of 12 bottles in the hall. 'Funny story,' explains stay-at-home-Nick. 'The apple juice man brought it round. He broke down on the way to the market, and decided to give it up as a bad job. But he didn't want you to miss out on your juice.'

2. The living room is full of men hooting at football. I spread myself and my books and magazines across the bedroom.

3. The chocolate pudding has fluffed up in the oven. We divide it into two blue and white striped bowls, and pour cool, sweet cream on it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Strange sky, not walking to work and busted.

Tunbridge Wells photograph story from Sarah Salway.

1. The new sun, bright in the east, throws down long, sharp shadows but the sky is gauzed by thin grey clouds.

2. The bus brings me to work, gently and on time.

3. It's a quiet morning. We sneak out early to buy some lunch... and meet all the managers coming upstairs from a meeting. They laugh at us.

Friday, December 12, 2008

More sleep, cucumber and sleeping companion.

1. I crawl back to bed at 11am and wake in the middle of the afternoon feeling as if I can face the world for a couple more hours.

2. Nick comments that the cucumber (which he loathes and won't eat himself) in my sandwich sounds nicely crunchy.

3. Making up a flask of tea to take to bed. When I wake in the night, I pour myself a cup to calm my cough.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hot drink, endless supplies and more vanilla.

1. Redbush tea spiked with cardamom.

2. He brings more red-and-yellow pills and a new box of extra soft tissues, and happily lavishes me with affection despite the rivers of snot. I feel like Ogden Nash's Isabel.

3. As I shower, the scent of vanilla from last night's bath comes off my skin.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cure, hot drink and immersion.

1. Finding some red and yellow cold pills in the bottom of my handbag.

2. Hot orange and honey.

3. A warm golden bath scented with comforting vanilla.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The return, planet rise and a laugh.

1. Waking up late on a Monday morning and then going back to sleep because it's our day off.

2. In the early evening, bright Venus and Jupiter just coming over the trees.

3. Nick's nature tends towards 'solemn and dignified', so it's a great source of pleasure to make him giggle like a schoolgirl by pouring water over his head and down his back while washing his hair.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Baubles, new look and a good dinner.

1. Bringing the Christmas decorations down from high places. I have been smuggling in bundles for a few weeks now, including the tiny beginnings of our Christmas books collection.

2. We clean the bedroom window and wash the net curtain. 'It looks like it's just been painted,' says Nick.

3. Roast beef and huge dishes of vegetables, including crispy roast potatoes, parsnips and swede.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Wise words, soldiering on and what might have been.

1. A mother on the phone comforts a distraught daughter: 'I know, I know... but you've got to learn to bite your tongue... When people are in the wrong... When people are in the wrong and they know it, they'll defend themselves to the... Well the drink doesn't help.'

2. I am drawn again to the bright colours of tiny Chinese street scenes at the toy soldier show. I also liked the Ancient Egyptian set, complete with a painter at work on a sarcophagus. On another stall, there are Aztec warriors who, though dressed to kill as wild beasts, are about to find out that they have brought obsidian-studded clubs to a gun- and crossbow fight.

3. The Cold War Modern exhibition shares a future that might have been, overlaying a future that was. In this world, houses are machines for living. People dress in Captain Scarlet tunics and catsuits, but the spacesuits have lace-up boots. An technology fair, housed in a geodesic dome, is hosted by Afghanistan, and the USA and the USSR compete to produce the best washing machine.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Soundtrack to a nap, vegetable dyes and an achievement.

1. I have a nap in the middle of the morning and drift in and out of sleep. The joiner fixing the window next door is whistling and ocassionally singing: 'A girl like you'

2. The colour of grated carrot -- it's such a bright, juicy orange on a wintery day.

3. I was once the child whose colouring went over the edge; whose samplers were speckled with blood and tears; whose cutting out was jagged and torn and whose handwriting was a constant worry to teachers. I used to feel very ashamed of my art and crafts and still burn to remember the headmaster pronouncing my paper curl chicken 'a mess'. But last night, I was looking at a box I'd decorated with a cut-out, and an embroidery I'm mounting, and I felt quite pleased and proud. It must be partly experience and practice; partly acceptance of my own limitations and partly better tools. I think my motor skills have improved with age -- I'd never have imagined I'd achieve the things I've done in my drawing for beginners class, and with my embroidery.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Foul weather, a small drama and creature.

1. It is raining hard, and very gloomy this morning. But I'm on holiday, so I can stay at home.

2. Overheard: 'Mummy you're always so nasty to me.' And feet running past the door.
'Everything's a drama when you're four,' sighs my osteopath.
A bit later the feet come back. 'Mummy, I'm sorry I was a bit naughty.'

3. I am wearing some new velvet pyjamas. Nick says: 'Oh, a mole.'

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Fingers, faff and safe.

1. Early sun reaches shy fingers through alleyways to stroke the faces of houses on the hill.

2. Passing drivers who must scrape the ice off their cars before they can leave. I am glad that my journey to work is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other.

3. The comedian mocks a man in a red coat who talked to him in the gents, a pregnant woman and a group of people who said they were bankers, but he doesn't pick on us.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The first time, night sky and dinner away.

1. This is the first clear still winter day I have experienced living on this street. While walking up the hill towards the low morning sun, I wonder what the town's valley will look like. The anticipation is almost too much, but I'm not too excited to stop and break the ice on a puddle.

2. Seeing the stars for the first time in weeks.

3. Katie-who-used-to-be-at-home and I share a bottle of wine and get more and more giggly. Virtuous PaulV looks on with his jug of water and his mint tea. When I get home, Nick comes to hug me at the door and I can't quite manage to focus on his eyes.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The cold, hot food and a pat on the back.

1. The morning is so cold and sharp that my cheeks tingle and blush red.

2. Baking a potato in the microwave at work.

3. Katie-at-work describes how once she was in the ladies at a shopping centre when she heard a little boy a few cubicles along pipe up: 'Well done, Mummy, you did a nice big poo.'

Monday, December 01, 2008

Running repair, stocking filler and baked apples.

I just wanted to say how much I appreciate all the 'Thank you' notes that have been appearing recently. I'm really glad so many of you take the time to read me. I'm glad I've helped people to learn English, and to relax at the end of a working day. I'm also delighted by the steadily growing list of Blogger followers (see right sidebar) and feed subscribers.

And Ian over at The Eye has created a Friendfeed room for 3BT -- go and join in the fun.

1. Patching the seat of my jeans on a cold, dark afternoon.

2. I look at the thing I have just made: a blue felt stocking sewn round with red blanket stitch and think that it would look neat stuffed with a couple of Cadbury's Wispas.

3. At bedtime, the smell of baked apples is still hanging round in the kitchen.