Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dawn, copies and pumpkin.

1. The driver says: "You should have seen it first thing this morning. It was dark, and then suddenly the sky was red and streaked with black."

2. I like they way a pile of new photocopies burns my fingers.

3. The crack-cut of a knife splitting pumpkin rind, and the first sight of the hollow space inside.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Work, arachnids and coming to help.

1. I interview the director of a play for a feature. It feels good to do some work knowing that I'm going to get paid.

2. I like seeing all the pea-sized spiders this year. There is one on our porch, one in the flowerbed opposite (invisible until it drizzles) and one on a traffic sign that I pass on my way to my secretarial course. I wonder if they are starting to recognise us.

3. I start the washing up. The tinny TV cheering in the sitting room stops abruptly, and Nick comes in to help.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Blueberry cake, come home and unseasonable.

1. She brings half a cake. A thunderhead of blueberries masses in the cut edge.

2. We think of our men coming home, and the party scatters into the evening.

3. Unexpectedly warm evening in October half term. Teenagers sit cross-legged in huddled rings on street corners.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cleansing power of fire, moon and light through leaves.

1. Games night: We manage to escape Tim's dungeon without dying; and my character sets fire to the main monster with a strategic lantern to the face.

2. The shy moon peeps at us through a tangle of silvered clouds.

3. At the end of our drive, a streetlight shines through leaves.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Mother-in-Law, bread of heaven and deal done.

1. I go out leaving Nick in bed, and come home three hours later to find him and my mother working on the table plans. The flat is very, very tidy.

2. It's hard to walk home right before lunch carrying a baguette that is too long for its bag. It would be so easy to break off a fragment of red-gold crust and cloud-white crumb.

3. The mother (who loves flowers more than anything) leaves the florists triumphant: "I've got more flowers for less money." I'm just happy to know my bouquet will be waiting for me when I arrive.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Just a shower, time out and five o'clock whistle.

1. I'm pegging out the day's third load of washing, and I can feel dots of rain. I take the sheets in (they're nearly dry). As I come round the corner of the house, I see that the sun is shining out in the street: green gold light hatched with shining lines of rain. It won't be a long shower.

2. It's so quiet: I have the flat to myself for the afternoon and evening because Nick has gone out.

3. It's half past ten, and I'm still working. I hear crunch-crunch-crunch on the gravel outside and that means I can stop.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cake, carwash and parsnips.

1. A text message from Rosey reports: "I made a very special cake today. It was so big I had to make it in the washing-up bowl." She's talking about our wedding cake!

2. We pass a drive where a man is washing one side of a car. On the other side, two tiny blonde children dressed in matching raincoats help out with sandcastle buckets of water. They are not much taller than the wheels they are scrubbing.

3. My parsnips have welded themselves to the bottom of the pan. "I'm never putting honey on them again. They're sweet enough as they are." He says: "You always say that, and they always taste so good with honey."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Catching a lift, bushman and wedge of geese.

1. I'm waiting to catch the hospital bus home when a patient transport arrives. The driver asks what I'm up to. I tell him. "You've just missed it. Are you staff?" I tell him I'm a volunteer, and he offers me a lift along with his patient.

2. Caroline has managed to rustle us up some tickets to a lecture with Ray Mears -- so we enjoy an evening hearing the great bushman talk about forgotten paddling birch bark canoes across Canada. "There's a completely different smell with birch bark. And the cedar they use. It smells like a cigarbox." Later, with a rather distant expression, he talks about the paddlers "walking differently" -- it feels as if he is still trying to process the experience.

3. I wake in the night and hear geese calling as they fly over.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Elevenses, revision and core.

1. A cup of tea and a sticky bun.

2. Discovering that I've done the right amount of revision for my assessment.

3. Digging the core out of a cooking apple and stuffing it with brown sugar and raisins.

Red coat, quality of light and in the old days.

1. Seeing a friend's bright red coat at the far end of the street.

2. Yellow gold light has hit the building opposite -- I feel as if I have been greeted with a huge smile.

3. We go to a lecture on what the Weald would have been like in the Cretaceous, when Tunbridge Wells Museum's iguanadon would have been alive. Swampy, apparently. The lecturer puts up a picture of the Okavango Delta in Botswana, and says rather sadly: "I've never been there, but I'm told that's what it would have been like." I have been there -- so all comes to life for me. I can imagine the wet heat, and the forests of horsetails growing half in, half out of the water where the dinosaurs come down to drink.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The volunteer, gleaming pavements and filing.

Two new faces on the Roll of Honour: Jewellery maker Louise has beeng 3BTing at Tooting Squared and Jennifer, who is watching her offspring discover the world at Cultivating Contentment. They both emailed me to let me know about their blogs.

1. He says: "I'm going to cook supper tonight."

2. I emerge from a two-hour training session to find gleaming wet pavements and gentle rain.

3. I like filing my notes because it says: "job done" and I know that I can find them again if I need them.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Backroom, sausage and roar.

1. In the office of the town museum, they have on the wall a 10ft by 6ft picture of a chap in shorts and a solar topee lounging on a lawn in front of an exotic palace and palm trees. A dusky lady sits just out of reach and smiles at him.

2. Slitting a sausage's soft underside, squashing the two halves flat on the pan and waiting until the meat is brown and crisp.

3. I like to lie in the bath and hear Nick roaring at a football game.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A greeting, sweep and shake.

1. In the shopping precinct, a toddler is off at a run. His parents try to catch him, but he veers right to wave at a stoney-faced elderly man who is sitting on a bench. The man's waxy face breaks into a joyful smile.

2. I like to sweep the kitchen and the bathroom floors and to feel comfortable walking on them again.

3. Shaking out and straightening the doormats.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Steak sounds, Bramley and cold weather.

1. The chunk-chunk-chunk sound of the butcher dicing our stewing steak.

2. Stewed Bramley apple -- sour-sweet, syruppy and fluffy.

3. To sit under a rich red duvet reading a book about Antarctica. (Sara Wheeler's Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica is very good, by the way. She has a wonderful sense for selecting annecdotes; and a great eye for a weird landscape.)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Snoring badger, mint and nougat.

1. Nick comes home from work a bit miserable. He had recorded a football game to watch this evening, but then saw the score in the paper -- so all the joy has gone out of this idea. Instead, we tune in to Autumn Watch. They have footage of a snoring badger. Its neighbours in the next chamber are lying with their paws over their ears.

2. A taste of homegrown mint in among the dark green kale.

3. We eat the last few slices of cherry nougat.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Damselfly, dem dry bones and circle.

1. She recognises me by my snail brooch from Sheer Sumptuosity -- it was Ruth who co-owns this company far away in York, who introduced us down here in Tunbridge Wells. She has for me a box containing an electric blue damselfly brooch, which I can't wait to wear.

2. I am learning the bones of the skeleton for my medical secretary course. I like making up mnemonics for each limb.

3. After the show, we sit in the bar. The actor takes the sofa and we shyly pull up chairs all around him. Caroline says: "No-one's sitting next to George, and that's a shame." She sits down on the other half of the sofa to even up the circle.

PS: Ruth is a dedicated 3BTer, so take a look at her blog.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Greenwood, owl and someone else did it.

1. On the common, the smell of cut green wood where workmen are clearing the banks. It's a like a carpentry workshop, and a like a cold day.

2. There is so much to love about the Warner Brothers' short I Love to Singa -- the story of a little owl who dared to sing jazz against the wishes of his classically-trained parents. The mother owl's distress always puts a little lump in my throat, and then the cartoon hits me in the face with the 'No we didn't, lady" gag. If you've got eight minutes, give it a viewing.



3. Nick normally hauls the bins up to the road once a fortnight and grumbles about how he always has to do it. At 5pm, I hear the old rrrrollll-scrape of the recycling bins trundling up the drive, and think for a moment that Nick has come home early. He hasn't -- but when he does get in, he's very pleased at not having to do a chore he dislikes.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Got my dress, the training and do more work.

I hadn't really appreciated (until now) how many things untangled yesterday.

1. I picked up my wedding dress today. It's everything I'd been hoping for, and I feel beautiful in it. I wish I could say more about it, but I want to keep a few surprises for the day. My parents come round and I try on the whole ensemble -- shoes, veil and jacket. I wish they weren't taking it away to keep it secret from Nick. Otherwise, I think that the moment he left the house each morning, I'd put it all on again.

2. After a chat with the manager of the training centre, the funding that I've been waiting for since July comes through as if by magic. I'm going to learn audio typing, which is a skill I've never picked up.

3. Getting an email from an editor saying he'd like more work from me. This is a huge relief; and very exciting, too. It's a licence to ask nosey questions of interesting people and then to write about it. And be paid.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Marvel, gone red and badger punk.

1. In the coffee shop, a schoolboy (a full-grown one with a dusting of stubble and a mop of ginger corkscrew curls) is watching the windowcleaner. He says wonderingly about the arcs of lines and dots: "It's just like painting."

2. While I look out over the town from Mount Ephraim I spot that the turkey oak in the corner of the Grove has turned red. I will go and have a look next time I'm down that end of town.

3. Nick brings me a new graphic novel, the scientific-romance thriller Grandville. It's a cross between Rupert the Bear and Quentin Tarantino and is layered thick with Bryan Talbot's usual cultural references to make me feel clever.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Look up, singing cyclist and Nick is wise.

1. The sky is Tupperware white, but look carefully: there is a layer of mackerel sky below the flat white ceiling.

2. The road is misty Sunday-morning quiet. A cyclist passes me. He's singing in a reedy voice about angels.

3. I'm a bit rubbish with money -- I feel terrible when I spend, and yet always seem to end up with less money than I should have at the end of the month.

When Nick says: "I always give myself a set amount to spend. Once it's gone, that's it", I grumble about it not working for me. However, since one of things I really admire about Nick is his head for finance, I take his advice and go to the stitching show with the money that I could afford to spend in my pocket. Strangely, it exactly covered what I wanted to buy.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The outfit, help and got to get up.

1. Nick's mother shows us the shoes she's bought for her wedding outfit. They look elegant and comfortable. She's also bought a deep pink felted coat to go over her dress. It's a brave, joyful colour, and I'm glad she's going to be warm enough on the day. I'm hoping these will be clothes that she can enjoy again and again, too.

2. I am working and he brings me a cup of tea and some biscuits on one of the best plates. Then he goes away and does the washing.

3. I don't mind setting the alarm on a Saturday night if I'm getting up early for an event I've been looking forward to.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Stiff, pling and potato.

My story, Vegetative Parenthood, is now up on Flashshot. It'll be on the last ten stories page for the next ten days.

1. I have slightly stiff muscles from the previous day's yoga.

2. A gentle pling, pling, pling outside the window. I think it must be some unseen windchimes moving as the rain disturbs the still cool air. It's not. The rain is falling on to my metal watering can.

3. This potato has been in the oven a very long time. It's properly cooked through: the flesh is fluffy and white, and the skin is crisp, caramelised and specked with black.

Friday, October 09, 2009

The number, ready for rain and gossip.

Tomorrow I have a story in Flashshot, a magazine of very short genre fiction. Please consider subscribing (it's free) if you like that sort of thing.

1. The greeter in the job centre asks me for my National Insurance number (I'm on his list under my first name, which is not Clare). I freeze. I have no memory for alphanumeric strings. But the little voice prompts me with the first two letters, and it comes tumbling out of my mouth.

2. Nick's best man brings us two black umbrellas for the wedding day. They are furled smart and tight as beech buds, and I can't wait for the day they open (if they need to!).

3. I always like a phone call from PaulV, particularly if I'm having an evening in by myself.

Picture illustrating that I am not a number from Stock.xchng.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Mathematical cauliflower, it's raining leads and the puzzles.

1. The Able and Cole box contains a mathematical cauliflower. I forgot what a romanesco is, and had in my head that we were going to receive a lettuce, so it was a joy to part the leaves and find lime green turrets and spirals. Nick came home and swiftly named it "Mandelbroccoli."

2. I'm in a panic as I don't have very much to put on my action points form for tomorrow's signing on. Then I spot a sign board asking for office help in town. When I get home I find an email from a friend saying she knows an editor who might have something; and a tweet with another lead. I'm so lucky to have all these people on the look-out for me.

3. We reach for the television, but can't settle. "Do you want to do something else instead?" We curl up on the sofa and collaborate over Professor Layton's puzzles on my pink Nintendo DS. Just as we are settling in, the phone rings. Nick's boss wants clarification of the conundrum about moving horses that he challenged her with earlier.

Picture by me. Sorry about the quality: the photography genes were assigned elsewhere among my siblings.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Wallflowers, wet and wipe.

Word Imperfect has woken up her blog. She picks a word each day, and the readers invent a definition.

1. A bag of wet-rooted wallflowers for my garden: what a treat for £1.25.

2. Standing on top of Mount Ephraim on a rainy day and watching the wet watercolour on wet paper sky.

3. The cloth hisses dry as I wipe drips of gravy from the bottom of the oven.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Water comes, the parcel and saved from certain death.

Another pair of newses:

a. Sarah Salway, writer of marvellous books, is offering free (that's right, free) prompts for writers on her blog. As a keen scribbler, I don't compromise when it comes to prompts -- and neither should you. Roll down a little on the lefthand side to find them. (Can I have my biscuit now, Sarah?)

b. Hunter-Gatherer, the man who lives by his bushcraft skills in a home-made treehouse in the woods, announced yesterday in a post (mainly about catching and preparing pigeon) that he has proposed to his girlfriend. They are another Nick and Clare pair, which is a lovely co-incidence.

1. On the first day of rain after a long dry spell (Sunday was the first day I had to fill my watering can from the tap), I like to lift the lid of the rainwater barrel, stand on tiptoes and see that it's full to the brim.

2. Early today, an Amazon parcel arrives addressed to Nick. I assume it's some special interest tome like Biggles on a Train Versus Hitler's Deadliest Baseball Quarterbacks. But when Nick comes home, he says: "It might be a little present." He opens it, and hands the contents to me wrapped in a napkin. It's a new game that I've been mooning over: Professor Layton and Pandora's Box. I played the first one earlier in the year, and was charmed by its Japanese-idea-of-Europe setting, gentle mystery story and challenging puzzles.

3. All the feet miss the snail that is ploughing unconcerned over the doorstep. It protests when I move it, clinging to the stone and drawing in its horns. I'm glad it doesn't know how lucky it was.

Picture of a snail in the dark from Stock.xchng

Monday, October 05, 2009

Mint, cucumber and sole.

1. I pull the dead sunflower from the pot by the front door. The mint plant protests in the only way it can, by rolling clouds of its scent at me. New compost and a watering cheer it up a little -- but it still looks resentful.

2. The vines are finished, and so I root them out, only to find a stunted yellow cucumber has been growing un-noticed and (until now) un-loved.

3. Making up a dish of seasoned flour, coating some lemon sole fillets and frying them in some melted butter until the fish turns from translucent and marble cold to opaque and soft. The coating crisps a little and turns from raw white powder to a red-gold crust.

Picture of mint from Stock.xchng

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Juice box, wildlife and the cake.

1. The apple juice man appears at the door. "I was passing through and wondered if you'd like a crate." Yes please. Supermarket juice just doesn't cut it for me. Mole End's single variety bottles are as exciting as wine. I drink just one small glass a day with my breakfast, so twelve bottles should last almost three months.

2. It's time for the BBC's Autumn Watch. We enjoyed Springwatch so much this year, so we've been looking forward to this; particularly as they promised us badgers. They delivered: badgers frollicking in an orchard (complete with scratching action) as well as rutting stags (which is like a soap opera, but with MURDER), migrating barnacle geese and drunken butterflies.

3. A slice of chocolate beetroot cake has a subtle red tint when you tilt it to the light. Tastes good, too. I split it and filled it with strawberry jam.

Picture of guelder-rose berries from Barn Digital.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

From us both, polishing and underwater world.

Two bits of news:
  • Mari has started a new 3BT blog, Three Beautiful Things of New England, so go over and give her an encouraging comment, and maybe a follow.
  • I've opened an Amazon store to make it simple for people to buy books I mention. You pay the normal price for anything you buy, but I get a finder's fee from Amazon for every purchase made.
1. Two birthday cards lie open on the breakfast table while our pair of inky signatures dries.

2. Among the shredded leaves on the pavement and in the gutter, conkers gleam. It's like finding a piece of french-polished furniture in a junk shop.

3. Lying back and sinking my ears underwater in the bath.

Picture of conkers from Stock.xchng

Friday, October 02, 2009

Falling water, economy measures and heating on.

1. The sound the basin filling with hot water.

2. I've run out of angostura bitters. I console my soda water with slice of lemon. It's cheerily yellow and citric.

3. After I have got into bed and pulled the covers up around me, Nick goes round and puts the heating on for the first time, a small ritual to mark Autumn. He is not impressed by the dust on the switches.

Picture of lemon in glass from Stock.xchng.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

First photo, squirrel and staying warm.

1. I wake in the night and I am cold. I turn over and can feel waves of warmth rolling off Nick as he sleeps.

2. I actually gasp as I read the text message. It's a subject line and a 12-week scan picture.

3. A squirrel undulates across the lawn. It looks like a mmmmm handwriting exercise.