Sunday, January 31, 2010

Saving grace, viewer and film India.

1. We follow the herd to M&S for an eat-in-for-£10 offer. I push through the scrum to get a bottle of wine, a small chicken, a bag of prepared vegetables and two chocolate-toffee-cream confections. The check-out man says: "Do you want to know how much you've saved?" Of course we do -- he tells us it's £6.

2. A lady comes to view the flat. We've worked hard to make it appealing, and she is positive -- says of the eight she's seen today, this is one of two that she likes.

3. We watch Om Shanti Om. I've never seen a Bollywood film before. Nick, judging by his familiarity with the stars who made guest appearances at an award ceremony after-party song and dance number, has seen a great many. The word "bonkers" springs to mind, with the random song and dance numbers and the bizarre plot which relies on the hero being re-born in order to avenge himself on the baddie -- but I'm still humming the tunes this morning, and it was a good piece of escapism.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Raindrops, roses and gem from the pile.

1. I like the patter-spat of rain on my umbrella.


2. Nick comes home with an armful of roses. They are yellow with a red blush at the tips of the petals, and make me think of orange juice carefully poured over grenadine.

3. I've picked up Hilary Mantel's Beyond Black. It's been in my to read pile for years -- I think I might have snaffled it from Katie who I used to live with. But anyway -- now I've got going with it, I'm hooked on the story of a voluptuous psychic and her spikey nowhere woman sidekick. I wonder what other gems there are hiding in my pile?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Found an hour, they come but once a year and parsnips.

The new Podcast up is up.

1. I like it when I look up from my work and it's an hour earlier in the day than I expected.

2. I buy myself a Cadbury's creme egg and eat it after lunch. I feel as if I've done my duty for the year.

3. The parsnips have browned to the colour of autumn oak leaves. They taste faintly of honey, although I cooked them plain.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tiny diaries, art workshop and layers.


1. I don't know if you spotted the comment on Monday's post from the charming Elspeth Thompson who lives in an eco railway carriage by the sea. She mentioned 3BT in the journaling section of The Wonderful Weekend Book. As a result, one of her readers, Mousey Brown, took up the practice on paper (candy-coloured journals from Moleskine to be exact). In this post, Mousey Brown talks about her tiny diaries.

2. I am doing an interview at Trinity when people who have just finished an art workshop come out of the gallery. They are all carrying bright drawings on chickens done on black paper. My interview subjects scatter to admire the work: "That one's really strutting, isn't he." One of the artists crows like a rooster.

3. I finish for the day at 7.30pm. A bite of supper then a shower. After that, we pack ourselves into bed -- bundled in layers of pyjamas and with a hotwater bottle pushed between the cold sheets.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dry ground, the meeting and what have you brought.



Here is the Blue Monday film made by Kent TV video journalist Tom Chown. Yesterday on Twitter he was complaining that I didn't make him a beautiful thing. Perhaps by rights he should have been, because the interview was a lot easier than I thought. I was afraid that I would gabble, or dry up, or say something ridiculous; but it was all good. It felt just like having a chat, so I relaxed and almost enjoyed it.

1. After weeks of wet, seeing that the drive has dried up to the point that it's not muddy any more. This means no fewer grimy footprints in the kitchen.

2. I've never been to a MS Live Meeting before -- it seems miraculous to be listening to a trainer in Pennsylvania, knowing that people are listening in from all round the UK.

3. Anna's youngest wonders about the bundle wrapped in a red and white tea towl that I've brought with me. "It's a... why don't you open it?" says Anna. And even an ordinary loaf of bread is a source of wonder.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Blue Monday, the rescue and more steampunk.

1. Blue Monday went well. Kent Libraries handed out blue bookmarks on which people wrote a cheerful thing. The bookmark was then randomly slipped into an outgoing book. I was stationed in Tunbridge Wells Library to help the uninspired. The gent who put "Meeting the blogger" down as his cheerful item made my day; as did the naughty old man who wrote an off-colour joke as a rebellion against the enforced cheerfulness.

2. My mother appears and takes me out to lunch.


3. Sinking into a hot and bubbly bath. I am reading Scott Westerfield's Leviathan -- which is thrilling. It's 1914 -- but not the 1914 we know. The warmongering Germans are ranging their war machines across Europe, while across the English Channel, the Darwinists are preparing to join the fray with their engineered animals. The stories of an Austro-Hungarian prince and a midshipman with a secret run parallel, switching back and forth with some brilliant cliffhangers.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Refill, noise and greens.

I've added some new people to the Roll of Honour: Bella Bead Jewelry writes about a happy day at school and Words and Pictures.

Here are my favourite posts from beautiful thing blogs.

Finally, Dave Barnett (who runs the excellent Tunbridge Wells Events) spotted a poster up in the library for this event, and it's put a big smile on my face. If you're in town, please do pop along to the library between noon and 2pm, where I'll be helping the librarians cheer up readers on Blue Monday.

1. The birdfeeder needs refilling, and I startle a little brown bird when I cross the drive. It flies away, wings thrumming.

2. Nick has bought some wireless headphones so he can watch TV without disturbing my work.

3. Ribbons of dark spring greens piled on a plate of smoked fish chowder.

    Sunday, January 24, 2010

    Hockney, birds and sewing on buttons.

    1. At the art gallery here in Tunbridge Wells, we are lucky enough to have an exhibition of David Hockney's Brother's Grimm prints. We go together and enjoy Hockney's wonderful imagination (Rumplestilchen tears himself in half, quarters and then into tiny pieces), his skill at the medium (I enjoyed the contrast between the heap of straw and heap of gold) and his acute observation (loved the enchantress' hairy chin).

    2. We view a house, and I spot a guide to British birds in the sitting room, and an improvised birdtable on the hedge.

    3. I have finally got round to securing the buttons on my coat -- they've been dangling on long (but well secured) threads for weeks, and looking really untidy. We put a radio play on (a Big Finish Doctor Who) and before I know it, the job is done.

    Saturday, January 23, 2010

    Found, patience and noodle soup.

    1. I have held up the queue scrabbling through my bag and my pockets, but the lady behind me (she is wearing a scarlet coat and a diamante dragonfly brooch) shares my relief with kind words when I find my purse.

    2. A little girl sits in a supermarket trolley. She is waiting patiently for the pink iced donut in a plastic bag on the seat next to her.

    3. A dish of clear chicken soup with finely chopped vegetables (dots of carrot, threads of greens) and glutinous rice noodles.

    Friday, January 22, 2010

    Galop, red cake and Haile Selassie.

    Here is the podcast. Hope you enjoy it.

    Also, if you happen to be in Tunbridge Wells on Monday between noon and 2pm, please drop into the library and say hi -- I'm helping them to mark Blue Monday, and it would be great to meet some more of you!

    1. I listen to the Galop Infernal from Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld (better known as the can-can) and it puts a smile on my face. I must have once heard seen it actually performed by can-can dancers, because my memory always dubs in their yips and whoops.

    2. Grated beetroot has turned my cake batter a pleasing royal purple.

    3. We watch a documentary about the history of Ethiopia, and all the talk of Haile Selassie remind me of the trip Rosey and I took to Africa. "Selassie" was one of Francis the Cook's catchphrases. You can see him saying it in this picture he drew just before he said goodbye to us at the South African border. I don't know why he's smoking a pipe, but the red cap never left his head -- except when he lost it in a motorcycle accident, and we didn't recognise him when we saw him without it. "Hihooo" is his rendering of the donkey noise that was another truck catchphrase.




    You can see the other pictures (with my commentary) here at Scenes from Truck Life.

    Thursday, January 21, 2010

    Sleet, the director and an afternoon of work.

    1. Wet, sleety snow is rushing and whispering as it falls to the ground and melts.

    2. To talk with a theatrical director and hear the passion they have for the texts they are working with.

    3. I hurry to an afternoon of work, and run into Jo (who was in charge of me at my last job) coming round the corner.

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010

    Touching, happy dinosaur and a class.

    1. I discover this wonderful thing here in Tunbridge Wells -- Art at Your Fingertips -- a library of tactile pictures for people with a visual impairment. Each picture comes with audio to help the user understand what is under their fingertips.


    2. Overheard: a woman talking to her colleagues about a phone call to her little boy. "He said: 'Just a minute, I have to go and do the stompy happy dinosaur dance.'"

    3. I hurry across London in the gathering dusk for a class at the School of Life -- How to Survive Your Family. I like the idea of people gathered in the same room for one purpose.

    Tuesday, January 19, 2010

    The job, remembering the song and getting paid.

    1. It strikes me that my job these days is to investigate things of interest, and then write about them. That puts a smile on my face.

    2. I couldn't get the name of the song mentioned in yesterday's post -- my hearing of the words is a mis-spelling, so I couldn't find it anywhere on-line. But somebody knew -- somebody who we all laughed at when he bought a CD of Nepali folk music. Thanks Daddy.

    3. Putting a paycheque into the bank.

    Monday, January 18, 2010

    Ephemera, showing the parents and holiday memories.

    In the 3BT world last week:
    1. We have put away all the wedding cards, and now the room looks spare and clean. I'm keeping all the good wishes safe, though. I still like reading over them, so I'm keeping them with the other ephemera that reminds us of the day.

    2. We show Nick's parents the wedding photos. They coo over them, marvelling at how good the photographer is, and at the pictures of themselves.

    3. We go to The Ghurka Restaurant on Church Road. Towards the end of the meal, a song comes on that was playing everywhere when I went to Nepal in 2001. I chatter to Nick about prayer wheels made from milk tins, and the place where fire and water come out of the same cavern, and staring blue gentians growing in dead brown grass only just uncovered by the snow.

      Sunday, January 17, 2010

      Stories, our pot and G&S.

      Rachel has emailed to say that she is 3bting at The Rachel Papers as part of her new year's resolutions.

      1. The latest issue of Interzone is a corker -- I read it on the train on my way up to London. Pick of the bag are:
      • Into the Depths of Illuminated Seas -- a magical, angry sea fable, full of revenge and fury by Jason Sandford. It's a woman who finds the names of sailors who are to die at sea written on her body.
      • In the Harsh Glow of its Incandescent Beauty -- a story about Mercurio D. Rivera's aliens that adore humans -- an impressive depiction of the pain and self-deception that surround an affair.
      • Tyler Keevil's Hibakusha -- a man volunteers his way back to a London that has been destroyed by nuclear terrorism.

      2. We go to the V&A and there in the metalwork collection is a red cast-iron casserole just like ours. "We own a design classic," I tell Nick.

      3. I like to hurry through the fog to the theatre -- an evening of merriment and escapism with Gilbert and Sullivan.

      Saturday, January 16, 2010

      Haircut, come to the bazaar and better sound.

      Tunbridge Wells Library has asked me to help out on Blue Monday (January 25). Libraries across Kent are going to be asking readers to slip write cheery message which staff will slip into other borrowers books. I will be in the library from noon until 2pm to advise anyone who is stuck for words. If you're in the area, please come along and say hi -- it's always a pleasure to meet 3BTers.

      1. I have a haircut -- my first since before the wedding. I have about six inches taken off. "Your neck'll feel cold," warns the hairdresser. But I feel like myself again.

      2. I am really enjoying Echo Bazaar, a strange game (played with discreet use of a Twitter account) about London that has 'been stolen by giant bats', and is full of zailors, devils, poets and greedy bazaar masters. The city's familar places have been renamed things like Veil Garden, Tenebrous, Spite and Quasectomy -- it's sometimes possible to work out where you are, sometimes not. Players deal in rumours and gossip to achieve goals of pleasure, wealth, power and fame. And there are sorrow spiders and Araby fighting weasles. And if you want a friend in Echo Bazaar, follow threebt on Twitter.

      3. My blue radio has died, so I move the stereo into the kitchen -- I immediately notice and appreciate the improved sound quality. The voices have acquired a velvetty quality.

      Friday, January 15, 2010

      The rain in Tunbridge Wells, truffles and red pepper.

      The podcast is up.

      1. The soft whispering rush of torrential rain is a welcome sound when we open the front door. It is washing away the snow and melting the ice.

      2. A box of truffles arrives from Artisan du Chocolate -- I am writing a feature about them. I eat four (they pop so satisfyingly) because they are delicious (complex flavours in the shells, and a silky filling flavoured with a local wine), and I want to work out exactly how to describe the experience.

      3. Abel and Cole has sent us a beautiful red pepper. It is shaped like the nose of a Venetian mask, and its glossy skin shades between red and green. I look at the places between the colours and try to understand where the red ends and the green begins.

      Thursday, January 14, 2010

      More snow, no trains and an odd pair.

      1. New snow has fallen in the night. It looks curiously like mould.

      2. Just before 10am, my Twitter screen is full of sad lines about trains stuck just outside Tunbridge Wells. I really feel for Nick, who I reckon is stuck on one of them. Then, I hear the door go, and his "Hallo!"

      3. When we go to see the butcher about supper, he says: "Am I feeding two nuns, or two navies?" We decide on one of each. What a strange dinner party that would be.

      4. Chatting to my mother on the phone, she says: "Your father has just come in saying that the icicles have fallen off the gutter on to the bench, right where he would have been sitting had it been a warm summer evening. He could have been skewered right through his gin and tonic."

      Wednesday, January 13, 2010

      The apple, off the snow and an evening with friends.

      Was talking about bird footprints in the snow the other day, and look, Lucille has put some pictures on her blog, Useful or Beautiful.

      1.How gratifying to see the apple I put out for the birds pecked into a mass of peaks and chasms.

      2. It's such a relief to come off compacted and frozen snow, where I have been sliding and sinking by turns, and on to a gritted road.

      3. Coming into a warm, bright house where there will be an evening of pizza and gaming.

      Tuesday, January 12, 2010

      Hanging, new notebooks and the snow is still fresh.

      1. Icicles (some bowed, some double-tipped) are arrayed like exotic weapons.

      2. I buy two new shorthand notebooks -- a very cheap pleasure at 98p.

      3. Even after six days, the snow on our road still says "crump crump crump" as I walk across it.

      Monday, January 11, 2010

      The bird, thaw and boneshaker.

      I put three more blogs on the Roll of Honour yesterday: Nicsknots, For the Love of Beads (home of regular commenter Rosebud) and Tru's Flickr photo set.

      Both Feather Duster and Joannezipan have been following footprints in the snow. I loved Den's picture of a prideful garden bird.

      In one of those odd thematic co-incidences, a small congregation of 3BTers have written about places of worship this week. Whitney (who got a wonderful treat on her birthday) had a Yoda moment while serving communion. Raymond Pert has been feeling at home in his church, and so has Leonora. Lynn uses a lovely phrase to describe packing away the decorations in her church, and enjoys one of her mother-in-law's sayings.

      Finally Ruth at Sheer Sumptuosity raced through the snow for an Arabian treat, and shares a picture of the beautiful badges she is making for Valentine's day.

      1. I am on the phone to my mother-in-law when I spot a bluetit on the bird feeder. I haven't put food out before because I assumed we had no birds in our corner. But the forked footprints in the snow made me realise that they do come down here. I put out fat and a dish of water, and was rewarded by a scribbled mass of bird prints.

      2. The chorus of drips, draps and splats of the snow melting. Two lines of translucent slush now pass our door.

      3. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest. It's the story of a Chicago that never was -- ruined by a mining machine gone mad, poisoned by a blight gas and walled up the protect the people making a miserable living outside. A boy in search of answers crosses the wall and is trapped. His mother follows, hoping to protect him from the horrors inside -- or is it the truth about his father that she's trying to save him from?

      Sunday, January 10, 2010

      The universe calls 'halt', watching the snow and domestic pleasures.

      Edit -- to share a lovely post from Elspeth Thompson.

      1. I have a cold, and it's completely floored me -- every time I try to do something, I get tired and achy and frustrated. All I can do is lie in bed and watch the snow.

      2. It's hard to tell if the white dust fogging up the yard is new snow or snow picked up from the ground by the wind. Great clots of snow drop from the dark cupressus trees, fall to powder and are whirled away.

      3. The crackle of static and the smell of clean laundry as we sort and fold the final load.

      Saturday, January 09, 2010

      Cutting, off school and bread.

      Yesterday was a day of lateness and not being able to get my head round things. I put the podcast up yesterday hours after I posted: I forgot what day of the week it is. So if you missed it, please go and have a listen. I now have a revolting cold, and feel very sorry for myself, so perhaps that explains it all.

      1. I am chatting on the phone to Louise, and she says: "I've just noticed, that plant you gave me has flowered." That plant is a cutting from a pot plant she gave me. I now have three, but they've never bloomed for me.

      2. In the pub, there are three children behind the bar -- they've come to work with mum because of the snow. "That'll be one fifty, love" she says to me. "One fifty, love," whispers the smallest child. They giggle, and she sends them all back upstairs.

      3. I was late making the bread, so I have to cut it for supper within minutes of taking it out of the breadmaker. Hot air escapes from the crust and scalds my fingers. The kitchen smells of new bread.

      Friday, January 08, 2010

      On the wire, icicles and the toboggan.

      Edit: 3BT podcast is live.

      1. I like to see snow finger deep on all the telegraph wires.

      2. Icicles hang off the grate covering the raised drain. They look like the bars of a cage for wild ice beasts.

      3. A mother pulls her toddler through the snow in one of the green plastic boxes supplied by the council for our paper rubbish. The toddler (in a pink knitted hat) peers over the top looking very pleased with herself.

      Edit: I've put comment moderation on because there's a spammer about.

      Thursday, January 07, 2010

      Not going out, ham and two left.

      1. I take a few steps on the drive -- snow gets in my shoes. I'm glad I don't have to go out again.

      2. I come into the kitchen to find Nick glazing a ham.

      3. "There are two biscuits left, and one of them's for you."

      Wednesday, January 06, 2010

      The chore, snow's back and winter duvet.

      1. Nick goes to the supermarket so I don't have to.


      2. While we were watching a documentary on Russian art, the snow returned, silently covering the world an inch deep. We grumble about the inconvenience, but go outside to make footprints in the drive and to marvel at the soft cold. It's a bit like an ex who has hurt you in the past -- but they are so cute and charming that you are always pleased to run into them.

      3. We remember that we haven't yet put the winter duvet on the bed. So we do, and it's much cosier now -- before, I just couldn't get warm by myself. I inherited this duvet from my grandmother. Whenever we put it on the bed, I think of her.

      Tuesday, January 05, 2010

      Medway valley, eye clinic and Museum.

      1. We go by train along the Medway past fields and woods and station platforms dusted by snow.

      2. Waiting in the eye clinic I see people going in, shoulders hunched, feet trailing. I see them coming out walking tall and smiling. It's a great relief to see Nick come out looking relaxed and happy.

      3. Since we have to be in Maidstone, we drop into the museum. It's in a Tudor building (mostly mock) with weighty staircases, tiled fireplaces and creaking floors. We don't have time to see it all -- we focus on the dinosaurs (a badger has somehow sneaked into a display of fossil bones set into the floor); the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment Museum (one of the treasures is a soup spoon with a moustache guard); and an exhibition of paper cutting (a delicate vine rises from a scalpel-cut roll of wallpaper, quite open to the public. Later, one of the curators tells us that they are amazed and delighted that it has survived this long -- "Because anyone could, you know, reach out and rrrrip.")

      Monday, January 04, 2010

      Guilty pleasure, birch again and the homecoming.

      This week I've been astonished to see the hit counter on the 3BT podcast creeping up -- thanks for listening, everyone.

      I've added Outré and It's a Long Way Home to the Roll of Honour -- thank you James and Cathy.

      Becoming Human and Whitney at Glimpses of Grace and Louisa Parry have all been enjoying the company of small people -- I just hope Whitney's little'un managed to get herself out of the hatbox. Plutarch has seen daffodils braving the frost. Raymond Pert has put away a burger 'the size of a buffalo's head'. Merope discovers Marks and Sparks and salt 'n' vinegar crisps. And Eyebee is taking pleasure in Shredded Wheat.

      1. My aunt says: "Do you want to go to Hobbycraft?" as if she is suggesting a guilty pleasure to us.

      2. More birch trees -- their top branches have been smeared by an artist's finger covered in burgundy pastel across a landscape of fawn and khaki.

      3. I come home to Nick, and we hug each other so tightly. It was our first night apart since the wedding.

      Sunday, January 03, 2010

      Birch, recycle and the walk.

      1. A stand of silver birch trees on a bright day in winter. Their white trunks shine in the drab dead woods.

      2. My cousins give me a bowl made from an old record. Amy says it's easy to do -- you put the record over a mould, and put it in a cool oven and it just falls into place.

      3. We go for a walk with my aunt and uncle to see the place where my uncle pulled a drowning man out of the canal.

      4. A boy wading in a frozen pond at the sandpit. His friend -- wearing trainers, is overcome by the temptation to follow. My aunt and I throw chunks of ice across the surface to hear the thrumming echo.

      Saturday, January 02, 2010

      Out shadows, glaze and the dreamer wakes.

      1. I like a bright New Year's day. The sun gets into dark places and drives away the shadows.

      2. To use a pastry brush to slop a milk glaze on a tray of biscuits.

      3. I discover that among Nick's Christmas presents was a guidebook to our favourite sleeping tentacled horror Cthulhu. I spend a happy half hour enjoying words like 'squamous' and 'rugose' and 'tenebrous'.

      Friday, January 01, 2010

      Baking, vintage and small melancholy.

      Happy New Year, everyone. I'm looking forward to an exciting 2010.

      I've set myself some resolutions for January: I'm going to podcast every week on a Friday; and I'm going to get my beautiful things up by 8.10am on weekdays (today is a bank holiday, so it doesn't count); I'm going to review the regular 3BTers on a Monday.

      I'll look at how I'm doing at the end of the month and see if I need to tweak this routine.

      I also want to encourage more people to write their own beautiful things. The Roll of Honour stands at 160 today -- I'd like to get it up to 200 by the end of the year (that's allowing for losses during clean-ups).

      The podcast is up -- with a bonus beautiful thing that I forgot when I came to post yesterday.

      1. I set the breadmaker up late last night. In the morning, the smell of warm bread creeps in from the kitchen and climbs into bed with us.

      2. Katie gives me a photo frame that is a marvel of decayed art deco. It is mirrored, but the glass has a patina of oily-looking rust, like the flecks of mica in granite. I look closer still, and each fleck is shaped like a fan fungus and marked like a fingerprint.

      3. A documentary about Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin, who created The Clangers, Bagpuss, Ivor the Engine and Noggin. I still love the gentle melancholy of these little programmes, and the kindly warmth of Oliver Postgate's voice. I think they taught me when I was still quite small that sadness is nothing to be afraid of, and can be explored and examined and tasted and understood as much as any other experience.