Sunday, February 28, 2010

Steaks, cake and sweeping.

I've got a post at Encounters With Remarkable Biscuits. While you're there, can I direct you to this piece about a recipe collection? I enjoyed it very much, and I hope you will, too.

1. The butcher holds up two steaks. "These OK?"

1.5. We pass two men talking: "The thing is mate, when you're working, you're doing what the rest of us want to do when we're not working, and we all think you live the life of Riley."
"I know, but I'm still working and it really gets me when..."
"I know, but we still think you're living the life of Riley."
And they pass out of earshot.
"What was his job, Nick? What does he do?"

2. Nick has been having an afternoon nap. I wake him to show him his birthday cake -- chocolate with red jam inside, dusted with icing sugar and lit with gold and silver candles.


3. The sound of my husband using a dustpan and brush to sweep dust from the spot on the hall carpet where the bookshelf used to be.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Birthday, coming home and badgers.

1. It's Nick's birthday. I make him wake up early so he can have his cards and presents, half-sitting, half-lying in a warm cloud of bedding.

2. Nick stops crunching up the drive to knock on the window. I've only got 20 more minutes of work.

3. One of his birthday presents was a DVD: Badgers - Secrets Of The Set. We sit together and watch amazing footage of our favourite animals. I particularly liked seeing them suck worms out of the ground, and the scratching montage.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Re-reading, lightbulb moments and a good evening.

1. I need something funny and comforting and familiar to read on the train. Thank you, Mr Bryson.

2. I go to a class at the School of Life -- How to Stay Calm. The teacher, novelist Naomi Alderman, says that people either come to this class because they have a problem with anxiety (that's me) or with anger (mostly men, she says). I find myself talking to a man who says that social anxiety vanishes once you realise that everyone else is far too worried about themselves to notice you. I tell him how when I first understood that aged 18, it was like a burden being lifted from my shoulders. Then we tell someone else about it.

3. A Japanese man and woman are waiting for the tube. They are flushed, and limp with laughter. It makes me smile to see such open happiness.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

One step at a time, escape and trees on a wet night.

1. Faith in my ability to string together words holds this week together. Step, step, step.

2. On a filthy night, to find Katie waiting at the theatre, and to come in out of the dark and wet to an evening of escapism and thrills and tension released -- Gaslight at Trinity.

3. When going home late (chilly water pricks out of the grey sodden air), to walk towards a tree with a light behind it. Every twig shines with a row of hard, clear beads.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Now, variety and off to the theatre.

1. I like to meet artists who talk about how important it is to live now.

2. I interview Debbie Reynolds about the variety show she is bringing to Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall on April 10, and she talks about what a blessing it is to be a mother: "My daughter is Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher..."

3. We eat our supper quickly, and hurry out to the theatre. It's Blood Brothers -- Willie Russell's musical tragedy. The first half is a bit of a love letter to a deprived Liverpool childhood.

PS: Here's a short Debbie Reynolds playlist for anyone who does Spotify!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Use your loaf, seagulls and end of work.

1. Some of our homemade loaves cut more neatly than others. This (white with cheese and chives and mustard) is one of the tidy ones -- it's pleasing to lay out flat, even slices for my sandwich.

2. Seagulls spring into the air as if the lower cricket ground has been suddenly pulled taut.

3. Nick comes home, I stop work, and the flat lets out a great sigh of relief and sinks down into a relaxing evening.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Shoe bin, dinner bell and bathmat.

Here's the round-up from the 3BT world -- I've really enjoyed reading your posts this week. Please keep them coming, and if you haven't already, let me know about your beautiful things blog.

1. On Sundays, it's a bit hit and miss as to whether things are open or available. Nick is sure that there will be a bin outside the cobblers where he can recycle a pair of old shoes. I'm not convinced. But he is right -- which feels like a bit of a triumph on a Sunday.

2. To come into the sitting room and say that supper is ready.

3. A just washed bathmat -- it looks bright, new and inviting. Before, it looked so squashed and sad that I was starting to feel bad about treading on it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Storing up sunshine, new bread and windowsills.

1. It's a sunny day, with bright, clean air. We make the most of the light -- the forecast is heavy rain for the rest of the week.

2. I like to wrap a loaf of new bread (still warm) in a tea towel and carry it round to a friend's house.

3. Katie's new kitchen windowsill is wide enough for a tray of seeds -- she's looking after it for her mother-in-law.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Peppercorns, stock and whaler's wife.

1. I always think 'lizard's eyes' when I cook with peppercorns.

2. I like to tip the spent stock bones into the compost bin.

3. I am reading the diary of a whaler's wife -- One Whaling Family. Eliza Williams set out from Nantucket in 1858 with her husband on a three-year whaling expedition. She was five months pregnant the day they launched, but the first you hear about it is when at the end of a paragraph about pigeons, she says "We have a fine healthy boy, born on the 12th, five days before we got into port."

Friday, February 19, 2010

Wild things, spirits and final touches.

The podcast is live, with a bonus beautiful thing from Nick.

1. Alison says that people who are sensitive to their surroundings, and therefore nervous and anxious, have a touch of the wild about them. She tells me about a cat she has that is white with black markings (not the other way round). She asked the vet why this cat is always so jumpy, and he said "Feral cats are often white with black, so wildness is running through him." I think of all the nervy people I know in a completely new light.

2. I add a splash of brandy to my chicken gravy. It's a good combination.

3. To do a last few bits of work before bed, and go to sleep feeling as if I've stolen a march on tomorrow's deadlines.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bamboozled, proof-reading and the end of the day.

1. Disaster -- the normally reliable milkman hasn't been. Then as I am waving Nick off, I find the bottle on the other side of the doorstep. I can't believe I missed it.

2. To hurry through town on crisp clear day to an office where I can make a large pile of proofreading disappear.

3. To finish work, sit down on the sofa next to my husband and eat a chocolate.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Friends, pancakes and Murdoch.

1. With it being half term, there's been a lot of children's programmes on the radio. This morning, they played I Can Tell That We Are Gonna Be Friends by the White Stripes. Its one of those songs that puts a smile on my face and the effect is intensified when I hear it by chance.

2. We make pancakes -- it's Shrove Tuesday. With pancakes, the first few are always a mess, and then they start to come right. 

3. The first episode of the new season of Murdoch -- it's a detective series set in 19th century Toronto. Murdoch finds himself across the Atlantic in Bristol suffering from Amnesia -- and, more pressingly, two murderous pursuers.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Not commuting, the long walk and an interview.

1. On a frosty morning as I wave Nick off, I hear a neighbour scraping the ice off their car. When I can't see Nick any more, I go inside and get back to work.

2. My cousin Laura is going to walk 100km in less than 30 hours. She's doing it for Oxfam and the Gurkha Welfare Trust. This feat calls for lots of training, and she and the Bean Team are going at it with impressive dedication.

2. I interview an actor who sings a snatch of Memory for me down the phone. Her voice wobbles as she describes preparing herself to play Grizabella.

PS: My aunt sent in her beautiful thing --
Today we were walking on Cnicht, in Snowdonia, and it snowed real-proper-as-in-the-photos 6sided snowflake crystals, never seen them before!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Two cards, cheap shop and paper soldiers.

Here are some of my favourite 3BT posts for this week.
Don't forget the podcast!

1. We open our valentines to each other... and find we have both bought the same card depicting a badger cub.

2.  My groceries (mainly flour) are a lot cheaper than I expect.


3. Listening to the radio and cutting out paper soldiers from Walkerloo -- they call them printfantry, and Nick loves them.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The run, parade and recital.

The delayed podcast is live.

Some interesting thoughts from a 3BTer who commented the other day -- The Phantom Blogger talks here about negative words that creep in -- 'but' and 'even though' and 'rather than'.

It made me think about beautiful things which are disguised grumbles: "Even though the food was disgusting, the service was spot on." I'm going to see how it feels to not mention the dreadful food at all. I try really hard not to criticise on 3BT -- it's not a vehicle for complaints or anger.

Having said that, there is a special place for beautiful things which are only beautiful because of the unpleasantness that went before. And the barrel-scraping rule, which means that a thing can be beautiful because it's simply less dreadful than everything else that happened on a terrible, horrible, no-good very bad day. Also, narrowly averted disasters.

Any thoughts?

1. Two children and a black dog race along the path across the valley. They look as if they could go on running all afternoon.

2. We join the Chinese New Year parade and follow the lanterns bobbing through town -- translucent paper glued over basketwork frames. A dragon, a tiger, a dolphin.

3. Nick says that his boss was impressed when he told her we were going to a recital this evening. She is thinking of moving to Tunbridge Wells, since it is the sort of place where a person can pop out to a recital.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Milkman, pram and more room.

I forgot the podcast yesterday -- sorry folks. I'm planning to do it tomorrow (Sunday).

1. I open the door at first light. The milkman has left us two pints, and a large pot of yoghurt. Its big round lid seems to be smiling at me.

2. I walk down the hill and a mother with a pram is on her way up. She is talking nonsense to her baby, exaggerating sounds to make it laugh. I catch her eye, and we both smile.

3. The men from the charity shop have taken away an armchair. The sitting room is now so large that Nick can whirl me round without hitting anything.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Treasure, education and supper.

1. The sun in shining, but shards and motes of snow have set the air glittering.

2. At The School of Life, they have a mural by Charlotte Mann in the classroom. It is done with black marker, and depicts a busy, cluttered room, with wide open windows. It feels as if some people have just stepped out for a moment, leaving their Scrabble half finished. Teacher Mark Vernon explains that it's to make you feel as if you aren't in a basement, and to maybe help you think a bit differently.

3. At supper they have a sort of fruit in slices. It looks like a pear, but it isn't. It turns out to have been soaked in vodka, and it is delicious. Later I pick up a thumb sized piece of chocolate cake -- it is both salty and sweet and fills my mouth in a very sticky, satisfying way.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Catch-up, easy dinner and on not finishing pate at lunchtime.

1. To catch up with a school friend and with a small measure of cattiness, piece together the stories of our classmates.

2. To take a casserole from the fridge and put it in the oven with a potato on a skewer. Supper done.

3. "There's nothing like pate on warm bread, is there," says Nick. I'm glad I baked this afternoon, and that I didn't finish the pate for lunch.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Got everything, rings on and star gazing.

1. The man with a van we have hired to carry our stuff into storage asks if I have money for the train before he drops me off at the station.


2. Earlier this week I had to take off my rings because I had a sore, rough spot between my fingers. Today it has healed, so I put them on again.

3. To stand on a doorstep and see that above the clouds, the stars are so bright that Betelgeuse is clearly red.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Husband at home, now you don't and baby

1. Nick stays at home to watch the Superbowl, which he recorded late last night. His beautiful thing for the day is that his wife (who had to get up early and start work) didn't wake him up and tell him the result.

2. Watching snowflakes wink out as they land.

3. To hold a friend's new baby for the first time, and marvel at his tiny fingers curled round my thumb.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Road, return and airship.

Some beautiful things that have caught my eye this week:

1. Road bones. Gleaming black rocks push through the beaten mud surface of an unmade track.

2. I like to come home from a walk just as it starts to rain.

3. We watch a documentary about the Graf Zeppelin's flight round the world in 1929. It is narrated with extracts from the diary of the only woman aboard -- the journalist Lady Grace Marguerite Hay Drummond-Hay.

    Sunday, February 07, 2010

    The hug, waiting to see and brownies.

    Some blogs that I have been enjoying recently:
    1. I wake up and a warm hug comes snaking over from the other side of the bed.

    2. A blue tit hangs on a vertical branch and looks sideways at the half coconut shell stuffed with fat and peanuts.


    3. For pudding -- brownies with sour cherries and creme fraiche cut with orange rind.

    Saturday, February 06, 2010

    Hedge moon, winter lizards and Atlantis.

    1. Newly cut tree stumps stare from the ivy bank. They are as bright and round as the full moon.

    2. For a moment, lizards sun themselves on the pavement. But really, it's just tree roots pushing up the asphalt into ridges.

    3. We dig in with Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire. I still get excited by CGI films, particularly those shots that drop away as a sky ship rises.

    Friday, February 05, 2010

    Tea, early and the act.

    The 3BT podcast is live -- today with extra volume because I've discovered Audacity's amplify function.

    1. Grabbing tea with a friend as she happens to be in town. She has some happy news.

    2. As I am leaving for the theatre, Nick comes home unexpectedly early. "Who are you going with?" "By myself." "Would you like me to come too?" I would very much.

    3. To see an actor's face change as she flips from part to part. I like to catch the moment (the out-breath, the dab of the handkerchief, the lifting of the shoulders) when she finds herself back in the narrator. The show, Austen's Women, is doing the Adelaide Festival in Australia, and then going to London. If you're a Jane Austen fan, it's strongly recommended.

    Thursday, February 04, 2010

    Send, blue smoke and turning off lights.

    1. With great satisfaction I press send on the email carrying my work.

    2. The wardens are at work on the Common. The smoke from their bonfire is so blue among the grey February mist.

    3. I leave the flat lit up like a cruiseliner for the benefit of the viewer who is coming round shortly. Afternoon viewers always mutter about the lack of light. When I get back three quarters of an hour later, the estate agent has been round and turned off all the lights again.

    Wednesday, February 03, 2010

    Archaeology, face and baking.

    1. I interview an archaeologist who tells me that I ask difficult -- but good -- questions. He illustrates his points with funny stories -- "The Iron Age did not begin with a man cantering round Britain with a trumpet saying 'Everyone start using iron now.' It was more of a gradual process." And "Well, I wouldn't go into a Glasgow pub and say 'Actually, you're not Celts.'"

    2. A friend posts a picture of her new baby on Facebook.

    3. The smell of spices and baking makes itself at home while the bread pudding is in the oven.

    Tuesday, February 02, 2010

    Snow, not fish sauce and sleeping.

    1. There is a dusting of snow this morning -- as if the world has been lightly sugared.

    2. As I am paying, my bottle of soy sauce falls over -- but no harm is done. "At least it's not fish sauce," says the shopkeeper. "When a bottle of that breaks, it takes a month to get rid of the smell."

    3. I read until I can't keep my eyes open. It feels so good to put my book down and drift off to sleep.

    Monday, February 01, 2010

    Scarlet scarf, advice and the step.

    No weekly round-up this week -- I'm a bit overwhelmed with work. I really missed reading through your posts on Sunday.

    1. To see Nick from a long way off because his scarlet alpaca scarf stands out.

    2. There is a fat old Household Management book in our kitchen. It gets pulled out and consulted all the time -- the reaction usually being "What the hell is sweetbreads?" and "Where on earth do you get hold of camphor?" and "There is no way on earth I'm boiling that." I go in for some information about making stock. In the summary points at the top it says: "Be careful about the amount of turnip used. A little bit of turnip goes a long way in flavouring."

    3. Taking a firm step towards my dream of writing a script for a British science fiction or fantasy series by responding to a call for pitches from Big Finish -- the company that produces the Dr Who radio plays.