Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Training, necklace and a hug.

I got Nick to judge the fudge competition. He really liked Jungleshoes' grandmother-themed entry -- and so did I. Jungleshoes, will you drop me an email with your postal address, please?

Here are the winning beautiful things:

1. A scorching afternoon and a teenage girl leads her stooped grandmother to the bus stop. While the old lady sits in the shade, her granddaughter paces, plays with her hair and generally looks a bit sulky. They wonder when the bus is coming. The old lady stands up slowly and strains to look for signs of the bus coming up the hill. Maybe the girl is struck suddenly by how frail her grandmother is, because she softens and bends towards her, wrapping her arms around her. The grandmother pats the girl's back gently and makes soothing noises, so sweet that my eyes fill with tears.

2. A ripe mango, eaten over the sink because it is so juicy. Talking of grandmothers, mangos remind me of my own abuela, who was not brought up in the UK. I remember her telling me that as small children, her and her siblings used to eat mangos sitting in the bath because of the juice issue.

3. Sitting on a friend's roof terrace until 2 in the morning, under a full moon so bright it casts blue-ish shadows around us.

And here are my beautiful things:
1. To watch Daniel trying first this way and then the other to put a magnetic train together.

2. My goddaughter is pretty shy -- she hides under the bed for the first half hour of my visit. She comes out to join us eventually, but won't show her face. We sit on the sofa in silence -- the clock ticks. She toys with a broken necklace and then says: "The person who gave us this must have died."



3. It's time to say goodbye, and Ellie, quite spontaneously, hugs my legs.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Aunt, return and academic.

It's Rosey's birthday -- so here are three beautiful things about her! 

1. She is already a very enthusiastic aunt and she was one of the first people to know about BB (she guessed within a fortnight).

2. A couple of weeks ago, she came back safely from an expedition to Svalbard, and did not tumble down a crevasse or get eaten by a polar bear.

3. She is quite the cleverest and most hard-working of the three of us siblings -- she has a physics degree and she's working on her PhD. This seems completely miraculous to me, who disappointed all my teachers at every turn and only just scraped a BA.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Swift shadows, cadets and the move.

1. The shadows of swifts fall from the heavens and slide around, trapped between the window and the blinds.

2. The sea cadet's band leads the TA parade through town. The cymbal player is a very little chap among the sturdy teenagers.

3. This time, I am moving house with a husband to lend me morale support.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Wet washing, wild strawberries and laughing baby.

1. On a hot day, to walk through our line of wet washing.

2. I pick a few wild strawberries from the garden. The sun has sweetened them, and the warmth has brought out their summery flavour.

3. With all the windows open, we can hear our neighbour and her toddler laughing and laughing. They are playing peep-bo along our duvet on the line.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Clouds, end of term and bins on trains.

There's been a great response to the Burnt Sugar fudge competition as published yesterday -- do enter if you haven't already.

1. Cirrus clouds combed and cross-combed by chill winds that I, with my feet on the hot pavement, cannot feel.

2. At the station, girls wearing scribbled on school shirts say goodbye for the summer.

3. I grew up in a world where because of bomb threats from the IRA, there were no litter bins on trains or in stations. I still feel ridiculously happy to put my rubbish in a bin when travelling by train.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sponsored post: The Greatest Holiday in the World

Win the greatest holiday in the worldWhat would you do if you won a year's worth of hotel nights to be used in cities across Europe, the Middle East and Africa over the next five years?

Radisson Blu, the international hotel group is offering just that as a prize in a new competition called The Greatest Holiday in the World.

For my part, the thought of a free room at London's Radison Blu Portman Hotel is very tempting -- the last train back to Tunbridge Wells is rather early, which usually means a night at the theatre ends with a crazy sprint to Charing Cross, and we don't always get pudding if we go out to dinner. But I quite like the look of this hotel with its giant fish tank -- I wonder where it is?

It's really easy to enter: you write a short statement saying why you deserve to win this prize, and then persuade people to vote for you. I reckon that a short, sharp paragraph would serve you best. Make it inspiring, and perhaps go for the sympathy vote! The current leader says that he will share his prize with homeless people in winter; and number four says she will give the same amount of time to charity. However, a jokey tone might work, too -- Bruno is pulling up in third place with the punalicious statement: My Teddy looks healthier than me. It's not fair! Nonstop work is more than I can bear...

A comfortable room in a Radisson Blu hotelOnce you've submitted your pitch at The Greatest Holiday in the World, it's all down to social networking. People can vote for you once every 24 hours, so the sooner you enter, the more votes you can get.

Looking at the terms and conditions, you could even bribe some friends by offering to let them share the prize. You're allowed to use 20 hotel nights (that is, 20 standard double rooms) at once. So you could treat 39 friends, as long as they didn't mind sharing rooms.

What type of entry would you write to get votes? Sympathy or humour? Or what type of entry would get your vote, and how much canvassing for votes would be too much?

Sponsored Post

A prize, the heartbeat and bath.

1. The white parcel propped against the door is four packets of crumbly fudge from Burnt Sugar, which I won in a competition on their newsletter. I was only expecting one packet, so four pleased me very much. I'm saving the ginger one for my dad (a late father's day present); and the plain one for my mother-in-law, who always brings us sweets. We've already had a go at the sea salt we're keeping that. Tell you what -- the fourth one (chocolate) is a prize for you lot. Write your own three beautiful things in the comments section of this post, and on Tuesday 29 July at 5pm Tunbridge Wells time, I will pick a winner.

2. At first, all we can hear are the sci-fi bumps and rushes of my own insides -- then the sound changes -- speeds up. But Baby Badger doesn't like being poked, and swims off after less than a minute. It's amazing that something the size of a large orange can bounce around inside me without me feeling a thing.

3. A steamy bathroom eases my stuffed-up head and a warm bath soothes my aching joints.

It's time for another sponsored post, courtesy of Ebuzzing -- it's going up later today.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Out, reward and mushrooms.

1. Susan and the boys arrive unexpectedly and ask if I'd like to go to lunch. I would, very much.

2. There is just time before Nick comes home to reward myself for an afternoon of work by listening to the next episode of a radio serial.

3. Remembering how much I like raw mushrooms in a salad dressed with vinaigrette.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pink, startle and ready for bed.

Mrs Anke has posted about Monday evening's craft and chat.

1. He brings paeonies the colour of strawberry ice cream.

2. The magpie is cackling again. I go to the front door and startle him out of the rowan tree. The robin (who has been complaining from the safe depths of the conifer) comes out on to the very same branch, chip-chip-chipping away and puffing out his chest as if it was all his doing.

3. I've caught the cold, now. Nick sends me to get ready for bed straight after the washing up. He takes the duvet off the sofa -- saying "I hope you haven't worn all the snuggle out of it" -- shakes it, and puts it back on the bed.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

At home, pay in and crafty.

1. Nick is still poorly with this cold that is going around. He takes the day off work. I'm very glad to have him to myself for the day.

2. I can't get enough of the automatic cheque paying in at my bank -- you feed in your cheques, and it KNOWS how much each is for (even with my aunt's doctor writing and my father's sprawling hand).

3. I go down to Bettina's Craft and Chat at Trinity. It's always a treat to sit working with a group of people and chatting idly about this and that. I love to drift in and out of the conversation. I'm hoping it'll become a regular event.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Neighbours, the runners and meet me.

1. Summer teatime. On a meadow lawn, my parents' neighbours sit on a bench. Their daughter (who I used to babysit) talks to them from the vantage point of her horse, and their great dane gets to her feet, in case they need defending.

2. Across the railway, across the river valley, where the ground starts to rise, three chestnut horses with the sun on their coats canter in a field of buttercups.

3. Nick has been ill in bed today. I call him from the train to let him know I'm coming home, and he asks if I would like him to meet me at the station.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Email, needlebook and turn-up for the books.

1. I get an email from Nick's niece, with pictures of our great nephews -- one of them is very new, so we haven't seen him before, and I'm really pleased to hear from the other recent mother in the family.

2. Nick's mother comes round bringing a birthday present: she bought me a needlecase (with a pair of bird scissors, and some pearl-headed pins), but decided that it didn't have enough pages; so she made me one from felt in various blushing shades of pink. She's tucked a packet of crewel needles inside, too. "They're older than Nicholas," she says.

3. A couple of days ago, I sent a list of books that have influenced the 3BT philosophy to the lady who is organising my session at the Oxfam bookfest. She emails to say that several of them have turned up in donation boxes this week.

PS: In case anyone missed the news -- on Saturday 3 July from noon till 3pm, I'll be at the Oxfam bookshop, Chapel Place, Tunbridge Wells helping out and talking with customers about the beautiful things in their lives. Please come along and say hi -- I'm always glad to put faces to user ids!

PPS: For those that are interested, I put the list of books in the 3BT Amazon shop.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Elder flowers, sister in law and mushrooms.

1. I love the smell of elder flowers -- in moderation, though, as it always makes me think of sweat.

2. Nick's sister calls during the day, and we talk.

3. I knew there was half a packet of dried mushrooms somewhere in the cupboard.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Beads, kindness and redress.

1. Blackbird's alarm call. Newton's cradle.

2. Nick finds me gasping and retching in the kitchen, breakfast half set out. He rubs my back and says: "My brave girl." Later, he takes the fish pan that I can't bear to look at out and scrapes it into the compost bin outside.

3. Dog let off the lead chases after a magpie. The bird launches into the air, making the same ratchetting alarm call that disturbed me this morning. Ha ha.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Post, distraction and catch-up.

1. The post comes in a series of crashes and thuds.

2. I'm trying to interview Katie for a feature -- but we keep getting distracted. "My wedding invitation proofs have just arrived!" "Ooh a dragon fly has just gone past the window."

3. My aunt and I have been playing phone tag in our efforts to have a catch-up about the baby news. This evening, we are both free to talk it over.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Trick of the light, our books are coming home and earth light.

1. The sun is bright and the wind is rambunctious, which means a day of light and shade. Reflections from my water glass and the kettle slither over the worktop. Later the shadows of trees come dancing through the blind and tickle my eyes as I'm trying to work. And on the train, the pages of my book flicker in the dappled forest light.

2. I miss the books we had to put into storage to help sell the flat. I was making a 3BT booklist for an event I'm doing, and I kept looking up at the empty shelves for help. But in three weeks, we'll be in a new place, and it won't be long before the books are back with us again.

3. "Look," says Pete. "Earth light." He says that the faint ring outlining the shadow side of the moon is our own reflection.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hard boiled, uke and skyline.

1. I find a Dashiell Hammett novel serialised on the radio. I like it so much that I briefly consider Dashiell as a middle name.

2. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named and I go down to scope out the ukulele night at The High Brooms Tavern. I'm writing about it, but I asked the shadowy one along because I know he likes the odd twang. He's too shy to play this time, but the group is incredibly friendly and accommodating that he feels confident enough to try next time. I was amazed at the mixture of people -- all ages, really -- coming together to make music.

3. The sky is dark -- it's almost 10pm -- but away down our road, across the valley beyond, there is a gleam of sunset pink along the hills.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hair, back in bed and to the recyling.

To continue the theme of exciting news, Oxfam Bookfest is coming to Tunbridge Wells. I've been invited by our lovely Oxfam bookshop to spend a couple of hours at the shop helping out and chatting with customers about 3BT and about some of my favourite books. If you are in the area on July 3 from noon until 3pm, do come along and say hi. The following week (July 11 from 2pm to 4pm) science fiction author Stephen Baxter (he should be very familiar to anyone who reads Interzone) will be in -- illustrious company or what!

1. She's still getting the hang of sitting down and standing up, so she tends to land on her nappy with a bump. Her fine blonde hair floats down more slowly.

2. While Nick is in the bathroom, I like to lie quite still in bed and think of Baby Badger cupped safe in the red dark, and through the window watch the limp cupressus branches twisting and shaking.

3. I feel sad to be taking my broken down winter boots to the recycling. They were so smart when I bought them in 2006 -- Nick polished them each week to keep them supple and waterproof -- and they've faithfully walked so many miles with me. Still -- the soles leak, and they will not do for another winter. I've tucked some money away for new ones in the autumn.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Strawberries, maps and history jigsaw.

Back to a normal service, except to say thank you so much for all your kind comments.

I expect some people will have noticed how erratic 3BT has been over the last few months. I didn't know about first trimester fatigue, and it came as a shock to find I couldn't get out of bed in the morning, that I'd need a kip in the afternoon, followed by an early night. I'm feeling tonnes better now, though, and I'm expecting to get back to early morning posting from now on.

It feels much better now I can talk about the baby. I felt dishonest some days because I was listing four, five and six, rather than one, two and three. But Nick and I agreed that we didn't want to announce it too soon, in case we ended up having to un-tell..

1. Wild strawberries grow in the concrete planters outside The British Library.

2. We go up to London to see an exhibition of maps at the British Library. One of my favourites was Fra Mauro's World Map with its swirling royal blue seas and intricate accounts of each city.


3. I am reading Rubicon by Tom Holland. It's a history of the last decades of the Roman Republic. I learnt about this period for A Levels and at university; but I never felt really confident clambering around in the entire story. Narrative history was very much out of favour at the time, so we zoomed in on particular people and incidents -- wicked old Catiline who won popular favour with his promises to cancel all debts; and Clodius the incestuous playboy who seemed intent on turning the establishment on its head; and his sister Clodia, who is believed to be the lady who caused so much pain to the poet Catullus; While reading Holland's book, I've had so many 'Oooohhh!' moments, where jigsaw fragments joined up, and ideas fell into place.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Screen test, tear and cricket practice.

I've got something lovely to share with you (I've an idea that some of you have already guessed what it might be). I'm letting Nick deliver the news, because he is very excited about it. -- Clare

1) Without fanfare and no opening credits, our unborn baby appears on the screen in front of us, its arm waving as if it knows we're watching it.

2) Clare sheds a tear of happiness but the sonographer, who's seen it all before, has the box of tissues in her hand already.

3) Finally the sun makes its appearance, brightening an evening walk around the cricket ground. A proud dad takes a photo of his two little boys: "You look really cool in your whites." Our future?

Friday, June 11, 2010

The errand, bubbles and potting on.

1. I send Nick down to Sankey's Fishmongers (which happens to be a few doors up from the aeroplane bookshop) with some instructions. He comes back with a model train magazine and our supper wrapped in damp paper.

2. A blue and yellow Psychodelic bubble bar from Lush turns our bath the cool green of deep water (and bubbly).

3. I move two courgette plants out of their pots and into the old salad drawer. Katie offers the other two plants a home.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Convenient, trial and wait.

1. As usual, they don't have Nick's size -- he is very unlucky with shopping. We can't face the queue at the order desk, so we go home and do it on-line, to collect next week from the shop, which saves us the postage.

2. We were served apricot and black pepper bread at lunch yesterday. I try something similar at home -- it makes a good sandwich with lettuce and Jarlsberg cheese.

3. It's a warm evening. They haven't gone in. They are waiting for me on the street corner.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Post, late and fish on a dish.

1. "I'm going round the front to check for post," says Nick -- we should get a delivery to our door, but some of the postmen don't know that, and leave it with the mail for the other flats. He almost walks into the postman, who has a parcel of sewing things for me.

1a. I mishear 'nerve centre' as 'nerd centre'.

2. The lady at the table next to us flicks through her notebook. They ask if everything is all right. "He's always late. I'm looking for his number. I've got the vet coming at two thirty." They tell her that they will hurry her meal through when he arrives.
We are on our main course when he comes -- got lost on the motorway and parked on a yellow line. "I'll have a scotch on ice."
And breathe.

3. My mackerel is arranged in two little towers on a foundation of spinach. Each is tailed by a green smear of -- licks fingertip -- wasabi. It makes me think of creatures leaving tracks on the seabed.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Tech, water and sit still.

I was very happy today to get an email from Jennifer Kinyak to say that she's started up her Daily Mammals again. The blog records her attempt to draw every single one of the 5,000 mammals known to science. I think it's a very bold endeavour -- and I love her artwork. I'm lucky enough to own the warthog, which Rosey bought for my 30th birthday.

1. "I've turned on predictive texting, and now I can't get it to turn off," says the older lady who has brought her three coachtrip friends into the cafe where we are eating lunch. "I've done it before, and I had to get someone else to help me."
"Clare knows about technical things," says Sarah, palming her iPhone under the table.
The lady's phone is passed from hand-to-hand, and I work out the options. "Tell me what you've done," she says. "Then I can do it next time.

2. I am so thirsty, and that glass of water is very welcome.

3. Restless, restless. Can't settle, can't sit still. I'm glad my husband is so patient.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Beans, pavements and Van Gogh.

1. Beans shoulder their way out of the soil.

2. We walk together on pavements sweet with rain.

3. The Van Gogh Dr Who was very good -- full of impressionist love. It was like going for a wander through familiar pictures. I was tickled to see the cherry blossom picture propped up in his cottage.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Wedding earrings, what are the chances and the storm.

Plutarch is writing about swifts, too. They are late this year -- the same winds that blew the volcano ash south have been holding up our migrants who were trying to fly north.

And Ruth (as she says in the comment on yesterday's post) has started 3BTing again.

1. We run into a neighbour while shopping. "I'm choosing wedding earrings," she says.

2. "I was just thinking that very same thing," says Nick. I've been reading Struck by Lightning: the Curious World of Probabilities, which suggests that such occurrences can be explained away easily if you go back through the thought chain that led to the remark. We examine our chains -- but we didn't follow the same path at all.

3. To be woken in the night by heavy rain.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Blessed cool, Prosecco and air aces.

1. The woods. The shady side of the street. Our flat. Very much welcome on a hot day.

2. She says: "Thanks for telling me this Prosecco is sweeter than Champagne. I wouldn't have tried it otherwise."

3. Daredevil swifts shriek over our hill. They fall, now skyward, now earthward. Always falling.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Bees, in the sun and compost bin.

1. Bees bob against the window. Bok. Bok. Bok.

2. At lunchtime, to stretch out my legs in the sun and read for a while.

3. On a hot day, a week before it will be emptied, the compost bin smells of conifer branches.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Safety line, scotties and new twins.

1. Oak wood. Before my eyes, a caterpillar (fallen through space) hangs on a thread.

2. Two black scottie dogs pass by, their legs blurred.

3. Tiny twins are being fed in the precinct. One wears a blue broderie anglaise sun hat, the other is in pink.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Sandwich, risotto and fledglings.

1. Sandwich -- apple and Lancashire cheese.

2. Carrot matchsticks light up my risotto.

3. I show Nick the Springwatch webcams. "I bet you've been on here all day," he says, unable to take his eyes off the brood of blue tits.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Domesticated, no cleaning and down the drain.

1. "I'll call Nick for you," I tell his mother on the phone. "He's just stuffing clothes into the washing machine." She laughs -- we're both so fortunate to have husbands who pitch in.

2. I like the time of the week when it is not possible to dust or wipe -- all the cleaning cloths are in the wash.

3. All quiet, but for the soft rush of bathwater falling down the overflow.