Friday, December 31, 2004

High, light and pennies.

1. An aeroplane circling above town.

2. When streetlights go on while it's still just about light. It makes me feel as if the days are getting longer again.

3. While I was in Oxfam an assistant came downstairs with an Asia earthquakes flood disaster collection box. He handed it to the chap behind the counter, saying: 'There you are. I've emptied it again. I've never seen so much money in my life.'

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Special guest

Fenella's postcard from Jamaica arrived yesterday and she wanted to share her beautiful things, so here they are.

1. Water - from the turquoise sea where we've snorkeled and seen octopus, dived amongst the coral, canoed (or in Andy's case sat back while I did all the work - no really) to the crashing cascades of clear sparkling water of the 975 foot Dunn River Falls which we climbed to the top of.

2. Food - copious amounts of fresh, yummy food - papaya, watermelon, pineapple, seven-course candle-lit dinners, open-air beach parties and Andy's first (and last) sampling of lobster.

3. Swimming with dolphins - we are doing it tomorrow. Need I say any more?

I made them tell me all about this last and they showed me the pictures. It was hard to say who was smiling most - Fenella, Andy or the dolphins. 'We conducted and they sang to us.' And 'Male dolphins have rough skins and female dolphins have smooth skins.' And 'We made smoochy faces and they kissed us.'

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Laundry, Chinese and blow.

1. Washing machines. With two loads of washing to do on the trot I remember a conversation I had this summer with a friend's mother. She told me how when she was a very little girl she helped her own mother doing washing a copper - heating up water and stirring the clothes round and round and round. They had to be put through a mangle and then hung out to dry. 'It was hard on our arms and it was very hard on the clothes.'

2. Takeaway food.

3. Clean handkerchiefs.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Bird, sweets and TV.

1. Turkey sandwiches on thick bread.

2. Cherry-flavour candy sticks.

3. Using being ill as an excuse to watch The Italian Job and Tomb Raider. Both are very silly, rather cool and very non-demanding.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Hot water, letters and lotus.

1. Having two really hot baths in one day. There is no bath at the flat - just a shower.

2. A whole new Terry Pratchett book to read. And as I get into Going Postal I realise I am going to enjoy reading it again one day.

3. The strange and vivid dreams you get from taking paracetamol against a fevery cold and then having a small drink just to be sociable on Boxing Day.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Huh, pop and glass.

1. Half-remembering a strange, sleepy conversation with my mother about a CD. 'Have you heard of a band called Four-something?' 'Wha?' 'Can't be for your stocking then. Go back to sleep, darling'.

2. Drinking fizzy wine at 10am.

3. The windscreen of a burned-out car at the top of the road had melted into stalactites. The passenger window flopped over and hung down the inside of the door.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Return, parcels and greenery.

1. Being driven home with torrential rain splooshing off the windscreen and hammering down on the roof.

2. As people arrive, presents pile up under the tree. We look at the heap wondering. 'That's too many for just ten of us. How can we be giving and getting so much?'

3. Wreathing ivy around the chimneypiece and holly along the beams so it looks as if the old wood is sprouting a-new when all is dead outside.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Cannon, masked man and chill.

1. Cardboard tubes that use compressed air to spit sparkly confetti over the table. To the waiters who cleared up after us - I am so, so sorry.

2. A normally shy and retiring co-worker pulled on a mask and hitting the dance floor.

3. Basement flats with miles and miles of sofa and large televisions showing French films. And I'm pretty sure there was some gin involved.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Tidy, burdens and eggs.

1. I have been waiting since Friday for the boiler man to come, which has meant that my stereo has been balancing on a not-quite large enough stool, and hyacinth which normally sits on the stool has been migrating round the room depending on what surface I am using. But the boiler man came, did his thing and now the flat is tidy(ish) again.

2. The boiler man taught me how to undo a bolt with a broken thread. This is the bolt which was preventing me from repressurising the boiler. Being defeated in this way made me feel like a weak and feeble woman, and not being able to repressurise the boiler made me worry that it might explode at any moment, so that was two loads off my mind. He also fixed the leak which has been giving me nightmares about downstairs paddling knee deep in water, which was a third load lifted. Yay.

3. I was trying to work out whether the thought of going without supper was less desirable than a trip to the supermarket. Then I opened the fridge and found a box of eggs.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Twinkle, tart and laundry.

1. A postman wearing a jacket covered in little lights.

2. Jason's little dog Jessy jumping on to the sofa and sitting up on her back legs to have her tummy rubbed.

3. The smell of clean washing.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Red and white, prepared and warmer.

1. Cheese and tomato sandwiches.

2. Going through my Christmas shopping and wrapping a few gifts in white paper with a red and gold retro design of Russian castles and fairytale forests. I have to leave the rest for now because they are shared with my brother and sister.

3. Hot stew on a cold night.

Monday, December 20, 2004

They shut the road through the woods, table and terror.

1. 'This used to be the carriageway down to the Abbey,' Lou explained as her mother's dogs walked us down a long, straight path through the woods. 'It's haunted. Sometimes you can hear hooves and carriage wheels.'

2. Having Christmas dinner cooked for you. Fenella roasted a chicken and we had roast veggies, carrots, mash, courgettes, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts - which is probably more than I normally eat in a week of suppers. Later, I heated a little brandy in a ladle until it caught light and then poured the blue flames over the Christmas pudding. As I washed up and Fenella hovered anxiously round her best china, Andy suggested conspiratorially to PaulV 'Do you want some ice cream?' I suppose it makes a change from port and cigars.

3. Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. I don't think I've mentioned how much I like these subtle and imaginative books. The film is great. It is fantastically gothic and has a squalid, timeless beauty. It's a smashing yarn, too, with plenty of action, inventing, reading and biting.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Hanging around, grasshopper and salt fish.

1. My Christmas mobile. It comes from Habitat and features a big green felt Christmas tree balanced a family of six in red felt. Their hats and hair are fantastically curly and ornate so it casts wonderful shadows on the floor. I love watching it revolve gently in a draught.

2. A bizarre exercise in my writing course - it asked me to contemplate a single blade of grass. 'If you are doing it right, you will understand the point of this exercise.' As it was dark and the nearest grass is on the Common, I contemplated a leaf of my spider plant: the blade is part of a whole, and it is itself made of cells. It made me recall squinting at a sliver of onion tissue through a toy microscope, astonished that the cells were laid out like tiny bricks. It made me remember learning how cells are tiny factories. And it seemed wonderful that this was repeated throughout my body and throughout every living thing.

3. Being seized by a sudden yearning, longing desire for anchovies and then being informed that I was to join friends for a pizza.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Bread, fun and sweeties.

1. Peshwari Naan - it's the one stuffed with sweet coconut. Steamy, floppy and fragrant. Yum.

2. Playing board games and drinking wine and laughing hysterically.

3. Eating Quality Street and really enjoying them - specially the orange crunch and the malt toffee. I love the bright jewelish colours of the wrappings. Some come in plain tin foil (the green nutty triangle ones) and some come in cellophane-covered foil (the purple hazelnut caramel). Either way, the wrappers can be scrunched up and used to amuse the cat.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Falling, easy food and

1. English rain is falling and the sky has that a Tupperware lid look that Bill Bryson hates so much. But it is so bright that I can't help feeling the weather will dry up soon.

2. Baked potatoes because you can just stick them in the oven and forget about them until you are ready to eat. And they don't dirty any pans.

3. Those moments during pub quizzes when you suddenly remember the answer you couldn't quite recall five questions ago.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Book, doves and citrus

1. John Updike's Seek My Face. It's written from the point of view of an elderly artist, Hope, who is being interviewed by a journalist. I find this unusual viewpoint fascinating.

2. Grey doves sitting in an oak tree.

3. The smell of tangerines.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Legend, bowl and mentor.

1. A white dog running in the woods. It reminded me of King Pellinore's hound in Sword in the Stone. I half expected to hear the Questing Beast's call which is said to be like the baying of 50 hounds.

2. My new fruit bowl. It's lathed from a slice of maple by Ross Lockhart, who is going to be famous one day. The base is squared off inside and out, but the top has been left. At the moment it is full of satsumas, amber beads and purple Christmas balls.

3. Failing miserably at writing a difficult letter I call Fenella and suddenly it all seems much simpler.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Caught on the wind, verses and crocus.

1. Birds diving off tall lime trees into thin air.

2. Buying poetry books as presents - it's the thought that the person might find something that really sings to them.

3. Using tiny threads of saffron in risotto. I love the sunset orange colour and the squeaky new shoes smell.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Bread and butter, winter gathering and timing.

1. Heavy wholemeal bread with butter and homemade apple jelly

2. Walking on the common I smelt woodsmoke and heard men chatting quietly in the middle of a holly thicket.

3. Just as I decided it was time to stop working for the day, my doorbell rang. James had come round for a catch-up.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Light, offspring and lady of leisure.

1. It's the weekend so I get to see the morning sun in my flat. I usually miss it because I leave for work before it reaches my window. It reaches right in and lights up the photos stuck on my fridge.

2. 'Come on, George.' A child coming out of a shop was holding everyone up bumbling along attending only to the world at the level of our knees. The thought made me smile and I caught its father's eye and he smiled too, sticking his tongue out a little to pretend he didn't think his child was completely perfect in every way.

3. Buying three handmade chocolates to eat in bed while reading a magazine.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Completion, let go and warmth.

1. Looking back over a week's work and realising that you have completed several hefty tasks which on Monday seemed insurmountable.

2. Trying to relax and finding it harder than expect. By the time I get down to my ankles, my jaw is clenched again. It feels so good to let go of a muscle I'm holding on to without realising. And once you've got them all to settle - even if it's just for a moment - it is fantastic.

3. Wrapping myself in a woollen shawl to read before going to sleep.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Float away, flaneur and look.

1. An almost spherical grandmother with a walking stick standing next to a small boy holding some balloons.

2. The Idler squeezed through my letterbox. A whole big book full of subversive writing and cartoons offering alternatives to living for work.

3. Cats with big round eyes.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Orange, engrossed and victory.

1. The colour of peeled carrots.

2. A man walking up the hill from the station still reading his book.

3. Walking out of a supermarket carrying nothing but a pint of milk and some fruit.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Countdown, architecture and gate.

1. This advent calendar - each day has a fun thing, a Christmas memory and a mystery weblink.
2. White houses with black window frames.

3. A brand new gate in the middle of a tumbledown fence.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Settle down, spices and covering pages.

1. Little birdies twittering outside as the light fades.

2. The speckles inside a nutmeg.

3. I edit a newsletter for my writers' group, and after the last issue it was suggested that I might like add two more pages. My heart sank a little as I looked at the blank sheets. But after a couple of hours in the pub with another member, they are are covered in scribbles that will shortly become articles, announcements and notices.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Tones, tin and fry up.

1. A man on the radio explaining an invention that makes supermarkets sing. He's been colourblind since birth and cunning scientists have togged him out with a box that plays a different tone for each colour. 'The fruit and vegetable section of the supermarket is very noisy,' he said.

2. Opening a new tin of coffee. I love the tearing metal and the hiss as the pressure equalises and the smell that rises up.

3. Bacon that goes crispy and makes proper fat instead of weird white foamy stuff.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Sing, sharing and stroll.

1. At the moment the singing man's lyrics are: 'Sorry to bother you, to bother you, to bother you, so-o-o-ry to bo-ther you.' He sings 'Sorry to bother you' to everyone he passes and opens shop doors to sing it people inside. Sometimes he pauses on the pavement, one hand in the air to give a little recital. It's funny to watch different people's reactions as he parades down the street - a youth in the shop opposite got the giggles; some people reply 'That's quite all right'. Other people jump - it's a bit ironic that they have been bothered by him apologising for bothering them.

2. When people understand how important it is for a girl to be allowed to share their pudding even though she didn't order any for herself.

3. Walking in the dark because your feet know where to go.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Where is everyone, it works and garnish.

1. Walking into a bank at lunchtime and finding there was NO QUEUE.

2. Cracking a tricky animation effect on a PowerPoint presentation.

3. Sour plain yoghurt on a rich chocolate pudding.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Look where you're going, ooh egg and bug in rug.

1. The self-righteous feeling you get from nearly being run over.

2. Poaching an egg in smoked fish chowder. The bright yellow yolk is very pleasing to look at and the saltiness of the soup compliments such a heavy, bland proteiny flavour.

3. Pulling a duvet up round me on a cold night.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Cousins, proposal and needle.

1. Cousins. We didn't have any until we were quite old and I always felt jealous of people who had loads. Whenever I see our four I remember how it felt not to have any, and it makes the having seem all the better.

2. At my grandfather's funeral, they told the story of how my grandfather proposed to my grandmother: he used the words 'Let's get married and get the hell out of here.' They met in Freetown, Sierra Leone, which my grandmother described as 'the arsehole of the world.'

3. Brightling Needle.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

BBC, sparkle and camphor.

1. Kate Adie's memoir, The Kindness of Strangers. It reminded me of why I am so keen to keep up with the news.

2. Clean windows.

3. My mother's linen chest. It's carved with oriental scenes and made of camphor wood that makes the bed linen smell medicinal and clean and homey.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Ink, inspiration and love apple.

1. Fountain pens because they make my handwriting halfway acceptable.

2. Meggiecat, who generously shares a new craft idea every day.

3. A perfectly ripe tomato that tasted of summer.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Rice, beer and aged aged man.

1. The food that you are allowed to eat while fasting. Bland background foods like rice have intense flavours and textures that you usually ignore..

2. Breaking a fast with beer. It goes straight to your head.

3. An ancient man in the pub. We went to see a band at the top of town, and the crowd was all ages. The oldest man - whose name is Jack - is everyone's favourite. People come up to him and shake his hand. He is very short and bent, wears thick glasses and a big hearing aid. He wears a trim grey jacket and a knitted tank top, with old man trousers right up to his chest. He has more gaps than teeth and he mumbles terribly. He pretends to shove some of the bigger men around, safe in the knowledge that everybody loves him. Every time he passed us, he caught my hand and made me dance with him.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

On time, little books and nibble.

1. Friends who get in touch out of the blue at the exact time you need them.

2. Fenella has been having a clear out and passed on to me a dozen short stories published by Travelman as crisp pamphlets - perfect fit for a handbag.

3. Squash seeds. Whenever I bake a squash, I put the seeds on a tray and toast them in the same oven. They are yum with a little salt. I always try to save them for the next day's trail mix, but I have normally nibbled most of them while I wait for the squash to cook.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Strike, psychic and bust.

1. Not making a packed lunch and so having bags of time in the morning before I left for work.

2. Randomly buzzing off a note to a friend using a guessed email address and being told that not only had it had arrived but that he had only got that email address the day before.

3. A highly respectable journalist informed me that my cleavage was the best he had seen all evening. I explained that this was the point of my top and he said felt slightly ashamed at being caught out by such a trick.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Handwarmer, drums and look up.

1. Mulled wine on a cold night.

2. We found a parade marching up town to a samba band. Everyone above waist height was carrying a wax flare.

3. Fireworks when you didn't expect any. These were splendid ones, too. They were launched from the roof of the town hall so that the bangs boomed back and forth around the crossroads. They had fireworks that puffed out blue and red and yellow stars and ones that made fireflies waggle about the sky and ones that threw showers of tiny sparks high above the crowd.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Dogs, coat and meat.

1. A woman being pulled up a hill by two very enthusiastic spaniels.

2. Trekking round the shops at lunchtime looking at horrible coats that were the wrong colour and the wrong shape and the wrong price and not being helped by snotty shop assistants and then suddenly coming across exactly what I wanted in Kew - it's charcoal grey in the softest, snuggliest cashmere.

3. Looking at a piece of free range chicken and finding that its darkish colour and firm texture made it much more appetising than the pallid, floppy lumps of gloop that come from the supermarket.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Aroma, brown study and one by one.

1. Fenella bought me a little packet of exotic spices - nutmeg in mace, ginger, allspice and cinnamon bark and leaves. I love cinnamon because the smell makes me believe for a moment that I can never be cold again.

2. A martini unwisely poured into my empty stomach plunged me into a brown study about single life - which I normally thoroughly enjoy. About to fall into a miserable doze at 9pm, I was pulled up by a sharp 'This won't do!' from a bossy part of my brain and within minutes, HMS Pinafore was on the record player and my sewing was in my hand.

3. Stitch by stitch my little piece of aida is transforming into something quite different.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Black and gold, floribundulous and seed cake.

1. Autumnal gold trees with the sun on them standing before a thunderous sky the colour of wet slate.

2. Coming down the foetid, miserable commuting smelling stairs at the station you walk into the middle of a flower and fruit stall. Last night, they had anemones in bright crimson and velvety purple and royal blue. And metal bowls of enormous russetty English apples - fruit scoops all £1.

3. Biting into a little cake covered in sesame seeds and being zoomed back to a trip I to China back in 2001. I recalled a dark cake shop in Xian where I was told off for not helping myself quickly enough. But the cakes - little balls of pastry covered in sesame seeds - were delicious.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Lick, D-I-S-C-O and warpaint.

1. The icing that gets caught up in shop chocolate cake packaging.

2. Dancing with PaulV to a charity shop disco LP.

3. Putting on a little makeup before going to the pub.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Alone, postcards and square meal.

1. Drinking coffee and scribbling in a quiet coffee shop. Although you are in public, it is also very private because no-one will speak to you. And being English, we don't look at each other, either.

2. Old postcards. I love the ones with messages - 'I have worn the yellow nylon blouse nearly every day.' and 'I only know four words of English - "I love you"' and 'It's full of foreigners'. I think my favourite are the two from a little girl thanking her great aunt and uncle for presents - I suppose they were written in two successive years, because her hand writing improves!

3. Delia Smith's cheese and onion soup. It is creamy and sweet and savoury and sustaining.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Friday feeling, just a little further and congratulations.

1. Friday is always beautiful because it is the end of my working week and the start of the weekend. I relax a little, get a second wind and find a little extra energy for a burst of speed down the home straight.

2. A mother trying to persuade her toddler that a nice bench a bit further on is much more comfortable for lunch than a low wall on a street corner.

3. Reading that House of Joy has had her baby. House of Joy is a 'Mommy blog' set in Israel. I love it because the writer knows how to find happiness in simple pleasures like swimming, coffee shops and smoothing away a household friction.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Nine beautiful things.

My grandfather died yesterday, so these beautiful things are about him. There are nine of them.

1. He was always absurdly modest about his carpentry. He made me a doll's bed and table when I was about eight and took as much care over them as if they had been for his own house. I imagine that my children's great grandchildren will still be playing with them. When I mentioned this to him once, he scoffed and changed the subject.

2. He built swings. The best one was in an enormous oak tree in his garden. It hung on two strong chains so you could twizzle round and round on it, and it had a seat of polished oak that was lovely to touch. I remember him testing it himself before we were allowed to use it.

3. He wrote about his war and gave it to me to edit. It made me understand the Second World War better than anything else I have ever read.

4. When we were little, he always had a pound coin or three on hand, and as we got older, overpaid us for working in his garden and woods. He also always shared his Mars bars with us.

5. He kept his woods, garden, stream and fields immaculate but wild-life friendly. I reckon this must have contributed to my interest in conservation.

6. He would take us round the fields in his smelly and tempramental old Land Rover - this was a massive treat because there was room for all of us in the front and it lurched and bumped like anything.

7. He was always gentlemanly and kind.

8. He taught us all to ski and to love the Alps in winter. I remember going down the nursery slope between his knees. And I remember him skiing backwards while filming us.

9. He made miles and miles of cine films, and later videos of us and my mother and aunt.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Sound of silence, light ray and shadows.

1. I listen to BBC Radio 4's Today Programme from when I wake up at 6.30am. I love the silence that follows my stereo switching itself off at 7.30am.

2. The electrician has been in and put new bulbs in the hallways at home. In doing so, he boinked one of the lamps so it makes a shaft of light fall through the doorway on my landing. I have visions of an accident with something reflective bouncing the beam down the stairs to open a secret door.

3. My plants now make a silhouette on my curtains. I think it's because they've put the Christmas lights up.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Theatre, an extra pair of hands and a few chili dogs.

1. Being offered a free ticket to Blithe Spirit by Noel Coward.

2. Audio books - just like reading, but you can do dull tasks at the same time. At the moment, I'm listening to Paul Theroux's Dark Star Safari.

3. Drive-In by The Beach Boys. I love the asides sprinkled through it - 'Remember only you can prevent forest fires'.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Lily the pink, ginger peril and two dogs.

1. An old woman whose outfit was drab apart from her lily pink lipstick and her scarlet shoes.

2. A seriously ginger child escaping while his mother was busy in the library by walking his pushchair backwards towards the doors.

3. Two scottie dogs - one black, one white - playing in the dark. The white one leapt up with all four feet off the ground.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Stalks, vines and family dinner.

1. Celery because it makes my mouth go numb and is green and crunchy. Plus it looks cool standing in a white jug.

2. Spotting an olive green ceramic frieze on the wall of a house. It showed a fat cherub face and some vines. On the same walk, I saw a real grapevine droopy from the frost but still covered in grapes.

3. Dinner with PaulV and James and James' mother's house. She does the best roasts and the conversation is both hysterically funny and quite challenging.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

She did, tricolore and midnight feast.

1. What Katy Did. This book has always been one of my favourites, and I still dip into it. The story, which is set in the 1860s, is rather preachy - it's about a thoughtless, careless, happy girl who has an accident and so becomes sweet and patient and loving. However, the preachy bits are interspersed with annecdotes about Katy and her family that seem so alive and colourful that I am sure they must be true!
There's the time Katy befriends a counterfeiter's wife; an important visitor finds and reads aloud Katy's story about Bop the blue poodle and Lady Edwitha of the Hebrides; and her sister Johnny's 'baby', a chair named Pikery falls ill and must be dosed with stolen medicine.
I love the underlying message, which is that good deeds begin at home - think globally, act locally. After Katy falls ill, she lies in bed fretting that she will never be able to perform all the great deeds she hoped to do. However the saintly invalid Cousin Helen points out that because Katy is ill, the household will always know where she is and so will come to her with their problems.
I love the honesty of it - although at the end Katy is adored by her family, she is still sometimes headstrong and impatient, and there are times when being good is an effort. I also love that although Katy has changed for the better by the end, her joyous, impetuous side have not been consumed.

2. Tomato salad with feta cheese, basil from the pots on my windowsill and homemade herby olive oil.

3. Eating chocolate late at night.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Cobbler, almonds and waiters.

1. I got my boots re-lined and reheeled and they are now so comfortable I hardly realise I'm wearing them.

2. Ameretti because I always imagine they taste romantically like cyanide.

3. Italian waiters who turn on the charm.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Flowers are best, frying pan and skiing.

1. I pass a house on the way to work with flowers painted under the eaves. They are quite faded and very high up, so it was a while before I noticed them. But now I smile every time I see them.

2. Discovering that if you fry curly kale with hardly any oil it goes like crispy seaweed.

3. I'm going skiing in January - bought the tickets and now it really feels like I'm on my way.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Prize, hieroglyphs and catch up.

1. Being given a bottle of wine for taking shorthand notes.

2. When I come to transcribe my shorthand, there is always a horrible minute or two when the squiggles make no sense. And then they resolve themselves into words and I can breathe again.

3. An old colleague came to give a talk at my local writers' group. It was good to see her again and to hear all the gossip.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Throwing it down, caramel and ship-shape.

1. Coming home on a wet night and knowing you don't have to go out again.

2. Making caramel. I love the way the sugar melts - one minute it's little crystals, the next it's liquid.

3. Going to bed in a tidy flat. So tidy in fact that I woke in the middle of night and for a dazed moment, couldn't believe it was mine.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

His tail is long, where am I and redolent.

1. The picture of dormice that I have on my desktop. It is by Steven Robinson and comes from a BBC photography competition.

2. Being so absorbed by a book that I don't notice how cold I am. My joints are cracking and my fingers numb and a hot shower is a relief, but all through it I am still thinking about the book.

3. The smell of rosewood. It's supposed to be comforting and uplifting. I think it smells of clean house.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Choux-choux-be-doo, it wasn't us and dumplings.

1. Successfully luring PaulV into my flat with a caramel cream choux bun.

2. In the park, the leaves have been raked into neat piles so the paths are clear. At least they were in neat piles, and then PaulV and I went for a stroll before it got dark.

3. You put dumplings in stew and they are clammy and sticky and lumpy. But twenty minutes later they have puffed up all fat and round and light.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Our gang, chestnuts and procrastination.

1. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The graphic novel is darkly funny and frequently disturbing. Its heroes are Mina Murray (formerly Harker) from Dracula, Allan Quatermain (King Soloman's Mines and She), Captain Nemo (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea), Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Dr Griffin (a.k.a The Invisible Man). It is thick with references to Victorian adventure stories and every so often, I spot an old friend and feel very superior. I discovered this webpage of annotations - splendiferous.

2. Sweet chestnuts boiled with Brussels sprouts.

3. Putting things off until tomorrow.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Green fizz, unusual conversation and whizz bang.

1. Lime and soda.

2. Chatting with a ticket man on the train. He remarked on the book I was reading. I replied that it was a little impenetrable, being written by two Frenchmen. 'But they have some wonderful science fiction,' he said. And then told me all about a story he'd read about a planet where reality shifted. One minute the characters were in this universe, and then the tide would turn and they were in a different one, where they could only observe, helpless as sea anenomes. 'He really earned his pension, the man who translated that.'

3. At a party, someone put a bag of spent fireworks on the bonfire. But they weren't quite finished and one of them exploded. Babies yelled and guests scattered, dropping their drinks, diving behind tables and falling in streams. No-one was really hurt but Everyone Agreed It Could Have Been Much Worse.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Whirl, jaybird and deer.

1. Dead leaves scuttering on the road.

2. A jay in an Atlantic cedar.

3. My grandmother recounting how she told a builder in the room over the corridor that there were deer in the field outside her window, and he came through and had a look because he had never seen deer in the wild.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Up and away, new coat and glossy.

1. The street is in shadow but the sun is shining on an aeroplane in the sky.

2. The front door at work has been repainted a smart dark blue.

3. When you are cooking a sauce and it turns out glossy.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Fairytale, birdsong and stamps.

Image Hosted by
1. Habitat's Christmas range - it has a fairy tale theme and includes a gorgeous intricate metal Christmas tree to slot together.

2. Passing a little aviary full of twittering birdies.

3. Stamps with pretty pictures on them. They fool me into thinking postage isn't that expensive.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Meeting mates, new sounds and switch on.

1. Meeting Rob, Lou and Ross for lunch.

2. BBC Radio 2 is so talky I can't work with it on, so we've started listening to BBC 6 Music. It's pretty cool - unusual tunes and lots of them.

3. The temperature in my flat dropped below 20C so I put the heating on for the first time this winter. This means dry, crunchy towels and plenty of hot water.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Sugar, light and greetings.

1. The smell of praline at the French market in the Pantiles.

2. As our fire caught, its light picked out bright red yew berries on the branches above us.

3. Holding a blođ to mark Samhain. Three drinking horns went round and round the circle. We toasted absent friends, our ancesters and those who have gone on before. As the horns emptied, they were filled again and again - with honeyed beer, mead and cider.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Iron, spies and sparks.

1. My new ironing board cover. It's pink and decorated with Barbaraella-style girls posing in front of a futuristic city

2. Went for a walk with PaulV through town. We looked in through people's windows and alternately giggled about and envied their living rooms.

3. Watching fireworks from my window.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Half awake, problem hair and warm hands.

1. Instead of getting up with the alarm, I lay in the dark, snuggled deep in my bed drifting in and out of sleep.

2. My hair felt so strawish and yuck that I avoided my reflection almost all day. But I happened to glance in a mirror late afternoon and it looked perfectly all right.

3. Warming my hands on a mug of camomile tea last thing at night.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Speed, snap and snuggle.

1. When there is no queue at the Post Office.

2. Found photographs.

3. Hot water bottles. My one has a red and pink striped knitted cover.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

First post, chills and cross-stitch charted territory.

1. Came home to find my mother had brought my post over - including Mslexia - the excellent magazine for women who write.

2. Victorian-style gothic novels - I'm listening to The Mist in the Mirror by Susan Hill. So far a man has got lost in London and been frightened by a parrot.

3. Starting a new piece of cross stitch. I've designed this one myself, so I'm a bit apprehensive. But it's all part of life's great adventure - one woman, a needle and a vast tract of 12-count aida. Actually, it's about 10cm by 4cm.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

John Peel, art and half task.

1. Everyone saying how much they loved John Peel who died suddenly yesterday. Read about him on BBC Radio One and on Radio Four. His quirky Home Truths up until now has been an important part of my Saturday morning. As I pottered through the washing up or ironing or whatever, I would go from tears to laughter to hairs prickling on my neck and back again as he charmed wonderful, truth is stranger than fiction stories out of the public. I love the philosophy that it's not just celebs who are of interest. I know the programme won't be the same without him.

2. Discovering mail art on A1 Mail Art Archive. Altered envelopes. Cool.

3. When the ironing pile is not nearly as big as you thought it was.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Biscuits, dinner and sparkly.

1. Liebniz biscuits. You can bite the chocolate off.

2. I crammed a couple of garlic cloves under the chicken at the bottom of my casserole. I cooked it under a sauce of leeks, potato, onion and celery. The meat subtly absorbed the flavour of the garlic, but the sauce was not overpowered.

3. My shower was grim and now it's not because I've cleaned it.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Wet, sheep and swans.

1. Took the train down to the coast. It has rained heavily in the past few days and there was a lot of water in places where there isn't usually water, eg halfway up tree trunks. The River Rother looked fat and brown and in a hurry.

2. Sheep in a puddley field. Their reflections came and went as they wandered around.

3. Ten swans sitting in a cabbage field on Romney Marsh. There is a choice of collective nouns for swans - you can have bevy, lamentation or herd. If they are flying, they are a wedge.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Decorate, neighbours and discovery.

1. A man in a cherry-picker very carefully putting fairy lights in the small branches of the plane trees up and down Mount Pleasant.

2. Gossipping with Fenella for so long that her boyfriend got worried and texted to find out where she was.

3. My nearest supermarket has changed to a Morrisons. During the transition, stock has been very low and I've been stamping round furious at not being able to find my usual groceries. However, I discovered that they do amazingly cheap candles. Also, there were two treaty things in the reduced-to-clear shelves - a bottle of fresh orange and raspberry and two smoked salmon terrines.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Turning year, suck and naughty shoes.

1. A street of cherry trees. They are turning red and gold and every time I walk past the colours are brighter.

2. Aniseed balls.

3. My pink silk trainers. They are gloriously impractical, being un-waterproof and too tight.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Hocus pocus, beach boy and Boris.

1. A magician who made me close my hand around a red spongey ball. When I opened my hand, there were two. And he made about ten appear in my boss' hand. Then he gave me a pack of cards to hold and told Ed think of a card. 'Six of clubs'. It was the only one up-turned in the whole pack.

2. A lone surfer on a very brisk day.

3. Discovering that Boris Johnson - who is rather a hero of mine - has a weblog. I don't care what he said about Liverpool. I still think he should be prime minister and lead us all into a new age of glory.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Edged, mild and artistic licence.

1. A horse chestnut tree that was just starting to turn - but only round the edges of the leaves. It looked as if someone had carefully painted a yellow border round the edge of each green leaf.

2. Wet days in autumn.

3. In Bournemouth, among all the pale cream and white and pale pink stucco and pebbledashing is a surfers' hostel with flowers painted on it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Naked garden, dancing lantern and sight.

1. A strange rubrus with fine, tangled dark green stems studded with tiny, pearly white thorns. In an autumn garden, stems are very important.

2. Physallis growing at Sissinghurst. These are the 'Chinese lanterns' that every other restaurant is dressing pudding plates with these days. The brown papery shell hides a yellowish berry that just tastes sour. However, in the garden, the lanterns are bright, beautiful orange.

3. Learning to see my aura.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Shrinking harpy, old star and back in time.

1. Between the ages of nine and 13, Miss L terrified me. She was loomingly tall, skinny and strict and never hesitated to remind me of how rubbish my needlework was. While queuing in the Post Office, I spotted her and realised that I am now taller than she is. And she praised the clerk for his stamp-sticking speed.

2. I inherited my jewelry box from my grandmother. Its red velvet lining is marked with the star imprint of a cut-glass scent bottle that was broken long ago.

3. While tidying my dressing table a plait of intensely bright rainbow strings reminded me of a boy called Hamish Lemmens, who complimented me on it when I was 12 or so. I was at school with him from three to 13 and he was always doing or saying something that made people laugh.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Flip, granddam and moonling.

1. Pancakes for breakfast.

2. Discovering that Hastings is going up in the world. I've always been fond of the town even if they do call it the suicide capital of the south east. In the past, it has reminded me of a relative who has lost the will to live and just sits about in a dressing gown all day eating all her meals off the same plate. But yesterday Bruv and I wandered through the Old Town and thought we'd slipped into another dimension. There seemed to be a whole load of new shops - a teeth-achingly cool retro furniture shop; vintage clothing stores; art galleries; an independent cinema; a micro brewery. Everything looked freshly painted and loved and cared for.

3. Walking down a street towards the sea and noticing a long sliver of nearly new moon.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Drops, might have been snow and crush.

1. Pearls. They always seem so erotic and yet so innocent.

2. The block opposite me has a balustrade round the roof. A filthy
balustrade. I woke up to see that a painter had started work on it
and it looked as if snow had fallen.

3. Was watching the street instead of writing and saw a chap I used
to adore achingly and wordlessly from a distance. He has pudged up
and the cheekbones I used to so admire are no longer on show. And he
was walking hand-in-hand with a sour-looking... yeah, I'm almost sure
it was a woman.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Workmen, trim and language.

1. Two men from the council bickering about the best way to mend a bench.

2. The Malaysian lady who cut my hair didn't speak English so well, and I ended up getting more taken off than I normally would. I just said 'yes' to everything - she seemed to know what I ought to have. I like it. I keep smirking every time I pass a shop window. I think that when her English improves, she won't stay long with a cheap-chirpy walk-in hairdresser.

3. Plus, despite the difficulties communicating over the hair, we had a good hair-cut conversation about travelling and mosquitoes. I always feel shy about chatting to people with whom I don't have a common language (i.e. anyone who doesn't have much English) so it felt like a good achievement.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Fear, glossy and cheferie.

1. This is the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear from Frank Herbert's Dune.

'I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.'

2. Conkers in my pocket.

3. Toad in the hole. It's made of things that look unappetising raw (batter and sausages) but once it's baked, it is a thing of beauty.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Shut up, everyone came and filthy lucre.

1. Finally getting the chance to tell the 'silent calls' telemarketing company that has been bothering me for the past month exactly how much I did not want to hear from them. You, too, can avoid these calls (UK only) by registering with the Telephone Preference Service.

2. A full house at meeting that I was responsible for publicising.

3. Expenses cheques.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Wet, lunch and scrawl.

1. Before I opened my curtains I knew it was raining because of the swooshing noise made by passing cars.

2. An amusing and eccentric pharma rep made John take us out to lunch. He told us good stories, many of them opening with: 'I shouldn't be telling you this but...'

3. When you are working on a story that almost writes itself.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Radiator, strides and gammon and spinach.

1. The radiator in our office went on for the first time today. It smelt of burning dust. The temperature has dropped, and it really is starting to feel like winter. I ran my cold knuckles over its ridges and felt real warmth coming into my hands.

2. At the end of work, I walked home a very long way to warm up. At first I was stiff and every step jarred, but gradually my muscles loosened up and the blood came back into my extremities.

3. A comforting supper of bacon and lentils.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Confisserie, careful what you wish for and treat.

1. I baked a lemon cake. It went badly, badly wrong. I didn't check whether I had all the ingredients and had to substitute wholemeal bread flour for self-raising and halve the quantity of sugar - but that's all right because my baking tray was too small anyway. Then I switched on the grill instead of the oven and had to hack a burnt crust off the top of the cake halfway through cooking. It tastes OK, though. Bit rough, but perfectly edible (I tested it on PaulV and he's still alive).

2. I set out to get a newspaper. But the newsagents at the end of the street was closed. So was the one on the Pantiles. In a monumental sulk, I turned round to go home. But lo and behold, there, propped against a wall, was a copy of the paper I wanted.

3. Eighths of an orange with chocolate sauce.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Financial diet, Bean there done that, interruptions.

1. Going shopping but not actually buying anything.

2. Except this one thing... which doesn't count because Katie bought half of it. Bean on Camden Road, Tunbridge Wells, does special chocolates like chilli and marzipan; Earl Grey tea; mango truffle. We bought 12 between us to eat with our tea.

3. I was trying to have a quiet day with Katie. But... Lunch was interrupted by a phone call from Cat. Tea was crashed by Rob. And PaulV arrived in the middle of supper.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Dark deeds, tree surgery and hallucinations.

1. Dark pubs which have junk on all the walls and stacked on shelves, and mis-matched tables and chairs.

2. Pollarded trees. The older plane trees on the street where I work have had their branches taken off. They look like they've been packed up for winter.

3. Fly agarics - those red toadstools with white spots so loved by fairytale illustrators. I found a good patch of them in a clearing on my way home from work. The older ones have perfectly flat tops, while the new ones push out of the matted grass like little fists.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Birdie with a yellow bill, communications and findings.

1. A goldfinch landed on the scaffolding outside our office window.

2. I have a new phone. It takes pictures so now I might just stand a chance against Ed and his shooting from the hip photography.

3. Paul V revealed that he is a secret charity shop record fan. 'You go through the boxes and you find something and you think: "how could anyone have not wanted this?"'

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Paint, sophisticates and slam.

1. The outside of our office building is being painted. Every time I go in or out a different coat in a different colour has been put on.

2. Ed leaves work half an hour before me. I noticed that it was chucking it down with rain and laughed. He replied:
As Clare walks home down the lane
Let there be a hurricane.

Obviously I couldn't let that go and cursed him with:
Cold winds batter Edwin Birch
To make his footsteps veer and lurch.

3. A call from my neighbour Fenella. 'When you get home, can you do me a HUGE favour? Can you pop down and let Andy out of my study?' Apparently, the doorknob had 'come off in his hand.'

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Kip, book sale and The Mymble.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us1. If I feel like it, I can have an hour's lie-in on a schoolday.

2. Selling four of my unwanted books in two days.

3. A colleague asked about 'themymble' - my username. I told him about the character, The Mymble, from Tove Jansson's Moomin books. Here she is, pert as ever. Her boots are red.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Buzz, conkers and tempus fugit.

1. A fly and its shadow.

2. Conkers. I can't pass a horse chestnut tree this time of year without wanting to fill my pockets with them. I love the way they bounce when they fall and they are so pleasing to hold - polished smooth and slightly yielding.

3. I can't get to sleep and I don't feel tired. So I get up and potter around. It feels as if I've been given some extra hours.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Aubergines, curled up and green fairy.

Image Hosted by 1. I cooked moussaka, which will be my suppers for the next few days. It felt good to be making something complicated and dinner partyish just for me. And aubergines are such beautiful things. The more you look at them, the more colours you see - glossy black, deep purple, deep brown.

2. I spent most of the day reading - mainly Mrs Dalloway (Virginia Woolf) and A Clash of Kings (George R R Martin).

3. Absinthe. It requires equipment (sugar lump, special spoon, jug of iced water); it louches (this fantastic word is used only of spirits that turn cloudy when water is added) and it tastes of aniseed. Plus it seems so dangerous and with every sip I feel as if I am on a downward spiral to destitution and disrepute.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

First thing, boys and Miss Fix-it.

1. After a week of squatting in the middle of a pine wood, I have breakfast in bed involving hot chocolate.

2. James has been having a torrid time in Australia. I have missed him terribly, and now he is home. He comes to lunch and we eat bread and cheese and catch up. Then Paul V appears because he doesn't want to be left out.

3. The front door appears to be broken. Badly. It won't shut except when you slam it, and then it won't open. The neighbours are not quite sure which is worse and are considering locksmiths. I hear my voice saying: 'I'll just fetch my screwdriver.' I take the lock off the door and hand the screws to James. I jiggle a joggly bit and put it all back together. And then it works. From the hall side and the street side, both opening and shutting.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Yes Rose, breakfast and green.

1. In the middle of the night Rosey shouts 'Help' in her sleep. I give her a cuddle and tell her to go back to sleep. She mutters something about being chased. At breakfast, I complain about having to share a tent with certain people who can't keep their dreams to themselves. 'Well I was woken up twice,' says Robert virtuously. 'Once by Rose and once by you shouting that we couldn't leave yet because we weren't ready.'

2. We drink tiny cups of coffee in the airport at Alghero.

3. England’s greenness.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Witch, fallen civilisation and moonrise.

1. Fuili Gorge is full of oleander – Sardinia’s version of Britain’s rhododendron problem. The long snakey branches twist across the path, barring our way at every turn. Where they collapse under their own weight they throw up vertical stems like fences. Nothing else grows in the half light. A white fungus like disembodied paws groped its way along dead branches. Someone had marked the path in strange and subtle ways – here a white pebble pushed into a forked branch; there a little cairn. ‘It’s a witch’s wood. Don’t eat anything you find.’ ‘Not even figs?’ ‘Especially not figs.’ Then we heard goat bells clonking, and suddenly we were out in the sunshine again.

2. We drove out into the country to visit a nuraghic ruin. The tower is built of huge basalt blocks – no mortar – and stood two storeys tall, watching the coast. We realised that we were directly above the beach where we had left Robert and Rose climbing – when the sea level was higher, this bay would have been an important strategic landing place. Apart from the tower, no other structure stands more than four courses tall. Much of the site is overgrown with tough bushes and olive trees block the tower’s view. It is strange to think that 3,500 years ago the surrounding hectares were covered in a village of little round houses full of people who didn’t know about writing. Then 2,000 years ago the Romans chased them out and took down some of the beehive houses to put up a few square buildings of their own.

3. ‘Where’s the moon?’ Each evening so far, we had been treated to a fat full moon rolling out a silvery path over the sea. But it was a little cloudy and we were eating early, and it hadn’t risen. Just as the waitress took our order, the moon appeared bright red through the clouds above the harbour bar. ‘The hunters’ moon,’ I commented darkly. ‘You’re just making that up. It’s an omen of doom.’ But by the time our pasta arrived, the moon was well away across the vault of the heavens and a friendly silver once again.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Figs, hovering and grapes.

1. We walked up the gorge behind the beach to see how far it went. After half an hour of pushing aside bushes covered in unfamiliar berries and trees decorated with flowers that looked like bog brushes and smelt of bleach, we came across a fig tree covered in ripe fruit. We ate a sun-warm windfall and then threw sticks up to knock down a couple more.

2. A tiny sage grows among the shattered limestone. Hummingbird hawk moths bob like boats at anchor, their tongues deep in the tiny mauve flowers and their wings a blur. When the flower is empty, they move on so fast you can’t see where they’ve gone.

3. In a shingly cove, one hour’s walk and one hour’s boat ride from civilisation, two middle-aged men share some grapes. The older man wallows in the water while the younger man washes the bunches in the sea. The older man holds out his hand and is given a sprig. They spit the pips into the water, not saying much.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Herbs, bathing and in the sand.

1. In the hills, away from the moisture-bearing sea winds, the vegetation changes to low prickly bushes that are all elbows and knees. Leaves tend to be small and sometimes slightly sticky. Everything smells wonderful – partly the heat and partly to discourage grazers. One minute you brush against rosemary, the next against cistus and then against something sagey.

2. We drove across the mountains, zigzagging round hairpin bends and then along narrow, unshaded roads to a flat, sandy bay. It was our first properly hot day and we changed into our bathers and swam to cool off.

3. Sea holly pokes out of the sand. It doesn’t look like holly much, apart from the spikiness of its leaves. It’s an annual growing not much higher than a wine bottle and it has bluish, chalky leaves. I believe it’s a sort of eryngium. We also saw sea daffodils growing directly in the sand. They crouch right down and their lily-like trumpets seem too big for their height.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Morning coats, fluttering and caerulean.

1. Crickets. Their sober grey coats are perfectly camouflaged against the limestoney soil. When you step near them, they fly up in a surprising direction, showing off their electric blue waistcoats. We also found a mole cricket dressed in baggy brown velvet. He is rather large – as long as my thumb – and he doesn’t jump, preferring to burrow.

2. I like fig trees – apart from the amusingly-shaped leaves and the figs, there is also the smell. But this particular tree offered something else. Its splitting fruit was a feast for ginormous butterflies. Their plain-chocolate-brown wings were the width of my two palms and were decorated with a flashing purple and white pattern. They were so numerous that the tree rustled with their wingbeats.

3. The colour of the sea. I grew up playing on a muddy shore lapped by soupy brown waves. I thought pictures of blue water were all lies until I first visited the Mediterranean. The sea is so blue that I wonder how it can make white foam and I am mesmerised by the waves.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Sweet winds, exotic groceries and stones.

The beautiful things for the next five days come from Sardinia.

1. Each place in the Mediterranean smells different. Coming off the plane, we snuff nosefuls of Sardinian air, guessing the scents. The first one I recognise is cistus, mossy and medicinal but warm and sweet. We grow this crinkly, papery, shocking pink rock rose in the garden. If you put your nose right up close to the tiny leaves on a really hot, still English summer day, you can smell it. We were given its resin, labdanum, to sniff at an incence workshop I went to recently. It is harvested using goats. They drive flock through the bushes and then comb the resin out of their coats.

2. Foreign supermarkets. We raced round looking for familiar food in unfamiliar packaging: 'They've got Nutella in JUGS!' Treaty foods like grapes and Parma ham were very cheap, while breakfast cereals were rather expensive. And other things were just scary: 'Can we get some frozen octopus?' 'Time to leave...'

3. We scrambled down to a white beach in a rocky cove. On a rock just out to sea, someone had made three neat stacks of rounded pebbles.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Treasure, old lady and mandorla

1. Finding a forgotten bar of chocolate in my daypack.

2. A late Gertrude Jekyll rose, still scented and still packed with perfect petals despite heavy rain and cold nights.

3. Walking round my parents' garden, we found a patch of almond smell. But where it came from, we couldn't tell.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Early, naughty dogs and sleepy.

1. The nights are drawing in and my walk to work feels very much like an early morning.

2. Naughty dogs frollicking on the cricket pitch. There are three of them, and the lady with them threw a ball on a cord. She baby talked at them and fussed them like anything.

3. I am going down with a cold, so I feel quite justified in having a short kip before supper, and then another one after supper. When I wake up, all warm and soft, it's time to start thinking about going to bed.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Bits of paper, hammers and belle helene.

1. Scraptorium - this blog is a collection of witty collages by someone who has made this artform a way of life.

2. Downstairs from our office is a jewellery maker. Sometimes you can hear them tapping away with little hammers. Their security is really tight, with alarms and buzzy doors and we hardly ever see them. I imagine that they might be goblins or svart elves who have moved with the times.

3. Tinned pears in chocolate sauce.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Tall trees, 20:20 and pudding.

1. As I turn to go downstairs each morning, I look out of a window on the landing that faces an enormous bricky church. Its 40ft chimney stack has a little green birch tree growing on it.

2. I got my glasses corrected and everything is clearer and more colourful. It's like being on drugs.

3. Eating tiramisu really, really slowly.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Grey, all done and warm bones.

1. Walking into a shop and finding the exact pair of trousers that I have been wanting for almost two years in the exact size I need. They are slightly flared cords the colour of rain clouds.

2. I was all lined up to write a quiz for work - this is a particularly fiddly task that takes far longer than it should - but when I got into the system, I found I'd already done it last week.

3. Until I got under a hot shower, I didn't realise how cold and stiff I was. It was lovely to feel warmth creeping back into my bones.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Washing day, veggies and just passing.

1. The smell of clean laundry coming from a hotel basement.

2. I picked up this week's organic vegetable box. It was a bit like a Christmas stocking because the contents is selected for you. I'm planning my week's menus around locally-grown chard, fennel, leeks, potatoes, orange pepper, carrots and green squash.

3. Walking past a friend's house, I see her at the window but she doesn't see me because she is reading a letter. Her boyfriend comes up behind her, notices me and they call me in for a cup of tea.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Family, ice & lemon and homecoming.

1. The whole family sitting round the table for breakfast.

2. When your father offers you a gin and tonic before lunch. It's the ultimate symbol of adulthood.

3. Finally having room for my childhood books. Welcome home Mary Poppins, Anne of Green Gables, Pollyanna and the rest of the gang.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Purse, damp and cookies.

1. My new purse. It's a grown-up wallet-type one with separate compartments for notes, coins and cards. It's also pink with a cat and a ball of wool on it.

2. I went to a Flat-owners' Association meeting and Fenella served cookies fresh from the oven so they were squishy and full of melty chocolate chips.

3. Walking across The Common in the rain.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Harbour, swing and quiet.

These beautiful things come from a work outing - a day sailing on a colleague's yacht. We went round the harbour at Bosham because the Solent was too rough that day. Peter inherited his yacht from a gentleman adventurer called Dr Wellard - the healthcare publishing company I work for is named in his honour.

1. Clinking rigging on moored yachts.

2. On Peter's yacht, the stove sits in a cradle so that it is always horizontal, whatever the angle of sailing.

3. When the engine is off you can hear water lapping and wind filling the sail.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Reunion, winter wardrobe and vin blanc.

1. I went a different way to work. It took me past my old street and I was pleased to see that the Pigeon Lady was still in action. She had left a pile of bread ends in an angle between two walls. It made me think of the other people I used to pass on my way to work - the tall man with a very very short girlfriend. And the dangerous wheelchair man. I would over-take him at the end of my street and then he would over-take me at high speed on the way down Mt Pleasant. He would come up behind me silently - possibly because he had broken the sound barrier. Thank goodness he always wears a reflective vest.

2. My new skirt - it's reddish brown with ochre chevrons slashed in it across the hips - very slimming. It's knee length, so quite respectable for work. And it's warm, so it's practical, too.

3. Being surprised by a taste of blackberries in white wine.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Doggy, chickens and shadow.

1. Puppies with big feet.

2. A news story about Jane Howorth who rescues battery hens from 'retirement' and re-homes them so they can spend their remaining days as pets in happy, grassy places. 'Chickens are like little dogs with feathers,' she says. Visit the Retirement Home for Battery Hens and see if there is anything you can do to help.

3. The shadow of a squirly cast-iron gate.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Grandeur, oil and manners.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us1. Tunbridge Wells is full of Decimus Burton houses. They are built of mellow yellow sandstone and are both grand and elegant. When you walk up to one, you feel you are visiting someone important.

2. Putting olive oil on boiled potatoes.

3. In George R R Martin's book A Clash of Kings he mentions a society of assassins called The Sorrowful Ones. As they kill you, they whisper 'I am so sorry.'

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

High seas, strange vegetables and rescue.

1. The weatherman mentioned that the blustery weather we're having is the tail-end of the American and Caribbean hurricanes.

2. White tomato. It's quite mild and tastes faintly of parsley.

3. I got stranded after a meeting in a village outside town so Paul V came and rescued me.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Deshabille, conversion and workshop.

1. Doing my paperwork in bed with a breakfast tray and a pot of coffee.

2. I bought a basket of plums from the farmers' market yesterday. They weren't very good. Some were green and hard. Some were bruised and swollen. So I converted them into plum and cinnamon slices - using Delia's recipe from How to Cook Part II and they are now yum.

3. Eight of us spent a cheery afternoon at Ross' flat drinking wine, sniffing rare resins and mushing unguents and wood into incense.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Sleeping alone, key and memory.

1. Getting up and knowing that tonight I will not be sharing a narrow top bunk with fleas.

2. Putting my key in the lock of my own front door after a week away.

3. I love the silence of my flat after a week living in close quarters with the gang. But if I am still for a moment, I can hear their voices and laughter clear as anything.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Kites, make-do and fungus.

1. Red Kites wheeling and whistling overhead as we ate our lunch. Jerry said that they used to be common in Medieval London, scavenging rubbish from the gutters. I love the idea of birds of prey swooping down and seizing bins.

2. At Watlington the church doesn't have a steeple. So they cut one into the chalk hill above the village, and if you stand in the right place it rises above the church tower as a good steeple should.

3. An enormous rubbery fungus the colour of not quite ripe apricots. It was hidden among the roots of a beech tree and grew upwards in petal-like layers - it reminded me rather of a giant rose that wasn't quite open. The rims curled over slightly.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Legs, travelling light and spindle.

1. Beech woods. Beech trees (Fagus sylvaticus) grow very stright and if they were people, I always think they would have beautiful legs. They look as if they are wearing silvery pale silk stockings. The cheery green leaves dim the light in a way that is particularly pleasing on a hot day. I'm told the trees somehow poison the soil so nothing grows on the forest floor, except blue bells (hyacinthoides non-scripta) in spring. The rest of the year the ground is a beautiful crunchy red-brown.

2. The teeny-tiny youth hostel at Bradenham. It has fiendishly complicated opening hours. Just the way a youth hostel should be - I bet the door is locked at 11pm sharp and anyone trying to sneak into the other dorm for a little flagrante delicto is tarred and feathered and run out town on a rail. No really, I'm sure it's a lovely place to stay. The village is like a calendar come real.

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3. A spindle tree (Euonymus europaeus) with berries on it. We found one in the woods below Pulpit Hill, but there were no berries. This one, growing out of a hedge by a stile, was covered in three-cornered silk-pink berries. In a while, they will burst open to reveal seeds the colour of 1970s orange squash. The last time I saw a spindle tree in full glory I was being taken for a walk in my pram. It was such an extraordinary sight that I have never forgotten it. Picture from Antiquariaat Jan Meemelink flower books & prints.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Automaton, fairy tale and between two roses.

1. At Waddesdon Manor the collection includes a mechanical elephant as tall as a small child. It swings its trunk and rolls its eyes when wound up. The story is that when the Shah of Persia came to visit he sulked in his room because he was told he was not going to meet the Prince of Wales. But Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild winkled him out by promising to wind up the elephant after dinner.

2. A series of bright - almost garish scenes from Sleeping Beauty by a Russian artist. They were a gift from one of the Rothschilds to his wife. The characters are all friends of the couple, including the man himself as the prince and his sister-in-law as the princess.

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3. Another piece of Waddesdonia (above). Garrick between Comedy and Tragedy by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Garrick was an upwardly mobile theatre owner. He was the son of an impoverished soldier but when he died 50,000 people came to view his coffin. Poor man - Comedy looks a right little minx who will bring him nothing but trouble, while Tragedy looks as if she's tearing him off a strip for leaving his newspaper lying all over the kitchen table.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

As above, sky sheep and bitter bind.

1. Learning from Bo Mi that South Korea has both sarcasm and a National Trust.

2. Bella the sheep dog. She is obsessed with things in the sky and snaps at flies and watches birds. She is nine months old and belongs to Matt, the warden at the Bradenham Estate.

3. Shiny scarlet bryony berries hanging in swags over fences and hedges

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Leaves, defensible and unusual colours

1. The smell of drying leaves. It's sharp and green and makes me think of satisfying work.

2. We climbed Pulpit Hill. The summit was once an iron age fort. Banks and ditches are all that remain. Ranks of pine trees crowd in on three sides, and giant beech trees shade what must once have been an important centre for a large area. Our historian, Richard, said that these forts were used for storing food rather than for defence. The place feels as if it is waiting for people to come back and use it again.

3. A cream coloured ladybird with orange-brown freckles.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Jousting, lumberjack and inland sea.

1. After breakfast I slipped out into the woods behind basecamp. Sunlight slanted through the beech trees and the air was cool. In the distance I heard deer crashing horns.

2. Jerry the National Trust warden taught us how to fell scrubby trees by using a bow saw - 'A two minute job'. My first was an ash as thick as my forearm. It took longer than two minutes and left my arms aching, but the creee-crash as the tree came down felt like a real achievement.
3. A small girl lying along a branch six feet off the ground at Coombe Hill. 'It's nice to see people enjoying themselves,' commented Jerry. The chalk hilltop has an almost panoramic view over fields and towns - from Waddesdon Manor on one side to Didcote Power Station on the other. On a day as fine and hot as this people use it rather like a beach, enjoying the sun and hoping to catch a breath of wind.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Arrival, tick tock and chocolate.

1. I am three days late. I keep walking into things and bursting into tears. My clothes are tight and my fingers are numb. Every so often my belly gives a little twinge, just to remind me. When I finally start bleeding, I am so pleased I dance around the flat.

2. When train journeys go like clockwork.

3. We didn't know each other at lunchtime, but now the twelve of us are sitting round a long table playing a very silly game involving a die and a bar of chocolate.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Westies, purple and de-mob happy.

1. Two West Highland terriers putting their noses through a gate and believing they were putting the fear of God (or perhaps dog?) into passers-by.

2. A buddleja bush squeezing a few more blossoms out in the last weeks of summer.

3. Coming out of work and knowing that I'm off on holiday.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Dogs, infants and music.

1. A neat little greyhound with a cheeky curl in its tail.

2. A baby with a huge head, big round eyes and her bottom lip sucked under her top lip leaning right forward in her pushchair and concentrating really hard on something.

3. At sunset we went to the fieldy bit of Dunorlan Park, as far from houses as you can be, with four drums, two tin whistles, a guitar and a mandolin. We bickered about what to play. We disagreed about the version of the tune. We tried starting with the drums and we tried starting with the tune. But suddenly, as the stars came out, the sounds fell into place and we played together.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

BBs, cyclamen and world domination.

1. Picking blackberries in the sunshine.

2. Dolly mixture pink cyclamen growing out of the dry leaves under a hawthorn tree on The Common.

3. Reading that Notdonnareed at American Mom has been trying Three Beautiful Things.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Path, radio and DIY

1. Looking back up the long straight path on to The Common.

2. The Little World of Don Camillo on Radio 4.

3. Finally getting around to fixing my phone cable to the wall.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Love gift, palm and knives.

1. Fenella buying a venus flytrap for her boyfriend Andy.

2. My new coconut palm seedling. It's burst out of its coconut and grown to nearly six feet tall. The leaves are as long as my arm and split down the middle as they grow. I don't know how long it will last - my fears that it will reach 20 feet and incur the wrath of the flat owners' association are probably unfounded.

3. Owning a really good sharp kitchen knife.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Beer, jelly and fennel.

1. Having small bottles of beer in the fridge.

2. My jar and a half of apple jelly. Don't you dare ask how many pounds of crab apples went into them!

3. Roasted vegetables with surprising bits of fennel bulb.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Imaginary coffee, shopping and jelly.

1. The cup of coffee that I would have had for breakfast if I hadn't run out of coffee.

2. Farmers' market time again. There were apples everywhere - I bought worcester pearmains, which are crisp and sharp.

3. Making crab apple jelly. Drops of juice hung on the outside of the jelly bag waiting to fall into the bowl below

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Rain, fish and sports.

1. The sort of rain that is pleasant to walk in because the air is clear and still and cool.

2. Watching fish watching me from inside a large glass globe.

3. I spent the evening at Caroline's. We had supper and drank wine and watched The Olympics, screaming abuse and encouragement at Paula Radcliffe. Because I don't have a TV at home, even adverts seem slightly miraculous, let alone a stadium full of athletes and cheering crowds..

Friday, August 27, 2004

Acquaintances, milestones and drink.

1. Running into two people I know on the way to work.

2. Noticing that I've just passed 100 posts, and that the hit counter was sitting on 999.

3. Going for a swift half after work.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Jam, baking and crumble.

1. Apricot and almond jam at Simply Wild - the organic supermarket.

2. A random whiff of baking coming from one of the flats under the offices next door.

3. Crumble made from blackberries I picked myself on the Common. The berries are very tart and the juice and topping are very sweet.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Adonis, Cos and siblings.

1. The pub down the road is having some work done. Work by two blonde Australian surfer types with shaggy hair, god-like physiques and the smallest shorts possible. I hardly know where to look as I pass.

2. Went to Habitat looking for storage ideas. I wanted a desk kit cupboard for a 16in space. But then I fell in love with this Cos CD rack. It's made of birch plywood and it comes flat and slots together like a building toy. Being grown-up, I made the shop man get his tape measure out. It's exactly 16ins wide. So I bought it and moved my pens and sticky things to the shelf previously occupied by CDs.

3. Getting in trouble with my little sister Rosey (more usually known as Bumface) because I haven't mentioned her in Three Beautiful Things yet.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Joinery, carrots and aniseed.

1. I set off for work leaving a flat severely deficient in book space, and came home to a new bathroom bookcase built by my friend Pete. He's a joiner, so they will never fall down or crack. I've got to finish painting them, and I can hardly wait to move my books in. No more crushing and cramming. No more stacking. Yay.

2. Hummus with raw carrots.

3. Aniseed sirop.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Nursery, Romans and pink.

1. On Saturday, Rob gave me some sickly basil plants to nurse. I have had to rearrange the entire flat to give them a decent amount of sun. They seem a little less yellow, I'm sure of it. And there is a definite smell of basil about the place.

2. The Course of Honour by Lindsey Davis. It's a love story set in ancient Rome involving a feisty slave girl - Caenis - and a nobleman who eventually becomes the emperor Vespasian. One moment we're rejoicing in late afternoon liaisons, letters and wine, and the next, Caenis is living alone in a filthy tenement and being harassed by a pasty schoolmaster. Lindsey Davis is hot on the little details make historicals come alive, and she's definitely got a knack for luuuurve that makes your heart beat faster. I've got a weakness for novels about interesting rather than beautiful women who claim in chapter one that they're not interested in romance, but by chapter three have fallen into the arms of an unconventional man. I feel so exploited.

3. Drinking rose wine with Lou and Nicky to celebrate the half moon.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Generous gardener, ummm and talk.

1. Rob took me up to his allotment and a kind lady gave us a bunch of dahlias. She explained that they were rare varieties from the Harrowgate Show. Some were pompons, and some were the big lily variety. There are three colours - deep blood red with gold centre, tinned salmon pink and bright girly pink.

2. Ran into an old... um... friend. His girlfriend asked who I was. Neither of us was sure what to say.

3. Ali, who was at Durham with me, came to stay. We had dinner, went the pub and then we chatted about contented things until we fell sleep.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Hometown, shopping and darkness visible.

1. Standing in the bank at lunchtime with my paycheque I realised I'd forgotten my purse. So I strolled home, picked it up and ambled back to the bank. I kept thinking 'this ought to be cross-making' but it wasn't. The novelty of working near home still hasn't worn off after seven months.
2. I hate supermarket shopping, but this week I've got no choice - I've missed about four farmers' markets in a row because of too much excitement and supplies are running dangerously low. Luckily PaulV swoops out of the sky and carries me off to Sainsbury's. We share two-for-one offers, giggle like fiends at off-colour jokes about sausages and race our trolleys around the carpark. I hope there are always people like PaulV in my life.

3. Having a fridge so full of food that I can't see the light.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Red, other people's friends and whistles.

1. Tomato salad with crunchy sea salt.

2. I bought a second-hand creative visualisation book from Oxfam. It includes some exercises, including Think of a person you especially love or admire. List all their positive qualities. Think about how those qualities mirror you. A previous owner has written: 'Devi - Centred, kind, funny, stimulating, compassionate, fascinating, powerful, successful.'

3. If I hold my penny whistle in a particular way I can feel the air inside it vibrating under my fingertips.

Couture, water and ursa major.

1. Going out wearing a jacket that you are convinced makes you look rather good.

2. Puddles in the road reflecting the night. I'm looking down at the pavement and they make me recall that Oscar Wilde quote - 'We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.'
3. Walking home after a rainstorm and seeing the great bear through a gap in the clouds.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Up, falling and cake delivery.

1. Looking up at the sky between tall buildings.

2. Everything went quiet for a moment in the High Street and I could hear the rain.

3. PaulV coming round just before midnight with chocolate cake. We ate it in bed.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Old friend, come home and miz-maz.

1. Marie, a uni friend from up north who I haven't seen for nearly two years, phones me out of the blue. We have lunch together.

2. The feeling of relief when my books are returned to me.

3. Lou has asked me for Cretan maze instructions. I find that drawing up a step-by-step page improves my own understanding.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Brekkie, cocktail and confection.

1. Breakfast in a bun at Cropredy School. My egg was runny the way I like it and proceeds went towards the school coffers. Everyone's a winner.

2. Manhattan Sour at Sam's, High Street, Windsor. I think it involved whisky, lemon juice and orgeat sirop.

3. The extraordinary chateau-style Royal Holloway University. It looks like the sort of place that would froth local peasants into a slathering mob, baying for aristrocratic blood.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Boats, banners and bubbles.

1. Narrow boats. The canal was double parked for about a mile in honour of the festival.

2. Flags - people bag their spots in the arena field early in the day and mark them with home-made flags so their friends can find them. I spotted a pair of silver and black boxers, a red tee-shirt, a banner thanking the organisers, some giant sweets, three wobbly seagulls, rainbow whirly things, a jolly roger, flying pigs and wide mouthed fish.

3. Giant bubbles. A stall - which I never found - was selling a cunning device that made bubbles bigger than your head. They floated off in the twilight, reflecting a ring of stage lights.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

World at your feet, tee hee and nightcap.

1. On the M40 going west, there is a long hill with a deep cutting at the top. As we crested this hill, we saw the whole Vale of Oxford laid out before us.

2. Lou explaining how at last year's Cropredy Festival, she tried to sober up her husband Rob with coffee, unaware that it was laced with brandy.

3. Hot chocolate with brandy after an evening standing in a field with 12,000 other people.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Surf's up, mint leaves and chatty.

1. Weblog surfing. Go to and scroll down to the bottom of the page. There's a box called Recently updated in the bottom right corner. Take your pick. Some are really funny - teenagers whinging about their parents; mothers swearing about their children. Some are tragic - the newly dumped; the desperately fat. Some are creepy - a sex addict, and a poor chap saying he had asked a girl out eight (EIGHT) times and been turned down. He wondered how many more times he would feel he had to ask her out. I sometimes wonder if these people know that ANYONE can read their logs. Especially the sex addict guy.

2. A jug of sour sugary mint-leafy mojito at Cubana with friends. Cubana is achingly Che-chic. Cocktails for all come the revolution.

3. A learning difficulties lady kept talking to me at Waterloo East. Although she was sweet and shy, normally I would have run away covered in confusion. But tonight, I was the sort of drunk that gently fills you with love for everyone. So we chatted away about the difficulties of catching trains and I helped her on board when it arrived. She asked me to let the guard know she would need help at her station. He was lovely too - 'Short lady? Oh she's a regular. I dunno what she does, just rides up and down all day. We never ask her for her ticket.'

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Go mango wharf, dark clouds and mousie.

1. Dried mango - sweet and chewy and free from fresh mango's dribbliness.

2. Walking home with black clouds piling up in the sky behind me.

3. Origami mouse. This is one of the first models I learnt. This traditional design is simple but it has something essentially mousish about it. I prefer the traditional designs because of this. And being simple, it's easy to do a good job of them. This one is particularly good with thickish paper.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Juice, origami and hairwash.

1. Spanish oj - it tastes properly of oranges - sourness, bitterness and all - which Florida juice does not. Florida juice tastes as if it has been sugared and watered down. The supermarket I use has recently changed hands and now offers both. Plus Spanish juice means fewer food miles. Hurrah.

2. Opening a packet of thick and beautifully patterned origami paper and using it to make a couple of models involving pleasing moves.

3. Washing your hair after a sticky day.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Ill, red meat and lost love.

1. Feeling ill at work, going home, having a couple of hours' kip with a hot water bottle. I woke up feeling fine and was able to scoot back for an afternoon's work. I really, really like living so close to the office.

2. As juicy a piece of steak as I've ever had the pleasure of putting on my plate.

3. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro which I read in one sitting and enjoyed hugely. I was intrigued all the way through by the love story and fascinated by the manservant-gentleman relationship. The story-telling technique was masterly, too - Stevens is writing as his journey unfolds, so we really have no idea what is going to happen next in the outer story.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Lost, ocean and lollies.

1. Walking a 20ft maze drawn in the sand.

2. Swimming in the sea on a hot day.

3. Mr Men ice lollies - small, cheap, tasty and free from artificial colourings, they are as welcome today as they were when I was at school.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Going back, bouncing light and pink shoes.

1. Janet Ellis standing in on Excess Baggage. Her chinchillaish voice vortexes me back to teatime television like Jigsaw and Blue Peter.

2. A man sitting in the window of a cafe. Sunlight reflected off his cup of coffee rippled on his face.

3. Finding the perfect pair of shoes on the morning of the day I need them. They match my new undies.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Twenty minutes, plantlife and haircare.

1. Heading back to work after a satisfying lunchtime shopping foray and realising I still have 20 minutes left.

2. The security of knowing my new spider plant (courtesy of Jason) is absorbing harmful radiation from my screen.

3. Laura suggested I might get the shine back in my hair by applying almond oil and leaving it for two hours before washing it out. I spent the early evening looking like a chav and wondering what I would do if it wouldn't wash out. But it shampooed out beautifully and my hair felt softer than it has in ages. So that was all right.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Pink, sparkly and a fight.

1. Going to pay for a set of silk undies the colour of an African sunset and discovering they were £5 cheaper than it said on the label.

2. A parcel from Katie containing two pink hair bobbles. Each has two plastic spheres the size of the large kind of marble full of water and sparkly bits.

3. Being woken by a fight below my window. It involved three belligerent girls, a fat bouncer and the police. There was proper swearing 'Look what he's done to her!' and 'I'm gonna take you to court!' and 'Just go home now!' and 'If you don't move on I'll nick you.' I could even hear the policeman on the radio describing what she saw on CCTV. If only I'd had some popcorn.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Dog, return and travel.

1. Saying goodbye to Sprite and realising that I was going to miss her.

2. Coming home to my little flat after a week away and taking a shower after a week of washing my hair in a bath.

3. When buses come on time.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

No more snot, little birds and essential oils.

1. Waking up and realising that I am starting not to have a cold any more.

2. Sparrows in a hedge.

3. The smell of cupressus on a still, hot day.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Amble, little drops of water and shop talk.

1. Sprite is rather lame and has to investigate every interesting smell on her morning walk. I have to walk at a quarter of my normal pace, which is less frustrating than I thought it would be.
2. A few drops of rain falling after a long hot day.

3. Talking novels with Peter, a writer my own age.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Lucky find, pride and dust.

1. Early in the morning while walking Sprite on the on the scrubby almost-park at the back of the house I saw a boy and a girl from the council estate over the valley. They walked hand in hand along the top of the bank, and then the girl said: 'There it is!' She slid down the bank on her bum and picked something up out of the grass.

2. Explaining the train announcement ticker to two nervous Japanese tourists and feeling oddly proud. The trains may be late, but at least we know by how many minutes, damn it.

3. Sandy dust under bare feet.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Green and scarlet, a kip and little pigs.

1. Rowan berries. Mountain ash trees are a-flame here. The berries are bright, bright scarlet and the leaves are a dusty jade. I love them because they are so bold and so intensely colourful at a time of year when so many things look a bit faded and and crispy and mildewy. They are also rather sad because they mean autumn is on the way.

2. Falling asleep in the shade over a book.

3. The squeaky noises that guinea pigs make.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Chocolate, Lunch and Northern Exposure.

1. While hunting for breakfast in a strange house, I found a jar of Nutella.

2. Meeting Paul V for lunch. We sat in the sun under the house on the rock and he ate an e-nor-mous salad bowl from Safeway. I had a salmon and cucumber sandwich and an apple.

3. Northern Exposure. When my friends first started driving, we used to gather at Glen's house on a Sunday evening to watch this quirky and slightly magical show about Cicely, Alaska. It's a place where a 20-year-old girl can get together with a man old enough to be her grandfather and it doesn't seem weird. It featured the lovely, lovely John Corbett as layabout DJ artist Chris 'in the morning' Stephens. Sigh.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Walking the dog, blackberries and sunflowers.

1. Sprite's obvious pleasure at being taken for a walk.

2. A serious- and sensible-looking man picking and eating blackberries at the side of the road.

3. A garden full of sunflowers alive with hoverflies.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

All set, avocado and summer night.

1. Leaving for work knowing that everything is ready for what I'm doing when I get home.

2. Avocado that is properly buttery.

3. A heatwave co-inciding with me having somewhere private to sit outside.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Sam Lawrence, Saki and stage.

1. I finished reading the article (Sam Lawrence Told Me So) that a friend, Rich, has written about the beginnings of Mormonism. Through meticulous research, he has uncovered the history of a shadowy character who would otherwise have been forgotten. I hope someone does the same for me!

2. Saki's short stories, in particular Excepting Mrs. Pentherby and Shock Tactics.

3. Going to the theatre outside. It combines a celebration of summer evenings with a special kind of optimism about the weather. We saw Garden, which is half of an Alan Ayckbourn play titled House and Garden. House was being performed simultaneously inside the theatre.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Sun, leaves and stories.

1. The way the sun shines into my flat. It's like being woken up by someone who is all excited about whatever it is we're about to spend the day doing.

2. House of Leaves - a labyrinth in book form. A photojournalist gets lost in his own house and makes a film about it. A blind man writes about the film and then dies. His editor, a troubled trainee tattoo artist, is discovering that drugs and random sex are no substitute for a firm grip on reality. The text twists around the page and footnotes lead you astray.

3. Christopher sent me a draft of a short story which made me laugh out loud.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Lemon, rodent and flittermice.

1. Earl Grey tea with lemon in it.

2. Jessica's spotty hamster. It looks like the Dalmatian mice in The Royal Tenenbaums

3. Watching bats from a rocky outcrop in the woods.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Hunger, bedding plants and horses.

1. Fenella and I walked through St James' Park and Green Park before breakfast. When we got our juice and muffins from a refreshment stand in Hyde Park, they tasted yum.

2. Heliotrope. It smells like cherry pie.

3. Two fat ladies leaning over a fence by a busy road to feed horses with quarters of apple.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Payday, trains and a hot night.

1. Putting my paycheck in the bank after what seems like a 40-day month.

2. The smell inside the old slam-door trains. I think it reminds me of my parents coming home from work.

3. London on a hot evening just before the pubs close. It's quietly busy and no-one seems in much of a hurry.

Friday, July 23, 2004

NICE, yralgrub and vin rouge.

1. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence. It decides which drugs the NHS should be dishing out by asking everyone to comment on new treatments in a big free-for-all of healthcare professionals, managers and academics. This week, experts have been saying that if it's going to recommend such expensive treatments, it should jolly well pay for them itself.

2. My mother sneaking into my flat and leaving a bag of herbs and a big bunch of marigolds.

3. Drinking a glass of rough red wine while supper cooks.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

It's gone, yay and spuds.

1. Small boy chasing crickets in the long grass under Wellington Rocks.

2. Sitting in my flat at 6.05pm and - even after six months - rejoicing at not being stuck on the train back from work in London.

3. Rob turning up at ten to midnight with a bag of potatoes from his allotment.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Grotesque, scrunch and pigs.

1. Len Shelley's frankly peculiar art. He beachcombs bits of dead fish, bird skulls and driftwood and arranges them in a box. Bizarre google-eyed creatures are frozen in the snippets of overheard conversation that title each box: They Brought Children for him to Touch and In Summer there are Wasps and He bought a harpy from a petshop in Japan. There is an exhibition on now in Tunbridge Wells library. Don't forget to read the guestbook - 'Twaddle - like a first-year art student' and 'disgusting' and 'the poor horse' and 'as a vegetarian I was very offended'.

2. Malteasers. One sweet, so many dimensions. They're chocolate. They crunch. You can suck them and they melt. Yum.

3. Finding a book with instructions for an origami pig. A chap at uni made one for me once, and I could never work out how he did it. I think this must be the same book he had, because he told me about a ring of 12 cranes made from one sheet of paper. I didn't believe him, but it's there in the book! Step-by-step Origami by Steve and Megumi Biddle.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Out to lunch, supper in the sun and vanilla.

1. Being driven out to a pub in the country at lunchtime.

2. Supper in the park with mozzarella, tomatoes, cheese and bread.

3. Vanilla sugar - put vanilla pods in a jar. Pour caster sugar over them. After a few weeks, you too can make everyone think you are a domestic goddess. It's good on strawberries, or in cakes. It also burns as incense and makes the whole flat smell of baking. It's a very homey, comforting smell. Apparently it's good for seducing men, too.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Drowsy, breakfast and dancing queen.

1. Feeling soft and sleepy.

2. Toast and marmite and tea.

3. Dancing with Paul V.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Laughing boy, trifle and subverting the young.

1. A man with a pushchair laughed to see me, Cat and Jen wearing borrowed waterproofs - one red, one white and one green. We were scurrying along the promenade behind Cat's dandyish husband Alan.

2. Ten-minute trifle made with mascarpone, raspberries and bananas.

3. Teaching Niamh age three the dangerous words to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Floristry, I can see the sea and old friends.

1. Flower stalls at stations.

2. I got a bus from Brighton station to Cat's parents' house. The moment on that journey when I first glimpsed the sea.

3. Cat, who will always be small for her age, appearing from behind the enormous front door. She's on a flying visit from Germany, and I haven't seen her since before Christmas.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Crash, comfort food amd domestic science.

1. A skater fell off his board and landed in a nettle patch. I was far enough away that I could smirk in safety.

2. Green and Black's cherry chocolate.

3. My apron. Katie made it from curtain material off-cuts. When I wash up last thing it stops me soaking my night dress. It also gives me somewhere to wipe my hands and it has a useful pocket in which to lose the corkscrew.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Tart, narrative and bubbles.

1. A Round Heeled Woman by Janet Juska.

2. Bruv ringing to be excited with me about The Streets album he gave me for my birthday. He told me he thought the language and the story telling would fascinate me - he was so right.

3. Soap bubbles bigger than my head.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Tar is not a plaything, Bruv and Radio 4.

1. The smell of tar used for repairing roads.

2. Seeing my little brother for the first time since Easter.

3. Hearing Radio 4 coming faintly from a parked car. Even though I can't hear the actual words, I know it is Radio 4 and couldn't be anything else. I think it reminds me of being picked up by my father after Saturday school.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Seeds, magic door and tomatoes.

1. The seedheads of hawksbit (Hieracium). They look like thuggish dandelions.

2. The tunnel between Eridge Road and the Pantiles. One moment it's hot, bright, noisy roadside, and the next it's the quiet, shady and cool Pantiles.

3. Cherry tomatoes. They taste like tomatoes but as small enough to eat in one go so I don't end up with pips and pulp all down my front.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Baby powder, peas and meditation.

1. Johnson's baby powder.

2. Fresh peas in their pods bought from the Farmers' Market.

3. When I meditate my body goes heavy and light at the same time. Then I seem to forget I have a body at all.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Small boy, chocolate brownies and a hail storm.

1. A boy of about eight with hair growing straight from the top of his head. It lay flat like a helmet - apart from a little tuft at on the crown. He also had a face full of freckles and front teeth a bit too big for his mouth.

2. Flour Power chocolate brownies. They are huge, sticky and very chocolatey.

3. Watching the High Street in a hail storm. The traffic slowed right down. There was no noise but the rush of hail. Everyone - even people with umbrellas - sheltered in doorways and under shop awnings. The flag on the estate agents went limp. Shopkeepers stopped work and stood in their doorways looking on. When it was over, everyone hurried on with what they were doing pretending that nothing had happened.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Grease, time keeping and foundation garments.

1. Bacon sandwiches made on malted brown bread.

2. Waking up from a kip and realising that I have three minutes to dress for a party; and then getting a call from Paul V to say that he is running late.

3. My Wonderbra.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Privet, pips and butter.

1. Being puzzled because the hayfevery, sickly, loo-cleanerish smell of privet flowers makes me feel vaguely happy, then remembering the reason why.

2. The BBC pips.

3. The taste of butter when you haven't had it for ages and ages.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Dirty weather, toys of the wind and end of level.

1. We had been promised dirty weather by teatime. There was something unreal about the sky all day - grey clouds piled up in rolled waves.

2. We drew faces on balloons and let them out of the office window. The wind snatched mine and it flew away over the hospital.

3. I've been struggling for *weeks* with a specially tricky dungeon boss on Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I finally trounced him and his master sent him between dimensions as a punishment.

Art book, gossip and watermelon.

1. Among my birthday presents is a new book of Tove Jansson's art, featuring lots of bits I've never seen before. 2. Stopping for a ...