Friday, September 30, 2005

Rain coming, B&J and apple pie order.

1. 'It's get your women and children inside weather coming,' say Wes and Linda of the excellent Tuc Me Inn at Wolfeboro. Oh. We had planned to go for a long walk. Instead, we do two short walks and go into the village to watch the storm coming in across the lake. We see a little white dog running along a jetty snapping and barking at the waves as they slop over the side.

2. Sitting in Ben and Jerry's icecream parlour eating huge banana splits while the rain throws down outside. We felt very English.

3. The scene in When Harry Met Sally where she orders the apple pie. I like it because it is an intrinsically funny speech and it is a neat and simple way of telling you all about her.

PS: If you're ever in Wolfeboro, I can't say enough good things about Tuc Me Inn -- The innkeepers made us feel right at home and did wonderful things with maple syrup for breakfast.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Breakfast, froggies and knight of the road.

1. At breakfast in the hostel, we see a New Zealand backpacker travelling with his own personal jar of marmite. Later, we have second breakfast in in a non-chain coffee house with the demon drink in thick white china mugs and a slice of cake to share.

2. The bronze frogs on the Frog Pond.

3. Our tyre is more than a bit flat and with an unfamiliar car, Katie feels a bit helpless. But the mechanic in Wolfboro kindly puts more air into it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bags, wilderness and barman.

1. The shopping in Mystic is great. We stand with our noses against the window of a closed craft shop. The owner hurries up, clutching her coffee. 'Just a moment ladies, I'll open up for you.' She says: 'In the cafe they said: "You have customers waiting," but I had to get my coffee first.' Later we discover a needlepoint shop. We are bowled over by the range of handpainted canvases, and chat to the owner, who has found her passion in life and made a trade of it.

2. A public loo in Newport with a jungle painted on the walls.

3. The restaurant where we have lunch is short staffed, so a pretty barman with an astonishing gravelly voice serves us.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Parental units, free cup, our song, tasting, blowing in, discard, going alone and crickets.

Sometimes you just have to be a bit flexible with your numbering.

1. We met Rich's parents, Lucille and Fred, and you could see where he gets his kindness and generosity from. They welcomed us like long-lost friends, and I loved being 'The girls' right from the start. Later, we set out in Lucille's vast and beautiful 1980s Cadillac ('I'm the original little old lady who you want to buy a car from.' We went to the graveyard so we could salute Rich and give him some flowers. His stone is artful -- simple but full of meaning for anyone who knows how he gave Lucille gardenias, that he achieved Scouting honours and that he loved books.

1a. Driving towards the end of Long Island, we stopped at a Starbucks where the barista asked 'Are you on holiday?' I said: 'Yes.' Seems this was the right answer, because it got me a free coffee! 'He's probably used to dealing with some very rude and demanding people,' commented Bob.

2. 'Switch on your radio at 3.30,' said Bob. 'It's a good show.' And they played a special song for Clare and Katie driving through Long Island: Gilbert O'Sullivan's Clare. I never realised there was a song for my name -- and it's even spelt right.

2a. Visiting Pindar Vineyards Winery. When Rich visited us, he brought over some bottles of really quite nice wine and a big packet of bottle labels, which I used to decorate a little chest of drawers in my bathroom. We saw the original paintings used to make the labels, and tasted (and bought) some wine.

2b. Watching a storm blowing in towards Orient Point while we waited for the ferry. The wind whipped our hair and battered at our coats. After hot New York the sea air was a blast.

2c. Horseshoe crab shells. I've never seen these before except in pictures and I couldn't believe they were big enough to use as helmets.

3. On the other side of the ferry was our first solo US driving -- Katie's first solo US driving, I mean -- and we were both very scared. So arriving safely at the motel in Mystic was a great relief.

3a. I hadn't expected to hear so many whirring churring croaking things -- I like these noises because they make it feel as if you are properly on holiday.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Bronzes, look at the lights and what's left.

1. We didn't have long in Central Park, so we picked and choosed -- the statues of Alice in Wonderland and Hans Christian Andersen. Children were climbing all over Alice, and she seemed to have been designed with them in mind, because there were cunning footholds in the bronze. Hans Christian Andersen's ugly duckling was rubbed shiny.

2. We saw some Mennonite-type people preaching fire and brimstone in a park. The women all wore little muslim caps, and the men wore high trouser and braces. Later, I saw a little huddle of them standing in the middle of Times Square gawping at the lights.

3. During supper, I remembered that I hadn't seen any Andy Warhol sights. 'Oh we can go see where the Factory was,' said Bob. 'It's only a couple of blocks from here.' So we did. There's a Petco there now.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Pineapple, vine and running dogs.

1. They served pineapple for breakfast in the hotel, and it was like dream pineapple. Instead of veering between scalding acidity, fermented sloppiness and fiberous chewiness like certain English pineapples, it was sweet and tender and tasted of... pineapple.

2. An enormous wisteria growing over three fire escapes in Greenwich Village.

3. The parks all had dog enclosures. They seem to be pretty much the only place that dogs can run wild and free in New York. The owners sit around watching as the dogs frollick merrily -- while following to the letter the long list of rules -- and it looks like a good way to meet people.

Picture by Katie Skinner

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Cocoa, temperature and Rich's car.

1. Went to Chez Gerard for breakfast on our way to New York. I had toasted brioche with special chocolate spread. It seemed to be made with mostly cocoa and very little sugar.

2. I always think you know your holiday has begun when you climb off a plane and find the air is much hotter than at home.

3. Rich's friend Bob picked us up at the airport. We loaded into a pale gold Chevrolet. 'This is Rich's car. His parents gave it to me since I spent so much time in it.' Rich had often mentioned his car, and we knew he was tremendously proud of it, so it was a good link -- if he couldn't be here to meet us, at least his wheels were.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Suitcase, old boy network and patterns.

1. Bad news -- I broke my suitcase moments after leaving the flat. Good news -- finding a luggage shop minutes before it closed.

2. Seeing an old school friend again after about six years. His choirboy voice has roughened and deepened and he has picked up a really cute posh end of London accent from somewhere.

3. Beautiful chunky sweater men running along beaches in Katie's knitting pattern books.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Gossomer, access and bag.

1. Oli contributes 18 spider webs in a row on the station railings, all covered in dew from the mist.

2. Bean -- our favourite chocolate shop -- where you can slurp on milkshakes and frozen yoghurt. But it's upstairs, so people who don't climb can't get to it. When I went in for my chocolates, a man in a wheelchair was sitting in the shop downstairs enjoying a little cup of icecream and making faces at a baby parked next to him in a buggy.

3. The packed and luggage-labelled bag at the end of my bed.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Psychic, crossing paths and Alison Lapper and a guest.

1. When you are talking about someone and they phone.

2. Our designer works from Capetown, so I haven't met her yet. She has come to England for a holiday, so we took her out to dinner in London. It's good to finally put a face to the e-mails.

3. We went out to Trafalgar Square to see the sculpture on the Fourth Plinth. It's made of white stone and it's called Alison Lapper Pregnant. Alison Lapper is an artist who was born with no arms and very small legs. The statue really does challenge ideas of what ought to be put on plinths in the middle of Trafalgar Square. Heavily pregnant disabled women aren't your usual subject, so this statue has really thumbed its nose at the parade of dead war heroes on horses.

And a guest contributor Douglas Findlay adds his own Beautiful Thing: 'When you're in the bath and you put your head underwater and move it from side to side so water goes in your ears.'

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Cake, geek and cypher.

1. Cakes with walnuts in them. And the naughtiness of eating cake for breakfast.

2. Memory sticks. Pop them in the USB port, move the files over, and you are ready to go. Wow. How do they get so much on to that little chip?

3. I love reading back my shorthand. I spent nearly a year learning it back in the late 1990s, and though I rarely get to exercise it, it is so useful when I need it. Sometimes a word can puzzle me, but I usually get there in the end. You have to note down the letters you have, and look at the context, and after a bit the answer leaps out.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Those Magnificent Men, meat and green bobbles.

1. Waking up to the Sally Army band, sunlight glinting off the silver, marching down the High Street to the happy-clappy church. It was the anniversary of the Battle of Britain this week, so they stopped outside the church and played Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines. I saw Fenella and Andy peeping out of their window, too, and we waved at each other.

2. I love the fat off a piece of cold roast lamb. After two days in the fridge, it has absorbed the flavours of garlic and rosemary.

3. Seeing conker shells on the trees. They are just about ready to burst -- any day now, I reckon. It's sad, too, because it means Autumn is on the way.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Blue sky, love affair and ting.

1. Waking up to blue sky and sunshine was very invigorating after several chilly, grey days.

2. Discovering a little romance is budding among my friends.

3. A garden full of candles and mirrors and chiming things.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Up and down, stroll and egg whites.

1. When the temperature changes from place to place. In the sun, it is positively balmy, but in air in the woods has definite damp edge to it.

2. An elderly couple -- he pushing she in a wheelchair -- walking down the Common with their huge and fluffy dog.

3. Cooking for people who encourage you to make experimental puddings. Fenella and I -- supervised by Andy -- made rhubarb topped with a fluffy cloud of meringue.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Jam, taut and progress.

1. Frankly, the contents of the pan looks like pebbles in sand. Not promising. But suddenly, the juice comes out of the damsons, turning it pink and syrupy. Then the sugar melts, and it all begins to look like jam.

2. When you cover jam pots with a circle of cellophane and an elastic band, it's impossible to get them smooth. But if you wet the cellophane, it miraculously tightens up to a drum-like tautness. How does it work? Anyone know?

3. When checking corrections on a manuscript, I like it when there is a big wodge of pages with no marks. It's very satisfying to see the 'done' pile growing quickly.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Seeds, mash and remember.

1. Little lawns covered in dandylion clocks.

2. I made mashed potato. But not any old mashed potato. Because I'm cooking for one, all sorts of things go in the pot to save washing-up. Last night, it was: one potato, a chunk of swede and a clove of garlic, with a leeks and some little pieces of chilli in a steamer above. When they were boiled I added milk, butter, pepper and salt and mashed it all up. Then the leeks and chilli went in, with a bit of parsley.

3. In this Year to Success programme, they tell you the secret of memorising numbers. See, you associate each digit with consonant sound and then you can make words -- or strings of words out of a long number -- which are easy to remember.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Warm, plums and pink tea.

1. A cool morning makes the warmth of my bed seem so enticing.

2. Plums for lunch. They are the green sort, and they are sweet and squishy.

3. Discovering that Whittard's red fruit tea is refreshing, pink and doesn't make my mouth hurt.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Tee hee, sitters and boing.

1. I enjoyed this post from The Old Professor about his giggling three-year-old son.

2. Every bench up on the Common near Wellington Rocks had someone sitting on it, waiting, or watching the world go by.

3. As I come off the Common, I see a man on the traffic island with tennis balls falling out of his bag. About dozen go rolling and bouncing across the road and the traffic stops while he gathers them up again.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Public, images and cut.

1. Eating chocolates in the street.

2. The magic of my scanner. You can put three photos on the plate, and understanding this without being told, it scans three separate files. And it squares them off, too.

3. Cropping photos, either with a scalpel or in Photoshop. I love the way it improves the picture; and it makes you notice what's in the photograph - a wheelie bin, some pillars, a distracting headless passer-by in the background, a blurred bottle in the foreground. Next time I have my camera out, I will frame my shots better.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Free cake, head and warm hands.

1. The banana bread lady gave me a free loaf for being a regular -- it's her last market because she's starting an art course.

2. The moment when a headline falls into place. The process goes like this: Heading heading heading head... First meeting with smiles... Smiles at start of... Laughs for all at first... First meeting to make you... Season starts with a smile.

3. My new American mittens - thank you Christine! They are knitted in thick turquoise wool, with pink and orange and green and purple diamonds on the back.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Out back, visitors and happy days.

1. Got so into a short story -- Rear Window by Cornell Woodrich -- that I was late for work. Hitchcock made it into a film.

2. Our office is right next to the kitchen, so everyone always drops in for a chat. If we are too busy, we just ignore them until they get bored and give up.

Sailing boats at anchor in the harbour at Bosham on a calm summer's evening.

3. Getting a pack of photos back. This film covers The Isle of Wight Festival, a day sailing and the office go-karting evening.

PS: Ed says I spelt his name wrong on Thursday, but I'm not to change it because he doesn't want people knowing he writes on this blog.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Cherry, almonds and discovery.

1. Cherry scones for breakfast.

2. Amaretto coffee.

3. Finding my passport, which I thought I'd lost, on the scanner. Can't even imagine how long it's been there.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The de Grey Birch method

These beautiful things are written by guest contributor Ed.

1. Slapping routine on the bottom by getting dressed for work on the stairs.

2. The taste of Bush -- Belgium's strongest beer (12%).

3. Clare Grant's nose.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Burnt sugar, pink wine and familiarity.

1. Oli's Toffee Aero. I didn't actually have any because I am too stuck-up to eat chocolate containing less than 40 per cent cocoabutter; but the caramel smell was divine. It filled the office for an entire afternoon.

2. Fenella coming through the door with a bottle of pink wine and a whole pile of news.

3. Wandering into a pub where people know your name.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Take a bow, naked ladies and sherry.

1. Doing it for the fat lady. In JD Salinger's Franny and Zooey, a child having a tantrum because he doesn't want to polish his shoes before going on a radio show is told to 'do it for the fat lady.' He imagines this anonymous listener, sitting in a wicker chair swatting flies with her radio going full blast all day, as she waits for the show to come on.

2. Autumn crocuses. Yesterday I wrote autumn crocuses on my pad, possibly as a reminder to write about them. Or perhaps not. Anyway, there is a circle of them in my parents' garden. They appear among the dry grass as if from no-where, just the flowers in little groups of four or five, with cold white stems and pale mauve petals.

3. The soup I plan to make tomorrow needs to simmer for an hour. In her recipe, Delia Smith suggests spending this time in a hot bath with glass of sherry.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Daily walk, undertaker and warm weather.

1. I like the Three Chimneys pub between Biddenden and Sissinghurst. It doesn't have three chimneys, though, and the sign shows a man in blue looking at a crossroads. The name comes from the days when there were French prisoners of the Napoleonic war in Sissinghurst Castle. They were allowed to walk as far as the crossroads, which they called 'Trois chemains'.

2. After lunch, Rosey and I fall asleep on the lawn. When I wake up, the pattern of the grass is pressed into my arms.

3. While we were visting Grandpa's grave, the undertaker and his wife, who were walking their dogs along the footpath, came over to say hallo and help admire the new headstone. This undertaker has done lots of our family's funerals - the year before I was born, he helped bring my other grandfather home from Sicily after he died on holiday. At my great aunt's funeral he told me that doing the reading was a very brave and honourable thing. And at my other grandmother's funeral, he said he would miss her: 'We had an understanding, your grandmother and I'.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Lost to view, newtling and pink.

1. Back in 1987, great swathes of English woodland were flattened by a freak storm. We used to climb to the top of Starvegoose bank in Bedgebury Forest to look out at the view. You could see out across the valley to Goudhurst. Yesterday, we climbed up and the trees have grown so much that you can't see anything. I don't suppose there'll be another storm in my lifetime, so I shall be able to boast to my children about seeing the view.

2. Spotted an eft in a tiny pond. An eft is a baby newt. They look like the little dagger marks used to indicate footnotes; or one of Tove Jansson's hattifatteners.

3. Sunset changed the light in the valley so that the pink geraniums by the front door seemed to glow.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Spinny chair, tales of Peru and Holly

1. Robert inherited a bright orange leather armchair that revolves. When it was in Granny Nichola's house we liked to sit in it and spin until we were dizzy. Apart from the fact that it spins, I think we loved the colour - we were used to upholstery in cream or brown or faded colours. He has it in his room, which has a clear-night-sky coloured carpet. Orange and blue is one of my favourite colour combinations. Not particularly to wear or in my flat, I mean - I just like to see it around.

2. Last thing at night, I sit (in the orange chair) with my knitting and quiz Robert about Peru. I learn that in the market you see sacks of guinea pigs for sale; and that you can get a bed for the night for £3 and chicken and chips and salad for 80p. And that Peruvian pop music is not much to listen to, but that people do salsa dancing in the nightclubs.

3. Breakfast at Tiffany's - my new favourite novella. Holly is full of contradictions - inconstant yet faithful, savvy yet naive, slovenly yet impeccably elegant. I love her for kicking out the cat and then running after him; and for keeping secrets and sharing intimacies. I love the way the story ends - how did she get to Africa? Where did she finish up? I guess we'll never know for sure.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Little birdies, two wheels and gumshoe.

1. There is something in the fir tree outside our office window that is irresistable. A scruffy blue tit - or possibly a coal tit - and a great tit have been jiggling in the branches, gobbling up whatever it is. It might be an insect; or it might be an oil - when my parents' house was new, we used to get woken up in the morning by blue tits pecking at the putty round the windows.

2. Skirting the games field on the Common, I hear shouts of 'Come on, come on, you're doing it, you're doing it! Keep pedaling.' A man is teaching a little boy to ride a bicycle. The boy waggles the handlebars as he goes, trying to keep his balance.

3. Genre fiction. I am reading a big fat red book of American mystery stories. There are private eyes; puzzles; capers and tales of love and horror.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Flutter, cruet and silver balls.

1. Hearing about Cat's baby-to-be. 'It's not strong enough to kick, but sometimes I feel something moving inside me.'

2. The way PaulV's face lights up at the sight of burger relishes.

3. As we walked down the Pantiles towards closing time, we saw about 20 people gathered under a floodlight on the far side of the bandstand. 'What are they up to?' Brawling? Play rehearsal? Looking for a lost diamond? They were playing petanque, which seemed a very civilised thing to do on a hot summers' night.

Lolly, rabbits and fairy festival.

1. As we walk, the grinding, crunching sound of Bettany working on a chalky double lolly. 2. Midsummer afternoon on the common -- rabbits gr...