Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Best bits, diagonal and new threads.

1. Madie has taken to coming out with me at lunchtime. I like showing her my favourite things about each walk.

2. Paths that go straight across the middle of a field.

3. Starting a new area of my embroidery.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Oils, visas and dumplings.

1. It's tangerine season again and in the afternoon when we are snacking on fruit a faint citrus smell wafts through the office.

2. The visas in my old passport. I like the textured paper and the different coloured stamps and the foreign lettering. At the time, it was cross-making to pay so much for them, but I still enjoy them years later.

3. Dumplings puffing up in a pot of stew.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Brew, complete and bundle.

1. The noises my coffee pot makes -- the lid rattles a little, and the top and bottom rasp as I screw them together. I like tiny hiss as the pressure builds up, and the quiet bubbling as the coffee comes up into the top half.

2. Putting aside the first half of a difficult task.

3. Bundling up with a hot water bottle and my quilt on the sofa before I go to bed.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Photographer, dryer and afternoon tea.

1. I have to get a passport picture, which I have been putting off and off. The picture has to last ten years, so I don't want one I hate. Also, there is added pressure because I am quite fond of the present picture: Ali grabbed my ankle as the shutter went and it caught me at the moment I was about to laugh. Picking a photoshop at random I went in and found Caroline, a friend of a friend, working there. So I got my picture taken by someone who cared a little about me having a photo I liked. It's not brilliant, but it's not a picture I'm going to resent until 2015.

2. I know tumble dryers aren't green, but on days like this when it's too cold and damp to get washing dry, they are wonderful.

3. Eating sticky ginger cake and drinking tea while catching up with Fenella and Andy.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Tables turned, something for nothing and romance.

1. Last winter in the old office, I spent the entire time shivering, partly because Ed would find it too hot and switch the heating off. This year, for some reason to do with weird heating physics, Ed is constantly cold (despite his seat next to the heater) and I am just right. Which is very satisfying.

2. Just before I was about to go home, a user rang in with a problem that I didn't understand. I told him I would look into it and call him back. In the morning I looked again at his question and realised there was no problem at all. So I got the benefit of pleasing a user without doing much work.

3. Watched a few episodes of Futurama. I like the episode where Fry -- in a few hours of uncharacteristic romantic eptness -- moves stars to write a love note across the sky.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Woolly, greeters and still.

1. The snuggly warmness of my bed in the morning, with a blanket wrapped around my feet and a shawl from Nepal around my shoulders.

2. Just as night fell, the wind got up, blustered around for quarter of an hour, and then all was still again.

3. The jewellers shops round here all employ large men to stand around outside in heavy coats. Today, two of them were gossipping as I walked past.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Hot air, discard and berries.

1. Standing by a row of houses on a cold morning and watching steam and smoke curling out of chimneys and vents.

2. Fallen hornbeam leaves the colour of polished copper.

3. The leaves are mostly fallen and now there seem to be shiney red berries everywhere for the birds to gobble up.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Patter, pool and news.

1. The larches have turned gold after the frost. I like the pattering of their needles falling.

2. I haven't been swimming for nearly two years. I had forgotten the how much I enjoy feeling of lightness, and the warmth that infuses my muscles after a couple of lengths.

3. Hearing the voice of a friend who hasn't been in touch for a while. She is full of baby news, and invites me round for Christmas drinks.

Picture by Michael Grant

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Fairytale, crunchy and flowers.

1. A white deer among the herd grazing in the field.

2. Walking on nearly-frozen mud so that it crunches.

3. Coming home and finding a few pink orchids have been left for me.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Green things, turkey cock and selfless.

1. The flower market in Columbia Road -- it's solid with people, and the stallholders shouting out 'Lovely sunflowers' and 'Five for a tenner' and 'Wholesale prices to the public' and 'I'm selling all these at a loss. Got to sell them today -- I'm going on my holidays tomorrow.'

2. The thought that the males of our species do not have wobbly wrinkled things on their heads like turkeys. However, turkeys do have strange square feathers that change colour in the sunlight. We saw the turkey cock at Hackney City Farm, which is free and well worth a visit. There were also enormous pigs hoping we would scratch their backs.

3. Postman's Park -- it's next to the old national Post Office, so it would once have been full of off-duty posties enjoying the greenery. It's also home to a set of ceramic plaques commemorating acts of selfless and hopeless bravery.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Supergeeks, bump and conversation stopper.

1. I like seeing the trainspotters at London Bridge -- look at the very ends of platforms one to six as you come in from the country; or you can see them photographing the engines on the concourse of the terminal platforms.

2. The way my friend Cat is glowing in the last third of her pregnancy.

3. After a day chewing over life and love with one friend, watching television with another.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Mod cons, woodsmoke and social divide.

1. I got a different lift today and, fond as I am of Oli and his car, I do like to see out of the whole windscreen and to have real heating.

2. The sleepy feeling you get from a real log fire in a pub.

3. We rent our office from a gentleman farmer type. We ran into his rather grand mother as we were tumbling back from the pub at 2.15pm. We all piled into each other to make shy, polite conversation. If we'd had caps, we'd have been twisting them in our hands, feeling as if we were speaking two different languages. It's all a bit like meeting the queen.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Icing, comrade and cutting.

1. The first frost on the edges of fallen leaves.

2. Walking up to the witch's tower with Madie. It's good to have some company on a walk sometimes.

3. The miracle of hairdressers. 'When did you last wash your hair?' 'Um... cough cough mumble ago.' I went in expecting to have my hair washed and then cut. But Filip wanted to cut it dry. How did he manage to make it look shiny newly washed with only a bottle of water and comb?
Picture by Michael Grant

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Stalks, goo and voices.

1. Walking on a stubbly field because of the way the stalks pop under your feet.

2. Coming to the end of a rather wambly cup of hot chocolate and finding most of the chocolate waiting for you there.

3. Hearing the voices of your friends as you walk into the pub.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Warm hands, herd and Mr Moon.

1. Having warm hands because they are protected by a pair of thick wool mittens -- thank you Christine!

2. Coming across ten deer grazing in a field.

3. An enormous full moon rolling up over the roof.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Green road, autumn sunset and stars.

1. One of those moments of complete silence on a green road between two fields.

2. An autumn sunset that had us all hanging out of the windows.

3. Two bright planets appearing as the sky turns dark.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Geisha, salmon and dog.

1. A tea set decorated with orange and gold knobbly dragons (very much for the European market according the antiques shop owner) made of the finest translucent porcelain. As you drain your cup a geisha appears in the bottom -- her image is created by different thicknesses of china.

2. 'I've never had this picture on the wall since I painted it,' says our grandmother. So we hang her leaping salmon at the bottom of the stairs where she can see it often.

3. Granny told us about her puppy, Jason. 'I used to cycle to work with him in a basket on my bike. But as he got bigger, first his front legs and then his back legs hung out. And then he got so heavy I couldn't steer. So I told him he had to run along behind.' Jason was an Alsation.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Seeking, quitter and extras.

1. When you go looking for something -- like mushrooms -- you get better at spotting them very quickly.

2. I have a friend who has given up smoking, and now when he laughs, he doesn't cough any more.

3. Adding extra toppings to a supermarket pizza.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Inside, trim and film.

1. I like scurrying into a pub on a hill top when cold rain is coming down.

2. Rosey's new haircut.

3. Going to see Nanny McPhee. I liked the bold Edwardian colours in the set and costumes; and Celia Imrie as the marriage-hungry super-vulgar Mrs Quickly was very funny indeed.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

On a string, slattern and snooze.

1. Strings of buttons for sale in a charity shop.

2. I like cooking, but sometimes it's nice to just shove a (healthy and good quality) ready meal in the oven.

3. Going to bed early.

Low sun, orange and coffee.

1. Low November sun slanting through a wood with pine needles, beech leaves and autumn bracken on the ground.

2. A sunset that turned the sky the colour of the heart of a log fire.

3. Caroline sharing the smell of a newly opened jar of coffee with me.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Frills, fungus and critters.

1. The crispy edges of a pancake.

2. Finding mushrooms in a field.

3. The Futurama episode where they visit the moon. It includes animatronic gophers made by genetic modification giant Monsanto.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Running water, catch of the day and family history.

1. Paddling across a stream and feeling the coolness through my boots.

2. Gutting a fish, because it's never as difficult or as yucky as I think it's going to be.

3. I like this story from my grandfather's memoirs:

...a worried group of men looking in the direction of my carrier where I could just see the figure of Bernard Todd, my driver. Sgt. Lawes told me that Todd had received a cable telling him that a missile, it would have been one of the massive V 2 rockets which were doing terrible destruction round London at that time, had destroyed his family home and killed his wife and other members of the family. He was understandably distraught and Sgt. Lawes feared he might do something stupid. He had a loaded rifle with him.

I walked over to talk with Bernard racking my brains for a way of helping him get on top of his grief. He said he didn't care if he lived or died, he wanted to kill Germans, he would transfer to a rifle company.

I replied that this could be arranged but that I would miss him if he went and that meanwhile he ought to think about his remaining family and he could apply for compassionate leave to go back home and see them.

He became a little more coherent and then I had my inspiration. "Get in the carrier" I said. "Let's go for a spin." Driving a carrier at any speed over 25 mph on a hard road required a lot of concentration and it has all the exhilaration of driving an open car at high speed. Too much adjustment of the steering applies the break to one track and in a split second you are spinning off the road. We moved slowly back on to the main road which was free of traffic. "Get a move on!" I said.

He did. We must have got up to 40 mph before he eased off and look up at me. I wouldn't say he was smiling but he seemed much calmer. We went back to the convoy and in a day or so he was back to the UK.

I probably would not have heard any more but just after Pat and I were married in 1948 we came face to face with him shopping in London. He had a girl with him whom he introduced as his new wife. He showed me the gold ring on her
finger. He announced proudly:

"I had that made from the gold sovereign you gave me for my 21st. birthday just before we got to Termoli."

Monday, November 07, 2005

Slice, smooth and teapot.

1. Hot water with a slice of lemon in one of my heavy highball glasses.

2. Finding my nail file - it was under some papers on my desk - so that I can do something more than just getting cross about my index fingernail, which has got so long I can hardly type.

3. My little white single cup teapot because it looks like I stole it from a cafe. Which I didn't. But if I was going to steal a teapot, this is the teapot I would steal to brew up my orange pekoe in the morning and my Whittard red fruit last thing at night.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Early, sparkly and ravenous.

1. Jon has an early meeting and Steve has work so I roll off the sofa and we walk down across the park in before-nine-o'clock-sunshine.

2. Watching an admin secretary's annual salary-worth of fireworks exploding over Crowborough. The best ones burst into dancing fireflies. And the two enormous golden weeping willows at the end.

3. Sitting down at a restaurant table when I am pathetic with hunger. It's particularly good if soon after an enormous plate of poppadums appears.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Gale, cupboard love and looker.

1. It's been stormy all week, so a sunny day is a relief. I like it when I can stand in the warm sun while I wait for Oli to come and pick me up for work.

2. A colleague has a coffee morning each year for a charity that raises money for babies who live with their mothers in prison. We've bought raffle tickets and jam and cyclamens and pansies and guessed the number of sweets in a jar and suffered the emotional rollercoaster of the tombola more because we hope she'll bring us leftover cake on Monday than because we want to help what we secretly call 'Babies behind bars' and 'Babies on death row'.

3. Jon's friend Steve for having really unusual shiney bluey-greyish-greeny eyes and uber-super-good cheekbones.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Blowing, gumboots and comfort.

1. I like seeing the wind whipping rain across the fields.

2. Ed's new pair of wellington boots. Boots are never quite the same after you've worn them once, so I think it's important to savour the bloom of newness while you can.

3. A bowl of hot chicken and sweetcorn soup when the weather is foul.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Glee, dream cake and life skill.

1. I like the cheery girl in my favourite coffee shop. She is Canadian and has a funny munchkin voice that makes me smile every time I hear it. She acts as if she is delighted to dish out coffee and cakes to everyone, no matter how early the hour or foul the weather.

2. The chocolate brownie that I didn't eat at lunchtime. It tastes so much better in my imagination than it would have if I bought and eaten it. No really.

3. At the back of my mind is always the fear that should I be called upon to do first aid, I don't actually know how to do CPR -- not any more though. I've been on a course. They've even given me a special sheet to keep in my handbag in case the patient is not very hygienic. And they told that the chorus of Nellie the Elephant keeps you in rhythm and gives you the 15 compressions before you need to do two rescue breaths. But they said not to do it out loud because it offends by-standers.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Spice, creepy camp and clay.

1. The smell of toasting buns.

2. Going for a walk with Madie -- who very gamely picked her way across some extreme mud -- to discover a sinister abandoned caravan. There were brambles growing through the windows, which were still hung with rotting curtains. Beside it was a mobile office with 'please pay he...' written above the door.

3. Went to see Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were Rabbit. There is this scene where Gromit takes to the air in a plane from a roundabout -- he removes the child-lock first, naturally -- with the villain's toothy bullterrier sidekick Philip in pursuit. During this... er dog fight... at roof level, Gromit's craft runs out of coins. They stop the fight, only for Wallace to discover that he doesn't have the right change. So Philip, looking exasperated, goes for his money, which is in a beaded evening bag.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

On the map, swoosh and over the wall.

1. I like knowing I'm on the right path because I can recognise the shape of the land from the contours on the map.

2. The swooshy noise that wet leaves make when you walk through them. And the glowy colours of very newly-fallen autumn leaves.

3. There is a deer fence across the path, and I'm not entirely sure if I can get past it. Then I spot a gate -- which turns out not to be padlocked. Hurrah.

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 ...