Thursday, August 31, 2006

Apples, nuts and running.

1. A glass of sharp apple juice.

2. Cracking cobnuts with my teeth.

3. Leaning on a bridge looking down into the millrace.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Pip pip, crumble and broadcasting.

1. Ed's friend the beardog Pip coming up the stairs into the office.

2. The smell of blackberry crumble baking.

3. Listening to the comedy and drama on BBC Radio 7 because I've now got broadband. I listened to Just William and Journey into Space on Mondy, and Dr Who, Hancock's Half Hour and part of a mystery story about a strange French village yesterday.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Rain, smoothie and sardines.

1. Getting inside just before the rain starts throwing down, filling cups left on the outside tables at the cafe. And everyone turning to watch the sky emptying on us.

2. Yoghurt collecting round the frozen blackberry decorating the top of my smoothie.

3. Finding a tin of sardines and eating them with nubbly bread and some slices of homegrown cucumber.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Herbs, mollusc and skyline.

1. The smell of wild oregano.

2. Finding a giant snail -- he was as big as a victoria plum.

3. Looking at London from a viewpoint and seeing as little dots on the horizon such giants as St Paul's, the Post Office Tower and Canary Wharf.

Picture by Michael Grant

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Romance, family scene and geek and some other stuff.

Yesterday was a bit of a Beautiful Things bonanza, and I'm feeling too lazy to exercise discipline and discernment.

  1. Two postmen holding... one postman and one postwoman holding hands.
  2. A boy with an elfin face caught my eye while I was having coffee in Hoopers. He was with his mum, who had the same almond eyes and sharp angles, but she looked so tired that she was changlingish rather than elfin. An older sister manoeuvered the wheelchair carrying the youngest sister. She was about six, with huge thick glasses eyes and extraordinary hair the colour of a stormy sunset. As they settled at their table, the brother reached across and moved her damp fringe out of her eyes.
  3. Amid all the drinking and live music on the Pantiles, a geeky boy reading a book called Financial Calculus.
  4. Talking to someone I know vaguely from school and being told 'your name often comes up in conversation.'
  5. A friend giggling about a new 'possible' on the boy front. It's important to be wary at this stage, but I can't help but like all the 'when this happened, it might have meant that.'
  6. The Pantiles is all about seeing and being seen -- a man trolling up and down wearing a panama hat and smoking a meerscham pipe.
  7. A very teenage songwriter getting up on stage with his guitar and harmonica and playing his songs. Of course they were clunky and full of angst -- he's 18. But he was on his way, and his friends loved him -- he had a little gang of eight mouthing his words and cheering him on.
  8. Giving goodbye kisses to a line of people.
  9. The quiet bit between the Fox Fanfare and the Star Wars March where it says 'A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...' because even thinking about it sends a shiver down my spine.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Hill top, farewell and puppetry.

1. The view of Sussex woods and fields from the Mark Cross Inn.

2. Madie opening her leaving card very slowly and reading each signature in front of us all.

3. The hysterical cackling drawn from me and Andy at Team America. This political commentary and Thunderbirds spoof was lovingly and lavishly created by the guys behind Southpark. It uses puppets to jibe at over-simplified good vs evil views in the war on terror. The humour is crude -- one of our favourite scenes featured the hero throwing up outside a bar. And it lovingly exaggerates Supermarionation's slightly-off scaling, sometimes visible strings and always unsatisfactory puppet walking. But the puppets were also sophisticated, with actual recognisable expression. I really enjoyed the numerous international locations, too -- often cliched to good effect, they were so lavish that I want this film on DVD so I can stop and take a look at the conference of world leaders, and Kim Juong Il's lair, and Cairo.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Scarlet, nibble and stalks.

1. Honeysuckle berries of such translucent redness that they seem to glow.

2. Munching on a few baby sweetcorns while dinner cooks.

3. A slice of rhubarb tart with a crumbly sweet topping.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Chips, beauty spot and listening.

1. Fat chips in a jenga tower with bit salt crystals.

2. BBC Radio 4 is asking people to talk about their favourite landmarks. I've been enjoying reading listener's comments here -- it's pleasant to read positive thoughts, rather than endless complaints. And some of the comments are pure 3BT. Here's the official Today Programme page.

3. I can't get over how much I am enjoying my yoga class. From school I am used to games lessons and gym classes where I was yelled at for not trying, and now it's wonderful to have a teacher who accepts whatever I care to achieve.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Psychotruck, caramel and rolling.

1. At the end of work I wander down the lane to pick some blackberries and sloes. I am just in time, because the hedge cutter is 100 yards down the road and coming towards me.

2.The smell of brown sugar.

3. Footage of a seal sleeping in an underwater field of eel grass on The Blue Planet. It looked so fat and contented rolling gently in the current.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Coffee pot, wolf and wallpaper.

1. He-who-shall-not-be-named producing a pot of real coffee as if by magic.

2. There is a small boy in the lobby of the supermarket. He has his hand in the letterbox and is muttering to himself 'I'm stuck, I'm stuck.' 'Are you all right there? Are you stu... I see -- you're just pretending.' Phew.

3. Fenella's desktop wallpaper is a picture of Andy trying to conceal himself with a newspaper while chasing her out of the bathroom.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Homely, crime solving and relief.

1. House hunting and looking round a really beautiful place. It's not quite in the right location, though. But I enjoyed seeing what makes a house lovely -- same coloured carpets all through and nice fresh paintwork and not too much clutter.

2. Discovering that after I left the party Team Fenella intercepted a suspicious box of money. A car pulled into a parking space on the High Street. When it left, there was a Chinese box sitting on the kerb. Naturally, the girls picked it up. Another car pulled up and then left pretty quickly. They called the police, and handed the box in. The police said it probably wasn't drugs, more likely Chinese takeaway profits.

3. When you're a bit hungover and very hungry -- a plate of food.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Knights, goths and kisses.

1. Coming down into the field at Hever Castle and seeing medieval pavilions and flags waiting for the jousting to begin. It looked as if a page had fallen out of a King Arthur book. Further down the hill four white horses with long curly manes were waiting patiently, and the knights and the squires were drinking tea.

2. Four goths reaching the centre of Hever Castle Maze. 'Get a picture of Squeaky,' said the... the... uh one in dark black. Squeaky was a large black rubber rat. They set him on the plinth in the centre and photographed him on their phones.

4. We set Fenella a series of hen night challenges -- kiss a man with a moustache; get marriage tips from a divorced guy; kiss 15 men on the cheek leaving lipstick marks on them; find a man wearing white socks and kiss him. But the best one was watching her sitting on the knee of a poor boy out celebrating his 21st birthday, flirting with him until he bought her a drink. Oh, and the look of fear on the waiter's face as we asked him if he was wearing white socks. I enjoyed watching how people reacted to us -- a couple trying to enjoy a quiet dinner which had been interrupted by the 15 kiss mission watched the girls' progress round the room with big grins on their faces. And every time a new challenge came up, the 21st birthday boys perked up. Girlfriends were generously tolerant about allowing their dates to accept kisses from the bride-to-be.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Zap, pizza and inspiration.

1. Sarah, our admin assistant is leaving to do some studying. When someone leaves, it makes us talk about the things we like about them. Oli and I decided that it was her sharp wit -- particularly her lightning put-downs of cheeky men, as well as her efficiency and ability to pick things up quickly.

2. The wonders of pizza. It goes in the oven. It comes out of the oven. Then I eat it.

3. Andy has come upstairs to help me finish a secret surprise for Fenella. I am polishing the proofs, and he is writing a poem. We talk a bit while we wait for his ideas to settle. I like best the moment when he goes quiet and all I can hear is scribbling. And next best I like the moment when he rather shyly announces: 'OK, it's called A poem about Fenella'.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Fire, praise and help.

He-who-shall-not-be-named was moved to make a film of this post.

1. A flurry of afternoon excitement caused by a fire in the bins at work. The fire marshalls let off the fire extinguisher at it, and poured lots of water in. Bet the bin men are going to love us.

2. Getting a sweet note from a lady who has used 3BT to do her travel diary. She said: 'As a life-long optimist and positive-thinking person, I find that focusing on precisely three things is an exercise in discernment.'

3. Being told I've cheered someone up.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

High-maintenance, sporting chance and fruit in foil.

1. Caroline coming all the way back from work to bring me in.

2. The Oast Silly Sports Day created a number of extraordinary and beautiful sights -- Ellen running to victory in the egg and spoon; people wandering round with egg all over them following the egg catching competition; Oli practising wellie wanging with a pink boot (clearly worth it, because he won by a long way) and Ed hammering home in the sack race.

3. Bananas and pineapple grilled with brown sugar.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Sure, labour saving and ticked off.

1. Friends who ask difficult questions to make sure you know what you're doing.

2. Tumble dryers use huge amounts of energy, which seems very wasteful when clothes tend to dry themselves if you hang them up. But when the laundry pile grows so fast I can't keep up, it's very satisfying to put dirty clothes in the machine and later take them out ready for the wardrobe.

3. Completing a task that I have been putting off.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Fruit, schemes and film.

1. Getting juice from a ripe nectarine all over my hands.

2. Sharing a bottle of wine with Fenella while we plan her hen event.

3. Curling up with Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The morning after, right price and cleaner.

1. Turning over the incidents of last night with Lou first thing; and finding the kitchen thinly spread with jam where we tried to make toast when we got home.

2. Wandering round the DIY store looking for decorating supplies that I forgot to pick up on my last two visits, I see a wooden box which I thought was too expensive yesterday at £15 has been reduced to £10.

3. Covering the hideous grime revealed by sugar soap with a coat of clean paint.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Zone, paintwork and let me buy you a drink.

1. The way noise and clatter in coffee shops gets screened out when I am scribbling.

2. The shining brightness of my window frame after it's been painted by Katie, and the cleaness of the hall in its new decorating.

3. Lou and I were chatting at the bar in the George when an oldish ginger man came up and started talking to us. We talked to him and his friend for a bit and then weasled ourselves out of a trip to Dav's with them, claiming that we were meeting friends in the Grapevine. Thinking that they wouldn't follow us there because they would think we were lying, we went there and drank martinis -- Lou from what was probably the last martini glass in the whole of Tunbridge Wells. And then I spotted a man looking at me. When I smiled, he came over and introduced himself. Wow. I know lots of women find it annoying being randomly approached, and knock the guy back with a sharp line, or just ignore it. But for me boldness is much appreciated in a fella, specially if he has something interesting to say.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Gameplay, horseplay and found.

1. I'm playing Kingdom of Loathing. What I like is the way people are so kind and friendly. People who have been playing longer than me keep giving me stuff to help me along. Having said that, my magical hippy stone is still intact, so I'm not playing the version where people are allowed to attack you.

2. The sound of the girls at work squealing and giggling hysterically at something.

3. Finding things. I'm decluttering to help the flat sell. I keep finding stuff that I thought I'd lost -- most notably a stash of notes for Found, a story I wrote when I was nine and my copy of The Phantom Tollbooth. You'd have thought it would be difficult to lose things in a studio flat, but it's really not.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Shadows, remote and fruit.

Birthday news: Many happy returns to loyal reader Jen in Hong Kong.

1. Long shadows early in the morning.

2. Having control of the air con.

3. A good nectarine that perfumes my flat and has juice that runs down my chin.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Dried fruit, aliens and drink.

1. Raisins and the way they hugely improve porridge.

2. Sainsbury's do a mixed selection pack of strange tomatoes. There is a green striped one, a purple one and some yellow ones with long noses.

3. The clanking of wine bottles among the shopping.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Buzz, chackle and no more ice.

1. Leaning on a gate listening to the summer noises -- a distant aeroplane, voices from the garden over the road, seedpods clicking, a cricket at my feet and creatures buzzing at my head and then away again.

2. The whooping chuckle of a moorhen.

3. When I was young and had no sense I worked hard at defrosting the freezer, scraping away the ice with a spatula and a pan of hot water. Now I just open wide the door, put down a bowl and some clothes to catch the water and sit back with my book while the ice melts. I like the noise of the water dripping and the occasional clatter as a big chunk of ice falls through the shelves.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Tea in the morning, ballast and sit back.

1. Being brought a cup of Earl Grey tea to drink while I dress.

2. Fenella's fennel and leek rissotto.

3. Chilling with a silly film and a glass of wine.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Falling water, quiet roads and way through the woods.

1. Sitting in the sun listening to the sound of a fountain.

2. Driving home along A-roads. We went through Dorking and Reigate, which both have high streets that are a jumble of chain stores and independent shops. And we passed a cricket match being watched by families whose children were paddling in a stream. We saw a carving made from a dead tree; and a quote from that mysterious poem about the traveller by Walter de La Mare.

3. A walk that goes across the old railway line. I always feel a bit strange crossing it -- it shows how quickly nature reclaims things because unless you look carefully and spot things in the woods like a few bits of railway stone, and a couple of railway sleeper fence posts, you'd never know that a railway ran through these fields.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Garden, dressing up and too-rah loo-rah lay.

1. Being shown around the garden by Claire's dad. I like the deepest red dahlias best, and the delphiniums.

2. Claire in a girly dress with pink sparkly shoes and handbag.

3. Dancing to Come On Eileen.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Ponies, weekenders and picked up.

1. Spotting New Forest ponies.

2. The train was full of people excited about the weekend, including a family with four sons on their way to see their grandparents and a man in a blue rubber chauffer's uniform. I was met at nearly the last station by Claire and Louise just as it was getting dark.

3. The new paint smell at Claire's house, and the feel of the brand new, still-springy carpet.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Canadian, open source and oi.

1. Muesli with maple syrup. I use jumbo oats soaked overnight in milk.

2.Google spreadsheet -- it's a spreadsheet; it's free; doesn't have to be downloaded; and you can share it with people really easily.

3. Friends who shout up at my window. What must the neighbours think?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Lives of bees, beans and a lesson.

1. Watching bees. The fuchsia bush outside Oli's was covered in flowers -- and bees. Rather than trying to poke around inside, they were going for the tops of the flowers near the stalk. I looked closely and saw that the flower had been scrapped and nibbled there so the bees could reach the nectar easily. It seemed a bit hard on the fuchsia, which would be missing out on pollination; but then I saw that the bees went out of their way to rub against the dangling stamens before going for the nectar. I wondered if this was because they forgot each time where the nectar was and automatically went for the usual place -- you know how it is with a mechanical task... or perhaps they want the pollen, too.

If you would like an idea of what a fuchsia looks like, try this BBC page.

2. Beans on toast for lunch.

3. I missed a week of yoga, and I really felt it last night when I went again, especially now the weather is cooler. Poses that I achieved easily last time failed completely. It made me realise that it is worth going to the classes -- I will remember this next time I get the 'can't be bothereds'.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

On wheels, practical and embellishment.

1. The sandwich van at work -- they provide sandwiches when I forget my lunch, and they have a slate if I forget my money.

2. Parents who provide practical help as well as support.

3. The little cherub faces under the top floor windows of my block.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Over there, passing the time and black teeth.

1. Surveying an unappetising pile of service station cakes (you know the drill -- dry and floppy Danish pastries, croissants that disintegrate into a snow storm of flakes, eccles cakes that look like they are stuffed with dead flies, stale donuts covered in icing sugar) and then turning round to see three trays of freshly baked muffins.

2. Oli describing a car journey from the West Country to London he made with one of my uni housemates. Ben started everyone African chanting -- cause hysterical laughter for the entire 4-hour journey. 'It just went on and on,' said Oli. Ben used to occasionally let out a made-up African chant around the house if he was especially happy.

3. Finding Dutch salt licorice on sale in Tunbridge Wells.

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 ...