Monday, December 31, 2007

Strong women, my timer and mushroom.

I am up to date with the posts over Christmas; and also there are posts at Once Around the Park.

1. When I was young Mrs Thatcher was Prime Minister, and she made me think that a woman could do anything, even if there were lots of things that a little girl was not supposed to do or want or hope for. But along the way, it seemed to me, Mrs Thatcher had given up a few of the things I looked forward to being as a woman -- you'd never think of her as beautiful or feminine. And then I would see Benazir Bhutto on the news, and it seemed to me that it might be possible to have it all.

2. I never did get a kitchen timer for Christmas, so I take myself off to Trevor Mottram's cavern of delights. They have all sorts of kitchen timers; including a single red model of the sort I have been particularly hankering after. It is unboxed, and unpriced, so I ask how much it is. The assistant disappears into the back of the shop and comes back sometime later (I have been admiring copper saucepans and earwigging on a conversation about a member of staff dropping a knife on their foot). 'It's not in the catalogue, and it's not in the stocklist and I've asked the owner, and she doesn't know where it came from.' In the end, we agree that £3 seems a fair price. I set off home feeling very lucky indeed.

3. The taste of a fried mushroom. Or a raw mushroom.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Stop go, replacement and after supper.

1. The traffic lights at the cross roads are not working because the man from the council has the control box open so he can adjust something. Everything is orderly, with drivers waiting politely and waving each other on; but Nick says: 'Had I better see you across the road?' I am amazed and touched by this kindness, but I tell him that if he sees me over the road, he'll have to cross twice as many roads to get to where he's going.

2. I come home to find Abel and Cole have taken away our empty vegetable boxes and replaced them with two full ones.

3. After supper, the box of chocolates comes out and is passed around while we play cards on the rug.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Gamer, the station and Sister Justinia's parrot.

1. Lying in bed with my pink Nintendo DS Lite playing Zelda: Phantom Hour Glass.

2. At Etchingham station, the newspapers are laid out and labelled with the names of their commuters. The station is somehow very cheerful, and I always expect to turn round and see a fire in the grate.

3. While we wait for the pizza, Nick and Tim are going through the papers for old roleplaying campaigns. I am not really listening, but hear a reference to pirates and an animal husbandry: parrots skill. I wonder aloud if my character in the present game could have a parrot. Later that evening, as if by magic, a mechanical bird enters the game. The Professor immediately wants to take it apart, but Sister Justinia is convinced it's alive and has named it 'Birdie'.

Friday, December 28, 2007

End of the line, hard carbon and the man behind the legend.

1. As the train pulls into Charing Cross, I finish knitting my scarf and put it on.

2. In the Natural History Museum is a collection of coloured diamonds. The display cycles between normal light and UV light, revealing magical colour changes and strange fluorescence.

3. We finally get to meet Rosey's mysterious boyfriend -- Matt has been mentioned an awful lot and appears frequently in photographs, but so far he has kept his head down. As a dutiful big sister, I have been nearly eaten up with curiosity, so it was a relief to meet him at last.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Grandmother, in pictures and Christmas cakes.

1. Sitting with Granny Pat labelling her new photo album -- at first she makes me write for her, but then she takes the pen from me and I am shocked at how wobbly her writing is now. But as we work through the book, some of her old wit comes through and she makes up funny captions for photos of my siblings pulling faces. And towards the end, her writing seems to firm up a bit. Later she shows me another album the cousins made for her, and she tells me the stories I liked to hear over and over again as a child about what she did in the army.

2. My littlest cousin (who is rapidly becoming not little any more) is shy at first, and doesn't much like talking. She has a Nintendo DS. We discover that it can talk to my pink Nintendo DS Lite, and send each other horrid pictures of owls and dark mountains.

3. Gingerbread with apricot jam covered in chocolate.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

He came after all, the lover's gift and Doctor Who

1. Just before I put the light on, I notice a paper bag at the end of my bed. I'm sure it wasn't there last night. I wake up properly and realise, that despite prophecies of doom, Father Christmas has dropped off a selection of the sort of small and useful items -- like socks, posh soap, a few secondhand books -- that I never manage to buy for myself.

2. One parcel in particular has been thoroughly investigated, poked, speculated on and prodded by me, Katie and Rosey. But all we can say for certain is that there's lots of tissue paper. Finally I open it and find that my darling man has picked a darling cardigan from one of my favourite shops. It's love at first sight.

3. The cry of 'Dr Who, Dr Who!' goes through the house.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Tea time, black hat and details.

Merry Midwinter, everyone, and thank you for your comments and good wishes.

1. Nick's tea comes with a timer to show him the proper time to take the infuser out of the pot. The teapot is glass so one can enjoy the gold-red colour of the tea.

2. A bhutanese felt hat with rain-diverting tentacles has appeared in my father's study. Coming home after my parents have been away is a game of spot the difference. There are new bells hanging on striped cords, and baskets hanging where there were none before.

3. The Mother has put decorations in all our bedrooms. Mine is the pink polar bear, a sheep with dangly legs and a pair of gold musical instruments. She says it because we're not having stockings this year.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Stop, gifts and fog.

1. Town is busy, apart from a woman and a black dog who stand in a doorway watching the shoppers go by.

2. Katie comes round to my way of thinking that it's nice to unwrap a present when the person who gave it to you can see (thank you Jules!) So we take time out in the afternoon. We have raided each other's Amazon lists. She is as thrilled by the book of erotic knitting patterns as I am by my Loony Tunes DVDs. I wonder about the ideas of our homelife this little vignette will generate, however.

3. It is so foggy that familiar things take on strange shapes -- a lumpy tree trunk appears to have someone hugging it, so much so that I worry that they are lost and confused.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Miraculous escape, a light and getting better.

1. During the night we are jolted from sleep by a crash coming from the kitchen. In the morning, I find a glass has fallen off the shelf on to the tiled floor. It is lying on the floor miraculously unharmed.

2. In the dark, a man walks towards me. A streetlight shines through his orange plastic bag so it glows like a lantern.

3. A kind boyfriend who calls quarter of an hour later than I said I'd be with him 'prompt'.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Green box, unique selling point and bye bye.

Friday was my last day at work. I'm taking three months off to do some writing and various other things and get my head together. I've been planning this for a while, and it's something I want and need; but I am sad to be leaving the company where I've been very happy for nearly four years.

1. The company gives me a hotel voucher, which I'll use for a weekend away. It comes in a smart dark green box tied with a grey ribbon. I'm looking forward to researching the perfect break.

1b part 1. Spending a cold day at work in the warmer office playing at drawing films on the whiteboard for people to guess.

1b. part 2. A large slice of cloudlike chocolate torte.

2. Nigel tries to explain what he means when he says I have 'an edge'.

3. When I say goodbye at the end of the evening, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named picks me up and whirls me round.

4. Nick comments that he hates waiting for taxis: 'They're always late, and I don't like people who are late.' I comment glumly that I'm always late for everything and he assures me that that's entirely different. It makes me even more determined to be on time from now on.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Emergencies, gifts and dish.

1. On a morning when I am late, remembering that I have Kellogg's Variety Pack on my desk at work.

2. A line of present bags in Nick's hall. 'That one's for you.'

3. My chicken gun ga ree is served in a blue ceramic chicken.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wake up, armed and eastern promise.

1. Morning starts to late these days that I get to watch the sun coming up over the chimney pots of Warwick Park.

2. I challenge Oli about the fact that his presents to both He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named and me included water pistols. He laughs.

3. A previously sterile and echoey pub is turned into an Arabian palace with low brass tables, pierced metal lanterns and huge cushions.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Compliments, a smile and retained heat.

1. Some council men are messing around on the corner. One of them is the sort of person who reacts to cold by bouncing around. He feints and dodges at a colleague. 'Leave me alone. Go and annoy that young lady.' The bouncing man says with a huge grin: 'She's too pretty.'

2. Oli comes to the door with a just-woken-up Elodie in his arms. I thank her for surprise presents yesterday. She breaks out a huge smile, so I'm thinking she must understand.

3. Getting into bed when I am still warm from a shower.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

You know the one, Santa baby and good in a crisis.

1. My brother phones to talk about Christmas presents. I tell him I want a kitchen time -- 'You know, like Mrs Hollins had?' Mrs Hollins was our nursery school teacher, twenty-five years ago. It felt good to describe something like that, and not have to explain it.

2. Baby Elodie comes to visit, wearing a very silly red hat, bringing us stockings stuffed with tiny presents. She dribbles on us all

3. In a crisis, people who do what needs to be done without asking questions. And later, getting the 'all clear' text message.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Housework, war wounds and shine.

To everyone who might expect a Christmas card from me: I'm not doing it this year. I've given the money to Magic Breakfast instead, as suggested by Susan Hill.

1. I am doing housework and there is a man who is all my own getting under my feet.

2. My hands are sore because I made pastry for mince pies yesterday.

3. Washing up my best glasses so that they sparkle.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Flowers, Christmas is coming and you know what I mean.

1a. I am chatting to the girl who is washing my hair. It turns out that she doesn't want to be a hairdresser -- 'I want to work with special needs children.' I say that this is a very worthwhile career; and wish that being a writer had the same usefulness to society. She pauses and then says: 'Well I couldn't live without my books. That's usefulness.'

1b. When I ask to tip my hairdresser, in her drawer are a few coins and a USB stick. In the drawer belonging to the hairwash girl, there is a packet of chewing gum.

1. Five bunches of daffodils for £2. 'It's because they're open,' says the flower boy.

2. A respectable middle-aged couple hurry up the hill carrying a Christmas tree between them.

3. I describe the vaguely-remembered work of a steam-punkesque scientist to Nick. He knows exactly who I mean. I feel as if I have met some sort of soulmate.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Red and green, small dog and printing.

1. Emily is wearing a Christmassy red jacket and green jumper.

2. We crowd to the window to watch the shoot. A wire-haired dacshund races around nearly expiring with excitement. Earlier this week, it came to greet Oli and me as we went into work. It was wearing a coat, and seemed very pleased to see us, wriggling right down on the ground and wagging its tail.

3. Printing my own wrapping paper with a large rubber stamp.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Surface, off the hook and nut shells.

A set of beautiful things arrived on a bright postcard from Fenella and Andy:

1. Enjoying a Singapore Sling in Raffles, admiring the fan mechanisms , throwing monkey nuts to the floor and noting how little the long bar has changed since colonial times.

2. Swimming in one of the world's top 50 swimming pools overlooking green padi fields and lush palm vegetation with dragon flies overhead and monkeys swining in the trees.

3. Massages; the Balinese style involves not just two hands but four - kneading and stroking away all worries and knots to leave you relaxed; smelling like a coconut and with enough change for another one tomorrow.

Honourary fourth mention of Andy's beloved rice cooker which is currently enjoying a tour of Indonesia.

1. The gravel drive is solid with frost.

2. When I come to put the news together, I notice that I have given Oli a lot of rubbish stories. I feel a bit guilty for not checking the list properly, but don't say anything. As we are leaving, he comments that the day has gone really quickly because he's had stories about Welsh statistics to do. I am absolved.

3. Making a pile of pistachio nut shells on Nick's kitchen table.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Tree at the top, outlined and coming home.

1. A few pine needles on the stairs suggest that upstairs have their Christmas tree.

2. Every leaf has a careful edging of frost.

3. Most evenings when I get home, I catch a clean baby smell coming up from the garden flat.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bottled jewels, ten for a penny and a challenge.

This is what my small brother is doing -- he's exploring Greenland.

1. We added pomegranete juice to our fizzy wine and wondered at the colour of it.

2. A dish of flying saucers in pink and green and orange and blue.

3. Jules dares me to see how long I can go just wearing pyjamas. It's tempting, but Katie is unimpressed.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A tray, not us and keeping warm.

1. We wake to find a house fairy has left a tray of tea things outside my bedroom door.

2. The car in front of us is run into by someone coming out of a side road. Oli comments that life is made up of a million misfortunes that one avoids because they happen to other people. Later I remember this while reading The Pinhoe Egg. Characters fall victim to a 'nudge' spell, which makes accidents more likely to happen than they are to almost happen.

3. On a cold night, turning up the heating and pulling a dressing gown around me.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Coffee, film and supplies.

1. A large cup of coffee brought just as I am waking up.

2. Heroic saga. 3D glasses. Need I say more about Beowulf?

3. My aunt presses a small packet of sweets 'for the journey' into my hand as I leave.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Morale, art and a new skill.

1. A hot Cornish pastie and cup of tea on a very wet day.

2. We stand in front of a painting at the Tate Modern. It looks as if someone has thrown green and orange paint at a canvas and smeared it around. My aunt says: 'Does this remind you of something?' I nod slowly and say: 'Yes. Monet's waterlilies.' 'Me too.' But we don't know why.

3. My aunt teaches me crochet -- I 'discover' several 'new stitches' before I get it right.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Rolling, other worlds and the story continues.

1. Wheeling my suitcase down to the station because I'm going away for the weekend.

2. My cousins' particular brand of creativity that covers the kitchen in models of wrinkly tree-stump dwelling creatures with fat bellies and long toes; and allows them to appreciate the photo of me and Rosey in which I am trying to look beautiful and Rosey is cross-eyed. We spend dinner defending the fantasy corner against people who think making up words and worlds is silly.

3. Hearing my aunt up-dating a former colleague about their patients. Some of them now have grandchildren.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Tiny flowers, what have I done and nothings.

1. A winter flowering cherry shaking a scatter of brave and generous blossoms in the December chill.

2. Tomorrow, it is two weeks til I leave this job. We are starting to realise what this will mean. I feel like crying when He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named looks up from his work and says: 'I know you're laughing because of the way you coughed.'

3. All the sweet and silly things Nick and I tell each other about the four days we've been apart.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Stickiness, in your own time and parcels.

1. A large and brightly coloured box wrapped in a pink organza ribbon arrives at work. It contains:
  • Soor plooms
  • Raspberries and blackberries
  • Colour changing popping candy
  • Lemon crystals
  • Bassetti
  • Apple crumble fudge
  • Treacle bangers
  • Twin cherries
  • Stockleys fruit rock
  • Strawberry sherbert
  • Cherry cola bottles
A pleasant stickiness overcomes the office, and people pop in and out all day to nibble at their favourites.

2. I am about to ask for my usual evening beauty appointment, when I remember that as I am about to take three months off, I can book a slot at half past ten on a weekday morning if I like.

3. I get home to find Katie and Jules surrounded by bags of Christmas shopping.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Box, book and dinner.

1. My aunt texts to say that the mysterious parcel I warned her about has arrived on her doorstep. Can she open it? Will it bite? I tell her yes, but only if she's careful.

2. I love Fair Play by Tove Jansson. It's a novel about two lady artists whose lives are tightly twined. They have problems and they resolve them in short, gentle chapters.

3. I come home from writing to find Katie has made stirfry with tonnes of crunchy vegetables dressed in honey and soy sauce with oily noodles.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Cats, bread and dog.

Check out Steve Stack and Scott Pack discussing It Is Just You, Everything's Not Shit on Scott's blog. Some interesting comments about avoiding tweeness when writing about beautiful things, and how it's harder to be funny about good things than it is about bad things.

1. A lady whose house is on the edge of the park calling her cat in. She bangs a spoon on the railings and in between each call, her other cat calls too: 'Puss!' 'Miaou!' 'Puss' 'Miaou!' 'Puss!' 'Miaou!'

2. Amanda brings a fat and fruit-filled pannetone to the writing class, and we eat it to celebrate the end of term.

3. Walking up the hill late at night I catch sight of the hind quarters of a familiar dog going round a corner. By the time I reach the top of the hill, he and whoever he was walking with have gone.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Thrift, we like cheese and choir.

1. Buying something from the supermarket basics range and finding that it's rather good.

2. Katie is practising along with a recording of Handel's Messiah. I swear there is this one bit where they sing: 'We like cheese.' She is not amused when I point this out. Later, Emma confirms that the words are 'We like sheep', which is nearly as funny.

3. A concert in the Royal Albert Hall where the singers far outnumbered the audience. I loved the way the different parts called to each other across the hall. I've only ever heard Messiah sung by a small choir in a church -- this was a very different experience, and I could almost feel the force of the sound.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Tiny cakes, a shop and the possibilities.

1. I take a walk down the King's Road in London and find a farmers market in full swing. Among the cheese, fish, bread and dried fruit, I find a stall selling cupcakes with fascinating sprinkles. The couple in front of me are told not to worry about exact change, but the man says: 'This is a business,' as he scrabbles for coins. He turns to me and says: 'You've got to watch these two.'
'See you later, Dad,' says the stallholder.
The cakes are a huge hit at the drinks party I am attending.
'This sparkly one,' says Grace, 'I think it's topped with gold and real rubies.'
Elaine takes photos of the cakes in the box and on the plate.
Later, 'Look at the dinosaur sprinkles. You can name them. T. Rex, pleisiosaur...'
'I thought you meant like James and Ian.'

2. Walking into Habitat. I have suffered a certain sadness since they closed the Tunbridge Wells branch of Habitat. I used to love walking round imagining what I would have if, say, all my crockery disappeared, or if I could have a new kitchen. There is huge branch on the King's Road, so I go in.

3. Three girlies and lots of cocktails, and the possibility that a bored rich man might come and ask if he could join us, chat to us for an hour or so, then pay our bill.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Dryshod, a pause and adventuring.

1. On a vile night being driven all the way from work to where I want to go when I was expecting to have to arrive soaking wet.

2. The gap in the conversation during eating.

3. Being taken on an adventure that someone else is generating in reaction to my choices.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Duties, night smells and a winner.

1. Working down a list of things I need to do.

2. Coming out of the office into the rainwashed darkness and smelling clean winter air.

3. I beat Andy at backgammon -- it's not a particularly convincing victory as we are racing at the end to get our counters off the board, but it is a satisfaction none the less.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Holding the baby, talking it over and warming up.

1. Talking to Elodie -- expressions flit across her face as if she is practising, and sometimes its hard to tell if she's pleased or not.

2. Getting some wise advice from Caroline. Oli says that she is like the fixer in Pulp Fiction.

3. I arrive at Nick's cold, damp and hungry. He says: 'Shall I rub you with a towel?'

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Spheres, getting better and a bit of fun.

1. Some left-over wedding bubbles have appeared at work, so the office periodically fills with soap bubbles.

2. The pharmacist asks me a few questions to check that I've understood my GP's instructions. 'So you're winding down, are you?' he says, seeing that my dose has been reduced to every other day. 'That's good news. Well done.'

3. I like it when the writing class gets the giggles -- this week it was because of Sarah's stories about a mischievous writing trip Venice.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Freedom, got you and a fairtale.

1. Getting off work an hour early and being driven all the way into town when there was an amazing sunset.

2. A very small girl stands on one side of the bus stop glass; her mother is sitting on the other. They are playing a game in which the girl has to put her hands where her mother's hands are. They are both giggling.

3. I leave for writing a bit early so Katie and I can go and inspect the Hooper's window. We work along the story of Sleeping Beauty as represented using shop dummies and costumes from the National Ballet. We guess which characters are which, and discuss which dresses we like best (my favourite is a grey tutu, but the White Cat's fur striped frock comes a close second). In the wedding scene, the story says that Red Ridinghood is among the guests. 'Where is she?' wonders Katie. A passerby points her out, standing in the corner with her wolf nearby.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Eaten, first contact and us two.

1. A belly comfortably full of breakfast.

2. A phone call from my mother to say that she and Daddy are safely back from their holiday and have had a magical time. She gossips about other members of the group and listens to my woes and describes the things she has seen and gives me some advice.

3. Nick and I have our favourite restaurant all to ourselves. It has wood-fired pizza oven, and Nick says that next time, I must sit facing the kitchen so I can see it, rather than having to watch the flames reflected in the window.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Some space, no rush and alphabet.

1. My guests are late, which means I get a little extra time cuddling Nick on the sofa.

2. Cat takes a no hurry attitude with her children. There is no rush to get up the stairs, so Ellie can climb by herself without being carried.

3. Although she is not yet two, Ellie recognises letters, even in an unfamiliar font. Cat has taught her using people's names and a cushion embroidered with the alphabet. A shopping bag suddenly becomes a family album, as Ellie shouts out the names.

4. Nick and I are caught Alan admiring the baby who has been left lying on the sofa for a moment. 'You're communing with Daniel,' says Alan, seeing that Daniel has one of our fingers in each of his fists.

5. Cat excuses herself to feed a fussy Daniel in my room 'The bed might be a more familiar set-up'. When I go in to check she is all right, she has snuggled herself under the covers, and is looking at my slightly disordered quarters with the sort of new-eye attitude that I ought to use all the time. Later Ellie comes in and stands at the side of the bed, her head just above the level of the mattress. I lift her up so she can admire the metalwork flowers and leaves at the foot of the bed. She counts them. 'Number one, number two...'

6. Ellie knows Each Peach Pear Plum, just like her godmother.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Treat, staying warm and root vegetables.

1. Finding one last Double Decker in the sandwich lady's chocolate basket.

2. Wrapping a blanket round my legs while I watch television.

3. Mashed swede with plenty of butter and pepper.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Just us, sibs and decorations.

1. A girls only day at work which allows us to discuss the men and have the heating on as much as we like.

2. A small and determined-looking year 7 girl sits at the front of the bus. When the time comes for her to get off, she is joined by a boy about twice her height who has been sitting at the back of the bus. They look very alike, so I guess they must be siblings. I think she must wonder when her brother got so tall.

3. Katie brings home bags and boxes from John Lewis. She has been shopping for Christmas decorations in red and gold.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bridge, dinner and see my face.

I've been posting on Your Messages -- each day you have the chance to win a place in an anthology by writing 300 words.

1. What I have always thought of as a clogged ditch has swollen into a stream after the rain.

2. The call to dinner -- a pan of spicy red sauce in which two chicken thighs have been cooking.

3. I catch sight of the faint white line under my eye from where I cut my face open in Africa. I remember never being worried that it might be disfiguring -- even when I looked in the mirror and saw the wounds hanging open. Even when I woke up the next morning in hospital and really thought about what I had done. I think this was partly because at uni I had a housemate with a scar. When Ali was cold or excited, a scar as long as my middle finger showed up red on her cheek from where, aged 11, she had fallen through a window. She was beautiful and confident and men came up to her and wanted to know about the scar. It was never seen as an ugly thing, or something to be ashamed of -- rather, a badge of honour and a good story.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Back down, manners and pictures.

1. A crowd of school boys rushes to get on the bus. The driver, like a lion tamer, shouts 'One at a time. ONE at a time. You, get to the back.'

2. The man in the chippie tells me he is from the Medway towns, 'where kids treat you like you're nothing when you work in a food shop. Here they called me "Sir" and said "Thank you".'

3. Nick at I watched a documentary about Albert Khan, an early French photographer and cinematographer. His colour photos are Edwardian, but look surprisingly modern, apart from details like horse-drawn vehicles and roads clear of cars. The colours, achieved using grains of starch dyed red, blue and green on glass plates, are astonishing.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Warm woollens, it's new and wrapping my hands round.

Congratulations to Rashmi over at Life ain't that Bad -- it's her first anniversary of finding beautiful things.

1. Taking my gloves off the radiator and putting them on my cold hands.

2. My boss's (and everyone else's, actually) excitement at his new iPhone. It went round the office and we were all allowed to have a go at typing in messages and looking at his pictures.

3. A mug of hot soup at lunchtime.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Glass peacocks, waiting for tea and lady in a yellow dress.

1. A couple of weeks ago, I admired to glass peacock Christmas decorations in a shop. But I wasn't going straight home, so I didn't dare buy them for fear they would get broken. When I visited the Czech Republic a few years back, I bought several similar decorations, but reached home with several packets of glass shards. Today, I go into the shop and they are still there, so I buy them both and bear them home safely wrapped in tissue paper.

2. Nick takes me to a sale of military books in a hotel, bribing me with the promise of tea. While he searches for bargins in two green boxes, I perch on the windowseat and admire the grounds. I can see in through the window of another wing of the hotel, where a pair of hands is carefully laying a tea table with a white cloth and crisp napkins. I imagine it might be ours. When the time comes, we go back to the lounge and are led to that very table.

3. Halfway through tea, a lady in a primrose yellow frock with many layers of net and a very sparkly tiara walks in and starts playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow on the harp. I wonder if Nick has arranged it just to please me.

4. An extra beautiful thing -- The sisters of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named and the Nameless Mother walk in and take a table near ours. The Nameless Mother has never met me, but recognises me from the HWSNBN photo library.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Race, touch of magic and sweetcorn.

1. Walking across the Grove, a tennis ball rolls over my toes. I almost trip over the black and white dog chasing it, and then the owner just misses running into me. We laugh about it -- how very English.

2. An oldish woman, perfectly coiffed and dressed, stands outside Hoopers. She is wearing startling glossy red lipstick. I imagine she must be a fairy godmother.

3. Gnawing sweetcorn off the cob.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Catching the sun, my cake and essential oils.

1. There are two pigeons on the roof of Oli's garage. They are taking advantage of the sun and casting their shadows in surprising places.

2. Choosing a slice of cake from the sandwich van -- they are laid out in boxes wrapped in cellophane and have icing in appetising colours. Some of them are decorated with cherries, coconut or peel.

3. The smell of thyme and rosemary baking with my supper of chicken and mushrooms in a white wine gravy.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sugar, muffin and end of the day.

I have been playing catch-up -- here, and here. Sorry for the gaps in service -- I'm blaming technical difficulties.

1. By way of celebration, I put sugar on my Rice Krispies. It sits on the top, soaking up the milk while I carry my breakfast into the office, and at the bottom of the bowl, there is a comforting sweet sludge of milk and sugar.

2. Oli gives me half his muffin, leading to some minutes of bawdy jokes.

3. A bath, a large glass of gin and tonic and a new science fiction magazine.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Layer cake, a stew and good advice

1. On a cold day, wrapping up in layers: a petticoat, thick chocolate brown tights, a pink vest, an aubergine-coloured top, a thick cord skirt in deep plum, a long chocolate brown woollen coat, socks and a pair of brown lace-up boots and an overcoat.

2. Sliding a heavy red pot of stew into the oven.

3. As I leave, Katie tells me to take the longer, safer route because it's dark and cold.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Move over, mothers' meeting and sitting room.

1. In the morning I think I've slept very late and imagine that Rose must be working downstairs. But she's still in bed asleep, so I crawl in with her, and we lie in until nearly 10am.

2. Three mothers with babies sit at a table near us. I think I recognise one of the mothers -- perhaps I went to school with her. We smile at each other, but don't speak. I admire the way the mothers chat and eat and drink with their babies on their arms.

3. My grandmother's sitting room is warm and small, full of photographs and portraits of my family. Thick curtains shut out November, and thoughts of the crossword shut out our problems. I doze in my wingbacked chair, my tea cooling at my side.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Conveyance, talk and envy.

1. Standing at a lonely country bus stop and seeing the headlights and destination board of my bus coming round the corner.

2. The school kids behind me on the bus:
'I know him from Ticehurst Primary School.'
'You never.'
'I do. I went in year two.'
'You never. You went to Stone Cross.'
'I did, in year two.'
'You liar.'
'I can't believe you didn't know that, you rubbish girlfriend.'
'I'm a fucking good girlfriend.'

3. I tell Robert what Rosey and I had for supper and he says: 'I wanted that, too.'

Monday, November 12, 2007

The papers, our garden and this is where I go.

This is a public information message from Steve Stack, author of It is Just You, Everything's Not Shit.
I recently started a blog and wrote a book with the somewhat less than beautiful title It Is Just You, Everything's Not Shit but lots of beautiful things have happened as a result. Here are three of them:

1. Meeting Oliver Postgate, the creator of Bagpuss, Clangers and Ivor the Engine. Still going strong in his eighties, he was one hero that did not disappoint in the flesh.

2. Receiving a wooden chest of sweets from the lovely people at It was like opening a gateway to my childhood - flying saucers, sherbet pips, space dust and bucketloads more.

3. Hearing from lost friends who have stumbled across the book in shops and emailed me. Some very welcome blasts from the past.

The book is available from Waterstones and Amazon or from It Is Just You, Everything's Not Shit.

1. Sitting in bed with Nick and the Sunday papers.

2. Finding a secret garden and imagining that it was there solely for our benefit. It is arranged in concentric circles around a pond where sedges have dipped into the water, forming hoops with their reflections.

3. As we go over Ashdown Forest, the taxi driver says that if he has to wait around, he sometimes comes up here with a flask of coffee and a sandwich.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Honey, carp and words.

1. On the breakfast bar, a piece of golden honeycomb is flanked by two silver knives.

2. Standing on a jetty watching carp kiss the water below us.

3. Tucked between the pages of my new Moomin book, I find again the gift tag that Nick up on the wrapping.

4. The view of the grey hotel among autumn trees on the other side of the valley.

5. Slices of tender, pink venison surrounded by a chilli-chocolate sauce.

6. Coming back to our room after dinner and finding that bed that was rumpled from our afternoon nap has been made and turned down; and the towels and bathrobes that we left strewn around the room have been carefully hung up.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Anticipation, turning a corner, tea time and being a couple.

1. Sitting at work looking forward to a weekend of giving Nick my undivided attention.

2. As we turn into the drive of the hotel, a shaft of sunlight shines through a beech tree in full autumn glory.

3. We are shown to our tea table, which is covered in a white cloth. It's by the fire, and there's a large and soft sofa waiting for us.

4. Chatting to Nick while I wash my hair. I love the way he enjoys something as simple as me taking a bath or putting on a pair of tights.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Grazers, digger and against the window.

The wonderful Nick is taking me away for a few days of afternoon teas, very large baths, huge dinners and massages. Normal service will resume after we get back.

On Monday, I'm hosting a leg of the It is just you, everything's not shit tour.

1. The sound of sheep munching.

2. A mole hill that is still fresh.

3. Towards the end of the day, a sudden storm lashes the windows. At first, after so many crisp sunny days, we are confused by the sound.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Comforts, supplies and the film that has everything.

1. Char offers to make me a hot chocolate when things get bad.

2. Sitting in the cinema with salty popcorn and a small bag of sour jelly sweets.

3. A film involving cross-dressing sky pirates, a fallen star, a rapidly aging witch, a innkeeper who used to be a goat, a wall between England and fairy land, seven murderous brothers, a market where you can buy tiny elephants and a captive princess. Stardust needs to be seen.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Shuffling, biscuits and warmth.

1. More leaf shuffling. Oli and I walk into work along the lane. I tell him that part of the pleasure of walking in leaves is thinking that someone might tell you off. So we shout at each other to stop messing around.

2. Plump ginger biscuits with drizzled stripes of hard caramel.

3. I am cold, and remember I have a fleece dressing gown.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Cherries, foliage and now we're talking.

1. Large and succulent glace cherries in a muffin.

2. Shuffling leaves at the side of the road and feeling as if I might be told off for making a mess, but enjoying the sound too much to stop.

3. For weeks I've been struggling to 'get' a character's voice in my radio play. Each time I offer him up to the class, heads are shaken. But yesterday, it was decided that he had arrived aboard the ship. It's a relief -- and I know I can do this again the next time I run into the same problem.

Monday, November 05, 2007

A happy month, end of the day and woolies.

1. Nick trying to catch falling leaves in the park.

2. The sunset pours golden light between rooftops and chimneys.

3. Wearing a new hat, scarf and gloves that match.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Small touches, I don't need your help and orange.

1. My coffee comes decorated with a star in chocolate powder. The lady who asked if she could share my table has a heart on her coffee.

2. A loud, old-fashioned mobile phone rings. 'I'm in a cafe in Tunbridge Wells,' explains an elderly lady. 'Eating,' she replies after a pause. Then, with some irritation: 'My appointment was in Tunbridge Wells... I got the bus.' I imagine that the caller is a daughter-in-law who feels guilty about not giving Granny a lift to her appointment.

3. The colour of raw carrots.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Wardrobe by post, that has shown you and all by myself.

1. A large box full of clothes arrives in the post.

2. Douglas uses a radio comedy to prove that all gingers are descended from angels.

3. The prospect of spending the greater part of the weekend alone.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The morning after, cinema verite and our passion.

1. I find a cardboard skeleton in my wardrobe, a little pile of stretchy worms in the kitchen, a plastic skeleton tied to the door handle, and a witch's broom in the sitting room.

2. Ed turns up a video of me twirling round in my fairy costume. It induces near hysteria in the office.

3. Listening to knowledgeable and passionate people talking about food

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Home run, giddy and sweets.

So sorry for the missing three days. I've been feeling a bit... quiet.

1. Coming home to a house with somebody home. Katie has arrived early so she can start work on the Halloween party. I also liked seeing the signs that other people are celebrating, too -- children out in costume, and pumpkin lanterns in windows.

2. Whirling round and round to make my tutu puff out until I am too giddy to go on.

3. A large bowl full of sweeties and the sound of people talking.

See the pictures here.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A mission, the light and lanterns.

1. The road to work was blocked by an accident, and my bus took me via random villages to a place about two miles from my stop... but He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named came to the rescue, and the autumn leaves we passed were very yellow and orange against the sky. Later, Neil points out how joyous it is to be late for work When It's Not Your Fault.

2. A wonderful lamp in a sphere of glass crystals.

3. I come home to find an industrious Jules hollowing out pumpkins. Katie points out that he has 'found the pick 'n' mix' that we bought for any trick or treaters.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

To do, monster in the woods and the game's afoot.

1. Small tasks that have a beginning, a middle and an end.

2. I see a long creature chasing a cyclist and at first I think it's a squirrel. It's a dachsund puppy out for a walk with a mother and two sons. It plays in the fallen leaves, savaging any that look as if they might step out of line.

3. Creating a character for a Hollow Earth Expedition, discovering what she's good at and what her talents are and trying to play the game as if I were her.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Red room, ready to eat and satin and leather.

1. The red covers have gone back on the sofas, and the room looks so warm and inviting. No grey weather can get in now.

2. A table laid for supper with shining glasses and cutlery.

3. In the night, I feel with my feet my ballet shoes which are hanging from the end of the bed, tied with their ribbons.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

New shoes, a kiss and it's growing.

1. I did a term of ballet when I was very tiny, but I don't remember having the shoes bought for me. However, I need a pair of ballet shoes for my Halloween costume, so Katie and I went to the ballet shop to pick out a pair of suitable size eights. I feel as if an important memory has been restored.

2. Running into Nick in M&S and getting a small kiss by way of greeting.

3. Watching my Halloween costume take shape under Katie's sewing machine.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

That smells good, a meeting of minds and something to laugh about.

1. There's something in the air today that makes everyone snuff and say: 'Something's changed' and 'You can almost taste the moisture' and 'I love this time a year'.

2. I meet a real live writer for a drink. I was a bit in awe of her the first time we met, but she is so kind and encouraging that this time, I anticipate our drink with hardly any nervousness. And again, she is interesting and charming and passes on tips and shares a little gossip. See Sarah's other project here.

3. My bed is so warm and welcoming that as I get in, I giggle to myself in a way that reminds me of my goddaughter Ellie (nearly two) giggling when we played some game or other.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fruit, come back and sitting together.

1. The smell that rises from two platters of fruit salad. On this grey almost November day, the colours seem wonderful and exotic.

2. I am reading while I wait. Through the story I hear the voice I am waiting for, and it pulls me back to the London street.

3. As we take our seats on the train, Nick lifts the armrest between us.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Window, this is me and very amusing.

1. A window through which only sky is visible. Three birds fly past.

2. In the last few months I have been reminded of something important. After the not-a-badger incident I wailed to Chrissie 'I feel like such a girl' and she told me firmly 'But Clare, you are a girl'. And later, telling my woes to Oli, I am advised: 'To be honest, you wouldn't be a woman if you didn't feel like that.' I remember both these incidents, and wonder when in my life I lost my pride in this part of my identity.

3. I hear the front door go and then a shriek that indicates Katie has been 'got' by the same trick she played on me first thing in the morning.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Rime, a good scratch and hot feet.

1. Sheep with frost on their backs because it means no warmth is escaping through their fleeces.

2. A horse rolling on the ground.

3. Resting my feet on a hot radiator as I work.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Warming up, recordings and supper.

1. Feeling warm from a walk on a cold day.

2. The sound archives of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. He has collected such gems as me saying 'Sheep and potatoes'; Oli apologising for phoning me late at night from Bratislava; Tricky Dicky selling printing services; Pip barking; Ellen wondering where a ladder is when you need one.

3. A shepherd's pie covered in expertly forked mash browning in the oven.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The castle, a sleep and co-ordination.

1. We visit a National Trust property that I have known since I was tiny. This year, the house has been opened up. Before, it could be glimpsed here and there, but now the evergreens have been cut down so that the mellow sandstone building is visible from surprising places, and the forbidden lawns are now accessible.

2. Dozing on the sofa leaning on Nick.

3. Finishing both packets of pills on the same day.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Decorations, look what I can do and a good match.

1. Katie comes back from Sainsbury's with a bag full of orange and black secrets for Halloween.

2. After expert teaching from Glamour Puss, I can now twirl nipple tassels. Another achievement ticked off the list.

3. We lost the rugby, but the South African team looked so happy to have won. I was impressed that Thabo Mbeki was there to celebrate with them.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Mist, last of the sunny days and kitten.

1. A frosty morning with mist lying in hollows.

2. We celebrate Neil's birthday by sitting in the sun with a beer.

3. Bobby explains the awesome power of his new kitten. 'Girls come to see the kitten, not me.'

Friday, October 19, 2007

1. Getting my haircut and watching the strands fall to the floor.

2. Wrapping myself up in a new soft fleece dressing gown.

3. Nick and I are teaching ourselves to play go. We spend a little time doing some problems, working through them. Although the game is competitive, we are doing something as a team.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Away you go, winding and a spooky tale.

1. Sending 300 Beautiful Things off to the publisher.

2. My skein of hemp has tangled. But with some help from Katie, I follow the thread and wind it into a pleasing ball.

3. Sitting up in bed, a skein of yarn around my knees, listening to the shivery Book at Bedtime. It's Susan Hill's The Man in the Picture. I'm rather a fan of her ghost stories.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Clothes parcel, traditional food and that's out of the way.

1. A new dress comes in the post. Its from a shop specifically stocked for women with curves, so it actually fits. When I look down and see the underbust band is actually under my bust and not across it, I'm so happy I almost cry.

2. Ice cream that comes in a cardboard box.

3. Completing a piece of work that has been hanging over me for the last few days.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Jumping through hoops, all done and sound of pleasure.

1. Clicking my sewing into an embroidery hoop.
2. I have moved all my stuff out of my room so the decorator can work. I am not looking forward to moving it all back in again. When I get home from work, I find that Katie has done it already.

3. The pop when I bite into a chocolate.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Autumn leaves, come and see and this is how it's going to be.

In answer to some comments:
Sprite: yes, I was at the thread and yarn show at Ally Pally -- my housemate had a stand there.
Chrissie: I think of punctuation as breaths or pauses -- a comma is a short pause; a semicolon is longer; a colon is longer still; and a full stop is longest of all to mark the end of a thought. I use semicolons in lists, too, if the items are more than one word. I try to write as I would (like to) speak -- my lips probably move as I type! I think a lot about the rhythm of prose, which is probably why I scatter semi colons so generously.
Sandy Kessler -- I think Blueridge Muse must have found the ideal place to live!

1. Walking through the park I pass the Turkish Oak. Its large leaves have nearly all come down and they cover the ground so thickly that the grass is not visible. A mother and two tinies are flinging handfuls of coppery leaves at each other and giggling hysterically.

2. On our way to breakfast I make Fenella walk up the steep street to the park so she can see the leaves. 'I can see them from the window,' she says. But when we get there, she gasps.

3. Over dinner we bat ideas back and forth for a steampunk-hollow earth game. Tim and I are all up for a trip to the Antarctic -- 'And there'll be dinosaurs, and they're going there to rescue a previous expedition that got lost and to bring the word of god to the natives...'
'It's set in Hertfordshire,' says Nick, who is running the game.
There's a pause while we digest this improbable fact. 'What, there's an entrance to the hollow earth in Hertfordshire?'

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A voice, people's palace and pudding.

1. Walking down a street I hear a wonderful voice singing inside one of the houses. I wonder if she's practising, or if she's singing as she dusts. A lady coming the other way catches my eye and smiles back at me.

2. Coming to Alexandra Palace and seeing on one side the shell of the palace's outer wall and on the other London spread out like a toy city. Once inside, I walk round the exhibition hall, dazed by all the stands. Something makes me look up and I take in the rose window at one end and the huge organ at the other.

3. A mouthful of someone else's pudding.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Arms of Morpheus, love across the ocean and competition.

1. Going back to sleep because I don't feel well.

2. A radio play in which two people who have met only briefly in real life exchange love letters across the world and decide to get married.

3. Nick has learnt to play go so that he can teach me.

Friday, October 12, 2007

All's well, satisfaction and tight circles.

1. Finding this website. It's good to see that someone else is happy, and I particularly like this post about watching television sideways.

2. I help a user find a presentation on our site. She tells me how much she likes what we offer -- customer delight is very satisfying.

3. Making kittens chase something round and round and round until you're sure they're going to trip over their tail or fall over from dizziness -- but they never do. Nicky says this is because they have a leg at each corner.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The light, autumn leaves and sweep.

1. A strange morning with yellow light shining through raindrops and mist against a dark grey sky.

2. A variety of autumn leaves -- a drift of orange beech leaves, stiff as if they had been beaten out of copper; scrolls of red and green sumac leaflets; and berry red leaves from a cherry tree.

3. Water drops on the bonnet of a car seem to have been carefully organised to make a diagonal pattern.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Apple, waking dream and Chinese acrobats.

1. Slicing morsels from a peeled russett apple and eating them off the knife.

2. Playing a slick and atmospheric computer game. Nightmares: The Adventure comes in four parts. I liked the sinister voice-over and the concept of neutralising the fears of a small boy by doing good deeds.

3. We liked the bamboo forest fight in House of Flying Daggers so much that we watch it all over again.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

All in a cup, two's company and a phone call.

1. The cup of tea that Katie brings me each morning in bed; and the cup of French press coffee brought to my desk each morning. I enjoy these drinks in themselves, for the taste and the warmth of the mug; but more important is the thought that someone has taken the trouble to make it for me.

2. On most mornings I pass tiny blonde twins hurrying to school with their mother. The girl is often lagging behind to pick something up from a hedge or to look at something important. She looks as if she might be a natural 3BTer, and we exchange understanding smiles.

3. Rosey rings -- she's waiting for a bus and I'm waiting for the printer to finish with my script. We chat about dreams and siblings and how people she hasn't seen for ages know what she's doing because it's mentioned in 3BT.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Kitchen miracle, and now for something completely different and a little order.

1. Watching pancakes cook -- I like the way the top changes colour and becomes slightly translucent; and I like to see a brown frill appearing at the edge.

2. Channel surfing and finding a Monty Python double bill.

3. Tidying up a little.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Art for real, streets of London and getting what I want.

1. Seeing Millais' paintings in the flesh -- There some that were familiar from a Pre-Raphaelite craze that whirled through the sixth-form common room at school (The Bridesmaid, Christ in the House of his Parents, Ophelia). Others were old friends from my school history books (The Princes in the Tower, The Boyhood of Raleigh). Others seem to have squirmed into our culture and are as familiar as the BBC and Guardian (Bubbles)

2. We take a walk called 'Passport to Pimlico' which weaves through wedding cake streets of white stucco houses and tantalises us with hints of views -- 'look down this street and see an Italianate water tower.' 'Look up here and see the Apollo theatre.' 'From here you can see three of Battersea Powerstations chimneys.'

3. Last week, when we planned this day out, I said I wanted to watch the film Passport to Pimlico and wondered idly where we could get hold a DVD. Then Nick discovers that it's on TV at a time that fits in perfectly with our plans for the day.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Two of us, deep purple and on the turn.

1. I wake up and discover that we are holding hands.

2. Fuchsias -- in particular, the magical purple inner petals. It is a deep indigo that glows in such a way that I imagine it reflecting colours outside that my eyes pick up, but my brain can't register.

3. The ridge of the hill that runs parallel to the lane is still green, but with smudges and highlights of orange and russett.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Yes dear, splat and bookworm.

1. Katie comes in to tell me something to which I am not really listening because I am writing. I catch that she is very happy with her life in general, particularly her boyfriend and her homelife. Later in the day, I realise that I had been thinking just the same thing as she brought my mug of tea into the early morning gloom of my bedroom.

2. Treading on a laurel berry for the wet crunch.

3. On my way home I see a man I once met at a party walking down the street with his nose in a book.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

By phone, wild chickens and red white green.

Gusarsayu -- I've written a response to your comment (I published it on your blog and on yesterday's post, too). Today's beautiful things are for you.

1. A telephone consultation with my GP -- instead of taking the morning off work, I take a three minute phone call.

2. The sound of a cock pheasant calling chock! chock! chock! at the far end of the field at the end of the day.

3. Scattering a few green salad leaves over a plate of tomatoes with sheep's cheese, olive oil and basil vinegar.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Small treats, some grip and familiar face.

1. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named brings me an interesting tea bag that he thinks I might like to try and a slip of newspaper about a computer game.

2. A normally slippery brick pavement is covered in a fine layer of sand.

3. I take a different route home. A lady who I normally pass on the footpath meets me at the corner, stops and says: 'You've come a different way, too!' We discuss the whys of this -- she because it's getting too dark for footpaths, me because roadworks were blocking my way.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Baby talk, homecoming and where we will live.

1. Oli describes how his baby is 'a pootle and wokling with two little footles in two little bootles.'

2. I like hurrying through the park to my script writing class and seeing commuters coming the other way, hurrying towards their homes and families.

3. In the dark, a couple wrapped around each other peer into the window of an estate agent telling each other about their dream house.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Well sprung, marvellous and how am I doing?

1. Katie's bed has arrived after months of waiting. She is building it when I get home, carefully padding the joints with pieces of suede so that it doesn't squeak. When complete it is so high that our legs dangle when we sit on it and we feel like six-year-olds. I'm suffering slightly from bed envy because mine is not as lofty. 'But yours is prettier,' Katie says kindly.

2. Stand-up Josie Long explained that she hated her middle because she tended to collect fat there. Then she lifted up her top to reveal her midriff, on which she had written 'marvellous' and drawn a picture of the sea. 'Ocean in motion. I love this bit of the show.'

3. After each joke, Simon Amstell squints into the dark audience as if he is tasting our response.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Cat and mouse, corrections and crimson pig.

1. Our new satellite card provides hour-long Tom and Jerry specials. I particularly enjoyed a surreal episode about a cartoon kit including 'one mean pussycat and a loveable little mouse'. And the episode in which Tom tries to design a better mousetrap. He is foiled when the blue print mouse warns Jerry about the plan and together they sabotage it.

2. Having Nick take dictated corrections to my manuscript while I lie in the bath.

3. Porco Rosso's lair -- it is a beach surrounded by high cliffs and apparently only accessable through a sea arch. On the beach is a chair and table shaded by an umbrella; a radio; a telephone; and a tent. His red seaplane is moored to a pontoon made from planks and floating barrels.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Don't say that, the king and party animal.

1. We spend much of the day making a list of words forbidden in usernames on our website. We need to break every tabboo, which causes hysterical laughter; and every so often, someone will come up with a new phrase which needs to be discussed before it can be added to the list.

2. Katie has had a bad day. But a martini, a shower and the prospect of a night out with Paul Elvis Chan cheer her up.

3. Mark B has asked that his lovely soft jumper be mentioned.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Open face, another thing to love and rope trick.

1. I come into the sitting room first thing and see that the lily which last night was a palid capsule shut tight has opened out into a pink and orange spotted star.

2. On hearing that Nick has decided to take me to see a one-woman production of Bacchae, Oli says: 'He's a cerebral guy, isn't he.'

3. Watching a single actress perform a conversation between two very different characters while eight feet off the stage on a rope.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Keep moving, purple haze and fat pillows.

1. Watching high clouds moving quickly south in a blue sky.

2. The scent of lavender wafting out of Katie's bedroom. Jules has been trying to warm himself up with a bubble bath.

3. Shaking up my pillows to keep them plump.

PS: 3BT is going to sponsor The Adventurists on their trip to Mongolia in a one litre car.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

In a box, the rain has come and farce.

1. Our printer is delivered in a very large box. Like a bunch of toddlers, we are more excited by the box than by the printer. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named films and photographs each of us hiding in it.

2. When a rainstorm finishes at around sunset, the light takes on a hard, yellow quality.

3. A film at which people laugh out loud. We saw Molière at Trinity. It's a costume drama with farcical elements -- a lover disguised as a priest; a foolish father with social aspirations; a predatory noble with money problems; a stubbornly stupid young couple.

PS: There's a film about us in the trees at Where I am Working.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Blue shoes, invincible and desert.

1. Oli brings Elodie to the door. She is wearing the blue bamboo wool boots that Katie knitted for her and is looking very contented as she snuggles against the dribble rag draped over Oli's shoulder.

2. Being splashed by a car when I am wearing waterproofs.

3. The words 'Do you want a chocolate pudding or a jelly?'

Monday, September 24, 2007

The space, hanging and twice told tales.

1. Waking up in the vast expanse of Nick's new sofa bed. I have to roll over to find him.

2. We breakfast outside at a coffee shop. We watch a girl little enough to still have baby hair swinging on the bike rails -- they are just the right height for her.

3. We meet James and Kim for lunch and a catch-up. Old news for us is new news for them, so I enjoy telling and hearing all the stories again.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Quietly, squirmer and gaggle of girls.

1. Holding the very placid baby Daniel while his mother cuddled her other baby, my giggly goddaughter Ellie.

2. Holding the feisty and wriggly Rory and watching him suck on his bottle.

3. At the top of the hill is a bench. There are three teenage girls sitting on it, and two sitting in front of it. They are surrounded by bottles and bags. 'So we're gonna meet them there. They're not going to the meal.'
'Can we skip the meal too?'
'Yeah, let's.'
'Can we eat something cheap?'

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Adrenalin, the tribe and zip.

Work took us to a treetop adventure at Go Ape.

1. Feeling excited about something, but not feeling sick. I took courage from the fact that Fenella, who is scared of heights, had done it and enjoyed it. The first real course was terrifying and left me wondering if I could bear to do the rest. But the second course saw me sauntering across a single log 30 feet up in the canopy, and suddenly I felt a lot better about it all.

2. I liked seeing flashes of the others ahead of us on the course and hearing them whoop and shriek and cheer and encourage. I loved seeing Oli and Doug romping across obstacles; and hearing Hilary checking that Emma and Charlotte were properly attached.

3. Going down the last zip wire and seeing all my colleagues waiting at the far end, Doug standing on the fence, Charlotte brushing the wood chips off herself, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named with his camera in hand.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Bread or cake, just in time and pink flowers.

1. Katie says banana bread is not cake, which means she can have it for breakfast.

2. Ellie drops me off just as the bus comes round the corner. I jump up and down and wave and the driver waves back, slows and pulls out of the traffic and into the bus stop so I can race across the road and thank him as I board.

3. Fenella brings five bubblegum pink gerberas.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Myrmacology, pink and loaf.

1. Watching ants at work in the ant farm of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.

2. A pan of pink bubble and squeak -- we made it with red cabbage.

3. Watching my banana bread rising in the oven.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Man about the house, fixing a hole and leisure time.

1. Coming home from work to find Nick waiting for me.

2. There is no longer a hole in my ceiling because the plasterer has filled it in.

3. Throwing a pill into a full dishwasher and setting it off.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Little black pot, sofa and you're late.

1. Buttery toast and marmite.

2. The sofa bed has arrived and is filling Nick's living room with its cloudlike sofa-ness. We pull out the bed and lie on top of the plastic wrapper to try it out. There is so much space.

3. One of the things I love about being an adult is that I can arrive late for classes and no-one shouts at me like they would have at school. I know it's a bad and disruptive thing to do, but it was a genuine mistake this time and I won't do it again.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Hats off, baby talk and castle of cards.

Lauren Bergold writes more about her 3BT experience -- check out the pictures of the journal she made to keep her beautiful things in.

1. A large square box containing a bowler hat and a top hat. My father says as we bring them down from the attic: 'I don't know what your grandfather would think of you using his hats for a burlesque course.'

2. A phone call from Cat in which I can hear Ellie in the background saying 'Clare'. I also hear Daniel noises.

3. Curling up with Italo Calvino's Castle of Crossed Destinies and comparing the stories to the tarot spread.

Conversation, lamb and cloths of heaven.

1. On the bus a little girl in a pushchair talks to her grandfather about their fingers and thumbs, his watch and whether or not he has a fat tummy.

2. A dish containing shank of lamb, sticky dark gravy and creamed potatoes.

3. Walking in the dark and seeing a skyful of stars.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Flowers, hush-a-bye and red wine.

1. The bunches of gladioli that I bought on Thursday as tightly furled buds have opened into velvety purple flowers.

2. Oli leaning into Elodie's car seat to quiet her with some white noise shhhhing.

3. Filling someone's glass with red wine.

Friday, September 14, 2007

To the future, stripes and cake.

1. This story about a US town that buried a car to celebrate its 50th anniversary. It was dug up for the 100th anniversary. The intention is to present it to heirs of the 'lucky' person who correctly guessed the population of the town in 2007. Thanks to Paleo-Future for writing it up.

2. Neopolitan icecream -- the sort that comes in tubs with a stripe of pink, white and brown.

3. A tray of brownies in the oven.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Fruit picking, future food and a writer's housemate.

1. Picking blackberries and feeling the sun warm on my back.

2. Checking the menu of a restaurant about to open and imagining meals yet to be eaten.

3. It must be frustrating for Katie watching me work on the book. I spend a lot of time playing computer games, lying on the sofa, not doing any housework, laying out slips of paper with beautiful things written on them and dozing. She neither comments that slightly more time editing would be helpful; nor wonders why I don't spend some of the not-writing time doing housework. But the second guidance is asked for, she -- and Rosey -- come out with exactly what I need to hear.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Berries, sun and hunters.

1. Dried cranberries because of their glowing shade of red.

2. A shaft of sunlight falls down behind my desk and warms my legs as I work.

3. The film Ten Canoes.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Writer, green paint and mended.

1. Sitting in a pub with a pint of beer and my notebook.

2. Walking down our street and seeing the afternoon sun shining into our living room and on to the newly-decorated green walls.

3. Getting my lap top back from the menders.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Congregation, coloured glass and dress circle.

Nick and I spent yesterday visiting buildings in the Heritage Open Day.

1. Reading that St Augustine's church was once described as a 'tent' and that it helps worshippers recall the nomadic roots of their religion. It's a low modern building laid out in a square -- the congregation must feel very involved with the services. Nick thought its high rafters made it like a Medieval hall. The guide who greeted us said that when the church was first opened in 1974, she didn't get on very well with the modern architecture, but it has grown on her.

2. The stained glass window at the back of the stage in Trinity Arts Centre. Trinity is a converted church and the window is normally hidden by a curtain.

3. Going upstairs in the Opera House. It's been a pub since I moved to Tunbridge Wells. Before that, it was a bingo hall, and before that a cinema, and before it was a theatre. The dress circle has recently restored red tip-up seats. But I didn't know there was an upper circle, too, which hasn't been used since the last film in 1968. The seats look rather hard and uncomfortable, and it is strange to think that no-one has sat in them since before I was born. It was very grimy, very eerie, with toilets full of dust and stacks of unwanted doors and old furniture lying around. I was so glad of the chance to go behind the scenes in this familiar place.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Sweet nothings, blue goo and demob happy.

1. I turn down breakfast in favour of an extra fifteen minutes of having sweet nothings whispered in my ear.

2. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named has ants to put in his ant farm. We gave him the tank full of blue goo for his birthday, but the ants had to be ordered separately. He puts them in, and we spend the day checking to see if they've started burrowing yet.

3. I am what my boss calls 'demob happy' because it's the end of Friday and I have a whole week off.

Guru, coffee and food.

1. Here's a presentation given by Erin McKean. Watching it made me remember what a beautiful thing she is.
1a. Erin's dress. Reading Erin's Dress A Day made clothes a pleasure for me. Her philosophy made me brave enough to buy, accessorise and wear dresses.
1b. The idea of letting the writers, rather than dictionary editors, decide what words can be used.

2. Meeting my mother for coffee.

3. I think I'm not hungry, but when the food comes, I am.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Chocolate, sibling and worship.

1. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named brings me a mug of hot chocolate with a spiral of creamy froth revolving on the top.

2. Hearing that Goddaughter Ellie has a new brother -- who weighed 8lb 12oz. Well done Cat and Alan.

3. Nick and I watch a documentary that shows a statue of Buddha surrounded by adoring worshippers covered in coloured powder and milk.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Mixed up, treed and shutting out.

1. Generating anagrams of names -- He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named is Brad Hygienic Drew. It sounds like a cowboy with OCD.

2. Teenagers chasing a squirrel. 'We'll never have to crack nuts for ourselves again.'

3. Settling into bed and leaving all the day's problem's behind.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

White collars, chips and sweet gums.

1. Very large wood pigeons going about their business in the park. They look like Victorians with their dignified, contented stoutness and high white collars.

2. Clasping a warm, paper-wrapped bag of chips to my chest.

3. Burning some incense -- I'd forgotten how much I enjoy the sparks going across the charcoal and sniffing my resins to see which I'm going to use.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Warm my hands, where's my key and fibres.

1. A cup of tea makes the chilly morning wait for my lift more bearable.

2. Housemates who notice when I forget my key and make sensible arrangements.

3.A thread card loaded with DMC stranded cotton, ready for me to start a new cross stitch.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Self-respect, clack and runner.

1. I work back over Three Beautiful Things to find suitable entries for the book. Looking at 2004 I feel as if I am reading someone else's words and I find myself able to think of my own work: 'This is all right.'

2. A mysterious clacking noise in the sitting room turns out to be a contented Nick playing shut-the-box.

3. Spotting a photo of Andy finishing the London Marathon.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Taskmistress, drinking club and madhouse.

1. Katie comes in to borrow my gardening kit and catches me playing computer games. She says: 'I'm working, so you have to.' A few hours later, the garden is much neater and 300 Beautiful Things is taking shape.

2. Crowds of morris men waving handkerchiefs on the Pantiles.

3. We walk into a restaurant and the waiter says: 'Welcome to the madhouse.' We are confronted by what looks like a scene from Nurse Matilda:
Coriander was lifting Amelie up so she could climb a pillar, much to the horror of the dating couple trying to have a date behind it.
Gregory was banging a spoon on the table.
Holly and Daisy were having a screaming match.
Marcus was tipping salt into the packets of sugar and putting them back in the bowl.
Noah was seeing how many breadsticks he could get up his nose.
Victoria, Joshua and Jacob were trying to get round the entire table without touching the ground.
All the other children were doing simply dreadful things too.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Crunchy, cupboard love and in the hands of a master.

1. Sprinkling sugar on half a grapefruit,

2. Ellie brings us donuts.

3. When reading a book makes me feel as if I am in the hands of a master -- in this case Kurt Busiek's Astro City and The Virgin in the Ice by Ellie Peters.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Face to voice, new person and white knight.

1. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named has finally met a legendary voice on the phone at a client meeting. He spends the rest of the day smiling -- partly because he was right about what they looked like, and I was wrong.

2. Elodie, aged six days, waves at me through the kitchen window because I have a cold. Oli shows me her tiny feet, and Caroline points out her eyelashes and perfect fingers. Elodie is trying out her face, showing all sorts of expressions that don't mean anything yet. She looks as if she is systematically making sense of a wonderful world. Oli says that she is very good so long as they keep her full of milk. I can't wait till I'm better so I can go round and have a cuddle.

3. Nick and I are too tired to spend the night together, so he takes me home, walking me right across town. But first he lends me what must be the softest fleece in the world.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Signature, victory and shut out the light.

1. I open a book that was a birthday present and find that the author has signed it, addressing it to me.

2. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named waves his damp sock in my face, so I throw it out of the window.

3. Closing the blinds at the end of a working day.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The return, the arrival and the count.

1. Our boss is back from his holidays. He spends a morning smoothing out all the quarrels that have blown out of proportion in his absence. 'I need another holiday.'

2. Oli drops in to see us -- mother and baby are still a bit shy but will visit soon. He says: 'I'm different. I walked out of the birthing centre and I saw the sky, and I thought "How beautiful". And I saw my tomato plants had all died because I haven't watered them and I thought: "I don't care. It's not important."'

3. When I was six, they lined us up on the wall in front of the school and told us to count passing cars. We struggled, and they taught us how to tally -- using four lines struck through with a fifth to keep count. I thought of it as a little fence to keep sheep in order. It's one of the few things I learnt in maths that I still use today -- often when I'm keeping track of a repetitive task.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Fruit cup, dancing spawn and lines.

1. I think myself lucky to get a piece of lemon in my Pimm's -- but Justin comes back with a glass loaded with strawberries and mint. And for the next round, Ian returns with even more fruit -- apples, cucumber, orange and plum. It's all about contacts, apparently.

2. At a festival of local live music on the Pantiles, the town's toddlers wiggle to the front and dance unsteadily before the bandstand. Occasionally an ambitious one climbs on to the stage, only to be quickly hooked back by more sensible people.

3. I struggled with perspective at school -- I was off sick the week they taught it. I have ideas about parallel lines and vanishing points, and roads appearing narrower as they approach the horizon, but they don't connect terribly well in my head. While watching a documentary about Byzantine icons, all becomes clear, and some of the tricks artists can play with perspective are exposed for my delight and understanding.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Quiet man, kit and time travellers.

As described on Heropress, we spent the day at Military Odyssey.

1. Among all the guns and pikes and fighting, a neolithic man sits in front of a deer hide tent knapping flints. We chat about his cordage -- nettle stem, rawhide and tendon -- and about tanning. He explained that his soft leather shirt and trousers were yellowish because they had been smoked to keep them supple.

2. A War of the Roses pikeman shows me the weight of his gear by piling it up in my arms. It's heavy, and I'm glad I'm not wearing the padded coat, wool tabard, helmet and armour on this sunny day. He explains that he's not a full 'tinny', and that once the armour is on, it doesn't feel heavy.

3. Two women dressed as Scythians trying on World War II great coats.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Treasures of the east, the candle burns the string and flying.

1. We visit the British Museum for an exhibition of Japanese crafts. I am particuarly taken by a plate decorated with a glazed pattern of maple leaves and water; and by a laquer box with owls staring out of it. Their shining eyes seem to follow us as we move though the exhibition.

2. Following workings of the machines in Heath Robinson pictures. We spent a happy hour in the Cartoon Museum enjoying the improbabl contraptions and complicated rescues, followed by some time browsing the collection of Dandys and Beanos upstairs

3. A long thin curl of orange peel forms wings over a cocktail called 'Dark Angel'.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Scarlet, it's happening and harvest.

1. The mountain ash berries over the road are a-tremble because a bird is gobbling them down as fast as it can.

2. At 8am I get a text from Oli reading 'Baby!' At work, the girls from the other company crowd in, asking us for updates, as if the birth is happening under Oli's desk. We shake our heads and wait for news. At last, the proud father rings to tell us that he has a daughter.

3. The spaces in my lunch box are crammed with home grown tomatoes that are splitting with ripeness.

Friday, August 24, 2007

What are you doing, fixing the news and ten little piggies.

1. He-Who-Shall-N0t-Be-Named enquires as to what I am doing crouched behind a desk on the other side of the office. I say I am fixing Ellie's CD drive; but really, I'm putting his birthday card in an envelope.

2. Peter comes in to supervise the news. I sit with him and go over my commentary. I don't much like writing commentaries -- I feel like a fraud because I've never been directly involved with the National Health Service; and I'm not clever at organising my thoughts into arguments. But with the help of an experienced journalist, my facts and ideas line up and I feel proud to see the piece at the head of the news.

3. Looking down at my newly-painted toenails. I had a pedicure and we picked the colour 'bus stop'. We also spent some time giggling about some of the other colours -- 'basket case', a bright,wild bubblegum pink, springs to mind.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Looking back, daily achievements and chocs.

1. As Nick and I part -- me to get my lift into work and he to the station -- I look back over my shoulder and see him looking back over his.

2. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named has discovered the Bristol Stool Chart. Copies of it have appeared all over the building with advice that we should be aiming for three or four.

3. Katie's boyfriend Jules has contributed a large and heavy box of chocolates to the household. We have strict instructions not to touch the one shaped like a butterfly on the second level.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Blue-grey, slow down and Indian food.

1. Oli's new car is the blue-grey colour of woodmoke.

2. Most days in Frant we pass a lady sweeping the pavement. She has put a 30 sign on the handle of her broom to remind drivers of the speed limit.

3. We go to a South Indian restaurant specialising in dosas. The menu describes these variously as 'crumpets', 'pancakes' and 'pizza'. We try one of each kind, and they are all good -- very different from the curry and rice I am used to.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bevvies, tea for me and channel hopping.

1. After a week away, a mug of brewed coffee brought to my desk. Even better is the redbush-with-no-milk that Ellie puts down later in the morning, saying: 'I've found your mug.'

2. Katie is away so I drink a pot of that lapsang souchong tea that she hates so much.

3. I spend a happy evening channel-hopping with our new Sky box. Chariot racing in Welsh! America's most haunted rednecks! Veronese jewellery! Only Jesus can save you from the fires of hell-ah!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Wheels, two roses and teapot.

1. I am the only person on the bus. A taxi for this same journey would have been about £50, not £3.40; there'd have been less leg room; I wouldn't have been high enough to see into people's gardens; and I would have had to chat to the driver.

2. Rosey's birthday was at the end of June, and I have been waiting weeks to see her so I could give her the present I was so proud of -- I commissioned illustrator Rosie Brooks to do a little cartoon of us in Africa.

3. They bring Nick's tea in a heavy black cast iron tetsubin, which he seems to like very much. It has pleasing nubbles on its flanks, and its weight makes is good to hold.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Exam fuel, breaking up and civilisation.

1. Chrissie produces from I know not where packets of frothy cappuccino powder to fuel our bushcraft exams.

2. Smashing up the leaf shelters and throwing the support sticks and leafmould around the woods so that the next lot of students will have to find their own materials when their turn comes.

3. Katie comes home to find me up to my neck in bubbles. She makes up a tray of tea things and sits outside the bathroom door hearing my stories of life in the woods.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Stay dry, headgear and carving.

1. Paul tells us not to let the rain get inside our heads. For the rest of the day, a 'you all right?' is likely to be answered with something along the lines of: 'There's rain down me neck and rain in me boots, but I'm not letting it get in me head.'

2. The softness of my new beanie hat. I saw one bobbled with raindrops on Di's head and coverted it. When the mobile shop came round, my card was out of my tent before you could say 'Mud'. It hasn't been off my head since I cut the tags.

3. Russ patiently shows me how to take tiny slivers off the bowl of my spoon with a crook knife. I work at this until it gets too dark and am surprised at how quickly and neatly the bowl forms.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Falling water, snake and fish head.

1. The tink-tink-tink of water dripping from a milbank bag into a billy can. We have to boil the water over a campfire to purify it properly. It's iron-stained, so it's light brown, and the boiling makes it taste strongly of woodsmoke. It reminds me of lapsang souchong tea.

2. As we are choosing chestnut poles, Dan warns us to step back. 'I think there's a snake...' I catch a flash of emerald and back off quickly. 'A snake collector has lost some snakes. I think it's the Algerian Green.' We are warned to stand right away, while the snake is caught and bagged. I am still jumpy from my murderous roll mat last night, until Di whispers 'I bet it's a fake.'

3. James the instructor explains his joyful handling of the salmon we are about to eat for supper by mentioning that he worked in a fish shop. 'Which gave lots of opportunities for jokes. I once put a cod's head in the toilet for my housemate to find.'

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Woodwork, cleanliness and radioactive badger.

1. I look at the half log in my hand and wonder how it will ever be a wooden spoon -- until I am told to carve away everything that is not spoon.

2. Showering under a yew tree from a canvas bag filled with hot water carried in a can from the fire. As I rinse my hair and rain patters around me, I wonder if I will ever be dry and free from dead yew leaves again. A few minutes later I am fully dressed in clean(ish) clothes and tingling as my skin warms up again.

3. Just before settling into my bivi bag, I turn off my torch and stash it where I can reach it. I wriggle down in my sleeping bag and slide down my self-inflating mat into the bivi bag. I am startled by a scuttering noise at my feet, and then terrified by a movement at the end of the bivi bag. My thoughts run in this order:
a. What the hell is that?
b. Get out of the bivi bag.
c. Who is screaming?
d. It's me.
Out of the dark come shouts of 'Don't move' and 'Come here' and 'Are you all right?' and 'Don't worry, it's nothing' and 'Where are you?' and 'Who's that?' and 'What's happening?' Then Dave appears out of the darkness with a torch an 'Are you decent?'
I pull on my trousers with one hand and point gibbering at the bulge in the bottom of my bivi. Shaking his head, Dave turns the bag upside down. My mat falls out and nothing else -- no adders, no badgers, no rats. The mat, however, has a large blister at the foot end where the lining has split.
Then the instructors come running from the far end of the site: 'What's happened?' and 'Our ears are bleeding' and 'I'd just got to sleep.'
Dave asks if I would like him to explain to them. I decline, and have to explain, between gasps of relieved laughter, in my own words how a malfunctioning sleeping mat made me produce proper Dr Who screams.
Chrissie makes me sit under her tarp until I stop catch my breath again.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sparks, roots and starry night.

1. We learn to use flint and steel to light tinder and start a fire. The combination of patience and dexterity is almost beyond me, but with tonnes of encouragement: 'Try with my flint.' 'You need a bigger bit of charcloth.' 'Take it slowly. Be patient.' 'You're making sparks at least, now just get them on the cloth... that's an ember! Careful, careful.' And suddenly there was a ball of smouldering hay in my hands -- 'Blow on it... now waft it down while you breathe in... bring it up... blow... hold it tightly...' and everyone cheers as the flames begin, and dizzy from hyperventilating, I drop my kindling into the campfire.

2. It's raining and we are crouched under a yew tree digging for long roots. I like this sort of exercise much better than carving or making fires. It's very satisfying to grub down in the earth and find a root, follow first in one direction and then in another and then pull it free.

3. I am sleeping under a tarpaulin strung between two trees. It was raining when I crawled into my bivi bag. I wake in the night to find stars in a clear sky sparkling between the chestnut leaves. In the morning, it's raining again.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Green sticks, cords and shelter.

1. The smell of hazel withies -- these are branches twisted until they are as strong and as flexible as wire and can be used to secure a bundle of sticks. They smell sharp, fresh and sappy. I spot Johnny sniffing the demonstration model as it is passed round.

2. Learning new knots and the stories that go with them. 'This one is used by Siberian goat herders because they don't have to take their gloves off for long when they are making it. Wave to your friend over here... if there's a triangle there you're doing it right...' 'Round this one twice then both once...'

3. Building a shelter by piling armfuls of leafmould and bracken on to a frame of sticks. It forms a dark little cave large enough for two that blends perfectly with the woods.

Monday, August 13, 2007

United, my room and fitting in.

1. During a sharp shower of rain, two smokers lurk in the porch of the pub. An older man comes in from the garden: 'There's a smoking pavilion round the corner,' he says.
'It's full,' they say.
'Oh,' he says, 'Just pile in. Everyone else is sharing tables.'

2. 'Where shall we have tea?'
'Wherever you like, Clarey.'
'Can we have it in my room?'
So we do. Nick says it's like a literary salon.

3. Sitting round a campfire hearing on one side a conversation about atl-atl throwing and on the other a conversation about colonic irrigation. I think I'm going to like these people.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Collecting eggs, tools and late supper.

Dear Everyone

I'm off for a week's holiday. As usual, I'll post a full set of 3BTs when I return. It should be an interesting selection, as I'll be camping and learning the basics of living in the wild.

1. On Friday night, Katie took me out to the hen arks and we collected six eggs -- I try to carry them in a fold of my skirt, but this proves impossible without flashing my knickers or dropping the eggs. We use my long vest instead. In the morning, she made them into pancakes.

2. Choosing new pens from a huge and many coloured selection and wondering if I would write something entirely different if I bought unusual tools.

3. We eat late -- Speldhurst bacon, runner beans, tomatoes and pasta -- and it tastes wonderful because I am hungry.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Shoe mystery, collie and dreamer.

1. A pair of black ballet pumps lie neatly by the road between two parked cars.

2. A wriggly black and white puppy worrying at dogs four times her size, chewing my fingers with pin teeth, trying to catch my skirt hem and going upstairs when she shouldn't.

3. Sitting with a sleeping baby on my lap and wondering what he's dreaming about. I suspect milk features quite strongly. His father says he now recognises the sound of the kettle.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Hay bales, greeting and family life.

1. The hay has been cut and baled. I like standing at a gate and looking up a hill to see the huge round bales standing against the sky line.

2. On my walk, I hear a miaow and a tinkle. A slender tortoise shell cat comes running across a garden to see what I am up to.

3. Another diner spots us gazing into each other's eyes. -- 'Don't do that: you'll end up with children.' He indicates his clutch of tweenies sitting at the table behind us. We laugh and he pays his bill. As he leaves the restaurant he adds: 'Don't mind me. Having children was the best thing that ever happened to me.'

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Morning after, book buyer and beans.

1. After a rough night spent curled round a hot water bottle, I wake to no period pains, glorious sunshine and more kisses than I know what to do with.

2. Seeing someone coming out of a secondhand bookshop with a full plastic bag; and having a few moments to run my eye over the line of 50p books outside.

3. The sweetness of our very own runner beans.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Marmite, pudding and cheek to cheek.

1. Fresh white bread with butter and marmite.

2. A dish of blackberry and apple crumble decorated with mint leaves and fresh blackberries.

3. Dancing with Nick because I'm used to being close to him -- I really struggle with being so near a stranger. I hope Nick takes to it so we can dance often.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Whistler, read to me and platform alteration.

We've got a garden, everybody!

I had a meeting with Jessica at Long Barn Books about the 300 Beautiful Things book. We seem to be on the same wavelength, which makes me feel even more excited about the project (if that's possible!). They have a graphic designer on board, and we're looking at a few small illustrations, too. It'll be available in spring 2008. If you would like to be kept updated, please send an email to: book at threebeautifulthings dot co dot uk -- addresses supplied will not be sold or passed on, but will be used by me, or by Long Barn, to contact you about the book and other 3BT projects.

1. Jessica's pink whistling stovetop kettle.

2. Ellie climbing up on to my lap for a story. She stops me halfway through Green Eggs and Ham, firmly closing the book. Cat explains: 'She does that to me, too. She likes to see other people's interpretations.'

3. At London Bridge, I am sent a platform that is not normal for Tunbridge Wells trains. With some misgivings, I dig in for the twenty minute wait. Two minutes before the train is due, they announce 'a platform alteration.' I sigh, get to my feet and expect a frantic dash down to the subway and up again on a hot day with uncomfortable shoes and heavy bags. Then the announcement continues, directing me to turn around and get on the train pulling in right behind me.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The edges, a hunt and gathering.

1. At RHS Wisley, the long double borders planted with drifts of waving grasses and daisies of all shapes and sizes -- my favourites were the ones with long droopy petals skirting round cone-shaped centres.

2. Hunting for frogs, wild strawberries and strange plants in my aunt's garden.

3. The sound of blackberries dropping into a box as I pick them.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Market food, strange attire and light refreshment.

Thanks for the comments on my birthday cake -- I showed the aunt and she was very pleased and touched.

1. The orange juice man in his hat covered in plastic oranges, and a stand that sold purple lemonade. And great dishes of paella dotted with whole prawns.

2. Strange outfits at Camden market -- we saw cyberpunk clubbing gear in Cyberdog: accessories designed to glow in UV light and inflatable trousers and shirts with LED message attachments. We saw aristocratic goth outfits with frogging and red velvet waistcoats. There was an orange maxidress with a fringe of purple fluff, and Norah Batty-style housecoats.

3. An enormous glass of coffee and chocolate and icecream with squirty cream on the top and a spoon and a straw.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Nurses, going away and made it.

1. As we are pulling out of Oli's drive we hear a blast of Saturday Night's All Right for a Fight. It is coming from the car of a respectable-looking lady in a nurse's uniform. She is bobbing up and down to the music as she drives. We follow her until she turns into the drive of a sheltered housing complex.

2. Bouncing home from work knowing that in about an hour I'll be on my way to a weekend of fun with my aunt, uncle and cousin.

3. That moment when, after arriving at a strange station and I'm not sure if I'm where I'm meant to be, I see a familiar face.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Bed tea, overheard and hiding.

1. I'm up super early so I can get a lift into work; so I get the chance to wake Katie up with a cup of tea.

2. On my way home I pass two elderly neighbours chatting over their wheelie bins. I overhear a fragment of conversation: 'I do apologise. I was hasty and I didn't think.' I wonder if he was telling a story, or if he was making up a squabble.

3. Sitting in a pub we hear a scuffle behind us. A barman is crawling behind a sofa. 'What are you doing?' 'Playing hide and seek'. Business is slow and the staff are bored.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A mysterious perfume, excuses and spider.

1. There is a mysterious, sweet smell outside work -- there must be something fragrant in bloom, but I can't work out where it is.

2. The movie Clerks, for the line 'I'm not even supposed to be here today.'

3. Covering a pad of paper with a spider diagram showing what I'm planning.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Camp, golden insects and zoom zoom.

1. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named crawls into my tent and then turns round to stick his head out of the door.

2. Walking under trees and seeing flies with the sun on their wings in a shaft of light.

3. Katie rides on our trolley to bust through the automatic doors at the supermarket.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Blue, tick and time out.

Here, at long last, is a picture of the wonderful 3BT birthday cake made by my talented aunt. Go here for a more explainy version.

In other news, Lauren B has been hard at work inspired by 3BT -- see All the Good Blog Names Were Taken for more. Isn't it fun?

1. At lunch, as is customary on hot days, there is a small group of men sitting the gravelled car park discussing important man things like table tennis tactics. I spot a piece of ancient broken blue china on the ground, pick it up and put it on the table. Then I see a larger piece of Willow Pattern in the hedge. Next time I look up, more people are searching for bits of blue china, wondering aloud if this piece belongs with the Willow Pattern, or a different plate.

2. The faint tick that weather-boarded houses make when the sun is hot and the air is quiet.

3. A sofa, an open door, a glass of wine, some trashy women's magazines and graphic novels and a free evening.

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 ...