Monday, March 31, 2008

Like a queen, what is that cat doing and poplar trees.

1. Breakfast is brought to me in bed, and a soft blue fleece blanket draped around my shoulders. I feel like a queen.

2. Standing at Nick's kitchen sink, I look up and see a fat black and white cat stepping across the courtyard. It has a yellow and green daffodil leaf in its mouth.

3. The smell of poplar trees after the rain.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A difficult customer, the butchers and where's the coffee?

1. Outside the vacuum cleaner repair shop a man in a mobility scooter waits while the shopkeeper runs back and forth -- he unboxes the hoover that the man has just bought and ties it on to the scooter, tucking accessories around it. All the while, the man complains about the steps up the shop; the steps up to other shops and the poor access to his local health clinic.

2. We make a pilgrimage to the butchers at Hawkenbury. The shop is crammed with people waiting to be served -- we watch a man buying steak with thick white fat, and a lady asks for 'a large chicken'. The butcher picks a naked carcass up from the pile and hefts it -- 'This one all right?' -- before packing it up for her. The smell made me think of the butchers my mother used in the village where I grew up. But there was no sawdust on the floor.

3. We find Katie's grandmother's stash of Kenyan coffee -- in the tea caddy.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Jeans day, hot coffee and warm food.

1. Dress down days at work.

2. A mug of coffee, a magazine and a spare hour.

3. A hot meat pastie when it's raining.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Longer sleep, meatballs and Colour of Magic.

1. Having a lie in.

2. Meatballs in tomato sauce with crispy potatoes.

3. Watching a TV adaptation of a book I love and anticipating the punchlines, and wondering how particular things will be shown.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Clear day, good cheer and a shower.

1. Waking up to a blue sky and bright sunshine.

2. Feeling cheerful about the work I have to do.

3. Walking home slowly in daylight while gentle rain falling from a soft grey sky beads on my hat and coat.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Open house, innocent glee and my space.

1. The door is unlocked when I get home -- with relief I realise that Katie's boss has sent her and her bad back home early.

2. We play a mad game based on the Jerry Springer show -- we have to guess the story (you persuaded your gay brother to try women... and he stole your wife; your girlfriend has no idea that you're married, and she's no idea that you're also gay) on the back of our cards by asking the other players questions, and allowing them to give us a piece of their mind in the characters of parents, siblings and other guests.

3. Right at the end of the visit, PaulV shows me his tiny garden. It reminds me rather of Mole's garden in Wind in the Willows:
The Mole struck a match, and byits light the Rat saw that they were standing in an open space, neatly swept and sanded underfoot, and directly facing them was Mole's little front door, with 'Mole End' painted, in Gothic lettering, over the bell-pull at the side. Mole reached down a lantern from a nail on the wall and lit it, and the Rat, looking round him, saw that they were in a sort of fore-court. A garden-seat stood on one side of the door, and on the other a roller; for the Mole, who was a tidy animal when at home,could not stand having his ground kicked up by other animals into little runs that ended in earth-heaps. On the walls hung wire baskets with ferns in them, alternating with brackets carrying plaster statuary--Garibaldi, and the infant Samuel, and Queen Victoria, and other heroes of modern Italy. Down on one side of the forecourt ran a skittle-alley, with benches along it and little wooden tables marked with rings that hinted at beer-mugs. In the middle was a small round pond containing gold-fish and surrounded by a cockle-shell border. Out of the centre of the pond rose a fanciful erection clothed in more cockle-shells and topped by a large silvered glass ball that reflected everything all wrong and had a very pleasing effect.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Feathery weather, warm hands warm heart and the windows.

1. More snow is falling -- but not settling. There is clear air between the flakes here, but across the valley it looks as if all the air is full of snow.

2. A hot mug warms my hands, and the hot chocolate spiked with ginger warms my insides.

3. The view across Tonbridge from Tim's long-awaited games room.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Snow, chocolate eggs and how to make crackling.

My cousin (or at least he's my mother's cousin's son, so he's a relative of some kind!) is blogging about a foot pilgrimage in Spain. Read it at Matt's Camino.

1. The weather continues dreadful, but I make Nick open the nets that protect his living room from public view so we can watch the snow falling. He laughs at me. Later, he makes his Easter Day phone calls, greeting friends and family with 'Happy Christmas'.

2. I am hard at work, when it is suggested that I might want to pay attention to the small chocolate egg at my elbow. I eat it absent mindedly, and have to be poked until I notice another one on the corner of the sofa. The trail leads out of the living room and into the kitchen where a huge and wonderful chocolate egg full of luxurious goodies hides under a bucket.

3. In the course of his phone calls, Nick is given four more possible ways to make good crackling on a pork joint. We mix and match, adding a few more interpretations from the internet and are very satisfied with the crunchy bright orange result.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Batten down the hatches, crackling and never start a fight in a Chinese restaurant.

1. There is a promise of bad weather -- Nick and I are delighted at the chance to hole up with a fleece blanket, a packet of hot cross buns, and some TV.

2. The lady in the butcher's van shares the secrets of pork crackling with us. I am glad I have picked up the habit of keeping a tiny notebook in my pocket.

3. A drunk kicks off in the Chinese restaurant where we are having dinner. But it's OK -- they have a ninja in the kitchen. What a stupid drunk -- everyone knows you shouldn't start fights in a Chinese restaurant.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Green day, magic wands and commentary.

1. Looking over Tunbridge Wells from Mount Ephraim and seeing sprays and splots of green among the browns and duns.

2. Fenella and Andy come round bringing their Wii. This results in a competitive, carefree afternoon with biscuits.

3. We put the cricket on right before we go to bed. Nick occasionally calls from the bathroom to find out what I'm laughing at -- 'There are some high clouds, cirrus, I believe' and 'I'm afraid this hat just isn't right for today -- it doesn't cover the microphone' and 'I've got a hob and a microwave in my room.' 'Really? Just a hob for me.'

Friday, March 21, 2008

Foam, tasks and trousers.

1. There is a sand coloured foam on the top of my coffee.

2. It's time to take the bins down to the basement. We race downstairs, Ben kicking a dropped plastic bottle as he goes. It's raining outside and we run across the car park and empty our loads. Back inside, I turn to go upstairs. 'Clare!' The lift door is being held for me. I shuffle in, and we wait for the last man. We are so close to each other that the movement of the lift shakes us into eye contact. We laugh awkwardly and look away again.

3. In a shop changing room, taking a pair of trousers off the hanger and knowing that they will fit.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Beautiful day, captive cloud and tiny chocs.

1. I am woken by Katie telling me it's a beautiful day.

2. The coffee pot is warmed and a captive cloud of steam is sitting in the bottom, making it look like a beaker from a mad scientist's lair.

3. Emily brings a box of tiny chocolates, and a packet of custard creams to eat with our tea.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Cheese savoury, Braille and clean floors.

1. In my bag is a sandwich labelled 'Cheese savoury'. It's in a crusty long roll and for some reason I am very much looking forward to it.

2. Braille feels lovely (that's what my paid for work involves). It never occurred to me before that it might be just as pleasurable to feel as text can be to see. The paper is thick and creamy smooth and weighty -- you feel as if you are using a high-class product. The embossed dots catch on my fingertips; and few patterns that I now recognise make me feel as if I've been inducted into a secret society.

3. 'It's a bit of a disaster area,' I told the man who has come to clean the carpets. 'Whatever you can do will improve the situation.' When I get home in the evening, a miracle has happened -- the carpets feel... they feel like new, and what I thought were stains have gone. Katie and I keep grinning at the thought of it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

One a penny two a penny, the words come and get out of here.

1. Seasonal food -- hot cross buns, I'm thinking of, full of sultanas and peel and spice. They are all the nicer because they only come at Eastertide.

2. I have been chewing my fingers and staring at the screen all morning; but the words won't come. Suddenly, just before I have to go to work, they tumble out and I write a page in ten minutes -- this is a huge relief.

3. There is no-where much to go at lunchtime if you can't afford to buy a coffee, so I sit on a bench in the shopping centre with a story magazine. It's amazing how the hurrying crowds around me disappear.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Workmanship, supplies and best place to be.

1. The crispy filigree around a fried egg.

2. Katie comes back across the park with some milk and the newspapers.

3. Snoozing while the wind and rain whip at the windows.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

In the air, golden box and ground stars.

Almost a year ago, I chatted with John Naish about gratitude, and part of a chapter in his book Enough was the result.

1. The air is warm and has a certain sweet scent to it that suggests Spring might be around the corner.

2. Nick brings a box of chocolates because he thinks I sound unhappy on the phone.

3. We come across a park where tiny daffodils like little yellow stars cover the ground.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Adjustment, morning and a lick of paint.

1. Just before the shops open, I am passing a department store and spot a make-up girl adjusting her eyeliner.

2. A mad-looking old lady sitting on a bench smiles and waves at me. I can't help but smile back at her.

3. Coming into our freshly painted hall.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Up the hill, work and rain.

1. Joining the line of workers hurrying into town.

2. Being given tasks to do and getting feedback on how I'm doing -- rather than having to find my own work, and never quite knowing if I'm doing well or not.

3. The sort of rain that is not quite hard enough to soak my coat, but is wet enough to put a shine on the pavements and to make everyone scuttle around under umbrellas and hoods.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Roller, decorating and lemon.

1. The new paint roller is the wrong size for the handle; but Fraser who is fixing our doors comes to the rescue with a spare one he happens to have.

2. The sound of a paint roller squidging fawn paint over oppressive red walls.

3. Tiny sugar-dusted pastries filled with lemon curd.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bacon, pennies from heaven and the moon.

1. A sandwich of crispy smoked bacon for breakfast.

2. Getting the call that says there is some gainful employment waiting for me, should I wish to take it -- which I do, because I'm taking Nick away for a weekend in April and I want to spoil him a little.

3. The wind pulls the clouds open for a moment and the a sliver of moon appears. I had seen it in a clear sky the night before, paired with a faint outline of its dark side.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Glad to be here, wind's dropped and moving the plot.

1. I get a sad little message from Katie saying that on this day of wind and rain, her shoe has a hole and her toes are wet. I am so glad to be at home.

2. Between convulsive storms, when wind and rain batter the house there are half hours of bright sun that lights up wet surfaces and sets rows of drops sparkling.

3. The class is small today, so after we have read everyone's work there's time to do a written exercise. Two people who were stuck find their plot moving again.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Squirrel, lunch and games.

SisterMu has done me the honour of basing a story written into the Stargate universe on the 3BT model. I think it works rather well.

1. Watching the squirrel messing around in the tree across the road when I should be working. I wonder if it's the same squirrel that built itself a nest there last year.

2. We go for Sunday lunch at Thorin's, where they have crisp cloth napkins and large wine glasses.

3. Muddy little boys playing football in the park with their dads.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Small gifts, top deck and roofscape.

1. The kindness of strangers. The lady at the station ticket office is very sharp with a man who pushes in front of me in the queue; and then she checks the map to see if there is any way I can avoid a replacement bus service. Later, the coffee shop cashier says: 'I'll give you one of my crisp fivers' as she hands me my change.

2. Sitting in the front seat on the top deck of a bus.

3. The cliff road curls back on itself so steeply that you can look down the chimney pots of the houses and shops on the sea front. And what a roofscape -- there's a green copper and red brick dome; flowered clay chimney pots and a garden of vines.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Drizzle, dinner and going down to South Park.

1. The morning was drizzley. When I emerge from the basement after a morning of work, the sun has come out and all is bright and beautiful.

2. Dinner with the girls -- and the burnt sugar taste of my toad-in-the-hole batter.

3. I had forgotten how much I like South Park until we found it while channel surfing after getting back from dinner.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Missing time, walking up and game's afoot.

1. Quietly engaged in my work, I look up to see that it's 1.20pm. Must get some lunch when I've finished this page. When I look up again, it's 2.20pm.

2. Walking up to Nick's, I realise I am still getting that feeling of trembly excitement.

3. Tim is leading us in a new campaign. I'm playing an idiot warrior. I love generating a new character, coming up with his backstory and personality; and thinking about why he might be the way he is. Nick cast his horoscope to help the process, and it was interesting to see how we had to bend the interpretations to fit the facts. For example: according to the stars, he lets his head rule his personal life. But since in most other things he hits first and asks questions later... much later, if at all, it was hard to see how this would work. Then we decided that his early life as a slave on the women's island of Zenn had made him very cynical about love, so he would appraise (in his limited way) what he could get from a relationship, rather than diving right in.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Snuggling, chiaroscuro and mope.

1. Dozing and waking on a weekday morning because Nick has the day off. We are lying under a new quilt cover -- the old one was cheap and scratchy (what do you expect for a fiver from Woolworths), but the new birthday present one is so smooth I keep wanting to wriggle against it.

2. On a bright morning, sauntering home the long way so I can enjoy the light and shade on the common. I'll miss the sharp thin shadows of twigs once the leaves come out.

3. There's no point trying to write when I feel this mopey -- so I put on the Afternoon Play and do some tidying.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Spam, nuns and wet flakes.

1. My email comes with ads suggested by the content of my messages -- I'm sure my privacy is being invaded somehow, but what's a girl to do? Anyway, while I'm casting an eye over my spam basket, I note that the ads are all for spam recipes. They lead back to this page. Spam primavera anyone? Or, or, Tyrospamites? They sound like boys in the cavalcade of a decadent eastern ruler.

2. Watching a Technicolor film about nuns -- The Black Narcissus -- being seduced by a Himalayan landscape.

3. In the dark it is hard to tell if the wet white flakes blatting on the windscreen are sleet or cherry blossom.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Eastertide, free sample and sleet.

1. The deli has many strange and wonderful Easter items on display -- licorice fish; dove-shaped cakes; boxes of coloured eggs large and small and crates of chocolate sardines in silver paper.

2. Nibbling cake samples in a shop.

3. Feeling vindicated when it sleets as predicted on a previously sunny day.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Flowers, three generations and a good meal.

1. Everywhere I look flowers are tucked into bags or carried proudly. I run into Jess, Damo and Jon at the station -- they have between them an enormous bunch of red and yellow roses.

2. We arrive at my grandmother's and as we are getting out of the car, the neighbours come out and say: 'Three generations together.'

3. My grandmother's favourite pub was fully booked, so we went to another one in her village. We weren't expecting much (in retrospect, this may have been based on a bad experience someone had there twenty years ago). When the food came, it was delicious -- thick slices of perfect, pink-in-the-middle lamb surrounded by vegetables that might have been home cooked.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sushi, dancing and leeks.

1. A plate of sushi because of the colours and the moment of wondering what each one will taste like.

2. Walking down the hill and spotting Fenella and Andy dancing around like loons in their living room. I'm hoping they were playing with their Wii.

3. Serving green and white leeks on St David's Day. Nick says he saw the Prince of Wales on TV with a tiny leek on his lapel.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

High floor, what I really liked and waiting.

1. Going up to a 13th floor office and catching sight of the view from the windows.

2. Because it's best not to discuss negatives in a job interview, I'm reminded of all the things I really liked about my previous jobs.

3. On my way to the loo, I pass a man alone at a table. He has an enormous bunch of white roses. I wonder who he is waiting for.

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 ...