Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cleaning the fridge, follower and oranges in caramel.

1. The fridge is clean again after the salad dressing spill. I put everything back inside.

2. A dog with white paws follows us -- no interest in its master's whistles.

3. Cool sour oranges. Warm bitter syrup infused with cinnamon.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lights,don't mess with me and hairwash.

1. I like to switch on the Christmas tree each morning.

2. In the shopping centre. A small boy stumbles. His much taller brother laughs. Boy delivers a round-house kick to his brother's shopping bag.

3. To brush my hair when it is newly washed and dried. I wish it always felt this soft and smooth.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fever, striped and book in the bath.

1. Nick is feverish. I sponge his forehead and raid the emergency box for paracetamol and Ribena.

2. Red, white and green striped pasta.

3. A blue and bubbly bath and the new Terry Pratchett book.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Cold gold, furoshiki and an education.

And here's the most magical week of the year. Merope appreciated the kindness of a stranger who dug her car our of the snow. Sprite saw something wonderful on her way home. Leonora and Robinhill Quilts are happy to have children in various sizes home. Just Three Little Things celebrated a landmark birthday. I love the image of a grinning Joannezipan driving through a big puddle. And Raymond is very pleased at the result of a clear-out.

Ahem. I've done a 3BT podcast for the previous week. It's here, over at Podbean. I'd love some feedback. As I don't suppose I'll have many listeners, I'd really like to make it work for those do listen, so please let me know if there's anything I can change.

Today would have been my grandfather's birthday. I think of him often -- whenever I'm puzzling out my finances; and whenever I get the urge to touch a beautiful piece of furniture.

1. Cold gold winter sun has picked out details on the roiling clouds massed on the horizon.

2. The gift from my cousins comes wrapped in a scarf. I've been waiting and waiting to get a furoshiki gift, and here it is. The scarf can be used again to wrap another present, and another, and another -- or I could wear it for a while. The different styles of knot are ingenious. It's like origami, but much more forgiving.

3. Nick is going down with something. I can tell because he is freezing cold -- normally he radiates heat, which is very welcome to a chilly mortal like me. I fold the corner of the covers up under his feet to help him get warm enough to go to sleep.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Your chocolates, the hill and thunder.

1. "They're your chocolates. You eat them when you want." And so I do.

2. To climb a hill and stretch my muscles and get out of breath for the first time in days.

3. A world-shaking clap of thunder starts the rainstorm that washes away the last of the snow.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Purple bubbles, the bird and port of call.

1. We drink fizzy wine while lying in a bath full of bubbles. For the rest of the day our skin and the bathroom (and the towels and our flannels) smell of violets. I think (so far) that Bathos is my favourite of all Lush's bubble bars.

2.Nick, who is carving the chicken, says: "Yummo. It's really good. Do you want some?" and he puts a fragment of white meat in my mouth. It is moist and fragrant -- everything I'd hoped for. "Well done Delia," I say -- her book is still open on the table. And then remembering Katie-who-I-used-to-live-with's custom of praising the beast on the table, "Well done chicken."

3. A man in a sky blue jumper and a gold party hat comes out of his house, goes into the garage and takes a bottle of port back inside to his guests.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Stocking up, angel and red hats.

1. I get chatting at the counter in the stationers. The assistant says that her husband "came from a family where they don't do stockings. They just don't do them. He didn't get it. So for the first few years, I did my own." She explained that from January, every time she saw a little something that she fancies, she buys it and squirrels it away. "I wrap them up as soon as I find them. That way, you've forgotten what you bought." On Christmas Eve, her husband has plenty of things to put in her stocking. "But this year, he said: 'Don't buy your stocking. I want to do it.' And he has, too. He's learnt the sorts of things to buy."

2. One of the hairdressers is wearing an angel costume (white jeans and shirt, tinsel wings) to hand out leaflets. His grandfather comes by to laugh at him.

3. At the chocolate shop, the boss tells his staff that as there is only one Father Christmas, three of them are going to have to take off their hats.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sibling rivalry, butchers and Antarctica.

Joanne has emailed me to say that she's started to 3BT after a while of doing it on paper. "I kept running  out of notebooks," she says, adding: "It really helps me focus on the positive bits of my life, I hope in time to banish the negative nelly that lives inside me!" She's listed some lovely things -- love the use of flat cola to comfort a dicky tummy.

1. Robert has stayed the night. He complains that I didn't bring him breakfast in bed. I tell him: "You're not at Rosey's house." Rosey -- if she is to believed, always brings him breakfast in bed and bakes cakes for him. He says: "She never makes me breakfast in bed. She rings me up early on a Saturday and says I have to drive all the the way to Leeds and take her climbing in the Lake District and then drop her off at the station."

2. We stand together in the queue outside the butchers and watch the people ahead of us coming out with their turkeys in boxes.

3. We watch Werner Herzog's Encounters at the End of the World. He went to Antarctica and interviewed some of the more outlandish scientists and workers. I like seeing how he deals with a stern and silent penguin expert. And the plumber descended from the Aztec royal family. The hydroponics shed is run by a disenchanted linguist -- he was ordered to burn his Phd notes about a dialect with just one speaker ("It's a long story," says Herzog in the voiceover).

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pine, supermarket and sponge pudding.

1. My mother brings us a little Christmas tree and I dress it with all my tiny decorations. It sparkles and the room already smells of pine.

2. Not really a big supermarket fan -- I don't like coming out with lots more than I intended. Today, Tesco is so full of hard faces and angry voices and sharp elbows and over-filled baskets that I am not tempted at all. I grab the items on my list, pay and leave.

3. I am a bit doubtful about the sponge pudding. My baking skills are really not all that, and we didn't have any fruit so I used syrup instead. But during supper, each time I glance over my shoulder at the oven door I can see it has risen a little more. In the end, I take it out and find it the sponge is fluffy and bright yellow and it's floating in a pool of hot golden syrup.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

No trains, sandwiches and cardamom

A couple of things -- Tim over at Heropress posted his own beautiful things last week. He includes being a beautiful thing in the list, which is all a bit meta. It's lucky I didn't list his post as a beautiful thing or this could have gone on forever.

Jewellery company Waves of Gratitude are asking people to nominate someone who expresses their gratitude with style. I've just nominated one of my favourite 3BT bloggers, and I hope others will do the same -- check out the list on the left.

1. According to Twitter, the trains are all wrong, so Nick stays at home, safe and warm with me.

2. To have my lunchtime sandwiches made for me.

3. Absentmindedly I crunch a cardomom seed while cooking. Its oily, aromatic flavour goes right to the back of my throat. Later, when I am grinding a few more of the black seeds, I notice that they are white as flour inside.

Monday, December 21, 2009

To do, thaw and treatment.

Merry Midwinter, everyone. Today is the longest night here in the northern hemisphere, which means that the days are getting longer from now on.

I've published a few pictures in the last few days, and it's made me take extra special notice of the photo 3BTers this week.  

I'm always interested in 3BT stories -- even if your beautiful things are not for public consumption, it's great to hear about your experiences. Please let me know how you're recording the things that delight and amuse you.

1. "What shall we do after lunch?" Nick wonders. I tell him: "We're going to look at our wedding pictures again, and you're going to like it."

2. The snow has melted and frozen again so that each twig is cased in glassy ice.

3. My arms and back are dotted with crimson welts -- they look like mosquito bites and itch like crazy. Nick tenderly applies antihistimine cream to each one and tells me not to scratch.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Albums, closed book and epic journey.

1. Our wedding photos arrive -- Katherine Pope comes in from the frozen world with the albums, and we re-live the day. I love the reaction shots -- here's me seeing the cake (sorry for making everyone wait while I walked round it!)

2. I give up on a book I am not enjoying because it is about a man complaining about his miserable marriage. I put it in the recycling box.

3. We must brave the ice and snow catch Nick's sister before she gets on the train. It is a horrible journey -- we have to backtrack twice down dark alleys to avoid a road cordoned off because of a gas leak. We cut home across the common because the deep snow is less trecherous than the icy pavements. By the end of our journey, the my trouser cuffs are sparkling, frosted by the powder snow.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Off work, winter sun and town under snow.

Today our wedding pictures came. Katherine Pope did an excellent job, as you can see from the picture below of Nick and me marching out of the room as Mr and Mrs Law.

1. At 9 o'clock, Nick must ring his work and tell them that as there are no trains because of the snow, he has to stay at home. Then we discover that the snow has affected the TV reception -- which means I have him all to myself.

2. The long-angled winter sun hits the snow piled on branches. Every tree is a cathedral. (Picture by Nick)

3. There are snowmen in the centre of town. Cold and soggy teenagers pull toboggans down from the common to the coffee shops.

4. The greengrocer is wearing a Santa Claus outfit.

Friday, December 18, 2009

More work, lunch break and heavy snow.

1. They ask: "Would you like to come and work for us again?" and I say I would, very much, because I've just earned enough to pay for a Christmas tree.

2. I like to eat lunch and watch half an episode of The A-Team.

3. Right before we go to sleep, I get up and cross the cold floor to check that the promised heavy snow really has come. It has covered the yard an inch deep already, and driven away the darkness.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

First snow, hot potato and Christmas show.

1. I come out of the bookshop and fragments of snow are falling. At first I think it must be fake, blown from a display somewhere, because no-one else is reacting. But then two women pass me and I overhear: "Is it snowing? It's snowing, isn't it." I walk home on light feet with a huge smile on my face.

2. Taking a hot baked potato out of the oven.

3. I go to see A Christmas Carol at Trinity. It's a very spare production with a cast of eight playing multiple parts, but it's very cleverly done. A lot of the 'scenery' is created using a Greek-style chorus. The words are all Dickens', too, which is wonderful, particularly if you've recently read the book. Afterwards, I tell Caroline (who saw it the day before for reviewing purposes) that I wouldn't have minded seeing it all over again. She agrees.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Still asleep, warm light and Christmas spirit.

You locals might be interested in Nash -- an online arts magazine for Tunbridge Wells.

1. It's so dark in the mornings now. It's cold, too. We have a lie-in.

2. On a cold night (stars are hard and clear, the air is crackling with frost) ducking into the station waiting room where the light is warm.

3. I love coming into Tim and Rachel's house at Christmas: it's so full of details. I catch sight of a Christmas apron, and a plate of biscuits for Santa, and a ceramic nativity. Their Christmas tree is the throw-it-all-on variety, and it looks absolutely magical, with something wonderful on each branch.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rain in the sun,cold hands and put them away.

The husband of a friend was commissioned to write a song for The British Humanist Association's choir. It's called Gathering Round the Fire, and it's about how at this dark time of year we crave the warmth of human contact. I think it's rather a pleasing sentiment.

(The link is to the MP3 on Amazon -- I get a small commission if you choose to download it that way. It is available on iTunes, too, if that's more your thing.)

1. It's a bright day, so I take a basket of damp washing out to the line. But the air is full of cold needles and I am annoyed at having to take it all inside and hang it up again. Then I see sparks of sun-gilded rain and can't help but forgive the weather.

2. A hot mug of tea makes my cold hands tingle.

3. I never feel comfortable when the best wine glasses are by the sink. I like to wash them, dry and polish them and put them away.

Monday, December 14, 2009

White towels, man with a flan and candlelight.

Some natural history advice from Den -- I love the idea of queen bees sleeping away their pregnancy and waking up in the spring ready to found a dynasty. Ruth marvels at the rainbow colours in a bubble. Both Sweetpea's Garden and Cherry Red write about non-genetic parenting. Lynn shares the story behind her vintage Santa statue. And poor Louisa has to make the best of a bad cold.

1. I put out our new white wedding towels. They are so soft and so fluffy and so clean that it seems wicked to use them to dry myself.

2. Several days ago,Nick declared his intention to make a flan. He shuts himself away in the kitchen and soon the flat starts to smell of cheese and pastry and other savoury things.

3. I like to light a few candles for the supper table.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Brick, the finding and marble.

1. Treading on a loose brick in the pavement and hearing it go "collop".

2. I lose Nick while shopping -- a combination of my dreaminess and the crowds. I like to catch sight of his head behind a book display.

3. Ladelling mulled wine into a pair of goblets made from purbeck marble. Purbeck marble is really polished limestone, not marble at all. It's packed full of fossils. Every time I use these goblets I spot something new -- this time, two translucent spots on my goblet distinguishes it from Nick's. The wine was good, too.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I got the words, Anna and end of the week.

1. I like to send off a completed piece of work -- editing work for a man who does not speak English so well, but writes with amazing clarity about a complex subject. I feel satisfied about that -- I hope my skills have given him the confidence to forge ahead in his career.

2. Writing this blog has brought me so many good things, including a lot of new friends. Pretty high on the list of these would be Anna. We go out to press jolly lunch and do some catching up.

3. I send in my two articles for the week, and for the first time in months, I get that feeling that shouts: "FRIIIIDAAAAAY".

Friday, December 11, 2009

Round the parish, work fast and together.

Artist Amelia Critchlow has written a 3BT post over at 101 Birds -- we met while I was covering an exhibition here in Tunbridge Wells that includes her work. She's written about that, and the co-incidence surrounding our meeting.

1. I keep her company while she delivers parish Christmas cards. We enjoy the winter decay in other people's gardens, and good nosey at their front doors.

2. I get a piece of work that must be done quickly. It strikes me that it will pay for Christmas lunch.

3. I work late into the night while Nick cuts out his counters. When I come to bed, I apologise for having to work while he is home, but he says he likes being together silently.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Early delivery, in the mist and sketch.

1. Days when the Abel and Cole man arrives super early, because he knocks on the door and hands me the boxes with a big smile.

2. On a misty day, walking along Mount Ephraim looking over an unfamiliar town. It's a view that never gets tired. Every change in the vault of sky above renews the tiny moving town below.

3. I'm really enjoying Laura Solon's Talking and Not Talking sketch show on Radio 4. One of the characters is a deposed dictator who has moved to England and horrifies those who try to be kind to her. Another is an exotic, spoilt lady who lives in houseful of 'women', apparently servants at her beck and call, but at the end of each story, they lock her in her room.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Dumpling, sandwich and decorations.

1. Nick is hovering as I serve up my dinner. Then he swoops to steal a fragment of dumpling.

2. I covet Nick's sandwich -- the piece of bacon, and the red tomato slices layered between flounces of spring green lettuce. The colours are so bright that you would think it was a plastic toy sandwich intended to delight a child.

3. In our quest for Christmas cards, we bring down the box of decorations. I dust it off and discover all the treasures I had carefully wrapped in last January's newspaper and then forgotten about.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Doughball, can't wake up and my evening.

1. Dough bumbles round the breadmaker pan like a stout creature in an exercise ball.

2. The butcher is alarmed and bemused by his slowness. "I just want to put my head down and have a 10-minute kip." I tell him that I think that's a reasonable response to this sort of greyish day, when it doesn't really get light. He smiles and says he supposes it is.

3. I'd forgotten football night -- that means for me a hot bath and a good book (Whitechapel, a novel about a Victorian thug forced to play detective against Jack the Ripper).

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Long light, jam turnover and soda.

Three Beautiful Things weekly round-up
If you 3BT regularly, please let me know -- I love reading other people's beautiful things.

1. In the middle of the morning, I go out to the bins, and stand astonished (rubbish in my hand) at the golden winter light and long shadows.

2. He makes a jam turnover with the leftover pastry and marks it with our initials. At teatime, I get ticked off for picking the wrong half.

3. Last thing at night, to pour some soda crystals down the sink to keep the drains sweet. I like to break up the lumps in the powder through the plastic bag.

Handover, aid and the pub.

Louisa Parry (who runs one of my favourite green blogs, How Can I Recycle This) has started 3BTing on her personal blog.

1. Nick's dad says of Nick's mother: "If she's holding Nick's hand, I don't see why I can't hold yours," and with a rare smile, he takes my hand.

2. On Friday I had a bit of a career setback. Anna and Sarah have sprung into action, and over mince pies and fizzy wine, they help me work out what it is I can do.

3. Going to a pub and drinking beer while a band plays covers.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Filing, brilliant and to boldly go.

1. Filing copy at the start of the day.

2. Paul Whitehouse's Brilliant Kid (see above) is a natural 3BTer.

3. Star Trek. When you need an episode of Star Trek to salve a disappointment, there is always one playing somewhere in the channel listing.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Worry, on the pavement and sabrage.

1. We part at the roundabout. My mother-in-law waits to watch over me as I cross the road.

2. He pushes a lady in a wheel chair. She is holding an umbrella. A little girl walks alongside, hanging on to a bag strap. She chants to herself for the joy of hearing her voice wobble at each step. One wheel squeaks.

3. They summon us into the food tent to see a marvel. "And just to prove how easy it is to open a bottle of Champagne with a sabre, I'm going to get Flo to do it." She stands there, nervous in her wellies and pink jacket, and mouths his instructions back to him. Then she whips the sword along the bottles seam, strikes the neck of the bottle and the cork flies out still ringed with glass. We cheer and clap for a very long time.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Loyal few, soundproof and sound in my pocket.

This morning I heard from two ladies who are hoping to record beautiful things regularly:
1. I give the Roll of Honour a good going over, and discover that there are 15 bloggers out there who are 3BTing regularly. That puts a smile on my face for the rest of the day. I'll post a list in the next few days and I've subscribed to you all on Google Reader, and added you to the Three Beautiful Things feed bundle -- please take a look if you use a feed reader. And if you don't, a feed bundle is a good introduction to a great way of organising your blog habits and ensuring you get the posts on your favourite blog as they happen.

2. Our nearest recycling centre has now got soundproofed bottle banks. I've always loved dropping off my glass -- but I used to feel very sorry for the poor people living in the houses on the other side of the wall. Now I don't so much. The muted smashing sound is less satisfying, but I like speculating about how it's achieved.

3. I like to potter around the flat with my blue radio in my apron pocket.

PS: If you're not on The Roll of Honour and you think you should be, please drop me an email or comment on this post.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Cyclamen, myself and coming home.

Wonderful quote sent in by Mrs Wood:
"The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes. If you foolishly ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it. Your life will be impoverished. But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life." Frank Lloyd Wright
1. My mother brings a pot of cyclamen (pink and white with slate green leaves) to put by our front door. The clean colours are a rest from winter's drab.

2. Before I go out for the evening, I cut four slices from our homemade loaf for Nick's sandwiches. I wash up, tidy a little and put some lights on. I won't be there when he comes in, but I can leave him something of myself.

3. Standing in the hall unwrapping my cold face from hat and scarf. The football noises from the sitting room stop abruptly. Nick comes in to greet me: "You look so pretty."

Boxes, art and bread.

I'm going to keep adding beautiful things from the wedding day -- it all went by so fast (everyone warns you about how time seems to speed up and slow down on your wedding day) that I'm only now beginning to process it.

Our photographer, Katherine Pope, was wonderful. Her service was about so much more than pictures. I can't tell you how much it helps to have people around who have lots of wedding experience. Katherine, Louise the hairdresser, Paul V (he's got a load of wedding photography experience, too), the hotel staff and our registrars all made me feel as if everything was as it should be.

I was worried that the day would un-naturally punctuated by stop-start-stop-start for the camera. But I quickly discovered that the stops have drawn attention to and preserved so many moments that would otherwise have been lost.

Actions which I don't normally think about (waking up in the morning, zipping a dress, pinning on a brooch, chatting to Nick, signing a document, walking into a room, cutting a cake) take on more significance on your wedding day.

I can't wait to see the pictures and re-live all those moments.

1. Delivery men bearing large boxes in out of the rain.

2. Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery has an exhibition of local crafts. I wrote a feature about it, so I was particularly keen to go and have a look. It was wonderful to see in real life works that I had discussed with artists but only seen in photographs. I was particularly curious to see Sylvie Howitt's papercuts.

3. We stay up late to wait for the new breadmaker to do its thing. The flat smells of baking. At 11.03, we tip the loaf out. We can't even wait for it to cool before we cut a slice (the crust is so crisp, and the crumb is steamy soft).

Monday, November 30, 2009

The visitor, out of the rain and spreadsheet.

On our wedding day, one of my favourite bloggers Mr London Street wrote a 3BT post, which is so full of love and pleasure that I hope everyone will give it a read.

1. Katie comes by after breakfast (by which I mean about noon) to drop off a card and have a catch-up. As always, she looks very glam in a smart coat that is the perfect length to show off her beautiful conker-brown boots. I am still in my pyjamas.

2. While waiting in a bookshop for the rain to stop: "That'll teach me to leave my coat in the car. Shall we go across the road and have a cup of coffee in BHS?"

3. We have so many people to thank that we need a spreadsheet to keep track. It's getting more and more heavily pencilled as we remember the kindnesses.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The light, pork belly and spices.

1. On a winter day, walking out and squinting into the sunshine.

2. Slow-cooked pork -- tender and sticky shreds -- with crackling to crunch between our teeth.

3. Today has been a day of spices: fennel seeds ground up and rubbed into the crackling on our pork belly. My finger tips turn green. Cloves pressed into oranges to make pomanders that I dust with cinnamon pack away in paper bags for Christmas. A hard spot has formed on the tip of my thumb.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The smile, addressed and bedmaking.

We're back safely from our honeymoon -- we had a lovely relaxing few days. Being married takes a bit of getting used to, but we've got plenty of time.

Thank you very much to the guest posters who covered last week -- I felt much better than I expected to about leaving the blog because I knew it was in safe hands. And it's always a privilege to read about other people's beautiful things, particularly people who don't often express themselves in writing.

And thank you particularly to Katie who typed up three scribbled hotel memo block pages that I thrust into her hand as the train pulled out of Tunbridge Wells, and turned up some piccies of the wedding... And added a few extra beautiful things which I thought of later in the week.

The wedding day was magical, and we are still enjoying the memories. My husband and I felt so loved and supported by everyone there, and by all the people who let us know that they wished us well in emails and comments.

1. We walk through the corridors of Charing Cross Underground Station on our way home. I am cradling an enormous bunch of red, orange and yellow flowers. Nick is carrying the small bag that matches my patterned suitcase. I don't clock that I am grinning ear-to-ear until the busker with the accordian smiles back at me.

2. There is a card waiting for us, addressed to Mr and Mrs Nicholas Law.

3. We turn the mattress and make the bed up with fresh sheets. This is a weekly chore that I love because having a partner... a husband to help makes it so much easier.

I vowed I would not write about the honeymoon, but I'm going to sneak a few things in: The hotel Nick chose for us proudly boasted that they used regional products, including oil pressed from rapeseed by Fussels Fine Foods. We were walking round the Christmas market, and spotted a stall selling rapeseed oil. We got chatting to the stallholders (they reminded me very much of the jolly and philanthropic Cheeryble Brothers in Nicholas Nickleby). When we told them we'd spotted them on our hotel menu, and that we were on our honeymoon, they very kindly made us a present of a bottle of oil.

The afore-mentioned bunch of flowers was a lovely surprise in our hotel room, organised by Nick. The lilies have been opening all week went on, and are still revealling themselves. And I've never seen such velvety dark red roses in all my life.

Finally, the hotel was wonderful -- peaceful and comfortable. If you're ever in Bath, The Queensberry comes recommended. I hope we can go back there one day!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ball, rally and on the way home.

1. Beano Cook, the 'pope of college football', pontificates to his listeners. As someone who has trouble remembering what he had for breakfast, I marvel at how he so vividly recalls incidents from games played half a century ago.

2. The afternoon is dragging, until Charlotte rallies us with the cry of "let's put the kettle on!" As we make hurriedly for the kitchen I wonder if there will be a biscuit I can snuffle.

3. On the train in the evening I pause from reading my paper to think of the beautiful girl who's waiting for me to get home.

Text by Nick Law

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

You go first, look out and creativity.

Clare asked me to do a post while she was away on her honeymoon. Here are Three Beautiful Clare Things that I'm most thankful for:

1. Clare does everything first so that by the time I come to do them they're not quite so scary, and she's never once complained about it.

2. Ever since I was born and she was five, she's looked out for me: advises where she can and comforts when required.

3. Her creativity - it's always been there but she's honed it and crafted it into something so positive and well, beautiful!

Text by Rosey Grant.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Web, niche and possibly a bit broody.

1. The delicate web of connections that has led Clare (my former housemate; introduced to me by an ex-girlfriend of mine) and Nick (one of my oldest friends; we sat next to each other in school and discovered a shared interest in science-fiction, roleplaying games and wargames) to meet at my wedding in 2007, fall in love and get married.

2. Small companies on the Internet that say ‘thank you’ when you enquire about their niche products and enjoy sharing their enthusiasm for them with fellow geeks.

3. I eat my chocolate mousse with one hand because the other arm is cradling a sleeping baby. After the meal we retire to the lounge and the baby awakens. Holding her with my hands clasped around her tummy, I bounce her up and down. She smiles and it’s the most amazing sight I have ever seen.

Text by Tim Knight of

Monday, November 23, 2009

Wendy, lions and tigers and gentleman.

1. We have a tame robin (Erithancus rubecula). It first appeared when it was quite young: wide beaked and speckled with feathers sticking out at silly angles. Now it has a fine red breast.

When the back door is open it sits on the doorstep then hops into the kitchen as if it were its own house. It hops under the table and daintily picks up all the crumbs and then hops out again. Sometimes it goes further into the house. One day it hopped through the utility room, kitchen, hall, sitting room and into my study where it picked a dead moth from a spider's web, ate it and hopped out again.

When the door is not open it sits in a shrub and crossly tck, tck, tcks at anyone who appears. When it is not foraging it sits in the middle of a thorn bush and practises singing. It sings very quietly with its beak hardly open (bird teenage mumbling) in preparation for the spring when it will sit at the top of the bush and burst into full song.

2. I visit the WHF Big Cat Sanctuary in Smarden. ( They are part of an international programme for breeding Amur Leopards (Panthera pardus orientalis). WHF is one of 40 organisations holding over 100 animals. The programme is planning to release captive-bred animals in the next few years.

There is a female and her two male cubs. The leopards are so aggressive that the adult male has to be caged separately. The male is wonderfully wild and spits and hisses. WHF have a second potential pair of young animals and as there are only about 35 left in the wild this is a vital exercise for the survival of the species.

As I leave I pass a snow leopard (Panthera uncia). I disturb its meal and it glares at me with pure disdain.

3. Rajasthan. Early in the morning we visit a tiny Bishnoi village. It is a collection of thatched single room houses surrounded by fields. Bishnois are followers of Guru Jambheshwar, Jambhoji, who taught respect of the environment and all living things. They live a very simple life and do not kill anything, even to the extent of building their simple homes using only fallen branches. We are received graciously by the head of the village and, as we sip tea, he allows us to take photographs. I wonder what he thinks of us.

Text and pictures by Michael Grant.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Joy, friends, and new family

1. I go upstairs to put on my dress in a bedroom full of golden sunlight. The photographer is pleased - and I'm pleased, because we'd been told to expect heavy rain.

2. I don't even know what to say about Janey's cake - except that I cried when I saw it, because it was everything we'd described to her.

3. Walking down the aisle and seeing all my friends and family ranged on either side.

4. It's when the registrar presents us as Mr & Mrs Law, and that's when I start crying.

5. Pete said, 'During Nick's speech, Rachel was in pieces, Jeni was welling up, Tim was welling up and I had a problem with my contact lens.'

Ed: Good luck to Clare and Nick! It was a very happy wedding, just the way they wanted it. They are off on honeymoon now but Clare has lined up some guest writers in the mean time, hope you enjoy.

Further Ed: Clare has sent me some more BTs to post from honeymoon:

1. Looking into Nick's eyes as I said my vows, and feeling as if this part of the ceremony was just between us.

2. The ripple of laughter as people identified our recessional music.

3. My parents swapped seats at dinner. I loved to see them chatting to Nick's parents - they'd never met before.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tomorrow, us together and draw the curtain.

1. I wake up and give Nick a poke on the shoulder. "We're getting married tomorrow."

2. I'm so glad we had a lie in: after 10 o' clock, the phone doesn't stop ringing.

3. I like to go into the spare room, draw the curtain and put the light on, ready for a guest.

4. My chief bridesmaid Louise drives down out of the dark, and the party is complete.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Beauty, new moon and from his colleagues.

1. My lovely beautician fills my pockets with product samples and my head with advice to help me look perfect on my wedding day.

2. The new moon in the twilight is such a fine sliver that at first I think it must be a wisp of high cloud that has caught the last of the sun. I'm glad to be getting married on a waxing moon: I'm sure that's a good thing.

3. Nick comes home from work with an enormous card from all his colleagues. It's full of in-jokes, and comments from people who are looking forward to the wedding. I am still amazed by all the people who wish us happiness.

He says: "When they all gathered round my desk, I felt as if the wedding had begun, and I stopped feeling nervous." I'm trying to place when it happened for me -- I think it was when I sent off the article I'd been writing that day. I think that's when it was.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lie in, cleaner and corn.

1. I go back to bed with a book and the coffee pot.

2. I run the vacuum cleaner round before Nick gets home. Afterwards, I feel a lot happier about our home.

3. Crisp yellow kernals of tinned sweetcorn in my soup.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sport, delivery and the oak.

I'm quite fond of Eat The Seasons, a website that lists each week some seasonal foods. Today, they've suggested chestnuts, and the feature starts with what looks very much like a 3BT list -- I'm sure it's not, but I thought I'd share it with you.

1. One of the flowers on my white potted azalea has a flash of shocking pink in one petal. I wonder at the colour locked up in the plant's genes and the chance errors that allowed it to be expressed. Ain't life grand.

2. On his second visit of the day (he came yesterday, too,) I tell the delivery man that it's wedding presents. He smiles broadly.

3. I am taking enormous pleasure in the oak tree that I can see from the desk. It covers fully a quarter of my view, and has ponderously changed from green to yellow to ochre. I expect to wake up any day now and see an even more dramatic transformation.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The sun came out, greeting and relief.

Moonscribble has very kindly nominated me for this award. The instructions are to recommend five other blogs, so here are my favourite creative blogs:

1. League Against Boring Lunches (knitting)
2. All the Good Blog Names Were Taken (papercraft)
Women's Stories: Read, Write and Enjoy (writing)
Box Elder (writing)
5. Recycle This (greenness)

1. After a morning of stair rod rain, to walk across the Common when the sun is shining.

2. Nick gets home and we open the post addressed to us both. A former colleague has sent the loveliest card that says inside: "Three Beautiful Things: Love, marriage and happiness - and wishing these last a lifetime for you." It means so much to have the support of our friends when we are confirming this decision about the rest of our lives.

3. Wedding nerves hit me late on Sunday night, and I've been feeling on edge ever since. I come out of script class and somewhere in the two hours, I've stepped back and calmed down.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Plate, tea and roast.

1. Louise brings the secret plate round. All the hens have painted a section for me. It's tangible evidence of their support. I'm hoping to have a large tea party so I can fill it with biscuits.

2. Dipping a hard biscuit in a cup of tea.

3. I love to see Nick carving the roast (wild duck this week).

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Gale, in print and pomegranates.

This week I got a letter from the University of Durham about raising funds to provide scholarships for Afghan women -- the most gifted at the University of Kabul -- to come over and study a masters degree. The cause appealed to me because I had a grand old time at Durham, studying classics (not very well), helping with lit'ry zines and realising that I really did want to be a writer. I love the idea of the postgraduates of Kabul enjoying a year away from the stresses and pressures of Afghanistan. Anyway, please consider giving if the cause appeals to you, too -- find out more here.

1. We walk into town. People are being pushed around by the wind. They stop to discuss it with their neighbours.

2. I like to see my words in print. I have two articles in this week's Kent on Sunday. Page 10 and 11 of the West Kent edition, and one in the Review about Frankenstein.

3. Abel and Cole sent us to pomegranates this week. I love to score the rind and pull apart the jewelly seeds.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Countdown, storm day and butcher.

1. The first thing I say is "Ten days." Nick says: "What? No, it's eight days."

2. The bowl of town is smeared and blurred by low cloud. It looks so different that I stop to look for a moment in the rain and wind.

3. Conversation in the butchers:
- Now if you'd bought enough for two, you could have cooked me dinner.
- Don't you have someone to cook dinner for you?
- Yeah, but I won't tell 'er.
At this point, the other butcher put in: "Madam, you shouldn't have him round. He's not housetrained. You have to open the back door and let him out in the garden."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pay, my time back and new book.

1. At the front of the queue, a father tells his toddler to "Give the lady your pound coin." The toddler stands on tiptoes and reaches up, then goes back to rattling the boxes of Tictacs.

2. I have come to the end of my medical secretary course, which means that I'll have the week running up to the wedding mostly to myself.

3. I choose a new book from my To Read Pile -- a fat fantasy novel by Guy Gavriel Kay. I'm getting to the bottom of The To Read Pile -- there are things down there that I'd forgotten I had. It's like getting entirely new books.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

All quiet now, quick chore and seeing friends.

1. I like to pour all the chatter in my head on to three day book pages. When Nick comes in for breakfast, I stop writing and close the book.

2. I do the washing up. It doesn't take long.

3. I like to go out to dinner with old friends. We drink too much wine, and talk about things that happened years and years ago. At the end of the evening, because we have drunk too much wine, and because they can't come to the wedding, Nick and I recite our vows for them in the street outside our house.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Stay here, no rush and paging Dr Thomas Bowdler.

1. The alarm goes off. "Let's have a lie-in," says Nick. So we stay in the warm dark for another half hour.

2. I saunter down the hill to the station -- going against the commuter flow -- and think how very different my life is these days. I'm particularly thinking this because while I was working, it was always a mission to get to Tim's for Tuesday Knights -- I finished at 6.30pm and if I wanted to catch the train that would get me there on time, I had 10 minutes to make the 15-minute journey to the station.

3. There's a certain bawdy undercurrent to the evening. Innocent sentences are interpreted in creative ways. I'm wondering what exactly went on at Nick's stag do.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Field trip, sun and off the path.

I have a short piece about biscuits up at Encounters with Remarkable Biscuits.

1. The park at 10.45am is full of girls from a school on the other side of town. They push into the ladies, turning sideways to accomodate their shoulder bags. They are all coatless on a chilly morning, as if they have suddenly been called outside for a moment, and the wet grass soaks their white canvas shoes. They cluster at the top of the hill, looking hungrily down before running shrieking and sliding into the dip. Their teacher (hat, scarf, coat, boots, clipboard) calls out: "If I can hear your voice, it's too loud." They modulate back: "Sorry, Miss."

2. Light comes through the round door glass and through the warm orange curtain. Indoor sun.

3. I leave the path and walk on the grass because I want to shuffle through wet beech leaves.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Mess, spice and first in.

1. Nick looks at the mass of books and paper on the coffee table and says: "Do we need another little table?" Time for a bit of tidying up.

2. Opening a new packet of cinnamon sticks -- the scent is so strong that it seems chemically and un-natural.

3. To get into bed (between new sheets) first and sit among the pillows reading while Nick is in the bathroom.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Errors, the pictures and cake.

1. To check my work and find a few errors.

2. We meet the photographer to check out the wedding venue. Round the back, we find leather sofas on verandas, lunchtime sun shining on warm stone walls; the lemon yellow leaves of a small vineyard and drifts of coppery beech leaves.

3. A soft, damp cake containing large and crunchy pieces of walnut.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Glazed, in this edition and revision.

1. We pick up our creations from my hen do. The glaze has deepened all the colours. Pastels have become jewel shades.

2. The mother drops a free paper down on the table. "They gave me this. I've been carrying it around all morning. Do you want it?" It's the edition with my first arts feature in. We jump around the kitchen.

3. While Nick is having his stag do, I revise for tomorrow's assessment. I'm glad I scribbled all the medical definitions in my course book.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The tip-off, is it ready and the warning.

1. The man at the job centre says: "A wink's as good as a nod to a blind horse, if you know what I mean." And I do.

2. I like pushing skewer into a cake to see if it's done - the crust on top resists, and then it slips into the soft crumb.

3. My back registers a protest at the cold weather, a month of missed yoga sessions and long hours of writing and medical secretary practice. I spend time stretching and relaxing. It feels great.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Mystery tour, end of the day and the voice.

1. She says that she had no idea where they were going. "We drove west, and I thought we were going somewhere like Cornwall. Then we got to Heathrow and I thought it must be a domestic flight. Then when we got to the terminal, I got my boarding pass and it said were going to Geneva. We got a car there, and I thought we were driving to the hotel, but I suddenly thought, we've gone a long way from the lake, and it looks very rural."

2. I click shut the binders and close the folder (flumph), pack everything into my bag and go home.

3. Jonathan Safran Foer's novel Everything Is Illuminated has a brilliant voice. The translator Alexander has got hold of a English thesaurus, and gone for it in the way I secretly envy. His English is 'Premium' and he spleens his mother by disseminating too much currency.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

That happiness, working clothes and olive oil.

1. Talking to a wise man who has met Nelson Mandela. He tells me about "that happiness he has."

2. To come home and change out of a pair of jeans that are stiff and heavy after a dash through stair rod rain.

3. The taste of particularly good olive oil - there's a bitterness there, and an earthiness.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The choice, soup and game on.

1. In the bakery, listening to the girls behind me deciding which cake they would like to take back to the office. "I couldn't eat a whole one of those. I'd have to cut it in half." "I'll have one, but for later."

2. A pan of orange vegetables (pumpkin and carrot) cooking for a wintery soup.

3. Nick is very pleased with himself because has bought a new game. When I get home, he has spread all the maps out out on the floor. On one of them, the British Empire is still pink. "There are more than a thousand counters," he says. He's anticipating a happy evening of pressing them out and neatening the rough edges.

Monday, November 02, 2009

A storm, the changes and a list of promises.

1. It is a day of wind and rain. A maelstrom of leaves twists at the crossroads. The common vibrates, as if the gale has got in underneath it. The land feels alive, wild and joyful.

2. In the afternoon the sun comes out. We stand on the top of Mount Ephraim and look over our town, checking for storm damage. It's all still there, but the lime trees are now leafless, and we look between their smallest branches at a shattered view.

3. We sit at the kitchen table and write our wedding vows.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

White, compliment and secrets.

1. My aunt brings me a white potted azalea. "It's bridal colours," she says.

2. One of my friends (a teacher) tells another (a mother-to-be): "You're going to make a wonderful parent."

2. While we are being taught how to paint ceramics, the man from Timeless Treats brings us a box of cupcakes. In pantomime, I take delivery and pay.

3. I like to see most of the women in my life sitting round a table.

3. There are an awful lot of secrets -- Rosey won't let me look at a large dish that everyone is working at; and there's a mysterious book going round that everyone is writing in but me.

3. We sit up late watching a film made about an expedition of 60 schoolboys (including my father) in Norway. It's the year Nick was born. All the boys are wearing woollen trousers, and the leaders wear tweed. There are a few bright cagouls -- "Horrid things. They were so sweaty you might just as well have not been wearing them." Every time he comes in shot, the mother tells us how handsome he was.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dawn, copies and pumpkin.

1. The driver says: "You should have seen it first thing this morning. It was dark, and then suddenly the sky was red and streaked with black."

2. I like they way a pile of new photocopies burns my fingers.

3. The crack-cut of a knife splitting pumpkin rind, and the first sight of the hollow space inside.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Work, arachnids and coming to help.

1. I interview the director of a play for a feature. It feels good to do some work knowing that I'm going to get paid.

2. I like seeing all the pea-sized spiders this year. There is one on our porch, one in the flowerbed opposite (invisible until it drizzles) and one on a traffic sign that I pass on my way to my secretarial course. I wonder if they are starting to recognise us.

3. I start the washing up. The tinny TV cheering in the sitting room stops abruptly, and Nick comes in to help.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Blueberry cake, come home and unseasonable.

1. She brings half a cake. A thunderhead of blueberries masses in the cut edge.

2. We think of our men coming home, and the party scatters into the evening.

3. Unexpectedly warm evening in October half term. Teenagers sit cross-legged in huddled rings on street corners.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cleansing power of fire, moon and light through leaves.

1. Games night: We manage to escape Tim's dungeon without dying; and my character sets fire to the main monster with a strategic lantern to the face.

2. The shy moon peeps at us through a tangle of silvered clouds.

3. At the end of our drive, a streetlight shines through leaves.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Mother-in-Law, bread of heaven and deal done.

1. I go out leaving Nick in bed, and come home three hours later to find him and my mother working on the table plans. The flat is very, very tidy.

2. It's hard to walk home right before lunch carrying a baguette that is too long for its bag. It would be so easy to break off a fragment of red-gold crust and cloud-white crumb.

3. The mother (who loves flowers more than anything) leaves the florists triumphant: "I've got more flowers for less money." I'm just happy to know my bouquet will be waiting for me when I arrive.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Just a shower, time out and five o'clock whistle.

1. I'm pegging out the day's third load of washing, and I can feel dots of rain. I take the sheets in (they're nearly dry). As I come round the corner of the house, I see that the sun is shining out in the street: green gold light hatched with shining lines of rain. It won't be a long shower.

2. It's so quiet: I have the flat to myself for the afternoon and evening because Nick has gone out.

3. It's half past ten, and I'm still working. I hear crunch-crunch-crunch on the gravel outside and that means I can stop.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cake, carwash and parsnips.

1. A text message from Rosey reports: "I made a very special cake today. It was so big I had to make it in the washing-up bowl." She's talking about our wedding cake!

2. We pass a drive where a man is washing one side of a car. On the other side, two tiny blonde children dressed in matching raincoats help out with sandcastle buckets of water. They are not much taller than the wheels they are scrubbing.

3. My parsnips have welded themselves to the bottom of the pan. "I'm never putting honey on them again. They're sweet enough as they are." He says: "You always say that, and they always taste so good with honey."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Catching a lift, bushman and wedge of geese.

1. I'm waiting to catch the hospital bus home when a patient transport arrives. The driver asks what I'm up to. I tell him. "You've just missed it. Are you staff?" I tell him I'm a volunteer, and he offers me a lift along with his patient.

2. Caroline has managed to rustle us up some tickets to a lecture with Ray Mears -- so we enjoy an evening hearing the great bushman talk about forgotten paddling birch bark canoes across Canada. "There's a completely different smell with birch bark. And the cedar they use. It smells like a cigarbox." Later, with a rather distant expression, he talks about the paddlers "walking differently" -- it feels as if he is still trying to process the experience.

3. I wake in the night and hear geese calling as they fly over.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Elevenses, revision and core.

1. A cup of tea and a sticky bun.

2. Discovering that I've done the right amount of revision for my assessment.

3. Digging the core out of a cooking apple and stuffing it with brown sugar and raisins.

Red coat, quality of light and in the old days.

1. Seeing a friend's bright red coat at the far end of the street.

2. Yellow gold light has hit the building opposite -- I feel as if I have been greeted with a huge smile.

3. We go to a lecture on what the Weald would have been like in the Cretaceous, when Tunbridge Wells Museum's iguanadon would have been alive. Swampy, apparently. The lecturer puts up a picture of the Okavango Delta in Botswana, and says rather sadly: "I've never been there, but I'm told that's what it would have been like." I have been there -- so all comes to life for me. I can imagine the wet heat, and the forests of horsetails growing half in, half out of the water where the dinosaurs come down to drink.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The volunteer, gleaming pavements and filing.

Two new faces on the Roll of Honour: Jewellery maker Louise has beeng 3BTing at Tooting Squared and Jennifer, who is watching her offspring discover the world at Cultivating Contentment. They both emailed me to let me know about their blogs.

1. He says: "I'm going to cook supper tonight."

2. I emerge from a two-hour training session to find gleaming wet pavements and gentle rain.

3. I like filing my notes because it says: "job done" and I know that I can find them again if I need them.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Backroom, sausage and roar.

1. In the office of the town museum, they have on the wall a 10ft by 6ft picture of a chap in shorts and a solar topee lounging on a lawn in front of an exotic palace and palm trees. A dusky lady sits just out of reach and smiles at him.

2. Slitting a sausage's soft underside, squashing the two halves flat on the pan and waiting until the meat is brown and crisp.

3. I like to lie in the bath and hear Nick roaring at a football game.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A greeting, sweep and shake.

1. In the shopping precinct, a toddler is off at a run. His parents try to catch him, but he veers right to wave at a stoney-faced elderly man who is sitting on a bench. The man's waxy face breaks into a joyful smile.

2. I like to sweep the kitchen and the bathroom floors and to feel comfortable walking on them again.

3. Shaking out and straightening the doormats.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Steak sounds, Bramley and cold weather.

1. The chunk-chunk-chunk sound of the butcher dicing our stewing steak.

2. Stewed Bramley apple -- sour-sweet, syruppy and fluffy.

3. To sit under a rich red duvet reading a book about Antarctica. (Sara Wheeler's Terra Incognita: Travels in Antarctica is very good, by the way. She has a wonderful sense for selecting annecdotes; and a great eye for a weird landscape.)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Snoring badger, mint and nougat.

1. Nick comes home from work a bit miserable. He had recorded a football game to watch this evening, but then saw the score in the paper -- so all the joy has gone out of this idea. Instead, we tune in to Autumn Watch. They have footage of a snoring badger. Its neighbours in the next chamber are lying with their paws over their ears.

2. A taste of homegrown mint in among the dark green kale.

3. We eat the last few slices of cherry nougat.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Damselfly, dem dry bones and circle.

1. She recognises me by my snail brooch from Sheer Sumptuosity -- it was Ruth who co-owns this company far away in York, who introduced us down here in Tunbridge Wells. She has for me a box containing an electric blue damselfly brooch, which I can't wait to wear.

2. I am learning the bones of the skeleton for my medical secretary course. I like making up mnemonics for each limb.

3. After the show, we sit in the bar. The actor takes the sofa and we shyly pull up chairs all around him. Caroline says: "No-one's sitting next to George, and that's a shame." She sits down on the other half of the sofa to even up the circle.

PS: Ruth is a dedicated 3BTer, so take a look at her blog.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Greenwood, owl and someone else did it.

1. On the common, the smell of cut green wood where workmen are clearing the banks. It's a like a carpentry workshop, and a like a cold day.

2. There is so much to love about the Warner Brothers' short I Love to Singa -- the story of a little owl who dared to sing jazz against the wishes of his classically-trained parents. The mother owl's distress always puts a little lump in my throat, and then the cartoon hits me in the face with the 'No we didn't, lady" gag. If you've got eight minutes, give it a viewing.

3. Nick normally hauls the bins up to the road once a fortnight and grumbles about how he always has to do it. At 5pm, I hear the old rrrrollll-scrape of the recycling bins trundling up the drive, and think for a moment that Nick has come home early. He hasn't -- but when he does get in, he's very pleased at not having to do a chore he dislikes.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Got my dress, the training and do more work.

I hadn't really appreciated (until now) how many things untangled yesterday.

1. I picked up my wedding dress today. It's everything I'd been hoping for, and I feel beautiful in it. I wish I could say more about it, but I want to keep a few surprises for the day. My parents come round and I try on the whole ensemble -- shoes, veil and jacket. I wish they weren't taking it away to keep it secret from Nick. Otherwise, I think that the moment he left the house each morning, I'd put it all on again.

2. After a chat with the manager of the training centre, the funding that I've been waiting for since July comes through as if by magic. I'm going to learn audio typing, which is a skill I've never picked up.

3. Getting an email from an editor saying he'd like more work from me. This is a huge relief; and very exciting, too. It's a licence to ask nosey questions of interesting people and then to write about it. And be paid.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Marvel, gone red and badger punk.

1. In the coffee shop, a schoolboy (a full-grown one with a dusting of stubble and a mop of ginger corkscrew curls) is watching the windowcleaner. He says wonderingly about the arcs of lines and dots: "It's just like painting."

2. While I look out over the town from Mount Ephraim I spot that the turkey oak in the corner of the Grove has turned red. I will go and have a look next time I'm down that end of town.

3. Nick brings me a new graphic novel, the scientific-romance thriller Grandville. It's a cross between Rupert the Bear and Quentin Tarantino and is layered thick with Bryan Talbot's usual cultural references to make me feel clever.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Look up, singing cyclist and Nick is wise.

1. The sky is Tupperware white, but look carefully: there is a layer of mackerel sky below the flat white ceiling.

2. The road is misty Sunday-morning quiet. A cyclist passes me. He's singing in a reedy voice about angels.

3. I'm a bit rubbish with money -- I feel terrible when I spend, and yet always seem to end up with less money than I should have at the end of the month.

When Nick says: "I always give myself a set amount to spend. Once it's gone, that's it", I grumble about it not working for me. However, since one of things I really admire about Nick is his head for finance, I take his advice and go to the stitching show with the money that I could afford to spend in my pocket. Strangely, it exactly covered what I wanted to buy.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The outfit, help and got to get up.

1. Nick's mother shows us the shoes she's bought for her wedding outfit. They look elegant and comfortable. She's also bought a deep pink felted coat to go over her dress. It's a brave, joyful colour, and I'm glad she's going to be warm enough on the day. I'm hoping these will be clothes that she can enjoy again and again, too.

2. I am working and he brings me a cup of tea and some biscuits on one of the best plates. Then he goes away and does the washing.

3. I don't mind setting the alarm on a Saturday night if I'm getting up early for an event I've been looking forward to.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Stiff, pling and potato.

My story, Vegetative Parenthood, is now up on Flashshot. It'll be on the last ten stories page for the next ten days.

1. I have slightly stiff muscles from the previous day's yoga.

2. A gentle pling, pling, pling outside the window. I think it must be some unseen windchimes moving as the rain disturbs the still cool air. It's not. The rain is falling on to my metal watering can.

3. This potato has been in the oven a very long time. It's properly cooked through: the flesh is fluffy and white, and the skin is crisp, caramelised and specked with black.

Friday, October 09, 2009

The number, ready for rain and gossip.

Tomorrow I have a story in Flashshot, a magazine of very short genre fiction. Please consider subscribing (it's free) if you like that sort of thing.

1. The greeter in the job centre asks me for my National Insurance number (I'm on his list under my first name, which is not Clare). I freeze. I have no memory for alphanumeric strings. But the little voice prompts me with the first two letters, and it comes tumbling out of my mouth.

2. Nick's best man brings us two black umbrellas for the wedding day. They are furled smart and tight as beech buds, and I can't wait for the day they open (if they need to!).

3. I always like a phone call from PaulV, particularly if I'm having an evening in by myself.

Picture illustrating that I am not a number from Stock.xchng.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Mathematical cauliflower, it's raining leads and the puzzles.

1. The Able and Cole box contains a mathematical cauliflower. I forgot what a romanesco is, and had in my head that we were going to receive a lettuce, so it was a joy to part the leaves and find lime green turrets and spirals. Nick came home and swiftly named it "Mandelbroccoli."

2. I'm in a panic as I don't have very much to put on my action points form for tomorrow's signing on. Then I spot a sign board asking for office help in town. When I get home I find an email from a friend saying she knows an editor who might have something; and a tweet with another lead. I'm so lucky to have all these people on the look-out for me.

3. We reach for the television, but can't settle. "Do you want to do something else instead?" We curl up on the sofa and collaborate over Professor Layton's puzzles on my pink Nintendo DS. Just as we are settling in, the phone rings. Nick's boss wants clarification of the conundrum about moving horses that he challenged her with earlier.

Picture by me. Sorry about the quality: the photography genes were assigned elsewhere among my siblings.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Wallflowers, wet and wipe.

Word Imperfect has woken up her blog. She picks a word each day, and the readers invent a definition.

1. A bag of wet-rooted wallflowers for my garden: what a treat for £1.25.

2. Standing on top of Mount Ephraim on a rainy day and watching the wet watercolour on wet paper sky.

3. The cloth hisses dry as I wipe drips of gravy from the bottom of the oven.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Water comes, the parcel and saved from certain death.

Another pair of newses:

a. Sarah Salway, writer of marvellous books, is offering free (that's right, free) prompts for writers on her blog. As a keen scribbler, I don't compromise when it comes to prompts -- and neither should you. Roll down a little on the lefthand side to find them. (Can I have my biscuit now, Sarah?)

b. Hunter-Gatherer, the man who lives by his bushcraft skills in a home-made treehouse in the woods, announced yesterday in a post (mainly about catching and preparing pigeon) that he has proposed to his girlfriend. They are another Nick and Clare pair, which is a lovely co-incidence.

1. On the first day of rain after a long dry spell (Sunday was the first day I had to fill my watering can from the tap), I like to lift the lid of the rainwater barrel, stand on tiptoes and see that it's full to the brim.

2. Early today, an Amazon parcel arrives addressed to Nick. I assume it's some special interest tome like Biggles on a Train Versus Hitler's Deadliest Baseball Quarterbacks. But when Nick comes home, he says: "It might be a little present." He opens it, and hands the contents to me wrapped in a napkin. It's a new game that I've been mooning over: Professor Layton and Pandora's Box. I played the first one earlier in the year, and was charmed by its Japanese-idea-of-Europe setting, gentle mystery story and challenging puzzles.

3. All the feet miss the snail that is ploughing unconcerned over the doorstep. It protests when I move it, clinging to the stone and drawing in its horns. I'm glad it doesn't know how lucky it was.

Picture of a snail in the dark from Stock.xchng

Monday, October 05, 2009

Mint, cucumber and sole.

1. I pull the dead sunflower from the pot by the front door. The mint plant protests in the only way it can, by rolling clouds of its scent at me. New compost and a watering cheer it up a little -- but it still looks resentful.

2. The vines are finished, and so I root them out, only to find a stunted yellow cucumber has been growing un-noticed and (until now) un-loved.

3. Making up a dish of seasoned flour, coating some lemon sole fillets and frying them in some melted butter until the fish turns from translucent and marble cold to opaque and soft. The coating crisps a little and turns from raw white powder to a red-gold crust.

Picture of mint from Stock.xchng

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Juice box, wildlife and the cake.

1. The apple juice man appears at the door. "I was passing through and wondered if you'd like a crate." Yes please. Supermarket juice just doesn't cut it for me. Mole End's single variety bottles are as exciting as wine. I drink just one small glass a day with my breakfast, so twelve bottles should last almost three months.

2. It's time for the BBC's Autumn Watch. We enjoyed Springwatch so much this year, so we've been looking forward to this; particularly as they promised us badgers. They delivered: badgers frollicking in an orchard (complete with scratching action) as well as rutting stags (which is like a soap opera, but with MURDER), migrating barnacle geese and drunken butterflies.

3. A slice of chocolate beetroot cake has a subtle red tint when you tilt it to the light. Tastes good, too. I split it and filled it with strawberry jam.

Picture of guelder-rose berries from Barn Digital.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

From us both, polishing and underwater world.

Two bits of news:
  • Mari has started a new 3BT blog, Three Beautiful Things of New England, so go over and give her an encouraging comment, and maybe a follow.
  • I've opened an Amazon store to make it simple for people to buy books I mention. You pay the normal price for anything you buy, but I get a finder's fee from Amazon for every purchase made.
1. Two birthday cards lie open on the breakfast table while our pair of inky signatures dries.

2. Among the shredded leaves on the pavement and in the gutter, conkers gleam. It's like finding a piece of french-polished furniture in a junk shop.

3. Lying back and sinking my ears underwater in the bath.

Picture of conkers from Stock.xchng

Friday, October 02, 2009

Falling water, economy measures and heating on.

1. The sound the basin filling with hot water.

2. I've run out of angostura bitters. I console my soda water with slice of lemon. It's cheerily yellow and citric.

3. After I have got into bed and pulled the covers up around me, Nick goes round and puts the heating on for the first time, a small ritual to mark Autumn. He is not impressed by the dust on the switches.

Picture of lemon in glass from Stock.xchng.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

First photo, squirrel and staying warm.

1. I wake in the night and I am cold. I turn over and can feel waves of warmth rolling off Nick as he sleeps.

2. I actually gasp as I read the text message. It's a subject line and a 12-week scan picture.

3. A squirrel undulates across the lawn. It looks like a mmmmm handwriting exercise.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wordcount, matinee and hidden voices.

1. I like checking my wordcount and seeing that I've passed the day's limit without realising.

2. It's a beautiful day, but we're going to a matinee at Trinity. It's Coco Avant Chanel with lovely, lovely Audrey Tatou. Part ingenue, part ruthless user, she tailors her way to fame and fortune, persauding rich men to give her the leg-up she needs in order to change the clothing world forever.

2. While we wait to go in to the film, we look at the exhibition, titled Hidden Voices. It's a set of photographs and interviews with the town's homeless people. The stories are sad: it's so easy to slip out of a way of life that I take for granted. Not being very good at maths so you can't budget. Being gay. Having a boyfriend that your parents hate. Being bullied by your housemates. Not getting on with your stepdad. Being offered a flat, but discovering that it's so far from your work, friends and family that it's unusable. But the stories are full of hope, too: reconciliations, escapes, births, new jobs, training courses and drying out.

Lolly, rabbits and fairy festival.

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