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.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Names, the new suit and cold chicken.

Fiona Robyn has published a tiny piece by me on A Handful of Stones.

1. At Kitsu, Tunbridge Wells' best sushi and noodle bar, the owner discovers that Nick's name is Law. "Same as my grandparents!" She writes in Chinese for him.

2. Nick, returning from a shopping trip, walks past the window. He is swinging a new suit bag.

3. I like to make a sandwich of the greasy, lemony shreds and fragments of cold chicken picked off the carcass.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Outside, pony and hell pig.

Some of you have been asking about the wedding, and sending your good wishes, which are very welcome. It's on Saturday November 21, which seems alarmingly near, although at the same time, it can't come soon enough because we are so excited about being Mr and Mrs for the rest of our lives. It's been a wonderful journey, and I'm so glad I recorded my favourite parts on 3BT.

I'm looking forward very much to writing the post about the wedding day. I'm sure I'll want to record more than three things. Katie-who-I-used-to-live-with has kindly agreed to sort out pictures for that post, and ensure it goes live while I am running around squealing with excitement about being addressed as Mrs Law, and going away on honeymoon. She blogs over at
League Against Boring Lunches, so I know the post will be in safe hands.

What I really wanted to talk about, though, is the week of the honeymoon. I'm going to take a break (my first in more than five years). I hope you will understand the reasons for this decision:
  • A honeymoon is to us a time for the couple to get their heads around being married, away from their family and friends. It seemed to me a bit hypocritical to ask for that privacy, and then to publish descriptions of what we are doing.
  • We also wanted the week to be about Clare and Nick as a family, not about Clare-as-a-writer, and laying aside 3BT seemed an excellent way of saying this.
I have lined up some guest posters to keep you amused; and I plan to publish a short round-up post when we return.

1. Taking the kitchen chairs out on to the drive so we can eat our lunch in the sunshine.

2. A father walks his little girl, who is riding 'the wizardest pony on earth'. It's neat and black, the perfect size for her, and has been groomed until it shines as brightly as Nick's shoes after a session with the boot box.

3. We watch a National Geographic documentary about Entelodonts: giant carnivorous pigs from 30 million years ago.

Picture of Entelodont from Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mousetails, lemon curd and violas.

1. The plant stallholder's daughter is looking carefully at the curled shoots of cyclamens. Our eyes meet through the dolly mixture and lipstick pinks, and I tell her: "We used to call them 'Mouse tails'."

2. Ladelling hot lemon curd into sterilised jars. It pours like new honey (our ancient household management book says that this is how you know it's ready; another recipe says that it will coat the back of the spoon).

3. Digging out the spent soil from the lettuce trough, adding new compost, soaking it well and planting up three little violas -- which I hope will cheer up the winter days to come. I wish I could set the trough up on the window sill so that people can look right into the flowers and see the sepia lines radiating out from the centres.

Picture of cyclamen from Stock.xchng

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Walking day, the dress and sandwich.

1. It's a bright blue day of hot sun and crisp air, with a big old sky stippled and dashed and splashed and speckled with cloud wisps. It's a beautiful day for walking and I have things to do on the other side of town.

2. I try on my wedding dress for the first time -- it's still unfinished, but for the first time, I can see a picture of what I'm going to look like when I marry Nick. I can't stop smiling.

3. I like to feel the different textures of a sandwich (soft bread, crisp lettuce, resiliant ham) as I cut it in half with a sharp knife.

Picture of sandwich from Stock.xchng

Friday, September 25, 2009

Silver grey, Miss Marple and Squash.

Nick has just pointed out that it hasn't been possible to post comments for a few days. I was starting to wonder where you'd all gone! Comments are now working again: sorry about that.

1. Walking in the woods on a sunny morning when the grass is still silver-grey with dew.

2. I dig in for the afternoon with a recorded episode of the new Miss Marple on ITV2. It's a lavish production with lots of details to enjoy: art deco offices; a detective longing for a chocolate as the suspect pops them one by one into her perfectly lipsticked mouth; splendid winter landscapes; bright red lipsticks; a maid's bedroom decorated with film posters. It makes me feel jealous of TV writers: they are allowed to show layers and layers in a way that just isn't allowed in prose fiction.

3. I like preparing a squash because the hard peel comes off in laquered strips.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Shopping, beauty and growing.

1. My mother-in-law to-be and I go shopping for her wedding outfit. It's pleasing to see her have a break for all her caring duties. I hope she enjoyed it: I always feel a bit shy around her. It's lucky we're both so fond of Nick, because it gives us something to talk about.

2. I had a facial yesterday at The Holistic Health Centre. It must look strange to see that in among the posts about job hunting and signing on; but I do want to have glowing skin on our wedding day, and the massage makes me feel so much better. Plus Sandra always shares some wisdom while she works. We talked about how important it is to keep to the path, and remember what you are really trying to achieve.

3. The smell of germinating mustard and cress seeds: wet and peppery. I like to see the tiny changes that happen each day.

Picture of cress from Stock.xchg

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Meeting of minds, worth more than gold and the history.

1. A mother sits at one end of a bench talking to her baby boy in his pushchair. He looks at the elderly lady in a green mac sitting at the other end of the bench. She smiles and smiles as if she's seen the love of her life.

2. At the 'We buy your unwanted gold' stand in the mall, a young couple hands over an old ring. The valuer says: "That's nine carat." The husband has a days old baby (red and fast asleep) cradled on his shoulder. He looks pleased and proud.

3. I picked up a copy of Christopher Lloyd's What on Earth Happened? a few months ago because he's a local author. It has risen to the top of the pile of unread books now and I've discovered a bit of a treasure. It is a history of the entire universe from big bang to present day. I've only just reached early mammals, but it has firmed up my understanding of life on earth already. I love the descriptions of the drab primeval forests. It made me feel the way I felt reading those children's science books I had when I was small: as if the world was wonderful and that I could get my head around it. The hardback version has more detail, and I'm putting it on our wedding list.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The day off, trying the food and The Claude Glass.

1. Nick comes home and says he's taking next Monday off.

2. We have dinner at the place where we will be getting married: it's a chance to try the food and choose the wine.

3. I come to the end of Tom Bullough's beautiful book The Claude Glass. It's the acutely observed story of boys growing up in rural Wales. Andrew, the monsterously neglected son of a native farmer lives among the sheepdogs, and views the world through an optical toy he discovers in the ruined farmhouse. Through the intervention of a neighbouring family of sheepfarming hippies, he discovers a world outside the mud and darkness and stink of his own home.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tune up, Sunday walk and icefall.

1. A spooky thing: while I'm doing my morning Facebook and Twitter catch-up one thing leads to another, and a song by my former colleague Oli Hudson - (There's not a Riot Going On Down In) Tunbridge Wells - springs to mind. I stick the video (a He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named creation) up on Facebook. A couple of hours later, Oli posts that he's come back from holiday to find he's a runner-up in the UK Songwriting Contest. You can hear more of his music at The Sixty-One.

2. On a walk round the cricket pitch, we spot two children being whirled round by their father and uncle. Then everyone is distracted by a naughty dog running on to the pitch -- I can tell it's naughty because of the way it looks about to see the confusion it has caused. The bowler gives it some fuss, and then it runs back to the boundary, careful to keep its collar just out of its owner's hands.

3. The sound of the last piece of ice falling off the freezer compartment.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Crispy, the collector and fresh air.

1. I press down the topping of a damson crumble with my fingers to make it go crispy during cooking.

2. Nick inviegles me into the Aeroplane Bookshop (he's after a copy of Biggles in the Baltic). The owner greets us -- he's always so pleased to see Nick -- and says: "Do you like models? Because I've got some."

Indeed he has -- there are unopened Airfix boxes stacked neck high. "One thousand two hundred," he says. "All from one collection." Apparently, it took up two rooms of a terraced house. "And then I made the mistake of looking in the attic. And when I went to open the cupboard under the stairs, the wife said 'Don't do that!' but it was too late, and they all fell on me."

I'm wondering if he's going to start a sideline of showing wives and girlfriends so they can see that their partner's collection is really not all that bad.

3. We change the bed, and the duvet still smells of fresh air and sun because we dried on the line two weeks ago.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Coffee, kale and stars.

1. While we wait, we go to a cafe and drink coffee with froth on top.

2. I've cooked kale with our pasta, and when I add the tomato sauce, Louise says: "Look at how a bit of green lifts the dish."

3. It's such a clear night that the stars look like the sun coming through holes punched in a blackout curtain.

Picture of kale from Stock.xchng

Friday, September 18, 2009

Quiet, nap and pie.

1. The road is quiet for a moment, and I hear the t-t-t-t of a passing cyclist who is meandering slowly along as if he doesn't have anywhere particular to go.

2. I'm cold and sleepy, so I bundle myself up in the duvet and take an afternoon nap.

3. I like to have a second slice of banoffee pie.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Damsons, berberis and at the front.

1. The squashiest damsons are the sweetest.

2. The powdery blue-grey of Berberis berries.

3. Going to see Everlasting Moments at Trinity by myself and sitting right at the front (no-one else I know likes having the film fill their whole vision).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Long rain, feeders and the stew.

1. PaulV and I sit warm and dry in a coffee shop and watch the rain falling in columns.

2. Pigeons feeding on a piece of bread. Their intricately folded tails jut up and out like the petals of an origami lily.

3. A dark grey day is a good excuse to cook up a pan of hot tomato red beef stew.

Picture of pigeons from Stock.xchng

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hair, luck and preparation.

I got some super good news yesterday: I've placed a 100-word story in GW Thomas' Flashshot. It'll appear on October 10. If horror, sci fi and fantasy are your passion, but you don't have much time, subscribe (for free) and get a daily story sent to your inbox.

1. Louise the hairdresser comes to show me what she's got in mind for my wedding day. She bundles me up in heated rollers, which puts Shirley Temple curls in my dead-straight hair. There is just time to boing one before she brushes them out again. Once it's done, she shows me in the mirror how she has arranged it to show off the colour variations caused by the sun.

2. I get a call from the Bureau de Change. The envelope of 100 euros that I lost on Thursday while shopping has been handed in. I am jaw-droppingly fortunate.

3. We clear out my old bedroom so I can sleep there the night before the wedding, and get ready in the morning.

Picture by Stock.xchng

Monday, September 14, 2009

Breakfast, we're coming back and home.

This week Christine over at Really Bad Cleveland Accent is painting 100-word pictures of her much-loved home city. Go and take a look.

1. Freshly baked croissants and baguette for breakfast.

2. Monmatre in the haze as we come back into Paris by train.

3. Pulling my suitcase through our own front door.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Garden, the promises and people in the picture.

1. I like to come into the gardens of the Tuileries Palace from the Place de Concorde. We went from bright white pavement, to bright white sand to an idealised forest. Arrow-straight rows of chestnut trees shade pocket handkerchief lawns on which stylised bronze sculptures desport. Runners crunched past us, shifted into their own world by the rhythm of their steps.

2a. Before the wedding, in the carpark catching sight of a familiar dark-haired figure re-arranging an unfamilar white dress.

2. Sarah reads her vows in French, and Matthieu reads his in English -- what a wonderful way to affirm the cultural duality of their marriage.

2b. I like to see the groom looking at the bride and smiling to himself.

3. A charismatic preacher talks about the beauty of The Song of Songs. Its central theme is romantic love, so I am surprised to learn that it's not very often used in marriage ceremonies.

4. The bride and groom come round to our table and Sarah tells us that we're the only bilingual table. We'd been getting on all right -- questions and translations washed round and round and faces lit up as jokes arrived their destinations.

5. A long time ago, Katie painted a picture of me, her and Sarah. It seems Sarah still has it on display -- "Ah, you are in le tableau... the picture?".

5. The bride's father gave a speech in French -- first explaining that he hadn't spoken it for 50 years.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Supplies, language and sparkle.

1. Buying round crusty rolls for a picnic.

2. A phrase book brings all my GCSE French flooding back.

3. We cross the Champs-Élysées twice so we can look up the ribbons of sparkling head and tail lights to the Arc de Triomph.

4. "Look!" says Nick, and I turn to see the Eiffel Tower sparking and glittering with bright white lights.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Action points, adventures and true crime.

1. I tell the job centre officer that I used my blog and Twitter to look for work, which makes him laugh -- and it counts as one of my action points.

2. We have dinner with He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named and hear all about his escapades: a blog about Crowborough, his bounteous allotment and a mission to cycle round the coast of Britain.

3. I'm really enjoying Jasper Fforde's The Big Over Easy -- Det Insp Jack Spratt is trying to investigate the murder of Humpty Dumpty. But it's not so much crime he's fighting as his colleagues and the system. In particular the ambitious Friedland Chymes will stop at nothing to make the case his his own in order to raise his profile in the popular true crime magazines -- or does he have something to hide as well.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ladybird, whip round and fishmonger.

My recipe is featured on Tomato Lover today.

1. A ladybird -- glossy red -- sits cool and calm in the deep green leaves of a succulent on the kitchen windowsill.

2. I like to run the vacuum cleaner around the flat and see the carpets brighten.

3. I walk down to the new fishmongers in town because I fancy a fried fillet of sole for supper. They have a crate of marsh samphire -- which looks very much like little caterpillars to me, but makes an intersting pre-dinner snack. The sole was delicious, too -- crispy on the outside and lemony creamy in the middle.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Melting, out of my hands and the day I caught the train.

1. It is so hot that my bright red ice lolly is dripping down my hand.

2. Dropping a job application into the letter box -- after all that polishing and refining, what a relief to have it immutable and out of my hands.

3. I was disorganised and now I am going to miss my train -- but I run anyway, and find it's three minutes late.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Diva, the future and play suit.

If anyone wants a writer-editor-typist-assistant on temporary or permanent basis, please give me a shout. I'm very flexible -- if all you need is a couple of hours, I'm happy to do that; and my services may well be more affordable than you think. My CV is here, and you can contact me by email at

Also -- I'm planning to put Google Adsense up to see if that brings in a little money. I will also be putting Amazon Associates links on any books I mention. I'll try to make it as unobtrusive as possible, but I hope you'll support me in this.

1. Shoppers lean over the balcony to listen. An opera singer is filling the central market of Covent Garden with jewel sounds. In a gap between pieces, I see her talk to her baby parked up in a pushchair to one side.

2. We go to a restaurant where you order food by selecting from pictures projected on to the table.

3. Among the complaining commuters charging towards the station, I spot an ambling lady wearing a blue and white striped Andy Pandy play suit.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Talk talk, bang on the door and I'm a writer.

1. Sitting on trains and buses listening to snippets of conversations: "Listen, mum, don't give people my number. I'm sortin' myself out. You know how it is when you are tryin' to sort yourself out." And "Lou, man, she 'ad a tache, like she'd just finished a cappucino." And "...that's the trouble with going to a posh school: always trying to be better than you are. Not like us working class."

2. Ellie likes knock-knock jokes, and has a creaky Scottish voice for the 'Who's there?' line. My stock is soon exhausted, but that's OK, because she thinks they're just as funny the second time round. I also heard a new one:
Knock knock!
Who's there?
Mandy who?
Mandy lifeboats: we're sinking.
3. Ellie, Niamh and I are talking about a hornbeam in the garden, and Niamh asks me: "Are you the one who's got a book coming out?"

Sunday, September 06, 2009

A dress, butterfly and back in time.

1. I like helping Katie to choose a dress for a wedding which we are both going to.

2. A butterfly -- a black shadow against the sky -- flicks in and out of existence.

3. I like watching Sue Perkins and Giles Coren in Supersizers Eat... This episode they are being Romans, and have to eat udders, ducks' tongues and testicles.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

New blue, pears and apples.

1. Nick's mother gave us a new bright blue ironing board cover, and I use it for the first time.

2. I have brewed up some syrup in which to poach pears, and the flat smells of cinnamon, cloves and ginger.

3. Katie grills an apple with our pork chops.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Pricecut, brew-up and an eye.

All you Tunbridge Wellsers, there's a new website that attempts to collate the town's happenings at Tunbridge Wells Events. It's run by @daveybarnett, who I know from the Wednesday Tuttle.

1. The cost of reserving library books has gone down since I last did it from 75p to 25p.

2. Fenella brews my Earl Grey tea, and then dips the teabag into her cup for a moment: "That's as strong as I like it."

3. The lense of my glasses pops out -- again -- and I don't have my very small screwdriver with me (it's in my bag of tricks, which I've left... long and boring story). So I spend the rest of the evening in a world of haloed lights and faces which I half recognise, half don't.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Great minds, it's raining and camera angle.

1. Tunbridge Wells blogger Inspiral Daze has written about the same willowherb stalks that I spotted on my walk.

2. You might think I've left the door open because I'm going in and out to the bin as I clean: but really it's because I want to hear the long hiss of the rain, and to feel the air moving.

3. The first of a new Bear Grylls series includes a shot of him from an angle that only his wife should ever see. It makes us snigger for the rest of the evening.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The joke, sky and cookies.

1. I have an appointment at the hospital to sign up for clerical voluntary work. My bus is late, and I scramble to find the office among the builder's hoardings and the temporary footpaths. When I get there, I put my head round the door and say I have an appointment with the volunteer officer. "He's not in today." I am now dismayed as well as disarrayed. And then I recognise the Welsh accent from my phone conversations, and I laugh with relief.

2. Out here on the hillside, the sky is large and wonderful -- vaulted wet blue and ribbed with streamers of high white cloud and drifts of macintosh grey raincloud.

3. After supper, warming two cookies in the pancake pan.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Dress accordingly, work and spotlight.

1. Putting on warm weather clothes after a few chilly days.

2. I find a job ad that piques my interest -- it's part-time, and editorial, working on interesting subject matter for an amazing organisation.

3. Shade falls through the leaves in smudges and splotches. A brown butterfly sits for a moment on a splash of sunlight and is illuminated.

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...