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.

Hardboiled egg, back in line and foxgloves.

1. I hardboiled a few eggs this morning. At lunch, I note that the one Nick is eating has a perfect yolk -- just a little soft. 2. It just t...