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).

Art book, gossip and watermelon.

1. Among my birthday presents is a new book of Tove Jansson's art, featuring lots of bits I've never seen before. 2. Stopping for a ...