Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The lie-in, clean gnashers and I was there first.

1. I haven't got my head round the clocks going forward. I sleep badly, wake up shouting at skeletons on top of the wardrobe and then I doze through the news on the radio alarm. Nick suggests I should have a lie in and this strikes me as an excellent idea. Twenty minutes later, I'm ready to go. All things come to he who waits.

2. The dentist praises my hygiene. I tell him I'm lucky with my teeth. He tells me about the golfer Gary Player -- "Someone told him he had a lot of luck, and he replied: 'You know, it's funny, the more I practise, the luckier I get.'"

3. I go along to the Tuttle, and the men are all full of a game called Foursquare -- every time you go somewhere, you use your iPhone to sign in. They have been competing to get to places first ("I bagged hobbycraft," says someone proudly), and to go to places the more times than anyone else (that makes you the mayor -- "I'm now mayor of the Pantiles -- Rob's really annoyed," says someone else. ). Rob arrives and is ticked off for signing in before coming through the door. "I was in the car park, wasn't I?" he complains.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Borrow this, long rain and family.

1. Susan speaks with such passion about Wilkie Collins that I go home with her to borrow The Woman in White.

2. We've settled in for a long rain. The birds are still singing, and the sky is flat white.

3. It's my father's birthday -- a good excuse for a phone call and a quick chat.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Christmas tree seeds, bread pudding and rain on washing day.

I had some very sad news yesterday -- the gardens and interiors writer Elspeth Thompson has taken her life in a bout of severe depression. She wrote a blog about converting two railway carriages into a home, and her words and pictures gave a lot of pleasure. I own several of her books, and I take them down often for inspiration, or just to enjoy them.

Elspeth was incredibly kind and supportive to 3BT -- she mentioned it in her The Wonderful Weekend Book, and I still get messages from people saying they found 3BT there.

We never met, although we emailed, and talked blogging on the phone once. I felt incredibly special to think that such an accomplished writer would take notice of me. Our emails from the early part of last summer are full of half-hatched plans to meet, and I so wish we had.

This isn't the sort of thing you come here to read, but I know that a few links to 3BT come in from dark places, so I'm going to say it. If you are suffering from depression, please, please get help. Depression is an illness (like measles or a broken leg) and it can be treated. Talk about how you are feeling to those who care about you. Talk to your GP. Talk to a suicide hotline (the Samaritans here in the UK, or The Befrienders elsewhere in the world). Open your mouth and talk.

1. We were given a bag of elephant poo compost and some Christmas tree seeds for a wedding gift. A green shoot has pushed its bowed shoulders through the surface.

2. I like the contrast between grimly wholesome brown bread pudding and the dried fruit (plump orange apricots and crimson cranberries and sharp citrus peel).

3. To see the first drops of rain, and to run outside, laughing, to get the washing in. To pull the great crisp white sheet off the line and stuff it into the washing basket.

And the podcast is up.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Venetian tale, little locos and dust.

1. A lot of train journey means a lot of reading time. I picked up Michelle Lovric's The Undrowned Child on my way out of the house, and I'm glad I did. It's set in Venice, and it's the story of a bookish girl who must fulfil a prophecy to save the city from a watery fate -- with some salty-tongued, curry-loving mermaids to help her.

2. We go up to Alexandra Palace for a model train show. Among the grittily realistic industrial layouts and nostalgic rural idylls, was found Smallbrook Studio's lofty locos in Yellow Submarine colours. They look as if they've chuffed out of a Heath Robinson illustration, but a chat to the maker revealed that they were inspired by another illustrator, Rowland Emett.

3. We dig in with Stardust -- a romantic fantasy film based on a novel by Neil Gaiman in which the heart of a falling star is pursued by... well pretty much everyone. I particularly love Mark Williams' performance as a goat turned into an innkeeper.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Improve, pleasing the art editor and purple daisies.

1. To improve a day when everything has gone wrong, I sit down for elevensies with a mug of coffee and a chocolate chip cookie.

2. When I drop off my CD of words and images, the art editor is pleased: "These pictures are beautiful," she says.

3. The doorbell rings. My husband can't get at his keys because his hands are full of purple daisies.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Storm light, not alone and made it.

1. The grubby yellowish light of a thunderstorm.

2. My Tunbridge Wells Twitter pane lights up as a thunder storm goes over. Exclamations and back-up reminders make me feel as if I'm working in a friendly office again.

3. The last piece of work has been a slog -- I feel as if I've actually climbed the South Downs that I've been writing about. I'm so glad to be standing on the top of the hill looking back at my progress.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Interview booked, the great library and Katie's grandmother.

1.  Finally -- when time is running out -- the interview is booked.

2. We watch Bettany Hughes' Ancient World. It's an episode about Alexandria -- famous in the ancient world for its great library. She stands in the city's modern library and explains that today, as well as the books, there's a massive computer. "Every two or three days, it backs up the entire world wide web." And do you know what means? It means 3BT is (in an indirect way) in the Great Library of Alexandria.

3. I've just heard that Katie-who-I-used-to-live-with's grandmother has died. Katie has recorded the funeral tribute on her blog, and it's a fascinating read. Eileen was a journalist, and whenever our paths crossed, we would talk about that. And after I came back from the epic 2006 Africa trip, we'd talk about that, too. She'd spent many years living in some of the places we'd visited for a few days. When I told her about hearing the kindergarten in the incredible concrete church at Marangu, she corrected me firmly (she never pulled any punches!) -- "Cathedral. I remember that going up."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cleaning my glasses, low cloud and Charlotte's gift.

1. When my glasses are smeary (everything has a blue-grey mist to it), to clean the lenses between my thumb and finger with washing-up liquid. To rinse them under the hot tap. Then to put them back on, still warm.

2. Low cloud today. The sky begins abruptly -- before the houses have even finished.

3. Nick brings home a bag of Easter chocolates from his boss.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Waiting, it's over and I'm having a bath.

I've just discovered Tangible Joy has been 3BTing. I like her rebellion against Starbucksification; and also her appreciation for her job.

1.  In the doctor's waiting room, two small boys (with what looks like the last of chickenpox) wait with their mother. One of them shows off his counting (he does very well, but then goes straight from 29 to 99) and the other plays "give me five... you're too slow" with his mum. He tries to distract her by telling her there's a spider on the ceiling. They make me smile; and I catch the eye of another lady who is also smiling.

2. I go for a smear test -- the nurse is kind and chatty, and it's over so quickly that I hardly realise it's happened.

3. The washing up is done, and Nick has baseball to watch. I squeeze one third of a bottle of shower gel into the bath and make myself some bubbles to hide under while I read.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Shake dry, Sunday treat and miscounted.

a. I have a guest post up on Teresa Stenson's blog, This Writer's Life. Thank you for having me, Teresa.

b. I was very excited yesterday to look at Google Reader and see that there were 60 posts in the 3BT feed bundle -- thanks to all the dedicated regular 3BTers. Or why not subscribe to my long-list of favourites, which is updated every Sunday.

If you regularly share three beautiful things on your blog, please let me know at

Here are five of my favourite posts from the past week:

1. To pull on the washing line and let it go so that it bounces and shakes off the row of shining water drops.

2. "I love a Sunday treat," says Nick as he takes me down to The Brew House Hotel for afternoon tea. Highlight of the afternoon is the choux buns -- puffs of red-gold pastry filled with cream and covered with dark chocolate. They wait on the middle tier, polite as mushrooms in the woods, while we eat sandwiches and scones. The cream is airy and sweet. And the chocolate, which changes at a finger tip from a dull bloom to melted shine, is so bitter.

3. My maths is dreadful (numbers just don't sit still for me), and because of a miscalculation I am further into this pile of proofreading pages than I planned.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spice Store, battle and the solar system.

I added three new 3BTers to the Roll of Honour -- all in Spanish. Estando en Babia, El w.c. de Eric, and Despiertos. I've been using Google Translate to get an idea of what they're saying. Muchas gracias por los tres cosas agradables.

1. To hear the shopkeeper discussing ingredients with the family ahead of me in the queue. He is opening a bag of fresh herbs and saying: "I've got some black vinegar downstairs, but it's very expensive."

2. While I work, I can hear Nick and his friend Nigel battling their forces up and down the kitchen table. At the end of the afternoon, they say rather ruefully that they spent most of the day stealing chickens from each other, rather actually engaging.

3. We watch the lovely, lovely Professor Brian Cox revealing the wonders of the solar system. I'm sort of aware of space and moons and eclipses and doesn't the sky look cool through binoculars. But as a result of a disturbing incident with a science book when I was five, I've never really bothered to understand it beyond what I needed to follow an episode of Star Trek. But when the Professor explains it, I really, really want to learn, even the numbers and the distances. He makes it seem like something wonderful he's found, but he's a bit shy about showing you.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I'll be along, mist and convenience food.

Today Teresa Stenson over at This Writer's Life has posted three beautiful things (they are good ones, with an air of melancholy about them. On Monday I'm going to be a guest writer on her blog with a piece about writing tools. Thanks Teresa.

I know I mentioned it yesterday, but the 3BT podcast is up (with a couple of extra secret beautiful things). Also, I'm interested in having some guests on the show. If you record your 3BT as a .wav file and email it to, I can include it one week.

1. The production editor rings up about some work this morning. I make him laugh by telling him that I'll be along once I've posted my podcast and got dressed.

2. After a long period of dry weather, there is soft rain and mist -- the world feels small and secretive.

3. I'm glad I bought some cooked chicken -- it's a quick supper after a long working day.

Friday, March 19, 2010

No coat, everybody out and baked potato.

The Three Beautiful Things podcast is up -- with some bonus springtime items.

I've been getting some really lovely comments lately -- I very much enjoyed yesterday's crop, particularly Daisy May's own list of beautiful things, and Louisa's description of spring round her way. Never underestimate the power of a kind word about 3BT to make my day!

1. To go out in the first days of spring wearing a coat, and find myself damp and overheated when I get home. The second time I go out, I leave the coat behind. I am serious and workmanlike on the outside, but inside I'm whooping with joy.

2. It's so good to see people strolling around -- we are coming out now the weather is warmer. One man in a sky blue jumper looks a bit dazed, as if he'd forgotten over winter how much world there was. I see him pause at the top of the road and examine the pole of a traffic sign.

3. To cut through the crisp skin of a baked potato -- the hot insides are soft and creamy and savoury.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A secret, crocuses and don't move.

1. The Common, with its bare trees and clear ground, seems barren at the end of winter. But it’s smiling in the sunshine as if it has a secret happiness.

2. Crocuses (baby mauve, egg-yolk yellow and whole milk white) have pushed their way through the khaki dead ground in the park. Today, they are the only pure bright colours in all creation (apart from the sky, I mean).

3. The financial advisor comes round, and I ask him a question that has been bothering me for months. He looks over a few pages, taps on his calculator and says that it's best to leave things as they are.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

First warmth, the opportunity and she's reading.

1. For the first time this year, it's warm enough to walk around the flat in bare feet in the early morning.

2. We grab a cup of coffee and a sit in the sun -- the home-worker and the mother with a new baby.

3. Catherine and I talk on the phone. She says that my goddaughter is reading now: "You know the little letter you wrote in her birthday card? She read most of that." Ellie has been identifying letters since she was tiny, so I've always taken care to print clearly in her cards so she can do just that -- but to hear that she's reading tickled me very much.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Organised, chipper and turning the table.

Sandra has written a 3BT post at Living in 22. Have a look at the rest of her blog -- she has some wonderful photos of garden birds.

1. I get a coffee and line up my week's work in my notebook.

2. I like to hear the robin chipping-chipping away -- he sits (small and bellicose) in the conifer outside the window to guard the coconut shell filled with fat and seeds.

3. We have moved the kitchen table round to give more space in the kitchen, and now instead of sitting face-to-face, we sit side-by-side. I wasn't keen because I thought it would make conversation awkward. It doesn't really; and now we tend to turn our chairs at the end of the meal to spend some time cuddling and chatting.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Good spirits, washing line and light opera.

Here are my favourite 3BT posts for the week.

Lynn plays the glad game.
Penelope's daughter sees the joy in a banana.
Eyebee has something nice for breakfast.
Leonora fills her hands and empties her head.
Bag Lady will never be short of work.
Whitney takes a holiday.
Spring has come for Merope's dogs.
Louisa's new dog has her dancing to a different rhythm.
Sprite's birthday presents are handmade with love.
Confucian bells ring true for Plutarch, and a toad reminds him of national service.
Genny hears some satisfying gossip.
It's spring for lucky Joe in Vegas.

1. We visit Nick's parents, and find them in good spirits. When I write that, I feel like a historic diarist -- my whaler's wife, or Anne Hughes from Diary of a Farmer's Wife.

2. I like to bring bedding in off the line -- it always smells better than any detergent ever could. It's a cold smell that fills the vault of my head and makes me think of light and shadow.

3. We've recorded HMS Pinafore -- it's good, once in a while, to sing along with an opera, to make comments about the costumes and to stop the action for a pee break.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Strootch, better and bouquets.

It's Mothering Sunday today -- hope all the mothers out there are feeling appreciated. We're off to see Nick's later; and I feel very thankful to mine for her help with moving yet more stuff into storage, and for cleaning up the kitchen window so Nick could paint it.

1. Two teenage girls, arm in arm, shuffle noisily through the shopping centre -- one is wearing sloppy sheep skin boots, and the other a pair of badly fitting ballet flats.

2. I come home from shopping and Nick gives me the thumbs up as I pass the window. "The viewer used the b-word!" My mind races: Boring? Blue? Bogus? Bollocks? "Big! She said it was big."

3. We sit in the window of a pub on the Pantiles and people of all ages and sizes pass -- some briskly, some dawdling with phones and pushchairs -- with bunches of flowers.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

More rubbish, painted windows and left to my own devices.

1. "What do I do with these?" The tip attendant puts his hands out for my broken electricals, and gives me such a beautiful, bright smile.

2. Newly painted window frames. Dark outside. It's almost a treat to stand here and do the washing up.

3. Poorly husband goes to bed early. Wife stays up and plays Zelda: Twilight Princess.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sponsored Post: Ebuzzing gets you through the ad buyer's door

If you are hoping your blog will bring in a little extra income by way of that ugly word monetisation, selling advertising is one way to go about it. But it's hard for us mere mortals to get access to the people who are actually willing to pay up.
Ebuzzing logoEbuzzing is a platform that has just launched in the UK. It gives bloggers an 'in' with big business advertisers who are keen to promote on blogs. The promotion takes the form of blog posts -- clearly marked 'sponsored' -- and videos both in dedicated players and in banners (again, marked with the name of the advertiser).
Ebuzzing video bannerHere's a video campaign in a banner -- the set-up appears similar to Adsense, and it seems as if it might be a good alternative.
It's free to register on -- it took me minutes (I had my stats handy, though), and 3BT was approved within the hour.
You then sign up for a campaign that appeals, read the brief and write a post. Your text is looked over by Ebuzzing and once approved, you can make it live.
Now to the big question -- money. Looking down the list of campaigns I've been offered: most seem to pay €40 for a short post, and I'm getting a bit more for this one. This strikes me as better than a poke in the eye.
Ebuzzing lists some big names among its clients: Coca-Cola, Intel, MTV, MasterCard, Toyota, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, eBay, Canon, Diesel, Warner Bros and Philips. If these guys have got money spend on blog advertising, I'm willing to earn it -- what about you?

Sponsored Post

Announcement about adverts

Hi Everyone

I've been offered the chance to write paid-for posts on 3BT, and with things being the way they are, I don't want to turn down the money. The posts will be marked as sponsored posts, and it will be clear that's what they are, as they will be in a totally different style to 3BT. I am planning to write one a month.

The main reason I've been offered this is because of you, my readers, who are kind enough to turn up regularly, read what I have to say and write comments. I'm hoping the extra money will allow me to dedicate a little more time and energy to 3BT, and in that way benefit you, too.


The workers, treacle tip and Nick's pie.

I had the pleasure of interviewing artist Lesley Featherstone recently about an exhibition of her pictures at Trinity and Town and Country Foundation Gallery that runs until March 14. She also ran some workshops for women at the gallery.

Lesley emailed me to say that she thought the article was a beautiful thing, which tickled me immensely. She added: "The other was the incredible women at the workshop Monday. The third was putting it up with Jane."

Jane is Jane Churchill, who runs the gallery, and she's a very lovely (but busy) person -- I'd really like to interview her one of these days, too!

The podcast is up.

1. I look up to see the dustman passing the window where I am working. The fourth time he passes (on his way back from replacing our bin) we exchange half nods.

2. I am making a ginger cake, and I am mystified by the instruction to add a certain weight of golden syrup and treacle. I picture myself standing there until Turpentine Sunday while the spoon dribbles a thread of syrup and the weight goes up gramme by gramme. I am so glad to remember my mother's tip -- stand the tin on the scales, and spoon out syrup until the weight drops by the amount you need.

3. At 7pm, Nick takes the pie he has baked for our supper out of the oven. He brings it into the sitting room to show me.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cleaning, getting rid and mushrooms.

1. My mother scrubs the mould off our kitchen window frame.

2. Stuffing sacks of old clothes into the recycling bin. The hopper closes with a polite clang.

3. A pair of palm-sized portobello mushrooms in our vegetable box. Their dense flesh looks like real food. I imagine how a hunter-gather would have felt to find them on her patch. Perhaps she would have smiled and thought: "That's supper sorted."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

No, sugar and chilli.

Becoming Human has shared the story about advising Inuit on how to dress for winter in the comments of Monday's post.

1. Saying no.

2. "Look at the wheel of death," says Tim, indicating the nutrition information. It's all green, apart from the sugar, which is a glorious red.

3. Men trying to out-chilli each other.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Over the wall, volunteer and fried apples.

1. On our way down to the charity shop, we pass two men talking over a garden wall. The man in the garden sees the crates of books in our arms, and his eyes widen. His gaze follows us as we pass.

2. To look through into the back of the shop and see a cheerful volunteer steam cleaning donated clothes.

3. Frying slices of red apple to go with pork chops -- the white flesh turns caramel brown.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Stay out of the kitchen, daff robbers and books out.

This post on a blog belonging to one of my editors (also a part-time football dad) put a smile on my face. I hope you'll like it, too. I think it would appeal particularly to the parents among you.

These are a few of my favourite 3BT posts for the week -- here's the longlist.

1. I ask if he would like an apricot crumble for pudding tonight. "Let's have it later in the week. I don't want you spending too much time in the kitchen."

2.Daffodil buds. They look like bank robbers in green stocking masks.

3. I fill two crates with books for the charity shop. Stacked up, the books are the height of an eight year old child.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The shade, sponge cake and a man knows the lining of his own coat.

1. A very cheap paper lampshade makes such a different to the bedroom -- although it takes a lot of swearing and cursing to get the old shade down because age has welded it to the light fitting.

2. I paste my mother's sponge cake recipe into my Dodo Book for Cooks. I've been out and bought some margarine specially. The cake comes out much better than the one I baked using butter.

3. The lining of her coat is printed with butterflies.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

No to work, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named and that's magic.

I occasionally get asked how I keep up with all the blogs I read. Well, I use Google Reader. It also allows me to manage the 3BT bundle. This bundle (a group of feeds) is what drives the rolling list of 3BT posts in the top left hand corner of the homepage. If you are 3BTing regularly, and you'd like your posts to appear, then please get in touch: and tell me what your RSS feed (if you don't know, I might be able to work it out from your blog address).

1. Sending an email that says 'no' to some work. I'm on holiday this week.

2. We grab a bowl of noodles with He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. He always has interesting things to tell -- he went to Prime Minister's Question Time and climbed the Monument. Tomorrow, he's going to see Ripley's Believe It Or Not.

3. I am flicking through the late night TV and come across a show about the 50 greatest magic tricks. A Scottish magician appears to swallow a goldfish and then bring it back up, still alive and cheerful. "I saw him. I saw him do that at our college ball," I tell Nick. On the screen, the magician is saying that he taught himself the trick to hide things when he was growing up in a children's home. I remember one of the ents committee telling me the same story. The next magician is a woman who does table magic. The commentator says that she specialises in rude patter. She wraps a bottle in a napkin and shatters it -- but when she opens the napkin, the bottle is gone. Nick says: "She came to one of our work Christmas parties -- and they're right: she was filthy!"

Friday, March 05, 2010

Absorbed, get out and home cooking.

James Alexander-Sinclair from Blackpitts Garden (and Encounters with Remarkable Biscuits) has written a 3BT post (with pictures).

And the 3BT podcast is up.

1. To get absorbed in my work so that time slips away. It's very satisfying to string together words and know that I am being paid for it.

2. Getting out of the flat for half an hour after lunch. The cold air and the vast blue sky are the wake-up I need.

3. I grab a ready meal because I don't want to think about supper tonight. Oven crisped rice, dull curry, no vegetables. I fall in love with my own cooking again.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Cabbages, prime ministers and rocky roads.

1. There are green and purple cabbages in our veggie box -- almost too beautiful to cook. The bases of the leaves are spring green. Gradually they shade into a deep midnight purple.

2. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named sometimes shares things in Google Reader. This week, a radio phone-in prank about Gordon Brown made me laugh.

3. Nick brings home a pair of rocky roads from the Hummingbird Bakery. They are more like rocky mountains, actually -- we finish up like a pair of toddlers with chocolate all over our faces.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Baking, town badgers and not alone.

1. Our house doctor says: "Whatever you've got baking, keep doing it." It's just a loaf of bread -- but the smell always cheers me up, too.

2. He says that there is a badger track across his town garden, and that friends over the road have a sett, too.

3. Andy walks me home after an evening of catching up and commiseration about the housing market. If anyone wants Tunbridge Wells flats, we've got them.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Light at last, Hedera helix and fat.

1. Waking up to see a bit of daylight prying itself through the gap in the curtains. Morning work feels like a light bath, and it makes me feel like getting things done.

2. Nick's sister Sarah rings to tell me to expect a plant. A couple of hours later, a man comes to the door. "I've got a very large ivy for you." It's a cone, about the height of a child, and it's perfect for the collection of pots along the sunny wall.

3. It's satisfying to pick off and throw away the fat that has floated to the top of a stew taken from the fridge.

Monday, March 01, 2010

I'm staying here, getting things done and entertaining.

Here are some of my favourite 3BT posts for the week.

And the 3BT podcast is up.

1. A snap decision to stay at home, rather than going out into the stormy morning.

2. The washing is mostly done when Nick gets home. "I should leave you in charge more often," he says.

3. The new wife's worst nightmare. My husband's boss comes round for dinner unexpectedly. Actually, Charlotte calls to say she's in town, and we tell them: "Come now, there's enough supper for two more."

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 ...