Friday, 31 July 2009

The Woman and the Window

MrsM has been busy, busy, busy
since the beginning of July.
She has been feeding her family,

Jan Vermeer
The Milkmaid

reading books,

Delfin Enjolras
Young Woman Reading by a Window

even cleaning floors.

Sister Osithe
Woman at Window

After a while MrsM started to feel lonely...

Edward Hopper
Hotel Window

so she tweaked the curtain
and peeked into Blogland.

Johann Georg Meyer
Young Woman looking through a Window

Everyone else was having lots of summer fun
and after some thought,
MrsM decided to write a sequel to The Magpie Files.

Robert Kipniss
Woman at Window

MasterM has nearly finished his Gap Year
and MissM is starting her last year at school;
it is a new phase in the life of our family.

Before MrsM knew what was happening
she was writing again.

Henri Lebasque
Femme Ecrivant

It is time to throw open the window
here at ChezMagpie
and let in the morning sunshine.

Edward Hopper
Cape Cod Morning

Thank you once again for all the very kind comments
at the end of The Magpie Files -
I was overwhelmed by your generosity
and hope that I managed to reply to everyone.

If you want to join in again
you will be most welcome.

(just for the record)

It is the summer vacation
and the Department is in hibernation.
There is time to stop and chat.

She tells me that...
she has taken eight children camping.
I bow before her.

He tells me that...
his wife cut his hair.
His hair is shockingly short.
He says that it is an economy haircut.

She tells me that...
her daughter is at summer camp.
Today they are playing with clay...
if only we could go and join in too.

He tells me that...
he is to become a father
and it is clear that he cannot believe
that he is saying the words out loud.

She tells me that...
it was her daughter's 18th birthday party.
"It was lovely to see her so happy
and the centre of attention.
Birthdays should be special."

He tells me that...
he is not going home to Spain this year.
"It will be very hot there"
he says gloomily,
looking out at the rain.

She tells me that...
every time she organises office moves
she is also moving house.
"If I see another archive box

He tells me that...
they are going on holiday to CentreParcs
where he will look after the children
and his wife will go the Spa.
I think he is looking forward to it.

She tells me that...
she is thinking of leaving.
I am sad
but not surprised.

He tells me that...
he had remembered what I had told him
and so the new baby
arrived with a present
for a newly promoted big sister.

She tells me that...
her daughter got married.
The sun shone all day
and everything went according to plan
and, afterwards, she felt quite bereft.

This time last year I did not know them.
They would not have told me these things.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

MrM and MasterM

On Mykonos.
Ridiculously windy.
Can't get money out of bank.

That would be because
you have run out of money.

Please transfer some more.
Need to pay for mud hut on beach.


Thank you.
Please could you sort out
12 tix for Autumn Internationals
at Twickenham.

Will do my best.
Can't promise anything.

Thank you.

And a car park space.


Thank you
Can you text the cricket scores tomorrow.

What did your last slave die of?

Seem to remember that he
overdosed on multi-tasking.
Great guy though!

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

War Talk

Il Gattopardo

I can't understand why
you don't want to watch Il Gattopardo again.
It is a cinema classic
with Burt Lancaster at the height of his career.

I haven't got three hours to spare.

But you should make the time...
it is an outstanding record
of the Risorgimento period of Italian history.


Well, I can see it would be more meaningful for me
as I have a detailed understanding of
Italian language, culture and history...

whereas your knowledge is limited...

to Italian ice-cream flavours.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Winifred Nicholson (1893 - 1981)

Lily of the Valley, South Parlour

‘When one is young
one is satisfied with a flower petal or a sparkle.
Now I want more.
I want the rainbow scale of the flower
and the reason and the travel of the sparkle -
and most of all a long quiet time
of intense peace and uninterrupted thought
- none of which one can get.'

Winifred Nicholson to Jim Ede

Monday, 27 July 2009

A Cornish Hedgerow in High Summer

This is the road
between Advent Church and Camelford

head high with flowers:

Cow Parsley,
Rosebay Willowherb
Vetch and Foxgloves.

When a car passes
you must step into this tangle of flowers
embracing the fragrance of high summer.

It could be any Cornish road in July,
billowing out,
soft tendrils of grey-green,
fronds of ash-white.

Above your head is the flat blue
clear polished afternoon light

and in this enclosed world
there is hidden treasure
if you know where to look.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Chicken Fricassée

Why are you taking a photo?

Because it looks pretty on the tablecloth.
Old habits die hard.

Can we PLEASE eat it
before it gets cold.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

MissM remembers

...that was the holiday

when you turned the volume up

and we all danced and danced to Sixties music

and you forgot the milk

and it burned on the stove

and there wasn’t any left at bedtime...

Friday, 17 July 2009

Thou shalt not covet...

Sharing Secrets
Hector Caffieri (1847 - 1932)

I am not sure what I want the most...

the carved chest,
the blue and white vase
the massive brass charger

or the time to sit and share secrets.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Summer Stock

...Tell me (said I) prolifick stock,
Which do'st these fragrant treasures bring,
What is it can such stores unlock,
At Christmas as outvie the spring?

Thus ask'd, the flower of tinctur'd bloome,
Soon blush't into a deeper dye,
Cast stronger odours round the room,
And sweetly breath'd out this reply.

Extract from:
On a double Stock July-flower, full blown in January,
presented to me by the Countess of FERRERS.

Anne Finch, the Lady Winchelsea (1661 - 1720)


I stumble across Anne Finch
while looking for poetry about summer stocks.
I am not sure that the poem is very appropriate
as my double stocks, creamy and heavily scented,
were grown in the summer, as they should be.
I don't even understand most of the poem
which is laden with classical references.
However, I am intrigued by her story
and admire her persistence as a poet
at a time when few women were published.
It forces me to examine my own motivation.

For the first time for two years
I am writing without readers
but that doesn't seem to matter
because the words still organise themselves
and march out onto the screen in neat rows.

I have discovered that for me
writing is as natural as breathing
and that is it is just as essential.

I write for myself.

And why not?

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The Graduation Procession

We processed across the Quad
and along the corridor
and through the Gallery to the Chapel.

The sun shone on the mortar boards
and the smart suits,
frivolous dresses and fabulous shoes.

The sun shone on the academics
in their multicoloured gowns
and fantastic hats.

The sun shone on the wide smiles
of proud parents and guests.

The sun shone on the turrets and towers
so that the building glowed.

It was a wonderful afternoon.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

A red, red rose

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying.

Robert Herrick 1591 - 1674


Each year I find it difficult to throw away
the rosebuds from the last day of school.

They dry to a elegant reminder of a happy day.

Monday, 13 July 2009

La Belle Personne

MrsM has been considering her holiday wardrobe.

'At the Cinema'

She has decided she must aspire to
higher sartorial standards.

'Visiting gardens'

All jeans and T-Shirts
will be sent to Oxfam;

'Shopping with MissM'

flip flops are no longer acceptable.

'On the Beach'

MrsM is going vintage for '09.

'Apres Beach'

It would appear that if you wear the right clothes
the effect on the life-guards is very positive.

'Swimming Lessons'


All illustrations by Georges Barbier (1882 - 1932)

Sunday, 12 July 2009

a quiet Sunday afternoon

Palest white elderflower cake
eaten with the cricket commentary
as background accompaniment.

A message from MasterM

i would first like to apologise
for the lack of contact
since i departed on saturday

Sunday : PARIS

that has been because of the fact
we have been having
the most amazing time ever.

Tuesday : LYON

anyways, i just thought i would email you
to let you know that i am alive.

Thursday : BARCELONA

seriously having the best time here
so dont worry about me.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

MissM remembers...

When I was 9 somebody told me
that the French teacher was a vampire
and that she slept in a coffin at lunchtime.

It seemed possible because
she did look like a vampire
so I thought I ought to check.

I asked where the coffin was
and they showed me the room...

...and it was true!

(I didn't realise it was the room
where the 'cellos were stored.)

Friday, 10 July 2009

Godinton in high summer

Imagine standing on the terrace
at the end of a quiet summer afternoon

and looking beyond the pale yellow roses
to the meadow where cattle graze.

If you wander between the broad herbaceous borders
to the steps at the edge of the lily pond

you can turn back to the great house
and know that you are part
of a timeless English landscape.

There is a sense of tranquility
as you walk along the sheltered paths
breathing the fragrance of lavender in full bloom.

In the peaceful walled garden
the stately border of delphiniums
is a living piece of chinoiserie.

This is Godinton
in high summer.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Cherry Red

We were greeted, effusively,
at the entrance to the Wallace Collection
and shown the way to the cloakroom.

The Lace Maker
Caspar Netscher(1639 - 1684)

The cloakroom attendant smiled
and wished us an enjoyable afternoon
and the lady on the till in the shop
was charmingly helpful
as we chose our postcards.

Miss Elizabeth Haverfield
Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788)

As she served our cream tea
the friendly waitress
in the elegant courtyard cafe
murmured that the Wallace Collection
is the best kept secret in London.

An Armenian Woman
Charles-Zacharie Landelle (1821-1908)

How could we disagree?

all images © Wallace Collection

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Wet, Wet, Wet...

In the Heart of the Lake District
Max Sinclair (1896)

I wish that MissM was camping somewhere hot
so that I could worry about sunstroke
rather than flash floods.