Wednesday, 30 September 2009

a life rides...

Daddy Longlegs

Here, on fine long legs springy as steel,
a life rides, sealed in a small brown pill
that skims along over the basement floor
wrapped up in a simple obsession.
Eight legs reach out like the master ribs
of a web in which some thought is caught
dead center in its own small world,
a thought so far from the touch of things
that we can only guess at it. If mine,
it would be the secret dream
of walking alone across the floor of my life
with an easy grace, and with love enough
to live on at the center of myself.

Ted Kooser (1939 - )

Flying at Night: Poems 1965-1985
(University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005)


A Daddy Long Legs in the UK is the crane fly
which is an insect and only has six legs.
In the US it usually refers to the harvestman
and in Australia it is the name for the cellar spider,
both of which are arachnids with eight legs.


I have fallen head over heels in love
with the work of Ted Kooser;
with the economical observation
and the delicious Mid West voice.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Going Down The Hill

The first bend is the worst
because it is sharp and steep
and slippery with wet leaves
and there is a rock sticking out
which can split your tyre.

Not far to the next bend...
in fact, you can probably treat yourself
to second gear.

Another sharp bend,
but there is a tiny space
that you can squeeze into
if a tractor is driving up towards you.

A long straight stretch,
only fallen branches and mud
to worry about.

The orchard gate...
hurray! nearly there.

MasterM and MissM used to get out here
and run down in front of the car
laughing with excitement.

The last bend is tight between
the cottage and the slate roof of the house;
lorries taking short cuts get stuck here
and have to be dragged out.

This, little car, is the challenge
of the hill behind my parents house.

I hope that you are up for it.

Monday, 28 September 2009

The New Motor

James Pollard
A Passing Carriage (1833)

MrM and MrsM have a new motor.

It is a very small car but...
it will enable MrM to visit Graham the bookseller
while MrsM is doing the weekly shop with the big car,

it will allow MrsM to visit her parents
without getting stuck
on the hairpin bend behind their house,

it will be easy to park
in airport multi-storey car parks,

it will be cheap to insure
so MasterM and MissM can learn to drive
and provide a taxi service for their aged parents.

It is also shiny and super-quick
so when MrM asked MrsM
if she would like to go for a spin
there was only one answer

"I'll just get my hat..."


A message for MissM
(a carriage aficionado)

I think this is a Stanhope Gig,
named after Captain Hon. Henry FitzRoy Stanhope,
a noted amateur whip of the day.

Friday, 25 September 2009

On the Roof

You climb up 107 steps

(past the point where the paint changes
from expensive blue to cheap black
for servants quarters)

open a tiny door with a huge key
and come out into a forest of chimneys.

You walk around carefully on boards,
squeezing through small gaps

peering over balustrades

and looking down onto skylights and courtyards

There are exotic Tudor chimneys,
unique carvings from handmade bricks

which cover the buildings created by Cardinal Wolsey
and coveted by Henry VIII and his new Queen.

However, it was not the chimneys or the skylights
that drew us up the stairs on a Sunday afternoon
but the views.

The formal gardens...

the river...

the topiary and the fountains...

It was amazing.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

MasterM considers career options

MasterM had a long term relationship
with Hampton Court
and, unfortunately, it ended badly.

We have tickets for a special roof top tour
of Hampton Court.
You can't be serious.
I am really excited.

If you make me go up on the roof of Hampton Court
I will throw myself off
and end up splatted on the gravel
in front of the fountain.

(gloomy pause)

The only thing is I would probably fall on a signpost
and end up with 'Hampton Court' engraved upon my heart.

Don't worry - we would arrange for you
to be buried under the Great Vine
and maybe a requiem in the Chapel.

I would become a ghost and haunt the Maze.
so that people could not find their way out.
I might even become a specialist poltergeist
and move the hedges so that clever children
who think that they know the answer
get boxed in FOREVER.

In fact...

that is rather appealing...

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

faces beyond the lens

Lecia writes from the shores of Seattle
and takes evocative photos
that make me long to visit that faraway city.
She wrote a thoughtful post
about photographic identity and creativity
that made me consider the limits of my own style.

Lecia particularly enjoys taking informal family portraits.
I struggle with portraiture because
I see the potential of the image
but I prefer to ask permission
and as soon as you speak to the person
the charm of the unposed photograph is lost.

You can, if you are confident and the person agrees,
move to a posed portrait situation
and for the very skilled photographer
this can communicate everything
that the unposed image promised and more.
Sadly, I am not that talented or confident.

My favourite photographer of people
is Maryam, who travels to exotic places
and captures the soul of the person with her lens.
I have no idea where she finds the courage
to face the men of Yemen, Egypt and Kashmir.
I think that she has a wonderful gift.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Clare College, Cambridge

Clare College looked very beautiful on Saturday

just as it did on another September afternoon

when I walked with my father along the avenue,
through the gate and across the court to the chapel

where our family and friends were waiting
and we were married by MrM's father.

Afterwards we ate in the Hall:
Guinea Fowl with braised celery,
the most heavenly Crème brûlée
and a cake of extravagant beauty.

At the end of the afternoon we left by punt
and as our families and friends waved from the bridge
I threw my bouquet of cream freesias up towards them.

The bouquet landed in the river with a gentle splash
and was picked up by a young woman in a punt.

I hope that it was lucky for her
and she found happiness as we did.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Monday Morning

In my humble opinion...

there have been too many words
and not enough pictures.

Today is
the Monday Morning of Freshers Week

(pause for Deep Breath)

and I don't want anything
that is going to make my brain hurt.

Here is an intense Dahlia experience.

I hope that it doesn't give you

This is what life is like
if you are a bee.

Or an earwig.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

MrsM as Role Model

Thank you for your thought-provoking comments
on my last post.

MissM and I discussed the post
and we agreed that it was carelessly written.

She complained that it was unfair
because she can sew and knit
and has made some lovely things to wear.

I explained that I wanted to contrast
my sewing experience with hers
and said how much I regretted the fact
that I did not have the opportunity
to teach her to sew as I had been taught.

We agreed that, while it would be delightful
if we could spend more time together doing crafts,
it is not very realistic at the moment because
she is preparing for university entrance
and I am working full time.

MissM pointed out that it was more helpful to her
to learn ways of combining work with family life
because that was the world that she would be living in.

It was a new perspective on my role as a mother
and I am very grateful for it.

It also has the advantage that anything I can contribute
is equally applicable to MasterM,
who is highly unlikely to make his own clothes
however much time I spend with him.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Gold on Black

My mother had a Singer sewing machine just like this.

It sat in the alcove of the bedroom
and if she turned her head
she could see out over the river
and the rising fields on the far bank.

I can remember the smoothness of the hand wheel
and the heavy cast iron treadle;
the solidity of the wooden table
and the little drawer which held bobbins and shuttles
and was always slightly dusty;
the dull shine of the base plate
and the intricate lettering, gold on black;
the uneven rattle of the treadle
and the clip sound of scissors.

We played with fabric scraps while she sewed
and absorbed her experience and belief
that she could make anything if she wanted to.
In time I made clothes with my own machine;
it did not occur to me that it might be difficult.

My daughter, of the Facebook generation,
so confident with iPod and netbook,
who can even set the video-recorder,
thinks that sewing is very tricky.

I think I might have failed as a mother.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Extracts from a Sermon

Fairy Penguin
Eudyptula minor

(Technical Information - Mark 8. 27-38)

A woman takes her young son on a trip to the zoo.

She lets him go off and explore by himself
but when she meets him again he is soaking wet.
She is horrified and asks him what happened
but all that he will say is that he needs a bath.

As soon as they get home
the son rushes upstairs to the bathroom.
After a while the woman hears a terrific racket
and runs upstairs to find out what is happening.

When she opens the bathroom door
she sees her son looking very happy,
an empty rucksack
and a penguin in the bath.

(a true story...allegedly...)

short interlude
for technical stuff
related to text for the day


A man walks into the docotor's surgery
with a penguin on his head.

"Doctor, Doctor..."
says the penguin
"I've got a growth on my foot."

another short interlude
for technical stuff


A little girl wrote to her grandmother:

Dear Grandmother,

Thankyou very much for the book
which you gave me for my birthday.
I enjoyed reading it
but it told me more
than I need to know
about penguins.


MrsM thought that the sermon
was cleverly written and well delivered.
MissM thought that the sermon
was too abstract and rather patronising.

MrsM was secretly delighted that,
just for a change,
she could remember
the beginning, middle and end.

this post is for
Jeff who preaches in Missouri
and Thomas who preaches in East Anglia

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Being ill in Blogland

It is 'Bloggers' Shoulder'
It is not your fault, it is the weather
Heal quickly
Drink alcohol!
Specifically, whisky.
What Ali said...
Menopausal Musings
What Ali said...
Cut off the injured part
Ali Honey
Try traction first
No, no, no! The Niel-Asher technique...
Or morphine-based painkiller
Oh dear!
(thinks: "do we need to have a chat about drugs?")

Readers Guide
Don't over do it
Enjoy the view while you can
I will be over with plum muffins in half an hour

Thank you all for your advice!
It turns out that laughter is the best medicine
and you came up trumps.

Gladioli in the late afternoon

Severe pain in shoulder this morning
caused by something muscular
being tweaked, twisted or trapped.

Nothing to do
except take handfuls of Neurofen,
lie very still
and watch the patch of sunlight
creep around the wall
until it reaches the mantelpiece
and the blood-red gladioli.

I don't recommend it.

Monday, 14 September 2009

A True Story

When MasterM was five years old
he was invited to his first party by himself.
It was all very exciting.
MrsM and MissM picked him up afterwards
and he was carrying a party bag
stuffed with homemade goodies.

Mummy...what is this?

Oh! You lucky boy!!
That is Edinburgh Rock.

Mummy...what is Edinburgh Rock?

It is delicious...
take a big bite
and see what I mean.


it was chalk
for pavement art

which is how MasterM discovered
at a very young age
that his mother is not always right.

All of which I had forgotten until yesterday
when MrM brought back a souvenir
from his day in Edinburgh.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

MasterM packs a pen and paper...

Today MasterM started at university.

Mother and Son
John Vanderlyn

I left him at the airport with MrM
and they phoned a couple of hours later
to say that they had arrived safely.

Mother and Child
Eric Gill

You might think that I am used
to saying goodbye.

But you would be wrong.

Jack Sheppard visiting his mother in Bedlam
George Cruikshank

It is the end of an amazing year
and the beginning of new adventures.


Last night MasterM wondered
if Ladbrokes would take a bet
on how many pairs of socks he comes home with.
I think it would be long odds because
this time MasterM is doing his own laundry

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Woman writing

Woman with a writing tablet, Pompeii
1st century AD

So many lovely comments from you...
not enough replies from me...
better take a break
and get busy.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Sweetness and Light

Tonight my home is silent
because everyone is somewhere else.

I think about our holiday
which seems so long ago

and remember the pleasure
of buying from a market stall

and the joy of spending time
with my husband and son and daughter.

and I hear their laughter
and it fills the silence.

Dear MrM,

Happy Anniversary
with lots of love from

p.s. Do we need to chat about
this mystery person?


This card is from MissM's collection
from fortune telling machines
at the fair.