Friday, 29 January 2010

Commitment to Change

When you embark upon a Voyage of Self Discovery
it is important to have some Outward Sign
so that the world knows that you are Serious.

Having considered shaving my head
(too cold)
or wearing orange robes
(no robes of aforementioned colour)
or having a tattoo of a dragon on my neck
(too vulgar)
I decided that cake cases would be my Outward Sign.

In the past I have been Absolutist about cake cases.
I have enforced the White Only rule.
Has this made me Happy?
(Well, yes, but I must get over it.)

I have broken through
this self-imposed barrier of Fear and Ignorance
and introduced
Red cake cases
Yellow cake cases
Spotty cake cases.

Why settle for White
when there is a Rainbow of Possibilties?

(Please don't mention coloured icing...
that is the Next Level of Enlightenment
and I am Not Ready.)

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Message from my daughter

"I saw this and thought of you"

...Reader, I cried...


Today MissM launches
an annual fund raising initiative
for a very worthwhile charity:
Help for Heroes.

So I am thinking of her.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Blue and White is not the only china...

...that I own
although it has felt like that recently.

I have become stuck in a rut
and I feel as though it is time
to make some changes.

I will need to be brave
and there are sure to be days
when I get
discouraged or distracted.

But I don't want to live
with a restricted palette
when there is a whole rainbow out there.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Between two oceans

I spoke to MasterM on Skype.

He showed me around his room which is small, functional and already very untidy. He hopes to swap to be on another corridor and so some unfortunate person will shortly be getting the full force of MasterM's persuasive powers.

He told me about his busy timetable of daily lectures and assessments. He has been asked to take an additional class in Afrikaans because he scored so low on the initial assessment (that would be a zero, folks) but I told him how impressed we were with his other scores considering how long it is since he did any academic work. He will be purchasing the course text books this week.

The rest of the time he is packing with good things to do. He has friends all over the campus that he knew before he arrived and new friends of those friends. They are going to parties, arranging mountain picnics of beer and biltong, working out and playing rugby, planning weekend breaks by the sea, preparing for the Two Oceans half marathon.

He said that Stellenbosch is the most beautiful and amazing place he has ever lived in and that life is outrageously hectic but crazy-fun.

I suggested to him that he could always come back and go to university nearer to home.

He laughed. "It's O.K." he said "I think I am sorted now."

Monday, 25 January 2010

Changing Perspective

Westminster Bridge on Lord Mayor's Day
Canaletto (1697 – 1768)

MrsM considered the bridge.

She thought of the energy and bustle of the crowds,
the noise, the smell, the warmth
and the sense of purpose
as you crossed from one side to the other.

And then MrsM thought about
walking from the safety of the bridge
onto the unknown side of the river.
She tried to imagine what it would feel like
to be in less familiar territory,
possibly without a street map.

And then MrsM realised
that she had made a fundamental mistake.

She had always assumed that
the direction of travel
was from the north bank of the river,
full of grand buildings and extravagant ambition,
to the quiet residential streets of the south bank.

But there was no reason why that should be the case.

No reason at all.

And, suddenly, the prospect was much more enticing.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Diversion Therapy

San Rock Art

If I am given a grant application
to fund research on the earliest hand axes
just before lunchtime
it is highly likely
that I will eat my
tuna and cucumber sandwich
while flicking through pictures
of cave paintings.

(Anything to avoid preparing exam papers...)

This herd of elephant rampages
before the San hunters
on the ochre walls of caves
in the Cederberg mountains
near Cape Town.

with thanks to the unknown person
who made this picture available
without copyright restriction

Thursday, 21 January 2010


Wild Boar Piglet
Hans Hoffman (1530 - c1591)

I am so grateful for the friendship
that I find every day in my InBox:

Encouragement from someone
whose grandson has spent time in South Africa.

Good advice
that will inform the way that I behave in future.
And which I will always associate with apricots,
peachy and perfect.

Happiness spills over from someone
who has been sad for so long.

A meeting with friends
whom I have not seen for too long.

The unselfish offer of a small boy
to run around my silent home
and fill it with noise.

A smiling photo of a bride-to-be.

Generous comments from people I do not know:

Hi - thanks for this post.
My 14 year old daughter read the lesson on Sunday too.
You've made me realize how I felt listening to her.

A corset making class!
Oh no...I read that too quickly...
A corsage making class!

Sweet messages from the Mediterranean.

News of a half written novel
is slipped in to a reply.
Am I impressed?

The unexpected image of a wild boar piglet
that arrives without explanation.

A smile all the way from Tuvalu.

I could go on

(I have not even mentioned "The Clog and Billycock"...)

And on.

(...or the video of the Bird of Paradise...)

I am fortunate indeed.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

MasterM settles in...

the following are genuine extracts from MasterM's induction programme

Day 1
a session where everyone learns the welcoming/ goodbye songs ... once they know the songs everyone gathers outside and the men and ladies sing their songs to each other

Day 2
first years fold "flowers" from crepe paper to put them into chicken mesh and create our RAG Float

Day 3
an overnight camp to learn values and how to be a brother in a co-ed residence coming back to the residence as gentlemen and brothers

Day 4
first year men come back from their overnight camp and bring the girls flowers

Day 5
the Dance Society teaches us how to salsa

I am quite sure that MasterM would not have learned to salsa in Edinburgh and so I feel that his decision to move to South Africa has been vindicated.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

the sound of her voice

It is a cold Sunday evening
and we are sitting in the Cathedral.

MissM is opposite us, waiting to read the lesson.
When the time comes she walks calmly to the lectern
and places her hand upon the page.

Her voice is clear and silvery
and I realise with a shock that I did not know this.
I hear her speak all the time:
at the end of a phone,
from the top of the stairs,
beside me on the sofa,
behind me in the car.
And yet I have never fully appreciated
what a beautiful voice she has.

I close my eyes
and try to fix the sound
in my memory
as MissM reads aloud:

"...for to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom;
to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit..."

Monday, 18 January 2010

The Hyacinth Bowl

I have been reading Spitalfields Life almost since it started.

I love the descriptions of the East End of London,
the people, the graffiti,
the pubs, shops and market

but, most of all,
I love the Gentle Author's china collection.
Every now and then a new item is featured
and it is always greatly to be desired.

When I read about the inherited bowl
that is always used for Hyacinths
I knew that I HAD to have one too
and it arrived today, by post,
from my wonderful friends at Blue and White.

I fully intended to plant pearl white Hyacinths
but I got distracted by the Winter Anemone.

I hope that the Gentle Author would approve.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Friday Evening

The windows are steamed up
and when the front door opens
the sound of laughter spills out.

"It's been such a loooong week;
I'm so glad that it is Friday."

It is the end of the first week of term
and the pub is full to bursting.

"Can you get me a pint of the Cornish,
a pint of orange juice and lemonade,
a glass of red wine
and whatever that man in the black coat
on the other side of the bar wants."

Every seat is taken,
latecomers must perch on the end of benches
or lean against the wall, clasping their drinks.

"Have you packed for the Spain field trip?"
"Are you kidding?
I'm a bloke - I'll leave it to the last minute."

We are squeezed around a corner table,
academics and postgraduate students,
celebrating the submission of a thesis.

"We are going away for the weekend
but I don't know's a surprise...
he says we need a tent but I hope he's joking."

The academic who has just turned 40
looks pleased with himself,
organising excellent nights out is his speciality.

"Of course I have more hair than him.
He has a wig.
You watch carefully...
if he turns his head sideways
the hair stays still."

And then it is time to wrap up,
walk out into the cold night
and start the weekend.

On the way home I remember
that I was worried about making friends
before I moved to this Department.

And it seems a long time ago.

Friday, 15 January 2010

MrM is away... the moment...

I am living with CiarĂ¡n.

I know that I can rely on your discretion.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

rearranging the twigs

Every January I replace the herbs and spices.

It is very satisfying to stick on new labels

and line up the sparkling jars.

The deep ochre of turmeric!

The pungent odour of ginger!

I would make a cake
but right now
there is no-one to eat it.


This is NOT a pitiful plea for sympathy...
no cooking = more writing

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Much Ado About A Header

After a few months
on restricted blog rations
I can join in again
and it feels so good.

Thanks to my friend, RW,
who gave this link
to a tutorial on making headers
at A Foothill Home Companion
(Way too much fun for a blog anorak like me)

I opened a Picnik account
and started to play around
and before I knew what had happened
I had deleted the old header.

And lost it.

Panic sets in.
Will I have to spend hours
trying to find the original photo?

Then Lovely Lucy
(who didn't have a blog but does now)
emailed me to say that she liked the new header.
(Which made me feel better)

But there was still something
Not Quite Right.

It made me feel cold when I looked at it.
(Possibly because it was a photograph of snow)
which WASN'T the effect I wanted
first thing in the morning.

And then I remembered a photo
which I took on a walk
with my mother.

It reminded me of two more blog friends
Silverpebble and DogDaisyChains
who have graduated
from blogging
to telepathy.

And somehow it felt right.
So it is staying.

For a while.

And I am really not sure
why I wrote this post as a list.

Proper sentences tomorrow.


Tuesday, 12 January 2010


In the midday sunshine
I left the Department

and climbed over the safety barrier
onto the path through the woods.

Very few people had walked that way
and the snow was soft and clean.

The Founders building looked like
an enchanted castle
hidden among the snowy trees

and the stone balustrade
was the perfect setting
for Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty.

It was a brief respite from the preparations
for the start of term,

examination papers,
staff shortages
and field trips.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Travel Bulletin

Fox in the snow, 2006
Alistair Crawford

text from MissM
I have arrived safely!
I saw a fox crossing a field of snow
from the train window!

text from MasterM
I have arrived safely!
seriously good weather!


Thursday was quite hectic
with all the packing and departing.
When we came back from the airport
the house seemed so quiet and tidy
and I realised with a shock
that it would stay like that.

Be careful what you wish for.


Thank you so much
for your kind messages
which I have really appreciated.

Normal blogging and email soonish.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

To Do lists - Thursday

Bedroom at Arles (1889)
Vincent Van Gogh

pack suitcase
tidy room
go back to school

pack suitcase
tidy room
go off to airport

MrM and MrsM
be brave

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Brother and Sister

What are you doing?

I am making myself a sandwich.

What sort of sandwich?

Freshly fried Bacon,
Beautifully sliced Tomato
and Crispy Green Lettuce.

Well, you won't want to be using that...

Why not?

It's a Cabbage.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

MissM, life coach

I thought that I would try something new
with the potatoes.

What do you think?

So, what's different?

Well...I cut them into smaller chunks...

in haute cuisine.

Is it?


MrsM hangs her head in SHAME
AND finally accepts that
she has FAILED
in her resolution for 2009
she resolves to TRY AGAIN in 2010.

Monday, 4 January 2010

World Cinema

My Mother

"... we went to see a film at the Methodist Chapel. They put up a big screen and there were so many people there. It was Scum Dogs Millionaire and so they had a curry beforehand but I was quite glad that we had eaten before we went because it was all beans, curried beans. Anyway, the film was very good, I thought. It was really loud and I was in tears by the end.

And afterwards there were drinks but of course, NO alcohol so there were no complications."


"What do you mean - complications?"

My Mother

"Fighting and so on..."



MasterM is impressed - he has underestimated his grandparents.

Sunday, 3 January 2010


Chimonanthus praecox

If you plant a grove of Wintersweet
make sure you choose
a sheltered place.

On a warm still day in January
the trapped cloud
of honeyed fragrance
will envelope you
so that summer seems
only a breath away.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Rosa, aged three and a half

Rosa loves:

fairy stories
ballerina musical boxes
sparkly dresses
flowery coats
red boots with hearts
playing with dolls houses
making funny faces
cuddles with Grandma
dancing for aunties
piggy backs with big cousins
splashing through muddy places
with her best cousin, Lily,
and getting her little red boots

Friday, 1 January 2010


In the summer we visited a small Italian town
which was supposed to have a wonderful restaurant.
We drove up the steep hill,
parked our car between tiny Fiats
and wandered around the jumble of unmarked streets.

In the central square was a huge poster
consisting of a mosaic of photographs.
Each shot showed a small hut in a field
photographed from exactly the same spot
in different lights and different seasons.

We never did find the restaurant
but went on to a pizzeria in the mountains
and sat watching a fiery sunset.
The images on the poster lingered in my mind
and I decided to adopt the idea
as a project for 2010.

This is the first of my series of photos.
It was taken on Christmas Day, 2009.