Thursday, 30 September 2010

Champagne Moment

You should always keep
a bottle of champagne in the fridge
because... never know when your daughter
is going to get her first job offer.


if you can guess where it is
please don't mention the name

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

This Is Just To Say...

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

High Knowledge

MrsM is waiting for a train with MissM.
They are surrounded by people dressed for the City.




Oh yes...
Reverse Heel...
Very Sixties...
Modernism and all that...

MrsM is crushed.
How does MissM know these things?

Monday, 27 September 2010


I know that Ali will be writing a detailed review of our visit to Origin at Old Spitalfields Market but I wanted to say what a privilege it was to accompany her. Ali is extremely knowledgeable about crafts and regularly visits exhibitions. She recognises exhibitors, can reference magazine articles and discuss themes which are inspiring them. The exhibitors respond to this with enthusiasm and are delighted to display their work and talk about exhibitions which have featured their work. One lovely exhibitor sighed and said "It is so refreshing to have an intelligent conversation!"

I was fascinated by the exhibitors as we walked around. They had stepped out of their workrooms to present their work to a wider public and they were part of their own display. There were textile artists wearing their scarves, milliners in extraordinary hats, jewellers glittering. My favourite was the Japanese ceramicist in a complex linen shift - when I held her featherlight bowls and turned them so that the cobalt glaze caught the light she smiled because she could see that I loved her work and it did not matter that I could not afford it.

I came away with a bowl and a mug by Sue Binns, a beret for MissM by Jo Gordon and a number of business cards.

I also came away with a completely different attitude to craft exhibitions. If you get the chance to visit Origin before it closes on Wednesday, seize it.

Ali, thank you for inviting me.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Saturday Lunch with Ali

Calm down, people,
it was Sausages and Mash
although I can't prove it
because the sausages were too artfully arranged
for a respectable photograph.


Warning for MrM:
The comment delete button will be on red alert today.

Friday, 24 September 2010

(just for the record)

The Freshers Week Edition

The new student did turn up after all.
The Admissions Tutor wins the bet and claims his £10.
I will get it back next time.

A distraught President of the GeogSoc wails
"I have 150 students waiting for a drink
and NO corkscrew!"
I turn to my cupboard.

I greet a Fresher and he looks confused.
"How did you know my name?"
I remind him that he came to my office at lunchtime.
Apparently lunchtime is already a long time ago.

Brad is looking city sharp
in his Baker Boy cap, red shirt and leather tie.
"Will they know that I am a Cultural Geographer?"

The new PhD student from Canada
has flaming Titian hair and dramatic clothes.
I am going to enjoy watching her wardrobe.

"We can't find the way out!"
As I give them directions
I realise that the two young men accompanying her
don't seem to be taking any notice of me.

On my way across campus
I spot the Hockey Society promotional campaign.
Behind the placard "Hockey Loves You!"
are three very attractive students in short skirts.
It could be a good year for the Hockey team.

MissM meets up with the Glamorous MissI
and other friends from school who have started as Freshers.
She is thrown out of the Union because she has no ID.
The excitement!

The academic who will be 41 very soon
is at a conference in Italy.
He claims that he would rather be with us.

All the lights are on in the corridor
and the sound of tutorial meetings
leaks out of the offices.

I meet the new Scottish academic
and ask him if it is busy enough for him
"It is perking up nicely" he replies.

In a moment of absolute quiet
a blackbird starts singing on the roof of the Department
and I am reminded once again
that in my search for an interesting life
I have accidentally found happiness.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Beloved Readers

Listen up y'all...

It is Freshers Week...

the Department is thronging with new students
and there are multiple invites to evening receptions.

I post a boring photo of porridge
and expect a day of stunned silence...

but you respond with pages of
scintillating and enthusiastic comments.
What are you all like?
Air kisses all round.

and fyi...

MrM doing porridge.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Zen and the Art of Making Porridge

The prospect of making porridge annoys me
but the measuring of the oats
and the gentle stirring
and the warm, malty smell
all combine to make a soothing start to the day.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Oh, Whistle, And I'll Come To You, My Lad

The Harbour Flare (1879)

Several months ago a friend recommended
the classic ghost stories written by M.R. James.
Shortly afterwards, I was staying at the cottage
and a complete edition was on the shelf
so I read it from cover to cover,
seriously affecting my ability to sleep at night.

Evening Shadows (1881)

When I got home I fully intended to write a post
sparkling with critical analysis of the genre
but I got distracted.
Such is the story of my life.

Scarborough (1882)

Then my good blog friend, Hermes,
published pictures by John Atkinson Grimshaw
which were perfect as illustrations
and the post which would establish my reputation
as a discerning reader of literature
formed in my mind.

Wimbledon Park, Autumn After Glow (1866)

I wrote to Hermes and asked his permission
to use pictures from his blog
and he replied most generously.

Alas! the post sank without trace
because there were pictures of plates
and discussions about cake which took priority.

Dulce Domum (1885)

Hermes decided that something had to be done
so he flooded his blog with fabulous paintings
by John Atkinson Grimshaw to tempt me.
It was an embarrassment of riches.
Thank you Hermes!

A Manor House in Autumn (1881)

And the book?
Read it!
It will change your life...
I can guarantee you will never again
put your hand under the pillow
without the light on.

Monday, 20 September 2010

the world comes to me

The young academic who went to Iceland
has just returned from the border of China.

He tells me that while he was in China
he went up onto the Tibetan plateau for the first time
and after he has told me of the mountains
I ask him something that I have always wanted to know
"Is it true that everywhere you go in Tibet they are flying kites?"
He assures me that it is true
and the kites fly so high that they are dots
in the clear Himalayan skies.

The image of the kites stays with me all day
as I prepare for the start of term
and once again I am grateful that my office walls
reach to the farthest edges of the world .

Friday, 17 September 2010

Bragging Rights

We are going to see Tamara Drewe this weekend
so that I can admire my god-daughter, Charlotte.

I am so proud of the determination that she has shown
to seize this opportunity and make the most of it.
I hope that it is the first of many film premieres.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

(just for the record)

The academic who dreamed of golf courses
is dressed in the suit that he wears to weddings
with the tie that he keeps for special occasions.

He whispers that he did not sleep last night
because he was so worried about his speech.
I whisper back that I did not sleep either
because I wanted everything to be perfect for him.

He asks who is coming.
I tell him that all his friends will be there
He shrugs and suggests that it will a quiet event.
I tell him to expect a room full.

The Head of the Academic Services Review is there
He can remember getting phone calls
when he skipped lectures as an undergraduate.

The Head of Department reminisces about the time
that they were stuck in the African sands together.

The Deputy Principal teases him about his office
which was archaeological in appearance
with layer upon layer of paperwork and books
carefully stacked and undisturbed.

He starts his speech nervously
and immediately turns to his beautiful wife
who was a student when he was a young lecturer.
"Meeting my wife was the turning point of my life" he says,
they smile at each other and the nerves vanish.

He flourishes his briefcase,
a veteran of 40 years service,
battered and unpolished,
and walking boots of similar vintage.

Stories of exotic illnesses around the globe
cause his audience, who have just eaten lunch,
to wince and look out of the windows.

He mentions the famous cricket match
in which a Professor was out in ignominious circumstances
The Professor confesses afterwards that he didn't know
whether to laugh or cry at the memory.

After the presentation of the formal gifts
he opens the unusually heavy gift.
"Surely it is not a theodolite" he says.
But it is a theodolite
with a message from his friends on a brass plaque.

We raise our glasses to this modest man,
friend and colleague to us all,
who has given forty years of service to the Department
and wish him happiness in his retirement.

And then the academic who dreamed of golf courses
gives me a hug, gets into his car
and sets off to improve his handicap.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The Celebration Plate

Dear Janet,

Many thanks for the cheque that you sent for our wedding anniversary - it was so kind of you to remember the date. What a lovely idea to suggest that we use the money to buy ourselves a drink! I wanted you to know that after I had agreed a lower price for this plate with Mr Theobald in Gabor Cossas there was just enough left over for MrM to buy a pint of Guinness.

with much love

Alice x

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

the shadow of mountains

Water Lilies

If you have forgotten water lilies floating
On a dark lake among mountains in the afternoon shade,
If you have forgotten their wet, sleepy fragrance,
Then you can return and not be afraid.

But if you remember, then turn away forever
To the plains and the prairies where pools are far apart,
There you will not come at dusk on closing water lilies,
And the shadow of mountains will not fall on your heart.

Sara Teasdale

Monday, 13 September 2010

Cambridge by night

This was the first outing for my new camera.

My old camera is like an extension of my hand
and I can concentrate on capturing an image.

Unfortunately, it has low resolution and minimal features
and I had become bored with taking photos.

The new camera is only slightly larger
but it is taking me a while
to find the dials and small switches.

I thought that if I took it out at night
no-one would notice me fumbling

and accidentally taking pictures of my feet.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

family chit-chat

email from my sister D

"...I went to the Surfers Against Sewage ball last Saturday as Kill Bill in my yellow all in one pvc catsuit and samurai sword..."

Friday, 10 September 2010

Winter Sports in Dubai

MissM has returned from Dubai
with tales of a strange and wonderful world.

She shopped for jewellery in a gold souk,

bought camel milk chocolate for MrM
from the tallest building in the world,

ate in a restaurant with a choice of steak knives...

shared henna tattoos with her lovely friends

Strangest of all,
she went tobogganing and skiing
when the temperature outside was 48 degrees

and skated all day,
closely supervised by The Sheikh.

Many thanks to Ros and David
who were the most generous hosts
and to the Sassy MissS and the Talented MissA.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Blue Hibiscus

Wedgwood Hibiscus 1805

This plate was on the floor by the door
and the thought that someone in a rush
could have stepped on it made me feel faint.
I watched like a hawk as the elderly man
wrapped it carelessly in crumpled newspaper
while he talked to his friend on the phone
and then hastily paid the money.
It is a very rare pattern
and now it is safe.


I have loved beautiful china ever since I can remember. I have the same visceral response to china that some people have to fabric or yarn, books or flowers. If I am watching a film I am easily distracted by the china and the perspective of a painting is distorted by a table setting. I can still visualise the patterns of china that were part of my childhood.

It isn't an is a lifelong passion.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010


We followed everyone else to the White Garden

and appreciated the delicate blue Aster border

and wondered at the Nuttery

and climbed the tower to see the garden in the landscape

but it was the hot borders that we loved:

pulsating plantings of sunshine yellow and flame orange;

an extravagant compression of fiery petals.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

A Silver Day

I'm glad that I snapped you up all those years ago.

Well, I am glad that you snapped me up too.

It wouldn't have been half so much fun without you.

It wouldn't have been much fun for me either.

We were married twenty five years ago
but that time has passed in a flash.

I am grateful for every single day.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Summer's Lease...

I am back from the peace of the little cottage.

I slept and read for a week

and watched the fields change

from summer to autumn.

I have never been so grateful for a holiday.


Thank you all for your very kind messages.
It is going to take me a while to catch up with my email
but I wanted you to know how much I appreciated them.