Friday, 31 December 2010

foggy, foggy moor

when the fog is so thick
it smothers everything

and there is no sound

no rustle of bracken
or trickle of water

no roosting birds
or crackle of branches

you must trust
the person who knows the way

to lead you home.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

A Confusion of Cousins

MissM has four little girl cousins
and two little boy cousins
and when all the Cornish cousins
meet at Christmas
it is an intense experience.


We have just returned
from a quick trip to Cornwall.
My parents were snowed in for ten days
and we did not know until the last moment
if we would be able to visit.
Thankfully, the snow melted overnight
and so my family could be together
for the first time for over a year.
It was a very special three days.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010


Turkey broth for lunch!


Don't say it like that...
Turkey broth is very nourishing.

Are you mad?
Do you know what is in it?
Turkey bones
Turkey skin
Turkey neck
Turkey head
Turkey claws
and Turkey toeneails.

So that will be a no...

Monday, 27 December 2010

Christmas : Rewind

Milk, butter and fresh breadcrumbs,
a sprig of fresh thyme and a bayleaf,
crushed garlic, cloves, black peppercorns
and a chopped onion.

If you have teenagers
and you still need to wrap presents
you will have plenty of time
on Christmas morning.
Don't ask me how I know this.

MasterM is delighted with
The Rough Guide to Tanzania.

MissM is delighted with
her fuschia pink suede gloves.

MrM is delighted
that MrsM is delighted
with her earrings.

MrsM breaks with tradition
and does not listen to Emma Kirkby
while she cooks lunch
and so she is not in floods of tears
by the time the turkey is cooked.
This is thought to be a good thing.

MrsM is shocked to realise
that she cannot require MasterM, 21,
to eat brussels sprouts.
Not even one.

MasterM eats 9 sausages with his turkey
A personal best.

MrsM is wildly successful
flaming the Christmas pudding.
The flames are spectacular
and the holly on top burns to a cinder.

MissM finds the Bell of Betrothal
in her Christmas Pudding. Again.
MrM looks anxious.

After lunch MrM and MasterM
watch Righteous Kill.
It would not be Christmas
without a helping of gratuitous violence.

MrsM settles down with her new book
Goddens Guide to English Blue and White Porcelain.

As MrsM goes to sleep
she thinks about bread sauce
which she only makes once a year.
Such simple ingredients
and such a delicious taste.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Christmas : Pause

Three Kings
Eric Gill

Last night I stood on the landing
and realised that all four of us
were sleeping under the same roof
for the first time for nearly a year
and at that moment I knew
I already had everything
I wanted for Christmas.

I wish you all safe journeys,
warm homes and a peaceful Christmas.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Christmas : Fast Forward IV

And MrsM did decorate the tree by herself and she was mightily surprised how quickly you can decorate a tree if no-one is arguing about which branch the mouse decorations go on. Verily, she thought, I can do this all by myself but then she came to the tricky bit where she had to decide on the position of the garlands of silver balls and she did wish MissM was there to guide her. And finally MrsM woke up the porcelain angel who slept all year wrapped in her satin wings so that she could hang in her alloted place at the top of the tree. And then MrsM did step back and see that it was acceptable and was glad that she had not given in to her inclination to sit on the sofa all evening.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

MasterM is back in town

Are you sure it is sensible to go to the party?
The snow is very thick.
The trains might be cancelled.
You might get very cold...
maybe even pneumonia.
If you really have to go
you must take wellington boots
AND a hat
AND gloves.
Do you have enough money?
What about a phone?
Why are you taking that Santa outfit?

Settle your petals,
I am 21 now.

MrsM wrings her hands
and starts some baking therapy
consoled by her trusty iPod.

Image from:
Golden Age Paintings
Thank you, Hermes!

Friday, 17 December 2010

at the end of the day

This young man standing at my door, looking slightly dazed, has just been examined on his thesis. It was a two hour analysis of his research by two academic experts and was the culmination of three and a half years of fieldwork, reading, writing, rewriting, rerewriting. He has passed with distinction and I am the first person that he has seen since he stepped out of the room where the viva was held.

I grasp him by the hand and congratulate him...he is Dr now and will never be plain Mr again. We talk about his plans for the future and I know that he will work hard and be successful on whatever road he chooses to travel.

Finally, he gets the bound thesis out of his bag and shows me the front page where my name is included in the acknowledgements. It is completely unexpected and I try to think what I could have done that would be worthy of such a privilege. The only thing that I can think of is that I listened to him and encouraged him.

And I am overcome.

Christmas : Fast Forward III

I have reached the stage in life
when I can accept that my mince pies
are not as good as my mother's mince pies.

Mine are good but hers are better.

There...I said it without grinding my teeth
and I see this as a positive development.

Next week I will do a comparative study
assisted by some volunteers in the Department
but I am not holding out much hope
for my Special (but not special enough) Recipe.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Cracked Plate

Pattern 31
Hicks & Meigh - active 1806 to 1822

When I worked in the China Shop I was taught to test for imperfections. I would run my finger carefully around the rim to feel for tiny chips and tilt the plate in the light looking for flaws in the glaze. If the plate was not perfect it would be put aside and sold as a second. In those days, when I was young, I would not have dreamed of buying cracked china - only perfect was good enough.

Now I find myself drawn to china that has flaws.

This is a Georgian plate with an uncommon pattern and you can see that the clay separated at some point in the firing process creating a crack under the glaze. Despite this flaw it has been looked after carefully over the past 200 years because the glaze is bright and undamaged and the fluted edge is not rubbed as it would have been if it was kept in a pile of plates. I think that it is the imperfection that makes it interesting and is probably the reason it is in such good condition.

Is there a moral to this story that we should ponder?


but I prefer to focus on the facts that I spent twenty entertaining minutes with the wildly eccentric antique shop owner and I only paid £2 for the plate. And I think it is beautiful - even with a crack. No?

First Aid for Geographers

Baines and Humphrey killing a crocodile
© Royal Geographical Society with IBG

O People of Blogland
do you remember the mad sock man?
I bring good tidings!
The mad sock man has an older brother
and he comes out of the wilderness
to teach First Aid to Geographers.

Wilderness Man wears three shades of sand:
Gobi sand trousers;
Kalahari sand shirts
and Negev sand waistcoat.
The waistcoat is accessorized with badges multiple
(think of an extreme outdoors organisation
and the badge is there looking weatherbeaten);
carabiners dangle from pockets
and the belt has three pouches of different sizes
which have obviously been hand crafted
from deer? bison? musk ox? that he has shot.
He has different sized multi task tools
for different environments
(city/high altitude/white water rivers)
but they are all useless in comparision
to the handforged knife with carved handle
that has travelled with him since he was a lad.
His mates have all served in Special Forces
and so he can do surgery
using only gaffer tape and pieces of roll mat.
It is a matter of minutes to make a stretcher
out of 40m of rope and some pebbles.

Wilderness Man introduces himself and then begins:
"First, you must assess the scene...
if your casualty has been attacked by a rogue crocodile
you are in immediate danger
and your priority is to send someone with a shotgun
to kill the crocodile and make the scene safe...."

MrsM sighs and leans back in her seat.
At last...a first aid course
that is suitable for her needs.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Christmas : Fast Forward II

On Saturday morning
MrM and MrsM went to the Garden Centre.
And so did the World and His Wife.
MrsM stayed calm and showed MrM
where her secret parking place was
and lo! the World and His Wife had not discovered it.

And then MrM and MrsM took a deep breath
and went into the Garden Centre.

They bought:

and then they went to the express till
and were back in the car in twenty minutes.

Which left them plenty of time
to stop off at the supermarket
to buy mince pies and brandy butter
so that they could steady their nerves.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Christmas : Fast Forward I

MrsM dreams of the day
when she will be able to offer
a blog tutorial.

In fact, if MrsM is honest,
it is her ultimate goal in life.

She knows so many clever people
who carelessly toss off tutorials
about wrangling wire, dominating wool
upskilling paper and creating sunshine
that it makes her feel a tiny bit inadequate.

MrsM considers what she could offer:

how to complete an expenses form
short term contracts for laboratory assistants
variations on field trip insurance
attendance monitoring made easy

MrsM reluctantly admits
that these may not be
as fascinating to you
as they are to her.

So there is only one thing left
for MrsM to offer...

How to Line a Christmas Cake Tin.

Please don't tell Sue
that I have only just made my cake...
she will have a hissy fit.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

The Department Christmas Party

MrsM left the pub
after the Christmas lunch party and sighed...

"What a shame it is all over for another year"
she thought...

and then she went home
because MrM was waiting for his supper.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Future Uncertain

"The government has survived a revolt by Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs over its plans to increase university tuition fees in England. The policy was approved by 21 votes, with the coalition's majority cut by almost three-quarters following an impassioned five-hour Commons debate. Three ministerial aides quit the government in order to vote against it. The coalition motion, backed by 323 votes to 302, would raise fees to a maximum of £9,000 a year."

extract from BBC report, Thursday 9 December 2010


And now, the Department
must learn to live
in this Brave New World.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

A Glimpse of Sunshine


This is my contribution
to the December issue of
Silverpebble's Splash of Colour.


Clarice Cliff...

Blue Daisy

crazy shapes...
crazy colours...


what's not to like?

Canterbury Bells

I'll have a tisane, Miss Lemon.

Actually, could you make that a Lemsip
because I am feeling feeble
and I must be well for the Christmas Party.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

It must be Christmas...

...there are silver stars and tinsel;

fairy lights and streamers...

and lo!

the Department Office
has been converted into
a Daniel Craig grotto.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010


Don't be jealous...

I met up with Val!
and Gina!
and Emma!

I know what you are going to ask!!
What did we talk about?
World Peace?

I have no idea...
I completely ignored
Val, Gina and Emma
because I was entranced
by the tiny Miss SilverPebble
in her flowery dungarees.

And afterwards I realised
that I have become very slack
about taking blog photos
so I had to go and chat up
the lovely man on the pastry stall
and persuade him to let me take some photos
so that I would have some evidence
that I spent the day in Cambridge.

And then, obviously, I had to buy
a pear danish pastry
for my supper did not survive the journey home
Just as well I took the photos before I left.

Thank you Val, Gina and Emma
it was so lovely to see you all again.

Monday, 6 December 2010

very, very, very, very

If you are tired and fractious
...or, as in my case,
very tired and very fractious

you should get out your rolling pin
and roll pastry into smooth sheets
and drape in a pie dish

and peel squeaky green apples
and toss the slices in spicy sugar
and rub butter into flour
to make a snowy crumble topping...

and at some point in the process
tranquility will find you.

It worked for me.


I am very behind with my emails.

I am very sorry...
it is nearly the end of term
and there don't seem to be
enough hours in the day.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Each Peach Pear Plum

Once upon a time
I did not know about pumpkins at Halloween
or pecan pie at Thanksgiving
or even if there were clementines
in the wild Mid West
but now I have friends
in every corner of the United States.

Allison in New England

Jen in the Mid West

Lynn in the Ozarks

Sarah in Maryland

Christina in a College Town
and Christy at the edge of a chalk board

Quinn, farmer, photographer, Geographer

bb in Tuvalu

Eurolush, American abroad

Kathe on the edge of the Chesapeake

Breadbox somewhere hot

And all of you
who visit and leave such friendly messages
with laughter, insight and encouragement.

Thank you

Thursday, 2 December 2010

MasterM, 21

Today MasterM is celebrating his birthday
somewhere on the Orange River.

We send him our love,
this adventurous young man
with a passionate zest for life
who is our son.

We have learned much from MasterM
but most of all he has taught us
that if you are brave enough
you can make dreams come true.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

first impressions

Basket of Oranges
Eloise Harriet Stannard (1829 - 1915)

When MrsM took MrM home to meet her family
for the very first time
it was an important occasion.

MrM took the opportunity to demonstrate
the versatility of orange peel
and the sight of him
grinning over the teacups
with bright orange teeth
is burned into her memory.

As is the heart-stopping moment
when the bright orange moustache
disengaged from his nose
and splashed into the teacup below.

MrsM notes that she gave up eating oranges
around about this time in her life.