Wednesday, 31 August 2011

MrsM, mentor

Two months ago
MrsM was asked to mentor a young manager
and help increase his confidence.

Today she received an unexpected email:

"Dear Alice

D. is finding your time extremely beneficial!


MrsM ponders this and decides that
the most beneficial session of all
was probably the one when she confessed
that when she started in her first Department
she knew so little about computers
she used to hide in the stationery cupboard
and read "Microsoft Office for Dummies".

MrsM is weak on management theory
but she knows how to harness
the power of schadenfreude.

Trivial Pursuits

It's Wednesday.
I am brain dead already.
I am disappointed with myself.

We could discuss 'One Day'
and Anne Hathaway's boots
(Scot, I thought of you)
but I haven't got the energy.
Shall we just look at sugar-pink dahlias?

In other news...
MissM has new Peridot nail polish.
It's green! It's gold!

I am going to a tea party on Thursday...
is there a cake making fairy out there?
If not, I'm going to have to get up early.

Oh...and could someone select my spring bulbs
there is far too much choice.

Shall we not talk about
the anxious call from MissM's granny...
offering to buy a hockey stick...


Thank you so much for your response
on the Student Finance post.
You realised that it was a joke
and made MissM laugh
with your comments.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

the quest for beauty

every year when I go to the local show
I am amazed by the artistry of the man
who grows these fruit and vegetables.

each entry is displayed
with meticulous attention to detail

sizes are evenly matched,
colours chosen to complement
and angles carefully aligned

and I am reminded again
that the simplest of tasks
can be an opportunity
to create works of art

Monday, 29 August 2011

Student Finance

MrM you understand
how we are organising your finance
when you are at university?
What happens if I want to buy
sports equipment?

(Virginia Frances Sterrett)

Like golf clubs?
I don't think that is very likely...
but if I wanted to buy a squash racket?
You could have my squash racket.

(Edmund Dulac)

What about a hockey stick?
You have your old hockey stick from school.

(Umberto Brunelleschi)

And a pole?
MrM and MrsM
A pole???

(Leon Bakst)

For pole dancing.
I've heard that it is very empowering
and there is a club at uni.

(Leon Bakst)

MrM (faintly)
We would pay for the pole
because that is...errr...

Friday, 26 August 2011

Irresistible Temptation

I went to supper with Ali
and it was all delicious
and then we had macarons.

I said "I MUST photograph them"
and she said "It's too dark"
and I said "I think you are wrong"

Ali was right.
Of course.
I have known her for four years now...
I should have known better.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

MissM takes charge

Interior of the Hermitage Library
Tyranov Alexei Vasilyevich

Did you collect my books from the library?
Yes...and I paid your fine.
Sorry about that
Don't treat.


I don't think that I can bear
to let MissM go to university...
the house will be too quiet without her.
Back me up, people.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

time for tea

You know that person who won't drink coffee
because it stops them sleeping?

Thomas Wolfe (1810)

And asks for herbal tea
when you only have PG Tips?

Davenport (1820)

I have become that person overnight
and it is giving me nightmares

Royal Worcester (1931)

I will have to swallow
my harsh words to my sisters
(I am hoping they will not be smug)

Herculaneum Factory (1815)

and start carrying green tea
in a special little case in my bag.

Minton (1897)

This is not my life
as I would like it to be.

My body is letting me down.


all photos © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

I would like to record my gratitude again
to the Victoria and Albert Museum
for their enlightened attitude to image use.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

landscapes of the mind

A long time ago
when we were just married
and we had no money at all
there was a beautiful brass jardinière
in the window of an antique shop.

Every time we walked past
we stopped to look at it
and felt sick with wanting it.

One day we decided that
even though we had no money
we must find a way to buy the jardinière.

It had been sold the day before.

I have been searching for my jardinière ever since.

This one came from the Tavistock pannier market
It cost £14.50 and I know it was a bargain
but I am still looking for my jardinière
in the windows of antique shops.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Raspberry Cake

This is not the Raspberry cake
that was packed into a rucksack
and eaten under a tarpaulin
by hungry archaeologists on Thursday...
it is the next Raspberry cake
which was packed into a picnic basket
and eaten in a sunny meadow
by the lovely Miss Maisie on Sunday.

It is a new recipe this summer
but already it has lots of happy memories
which will make it taste sweeter.

Friday, 19 August 2011


Thursday, 18 August 2011

busy, busy, busy

bake raspberry cake
pack picnic basket
waterproof coat
walking boots
serious socks

Off to visit archaeologists in the wild.

Back tomorrow!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Snow Storm in August

MrM and MrsM discuss the Christmas (2010) Turkish Delight and agree that it must be eaten to make room for the Christmas (2011) Turkish Delight. This is referred to as 'Just in Time' Stock Management. MissM has not eaten Turkish Delight since she read "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe". MrM and MrsM are oblivious to MissM's disapproval...MrM is trying to find the little wooden fork at the bottom of the box and MrsM is trying to work out which is the pistachio flavour without covering the house in icing sugar. They are both failing.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

wish you were here too

I went to Kew today
with Kristina and Tracy
and we had a lovely day
walking in the sunshine.

We talked about all our friends:
Ali, Monica, Val, Gina
Emma, Driftwood,Diana,
Coffee Lady, Helen, Jackie,
Cathy, Lucille, Amaranthine,
Pomona, Trash, Rachel and Sue;

we thought of Nancy in France
getting ready for her wedding

and we remembered friends far away
Mary, Tracey, fifi, Suse,
RW, Lynn, Eleanor,
bb, Paola, Scot, Christy
Zephyr, Kathe, Bobby, Ginnie,
Ellen, Readersguide and Baa-Me knits

Aaaarrrghh...why did nobody mention
that I had missed JEN off the list???

and all you lovely people
who leave comments without email addresses
Toffeeapple, Janine, Jane Gray,
Lilli, Amy, Laura,
Melanie, Iris, Ruth,
planetcoops and Hairy Puffball

and we wished you could all be with us
(except Nancy who needs to be in France)


Please forgive me
if I have missed your name
you were with us too!

I plan to put links to all of your blogs
but I have run out of time tonight.

Monday, 15 August 2011

field margins

We walk through the green heart of Kent

and on every side there are
orchards, hop yards and fields of wheat
ready for harvest,

above our heads
sloes, rosehips and elderberries
ripen in the hedgerows.

I know what this means
but I choose to look away,

and look down at the field margins,
at the wild flowers of summer.

I refuse to feel sad today.

Friday, 12 August 2011


I see the rings
casually abandoned
on the mantlepiece
(memories trapped
like flies in amber)
and I am glad because
they are not mine,
they are hers.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

MissM makes Blueberry Cake


So...what do I do next
sort of spread it on the top?
Smoosh it around?
Like this?

Don't look at me like that...
I know you want to do it.
This is causing you pain, isn't it?
You are such a control freak...
if you wanted to smoosh the icing
you should have made your own cake.

Where do I put the blueberries?
"scatter them casually"..
What are you talking about?
You are just being weird now.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

rose pink

in need of distraction

I file my holiday photos

and discover these images of flowers

which I took for you

a welcome opportunity

to revisit tranquil places

Château de Chambord

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The New Sofa

Marriage a la Mode : The Toilette
William Hogarth


No sitting, lying or standing on the arms.

Ice lolly sticks, olive stones and grape pips
must not be hidden down the sides.

Wine glasses should not be balanced
on books on the arms.

Darning needles and dressmaking pins
must not be 'stored' on the arms.

Pizzas, Chinese and Indian takeaways
chocolate biscuits and peanut butter on toast
must not be eaten.

Ribena, Coca-Cola, Irn Bru, Pimms
and other highly coloured beverages
must not be drunk.

No wrestling.

No jumping.

Wellington Boots must be removed.

MrsM gets first choice of where to sit.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Visions of Love

My mother-in-law, Audrey,
was born into a clerical family.
She grew up in a large country vicarage
but by the time she was 19 they had moved
to the precincts of Lincoln Cathedral.

Audrey has told me that she was walking
through the Cathedral precincts one day
when she turned to her mother and pointed
to a young man walking towards them
"I don't know who that man is
but that is the man
that I am going to marry."

That young man was Thomas.

Thomas and Audrey married in Lincoln Cathedral
when Audrey was only slightly older than MissM
and celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary last year.
Yesterday we celebrated Thomas' 80th Birthday.

Happy Birthday, Thomas.
We send you our love
on this the feast day of
St. Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney,
patron saint of parish priests.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Happy Birthday, Kathe!

Today I am thinking of my lovely friend, Kathe.

It is two years since I first wrote to her
and I am so very glad that I did.

It is her special birthday
and all her family will be with her.
for a joyous celebration
with cake and champagne
and gratitude for life.

I send you my love
sweet Kathe K
in your beautiful house
on the edge of Chesapeake Bay.

Friday, 5 August 2011

night flight

There is an unending stream of sunburned people walking through the Arrivals Lounge: maxi dresses, accent colours, gladiator sandals, little girls with hot pink suitcases and little boys with gruffalo suitcases. You might think that I would be blasé after so many trips to the airport but I still see the people who wait and watch for the people they are waiting for.

Here is a mother greeting her son with hugs and kisses and then finally turning to his girlfriend who is standing uncomfortably with her suitcase to shake her hand. This saddens me but then I see a young mother and her daughter wait patiently and finally greet a woman who is clearly the grandmother. The grandmother stops and gives her full attention to the little girl and I understand why she had waited so patiently, so late at night, with her little cuddly dog beside her. Here, right next to me, is a tall young man. He waits anxiously. Eventually, a beautiful girl walks through the doors and sees him immediately. They are right next to me and it is impossible not to overhear her say "I am so tired" and he replies "But you still look gorgeous".

And then none of this matters because here are MissM and the Sassy MissS with their rucksacks and flipflops, safely home after their great adventure. There are bags to unpack and stories to tell but those can wait for tomorrow. It is time to go home.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

A Perfect Summer Day

At midday I reflect that in another life
I would have been sitting in the garden
and not in my office with the blinds drawn
surrounded by spreadsheets and invoices
and at that moment working full time
does not seem such a good idea.

At the end of the day
I stop by the office of the Admissions Tutor
and we talk of this and that and he says
"The great thing about this Department is that
you can always have a laugh about something"

and I know that despite all I have given up
I have got more than enough in return.