Monday, 31 October 2011

Fingers and Toes

Here is a photograph
of the scrumptious little MasterA
wearing the jumper wot I knit.

Gaze upon it,
admire those chubby little fingers
and chat amongst yourselves
while I write grateful replies
to the astonishing and moving comments
that I received yesterday.

Sunday, 30 October 2011


Even though I have been writing for over four years
I can remember most of my posts
and so I thought that
it would be easy to do the archive meme
that I saw first on Useful or Beautiful.
I was wrong. It is very difficult.

What is your most popular post?
by a country mile...
but I suspect that the Geologists who arrive
looking for a technical discussion of yardangs
are bitterly disappointed.

Which post's success surprised you most?
Zen and the Art of Making Porridge
I wrote it because I was so busy
that I couldn't think
of anything else to write about.

Which post are you proudest of?
A Humble Beginning
I created the whole of the Magpie Files
in my head before I started
and then I wrote it down,
day by day, for two years.
This is the post where I set out my stall.

As for the other categories...

What is your most beautiful post?
What is your most controversial post?
What is your most helpful post?
Which of your post do you feel
didn't get the attention it deserved?

...I have no idea.

I feel that it is an enormous privilege
to have so many loyal readers and friends.
There is not much controversy in my writing
and certainly no mouthwatering recipes,
inspirational knitting or sewing.
book reviews or beautiful photography.
I sometimes think that all of my posts
get more attention than they deserve
but I write on. Thank you for reading.

The thing that I would love to know
is which was the very first post that you read
on The Magpie Files
or ...the sight of morning...

Friday, 28 October 2011

Button Drama

All good knitting stories
end with the sentence:

"...and then I found
the perfect little vintage button
in my button box."

this knitting story ends with a saga:

disappointment (no vintage buttons!)
anxiety (no button shops on campus!)
danger (visit to grimy end of town!)
indecision (which buttons ????)
multiple purchasing (more indecision!)

if anyone wants square buttons,
pearl four hole buttons,
elephant shaped buttons,
heart shaped buttons,
flower shaped buttons
wood two hole buttons
I'm your woman
because I went with the
pearlised round two hole buttons.

I hope the baby agrees with my choice.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

unexpected gifts

My white camellia is flowering!
In October!

I am enchanted until I realise
that it might not bloom again in Spring.
So I cut a bloom in the damp early morning
and photograph it to help me remember
the bright perfection for another year.

This post is for Diktynna
whose email was so welcome
in a busy, noisy day.
Thank you.

Meanwhile South Africa...

...MasterM is starting end-of-year exams...

could you keep your fingers crossed
until I let you know otherwise.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Look Away NOW, MrM

The academic who was 41 is now 42.

I promised to make him a cake
and I asked him what
his favourite flavour was.

The academic who is now 42 said:

Please don't try and imagine
my subsequent conversation with MrM.
Especially not the allegation of
"cruel and unreasonable behaviour".
I want to maintain the image
of an untroubled married life.

Monday, 24 October 2011

ochre, teal and lime

I thought that you would like to see the throw that I bought from Studio Donegal which exactly matches the cushions on my sofa and so I plumped the cushions and dusted the table and arranged the orchids carefully and took a photo which shows the sofa and the cushions and the table and the orchids but not the throw so you will have to take my word for it.

Clearly I am not destined to photograph home interiors.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Shades of Red

What do red nails mean to you?

To me they mean
freedom from a lifetime
of biting my nails
and honouring my decision
to enjoy life.

But I didn't tell the nail lady that...
I just pretended
I wear red nail polish
all the time.

Even though it was the first time ever.

Friday, 21 October 2011

remembering Sarah

It is late at night.
MrsM is enjoying idle banter
with her twitter pals:
@LadyoftheLattes; @silverpebble2;
@TheListwriter and @driftwood_daisy
They are discussing @poshyarns apple cake
and other stuff.

Suddenly it all gets serious.

says quietly *are you running?*

replies bashfully
"carefully - but building up stamina."

...reckon I could persuade you
to join in 5k Race for Life next year?
we can wear ponchos. :-)

Aaaargh...don't do this to me...

we can have Kettle chips
and sparking wine
waiting at the other end. :-)

OK - its a deal
but only if you are serious
about the
Kettle chips



I will run with Sarah's name on my back.
Because she can't run in the sunshine anymore.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Birdcage Walk

I think we have all worked hard this week.

Shall we just look
at photos of bird cages today?

Perhaps we could have
some background music?
Nothing too demanding.

In my next life
I am planning to have
a greenhouse just for orchids.
White orchids.

I shall hang a choice selection
of ivory vintage bird cages
and the effect will be charming.

You are all invited.
There will probably be cake.
Frangipanes, I think.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Receiving Visitors

Welcome to my visitors from the Decor8 online course "Blogging Your Way" - I am flattered to be included ... thank you to whoever recommended this blog.

My only tip to new writers is to look at other blogs and see the wonderful variety of writing styles and this should make you feel more confident as you start to create your own written space. The best resource on this blog is the blog roll in the side bar. So many fascinating blogs, friends who write passionately about their families and jobs, the worlds that they live in and the challenges that they face.

Let us dip into some of them...

these are my friends writing about their sons:

Each of us writes about our son in a different way - this will partly be determined by their age and by the boundaries that we have set to protect their privacy but in every case it is our love that makes the writing shine and ensures that the words remain in the memory of the reader.

Good luck with your own writing!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


a Sunday morning
before the crowds arrive...
what to do?

around Queen Square
and up George Street

down Milsom Street
and along Quiet Street
to drink coffee in a bookshop

around the Circus,
along the Royal Crescent
and back past the Assembly Rooms

down Walcot Street to the Bell
to listen to Phil King

down to the Sydney Gardens
to explore the Holburne museum
and admire the netsuke

and then across Pulteney bridge
to the London Road...

and all day long
the sun shone
in a cobalt sky

Monday, 17 October 2011

a pool of sunshine

"I urge you
to please notice
when you are happy,
and exclaim or murmur
or think at some point,
'If this isn't nice,
I don't know what is'"

Kurt Vonnegut
A Man Without A Country


MrM took me to Bath
for a day out on Sunday.
He went to great lengths
to choose things to do
that he hoped I would enjoy.
As we walked down
Great Pulteney Street
in the autumn sunshine
I thought
"This is what it is like to be loved."

Friday, 14 October 2011

view from the bus stop

In the evening
the sun illuminates the west side
and the red brick glows.
It still surprises and delights me,
this vast Victorian 'chateau',
I must photograph it more often.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Comfort Food

Don't judge me...
it's Wednesday
and I've been to the gym...
I can think about
apple and walnut pie
if I want to.

And cream.
Or maybe custard.
Or possibly ice cream.

It is a shame it's Wednesday
and there is just fruit
for pudding tonight.
Roll on Sunday.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Sparkles on Tuesday

Open a bottle of wine immediately!!
Hold your horses, it's only Tuesday.
Never mind that, I'm celebrating!!
You can't celebrate by yourself
I want to join in too.
What are we celebrating?
My lovely friend Emma

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

the world comes to me

The Miracle of St.George of the Dragon
XVIth century
Kukasovo, Karelia

My friend, the Deputy Exams Officer,
travelled to Finland and Russia in September
and came back with wonderful photos
of birch forests and lakes,
small villages and impressive cities,
tiny skete and imposing cathedrals.

As he described the fascinating interiors
of the churches and monasteries
I thought of my friend RW
who has written about
the sacred liturgy of her community
and helped me to understand a little
of the life of the Orthodox Church in Canada.

This post is for RW
with thanks for her continued friendship
and inspiring photography on her own blogs
an acceptable time
West of Hope

Monday, 10 October 2011

note to self

Always brush your hair
before going to the supermarket
in case you meet your hairdresser
looking fabulous in an updo.
Remember how hurt she looks
to see her painstaking cut
destroyed by your abysmal haircare
and lack of appropriate product.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

setting the table

When MissM is at home
she always sets the table.

La Table dans la versure (1926)

I love to watch her select the mats,
arrange the plates and fill the water jug.
Even the way she lays out the knives
with the blades pointing outwards
has a personal touch.

La Table d'automne (1924)

MissM has always known
that setting the table
is about more than making sure
there is cutlery to eat with
and glasses to drink from.

La Nappe rose (1924)

My parents taught me
and I have taught my children
that every opportunity
to eat together as a family
should be treasured.

Petite table au pavillon (1935)

Henri Le Sidaner (1862-1939)

Friday, 7 October 2011


Did I mention that last Friday
we celebrated Cheesecake Day?
It was Jenny's birthday and she organised
a party pack of cheesecakes for us to share.

They arrived the day before
all packaged up in their frosty perfection
and I generously offered the use of my fridge.
To my surprise and disappointment
she hastily said no and locked them away
in the laboratory cold store.

The next day Jenny invited
the Operations Manager and her Crew,
the Administration Team,
and some hungry postgraduates
and we politely tried samples
of as many flavours as possible.

And all the time we were thinking

If only every day was Cheesecake Day."

English Cheesecake Company

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Remarkable Creatures

I was between two serious books and I needed something light from the to-be-read pile to refresh the mental palate. I'm embarrassed to admit that I can't remember who gave me 'Remarkable Creatures' by Tracy Chevalier but it was a good choice. Fossils, feisty Victorian women, the beautiful Dorset coastline and a trip to the Geological Society...what's not to like? I enjoyed the assured way that the characters were developed and the confident handling of the two narrative voices. Now I am almost tempted to brave the hordes of schoolchildren in the Natural History Museum to look at the fossil collection and that is a real achievement because it is not my favourite museum...I always get distracted by the prospect of the ceramics gallery in the V&A as soon as I walk down Exhibition Road.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

the world comes to me

© Tim Cresswell

Professor Cresswell in the office next door
who studies the 'notions of place'
and the 'concept of mobility'
has just returned from a journey to the Arctic circle.
He was part of a team of people creating a new nation
from the landscape revealed by retreating ice sheets.

The artist Alex Hartley discovered the island
and registered it as 'Nowhereisland' in 2004.
This autumn he brought together a team
to travel to the Arctic and design a Utopia
considering fundamental issues of statehood.
Rocks from the island were removed
with permission from the Governor of Svalbard
and in 2012 these will form a floating sculpture
travelling from port to port around the English coast.
This voyage is part of the Cultural Olympiad
and will be used for lessons in citizenship in schools.
You can learn more about the project
and read the blog on the excellent website.

What moved me was the reaction of my colleague
who said it was one of the best things
that he had done in his life.
For three weeks he left his academic work behind
and lived in a world of sea and ice.
The experience will shape his future work
and will inform a generation of school children
as they think about the world they want to live in.
It was a privilege to hear about it first hand.

Migration and hospitality - lessons from Svalbard

Monday, 3 October 2011


On Sunday morning
MrsM looked out of the window
and decided that it was a perfect day
for an emergency picnic.

She packed up the picnic basket
with salmon salad

(don't get excited, folks,
this was M&S pre-cooked salmon...
it was an emergency picnic.

and some rustic bread
olives, cheese, muscat grapes
and amaretti left over from Christmas...

and some chilled Peroni
and the bottle opener.

MrM carried the heritage picnic blanket
which was bought when he was a baby
and they walked across the way
to their favourite shady pic-i-nic spot.

And they lay there idly
for a whole afternoon
eating, drinking and reading their books
and life seemed pretty good.


*© Miss Maisie