Wednesday, 30 November 2011

(just for the record)

The Annual Lecture

MrsM realises to her horror
that the publicity is wrong because
that the wrong lecture theatre has been booked
by the All Powerful Timetabler.
MrsM sobs pathetically and realistically.

The All Powerful Timetabler
does not admit his mistake
but graciously enables a swap
to the correct lecture theatre.

MrsM spends too much time
deciding which wines to order.
More white than red??
More red than white??

The Head of Department worries
about the jokes in his eulogy
for The Distinguished Speaker.

MrsM reviews her extensive knowledge
of local restaurants to choose one
which is comfortable
but not toooo extravagant
for the after-lecture dinner.

The Professor of Interesting Films
purchases a souvenir book
for presentation to The Distinguished Speaker.
Everyone is delighted with this thoughtful touch.

The Distinguished Speaker arrives.
He is wearing the same colour top as MrsM
but he does not notice...
his mind is on loftier things.

The Lecture Theatre is full.
People standing against walls
and sitting on the floor.
Students, Staff, Visitors.
There is an excited buzz of anticipation
because he is a Distinguished Speaker
and his subject matter is very relevant.

MrsM helps set up the wine reception.
Marianne takes pride in her work.
Tablecloths are folded to achieve perfect corners,
wineglasses are polished and arranged.
Crisps and savoury snacks laid out beautifully.
MrsM tells Marianne that she is an artist.

The presentation book has been left
in the Head of Department's office.
The fastest member of staff is selected
to run back to the Department.
(This is NOT MrsM)

Loud applause.
The lecture is ended.
More loud applause.
The book is presented.
150 people surge out of the lecture theatre.
Drinks are drunk.
Snacks are eaten.
It is all over.

MrsM is delighted to receive
a twitter update later that evening.
It is clear from the photo
sent by the Young Academic
that the after-lecture dinner
is a great success.

MrsM sips her mug of Tranquility tea
and permits herself to breathe out.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

...the sloe-black dark...

Woman at a Window
Jacobus Vrel

When we were in Cambridge we went to the excellent Vermeer exhibition at the Fitzwilliam museum. The gallery was crowded with visitors entranced by the luminous beauty of The Lacemaker but this is the painting that made me pause. There is no information about the woman with her back to us. The domestic details are minimal in the sparse, dark room. She leans out of the window to the light of the world beyond. I hold this image in my head as a reminder of the friendship that I find when I look outwards.

...I sit on a stone after lunch and consider the glow
Of the sun through mist, a pearl bulb containèdly fierce;
A rain-shower darkens the schist for a minute or so
Then it drifts away and the sloe-black patches disperse...

from "Achill" by Derek Mahon

Monday, 28 November 2011

Raspberry Ripple

I don't really understand how colour works

I just know instinctively
that this combination doesn't gel

until you add the raspberry colour.

Thank goodness the good people of Rowan
tell me what to buy because otherwise
I would be paralysed by indecision.

I have discovered one thing though...
photographing yarn on plates is very satisfying.

I am amazed that I never thought of it before.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

care package

Look what arrived in the post...

It's Tea Bag Bunting meets Advent Calendar!!

Don't you just love it?
All those tiny little clothes pegs
and the carefully chosen tea bags.
I am going to have a sneaky trial run
of the Tranquility tea tonight.

My care package came from Ali
who has a magical touch with personalised gifts.

It was the perfect pick-me-up...
not just the tea bags
and the cute clothes pegs
but the kindness that leaked out
as soon as I cut the reindeer tape on the box.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Silence in Unexpected Places

The foyer of the Royal Festival Hall is a frantic place. I hate it - the noise is too great, the bars too busy and the seats filled with people who are only there to be seen. It is as though the busy-ness of the world outside has become concentrated in that small space and it feels oppressive and claustrophobic.

When I was there last week I looked down into the lower ground floor and saw two people dancing the tango in silence. The intensity of their concentration created an impermeable boundary against their surroundings and as I watched them I could feel the noise retreat.

I used to be able to make the silence I need to write but the concentration that requires is elusive at the moment. I am being patient.

Friday, 25 November 2011

A New Perspective

The door to my office is propped open
with a block of Icelandic lava
as soon as I arrive in the morning.

All day students and academics walk past
and I hear snatches of conversation
and gusts of laughter.
It is impossible to feel alone.

Today I heard the young Visiting Lecturer
talking to two students from his class
in the corridor outside my office.
He said "Why didn't you do it?
Were you afraid of making a mistake?
That is why we are here...
to make mistakes and learn from them.
Go brave...make mistakes."

His words lingered in my mind all day.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

MissM : Update

Illustrated by Arthur Rackham (1919)

What time did you get in
from the party?

I got back at 3.30am...
and I had a seminar at 9.00am.
I made it - and I contributed!
That's my girl


Thank you all
for your sparkling comments this week.
We are off to see MissM tomorrow
I'm very 'cited.

Have a lovely weekend.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

MrsM goes punting

We all have a secret Super-Power.

MrM's secret Super-Power is punting:

he can make a punt obey his every command

while young whipper-snappers look on with admiration.

This means that MrsM has cultivated the ability

to lie gracefully in the punt,

admire the scenery

and wave to small children on the bridges.

Back off, ladies, he's mine.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

don't mention spandex

MrsM strolls nonchalantly into the designer sports wear shop as though she has been doing it all her life and holds informed conversation with lithe shop assistant wearing extreme lycra. Lithe shop assistant asks MrsM “What sort of runner are you?” MrsM wonders what she is talking about but replies confidently “Improving”. Lithe shop assistant says “Oh! I envy you! I have reached a performance plateau.” MrsM acknowledges this is a problem for all runners and makes gentle, encouraging noises. Lithe shop assistant recommends compression leggings for enhanced muscle tone and MrsM goes into the changing cubicle. The compression feature is significant. MrsM cannot get the leggings off. They are moulded to her legs like spray-on paint. MrsM is absolutely stuck in black spandex. MrsM hears the lithe shop assistant saying "How is the fit? Would you like the High Visibility version?" MrsM panics...there are three options: she can summon MrM from the nearby bookshop, she can ask for help or she can extricate herself. MrsM starts peeling. When MrsM eventually leaves the shop she swings the plastic bag ostentatiously. It was worth the pain because it has a picture of runners on the outside. MrsM plans to reuse it frequently.

Monday, 7 November 2011

The Backs

On a quiet autumn morning

we walk from Silver Street

along the Backs

and the copper leaves are thick underfoot.

There are so many memories

in these bridges, gates and avenues

that the past walks alongside us

in the bright light and cold air.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

A Dog-Shaped Hole

MrsM takes time
to consider her next dog...

Portrait of Wife
Boris Kustodiev (1878–1927)

Should she have an elegant setter
like Poshyarns?

Woman with Dog
Pierre Bonnard (1867–1947)

Or maybe a dachshund like Vanessa?

Woman with a Dog
Jean Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806)

Only Eurolush can have
a small white dog

Self Portrait with Dog
Gustave Courbert (1819-1877)

but a loyal little black spaniel
is a possibility

It will be well behaved in boats

Elegant Woman with Her Dog
Albrogio Alciati (1878-1929)

never drop hairs
on MrsM's black skirts

Young Woman on a Striped Sofa with her Dog
Mary Cassatt (1844-1926)

and only sit on the new sofa on Sundays.

Woman with Dog
Christian Schleisner (1810-1882)

It will also keep MrsM company
when she is cooking.

(it is not happening soon
but there is no harm planning ahead...)


This post is for everyone who has a dog
but especially for Jen, Diana, Rachel and Jackie
who generously share their dogs with me.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Fosco Maraini (1912 - 2004)

Fosco Maraini was an Italian anthropologist

mountaineer, writer
and photographer.

Through his eyes we see
forgotten lives in Tibet, Japan, Italy
in the early twentieth century.

His photographs speak of curiosity
but also compassion and respect.

They are windows into lost worlds.


We should all remember that our photos
are windows into other worlds,
particularly domestic and family life,
and that by conscientious archiving
which we achieve by blogging
we are safeguarding precious memories.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Moorish tile love

It is dark and wet outside
and there is evidence that somebody
has been feeling sorry for herself.

Let's change the subject...
what about Spain in January?
Does that sound fun?

The Deputy Exams Officer owes me a drink...
I'm hoping it will be
a tisane in the Moroccan Tea Rooms;

Jenny can entertain me
her mad twitter skillz
from the almond groves

and the Young Academic
is planning a trip to Ronda
with the Professor of whom we spoke
so I will try to hitch a lift.

It's only 81 sleeps until Nerja...
the countdown has started.

tiles : Damascus (1420 - 1450)
images : ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London