Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Thought for the Day

The Tomb of Rekhmire, Egypt c 1400BC

"Listen...I can't stop...but I thought, as it's Tuesday you deserved a little treat. So...does the idea of 'Mediterranean Dwarf Elephants' press your cuteness button? Real elephants that were smaller than Flossie the labrador? I am told by the Lady Professor that the Mediterranean Islands were covered with Dwarf Elephants in the Pleistocene. Imagine how small the baby dwarf elephants were! But there is more! Look away now if you don't want to go into cuteness overload...the only thing that could possibly be more adorable than elephants scampering around at knee height ...is the miniature woolly mammoths of Sardinia. Who wants one - hands up? Right...that's enough...I've got to dash off and make muffins...see you tomorrow."

Monday, 30 January 2012

unfinished business

Colin the Decorator is in residence
because the bathroom is being painted.

This means that The Builders Mugs
are enjoying their moment of glory
with the endless supply of Hob Nobs.

I think the mugs are horribly ugly
but I am quite fond of them because
it means that exciting projects
are happening in the house.

There are no 'Before' pictures
because it didn't occur to me to take any
but there will be 'After' pictures
featuring much antique china loveliness.

But not The Builders Mugs.


Friday, 27 January 2012

the dare-gale skylark

The Caged Skylark

As a dare-gale skylark scanted in a dull cage,
Man's mounting spirit in his bone-house, mean house, dwells —
That bird beyond the remembering his free fells;
This in drudgery, day-labouring-out life's age.

Though aloft on turf or perch or poor low stage
Both sing sometímes the sweetest, sweetest spells,
Yet both droop deadly sómetimes in their cells
Or wring their barriers in bursts of fear or rage.

Not that the sweet-fowl, song-fowl, needs no rest —
Why, hear him, hear him babble & drop down to his nest,
But his own nest, wild nest, no prison.

Man's spirit will be flesh-bound, when found at best,
But uncumberèd: meadow-down is not distressed
For a rainbow footing it nor he for his bónes rísen.

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844 - 1889)

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Shopping with MasterM

MasterM needed clothes...
shoes, trousers, shirts and socks...
so we hit the sales in Regent Street.
We might have been in Carnaby Street
but it wasn't so very different
from all those shopping expeditions
to buy shoes at the start of term.
We both lost interest at the same time
and walked back to Piccadilly Circus.
MasterM insisted that we should take a photo
and so we looked for a person
using a big and important camera
who might take a reasonable picture
with my small and very unassuming camera.
And here we are...not posed or smart
but happy.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Tweetilicious Jenny

In the end I didn't go to Spain...

...and I want to put on record
my gratitude to Jenny
who has been tweeting
wonderful photos and words
from the beaches and mountains.

I can't be there this year
but Jenny's tweets from Nerja
have brought Andulusian sunshine
back to my office and made me smile.

Thank you Jenny!

All photos by @J_Kynaston for use by @RHULGeography

Tuesday, 24 January 2012


tonight I am sitting on my sofa
wrapped in my Donegal rug
I have so many things
that need to be done
I don't know where to begin
but I am sitting on my sofa
wrapped in my Donegal rug
because tonight the house is silent
and I can stop just for a moment

Monday, 23 January 2012

Lazy Saturday

Do you like my new green nail polish?

It looks like orc toe nails

So that's a no, then?


Can you see the Breakfast cake?
We have decided that we like this idea
for lazy weekend breakfasts.
They must be plain,virtuous cakes.
This one is a lemon cake packed with vitamins
and made with organic probiotic yogurt
so I think we can permit a light icing.

Friday, 20 January 2012

I ♥ Rain

The Gale
Sybil Andrews

Students are hurrying across the foot-bridge
huddled under their umbrellas;
not the drab tones of commuter uniform
but a joyous line of paintbox colours:
red, orange, lime, purple and pink.
The security guy is still waving and smiling,
high visibility yellow under his umbrella.
I am distracted by two tiny Japanese girls
sheltering under turquoise polka dots,
and then luxuriant images of red roses
crossing the road by the Students Union
and a jade Florentine marbled design
keeping an African headdress dry.
It is an army of exotic sea anemones,
marching against the streaming rain
and my silly frilly pink umbrella
with black and white stripes
and a pink handle is part of it.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Thai Green Curry

MrsM is not being mindful.

She is trying to cook supper
while planning the Department twitter campaign,
and matching paint colours for MissM's bedroom.

MrsM is also managing MrM
who is doing telephone banking
when he should be setting the table
but would rather be watching rugby on the TV.

MasterM has occupied the sofa
and MrsM may have to serve an injunction
to break his  "FBI Files" habit.

MrsM puts the food on the table and discovers
there are no plates, no glasses or serving spoons.

MrsM reflects that she has her men to eat the food
and a warm grateful glow fills her heart.
Finally MrsM is present in the moment.

And then MasterM shouts from the sofa
"Noooooo, do we have to have supper now?
They are just about the catch the suspects!!!"

MrsM is back on Planet Normal

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The Cousins

Every Boxing Day I take photos of The Cousins
and promise to send them to Granny and Grandpa

I have just found these photos from December 2007

I hope that they will make Granny and Grandpa smile

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

MasterM, DJ

I asked my friend to make you a mix...

MrsM is delighted by the prospect of new music
and decides her son is a fine young man
to do such a thoughtful thing.

Here is the first track...

MrsM has immediate and excruciating flashbacks
and decides her son is a less fine young man
than she had originally thought.

Hey, don't be embarrassed.
I'm sure I will be rockin' out to this stuff
when I am your age.

Monday, 16 January 2012

the way home

Chichester Canal
J.M.W. Turner

The trees are jewel black on the horizon
exquisite in their definition
and I see a new landscape unfold
although I have driven that way before.


"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."

T.S. Eliot
Four Quartets

Sunday, 15 January 2012

My Saturday

Saturday morning starts late because MrM lets me sleep in.
I see bright blue sky and ice white frost when I open the curtains.
As I drive to the supermarket I plan my vases of flowers
blue hyacinths, white lilies and bright yellow daffodils.
but when I arrive I have not planned what we will eat
so I throw food into the trolley in a haphazard manner.
Don't be shocked, it all gets used up.
I have a list (in MasterM's writing) which reads:
white choc-chip cookies, chocolate caramel cookies,
chicken crisps, passion fruit cordial, bacon

We have creamy parsnip soup for lunch with freshly baked bread
and discuss business opportunities for bakeries in Cape Town.
After lunch we meet MasterF, a friend of MasterM,
and watch London Irish lose to the Cardiff Blues
MasterF is such good company that I hardly notice the cold.
We have our 'traditional' chaotic family outing
to the drive-thru Scottish restaurant
and then set off for the cinema to see 'War Horse'.
MrM and MasterM shake their heads at the multicoloured sweets
but then MasterM says "Just a few can't hurt" and MrM agrees
so they select 'a few' and then 'a few more for luck'
and then 'a square of fudge' (that's traditional too - it's for me)
And when we come out of the cinema there is a message from MissM
"I think you would like this restaurant" with a photo of mussels
and I wonder for the first time if the blogging habit
can be passed from one generation to the next.
Later MrM and I drink hot tea in our quiet house
and he says "Have you had a nice day?"
and I reply "Yes I have had a nice day.
Thank you."

Friday, 13 January 2012

the inevitable happened

Weeping Woman

"Look at this!!" said the tweet from the Young Academic. MrsM clicked on the link to see the web page advertising a crucial launch on the Department website. MrsM checked the layout and the text and the downloadable poster. MrsM admired the skill of the Young Academic creating such an important statement of new teaching initiatives in the Department and she knew that this page would be seen, not only by staff and students in the Department, but also by senior Management including the Principal and Geographers all around the world. MrsM had saved the best bit until last and she clicked on the video link to enjoy the welcome speech by the Professor with an international reputation.

MrsM is impressed.

But wait...

What is THIS in the last frame??

Surely not?? It can't be...can it??

And a squeak of fright comes out of MrsM's mouth....

Thursday, 12 January 2012


last year I said to my son
"do you miss the African sky when you are here?"
and he replied
"I don't understand...what are you talking about?"

this year my son said to me
"why is the sky here so low...and so small?"
and I replied
"I don't know...I don't know"

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

the edge of the ocean

Have you seen my poker dice?

do they have sentimental value?

Just before I came back
me and my friends went sea fishing
but when we got to the beach
we decided to just chill
so we got the cool box with the beer
and sat there playing poker dice
and the waves were crashing around us.
It was a great day.

You could buy some new dice.

I don't want them to look too new.
I am going to have a box
with a 60's picture of a naked lady.
Like I inherited them.

We can help new dice get old quickly.

Oh, don't worry, I'm there before you.
That is what tea was invented for.


Please forgive me if I am slower than usual
at replying to your lovely comments.
I am soaking poker dice in tea
and other motherly activities.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

MissM, Chocolatier

MissM decided to make brownies
to take back to university
and flicked through her recipes.
This was just the job...
a mind-blowing chocolate experience.

When I asked if I could take a photo
of her recipe book
she agreed, with one condition:

"You must make it clear that these brownies
should only be eaten by people under the age of 22
who are going to the gym every day
and running a marathon on Sundays
and that the recipe is the appropriate quantity
for a whole university, not a family of four.
Anyone over the age of 22 who eats these brownies
does so at their own risk and
I recommend having statins beforehand."

Having tried a tiny piece
I don't think that I can do any better
so that is brownies ticked off the 2012 list.
It is ace when your daughter
takes responsibility for your
New Years Resolutions.

Monday, 9 January 2012

black and white

I have a Kindle!

MissM tells me that I will be
responsible for the downfall
of the publishing industry
so I should be anxious to avoid
being seen in public with it.

I think my Kindle and I
will become great friends...
it can join the gadget gang
with the iPod and smart phone
and I can't resist showing it off.

Kindles are great for travelling
and I have downloaded books for Spain...
George Borrow and Washington Irving
to improve my knowledge of Andalucia
and some Georgette Heyer
for times when no-one is watching.

An unexpected delight of the Kindle
is the sequence of screensavers
which are elegant photos
reminiscent of engravings.

Right, off to bed...
MasterM's plane is arriving at 06:08 tomorrow
and I need to get some sleep.

Back soon!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

a jug of tulips

Have you ever thought about
what your blog photos mean to you?
Not the photos of family, holidays and birthdays
but the everyday photos of cakes, flowers,
folded laundry, quilts, woodburners,
snowdrops, berries and jam.

I had to search through my picture files today
and the experience of seeing five years
of photos so evocative of our home
left me feeling overcome.
I realised that every single photo
has layers of memories for me.
Whole days captured in single images.


MrM won a magazine competition.
The Charming MasterN sang
while MissM played her guitar.
I wore Dior 'Blue Label' nail polish.
MrM had tea with his parents.
MissM explained the etiquette of 'nom nom'.
I made rich red spiced fruit trifle.
And these tulips are in Lucille's jug

Friday, 6 January 2012

The Spice Girl's Mother

Girl with a Guitar
Max Westfeld 1913

Can we talk about my birthday present?

(Thinks how delightful it is to have organised daughter)

I would like a guitar.

(Stunned silence)

Yes! I have been learning to play
and I am in a band.

A band!
(Thinks panicky thoughts about wardrobe issues.
What does the mother of a Rock Chick wear?)

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Look Away Now, Granny!

What does my travel insurance cover?


Because I am skydiving tomorrow with my friends

I will check immediately...

For goodness sake,
don't read out loud
the list of approved activities...
it will give him ideas.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Window Box in January

To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To hope is to risk pain.
To try is to risk failure,
but risk must be taken because
the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.”

These are not my words
but I think of them
as I pack away the decorations
and create space in the house.

When the last glittery bauble
is wrapped in tissue paper
and the lights are folded carefully
into their polystyrene case
I go out and buy the primroses

They will be a pale light
on the windowsill,
substitute sunshine,
my reminder of love and hope.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

the truth, it hurts

The Potato Peeler
Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890)

MissM is reading 'Oh Comely'
It is full of delightfully quirky articles
'a history of the digestive biscuit',
'a recipe for fairy bread',
'the charity mug parade',
'portraits of people with tattoos'.

MissM loves 'Oh Comely'
with a burning passion.

"Look!" says MissM "Here is a quiz...
'Reveal deep truths about yourself
through the medium of root vegetables!' 

MrsM does the quiz and reveals she is a potato.
Tragically MrsM had always suspected this
but is not happy about the outcome because
it is much groovier to be a cassava
or a radish like MissM.
Even an onion would be better than a potato.
It is not an auspicious start to 2012.

"Never mind" says MissM brightly
"Quizzes in magazines aren't always accurate."


for all you crafty people...
How to make jewellery out of your cracker prizes
(via Oh Comely)

Monday, 2 January 2012

Power Brunch

MrsM ordered bubbly
because it was New Years Day

but MrM drank Bloody Mary
decorated with a celery stick

First Course
MrM had baconandeggs

while MrsM enjoyed an elegant plate
of sliced fruit and smoked fish

Second Course
MrM had waffles with maple syrup
and a tiny spoonful of Queen of Puddings

MrsM chose fruit compote
with the most delicious brownie ever.

As you would expect
MrM and MrsM discussed
matters of great importance
and made a plan for 2012
which they jotted down
on the back of an envelope.

And at the bottom of the list
MrsM wrote
and underlined it five times.

Sunday, 1 January 2012


Sleeping Beauty
Thomas Ralph Spence

Welcome to 2012!
May it bring wonderful things
for you, my lovely readers,
and your families.

Now 'fess up everyone,
what is your 2012 Resolution?

You are not allowed the traditional ones:
"more vegetables"
"more ironing"
"more exercise"

because we all know
that they vanish in a puff of smoke
before you can munch
that last Christmas chocolate.

I want honesty!

Here is my 2012 Resolution:

5 hours a night
is NOT enough
beauty sleep
at my stage of life.

It is going to be hard
because I do a lot of writing
late at night
but I am sure that
if I can change my routine
it will be better for my wrinkles.