Wednesday, 29 February 2012

be not afeard

Lady Hamilton (as Miranda)
George Romney

MrsM is reading The Happiness Project
She is three chapters in
and she needs to stop,
lie on the sofa
and take a deep breath.

There are so many requirements:
Personal Commandments
Splendid Truths
Secrets of Adulthood
Bluebirds of Happiness
Pigeons of Discontent
Spiritual Masters

and her head is buzzing.

MrsM ponders all the changes in her life
since the last time it was 29 February
when MasterM and MissM were still at school
and then she switches on her ipod
and writes out out her personal motto:

"be not afeard"

It seems like a good start.


The Happiness Project
was recommended to me
by Monica and Ali.

I don't usually link to cover versions
but I love this one .

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

(just for the record)

Science Open Day

It is a bright blue Saturday morning
and the campus is alive with children
who have come to experience
the excitement of Science.

In the room next door
I can hear the academic who is 42
demonstrating the skull of a cave bear
to awestruck little boys.

And the Technical Supervisor
is putting her hands
in the soggy Bog in the Box.

Beyond, in the foyer,
there are tiny hands colouring in
pictures of Victorian Explorers.

In this small room
I am surrounded by woven baskets
from the rain forest of the Guiana Shield
in a multitude of different designs.

The research assistant is pointing
to the photo story boards which show
how cassava is grown and used for food.
She took the photos herself last month
and the solemn faces of the local tribes
stare out at me from their other world.

She shows me how a tube of woven grass
is used to squeeze cassava pulp.
"Look" she says "you put the pulp in
and pull the tube at the bottom
and the grass weave tightens
to squeeze out the water."

And, at that moment, my pleasure
at learning something new,
understanding how something works,
is a great as any of the children around me.

Monday, 27 February 2012

it takes two

It was a very special day...

thirty years since MrM first met MrsM

there was a spectacular bunch of flowers
and a delicious meal out to celebrate
and MrsM spent most of the day
thinking that it was impossible that
thirty years could have passed so quickly
and only a tiny bit of the day
wondering where she was going to hide
the commemorative Wibbly-Wobbly people
when MissM comes home.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Growing Up

Mabel Lucie Attwell

I have discovered a new thing!
Reading In The Bath!
Why didn't anyone tell me about this?
Is it the last secret of adulthood?
I'm going to be the cleanest person in England.

it's the fishmonger's fault

MrsM is strolling across campus
with her friend from Physics.
They admire the fishmonger,
white booted and stripy aproned,
cheerful among his display of crabs,
monkfish and fresh sardines.

MrsM's friend from Physics
says nonchalantly
"We are having fresh octopus for supper...
it is an old Slovenian recipe:
you parboil potatoes and then fry them
in some seasoned olive oil
and wilt some greens
before flash frying the octopus."

MrsM thinks guiltily about the chicken pie
that is lurking in the fridge
and hears a voice that sounds like hers
say casually (and untruthfully)
"Sounds absolutely fabulous...
we are having wild mountain goat
from Greece slow roasted
on a bed of aubergine and peppers.
It's one of our favourite midweek meals."

Wednesday, 22 February 2012


George Stubbs(1763)
Yale Center for British Art
Paul Mellon Collection. another part of the forest...
MasterM is relaxing
after hosting a successful party

" was very cool,
We had about 500 people at our house.
we tried to borrow some zebra
but there weren't any available
so we hired a unicorn suit instead
and made one of our friends
wear it all evening..."

Tuesday, 21 February 2012


Dear Friends,

We take a risk, don't we, when we share our hopes and fears. This is true in every situation - even with people who know us best - because there might be misunderstandings or hurtful things said. I thought for a long time before I posted yesterday asking myself if it was appropriate to share things which some people would consider to be private. I have never pretended to share every aspect of our lives because there are times when that could be intrusive to the people around me. On the other hand Thomas has always been very supportive of this blog and being honest felt the right thing to do so I took the risk.

I need not have worried because your comments were so compassionate, thoughtful and caring. The words reached out to me and my family and comforted us all. We are so very grateful to you for your kindness.

Thank you, thank you.

Monday, 20 February 2012

:: sunday ::

it is hard to find words

to say what needs to be said

so we go about our day

finding comfort in simple tasks

and quiet in the fall of light


MrM's father, Thomas, is very ill
please hold him in your heart
:: thank you ::

Friday, 17 February 2012

Tomato and Mozzarella salad

I don't use Pinterest
but many visitors to this blog
arrive via Google images,
especially for my photos of food.
You are welcome but I urge you to read
Sue's thoughtful post
and ask yourself if all of your pins
are correctly linked to the image owner.


Blogger has changed the word verification
and what was a simple spam filter
has become a nuisance
so I have removed it.

I have also moved back
to the old Blogger interface
because the new interface
was reducing the image size.

Blogger, I am a loyal customer
but you are driving me crazeeee.

Thursday, 16 February 2012


Map Bag from Annex

The new Dr in the Office-Next-Door
showed MrsM the boots she had ordered.
They were black and suede and fabulous
but somehow not quite perfect.
They agreed that she could wear them
with skinny jeans or skirts or shorts
and  looked at the reference pictures
of famous people wearing those very boots
but there was something about the heel
or the cut around the ankle
or the shape of the toe.
MrsM agreed they were not  right
for the new Dr in the Office-Next-Door.
So they must be sent back immediately.
And MrsM smiled and thought to herself
how much she was going to enjoy
the new Dr in the Office-Next-Door.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

moment of truth

A woman seated with a cabbage
in a chair by a fireplace,
a vegetable still life at her feet.

Hendrik Valkenburg (1826-1896)

Can we stop at the garage
on the way home
to buy some coleslaw?
I will drop you off
and then walk to the garage.
Don't be silly...
just stop and buy some.
I didn't know you liked coleslaw.
I don't. It's for you.
But I don't like coleslaw.
What! I've been buying it
for nearly 30 years
because I thought you liked it.

...but you like my mother's coleslaw?
Of course.
That is completely different.

Monday, 13 February 2012

(just for the record)

It is 9am on Monday morning
MrsM organises her work
carefully prioritising her lists
so that she can take an urgent document
to the Finance Department

MrsM is just leaving the office when...

the student needs to book a room
for a group tasting of vintage mustard
the academic wants to check through
the questions on her first exam paper
the technician has to order a sieve
to sort tiny excavated bones
the professor must change details
of his expense claim
the visiting academic from Pakistan
requests a code to work the photocopier
and the visiting academic from Brazil
wants to pay an invoice.
the academic wants to discuss
changing arrangements for a field trip
the careers service cancels a seminar
because the speaker's car won't start
the Head of Department needs
details of bursaries for
students from developing countries
the administrator calls for information
about car passes for students
the new mentee emails to arrange a first meeting
the student brings the long awaited contract
for her teaching work
the PhD student from South Africa
comes to share news about a viva that was passed...
a PhD student no longer!!

and suddenly it is not 9am but 3.30pm
and MrsM runs out of the office
clutching the envelope of signed documents
and arrives in Finance just before the deadline...

the most
of all
which is still in her office.

The Compleat Crumble

MrsM considered how tragic it was
that she had made the Perfect Apple Crumble
while she was still so young
and wondered what she would do
for the rest of her life
now that she had achieved her ambition.

Friday, 10 February 2012

The Starry Night

The Starry Night
Vincent Van Gogh 1889

Susan Niebur passed away on 6 February 2012.

Susan was a NASA scientist,
a tireless advocate for research into Breast Cancer,
and friend, daughter, wife and mother.

I have read Susan's blog since 2007
and watched her courageous fight against
Inflammatory Breast Cancer.
She fought to her last breath
for the chance to spend more time
with her husband and their two sons.
I learned so much from Susan
about cancer, and bravery, and love.

Susan often wrote of precious time spent
with her husband and little boys outside,
looking up at the night sky,
sharing her wonder at the magnificence of space.
I will remember her that way.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

post-it note


I need to say thank you too...
recently it has not been easy for me
to find the time to reply to your comments
but I want you to know that I am very grateful
for the thoughtful and generous friendship
that reaches out to me every day.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

...take a bow, MrsM...

Four Men Around A Table
Max Beckman (1884 - 1950)

It is that time of year again.
The Exam Paper Committee is meeting
to check the draft exam papers.
It is a very, very serious business.
MrsM sits at the end of the table
quietly and respectfully taking notes,
while the Exams Officer leads the discussion
with the Young Scottish Academic,
the Geographer of Vertical Space
and the Quaternary Scientist.

There is no detail which is too insignificant
for their attention and MrsM notes down
the comments about extraneous spaces,
suspended hyphens, date conventions
and italicised quotation marks.
MrsM is astounded by the erudition
of her young academic colleagues
and dreams of the time when
she can contribute to the discussion.

And then MrsM sees her opportunity
and says diffidently...
"I think Question 4 on this paper
should have an Oxford comma..."
and the Examinations Officer,
the Geographer of Vertical Space,
the Young Scottish Academic
and the Quaternary Scientist
nod sagely and murmur their agreement.

It is the high point of MrsM's career.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Winter Roses

Audrey, my mother-in-law,
has always loved beautiful things.

As a young woman
Audrey saved her allowance to buy
black basalt Wedgwood china

and later, when she had her own home,
she filled it with lovely glassware
and fabulous fabrics.

Audrey has a particular passion
for Eastern European and Scandanavian folk art
and brought back artisan work
from her many European adventures.

These are beautiful Rosemaling designs
from the fjord valleys of Norway,
roses which bloom in the depths of winter.

I send them to Audrey with my love
to brighten a grey February day.

Monday, 6 February 2012

MrM takes charge

Have I ever said bad things about MrM?
I take them back without reservation!

Today he assembled a new iron bedstead
piece by piece, screw by screw,
without any tantrums.
There was no losing of vital washers,
throwing of packaging,
dropping of heavy things on toes,
missing of vital steps,
confusion of right and left sides,
muddling up instructions.
There was no cursing.

I could only watch admiringly
and ponder on the long term benefits
of Meccano kits for Christmas.

There is a coffee cake in his future.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

a shot of happiness

What are those?
Handmade gifts for my friends.
Seriously? Empty tomato tins?
There is a craze for crochet covers
for empty tins to put herbs in.
But these don't have crochet covers?
They are so clever they will crochet their own.
So how are these handmade?
I washed out the tins myself.


Thank you so much to Tracy
for hosting a wonderful day at her home
and to Ali, Val, Emma, Julie, Monica and Nancy
for the delicious food, gifts and laughter.
Such friendship is life affirming.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Implausible but True


I left my phone at my friend's house
and then he lost his room keys
so I haven't been able to get it for three days.
We're just at the locksmith now
so I'll be able to call you later.
Sorry that you have not been able
to get hold of me.


MasterM is back in South Africa now.
He is great about keeping in contact with us
and so it is unusual not to hear from him.
We started to worry after a few days silence
but eventually he got a message to us
and we were very relieved to know
that he had not been eaten during
his latest wilderness adventure.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Tuesday evening

Yes I know...'s just an omelette and salad
but what can I tell you?

The bathroom has no door,
the windows are propped open
so that the paint can dry
and I can't smell anything
over the white spirit fumes.

Roast chicken is off the menu.