Friday, 27 December 2013

Storm Wind

Sybil Andrews (1935)

Wrenching wind and black rain
fracture my sleep.
I wait for silence,
afraid of the chaotic darkness.

Above the storm roar a bird sings
thin cascades, bright notes
piercing the wind wall.

How does a bird sing jubilant
into the ferocity?
What obedience brings forth
these fearless carols?

I am absorbed by the endless night
but the bird sings on,
impatient for dawn.

Alice Christie

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Notes to Self

I am the only person who likes red cabbage.

Ditto sprouts.

Get to the raspberry jam first in future.

Weird fruit look pretty but do not expect them to be eaten.

MasterM likes bread sauce. Did I blink?

Idea stolen from Pinterest.

365 days before I have to cook Christmas lunch again.


Tuesday, 24 December 2013

all of this music

It was dark and wet all day and I scurried around the shops with the list that did not get any shorter. I heard the music before I saw her, a slight girl sitting in the bus shelter playing a harp, and I stood in the shop doorway to listen. I tried not to worry about the harp being damaged by the rain and to let go of the multiple anxieties that seem to be as integral to Christmas as presents and pudding. It was a few precious moments of peace to remember in the hurry of last minute preparations and the music drifted after me as I walked away.

I wish you all a peaceful Christmas and your own chance to let go of the busyness of everyday life. Thank you for reading this year; it has been a year of change for me and I have been very grateful for your kind comments and messages.

This is the first camellia from my garden, a little battered by the rain, but a reminder that after Christmas it will be New Year and then spring. Bring it on!

Monday, 23 December 2013

MasterM helps decorate the tree

MrsM and MissM are decorating the tree
and MrM is doing manly things with bricks
to make the tree stand up straight.

MasterM is helping by lying on the sofa,
wearing felt reindeer antlers,
and giving a running commentary
on the World Darts Championship.

That man is a seriously big human.
How big even is his neck?

Did they just say "Beguiling and Mystifing"?
Those words should not be used to describe darts.

They just called him Big John.
I concur.

We should have a family outing to the darts.
What shall we dress up as?

That man has a chicken round his head.
I've seen it all now.

How do they add up so quickly?
What even is treble nineteen?

That family is dressed up as crayons.
We could do that.

Guess how many 180s have there have been this year.
Go on, MissM, guess.
No, I am not going to tell you,
you have got to guess.

Big John is pushing out some beads.
He is going to overthrow.
There, what did I tell you!

This is an awesome game of darts.
Real human drama.
His wife is even crying.

Right. That's over.
I am going to watch the film
about the sperm whale which goes mad
and attacks a boat of whalers.
Daddy, would you resort to cannibalism?

Meanwhile MrsM and MissM
untangle the tree lights,
drape the silver beads,
hang the silver baubles,
unwrap the decorations,
find the wibbly-wobbly people,
and wake up the sleeping Christmas fairy

It's a typical family evening
and we all feel very festive.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

what the commuter saw

It is my last day at work before Christmas
so I thought I would share my December photos.


I set off in the dark
but I arrive at sunrise.

9 December
Royal Festival Hall from the Jubilee Bridge

5 December
Westminster Bridge

12 December
London Eye from the Embankment

I am becoming familiar with my route,
aware of the light, the people who walk,
presence and absence of the normal.

11 December
Waterloo Bridge in the fog.

16 December
Nelson's Column, Trafalgar Square

9 December
Hawk Patrol, Trafalgar Square

9 December
St. Martin-in-the-Fields, landmark church, centre for the homeless

London is ready for Christmas:
decorated, sparkling and busy.

2 December
Christmas Tree - a gift of the people of Norway, Trafalgar Square

2 December
Southbank Centre

It is dark as I walk home
and the great buildings lining the river are lit up.
I wonder sometimes if I will ever tire of the sight.
I hope not.

17 December

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Nerja Redux

Well, that's done then.
Flight booked.
Accommodation booked.
You will be in Nerja in January.

MrsM can't help herself.
She squeaks with excitement
and does a teeny weeny jump of joy.

Four days with Geographers...
what could be nicer?

Monday, 16 December 2013

Enhancing the Christmas Experience

MrsM feels quietly pleased with the decorations.
The theme is simple, homely and yet stylish,
designed to enhance the Christmas experience.

MissM arrives homes and immediately notices
the amount of red and white everything.
MrsM thinks she can tell MissM is impressed.

MrsM casually mentions that
she is planning to make pomanders
in a variety of designs.

Just because she wants to.

MissM decides to test MrsM

says MissM
"Look at these crazy wrapping ideas..."

MrsM is enchanted...

"Monochrome wrapping : what a great idea!
Gingerbread cookies as gift tags : that's so cool!
Map wrapping paper : I really want to do that!
Strips of tree bark : that would be perfect for spring!"

MissM looks worried,
the situation is much worse
than she had realised...

"I think you are spending
way too much time
on Pinterest."

says MrsM
"but can I just show you
this amazing idea for
snowflake marshmallows?"


Apologies for the phone photos
and the weird angles which
the landscape format requires...
my laptop is still sick.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Meanwhile... South Africa...

MasterM has graduated.

MrM and MrsM open a bottle of champagne
and toast their son and his degree
in accountancy, economics and law
which was taught in Afrikaans,
a language he does not speak.

They are so very proud of him,
this exceptionally determined young man
who makes his dreams come true
by hard work and self belief.

Who knows what will be next?
There will be more adventures,
you can be sure of that,
but now is a time to celebrate
and recognise this achievement.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

MrsM falls in love

Phineas Finn
Illustration by Millais
reproduced from first edition (1869)
published by Virtue and Company

MrsM is besotted by Phineas Finn. She wasn't sure for the first 15 chapters but then she fell in head over heels in love and devoted herself to him for the next 62 chapters. Phineas Finn is not her usual type - he is very interested in politics and a little indecisive in matters of the heart but he is comely, good natured and quick witted. Now that MrsM has come to the end of her relationship with Phineas Finn she dabs her eyes with her handkerchief "Oh Mr. Finn" she says "I do wish I didn't have to leave you." Sorrowfully, MrsM downloads "The Eustace Diamonds" and plugs in the iron.


If you have not read any novels by Anthony Trollope I can highly recommend the unabridged audio books narrated by Timothy West. They have been a revelation to me because I am not an enthusiastic reader of Victorian novels and avoided Trollope after plodding my way through Dickens. Now I completely understand why there are people who read nothing but novels by Anthony Trollope. He draws his characters with such acute observation and understanding of the multiple weaknesses that are to be found in men and women, the plots are so ingenious and the writing so economical that the whole experience is quite delightful. Thank heavens he was such a prolific novelist - many, many more hours of listening and reading pleasure to look forward to.

Monday, 9 December 2013

wreaths : home + away

These are the wreaths in my life


I congratulated James in Reception
on the Christmas bling
and he looked a bit shocked.
I forget sometimes that I am working
in a more formal environment.
I don't think the British Academy
is ready for a Daniel Craig grotto.


A willow wreath
made by the lovely Val
to beautify my little kitchen
I love it!

Thanks to all the lovely Made & Found crew.
I had a great day out on Saturday.
MrM was thrilled that I had done
so much Christmas shopping
with so little inconvenience.

(There is a holly wreath on the front door too...
the more wreaths, the merrier.)

Sunday, 8 December 2013

the leaves of the trees

The leaves of the trees in the park
have fallen. The green of them is gone.
All that joyful spring, exuberant summer,
glowing autumn, is blown in scurried eddies,
caught against railings, trodden underfoot.
Discarded, grey-yellow orange-brown drifts,
crushed remnants of remembered sunlight.
There is a new silence, unfamiliar absence,
and there is no knowing the end of it.

Alice Christie
7 xii 13

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Robben Island

Robben Island is the bleakest place
that I have ever been.

It was a place of banishment
for lepers and criminals
for centuries before it was
a prison for political activists.

You are driven around the island
and your senses are assaulted
by grim grey buildings,
wind-twisted low bushes
and the limestone quarry
where manacled prisoners laboured.

There is no colour, no sound.

In the maximum security jail
a former political prisoner
acts as your guide to the buildings.

It is a great privilege to meet
these men, imprisoned for their beliefs,
who all wear sunglasses
because their eyes were damaged
by the glare of light
in the limestone quarry.

Sobu Sokwe was only 20
when he was imprisoned for membership
of the African National Congress.
He had been on Robben Island for 5 years
when he was released in 1989,
the same year that MasterM was born.

He stood in the middle of the dormitory
detailing with great dignity
the brutal routine of prison.

He also explained how the structure of the ANC
created a community within the prison,
supporting the youngest prisoners,
educating each other
and understanding political developments
in the changing world outside
from scraps of smuggled newspaper.

He took us to Nelson Mandela's cell
shown as it was in the 1960s
with only a bucket and sleeping mat.

It was impossible not to be moved.

All along the corridors there were other cells
and each one had a story,
and the spirit of a courageous man.

Our guide had told us
that the kennels for guard dogs
were twice the size of the cells
and it seemed extraordinary
that human dignity could overcome
such physical and emotional deprivation
and create a new nation
striving for equality and opportunity.

This cairn is at the entrance to the quarry
and the first stone was laid by Nelson Mandela
at a reunion of political prisoners.

It symbolises the foundation
of modern South Africa.

As we were leaving South Africa
the passport officer asked me
if I had enjoyed my stay
and I told him that we had visited
Robben Island on Freedom Day
He was very impressed

"That must have been something...

I am so proud to be South African
it is a wonderful country."


Nelson Mandela
casting his vote in 1994

Nelson Mandela
18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013


description of Robben Island
originally published 10 May 2012

3 things and a SECRET

These photographs were taken at
The Olive Branch in Clipsham near Stamford
Totally delicious food - do go if you are in the area.

I saw the lovely Jenny last night
and she was wearing burgundy nail polish.
I was struck by a bad case of the wanties.

I am missing my laptop.
*sad face*
although MrM has sprinkled some magic dust
to organise a SUPER surprise back-up.

I am going to Made & Found THIS Saturday.
I am only telling you this on the following conditions:

* You must arrive AFTER me so I get first choice at the stalls.

* Dottycookie has made all that willow stuff for ME. Back off.

* Do NOT interrupt me when I am buying china.

* This is not Christmas shopping...
 it is TREATS for me MWAHAHAHA

* I get first choice of the cakes.

* Also second choice of the cakes.

Right then...
now we have sorted out the ground rules
here are the details...

See you there

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The Making of a Poem

First you must take the slovenly heap of words and throw them into a pile in the corner. Underneath you will find a structure which is supposed to support the words in some form of order. Do not be tempted to stop there - you will discover it wobbles as soon as you touch it. Dismantle the structure and put the pieces to one side. You will be left with a space and this is the true beginning. When you understand the size and shape of the space you can consider the options for filling it. There will only be one correct choice but it is likely that you will spend a great deal of time trying various unsatisfactory solutions before the correct choice becomes obvious. Gradually the structure will be built again, each strut levelled and every joint tested. When you are sure that the structure is solid you can begin laying the words within it. Each word must be of the finest quality, smoothed, polished and placed with precision. The words must fit easily within the structure and the sequence must be impeccable, flowing from one word to the next without interruption. When you are satisfied that the words have been carefully placed on a solid structure that is perfect for the space you can stand back and look at the whole. It is likely that you will see that the structure is ugly and have to dismantle everything but you may be fortunate and only have to remove unnecessary words which had seemed quite perfect, quite essential. It will hurt but you must do these things for peace of mind. Eventually the poem is there in front of you. And you think...why go through all that fuss for such a little thing...a poem which is imperfect and insignificant and only says a tiny part of what you want to say. And your heart aches. But you know that even if you manage only that fragment of what you want to say it is worth the effort.