Thursday, 29 May 2014

Slices of Sunshine

The Travellers Club, Pall Mall

East India Club, St James's Square

Whitehall Court

Craven Street

St James's Square

Charles II Street

Pall Mall

To take these photos for you I braved black cab drivers, ladies in smart hats, police motorbikes, hotel concierges, aggressive cyclists, an elderly gentleman in a smart pinstripe suit and trainers, a bus load of Japanese tourists, excited French school children and a man in a purple kilt. Oh, and rain.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

same old, same old

Here is the plan for the week. You can take notes if you want. Work on Wednesday and Friday. I can't wait to visit Gina in the Mall Galleries, take in the Finalists' Barbeque and then go dancing on Friday night with friends from work. Meanwhile I must make bowls and bowls of fruit salad for MasterM and bake a banana cake, I am assured these things will help him revise. I haven't told you about my trip to the ballet last week so I had better do that and I think that I should do a survey of window boxes in St. James - they are looking band box fresh at the moment. This weekend I will be organising my photos which are in a right old pickle. I think that is enough to keep me out of mischief and so I will not be redesigning my blog this week. Or ever, I suspect. Sorry about that.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

My mother said...

I'm just going to pick a bunch of flowers - do you want to come with me? Demelza asked me to bring some for her new shop in St Ives - I always take a little posy and put it in a wine glass when I go to the Padstow shop but I didn't realise that she noticed. What do you think about these little red daisies? And some of this - I know it's called borage but I call it something else. Not wild garlic, of course, I don't want to make the whole shop smell! I'm quite pleased with my aquilegia this year and the yellow poppies. Would you like some seeds? No? What do you mean - you don't have yellow flowers in your garden? How very odd.

Friday, 23 May 2014


by kind permission of Kate Flint

Men Say Brown

On the radio this morning: The average woman knows
275 colors—and men know eight. Women say coffee,
mocha, copper, cinnamon, taupe. Men say brown.

Women know an Amazon of colors I might have said
were green, an Antarctica of whites, oceans of colors
I'd stupidly call blue, fields of color, with flowers in them
I would have said were red.

From women, I've learned to love the browns,
the earths, the dusts, the clays, the soft colors, the colors
brought out from the mines, hardened ones,
hardened in fires I would call red; the colors of the furies;
the reconciling colors of the cooling ash.

By myself I know the evening colors when the sky goes
from blue to another blue to black—although it's a lonely,
whitish black sometimes,
like the color of sleep—
the way dreams are lit by the light that's thrown
from nowhere on the things you find in them. Last night
there was a turtle, I would say it was brown or green,
or it was a snake, mottled, a kind of grey, disguised
as a turtle, red spots as if painted on the shell,
a palish greenish underside—vulnerable, alone
swimming in water I would say was colorless.

I woke to the pale colors of the morning—no one
has a name for those: the white-rose white you see
through the white of the curtains on the window,
the milks, the creams, the cream a galactic swirl
before it turns to brown when your wife stirs it in the coffee,
the faint drying oval on the silver of the spoon.

Henry M. Seiden
Poetry (1999)


Sometimes an unexpected coincidence
brings a poem and an image together;
it is a private pleasure,
bear with me.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Tales from Tanzania

Tinga Tinga painting


Mohamed Saidi Chilamboni
Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania

oil enamel on canvas


Isiah is my taxi driver and he is a crazy guy. This one time we drove from the Peninsular at night and it was total gridlock so he drove on the other side of the road. Not just that, he drove on the pavement of the other side of the road. A policeman saw us and hopped over the barrier to stop the car. Isiah had to hand over his driving licence and pay 5,000 TZS fine (£1.50) then he drove on a few metres and got out of the car. "Just wait there Mister MasterM" he said and then he went back and gave the policeman an extra 5,000 TZS to get his licence and we set off again at top speed moja kwa moja on the pavement .

What does that mean?

Straight ahead in Swahili
or you could just say
straighty, straighty.


MrsM remembers how carefully she supervised MasterM crossing the road when he was young and wonders if she was too protective. 

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Men in Black

MasterM is wearing a vintage double breasted jacket
which was made for his Great Great Uncle Alan
before an invited lecture tour in the United States.
MrM wore it when he was the same age as MasterM.
I told MasterM to hang the jacket up afterwards
because one day his own son might want to wear it.
He looked quite aghast at the thought.

Monday, 19 May 2014

In the Pink

Lunch on Sunday was a lazy affair.
We sat in the sunshine drinking rosé,
talking about the party the day before.

We had creamy chicken soup flavoured with tarragon,
the aniseed flavour complemented by green olive ciabbata,
and a tangy lemon cake requested by MasterM.

After lunch I wandered around the garden.
Tissue thin cistus, complex petals of aquilegia,
densely packed rose buds and vibrant pelargoniums.
By next weekend the paeonies will be out.

I thought of my friends in the Department
working long hours marking exam scripts.
This time last year I was working at weekends,
with no time for lunches in the sunshine.

Still, I miss them.

Friday, 16 May 2014


Do you think that the garden is looking pretty?

But I think you should cut the grass shorter
so I can use it as a putting green.



Have a lovely weekend y'all.

I'm cooking and chauffeuring...
I am a bit out of practice
but I am quite sure
I will get back in the groove.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Planet Normal

Roast Carrots and Quince

I was going to talk about vegetables
but it's quite late and I can't be bothered.
You are intelligent, resourceful readers
and if you want to know how to roast carrots
you go right ahead and ask Google.

Mange Tout and Fine Beans in Mint Yogurt with Pickled Ginger

In the meantime I will tell you that
MissM is in Hungary today and Berlin tomorrow.
What special Hungarian food has MissM eaten?
Paprika Pringles apparently.

Grilled Aubergine, I think

MasterM, on the other hand,
is reclining on my sofa reading
'Speak Swahili, Dammit'.
He is at home to take a Finance qualification
but is feeling sore because he is missing
the annual Goat Racing weekend in Dar es Salaam.

Sweet Potato, Lemon and Caramel Sauce

MrM is in Amazon land purchasing a Crumpled map.
They are brilliant as compact picnic blankets
but he won't let me use a Rome map in London.
He says that I would look eccentric,
that I MUST use a London map in London.
A tragic case of 'Obsessive Map Disorder'.

Roasted onions?

MrsM is in London working hard in body
but in spirit she is already in France
sitting in the terrace with Glen and Mary, drinking rose,
and watching the sun set over the Luberon valley.
She chants "Only a few more weeks" en route to the office.

So once more the Family M are all over the place.
Nothing new there then.
Planet Normal.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014


Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children's faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit's still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

Sara Teasdale

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

A revised specification for MrM

Let's get something clear right at the start of this post. MrM is a blue and white shirt kind of person. Sometimes a little bit bluer than white and other times a racy white with blue stripes. For country days MrM might wear a subtle green and brown check but MrM does not wear shirts with graphic design.

I know that it is wrong to try and change your partner, you should accept them as they are and learn to love those little character flaws but how can I come to terms with the fact that I am married to a man who will never wear a shirt with ladybirds on?

MrM will remind me that he has multiple shirts with graphic designs, unusual colour combinations and slogans but I am afraid that London Irish rugby shirts cannot be included in the same category as fabulous French tailoring.

I honestly believe that if I can persuade him to let go of his prejudice he will agree to a gradual programme designed to overcome his fear. We could start with a simple shirt with black triangles for 5 minutes at a time and then build up to a subtle heart pattern. After a few months I am sure that blue swirls or pink circles would be tolerated.

I am not sure how long it would be before he could cope with girls on scooters but I think it would be worth the effort. Don't you?

Monday, 12 May 2014

Coffee Morning

Sitting around Caroline's scrubbed pine table
eating banana cake and drinking cappuccino
was just what I needed on Friday morning.
Caroline told us about her birthday trip to Venice
and we admired her new Murano glass tumblers.

Helen has just moved house
and she has been organising squads
of plumbers, decorators and removals
with the skill of a Major-General.
I'm going to try and persuade her to let me
tell you the story about her chandeliers.

Another friend, Jane, had just got back
from watching the Easter processions in Seville,
something I have always wanted to do.

After a couple of hours of cake, coffee,
laughter and making plans for another day out
my Thursday blues had been forgotten.


Thank you for all your sweet comments,
I really needed a bracing talk
of the 'pull yourself together' variety
but you were kind enough not to notice.

Friday, 9 May 2014


Look, it is Thursday evening, I have done three days commuting and I am shattered. Also, the handle on my beautiful Italian bag has broken and I have left my umbrella somewhere which is not ideal when it is raining. I'm not asking for sympathy but I am feeling a little bit frail. So frail that a busker singing arias outside the Royal Festival Hall made me cry. I think I can post pictures of birds if I want.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Someplace new

Just before I went on holiday I did a supermarket sweep for my kindle. The result was a random selection of books: serious, frivolous, fiction, non-fiction, classic, new. I can't remember why I chose 'The Promise' - perhaps it was a linked recommendation or it was on a list somewhere. I certainly couldn't remember anything about it and the problem with kindles is that there is no picture of the book cover, no blurb on the back or quotes from reviewers. Your only option is to read the book. And so it was that I started 'The Promise' without preconceptions.

The plot is slight but absorbing and you cannot tell which way it will end until it does. There are bright, fresh descriptions of a landscape I do not know and the people who lived there. Salt air leaks out of the book and clings to your fingertips as you read. It is about love, of course, but love looked at from many different angles so that it becomes anguish, fear, jealousy, courage. I want you to read this book too, so that you can wonder at the power of a writer to evoke a lost world. It will win prizes, I am sure of that, so read 'The Promise' now before it becomes famous and everyone has told you what to think about it.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Meanwhile Tanzania,  MasterM is messaging MrsM...

Can't decide what to have for dinner...
Aromatic Pig Hoof
or Spicy Chicken Claw

Spoil yourself.
Have both.

Check out these kikoys!
Want one?

Yes please!!!
(Can I have more than one?)

Look what washed up
at the end of my street
after the flood last week!

Come home immediately.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

what the commuter saw


Early spring in London is over.

9 April
The Mall Galleries
(looking forward to meeting Gina here!)

The trees on The Mall are densely leaved now
and the tulips are finished.

10 April
The Mall

People leave their offices at lunchtime
to lie on the grass and soak up the sunshine,

9 April
St. James's Square

the flower seller behind St. James's, Piccadilly
shelters in the shade of an awning,

10 April
Jermyn Street

the cherry blossom has vanished
in a blizzard of pink and white petals

10 April
Memorials to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth

and the flags for the London Marathon
have been taken down for another year.

14 April
The Mall from Admiralty Arch

Here we are on the brink
of summer in the city.

14 April
The City from the Golden Jubilee Bridge

This is my favourite photo from April:
The Tidiest Convenience Store in London.

7 April
Pall Mall

When I asked permission to take the picture
I said it was for 'a friend'.
That's you, by the way.

Monday, 5 May 2014

The Gardening Awareness Course

Man and Woman picking squash
Tacuinum Sanitas of Vienna, 1386

Once a year MrsM requires MrM
to take a refresher session in Gardening Awareness
before he is permitted to use a trowel or spade.
This maintains health and safety standards
and prevents MrM from being a danger
to himself and to the environment.

What are these?
Gardening Shoes
And what are these?
Those are not Gardening Shoes.
I am not permitted
to use those shoes in the garden.
Very good.
What are these?
Gardening gloves.
Why do we use gloves?
To prevent our hands from getting filthy.
In the event that gloves are unavailable
I must prewash my hands under the garden tap
before using the bathroom.
So far so good.
What are these?
Your secateurs.
That is correct.
And finally...
in what circumstances are you permitted to weed.
Following today's regrettable accident
my licence for independent action has been revoked
and I may only weed under close supervision.

MrsM sighs.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

no particular place to go

We had asparagus soup for lunch and dense, garlicky pate with nutty bread. The daffodils are the very last of the season, their inner petals a soft egg yolk yellow. Afterwards we lazed in the sunshine, enjoying the luxury of sitting still. I made plans for my summer window boxes, imagining white and soft blue shades. In my head, you understand, nothing as strenuous as writing them down. Yesterday I saw a red kite flying out from the edge of the wood and I called my father to tell him. He was quite impressed, I think. And that is just about all I have done and now it is time for tea with our Easter hot cross buns from the freezer. There are so many things I could have done but this afternoon I was content to let them go. They will float back on the next tide.

Friday, 2 May 2014

The 'Varsity Jug

MasterM and his great friend Manu organise an annual golf tournament between the University of Stellenbosch and their local rival, the University of Cape Town. His main concern while we were in South Africa was the famous silver trophy, the 'Varsity Jug.

MasterM modelling a nice line in golf shoes

Stellenbosch won the last round of this prestigious competition which surprised everyone, especially the Stellenbosch team. There was a strong performance in the bars of Stellenbosch that night and the trophy was paraded through the town. For reasons which are not entirely clear one of the team members then slept with the trophy. Unfortunately, it was in a folding bed and when the aforementioned person got out of bed the next day he forgot about the trophy. The bed was put away and the historic trophy was squashed as flat as a pancake causing great consternation. The immediate solution was to ask the person with the strongest hands, a water-polo player, to wrench it back into shape which, unsurprisingly, caused more damage. By now it is a trophy with an identity crisis because it is closer to a plate than a jug. MasterM phoned around the specialist shops and was advised to take it to a garage for panel beating. It was resurrected as a jug with vintage features just in time for the next round of the competition. Panic over.

After repair...

** Many thanks to MasterM's friend for the top two photos **