Saturday, 31 October 2009

Saturday Afternoon

Most of my photographs are taken
to illustrate posts that I plan to write

but, occasionally, I just capture images
because they make me smile
and today was such a day.

There is no record of the Eggs Benedict
that MrM had for lunch
or the delicious grape coloured
cashmere rollneck that I nearly bought
or MissM, head bowed over a selection
of beautiful fountain pens.

but when I look at these photos
those moments are there too
and I can see them in my mind's eye

and I can hear the musician
who sang on the edge of the market square
and created a pool of silence
in a busy world.

Friday, 30 October 2009

The Secret of Eternal Youth

In China there is a legendary river
in the Sweet Valley (Amaya no Kikusui)
which flows with the essence of chrysanthemum dew
and those who drink from the river never grow old.

I love the image of Li Qing Zhao (1084-ca. 1151),
one of the early female Chinese poets,
moistening chrysanthemum-patterned brocade
with the dew from chrysanthemum flowers
and rubbing her face with it
to smooth away the wrinkles.

I must confess that I do not love chrysanthemums
but even as I turn away from the gaudy colours
and acrid smell of the cut stems
I know that they are the last flowers of the year
and I must now wait patiently until Spring.

As Matsuo Basho (1644-94) wrote

After the chrysanthemum
there is only the radish

(Thank goodness that radishes are
Not the Secret of Eternal Youth.
Bathing your face in radish dew
does not have quite the same appeal.)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

It was the end of a long day ...

...and I was standing in International Arrivals but it didn't matter because I was waiting for MissM and I was so looking forward to listening to her tell me about the weekend. There was a continuous stream of people walking past me and after a while I started watching them - the couple with matching bright yellow suitcases; the shortest shorts ever; the young girl reading the last pages of her novel as she walked; the elderly couple who looked as though they had just arrived from a farm in Lapland - and so on and on...all the endless variety that is there whenever you care to lift your head and see. And I thought 'I used to be able to write a blog post about this' and it seemed incredible that I could turn such ordinary things into words. I started wondering why the words were not there any more and tried hard to understand what the difference is between 'then' and 'now'. Perhaps I have less to write about - I am hoping that is not true. Perhaps I fill my time with lists of things to do and leave no space for thinking - possibly closer to the truth. Whatever ... there are things that I need to record and so I must get back into the habit of writing again.

There is just one new whingeing...

(and that is not on the approved list
but, as you know,
I have never been very good at memes)

Monday, 19 October 2009

Reflections on laundry

The Laundress
Edgar Degas

Half Term has arrived...
and not a moment too soon.

I feel flattened.

Time to rest,
go shopping with MissM
and perhaps do some ironing.

Back soon.

Friday, 16 October 2009


Most of the time my office door is open
and the room fills with the sounds of the Department.

If you listen at any moment in the day
you will hear laughter
somewhere in the building.

The squeak of the Admission Tutor's shoes
as he leads another guided tour
for applicants
and their anxious parents.

The rattle of the ventilation unit
starting up on the ground floor Cold Store.

The trumpet player in a nearby Hall of Residence
who practises endless scales and arpeggios.

The students who chatter
as they leave the seminar room
"Human Geographers are SO intellectual."
and then, mysteriously,
"My girlfriend is KILLING me."

The telephone in the office next door
which has a special ring tone
when the Professor's wife calls.

The Academic who has just turned 40
who marches purposefully down the corridor
and says "I don't want to disturb you but...
I have another cunning plan..."

The clatter of a skateboarder in the car park
where I hope that the new Little Car is safe.

The folding bike with tiny wheels
being wheeled down the corridor.

The faraway music of an ice-cream van
in the streets at the bottom of the hill.

The swirling sounds of rooks roosting
in the tall trees outside the building.

The succession of people leaving for home
who cheerily call out as they pass
"Bye, Alice, have a good evening.
See you tomorrow."

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Stick and Ball

MrM and MrsM were standing on the touchline
on a sunny Saturday afternoon

and it occurred to them
that this will come to end soon.

No more mouthguard fittings...

No more pretending to understand the rules...

No more team talks...

No more post-match teas...

No more time to shout out 'Well Played!!!'
just because...
because she is our daughter
and we think that she is wonderful.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

when I am grown up...

I will have a kitchen dresser
filled with beautiful china.

Kitchen at Myrtle Cottage
Dod Procter (1892 - 1972)

I have prodigious amounts of china
but no kitchen dresser...yet.

I am still working on that.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Happiness in a Penny Arcade

MrM and MrsM can't resist an afternoon at the Fair.

It is a chance to invest hard earned cash

on one-armed bandits and candy floss.

It is an indication of their love for each other
that MrM lets MrsM believe
that the pennies will fall off the edge...

and MrsM never tells MrM
that the grabber doesn't reach as far as the sweets...

You might wonder why their relationship is so strong...

and the answer is
they have invested in counselling...

no expense spared...

because they know that
happiness is priceless.

Monday, 12 October 2009

In Search Of Sunlight

When you are exhausted,

as I have been this weekend,

it is easy to lose sight

of the things that bring joy.

Monica reminded me that it is the small things,

the tiny patches of sunlight.

Thank you, Monica.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Michaelmas Daisy

Michaelmas is the point of transition
between summer and autumn, light and dark.
This little daisy flowers in patches of autumn sunlight.
I am sure that there is a paradox there.
Or perhaps a lesson for life
if only I wasn't too tired
to think about it.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Visiting the Sick

MasterM has not been at all well
and so I dropped everything
to go and spend time with him.

It is hard enough starting at university
- new people, new places, new ideas -
without catching swine flu.

When I finally arrived
I was shocked to see
how much weight he had lost.

We went out and bought a belt
and now at least his trousers will stay up.

Sometimes you really need your Mum...
and there is no shame in that.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

A Palette of Jewels

Here is the last Hydrangea of summer:

vibrant Lapis lazuli

It too will fade:

Pale Sapphire

Rose Quartz

Creamy Jade

Watered amethyst

Soft alluring colours for subdued autumnal light.


I will be out and about for a few days:

things to do
places to go
people to see

Back soon.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Retail Therapy

MrsM has been using an internet food delivery service.

There are lots of good reasons for this:

fragile shoulder,
precious Saturday mornings,
responsibility to environment.

So MrsM sits down on the sofa with a cup of tea
on Monday evenings and conscientiously orders
all the things on her list
until her mind goes numb with boredom
and she rushes to the virtual checkout.
Then she can forget all about it
until the lovely Eastern European guy
walks into her kitchen with the bags on Friday evening.

This week she went to the Supermarket
for a loaf of bread
and it was like being let out on day release.

Fabulous fruit,
exotic vegetables,
fresh bread,
delicious pastries,
flowers to drool over,
shiny magazines.

It was all a bit overwhelming
(and ultimately expensive)

Maybe online shopping
is not the way forward after all.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

MissM, distraught

I have terrible, terrible news...
Oh no! Oh no!
Terminal Illness
Natural Disaster)

My school shoes have been banned!
Oh no! Oh no!
they would not have done that
if they had known
how long I sat in that shop
while MissM agonised
about whether the heel
was a fraction too high.)

Heel Height = 83mm

What am I to do?
You could wear your other shoes
heel is fractionally lower
but they are lace up
and look sensible
and practical)

Heel Height = 65mm

It seems such a shocking waste
and I only wobbled slightly
because I was running in them.

Friday, 2 October 2009

I wish, I wish

Anne Hayward
The Ides of March

I wish I could
sit in the afternoon sun
with a book and a mug
and feel the breeze on my neck
and breathe the soft autumn smell
of damp leaves and ripe apples
and hear the subdued flap
of white linen drying
instead of
the hurry of emails,
and anxious students
and hasty academics
who rush past
to lectures.

I wish I could...

but that was another life
and I know in my heart
that the sun did not always shine.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

(just for the record)

The noticeboards in the Department are immaculate.
The order and energy of the display impressed me
when I walked through the door for the first time.

A handwritten message from a tutor:
"Hello again!
I hope that you had a great summer.
Please come and see me to discuss
your course choices for this year."

An advertisment for a seminar:
"Why Denim?"
(Why not?)

The Student Soc poster:
"Around the World Pub Crawl.
A different drink in every pub."

Newspaper cutting:
"Great Dust Storm Shuts Sydney"

Poster of Department Staff:
There is an empty space
where the China expert should be.
He was in Corsica
when the photos were taken

Health and Safety sign:
"It is Strictly Forbidden
to Eat or Drink
in this Room"
which is on the wall above the table
where the birthday cakes are shared out.

Outside my office:
Pictures of the bones of
a Woolly Rhinoceros.
I know the person who dug them up.

Notice of Important Meeting:
to give details of Field Trip, January 2010
for the first years
who read it anxiously,
not sure what to expect.

Collage of Photographs of Field Trip, January 2009:
Much laughter and chatter from second years
as they recognise themselves
smiling out from the display.

On my noticeboard:
a postcard from the University of British Columbia
sent by the Professor of whom we spoke.
It shows a granite arch stranded on grassland.

Small notice in foyer:
"The sarsen stones outside the front door
were found during excavations for the M25.
They are similar in size and age
to the sarsen stones at Stonehenge."

A competition to design a sari:
I wonder if my friend, Gina, would be interested...