Monday, 30 November 2009

Time Passes

I must be getting older...
I am reading Barbara Pym,
eating olives
and buying picture calendars.

This little calendar of bright Provencal colours
was bought in the sincere hope
that the lavender fragrance and sunshine
would be released from the pages into my office.

It reminds me of our holiday
and the days that we wandered around small villages
looking for property
for our lovely friends Glen and Mary.

Last week we had a text from them telling us
that they had begun the olive harvest
in their new home in the heart of Provence.
We miss them very much
but we are glad for them.

When I bought this calendar it was still a dream
but time passes, progress is made
and dreams can become reality.
Perhaps it is good to be reminded of that.

My calendar from Tuscany is waiting for the New Year.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Cake for MrM

I know, I know,
I spoil him...

But he has worked so hard this week
and I think that he deserved it.

He also humoured me
and contributed to the Advent List
of Good Things To Do in December.

Otherwise known as
"The Freeze-Yer-Nuts-Off List"
due to the number of outdoor activities.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Obsessive Bench Disorder

MrM and MrsM visit Osterley Park
and admire the impressive Neo-Classical mansion
and the Robert Adam interior.

They stroll beside the ornamental lake
and wander in the walled garden.

It is a beautiful day
and the sunshine makes the leaves glow
and the water shimmer.

When MrsM gets home she looks at her photos.

There are a selection of garden benches.

Metal, wood,
with and without arms,
decorative, plain,
with and without backs.

But just benches.

No house, no garden, no lake
No trees, no flowers, no happy children.

What was all that about?

MrsM contemplates a lifetime of therapy.

Thursday, 26 November 2009


Still Life with Cheeses
Floris van Dijck (1575-1651)

~ for all my American friends ~

wishing you a peaceful Holiday weekend

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Dust of Snow

The way a crow*
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Robert Frost (1874 - 1963)


*today, in my case, a blackbird

image courtesy of The Wyoming Almanac
which I enjoy reading
but I think that the Home supplement
is better in The Ozark Gazette.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

An Evening in a Restaurant

Eating out with MasterM
has advantages and disadvantages.


I will have Mangoes with Strawberry Sorbet

Young Waitress
I am afraid that there are no more mangoes

That is the only reason I came here

(Young Waitress looks distressed)
But wait!!
We have mangoes at home...
I could go and get them...

(MrsM purses her lips)

Young Waitress
I am afraid that there is no more
Strawberry Sorbet either


(Young Waitress looks more distressed)
What do you recommend instead?

Young Waitress
You could have Strawberries with Mango Sorbet.

I could...
strawberries aren't in season...

(MrsM narrows her eyes)
it sounds delicious so I will have that.
Thank you!

(Young Waitress smiles a HUGE smile)


Young Waitress gives 30% discount off bill.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Making dreams happen

At the end of June
I said that MasterM
would not need his passport
to go to university.

I spoke too soon.

Two weeks later he decided to go to university
in Stellenbosch, South Africa.
It has been a challenging time
but he has now been accepted for the course
and starts in January.
There is still the not-insignificant hurdle
of the residency visa
but each complex task is broken into small pieces
and that is how you make dreams happen.

The really difficult thing is
finding the courage
to believe that a dream
can become reality.

For the next four years
MasterM will be among vineyards
and Cape Dutch architecture
on the edge of the ocean.

I think he will have the time of his life.


(In case you are wondering,
Edinburgh was the back up plan.)

Friday, 20 November 2009

Venice in Winter

The academic who has just turned 40
went to Venice for a special birthday weekend.

The Doges Palace
Edward Seago

I recommended our little hotel
near the Accademia Bridge

The Grand Canal from Accademia Bridge
Edward Seago

and told him to ask for the room at the front
which overlooks the canal.

The Doorway, Venice
Edward Seago

We arrived by watertaxi at night
when Venice was shrouded in fog
and nothing could have been
more magical or romantic.

Venice at night
Edward Seago

The academic told me of a tiny restaurant
hidden among back streets
and I longed to return.

Maybe in the Spring.


Edward Seago (1910 - 1974)
started his artistic career in a travelling circus
but went on to develop a Impressionistic style
which he used to explore the effect of light and shade
in various locations from the Antarctic to the Norfolk Broads.
His paintings were much sought after and he enjoyed
the enthusiastic patronage of the Queen Mother.
I look forward to the Centenary exhibition
at the Portland Gallery in February 2010.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

New Windows Open

Thirtythree, 30 sycamore keys and 3 red berries
Eileen Postlethwaite

These pictures were a gift from Milly
as an unexpected consolation prize
in a giveaway post.
Thank you, Milly.

I am grateful to Lucille
who introduced herself in the summer
and pointed me towards Milly
and her beautiful drawings.

Lucille writes Useful or Beautiful
full of lovely images and perceptive insights.

I am always delighted
when a new reader introduces themselves,
opening yet another window
onto that sunny courtyard
where the community of blogging friends
generously share their lives
and support each other's creative endeavours.

5 oak leaves and 6 acorns found by Coniston Water
Eileen Postlethwaite

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

better late than never...

A nest of mixing bowls
given by as part of
a generous wedding present
by MrM's Granny.

You might be surprised to know
how many Coffee and Walnut cakes
have started their lives in these bowls.
A number significantly greater
than the rather pitiful comment yesterday
might have led you to imagine.

A belated contribution to Kitchen Poetry
which was hosted by

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

'just a chocolate cake'

When MasterM and MissM were little
I would conscientiously make a birthday cake
to match the party theme.

Pirate Island,
Fairytale Castle,
Treasure Chest,
Teddy Bears Picnic,
Creepy Crawly Paradise.

It was something I never reconciled myself to
especially when I realised that the hours of creation
were reduced to a muddy heap
at the bottom of a party bag.

After the Pirate Island experience
I developed an overpowering dislike
for strongly coloured icing
which remains to this day.

Then came the liberating moment
when I was asked for
'just a chocolate cake'
and that is what I have made ever since
using a recipe from wonderful family friends
who live in Little Eversden.

It is now a real pleasure
to make the cake for the special day
and our birthday photos
feature a succession of identical chocolate cakes
each of them with that special fudgy icing
that I can remember from my own childhood.

Monday, 16 November 2009

MissM, 18.

MissM has brought us joy
from the moment that she was born
18 years ago.

On Saturday we braved gale force winds
to celebrate her birthday.
It was difficult to know what to give her
because she always assures us
that she doesn't need anything
but there was a laptop for A Level essays
and an antique gold heart-shaped locket;
a teacosy which she had aspired to
for her much-loved teapot
and a little Japanese charm doll
which promises luck and prettiness.

And a huge bunch of flowers.
Of course.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Drinks in the Interval

MrsM and MissM admire the woman
with the hand embroidered turquoise coat.

Do you think it is an asymmetric cut?

No, I think she has made a mistake doing the buttons up.

MrsM and MissM ponder the lifestyle
which has enough money to buy designer coats
but not enough time to look in the mirror.

Perhaps it is true...
money can't buy everything.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

On a Grey Day

New pea-green salt bins
for car parks that were ice rinks.

A wool coat of Papal purple
which I call a Duffle but
she calls a Montgomery
because she is Italian.

Metallic green polish that flashes
as tiny, manicured gestures are made.

Flaming Titian hair.

A bowl of orange clementines
among brown paper parcels.

Patent purple sneakers.
A brave choice.

A long scarf of rainbow shades
which drapes and folds and drags.

Fresh yellow Mahonia spikes.

Peacock blue scooter,
iridescent with raindrops.

A pink velvet bow
of extravagant proportions.

Red poppies,
sombre against black

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

a single rose

one day I discovered
that a single rose
on my bedside table
gives pleasure
out of all proportion
to the cost.

I see the rose
last thing at night and
first thing in the morning.

for a fleeting second
I focus on shape
and colour.

floral meditation.

it works for me.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The Doorstop

Goodness me
what are you all like?
I thought that we had a relationship
built on truth and trust.
Obviously not.
Here is THE doorstop
and before you even ask
my edition of How to Eat
is signed by the author.
But the Shakespeare is not.

Wolf Hall changed my life...

Look at this pitiful blog!
It is reduced to pictures of leaves and bread rolls.

This is not giving the right impression…
there is more to me...
much, much more...
I have critical contributions to make to Blogland
and I am starting right now...
with Wolf Hall and what it has meant to me:

It is hardback.
Big BIG Hardback
so it looked impressive when I was reading it.
No-one could miss the fact that I was reading
A Serious Book.
Excellent for Image.

My daughter could see me reading a book.
Which apparently will help her confidence with reading.
It may be too little, too late but I’m doing my best.

For the first time in my life
I have read the Man Booker Prize winner
BEFORE it is announced.
I am IN with The Literary Crowd.
I understand what they are talking about on Radio 4.
I can practically lecture on Modern Literature.

I can discuss it casually with Hilary M.
When I next see Her.
(she is a friend of a friend...
Not that I am dropping names)

I know how to pronounce her surname
(c.f. MANtel which is how I have pronounced it until now.
How embarrassing is THAT!)

When the guide at Hampton Court
gives erroneous information about Cardinal Wolsey
I can gently correct him
and sound annoyingly authoritative.

I can refer to the renewed interest in the Reformation
AND the reassessment of Sir Thomas More
I am sure that the History Department
will be contacting me any day to act as guest lecturer.

I am telling you
there is SO MUCH that is good about
Wolf Hall
that if I was the sort of person who did book reviews
I would give it 11 out 10.
It is THAT good.

Oh, and...

We have a new doorstop for the dining room door.

Monday, 9 November 2009

MrM and MrsM take the air

It was late afternoon by the time
we walked through the woods.

It was not yet dark
but it would soon be so.

We could still see
the amber colours of the leaves
but the camera saw only
silhouettes against the sky.

We talked of plans for Christmas
and perhaps a weekend away in January.

Madrid? Vienna? Amsterdam?
Or just a cosy cottage with a log fire...

And then we went home
and had a cup of tea
and crumpets with strawberry jam.


This post is for Breadbox,
a long time friend of this blog,
who will recognise the location.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

England v. Australia

Saturday morning...

much slicing, spreading
and assembling to be done.

I am reminded of all the birthday parties
that I have catered for over the years...

especially the one where I set fire to the oven
cooking the cocktail sausages.

This is for a car park party at Twickenham
and the tray of food will balance precariously
on top of the beverages
which have been chilling overnight.

The sun is shining;
friends are arriving from near and far;
Jonny Wilkinson is back in the team...

it should be a great afternoon.

Guess who is driving the car back this evening?

Friday, 6 November 2009

China Galore

I was passing the V&A on Tuesday
and the lure of the new Ceramic Galleries
was irresistible.

Look what I found...

Here is an Iznik tile
with a gillyflower motif:

Here is a William De Morgan tile panel
designed by William Morris:

Here is the copper engraving
for the filigree pattern
on my Croissant Plate:

Here is the stoneware casserole
that my mother has in her kitchen:

Here is the bowl that I stood in front of
for what seemed like hours
and felt quite ill with desire:

In the end, feeling chinaholic desperate,
I asked about the policy on taking photographs
and was told I could take as many as I wanted.
How Wonderful.
How Enlightened.
Thank you V&A.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Planning Ahead

When I have my *personal arboretum
I will plant a grove of Ginkgo biloba
and surround it with maple trees.

(*I may not have mentioned
this particular ambition to MrM
so I had better go and discuss it with him
before he reads it here first.)

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Walking through the RGS

"The learned society & professional body
for geography & geographers."

The Map Room has low cabinets
with shallow drawers.
The temptation to open one
almost overcomes me.

There is a lunch reception and
I see out of the corner of my eye
that the immaculate man on the sofa
is from the Embassy of Azerbaijan.

Tea Room : for use by Fellows and Guests only

(Do eminent explorers drink tea?)

I am momentarily distracted
by the selection of guidebooks
for the Arctic and Antartica.

Stanley, moustachioed and belligerent,
is hidden behind the swing doors.

The Zanzibar chests
are from the Artefacts collection of the Society.
Please do not sit on them.

A sliver of the Royal Albert Hall
is glimpsed through tall casement windows.

In the empty lecture theatre
the brass edge to the balcony seats
shines dully in the half-light.

Lavatories on the Minstrels Gallery

Sir Wilfred Thesiger stares back at me,
his hooded bronze eyes exactly on a level with mine.

The leather seats in the corridors
are gold embossed with
the impressive design of the RGS,
crowned and gartered.

Photographs of Sherpas
from the 1936 expedition to Everest
stare solemnly out over the exhibition space.
In this building where great expeditions
have been proposed and planned
they claim their rightful place.


Founded in 1830,
Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)
is a world centre for geography:
supporting research, education,
fieldwork & expeditions,
and promoting public engagement
and informed enjoyment of our world.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009


I was late for work because...

...the sun was shining
on the leftover Bakewell tart
(with extra raspberries)
and I had to take a photo.

Monday, 2 November 2009

useful information

MasterM tells me
that if you bob for apples
in a barrel of cider
your hair is quite sticky
when you wake up
the next morning.

Sunday, 1 November 2009


whenever I worry about writing
and not being able to find the words
I remind myself
that I have already recorded our life
for two and a half years
and so it doesn't matter
if I don't write anymore
because those memories are safe
and that seems to help me
overcome the fear
of silence

Image courtesy of Wordle