Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Return of MasterM

So let me get this straight...
You want to come home for 7 days in June
and then go to Madeira for the marlin fishing
and then fly to Dar-Es-Salaam.

Sounds about right.

Just remind me why
you are going to Dar-Es-Salaam?

I have sorted a holiday job
in a game reserve in Tanzania.

I don't think there are many direct flights
from Madeira to Dar-Es-Salaam.

Well, I am sure that Lydia
will be able to sort out an itinerary.
Oh, and by the way
could I have my June allowance early...
I am down to my last coins.

MrM and MrsM try not to smile
but it is very, very, very difficult.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Windswept Roses

MrsM is disturbed to realise
that she has been talking to her plants.
Not reassuring gentle murmurs
but bracing managment-speak.

"Well done, Blue Violas, you have performed well over the past two weeks and I am going to relocate you to a more prestigious position. Agapanthus, all of the other plants are growing faster than you - I am disappointed with your attitude - you are going to be down graded. Blue Thrift, I am impressed by the way that you have overcome a difficult start and worked hard to achieve your potential. OK Geranium, what's with the colour? - you claimed to be salmon pink but you are carmine - this has had a negative effect on the team dynamic. Pink Dianthus, you have made a significant contribution but I am afraid that you are going to be retired now. Cream Fuschia, how can I enable you to maximise your effort over the next three weeks?"

MrsM decides that she needs
to learn to disengage.
Work is work
and home is home.
And if you get the two confused
you will hear the neighbours laughing at you.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Thursday Evening

Tonight I am grateful for:

a sweet email from MissM
an hour with friends in the pub
a message from MasterM who has not got mumps
an ipod that was rescued from apparent collapse
a husband who makes me laugh
an evening looking through photos
the prospect of the long weekend ahead
and the end of a frantic week.

That's all - but it is enough.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Blueberry Sour Cream Cake

The Deputy Exams Officer comes into MrsM's office
He is anxious.

"I think we have to face up to the fact
that things are hotting up.
We are working to a very tight timetable
and I am not convinced
that we can make the deadline."

MrsM tries to be reassuring

"Trust me...I have a cunning plan...
I started with Stage 1 nutritious cake
and then it was Stage 2 carrot cake
and I don't think he noticed the icing.
Now we are at Stage 3..."

The Deputy Exams Officer looks puzzled

"What is a Stage 3 cake?"

MrsM points to the cake on the filing cabinet

"Blueberry Sour Cream Cake.
A cake shaped cake
and a proper cake plate.
But it has blueberries
which contain high levels of
vitamin B6
vitamin C
vitamin K
resveratrol and flavonols.
So The Exams Officer will think it is a health food."

The Deputy Exams Officer relaxes...
he knows that the finishing line is in sight.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Views from the Boboli Gardens

I had forgotten how huge the Boboli Gardens are.

It is easy to lose your bearings
among the dark cypress walks.

There are no intimate spaces
and no lush plantings;
it is a world of statuary and gravel paths,
opaque water and clipped hedges.

It is a garden to promenade in,
to be impressed by,
to be seen in.

When I visited as a child
I saw only the interior space:
the obelisk, fountains and grand staircases

but now I look outwards to the city,
to the Duomo and the Baptistery,
and beyond to the Apennine mountains
and I understand the bold design of the garden.

It is essential to continually challenge
your understanding of the world around you
and travel offers that opportunity.
There is no more appropriate place than Florence
to observe, to enquire, to explore
and to discover a sense of perspective.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Vintage Chick

Oh dear, oh dear...
I feel racked with guilt...
I should have explained that losing those photos
was not a disaster at all

and I am afraid that,
after an initial horrorstruck moment,
I did laugh a lot.

I don't take many photos
and on Saturday morning
it was taking me a while to get my eye in.
The photos that flashed before me
were absolutely terrible.

The only ones that I regretted losing
were a collection of photos
of exquisitely displayed fruit and vegetables.

Here is a vintage clothes shop
from later that morning
which was the first stop
on MissM's Grand Tour of Florence.

Seriously, MissM knows all the best shops
and she has only been there two weeks.

I went to Florence and...

I saw the Ponte Vecchio at sunset...

and I appreciated culture...

and I went to the Covered Market...

and I saw a policeman on a stegway
(this one is for you, bb)

and I enjoyed the not-so-cultural...

and I missed MasterM...

and I ate ice cream at midnight with MissM...

and I accidentally deleted 246 photos.

Don't laugh.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

This is Fear and I am Afraid

I don't republish posts very often
but today it seemed appropriate.


Ms. Eurolush is coming to London - what could be nicer than meeting her?
MrsM emails her and tentatively suggests it.

Ms. Eurolush:
I appreciate you offering to take time from your weekend to meet up. I know how much you value your quiet time away from work. You are a busy girl!... Of course, I've already prematurely bragged several times to Mary and Eleanor about the possibility. A lot is at stake here!

MrsM ponders this. She has met Ali and Kristina without incident. She has spent a whole day with Val, Tracey and Monica. She has met Tracey from Australia. She has even met blog husbands. They have all been completely normal, delightful people.

Ms. Eurolush:
Have I scared you with the idea of bringing what amounts to nearly my entire extended family along? Are you regretting your proposal? Are you rubbing your temples at this very minute, sighing out loud and rocking back and forth? I do have that effect on people, you know

How did Ms. Eurolush know?
Is she psychic?
MrsM emails back and tries to manage expectations.
"I am normal - I hope you won't be disappointed"

Ms. Eurolush:
If anyone should FEAR meeting up, it is I. Little do you know how mousy and quiet I am. I stutter when I speak and am terribly wall-eyed. (This means while one eye looks your way, the other wanders off to monitor those around me.) I snort quite often. I have a strange habit of unconsciously twirling a single piece of my hair over and over and over--until it stands perfectly rigid on the top of my head, like some sort of hair-antennae. I should probably also mention the fidgeting. What else? The inappropriate and ill-timed giggle fits? How easily I am distracted by pigeons and gravel? That I carry a smoking pipe clenched between my teeth at all times? That I wear a monocle? That when I do speak my voice is a deep baritone? That every sentence I utter begins with, "In my humble opinion..."

MrsM considers her options.
She is committed to this expedition.
She discusses it with MrM.
"Do you think you will be safe?" he says
"I think she is just enthusiastic" says MrsM doubtfully

Ms. Eurolush:
Of course, I plan to be furiously taking notes the whole time we're together...detailed descriptions of you and your many unconscious habits and tics. Hope that doesn't distract you. I may also be making rough sketches of you in my sketch book. Just plan on sitting very still while we chat. I am meticulous with my doodling.

MrsM has an idea.
She can take MissM.
Nobody messes with MissM.

Ms. Eurolush:
We are extremely flexible with our schedule. If something doesn't work for you...we can always meet somewhere else...in London...at a different time...for dinner...lunch...breakfast...snacktime...teatime. All of them. Maybe we'll just all show up at your door instead. That would make this whole thing so much easier, don't you think? You wouldn't mind seven house guests at the last minute, would you?

MrsM decides what to wear.
It will be cold.
She plans to wear something warm.

Ms. Eurolush:
I plan to wear a red coat. But I may have a change of mind and wear a black coat, instead. As you can see, I'm unpredictable. It will be a mystery. Who knows what color coat I shall wear?

MrsM goes out to the late night chemist for some tranquilisers

Ms. Eurolush:
I'm shy, too! What will we do? I foresee lots of awkward pauses...nervous laughter...profuse sweating...and painfully little eye-contact.

Perhaps a "dance-off" would lesson the tension??


Bring your best moves...'cause it's on!!!

today is the Big Day.
If I don't return please send out a search party.

Original Post

Thank you for the laughter, Ms. Eurolush.
Wishing you a safe journey to your new home
and wonderful times there with your family.
Come back and visit soon...
I am keeping a mushroomed shaped space
on my sofa just for you.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

a garden, imagined

Dear Alice,

If this is the
'Humble Administrator's Garden'
imagine what the
'Departmental Administrator's Garden'
would look like!

Best Wishes
The Enthusiastic Professor

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

MissM : update

7.15pm Tuesday evening

"Here is another photo for you..."

Day by day
the photos arrive in my inbox
and I can see that
MissM is falling in love with Florence.

I suspect that it is a love affair
that will last a lifetime.

Stage 2 : Carrot Cake

This carrot cake is made with
the best free range carrots
that money can buy.
I will not compromise
quality for principles.

Not even for the Examinations Officer.

I looked at it and I thought
"That is just
grated carrot
glued together with
sugar and flour."

And I am ashamed to say
that I made MrM try it.

He says it tastes good.


I don't make carrot cake very often.
My preferred version is quite rich.
Can anyone recommend a good recipe?

Monday, 16 May 2011

MissM : update

Where are you at the moment?

I'm sitting outside the Duomo.

What is your flat like?

It is perfect...
it has high ceilings
and a little courtyard to sit in
and it is just by the Ponte Vecchio.

What are you doing today?

This morning we went to the Brancacci Chapel
and this afternoon we sat in the Boboli Gardens.
This evening I am going to cook supper
with friends who are living near the Duomo.
We bought all the food at the covered market.

It sounds as though you are having fun.

I am!
Guess what...tell Daddy that there is
an ice cream festival next weekend.

MrsM puts the phone down
and looks at MrM.

Fire up the laptop...
we are going to Florence next weekend
and I need to book flights.


Photo by MissM using mobile phone.
I think that it has a lovely Impressionist feel

Friday, 13 May 2011

Sarah, my friend

I started writing to Sarah on 13 May 2008, exactly three years ago,and since then several hundred messages have passed between us. Sarah wrote about her life on the farm at Spruce Hill in the lovely Maryland countryside - what she was cooking for her family, Finny the naughty puppy, Arial the horse who ate peppermints, her childhood and the countryside around her. Her blog communicated her sweet smile and her generous friendship. Although our lives were different we shared a love of flowers, blue and white china and our families. On one occasion I admired her cake plate and explained that I have an identical one and she replied "That is too funny! The same plate! Well you do have very good taste!"

We had much in common as mothers and I watched her beautiful daughters grow up over the years and understood Sarah's pride in all that they achieved. I was sharing memories of Sarah with Fifi today and we both remembered the posts showing Little E in her Scottish kilt but I also remembered Miss E cutting her hair for Locks of Love and Miss H on her 16th birthday. I think I truly believed that one day I would drive down the road to Spruce Hill and meet Sarah and her wonderful husband, Paul.

Sarah passed away on Wednesday night after a long battle against breast cancer. My thoughts are with her husband and daughters, family and friends who have lost a very special person. Her courage was extraordinary and she met each new challenge with such a positive attitude that I felt humble as I read about it. I find myself grieving for Sarah even though I never met her in real life because her friendship was an inspiration to me.

I thought very hard about which picture to use to start this post and it seemed to me that apple blossom from my parent's orchard was the most appropriate - it reminds me of the many beautiful photographs that Sarah took of Spruce Hill which will ensure memories of her life can be treasured by everyone who loved her.

I will miss her.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Blog Award!

Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon I
and Coronation of the Empress Josephine
in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris
on 2 December 1804
Jacques-Louis David.


Ahhh Mrs M
I have often thought this
but feel today is the day to mention it

You Have The Best Commenters In Blogland

from yesterday's Comment Box
Thank you, Jules!

Acceptance Speech

I am proud to accept this award
on behalf of you all,
The Best Commenters In Blogland.

I am amazed that you turn up day after day
and make your Comment Box
a place of such laughter, friendship,
information and compassionate insight.

Thank you to each and every reader
who has commented and made me smile.

(Even MrM, who has been temporarily grounded
after recent attempts to incite censorship.)

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

A Diet of Worms

The New Examinations Officer is an austere man.

He has laid down strict rules for his regime:

There shall be no tea urn
because it wastes energy.

There shall be organic rooibos tea
available for the sole use of
the Examinations Officer.

There shall not be tins of biscuits
with excess packaging.

There shall be a financial review
of the catering arrangements
and specifically the sushi order
for the Visiting Examiners lunch.

There shall not be chocolate cake
because carrot sticks are healthier.

The Deputy Examinations Officer looks gloomy
but MrsM has a cunning plan...

Stage 1

Maple syrup and Pecan cake
with repurposed* bananas
and organic Medjool dates
in greaseproof paper.

It looks healthy, no?


* the early edition of this post
referred to recycled bananas
but this has been edited
after an uprising in Blogland.

Domestic Trivia

Do you think that the Duchess of Cambridge
has to curtsey to the Countess of Wessex?

I don't know.

What about the Duchess of Cornwall
Does she have to curtsey to her?

I'm not an expert on this.

What about the Princess Royal?

Why is this bothering you?

And Queen Sofia of Spain...
Does she have to curtsey to her?

Well, not if they meet in Waitrose.

MrsM gives up.

(MissM would have known the answers.)

Monday, 9 May 2011

Diversion Therapy

What do you do...

when your husband is on the phone
to your daughter in Rome
because she only has 6 Euros
and she can't get any money out of the bank...

...you photograph fruit on a plate

and turn the music up louder...

...and console yourself that lovely Paola
has given you her phone number
"in case of emergency"...

...and you wait...

...until it is all sorted
and then you breathe out.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Cake Status

This post is for:

Nancy and Emma
thanks for the banter

your sweet comment made me smile

because you have been SO good recently

and MrM

...of course.

family chit-chat

chatting with my sister B

(not that sister, the other one)

"...I had a lovely birthday...in the morning I went for a swim with a friend and in the evening I did a 10k run. It wasn't competitive because I am saving myself for the triathalon challenge next month but I made a good time..."

MrsM remembers her extremely idle birthday and blushes.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

MissM : update

Guess where I am??

Where ARE you???
I am so useless...

Here is a clue...


MrsM gives thanks
for her wonderful mobile phone
which allows her to share MissM's smiles
in real time.

Friday, 6 May 2011

To Do Lists

Last weekend I discovered accidentally that if your To Do list is all about the things you want to do...then the boring things that you need to do fit painlessly in the gaps. And the things that you want to do don't get lost in the mountain of things that you need to do.

Were you planning to tell me this when I grow up?

Read book in sunshine
I can't remember the last time
I sat in the garden and read a book.
Last summer? The summer before?
A casualty of employment.

Finish back of jumper
I did!
Go me!

Plant window box
I went out to buy
a tasteful selection
of blue and white flowers
and came back with salmon pink.
I must have had a brain storm.

Make wedding cake
'Royal' Victoria Sponge.
Eaten under sufferance by MrM
due to lack of coffee flavouring.
But still eaten.

Nail polish
Dark green.
I am going through
a belated Goth phase.

Drink cider in pub garden
Didn't manage this one.
To carry over to this weekend.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

MissM : update

Checked into hotel.
Been to museum.
Had supper.
Have not seen Zen
but have seen Hillary Clinton.

MissM, Viaggiatore della Vita

MissM is sitting next to me
as I write this post.

Tomorrow she will be in Italy.

Spanish Steps, Rome

She has packed her rucksack
and checked her passport and tickets.
The money that Granny gave her
to buy a smart handbag in Florence
is safely tucked away.

Ponte Santa Trinita, Florence

MrM is trying to persuade her
to take more guide books.
And many more maps.
MissM explains that she must take clothes.

MrM looks disappointed.

Gondoliers, Venice

MissM is worried that she will
not have Enough Books To Read.
I reassure her that
there are book shops in Italy
if she has a Book Emergency.

View from San Miniato, Florence

I say,
you will be spending your spare time
writing to me.

At the Writing Desk


All paintings by Frederick Childe Hassam (1859 - 1935)


Update from MissM
Arrived safely.
Have just seen Italian couple
in matching Burberry trousers...
hers were pink. Of course.
All is well.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

the spaces in between

This isn't really a post about knitting
but let's use it as a starting point.

Lace knitting is about the creation of space,
about balancing increases and decreases.
If you follow the instructions carefully
a complicated pattern will slowly unfold.
I cannot deny that the start of a project
has moments of excruciating self-doubt
but as you become confident with the rhythm
the knitting becomes a pleasure.

When I write,
the words are woven around
tiny pockets of silence.
I have periods when the words flow easily
and other times when I struggle.
Silence is in short supply at the moment
and so I find it difficult to write
but I know that will change
and I will find my rhythm once again.

I am not sure why I stopped knitting
and packed away the needles for years
but I have rediscovered
the quiet pleasure of creating
intricate patterns out of spaces.

I think that I always knew I would...