Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Back Soon

Please relax!
Make yourself welcome here
while we are away.

Just a few polite requests:

No eating Nutella straight from the jar.
No extravagant use of luxury bath oil.
No late nights watching horror films.
No borrowing of favourite handbag.
No sampling of vodka/gin/sherry.
No sitting on arms of sofa.
No jumping on bed.
No Pot Noodles.


Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Sock Operations Executive

Today we have reached a new low:
thirty unmatched black socks.
All leave is cancelled until this crime is solved.

We need to understand the modus operandi:
When does separation occur?
Before or after the laundry basket?
If so, where are the matching socks?
What is the process that divides them?
Do the single socks have shared characteristics?

We need to understand motive:
Is it malicious or accidental
Is it a cry for help?
It it the result of a deprived background?
Is it part of a criminal empire?

We must interrogate our conclusions,
sometimes it is not the obvious suspect,
it might be a clever counter-deception plot
with someone trying to plant the evidence.

I think that there is a pattern
which will lead us to the criminal
which will only be revealed
by doing vector analysis.
Pass the lipstick.


with apologies to the creators of
The Bletchley Circle

Monday, 17 September 2012

end of the rainbow

MrM, MrsM and MissM
packed the car with:

the black and white party shoes,
the vintage red dress,
the turquoise colander,
the multi-coloured bath mat,
the guitar and amp,
the shiny new saucepans,
the extra large pack of pasta
and the pretty pasta bowls

and MissM said
"I'll just go and check
that the house is empty."

And it was.

There was no time to be nostalgic,
they turned the volume up on the iPod
and set off down the motorway.

And now MissM has a house of her own
(sharing with seven lovely  friends)
- let the cooking adventures begin!

Friday, 14 September 2012

the pine and the cypress

MrsM opens the curtains


The sky is bright blue
but there is a chill in the air.
It is indisputably Autumn.


MrsM has a pang of longing
for the slow, seeping warmth
and pine scents of Provence.

The Pine Tree at St. Tropez

MrM looks up from his newspaper

"Would you like a little jaunt to Avignon?
Flights, hotel, car...
it won't take very long to organise."

Palais des Papes, Avignon

MrsM is very surprised.
When did MrM get so good
at reading her mind?

The Cliffs at Castellane

MrsM ponders her fate.

She is married to a man
who books impulse weekends in Provence.

Life could be worse.


all paintings by
Paul Signac (1863 - 1935)

Thursday, 13 September 2012

long story short

A long time ago I asked a friend
to make me some bathroom curtains.

She had never made curtains
for anyone else before
so it was hard work persuading her.

But she did. And I paid her.
And then she made some more.

And eventually she had a company
which supported her family
and then she employed people
who supported their families.

I'm kind of proud of that.
And I still love the curtains.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

A Blast of Sunshine

My comment box sparkles every morning
thanks to you, my wonderful friends,
stopping by to join in the conversation,
taking the time to make me smile.

Here is a selection of fabulous comments from recent posts:

The Name of the Blog post

"I think you have nothing whatsoever to worry about, Alice. Your blog name is yours, and a mighty fine one too. There truly is no new thing under the sun."

"I had always assumed that you had borrowed [the title], rather splendidly, from Robert Southey...

Dedication to Edith May Surrey, Canto IV, in A Tale of Paraguay, 1827

It was a season when their leaves and flowers
The trees as to an Arctic summer spread:
When chilling wintry winds and snowy showers,
Which had too long usurp'd the vernal hours
Like spectres from the sight of morning, fled
Before the presence of that joyous May;
And groves and gardens all the live-long day
Rung with the birds' loud love-songs.

This was the moment when I stopped worrying about the title. Thanks, Ali and Annie!

The List post

"I am still trying to work out why the man in front of me at the till should need 12 iceberg lettuces and 12 bottles of gin!"


"I should admit that items on our list are often written phonetically or in baby-speak i.e. the names our kids called things by when they couldn't quite pronounce things. Bersketti (spaghetti), nee-nuts (peanuts), arse-pips (parsnips), splish splosh tablets (dishwasher)...."

The (Second) Prizewinning Cake post

Congratulations on your prize worthy lemon drizzle cake. As far as MissM goes, think of all the years she has ahead of her to win prizes that you do not, a sobering thought perhaps, but honestly if we get no points for experience we will be at a minus!

The Excuses post

Woman up Mrs C, I know this is all well within your capabilities:-)

The Lost Recipe post

"It's under something. At least that's where all my mislaid bits of paper are. A prayer in a serif typeface should be taken seriously. I need you to find the recipe because I have a glut of plums to make up for the tomato blight and utter failure of all other crops in the veg garden."

after the little prayer,
I need to have
the little cry."

The lovely Silverpebble found me a recipe - there will be an update on this.

The Spaghetti post

The Listwriter
"When my husband met my mother for the first time he showed her a new way to cook pasta, claiming (completely inaccurately) that he had Italian heritage. She was very impressed."

"Once a boyfriend had proved himself worthy , my father would offer them some lime jelly . An honour , since it was his favourite . I still can see a few young duffel-coated , ban-the-bomb badged lads dutifully enthusing over green wobbliness."

The Wedding Anniversary post

"I often read your blog and love it and it usually makes me smile. This post brought a tear to my eye though, and I've reread it a couple of times since. My husband died in June, a few weeks before our 33rd wedding anniversary.You are so right to make the most of the time you have together, because there is never enough.Wishing you many ,many more wonderful nights at your favourite hotel, and velvety roses too x"

This last comment touched me deeply.
I thank you.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

the world comes to me

Moonlight, Wolf
Frederic Remington

The young academic has just come back
from fieldwork on the Tibetan Plateau

He says it was an extraordinary trip
with sights he had not dreamed of:

"Our driver spotted the herd of yak
and we stopped to take photographs.
And then I saw the wild wolf.
It was so close and then it streaked away
through the herd of yak into the hills.
It was such an incredible experience
that it took me a few minutes
to process what I had seen."

And I wonder how he can return to
timetables, tutorials and meetings.

Monday, 10 September 2012

another year begins

I took the twelve velvety-red roses
to our favorite hotel
where we drank cocktails
and ate wonderful food
and enjoyed our night away.

Thank you for your kind messages
each one of them making us smile.

A wedding anniversary
is a time for gratitude
but also for reflection.
So much done, so much still to do.

Friday, 7 September 2012

27 years later

Why don't you like pasta?
Does it have unhappy memories?
Is it because Grandad used it
to test your new boyfriends?


Grandad told me that when
you brought new boyfriends home
he would give them spaghetti for dinner
to see how they coped.

I didn't know that!
Thank goodness MrM had been to Italy
before he met me.
You might never have been born!


It is our wedding anniversary today
and for the 27th year
we will not be having spaghetti.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

two, zero, one, two

Yesterday the road block was opened
and the armed police had disappeared,
the heavy security barrier was pushed back
and the canopied space where paratroopers
waited to search vehicles was empty.
Soon all the fences, buildings,speed-bumps
lighting and flagpoles will be dismantled
and the Olympic Village will vanish.
Today, as I arrived at the Department,
a security guard walked in front of me
with four large gold helium balloons
floating above him, backwards and forwards,
the numbers glittering in the bright sunlight.
It was a strange moment that captured
something of our surreal Olympic summer.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Shopping with MissM

MrsM and MissM are shopping
for MissM's new student house.
MrsM has already persuaded MissM
that she needs a turquoise colander
and a Moroccan themed bath mat.
It has been a good evening.

...and I will need some plates and bowls
Now for the fun bit!
We must be sensible about this:
they might get broken in a student house
so I am thinking cheap plain white.
Also, I don't want to get a reputation
as some kind of weird china person.
On the other hand...
if you have plain white china
it could mixed up with everyone elses
which would be a shame.
This is true.
And this is a very practical shape
which will be useful for pasta and stirfrys
and is excellent value for money.
I give in.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

images from another world

image : Abigail Alderson

When I first started writing about my work
I was very careful to be anonymous
and not identify place, colleagues or students.
There was a lot of suspicion of blogs
and examples of people losing their jobs.
How times have changed!
Social media are now valued
as ways to promote research
and several of my academic colleagues
have blogs and twitter accounts.

Today I want to share something special:
the blog of a first year undergraduate student

Abigail Alderson

Abi is an example of the opportunities
that are available for enthusiastic students.
She is funded by the Royal Geographical Society
to do field work on an important research project
in areas of rural China unvisited by tourists.
I am sure she would not have dreamed of this
last September when she started her studies.

Student blogs do not get a big audience
because they are not part of a blogging community
but Abi has a natural flair for images
which I know that you will appreciate.
I particularly enjoy her use of Instagram.
Abi is still in China but I asked her
if I could share the link to her blog
and she was happy for me to do so.
Please go and enjoy these glimpses
of a world that few of us will reach.

(if you say hello she will know me as Alice - not MrsM!)

Monday, 3 September 2012

Justin Case

it was shocking to discover that the National Trust lady did not know it was a Wedgwood tea-set; what do they teach them in school these days?


I admire habit very much
and often ponder the responsibility
of condensing domestic life
into such profound sentences.

In the unlikely event
that I am asked to contribute
I have a personal profile
tucked into my back pocket.


MrsM is a dispossessed child of the sea, living inland on a small island off Europe. she is wife to a mobile phone guru and travel insurance consultant and mama to two ex-schooled children who bring her joy and grey hairs in equal measure. MrsM loves peeling potatoes, labelling her spice collection and coordinating her sofa cushions with her Christmas cards. MrsM hates film-sets with anomalous china. MrsM knows that every day brings the opportunity for personal development and achieves this by improving her collection of Benedict Cumberbatch youtube clips.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

a little prayer

The Plum
Edouard Manet

Dear Lord,

I know that you are very busy
because you have crowd management
of cherubim and seraphim to attend to,
not to mention important matters such as
drought, pestilence and sundry wickedness,
but if you take short breaks between tasks
and would like something less challenging
to give you a sense of achievement
please could you help me find
that delicious Plum cake recipe
which is somewhere in this house.
I don't mind if you subcontract it out
to Saint Macarius the Younger,
patron saint of pastry chefs,
but I would quite like it this morning.
It's a loaf shape with the plums on top
and crushed sugar for decorations.

most respectfully and humbly,