Wednesday, 31 October 2012

the world is planted in pennies

When I signed back in to Google Reader
after my enforced absence
I realised that the little corner of Blogland
I have loved for the past five years
has become very quiet recently.

Not this blog, I hasten to add,
as you entertain us all, day after day
with your effervescent chat in my comment box.

It is my community of blogs that worries me.

My friends have new challenges
to absorb their time
and I am thrilled for them
but I miss their company.

Other friends have found that blogging
no longer fulfils the need that once existed,
compelling them to write and publish,
and have stopped writing altogether.
I miss them too.

There are new friends who find us
and join in the chat with enthusiasm
and sparkling new blogs
that we discover by accident
but I am afraid that I am not looking
in the right places any more
because new discoveries are rare these days.

Some bloggers continue to write year after year,
retaining a fresh authentic voice,
some blogs find fresh impetus
with new challenges for the writer,
other blogs last a short time
but leave a lasting impression.
They are all unique, all extraordinary.

Please don't think that I am referring to myself.
You are always very generous
with praise and encouragement.
I love writing and will continue to do so
while I have the time and the ideas.

I have realised how fragile Blogland is,
that it is vital that we value blogs and their writers
while they are there sharing their worlds with us.
Our imaginations would be a poorer place
without their enthusiasms and new perspectives.


"If you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity,
so that finding a penny will literally make your day,
then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies,
you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days.”

Annie Dillard

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Sense vs. Sensibility

I am afraid that you have arrived
in middle of a marital 'situation'...

MrsM plans to travel light,
she will take a capsule wardrobe
with a few carefully chosen pieces
to go from day to night
with stylish accessories.

MrM has other plans.
There will be a laptop to manage
the spreadsheet of activities.
There will be many guidebooks
(exactly how many is a secret).
There will be adaptors
and wind-up torches.
And there will be wellington boots
in case there is a high tide.

Think again, MrM.
You can choose between MrsM
and the wellington boots.
But you can't have both.

Monday, 29 October 2012


Today I am watching this Wind map
and thinking of all my friends 
in the path of Hurricane Sandy.

Keep safe, keep safe.

My mother said...

My mother came to London for the day
and we did a whistlestop tour
of the National Gallery.
So much to see, so little time.

The Arnolfini Portrait
Jan van Eyck 1434

First stop the Arnolfini portrait
to contemplate "the iconography,
the inverted reflection of space
and unusual orthogonal perspective."*
She said "It's smaller than I expected"

*Thanks, Wikipedia.

Wilton Diptych
about 1395-9

In the next gallery
we admired the luminous white hart
in the Wilton Diptych.
She said "It's painted with egg! Imagine!"

St George and the Dragon
Paolo Uccello (1397 - 1475)

We agreed that the slender maiden
looked rather annoyed with George
for hurting her pet dragon.
She said "She reminds me of MissM.
Send her my love.
And MasterM, of course!"

Venice : Piazza San Marco
Canaletto (1697 - 1768)

I showed my mother the Canalettos
and told her we were off to Venice.
She said "Do you remember that time
when I sang in St. Marks?"

A Basket of Roses
Ignace-Henri-Théodore Fantin-Latour (1836 - 1904)

We both tried to buy secret presents
for each other in the gift shop.
My mother bought me a tiny handbag mirror
with Fantin Latour roses on the back.
She said "I always think of you
when I see old fashioned roses."

and then it was time to leave
and go to Paddington station
where I hugged her
and she got on the train to Cornwall.


all images © The National Gallery, London
visit their wonderful website
The National Gallery

Friday, 26 October 2012

(just for the record)

Four Years On

It is the start of term
and the corridors are busy again.
New faces, new smiles.

Abi is back from China
with memories of strange landscapes.
She asks me to thank you all
for your visits to her blog.

The very cultured Academic
tells me that he is having
a book of poetry published.
It is a life's work.

The Academic Next Door
twists and turns to show off
the clever drapes and folds
of her vivid purple designer dress.

The Academic who was 39
when I started work in the Department
sends photos from Santorini.
He claims he is doing fieldwork.

The Inspirational Academic
is now with us full time.
His energy fills the corridor
as he passes the door to my office.
I hear his words in my head
"Go brave...make mistakes"

The Lady Professor appears on TV.
Watch her on Prehistoric Autopsy
Be will be overcome
with a desire to be a palaeoarchaeologist.

The Academic who carried the engagement ring
in the bottom of his rucksack
will be a father in the New Year.

The adorable South African PhD student
who arrived on the same day as me
has graduated and married,
and is now teaching down the corridor.

The Examinations Officer
proposes students could write a blog
as part of their assessment.
I am flabbergasted.
Times have changed.

The wife of the Young Academic
sends cakes flavoured with rose water
and scattered with rose petals
to celebrate their fourth wedding anniversary.
They were on honeymoon when I arrived.

The Enthusiastic Professor
stops outside my office
and tells me to go home.

And I am reminded yet again
how I grateful I am
for the friendship I have found
in this noisy, busy Department.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

A Dream of Venice

"Oh yes, it was my Venice! Beautiful,
With melancholy, ghostly beauty...

White, misty palace-portals here and there,
Pillars, and marble steps, and balconies...

I saw the grey dawn shimmer down the stream,
And all the city rise, new bathed in light,
With rose-red blooms on her decaying walls,

a water-wilderness—
Islands entangled in a net of streams—
Cross-threads of rippling channels, woven through
Bare sands, and shallows glimmering blue and broad

The lapping of the tide—the dip of oars—
The sad, sweet songs, and sadder city bells,
Mellowly borne along the water-streets:—

there rose a vapour from the sea—
A dim white mist, that thickened into fog.
The campanile and columns were blurred out..."


extracts from
'A Dream of Venice' by Ada Cambridge

paintings by J. M. W. Turner RA (1775 – 1851)


We are going to Venice next week.
Will you come too?

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Message from MissM

When you come to visit
can you bring Henrietta the chicken,
the one that Grandma gave me.
I miss her.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

This little piggy...

went to market and bought...

bright red tomatoes
because they smelt of summer,

shiny orange satsumas
to look beautiful in a blue bowl,

yellow melon, green limes,
squeaky-fresh ginger,
watercress from Somerset
and spring onions for salad,

nut-brown russet apples,
and luscious strawberries
perfect for meringues and cream

and then she went home
and tried to work out
when she was going to
eat all this food.

She blames her greengrocer
who is VERY charming.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Interview with the Headmistress

The following girls should go to my study:

I expect an immediate explanation
of why you have kept secret
from poor, hapless MrsM
the fact that circular needles
are not just for circular knitting.

MrsM is not very bright
and she has struggled for a lifetime
with extra long needles, stitch retainers,
tired arms and squashed knitting.
She was extremely distressed to discover
that these could all have been avoided
if you had introduced her to
addi premium circular needles years ago.

You are all experienced knitters
and I am very disappointed with you.
You should have realised
the pitiful depth of her ignorance.
Please consider if there is anything else
that you should be sharing with MrsM
to help her adjust to knitting in the modern era.

You may go now.


Miss Bain, High School, Carlisle
© Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick

The delightful image is from
an 1890 photograph album of Headmistresses
archived in the Modern Record Centre,
University of Warwick.

Some of these formidable women
may have been educated
at Royal Holloway.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Cooking with my daughter

Chicken with Butternut Squash and Dried Cherries

I subscribed to Good Food for a long time until I realised that the magazines were arriving before the last one had been read. I concluded that I needed a break from the relentless pictures of culinary achievement and so I cancelled the subscription.

Times change and this autumn I have two subscriptions - one for me and one for MissM. We pick recipes from each magazine and cook them together - even though she is in her tiny student kitchen all those miles away. MissM learns to cook, MrsM has an excuse to chat to MissM and MrM gets to eat interesting food - it's a win/win/win situation. 

Friday, 19 October 2012


in South Africa...

MasterM is keeping busy.

I expect you have been
worrying about that.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Au Fil Du Temps

Pernes-les-Fontaines outside Avignon
has 52 fountains or perhaps 35 or 43
depending on which guide book you have.

We only discovered 5 fountains
in the warren of tiny streets
before we got distracted.

I saw it first, a few tables,
stylish glasses, young families
in the sunshine of the quiet square.

Au Fil Du Temps is tiny
with only 18 covers and so
there was an agonising pause
when we asked if they had a table.

My instincts were right...
the set menu was a joyful marriage
between the freshest of ingredients
and a playful approach to flavours.

A featherlight savoury mousse
apparently suspended in mid air
was followed by steamed celeraic,
the melting texture contrasting
with a granular quinoa dressing.

The fish was miraculously perfect.
Crisp skin, steaming hot,
flaking as the knife touched it.
I tried not to sigh with delight
but it was embarrassingly impossible.

And here is the dessert:
limpid green fennel poached in vanilla
draped on a soft bed of buttery cake
dotted with white chocolate,
studded with apricot puree.

It was a real thrill to stumble across
a restaurant which celebrates
a passion for food with such creativity.
The decor is utilitarian chic
and the service is quietly efficient.

If you visit Pernes-les-Fontaines
don't try to find all the fountains,
they will still be there next year.
Make a beeline for Au Fil Du Temps
and enjoy the hospitality of
this talented young couple
before they are lured away to new challenges.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Avignon : Soundscape

the first autumn leaves crisp underfoot

glasses clinking against metal bistro tables

a luggage trolley rattling over cobbles

laughter somewhere out of sight

Disney tunes tinkling at night-time
on the gilt roundabout in the square

the muffled yap of a lapdog
at the next restaurant table

motorbikes, cars, lorries.
brakes, sirens, car radios
outside the city walls

and an accordion player
outside the Palais des Papes

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Brassica oleracea

On the tenth day of October...

MrM gave to me...

an ornamental cabbage.

He's groovy like that.


Many thanks to my kind MrM
for setting up
my shiny new laptop

and thanks to you all
for your thoughtful words.

I've got so much to tell you -
shall we start with pictures
from the South of France?

Monday, 15 October 2012

Burglar Bill

Burglar Bill
Allan and Janet Ahlberg

Here I am!

My planned absence gallivanting in France
had an unplanned extension due to
a home visit from the Criminal Fraternity.
They took, amongst other things, our laptops
which is why I have not been able to write.

I could list the items that they took
or describe the mess that they made
or add up the time that it has taken
to deal with the police and insurance
but I want to stop thinking about it now.

So, here I am, writing on MrM's new laptop,
not my new laptop which arrives tomorrow,
but it feels like another step away
from the horrible moment when MrM said
"We've been burgled."

It's good to be back.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Technical Issues


that should have read

"Back As Soon As Possible"

Slight delay due to technical issues.

Apologies for not being able to reply to emails.