Thursday, 28 February 2013

Expansion of Light

I ached for colour today
as though I was suffering
from acute visual anaemia.

Simultaniety of Centrifugal and Centripedal Groups
(Woman at a Window)

At the end of the day
I found a postcard from Venice
bought in the Guggenheim.

Expansion of Light, Centrifugal and Centripetal

The swirling energy of Gino Severini
poured into the void
and the ache vanished.

Sea = Dancer

It is only a temporary solution
but Spring is on the way.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

(just for the record)

The Periodic Departmental Review

It is a very, very serious occasion.
There are a panel of eight visitors
assessing the student experience
in the Department.
It happens once every five years.

MrsM delivers a car-load of paperwork
in stylish dark red lever arch files
that she has purchased specially.

MrsM agonises about what to wear.
She wants to look like a proper Administrator.
She notes that the Head of Department
is wearing his Serious Tie.

The Technical Operations Manager
organises the room for maximum efficiency;
Lovely Jenny displays her best posters;
MrsM pimps the noticeboard outside.

Groups of students are interviewed,
Academic Staff are interviewed,
The Head of Department is interviewed
and then the panel retires
to consider its verdict.

At the end of the two days
the staff of the Department
are invited in to hear the initial outcome.
The Vice-Principal, who has a reputation
for being fierce, is smiling.
It is rather unnerving

The Vice-Principal reads the summary
"There is a culture of excellence here.
Academic, Technical and Administrative staff
working hard to ensure that students
get the best possible experience."

And MrsM is so very, very proud
of the dedication of her colleagues.

In a long list of commendations
the Vice Principal praises
the innovative use of social media.
And MrsM is secretly thrilled
because this one is her project.

The Head of Department turns to his staff
and says
"Thank you, Team."

After the panel of visitors leave
The Head of Department takes the leftover cakes
and stands in the foyer
handing them out to students.

MrsM goes back into the committee room
and eats all the remaining twiglets
The shame of it.

And then the Head of the Department,
and MrsM and everyone else go the pub.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

the hills had new places

I find myself returning to memories of Spain.

This was the view from my bedroom.
It was in a small annexe
projecting from the hotel,
catching the wind from the mountains
which blew fiercest at night.

I was describing this to a colleague
and he quoted 'Wind' by Ted Hughes
"This house has been far out at sea all night"
and that is how it was.

This house has been far out at sea all night,
The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills,
Winds stampeding the fields under the window
Floundering black astride and blinding wet

Till day rose; then under an orange sky
The hills had new places, and wind wielded
Blade-light, luminous black and emerald,
Flexing like the lens of a mad eye.

At noon I scaled along the house-side as far as
The coal-house door. Once I looked up -
Through the brunt wind that dented the balls of my eyes
The tent of the hills drummed and strained its guyrope,

The fields quivering, the skyline a grimace,
At any second to bang and vanish with a flap;
The wind flung a magpie away and a black-
Back gull bent like an iron bar slowly. The house

Rang like some fine green goblet in the note
That any second would shatter it. Now deep
In chairs, in front of the great fire, we grip
Our hearts and cannot entertain book, thought,

Or each other. We watch the fire blazing,
And feel the roots of the house move, but sit on,
Seeing the window tremble to come in,
Hearing the stones cry out under the horizons.

Ted Hughes

Monday, 25 February 2013


spotted on a student blog

"I am looking for volunteers
to participate in a collaborative project.
The working title is
"People who have eaten too much wasabi paste"

The concept is that we meet in a sushi bar
and I buy you some sushi.
You cover your sushi with wasabi paste
and then eat it while I take photos.
You are not allowed to eat pickled ginger.
Images will be published as a photo-montage."

photo : my lunch on Tuesday

Sunday, 24 February 2013

a fireside chat

Lady by a Fireplace
George Goodwin Kilburne

It snowed yesterday.
Grey sky. Snow flurries.
I am so over snow.
It should be Spring...
make it happen.

On the bright side
a snow day is a sofa day.

At the moment my mantlepiece
has some particularly lovely flowers,
a surprise delivery from MrM.
Lime green chrysanthemums,
smoky pink roses and
fabulous Stargazer lilies.

Yesterday was the anniversary
of the first day we met
and we ate in our favourite restaurant.
Afterwards we had coffee by the fire
and chatted to the young cocktail waiter
who told us that my margarita
was the first one he had ever made.
I see more margaritas in his future.

On a snow day I wish
that we had a real fire.
The rest of the year
I don't think about it
but on a snow day
a fern in a brass cache pot
doesn't quite cut it.

Norwegian television has just shown
"Hel Ved" Strong Firewood
12 hours of flickering flames
with music and poetry.
Perhaps I should get it on DVD.

Did I ever mention the year
when MasterM insisted on watching
the World Wood-Chopping Championships?
No? It must have slipped my mind.

I miss lovely Eurolush
and her obsession with woodpiles.

When we win big
with our Premium Bonds
I am going to demand
an Elizabethan manor house
with an enormous fireplace.

We will also have a forest
to supply logs for the fire
and a woodcutter or two.

If we had a real fire
we could toast crumpets
with our toasting forks.
Do we have toasting forks?
Of course!
Doesn't everyone?

I have cast on another blanket
for the next Baby Geographer.
Can I knit it in 20 weeks?
It's a challenge.
More snow days required.

Friday, 22 February 2013

MrsM gets real

MrsM stood in front of the Senate House
and looked around her.
Somehow, without  noticing,
she had travelled all the way
from the woman who did not know
how to turn on a computer
to someone who secretly wrote
an anonymous blog about her family
and arrived at this new person
who was going to talk to PhD students
about how to use social media.
She wasn't sure how she felt about this
but there wasn't time to think too much
so she walked on.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

all the pretty flowers


It's been a busy Wednesday
and I have lots of ideas
for posts, articles, poems
jostling for space in my brain.


Let's just pause and breathe
and look at photos of flowers.
They were all taken on the same day
in the early morning light.


and before you say anything...
my mother was staying
so I needed flowers
in every room.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Man Who Planted Trees

This is a very slight book
but it lingers in my mind
long after I have read it.
Jean Giono tells the story
of a Provencal shepherd
who travels across the hills
planting 100 acorns a day.
The acorns become trees
and the barren hillsides
become alive with woodland.
At the most basic level
this is an ecological fable
but the shepherd did not exist
and the hills of the Vaucluse
are not shrouded in trees.
I know these things
even before I finish reading
and yet the story clings to me.
This is an allegory of hope,
of persistence, of belief.
It is not about trees.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Bento #2

Poached salmon with potato salad and cucumber

I'm getting more confident.
This is a bought potato salad
with added cornichons
and some poached salmon.

It was pretty delicious,
although I say it myself, *as shouldn't.
(*Where does this come from? I've no idea!)

I added giant preztels
because this is my New York bento.
I pretended I was eating with bb.
We have a lot to catch up on...
she's been on holiday
and I want to hear all about it.

The strawberries are pretty, no?
Prettiness is permitted
under Rule #2
"Bento must be fun".

MasterM, big brother

MrM and MrsM put on their brave faces
because the dreaded day had arrived
to tidy the cupboard under the stairs
and they emptied it out
and took away much rubbish.

At the very back they found
a little plastic roundabout
which was the same
little plastic roundabout
that MasterM gave MissM
on the day that she was born.

And MrsM remembered MasterM
in his corduroy dungarees
sitting on the hospital bed
with the present for his new sister
looking rather overwhelmed
by the strangeness of it all.
And it was as though it was yesterday.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Meanwhile Cape Town...

MasterM has been celebrating Valentine's Day.

(Hashim, you are not what I expected....)

Friday, 15 February 2013


And in the ninth month
MrsM did knit very fast
until at the eleventh hour
she finished the blanket
for the baby Geographer.

And MrsM did not have much time
to look and see how good it was
because she had to sew in the ends
and do that blocking thing.

And MrsM persuaded Teddy Edward
to come out of retirement
and pose attractively upon
the sea of luscious creamy cables.

And then MrsM folded it up
and wrapped it in pretty paper
and hoped it would keep
the baby Geographer warm.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Bento #1

Feta & Butternut Squash salad

Here it is!
My first Salarywoman Bento box.
Who knew that aligning tomatoes
could be so much fun?

Rules of the Bento Box

It doesn't have to be homemade
because the objective is
to stop having panic attacks at lunch time,
not to start having them in the morning.
This is a Tesco prepacked salad
and very good it was.

It's got to be fun.
This is a practical plastic box
but I can indulge myself
with designer storage if I wish.
It's not going to break the bank.
Why not a collection of furoshiki cloth ?

You will see that I did not have room
for the tiny pot of salad dressing.
Beginners mistake, I am afraid.

Thanks to Sue for the link to Just Bento
and to MrM for the map mats.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Paseo de los Tristes, Granada

Look away from the wall
to blue sky above mountains
and the olive tree on the hillside
where a bird sings carelessly.

Look back at the wall
where the bullet holes remain,
spattered through plaster,
not higher than the head
of a kneeling man,
testament to war.

Look away from the wall
at the end of the road
to the tree on the hill.
And the bird still sings.

Alice Christie
13 ii 13


The Cementerio de San José is situated on the hill above the Alhambra at the end of the Paseo de los Tristes. It is an impressive place full of monuments and statuary appropriate for a large and wealthy city.

Walk outside and follow the edge of the cemetery around to the right and you will come to a memorial which commemorates victims of the Franco regime who were shot by firing squads against the wall. 3,978 executions were recorded here between 1936 and 1956 and you can still see the bullet holes in the plaster. Places like this are to be found all over Spain but are only just being acknowledged.

If you visit the Alhambra I recommend that you find the time to walk up to the Cemetery and see this place of profound grief.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Miss Maisie takes charge

When you first met Miss Maisie
she was four months old.
She chatted a lot then
and not much has changed.
It is after lunch on Sunday...
Miss Maisie waves her hand imperiously.

"You can be my daughters
and I will tell you what to do.
Daughter Ursula, you can roll the red PlayDoh
and I will make patterns on it."

"Daughter Alice, you can roll out the blue Playdoh
and make a dog shape for Archie.
I know it looks like a hippopotamus
but he doesn't know that."

MrsM obediently starts rolling blue Playdoh
and as that very particular smell drifts up
MrsM feels herself slipping backwards
to a time when her garlic-crusher
was permanently jammed with Playdoh.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Cooking with MissM

I thought I would ring and tell you
what I am cooking for supper.
Fish pie!
That sounds delicious!
Who is coming to supper?
My housemates for next year.
Do I need to cook the prawns
before I put them in the pie
and do I need mustard powder?
Yes and No.
Slight white sauce crisis
It's lumpy!
That's because it can sense your fear.
Beat it with a whisk.
All the lumps are vanishing!
Everything's fine
but I haven't got enough mash.
You can either make some more
or just put it around the edge
and tell your friends
it is a family recipe from Galway.
I'll make more mash!
It's on the table...
I am going to send you a photo!

It seems blogging can be inherited:
here is a second generation blogger
taking a photo of
"Fish Pie and Bemused Friends".


Thank you so much for the comments
on my lunchbox post yesterday
and particularly to Sue
for her packed lunch Pinterest board.
I have been given some wonderful ideas
- there will be bento box blog posts
in the not too distant future.

Sunday, 10 February 2013


I love our weekend lunches
of soup and good bread,
cheese and fresh fruit
when we have time to sit and chat.

Weekdays are quite a different story
and I had an unpleasant experience on Friday.
I went into one of the catering outlets for lunch,
looked at the limited choice of baguettes and ciabattas,
and felt overwhelmingly nauseous.

It was quite unexpected and I had to leave quickly.
I got my lunch off campus and as I ate it
I knew that I wouldn't be buying sandwiches again.
After seven years my body has rebelled.

I know that the solution is obvious:
to make my own lunches
but I'm fighting it.
I truly hate preparing packed lunches.

If you have any recommendations
for recipe books or websites
which will give me a kickstart
I would be very grateful.

watch out for my forthcoming post on Bento boxes...

Friday, 8 February 2013

marble or quartzite

The Place of the Solitaires

Let the place of the solitaires
Be a place of perpetual undulation.

Whether it be in mid-sea
On the dark, green water-wheel,
Or on the beaches,
There must be no cessation
Of motion, or of the noise of motion,
The renewal of noise
And manifold continuation;
And, most, of the motion of thought
And its restless iteration,

In the place of the solitaires,
Which is to be a place of perpetual undulation.

Wallace Stevens, Harmonium (1923).

Thursday, 7 February 2013

The Miseries of London

MrsM's Father and MrsM's Mother
came to stay last weekend.

This is what they did in two days:

"First we visited the National Gallery and then we walked across to Westminster Abbey for the Candlemas Service. After that we went out for a meal in a nice little Turkish restuarant on the Cut. It was very hyper - so many people and so much noise! On the next day we went to the National Theatre to see if they had any tickets for the new Alan Bennett play. They did but they cost £47 each so we decided to go to the Elizabeth Taylor film at the British Film Institute later in the afternoon. After that we strolled across to Covent Garden and enjoyed the buskers and then we dropped into Gordons Wine Bar for a drink. We had lunch at the amazing food market on the South Bank and bought some delicious cheese and other goodies. Then it was time for the film which was terrific but unfortunately the cheese started to ripen so it was a little bit smelly."

MrsM hung her head in shame because she had not done any of those things recently even though they are all within reach. It is galling when your parents show you how to live the good life.

And so MrsM said to MrM:

"I'm going to be in Bedford Square on 19 February
Would you like to take me out for supper?"

And MrM made a note in his diary.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Hall of Mirrors

Can we have a little heart-to-heart?

I'm all about Borgen at the moment.
I want to be like Birgitte Nyborg Christensen
She is a great role model...
smart, sexy and no nonsense.

I told MrM that I wanted cashmere lounge pants
so I could look like Birgitte
when I was relaxing at the end of the day.
It was aspirational wardrobe management.

MrM immediately contacted my dear friend Mary
and said "Help me! What are lounge pants?"
Mary did not hesitate - she searched online
and found some fabulous lounge pants...
in cashmere! in a sale!
Clever, clever Mary.

Unfortunately, I am not a lounge pants person.
I do not do lounging very successfully.
I wish I did.
Even if I could lounge in an age-appropriate way
I am quite sure that cashmere would go baggy.

I am going to have to give up the dream
but at least I can wear a scarf like Birgitte.
Oh yes - I can knot like a Statsminister

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Meanwhile Mozambique...

MasterM is perfecting
his networking skills.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Fruit Salad cake

Today, Mary, I am going to bake
a Fruit Salad cake.

That would be because
I made fruit salad for breakfast
and we didn't eat it all.

Please enjoy my use
of "classic" baking equipment.
Or as MasterM says...
"museum pieces" have guessed correctly...
lining cake tins is
my secret superpower.

I could have used
the magic of Photoshop
to protect you from
the post-Christmas state of my oven.
But I didn't.
We are all adults here.


Fruit Salad cake.

Packed with vitamins.

And slathered with cream.

(It wouldn't be edible otherwise).

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Home Thoughts from Abroad

However often I go away,
no matter how exciting the location,
I still suffer from homesickness.

Not the lying-on-the-bed-sobbing variety
or the "Get me out of here" panic
but a sense of dislocation from the familiar.

It is the weight of the duvet that I miss,
the light that falls at certain times of the day,
the comfort of familiar food,
the bright pleasure of my china,
and the small routines of everyday life.

I take these thing for granted
so it is good to go away
and remind myself to be grateful.