Sunday, 30 June 2013

Breakfast on Sunday

First buy your waffles, strawberries and cream.
Or grow them, make them or have them delivered
by organic lorries with free range drivers.

Pick a sunny Sunday morning
and heat the waffles in the oven.

Whip the cream.
With a whisk.
Exercise? Check.

Slice or halve the strawberries.
It's a personal choice.
Sprinkle with sugar.
Or not.

Spoon cream on waffle,
pile strawberries on top.
It's not rocket science.

Eat in the sunshine.

Friday, 28 June 2013

opening, closing, opening

I have spent the evening transferring my Google Reader subscriptions to The Old Reader - I know I could have imported them all at once but it was an opportunity to think about what I am reading. Sometimes it is good to let go, to acknowledge that  your life has moved on over the years and what you want to read will have changed too.

I also bid farewell to bloggers I followed that have stopped posting over the years. Thank you for your posts - they were opportunities for me to meet people and see places that I would not otherwise have had.

But mostly I felt overwhelming gratitude to all of my amazing blog friends who continue to post and enrich my life with their experiences. Thank you - all of you - you're lovely.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

MrsM in the confessional

MrsM is having a one-to-one with her ironing guru.

Ironing Guru
Tell me exactly how you feel

"It’s a feeling deep within your heart,
one you try to ignore, of heaviness.
Of dread and discouragement.
Of sadness and guilt and collapse."

Ironing Guru
How do you respond to this feeling?

"I want to fall on a bed and shut out the world.
But that doesn’t work,
because the feeling follows me into bed,
and actually intensifies until finally
I have to get out of bed to try to escape it."

Ironing Guru
"You must take action!
Otherwise your life will degrade
to a point where you don't respect yourself."

I have gone significantly beyond that point.
I have THREE ironing piles.

Ironing Guru
Follow my four step plan for ironing Nirvana
"See the problem in perspective:
it's not the End of the World."

(MrsM "it feels like like it...")

"Reframe the failure:
it's not you who are failing,
it's your method."

(MrsM "no kidding")

"Change the method:
add some accountability."

(MrsM "Oh dear - I see MrM as Ironing Monitor")

Iron the first shirt :
Just Do It

(MrsM "Deep, deep sigh of despair")

Ironing Guru
"The single [shirt] you iron today
is the antidote
to the soul-tearing effects of failure."



with apologies to Leo of zenhabits

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

A poetry reading in Acton

At the launch of 'Soil' by Tim Cresswell

Facing each other, the poets are embedded, sombre,
oblivious to crash and clatter of kitchen and bar.
The publisher, sole witness to the agonies of creation,
huddles behind a pile of books, leaking words.

The poets declaim in honour of the auspicious day,
earnest, incomprehensible, mischievous by turn,
while friends press against walls or lounge awkwardly,
uncertain about the rules on laughter. Or applause.

The poet they have come to hear opens his new book,
releasing from white pages the screech of parakeets,
red rowan berries, a cascade of pubs, old man Andy,
the glitter of an urban fox and a rabbit that swings.

After applause and congratulations, the friends leave,
meeting wet Acton streets for the first time,
but the poets remain, drinking shots at the bar,
a baptism of words that hang in the air, alive.

Alice Christie


Many congratulations to Professor Tim Cresswell on the launch of his debut collection of poems, 'Soil' published by Penned in the Margins. It has been a  privilege to hear about the process of preparing the book over the past months and to be present at the launch. The collection has already had wonderful reviews from Jo Shapcott and Philip Gross who believe that Tim will be an important new voice in poetry.

It is a remarkable collection of poems, the urban landscape defined with compassion and affection. I love the wit, playful placement of words on the page, pitch perfect phrases and glimpses of wildness in the gaps between houses. My favourite poem - is such a thing permitted? - is 'On entering the home of the bourgeois intelligentsia for the first time'. Let's just say it sounded familiar and leave it at that.

Good luck to Tim and his family as they relocate to Boston this summer - the literary salons of Boston are in for a real treat.

[photo courtesy of Penned in the Margins]

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

attitude problem

Nope. Nothing. Empty brain syndrome. Doesn't happen very often. Have some avocado and prawn salad with pea shoots while I think. Even the salad looks a bit anaemic. Should have sprinkled some cayenne pepper on top. Needing some sofa time - it's been in short supply recently. The garden is looking pretty though. Roses, paeonies, geranium, lavender etcetera. Also many, many cushions. For everyone else to relax on, apparently.

I'll tell you about the poetry reading in Acton tomorrow. Or maybe we'll have a tour of the herb garden. Or a bento masterclass. Or my piece in the latest 'Oh Comely' definitely need to know about that. Tomorrow sounds as though it could be good. Come back tomorrow.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Private Lives

If you were only ever going to one show in the West End you could do worse than 'Private Lives' which has just opened at the Gielgud. It is a little jewel box of a theatre, gold embellishments on white plaster, filled with photos of Gielgud in his prime. There are plush chairs, velvet curtains and little doors to boxes in strange angles of the stairs to the stalls, the foyer sells those boxes of fruit pastels that you never see anywhere but in theatre foyers and the queue for the Ladies does not appear to get any shorter. It is the authentic theatre experience.

'Private Lives' was written by Noël Coward with Gertrude Lawrence in mind and he played opposite her in the original 1930 production. It is hard to believe that Coward managed to convince the official censor, the Lord Chamberlain's office, that the play would be produced in 'a dignified and unobjectionable manner' when you look at these photographs and see the sexual tension between the two characters. This revival of 'Private Lives' stars Toby Stephens and Anna Chancellor who convey a restless energy as they are alternately drawn to and then repelled by each other.

Noël Coward quoted the critics describing the play as 'tenuous, thin, brittle, gossamer, iridescent, and delightfully daring'. It is all of those things but it is also puzzling. Somerset Maugham was the great rival of Coward in the theatrelands of the 1920s and his tempestuous marriage to the glamorous Syrie had just come to an end in 1929. None of the commentaries about 'Private Lives' refer to this as inspiration for the plot and yet Noël Coward was a loyal friend of Syrie Maugham, commissioning her to decorate his various home. It is intriguing to note that Syrie Maugham's favourite designer, Molyneux, was also the designer for Gertrude Lawrence's exquisite fish tail satin evening dress in the 1930 production. Coward was contemptuous of analysis of his plays but it is fun to speculate and there is an unmistakable resemblance between Gerald Haxton, Somerset  Maugham's lover, and the character of Victor as played by Laurence Olivier so perhaps the title itself is a sly reference to Maugham's homosexuality.  

Gertrude Lawrence in Syrie Maugham's Kings Road shop

Thursday, 20 June 2013

the Paeony without a label

I am tired tonight so my ground breaking analysis of social class by the variety of tomato that is purchased must wait for another day.

Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful comments on my Tuesday post. It is always a risk writing about things that are close to your heart - a well intentioned but misjudged comment can be surprisingly upsetting - but every single comment reached out to me with compassion.

On the subject of comments I have noticed that now the majority of people writing a comment on my blog do not have an email address in their profile and so I cannot reply as an email which is what I have always done in the past. The only way around this is to reply in the comments which I have started doing. The disadvantage for me is that now I can only reply in the evening which is when I write posts. Let's see how it goes.

And so to bed.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

In the Therapist's Chair

An Old Woman Cooking Eggs
Velazquez (1618)

So, MrsM, why have you asked for an urgent appointment? I understand that difficult issues have arisen overnight - is that correct? From what you have said it is something to do with a spoon? I must admit I fail to see how a spoon could trigger an episode of panic leading to a major self examination. Let's take this step by step...the evening started normally - yes? You were cooking supper for your family - and a guest - nothing out of the ordinary. Your daughter and the guest set the table - stop me if you are starting to feel uncomfortable - and you all sit down. What happens at this point? You look down and what do you see? Calm down, MrsM, calm down and take it slowly. You see a spoon but it is not YOUR spoon. You always have the same spoon and somehow the wrong spoon has been set for you. Is there anything special about this spoon? Does it have magical powers? Do you have an unusually shaped hand that only this spoon will fit? No. It is clear to me that you are being unreasonable but your family have always humoured you. MrsM, I must tell you that you are old enough to be adaptable to a range of spoons and you need to face up to that fact so we will start immediately with cognitive behavioural therapy and hypnosis. are you getting on with the other little issue of drinking out of non blue and white mugs?

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

the madness of grief

The Light Between Oceans
M L Stedman

I loved this book and I think you will too. It is an accomplished debut novel which has had excellent reviews but I stumbled across it accidentally through an Amazon recommendation. M L Stedman writes of a remote coastal town in Australia and a sequence of events which will affect everyone in the town. The novel is tightly plotted but the writing is so assured that the story moves effortlessly from the opening pages, developing the characters and building the community that they live in.

This is not a book blog and I have no intention of analysing the novel because to do so will spoil the elegant way in which the plot unfolds. However, the basis of the story is grief and particularly the loss of a child which I would like to comment on. Our first daughter, Grace, would have been 25 this week and reading the book brought back memories of the early days of our bereavement, the sense of being completely adrift in a world which made no sense.

Every year as we remember Grace I wonder what she would have become. In my mind she has gone through school and on to university, now at the age of 25 she would have graduated and started her adult life. At the age of 25 I was married and so I imagine that for her too. I cannot really know the person that she would have become or the life that she would have lived but I try to hold onto my sense of who she might have been as a way of remembering her.

I have called this post 'the madness of grief' because in my experience you feel incapable of controlling the intensity of your emotions and that can feel like madness. In retrospect, I wonder if bereavement strips off the protective veneer that we each create to deal with the world we live in, leaving behind the person that you really are, so that it is not madness but humanity that is exposed. It takes courage to face the world exposing our grief and it is the limits of that courage M L Stedman explores so thoughtfully. I look forward to her next novel.


Thank you so much  for your kind and thoughtful comments.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Boat Party!!

A perfect evening:
warm, still and cloudless

Three hundred and fifty Geographers,
staff and students, ready to party.

And twenty enormous, surly bouncers.

Setting off from Tower Bridge
we sail upstream to Westminster
and then downstream to the Dome.

The Shard looks spectacular...
it was a case study for a recent PhD...

There are blue framed shades, black lace dresses,
cream wedding shoes on a trial run, tweed flat caps.

The finalists tell me their plans for the future:
postgraduate studies, job applications, careers.

The second years tell me about their summers:
jobs, travel, dissertation research.

The first years tell me about their memories:
freshers week, Spain, halls, tutorials.

I thank the GeogSoc committee:
Sam, Martha, Hannah, Will, Becca, Izzy and Abi,
their hard work and imagination
has made so many happy memories this year.

There is dancing.

A sunset to remember for a lifetime.
Every shade of red, orange and gold.

Here I am with the lovely Natalie:
PhD student, rugby fanatic and dear friend.

I catch a late train home from Waterloo
and I am looked after all the way
by students who make sure I get home safely.

And that was the loveliest thing of all.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Bento #9

Let's talk summer Bento

*Serious Face*

Just a simple little Moroccan feast today
Stuffed peppers, spicy couscous
and green salad with pea shoots.

Did I stuff my own peppers?
Why would I want to do that?

Goats cheese.
Cranberry toasts.
*yawn, yawn*
"Same old, same old" I hear you cry.
home grown thyme!
Bet you weren't expecting that!

Ripe nectarine with raspberries.
And purple viola.
Doesn't everyone
have flowers
in their lunchbox?
I'm shocked.

Food safety is important during the summer.
I have a fridge in my office
but if you don't you should read this post.

Me - I'm holding off on the fresh seabass ceviche
until it cools down again.


I'm eating this with MissM...
she is advising me what to wear tomorrow
to a poetry book launch in Acton.

I don't even know where Acton is.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Raspberry Ripple cake

Have I mentioned the Examiners' cakes yet?

Today I made Raspberry Ripple cake
which was like an inside out trifle.
(I thought of you, Gina!)

The Assistant Registrar attending the meeting
was astonished at the concept of a cake break.
I explained that it was a tradition.
He didn't complain.

I've been making cakes for the Examiners for five years now.
That's long enough to be a tradition.
(And they're worth it.)

Monday, 10 June 2013

A late entry from MissM

What's this I hear about a Cute Off?

Here is my entry:

'The orphan foal who was saved by a teddy bear'

It is a knockout blow.

MrsM and MasterM accept defeat.


Don't panic if you are missing the china,
bento boxes, visiting cats
and moaning about ironing
normal blogging service will resume tomorrow...

Saturday, 8 June 2013

The Battle of Cute

It's Wednesday evening
and MrsM settles down to
a brutal session of internet warfare
with MasterM in South Africa,
no holds barred.

MasterM opens with the dog/cake gambit:

MrsM responds hard with puppies,
lots and lots of puppies.

it's a strategic move
she knows it's too early to win...

MasterM cranks it up,
he's feeling confident now...
he thinks he can force MrsM
to play her winning card

MrsM brings out the piglet in socks...

surely this is Top Cute?

But no...

MasterM spins in his response:

the sad spaniel puppy

MasterM wins The Battle of Cute.


Friday, 7 June 2013

the view from here

it's busy
but good busy

MissM is coming home
MrM is buying guide books
for an exciting week away
MrsM is pondering colours
for an adorable garden house
the exams are finishing soon
and the visiting cat
loves our garden

I'm grateful