Friday, 28 February 2014

what the commuter saw


It rained. And rained.

3 February
The man who sweeps Trafalgar Square

I tried to embrace the grey.
I really tried.

20 February
London Eye, South Bank

I looked for light,

6 February
Odeon, Leicester Square : Tube Strike day

waited for action,

10 February
Westminster from the Jubilee Bridge

searched for quirky signs,

19 February
Great Scotland Yard
Thanks to @Silverpebble for her tweet
"The sign warns of Mr Darcys in the road"

enjoyed unexpected angles,

20 February
Nelson's Column from St. Martin in the Fields

but a camera craves light.
Even a humble phone camera.

12 February
Horse Guards, after the storm

When clouds break, just for a moment,
it is the familiar scenes
which I enjoy the most.

5 February
National Gallery, Trafalgar Square

And I fall in love all over again
with the drama and energy of London
in the early morning.

26 February
City of London from Embankment Pier

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Here is the News...

I broke Kindle the Second today.
By sitting on it. Tragic times.
I know this does not happen to books
but it is neither helpful nor kind
to mention it in my fragile state.
Kindle the Second was almost new.
Kindle the First sighed, faded,
and died quietly of desperation
halfway through 'The Luminaries'.
I sympathised.

I have lost my house keys.
No, I don't know where
because IF I knew where
I had last had them
they wouldn't be lost.
And I have already
turned the house
upside down, inside out
so I would appreciate it
if MrM didn't do it as well.
It is a bit tense here,

On a more postive note,
I have found a wonderful cobbler
inside the Royal Opera Arcade.
I am not going to tell MrM
in case he makes me take
his heavy black oxford shoes
for heels, soles and hobnails
but I will tell MissM.
It might be the only thing
I ever do which impresses her.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Triple Bill

Sarah Lamb and Ryoichi Hirano in 'Concerto'
© Dave Morgan

It is an exciting time to be watching ballet at the Royal Opera House. Principals Stephen McRae and Sarah Lamb form a scintillating partnership, exceptional athleticism combined with a star quality which transcends the rigorous demands of choreography. The energy of these young dancers is mesmerising, filling the vast gilt and plush auditorium, so that people around you are concentrating hard, following every nuance. We went to see 'Triple Bill' which contrasted classic works 'Rhapsody' by Frederick Ashton and 'Gloria' by Kenneth MacMillan with a new piece 'Tetractys' by Wayne McGregor. I am frustrated by how little I know about the history and technique but am grateful to the lovely Enthusiastic Professor who shares her passion for ballet so generously. The pictures illustrating this post are not from 'Triple Bill' but they capture the glow of McRae and Lamb which was obvious even to me as a novitiate, sitting high in the upper circle, absorbed in the complexities of the ballet.

Stephen McRae in 'Concerto’
© Johan Persson

P.S. I am also very frustrated by the fact that I do not own anything glamorous enough to wear to the ballet. I need more silk, more velvet, more pearls. I am working on that too.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

winter trees

In the woods the evidence of storms is plain,
shattered stumps, hastily sawn trunks,
ripped branches, exposed roots.

I am reminded of the terrible storm of 1987
when I saw an entire grove uprooted,
and mourned for the loss of them
as they lay parallel to the wind blast.

The arboretum manager was philosophical
and said that it was an opportunity to replant
but that he would not make hasty decisions,
he would get used to the space first.

It feels as though my own world
has undergone a similar dramatic change,
the frenetic, noisy pace I was used to
replaced by a slower, quieter life.

Sometimes I am impatient with myself because
it is taking longer than I anticipated
to adjust to this new lifestyle
but I am trying to get used to the space
before filling my hard won days with activity.
It is good advice.

Monday, 24 February 2014

MrsM's Conscience speaks...

MrsM, we need to review your diary
and plan your wardrobe.
Pull yourself together,
it is no use looking wan...

Day Out in Town
with Helen and Caroline.
A Smart Casual outfit.
Try not to dress identically.

Trip to Rome.
There will be sightseeing.
A stylish coat is essential.

Meeting the fabulous bb.
It has to be Black.

MasterM's Graduation.
A smart day suit.
Don't drip tears on the facings.

Please note you must invest
in good underpinnings
to maximise your assets.

Your formal work event dress
should be modest and understated
It can be reused effectively
for your college reunion...

MrsM, please sit up straight.
You are not taking this seriously.
Poor preparation will be disastrous.

Jeans are not an option.
Go away and get busy.


all illustrations by René Gruau,
an artist of prodigious creative energy,
whose dramatic style and imaginative designs
communicated haute couture to a mass audience

Friday, 21 February 2014

An Upheaval of Anemone

It's Friday, it's sunny,
the washing is on the line
for the first time this year.
Fresh sheets on the bed,
clean kitchen floor
and a cake in the oven.
I can sit in my chair
with a mug of hot tea
and enjoy the bright light.
The visiting cat is here,
silky orange and black.
Simple pleasures indeed.

Have a lovely weekend everyone.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Time Gone

The young man who has just got onto the train is very tall and dressed in a smart business suit. He has returned home from an exciting period of travel and finished his third day at a new job in the City. I know that because I had coffee with my friend Helen, his mother, on Tuesday. I look at this fine young man at the start of his adult life and remember a summer day twenty three years ago when I looked after his big sister while he was born. It was hot and I put the paddling pool on the lawn and she splashed in the sunshine with a baby MasterM. The spotlight of memory, so brilliant and unexpected, burned my heart slightly.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Dreaming in Indigo

Refresh (1999)

This is the work of Kenneth Noland (1924 - 2010),
an American Colour Field painter,
the geometric advances of Bauhaus
meeting the powerful colour of Matisse.

Blue Veil (1963)

Noland took the circular target form
and used it to develop his theories of colour.
His startling originality was based
on the stark simplicity of line
and dramatic bands of intense colour.


Noland is quoted as saying:
"Usually I throw away
what I don't get right
the first time."

How did he know what was 'right'
when nothing like that had been done before?
It must have been pure self-belief.

Bridge (1962)

This week I have been preparing applications
for the Derek Hill Foundation Scholarship.
The applicants are artists over the age of 24
and they send 10 images of their work
in drawing or painting which I collate
into a presentation for the selection panel.
It is like having my own private art gallery.

Gift (1962)

Each of the artists has a distinct style,
a sense of creative direction.
It is their voice.

Where does self belief come from?
I have no idea but I am going to try
to absorb that powerful confidence
into my own artistic vocabulary.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014


in South Africa...

MasterM sends MrsM a photo of himself
with a very attractive young lady.
In a bikini.
On the beach.
MrsM is impressed.

"Wow! You got lucky!
What's her name?"

"Auntie Demelza (your sister)."

My Goodness!!
I had forgotten she was in Cape Town."

MrsM ponders emigrating to Antarctica.
It is going to be a loooong time
before she lives that one down.

Monday, 17 February 2014

after the storm

What is nicer than a sunny Sunday
with no particular place to go?
You can potter around the kitchen
polishing, rearranging, enjoying.
Take a mug of coffee and biscuit
and wander around the garden
dreaming of summer flowers.

Leek and potato soup, crunchy bread,
and bright orange satsumas for lunch.
Then wrap up with hats and scarves
and walk out into the sunshine,
feeling that warmth on your face
and watching the infectious joy
of a small boy kicking a ball
under the high blue February sky.

After a week of feeling fragile
it is so good to be busy again.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

MrsM consults her doctor

Miss Prattle, consulting Doctor Double Fee
about her Pantheon Head Dress
(Carington Bowles 1771-1772)


"My dear MrsM, if you wish to avoid migraines you must live an abstemious life. You must go to bed at a moderate hour, drink only filtered water, eat oily fish twice a week and poached chicken with steamed kale on Sundays. I recommend a short period of meditation every morning, a brisk walk wearing natural fibres and yoga before retiring at night. You must endeavour to live a tranquil life, a regular routine undisturbed by the vicissitudes of the world, and I cannot stress enough how important it is to avoid loud music. And, finally, absolutely no chocolate."


I don't think that's feasible...
the bit about chocolate."

image © Trustees of the British Museum

Thursday, 13 February 2014

under the weather

Apologies for unscheduled interruption.
There's no cause for alarm.
Feeling a bit peaky.
Back soon.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Plans for tomorrow

Lady reclining on a sofa
Theresa Bernstein (1925)

My dears, I am quite, quite exhausted. Worn to a ravelling. Which is tragic news because it is only Monday. I should be as fresh as a daisy but I am feeling quite frail. This will obviously prevent me from doing the ironing tomorrow. And also cleaning the kitchen floor, far too tiring. It will not prevent me from going to the ballet tomorrow night because that involves sitting down and therefore can be part of my recovery plan. Also drinking a cocktail beforehand will maintain my fluid intake so I think I will have to do that too.

I will also be refreshing the relevant page on the Environment Agency website because we live uncomfortably close to the Thames.

Monday, 10 February 2014

family history

There were six brothers and six sisters but the men of the family were no good, they drank and gambled and I think two of them went out to Assam to become tea planters. My grandmother, Mary, was the only one who got married, she was the oldest and then Jessie, Tettie and Annie and others whose names I have forgotten. What is Tettie short for? I don't know - Letitia? Margaret? They all lived together in a big old house in Lincoln except Jessie who didn't get on with Mary and so she went off to Hungary. There was a rich widower who courted Tettie, he even asked her to marry him but she wanted time to think about it and that was her chance quite gone and she spent the rest of her life on the sofa. When my father was born he was so small that they had to feed him with a pen dropper. My dear, he was so small that he could fit into a pint pot, the one on the mantlepiece in the blue bedroom. Of course, there were so many children but they none of them survived past eighteen months except my father, all dead with scarlet fever and what-not.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Scarf Love

I regret to report that MissM has led me astray
and made sure that I share her scarf addiction.

It started in the souks of Marrakesh
when she said she only wanted one scarf...

but that it would be much cheaper
if we bought would I share?

If only I had known...
one scarf and you are hooked.

And now it is far too late,
I am buying scarfage by the armful,

because one scarf is never enough.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

in the darkness

Jackson Pollock, No. 32, 1950

I had a nightmare last night, a nameless terror, and cried out with fright. In the darkness MrM patted my arm until the fear subsided. As I sank back into a dreamless sleep I thought "this is what it is like to be loved".

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Herbal Tonic

When I got back from Spain
I needed to cheer myself up

so I filled the house with flowers:
hyacinths, anemones, daffodils.

It marked the end of a crazy month:
Morocco, Italy, Spain.

There are things to look forward to
but for now I am happy
to be under my own roof

( a roof which is not leaking anymore,
thanks to super-quick service
from our local roofing company).

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Thursday is the new Friday

"Stop work everyone, it's time for Prosecco" said MrsM's manager "Clear your desk, MrsM, that is the party desk". MrsM obediently moves her psychedelic wrist-rest and matching mouse mat to make room for crisps and dips while the lady from the Ankara desk polishes Prosecco glasses. "Am I too late?" asks the American colleague rushing in from her meeting "I told them that I have a meeting with a major donor...which is true of course...although, perhaps not right now this minute..."  "What are we celebrating today?" asks the lady from the Iraq desk "Lots of good news : a Birthday, a new flat and MrsM has finished her probationary period!" says the lady from the Levant desk. There is much clinking of glasses and sampling of Prosecco. Plans are made for an expedition, with dancing, in the spring. Everyone agrees that it is a very nice way to spend Thursday evening."Thursday is the new Friday" announces MrsM's manager. 


I must tell you that later that evening the American colleague goes to a very smart reception upstairs. The dress code is "glamorous" and she is extra sparkly. After ten minutes she comes back into the office looking thoughtful "Somebody has a brought a dog. It is an elderly corgi and it is barking, I am praying it stops when the speeches start. Pour me another drink, this is going to be a long night."

Monday, 3 February 2014

[Winter Sun]

I bring good news!
There are signs of Spring...

fragrant witch hazel, cheerful aconite
and snowdrops in the lee of a tree stump.

You need to know where to look
because they are tucked away

but once you have seen them
there is no going back,
winter is vanquished.

This weekend I came across a word
I had never heard before...

the warmth of the sun
on a cold winter's day.

I felt that warmth this weekend
as we searched for signs of spring.
Winter, be gone with you.