Wednesday, 30 April 2014

MrM and MrsM, Birders

MrM and MrsM are walking beside the vlei, a freshwater lagoon

What is that bird?
It is medium sized. And grey.
Oh dear, I can't find it in the book...
well, what is that other bird?
It is quite smart.
It has red bits.
I don't think you are trying very hard
What is that bird?
It is an LBJ
Oh really? What does that mean?
'Little Brown Job'
It is a technical term.
Look at those birds on the water...
Do you know what they are?
Yes. They are idle.
Very Idle Birds.
We are not very good at this, are we?

this post is for my friend, Reader's Guide, who is a proper birder.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

On the Boardwalk

A pristine environment of sand dunes, fynbos and freshwater lagoon. In the spring the Southern Right whales swim close to the shore but now in the autumn there are only gulls and sea spray. The beach seems drab and uninteresting in the grey evening light until you look closely and see delicate pink shells, fluorescent green algae, bright blue jellyfish and seaweed the colour of amethyst stones. If you are lucky, low angles of light will illuminate the crests of the waves and the beauty of it will hurt your heart a little. You have to be patient, look carefully and ignore the people waiting, impatiently.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Lunch at Tokara

On our last day in South Africa
we drove from Franschhoek to the airport
and stopped for lunch at the Tokara vineyard.

deconstructed sushi

It was the last in a series of spectacular meals,
and we enjoyed every delicious mouthful.

[A strict regime is required
now we are back at home.]

grilled line fish with saffron foam

Tokara specialises in contemporary cuisine
and there is a strong Japanese influence:
sushi rice, fresh fish, oriental seasoning
and lightly steamed vegetables.

roast duck with sushi rice

We sat at the window, looking down the valley
talking about our wonderful holiday,
It was only eight days since we landed
but we had squeezed a lot into
the short time that we were there.

The most important event was Graduation Day
and if you look through the trees
you can see the university campus
where MasterM studied for the last four years.

chocolate pavé with orange ice cream

So many photographs to organise,
so many memories.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

MissM's Signature Dish

Photo © MissM

MissM sent me this photo today - she is preparing for Easter in the traditional way by converting inedible Shredded Wheat into delicious Easter nests, her signature dish. These Easter nests will be packed up and taken to Cornwall where she is representing us at the family Easter Egg hunt.

Can you see the plate? We bought it two years ago when she moved into a house with her friends. How has that time gone so quickly? She is working hard at her dissertation and it won't be long before we are at her Graduation ceremony too.

Does everyone else get photos of beautifully displayed baking sent to them by their daughters? I suspect that children of bloggers are more likely to appreciate and record small pleasures - an unexpected benefit to pass on.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Vanity, thy name is Shoes

What shoes am I going to wear
to MasterM's Graduation?

Don't panic.
I'm not going to let you down.

They are pink.

I hope it doesn't rain.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Cherry White

Every spring I saw magnolia trees in other people's gardens, an elegance of ivory, and I longed for one of my own. And all that time the cherry tree that I had planted in my own garden grew larger. It brought an exuberance of white in spring, soft flickering shade in the heat of summer and a fiery burst of amber in the autumn. This year I looked at the snowy perfection of the blossom and realised that I didn't want a magnolia tree any more. Wouldn't it be wonderful if all life's vexations could be resolved by waiting patiently for twenty three years.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Make Do and Mend

MissM is very conscientious about her wardrobe.
Sunday is the the day to clean her jewellery,

spray her new shoes with leather protector

and ask her mother to sew on a loose button.

Meanwhile, MrsM plays with her new camera
which is just as important
because it needs to work next week.
On MasterM's Graduation Day!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A visitor from Tuvalu

I first read bb's blog 'say la vee' seven years ago and it rescued me from a pit of gloom where I had fallen when I realised that I would never be the paragon of domestic creativity that I saw on other blogs. Since then she has written hundreds of comments and emails making me laugh, encouraging me, kicking me when I am pathetic and sharing some of her own life. But I had never met her and yesterday all that changed.

We walked and talked and then drank and talked and then ate and talked. 

This is what I learned about bb

bb is tiny
She sort of vanished when I hugged her,
trapped somewhere near my waist.

bb has an American accent
She says things like "fillay" and "paaaants".
It is utterly charming.

bb is a Jedi Master in scarf tying
She can transform silk into structured clothing
whereas I transform silk into accidents.

bb does not like walking across bridges
Which was awkward because
the high point of our walking tour was
the Jubilee Bridge across the Thames
bb's family have heads
I was astonished when I saw photos
because I had assumed
they stopped at the neck.

bb loves the Royal Family
We had to talk about Prince George
and his cute little chubby cheeks. A lot.

bb loves Positano and Paola
I am pretty sure that Paola's ears were burning
with all the lovely things that were being said.

bb does not remember what she has written
I was amazed - I remember it all.
She should hire me as a consultant.

At the end of the evening we looked through the window of the restaurant at great buildings on the other side of the river and bb asked "What are those buildings?" and I said "I don't know". "Well, dear, make it up." she replied. So I did and then I put her in a cab, waved and felt as though a little bit of me had gone back to Tuvalu.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

MasterM, employee

MasterM has a job!
On the edge of Lake Tanganyika.
He will need veldtschoen and khaki shorts.
It is a very exciting opportunity
and, as he says, if it doesn't work out
he can always write a book about it.

MrM and MrsM toast their son,
amazed all over again.

If you have been reading for a long time
you will remember the day
that MasterM left school.
I don't think even he expected to end up
on the edge of Lake Tanganyika
but he does have some experience of giraffes

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Letter Home

Dear Mum and Dad,
Do you want to have a peek at my garden?

The cherry blossom is in full, riotous bloom
but you can't see the flowers because
the sky is lead white, exactly the same colour.

Can you see the spiraea?
I love the sprays of creamy white flowers
but it is is getting quite leggy
so I will need to cut it back soon.

We have been sitting in the summer house
and having tea on warm afternoons.
It is in the perfect place
for the last sunshine of the day.

I love this little window box
outside the kitchen door.
The tiny Christmas tree has new leaves
which look like feathery green baubles
and the yellow viola are so cheerful.

And look! My new clematis!
I have no idea when I should prune it
but there are so many buds
and the colour looks amazing
next to pots of blue scabious

The paeonies will be out soon
and then the roses. I can't wait!
I am so glad that I can send you photos
so that you can enjoy my garden with me.


Monday, 7 April 2014

Angst on Monday

Karl A. Wilke (1912)

Dear Friends,
I have much on my mind at the moment.
Perhaps if I share my anxieties
the heavy burden will lift.

MissM has an interview!
Can I keep calm?

MasterM is learning to sea kayak.
Are there sharks in the vicinity?

Do I keep the aqua deck shoes?
Or do I change them for navy?

Will I ever learn more
than six words of Spanish?
Carlos the maintenance guy
is trying so hard to teach me.

I have no Issey Miyake dresses.
What on earth shall I wear
to meet the stylish bb??

Should I ask my hairdresser
for a layered bob?

I am missing Lucille.
When will she be back?

Is it possible that Eleanor
is almost as cute as MissM?
Surely not!

Where will we eat in Cape Town
if our favourite sushi place
is closed for renovation?

Will my brain turn to squidgy mush
if I continue to read
70s romantic suspense novels?

Am I too old to wear
turquoise nail polish?

Will all my cherry blossom fall
before the sun shines again?

You can see now how prostrate I am
with the woes and worries of the world.

Speak soothing words to me.

Friday, 4 April 2014

A Riot in St. James's Park

The flower beds in St. James's Park
are eye-wateringly bright at the moment,
a flamboyance of tulips, hyacinths and primula.

I love the drama of it,
the shock of primary colours
against the soft green foliage
and the grey of Horse Guards.

I had a strange experience yesterday.
I was walking along Piccadilly in my lunch hour
and I thought "What on earth am I doing here?"

It was like waking up from a dream landscape
and discovering that you were actually there,
a 'pinch me so I know it's real' moment.

But this is how my life has turned out.
I can have lunch on Pall Mall
or browse in Hatchards on Piccadilly.
I can sit in St. James's Park if I want
or pop in to the National Gallery.

I am not sure why I feel compelled to write this.
Perhaps gratitude for this new part of my life
or perhaps encouragement to anyone
who is contemplating change.

I am having lunch with the Lovely Jenny today
and I can't wait to hear all the news.
I shall tell her about my trip to Rome
and we shall share plans for the summer.

Because that is the other thing I have learned.
You don't leave your friends behind
when you move to a new world.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Retro Lit

I blame Karen at Cornflower Books for my current obsession with  70's novels. Karen is the arbiter of literary good taste and I thought that if she was reading them it was a respectable thing to do, practically academic research.

Before I knew what was happening I was immersed in the guilty pleasures of  'The Property of a Gentleman'  by Catherine Gaskin. There were ghostly dogs, goodies who were baddies, baddies who were goodies, rich men with no emotional intelligence, lost loves, unexpected deaths and I hadn't even got to the end of the first chapter. Bring it on, I thought, I am ready for Retro Lit.

I would like to make a few observations which I hope will help your own close reading:

1. Be prepared for sartorial shock

"the long skirt was of brilliant orange quilted cotton, and I wore it with a yellow high-necked sweater, and tied about the waist was a long black sash I had bought for a few pounds in [an] auction of Victorian costume."

2. Warning : secondary smoke may affect your reading

"I...smoked one after the other of Askew's cigarettes. A nurse came and gave us some tea... She stayed to arrange magazines on the table, and offered remarks about the weather, but no answers to the questions  I asked...Then Dr. Murray came back. I jumped to my feet...He gestured to me to sit again. "Got a cigarette, Robert? Thanks." I could have screamed with impatience as he lighted it..."

3. Alcohol consumption is not moderate.

"I thought of the brandy we had both drunk, and now the champagne. It hardly seemed to matter...We made a slight inclination to each other with our glasses..."

4. A world before Mary Berry

"There was onion soup with hot garlic bread wrapped in a towel, chicken in some kind of sauce that only a serious cook could make, the sort of pastry that one saw on the trolleys of the most expensive restaurants..."

5. The golden eagles are red herrings. Ignore them.

"When the word gets out that golden eagles are nesting there...there are enough stupid clots who'll actually want the eggs themselves."


Next stop "A Falcon for a Queen"

' What force had driven her to seek out a mysterious and embittered grandfather she had never known?

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

family history

"Until I was seven I went to a dame school run by a lady whose brother owned a famous race horse. It was very sweet but I didn't learn a thing, not a single thing, so then I went to a local school twelve miles away on the bus. I caught measles, mumps, scarlatina and everything going so when I was nine my father decided it would be safer if I went to boarding school. It was such a huge building that the vicarage looked very small when I went home but we didn't have half term holidays in those days so I got used to it. I slept in a dormitory with ten other girls and each of us had our own cubicle surrounded with curtains until a new headmistress arrived who had been in the Wrens. She took one look at the curtains, said that they were absolute nonsense and insisted that they were all removed so, my dear, after that we had to change in front of the other girls. We had a white shirt and tunic with three pleats, a navy afternoon dress with detachable white collar and of course a straw boater to wear with our navy suit on Sundays. When I went away I had twenty four handkerchiefs, each one with a Cash's name tape sewn on, my mother had to use her own clothing tokens. She wasn't very happy because I only had one left when I came home at the end of term. It was a plain and simple life, we ran around the hockey pitch before breakfast and then we had porridge. You were given deportment marks every week and they were particularly strict about table manners. You had to talk to the girl on your right and then the girl on your left at the next course and you couldn't ask for anything to be passed to you, you just had to hope someone would notice that you didn't have any water or what have you. I think after being at school I feel that I can cope with anything and all my friends say the same thing. Of course, people tell you that schooldays are the best days of your life but I can remember thinking, I hope not...surely anything is better than this!"

Granny's memories of a post war childhood in rural Lincolnshire.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Not an April Fool

Promicroceras pyritosum

MissM opens the parcel from Korea
sent by her sweet pen friend.

MissM is very excited. What can it be?

Look. It is a pot.
With a picture of a snail.
A happy snail!
Apparently it is face cream.
Made with snail slime.
It is age defying!
Snail facials are all the rage in Japan.

MissM reads the instructions.

You pat it on.
Until it stops being sticky.
Shall we try it?

MrsM decides that she prefers wrinkles
to patting snail slime into her cheeks.
but bravely offers her hands
for full rejuvenation.

They do look very smooth.