Monday, 29 September 2014

Friday morning

The dining room faces east, morning light
washing over the plates and glasses.
We eat our breakfast slowly, listening
to the chirruping of Little Boys next door.

There isn't a straight wall in the cottage,
it is all curves, dips and unexpected angles.
The vintage map of Dartmoor balances precariously,
at odds with ceiling and floor.

We arrive at the Macmillan coffee morning,
when powder-blue cups are being washed up
but in time to buy homemade chutney and say hello.
They all know who we are, of course.

Sunflowers are thrust into my hand as we leave,
grown in a garden on the edge of the village.
They glow on the kitchen windowsill,
rich yellow and ochre against terracotta tiles

I bring them home at the end of the weekend,
carefully wrapped in newspaper,
slices of sunlight from my other life.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Look Away Now

So I hurt my finger and now I can't move it.

It got tangled up with a tea towel.
When I was doing the drying up.

If you want to laugh please leave the room first.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

black and white

Paul Newman, 1964

The Dennis Hopper exhibition is on at the Royal Academy until 19 October. Go and see it if you can. The rooms are spacious and well lit but the small size of the prints creates a sense of intimacy because you have to stand close and concentrate to see all the details.The images are displayed in the sequence chosen by Hopper for an exhibition in 1970 but there are a few missing, marked by place holders, which is a reminder that these are the original prints produced by Hopper himself. 

Martin Luther King, Jr., 1965

Hopper was taking photographs at the end of the Sixties and his eye was voracious. Family, friends, movie stars, political demonstrations, street life, landscapes, architectural details, Hells Angels - all provided unforgettable images. I was particularly moved by the images at the end of the sequence which are shots of a blurry TV screen one showing the moon landing and another the profile of JFK.

Untitled (Blue Chip Stamps), 1961-67

Hopper is quoted as saying that he never carried a camera again after he started work on Easy Rider, his need for photography as a creative outlet had passed. I recognise that, the urge to move on to new projects, but nevertheless I look at these exceptional photographs and regret the loss.

Monday, 22 September 2014

family history

"[He] was the first boy who ever kissed me, I was about eleven and he was two years younger than me, quite short and thin, so it was a bit of a shock. And then he sent me a letter at school! My dear it wasn't very well written, all splodgy and terrible spelling mistakes! The teachers were furious, I can remember Miss Millington shouting at me while we ran around the games pitch because it was very shocking to get a letter from a boy even if he was the brother of my school friend. There were very strict rules about letters: on Sunday you wrote to your parents and on Thursday you could write to your parents and someone else from an approved list of ten addresses and the envelopes had to be left unsealed so that the teachers could check what you had written. I was mortified, absolutely mortified, to get such a splodgy letter. Of course, he is a millionaire now."

Granny's memories of boarding school 1948 - 1956

Friday, 19 September 2014

September Sunshine

The great autumn borders at the Savill Gardens,
a spectacular explosion of red, yellow and orange.
I fear these photos have not done justice
to the skill and artistry of the gardeners.

We have soaked up the sunshine this week
every last moment in the garden precious.
It's been a glorious Indian summer.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Waiting for the Instagram Muse

I'm a late adopter of Instagram because the app was designed for iPhones and I have always used an HTC so that by the time the android version of Instagram was launched I was using twitter for landscape photography. I didn't think very much more about Instagram until MasterM suggested that I create an account so that I could see his pictures.

Each form of social media has strengths and weaknesses and it has been interesting to explore Instagram this week. I am surprised how small the pool of users appears to be with everyone following everyone else so that the images are quite homogenous. When I look for different accounts it is not obvious how to find them - Pinterest offers trails to follow and twitter has the retweet which introduces unlikely topics and innovative users to a wider community. When I took landscape shots for twitter I posted them at the time they were taken and I assumed that Instagram would be similar but it seems that it is used as a version of Facebook with images selected and edited and not necessarily contemporaneous and this surprised me. I can see how friends who used to blog regularly have used Instagram as a microblogging site and this ties in with the move from laptops to tablets. Instagram has a feeling of intimacy and it is very soothing to scroll though the images especially if you are escaping from the rancour of the #indyref debate on twitter but too much can become overwhelming.

I think it will be a while before I find a theme for my Instagram photos, something which separates them from my blog and my twitter feed because I don't see the point in duplicating everything but until the I will potter on taking pictures of roses and trying to think of something interesting to say about them. Oh, and I can confirm that it was a couple of days before I realised that Instagram photos are square. I'm @alice.christie if you want to peek at my early failures.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The China Aesthetic

What is your first concern is
when you daydream about a new home?
I worry a lot about the china aesthetic:
what sort of china will suit the house?
Plain or coloured, vintage or contemporary.
Who will be using it, what sort of food,
how will it look in the dining room?

I have chosen black and white,
contemporary designs for everyday use
and this vintage Woods tea set for cream teas.
Just look at those rural views!
A church, a cottage and a river bank...
how could you not love them!

I thought my heart would burst
when I stepped back from the dresser
and admired the display for the first time.

I know, I know, be patient with me,
I am still in the early stages of this love affair.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Meet the Neighbours

The Little Boy next door has an even smaller brother who is all curls and toothy smiles but it will be a while before he emerges from the shadows so for now it is the Little Boy, aged four, who is our hero with his tractor boots, woolly hat and extensive knowledge of cars. He presses his nose against the window while we eat breakfast and I lean out to discuss life and other matters. Today there is an important assignment for him because we have won a basket of fruit in an auction and there is more than we can eat. Could he help us with our dilemma? He thinks he can and comes inside to assess the problem. The plums are set aside because they already have 'too many' at home, the apples are ignored and we all agree that the melon should be reserved for MissM. He carefully selects the most succulent nectarines and the best kiwi fruit and then announces that he will take the coconut. We are surprised and ask if he is planning to hang it up for the birds but he is appalled by our wastefulness. He tells us that he will hit it with a hammer or a rock and then cut it with a big knife so that he can eat the coconut. MrsM shudders at the thought of the damage to her reputation and proposes that he asks Mummy first. The Little Boy next door marches off with his arms full of fruit, mission accomplished.

Monday, 15 September 2014

A little cottage in Devon

This is my new kitchen in a little cottage
in a village on the edge of Dartmoor.

It is long and thin like my kitchen at home.
and as Sheila, the estate agent lady said
"It's small but it has everything in it".

When I wash up at the sink
I look out over the churchyard
to the massive copper beech tree
and the clock on the church tower.

It is the fulfilment of a childhood dream.

Friday, 12 September 2014

My mother said...

What sort of tea would you like? Darjeeling or bog standard? The scones have got raspberry jam or damson jam on - it's not shop bought you know - we had a very good year for raspberries this year. Here are some scones with honey on for MrM. I hope that you like the sandwiches - I grew the cucumber myself in my polytunnel. Would you like a cucumber? Or some eggs? We have just got some new hens and they are laying like mad. Have another scone, they are only a mouthful each. Shall I put the kettle on again?

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Beside the Seaside

Let's have a day off from blogging.

Walk with me to the very end of the pier.

Some sea air will blow away the cobwebs.

Are you tempted by the dodgems?

Or a ride on the helter-skelter?

If you want to go on the Turbo you are on your own.

It's a magical mix of old and new,

and nobody is taking life seriously.

Stop for hot sugary doughnuts straight from the frier

but don't feed the birds.

Thanking you.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The Chandelier Saga

I think you need to meet my friend Helen because her zest for life is infectious.

Pull up a chair to the table and pour yourself a glass of wine.

Now concentrate.

I was walking past this antique shop - well, I don't think it was really an antique shop, more a bricolage shop - and I saw the chandeliers in the window. When I went inside the woman was so rude I could hardly believe it - someone else came in after me and she said 'What do you want? There is nothing in here for you.' They had to leave the shop! Eventually I bought the chandeliers and she dumped them in a huge box without using any packing. I thought that she would help me but she let me stagger out to the car which I had to park on double yellow lines outside the shop. I regretted buying them immediately and left the box on the dining room table when I got home. It was so huge that we couldn't use the table so I shut the door and we ate in the kitchen instead. The next day we went out to eat and Mark noticed the chandeliers in the restaurant and spent the whole evening saying how much he hated them - I was in all kinds of agony because I hadn't told him what was in the box. I phoned the shop and asked the owner if I could return them but she refused, which didn't surprise me. The box was in the dining room for weeks until we needed the table at Easter so I put it in the garage and almost forgot about the chandeliers. When we moved into our new house I decided to be brave and ask our electrician to install them. And they look really fabulous and we love them. All that fuss for nothing - things usually turn out just fine in the end - it's a good lesson, isn't it!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

before I forget to mention it

I have given up work.
No more commuting for me!

Look your last on the outrageously beautiful
staircases, mirrors and chandeliers
of Carlton House Terrace.

Admire the lustrous Helen Yardley wall hanging
and the flamboyant Albert Irvin Redcliffe 2000
before the doors close.

On my final day I went to the little cafe
where the waitress had become a friend
and told her that I was leaving
"Oh madam! So am I! Today!
What are you going to do now?"

And I replied
"I'm going to look after my family
until the next adventure comes along."

Monday, 8 September 2014


...MasterM is playing Rugby in Zambia...

Yes, you did read that correctly, Zambia not Tanzania.

MasterM is playing for the Dar-Es-Salaam Leopards in Lusaka

which makes him an International Rugby player - no?

MrsM diffidently suggests to MasterM that if he is planning to travel around Africa he should keep an eye on the news. MasterM knows exactly what MrsM is worried about and points out that the Ebola virus outbreak is closer to London than it is to Zambia or Tanzania. MrsM checks the map of Africa and sees that he is correct - which is one less thing to worry about so she can concentrate on crocodiles, malaria and mad taxi drivers.

Sunday, 7 September 2014


MrsM confesses to MrM that she has not bought him a wedding anniversary card. MrM sighs with relief and confesses that he too is cardless. They try to decide on a remedial course of action. MrM reminds MrsM that they are going out for lunch to celebrate and MrsM acknowledges that in ordinary circumstances this would be sufficient but she is still anxious about the consequences of their negligence. "Do you think we should pop out and buy a couple of cards before MissM gets home? She will be very disappointed if her parents are not behaving appropriately."

Friday, 5 September 2014

Capsule Wardrobe

Blue Beret
Brian J Stonehouse MBE (1918-98)
Working US Fashion Magazine Illustration

Thank you for your very kind messages to MissM. Even now, after so many years, we are all surprised and touched by how generous you have been.

Today was spent shopping for MissM's new work wardrobe because she starts her job in the City on Monday. It felt as though my life was flashing before my eyes : so many hours trying on school shoes, blazers, sports kit and sensible skirts had come to this final moment when we look for the perfect pair of cropped trousers. If MissM is flying from my nest she will look stylish as she goes.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

what the commuter saw


Let's walk together today
and enjoy the summer sunshine.

Set off from Waterloo,
down the steps, under the arches,
past the Royal Festival Hall
and across the Jubilee Bridge.

Look downriver to the City
gleaming in silvery morning light.
Is this my favourite view?

Trafalgar Square is silent, empty and clean.
It is so early that the fountains
have not yet been switched on.

Nelson leans nobly
on the neatly coiled pile of rope
and all is right with the world.

Pause to watch the sunlight
slicing through the water.
How could you not feel joyful?

Here we are at Carlton House Terrace.
They are painting the facade
which means more scaffolders
than you can shake a pole at.

And at the end of the day
let's go back again, over the bridge,
looking upstream to Westminster.

Now we are back at Waterloo
and it is time to go home.

Which is the favourite view of every commuter.

This is for the erudite MasterW
who was kind enough to say
that he enjoyed these posts.