Sunday, December 31, 2006

slang, damn fool question, don't kick him

These may possibly come in useful. Two items of French slang for pubic hair: cresson, literally cress; and persil, literally parsley.

In today's paper, I read an account of a banquet at the Elysee Palace written by the BBC correspondent, Caroline Wyatt. At the reception line, she was welcomed first by Jaques Chirac, then by the Queen, who asked her what she did in Paris. "On being told", writes Wyatt, "the Queen replied: 'How fascinating!' So I asked her how she was enjoying her visit, only to receive a sharp rebuke from Prince Philip. 'Damn fool question,' he barked, as the Queen gave him a mildly reproachful look."

In Sainsbury's a small boy throws himself to the floor. "Don't kick him, " says his mother. "Just leave him there."

willowherbe 2

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Saturday, December 30, 2006

perspective, daffodil shoots, rain

This morning I think: the daily habit of looking out for positive, beautiful or amusing things, could be thought of as an escape from reality. But far from ignoring the ugly and the cruel, it puts them in their place.

In the Grove, daffodil shoots are begining to show. I see an iris in flower in a nearby garden.

Rain beats again the window pane this afternoon and buffets the bay tree outside. It's pleasant to read beside the window and listen to the rain.

Friday, December 29, 2006

getting on, sewed up, flower seeds

As we get older, from time to time one of us asks the other: "Are you all right?" Touching or pathetic?

In the tiny Retoucherie outlet in the London Road (it is a franchise chain, which makes alterations and repairs clothes), there is a sliding door, which opens into a minute cubicle. The other side of the cubicle has access from the workshop. While we are waiting for an on-the-spot repair, I see a woman disappear into the cubicle, and wonder aloud whether she is to be shortened or patched up. "Just a quick lippo-suction," says a voice from inside the cubicle.

Flower seeds continue to fascinate. The other day, I photograph a rosebay willowherb on the Common. It seems to have attained a magnificence in its last days, quite different from its youth but no less impressive, before dispersing its progeny.

rosebay willowherb

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

texting, crayons, starlings

Overcoming a reluctance to send text messages produces a frisson. "Textophobia conquered" is the headline. Both my children and their families, one lot in Dorset and one in the Pyrenees, had Christmas greetings in text and I received their replies. Now I mst learn 2 use the lingo.

Chunky crayons made of twigs in the window of the children's shop in the High Street catch my eye. I didn't like crayons when I was a child but love them now exorbitantly, particularly the sort which you can moisten, so that your marks become water colours, your drawings paintings.

At this time of year, starlings begin to gather in larger quantities in the Grove. Last year at the same time I began to note their presence, and this year find myself doing the same thing. A Christmas book called Garden Bird Songs and Calls, which includes a CD, allows me to listen to the song at home, and the written description nicely captures the sound in words : "Generally beginning with a medley of mimicry, with possibly a few 'signature' whistles as a prelude, the pace builds into passages of rapid bill-clicking, repeated shrill whistles and throaty wheezes".

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

few people, exoplanets, weimaraner

There are few people in Sainsbury's today and how pleasing it is. Few is beautiful.

Exoplanets are planets, which belong to solar systems other than our own, and which might consist of rock and even water. Apparently a satellite mission is just now being launched to study them. It is a pleasure to read such stories in the newspaper.

In the Grove we meet an elegant German hunting dog called a weimaraner. It introduces us to its owner. Apparently it has been descibed as "the dog with the human brain".

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

happiness, topinabour, Pam Ayres

On Christmas morning I hear a discussion programme on the subject of happiness. One of those present quotes some familiar words - "All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.." She didn't acknowldege the source but they come from Eliot's Four Quartets, and without fail they instill in me a sense of deep calm.

I come across, in a French book on vegetables, a reference to le topinambour. The article begins: "It is only for us septuagenerians that a too often eaten "legume de guerre" can still be of interest today". I am not sure of the truth of that statement. Jerusalem artichokes make a fine soup and can be roasted or boiled and served wrapped in bacon to good effect, war time food or not. But I do know that French chefs are not fond of this relative of the sunflower. A once famous French chef, once bet me £25 that the word topinabour referred to the globe artichcoke. I took him on, and he had the good grace to ring me up the next day to confirm that I was right, but the bad grace not to mention the bet.

Listening to the voice of Pam Ayres, with its amused and michievous rustic swing, on a CD. She intoduces her poems with anecdotes, which add to their wit when she comes to recite them. Even though I have heard them all before - the account of having a wisdom tooth extracted is but one which comes to mind - the poems make me laugh out loud even when I think about them. During her recitations,there is something about the way she looks for the right word, finds it and then relishes it, as though it is some special item of food, which seems close to genius.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Sunday, December 24, 2006

word needed, persiflage, recipe-talk

A word is needed to describe what happens when you bump into a word by chance in a dictionary. It could be a word you know or one who don't. What counts is that it catches your eye as you turn the pages in pursuit oif something else. Serendipity would do, but it is refers to any chance discovery.

I have always had a weakness for persiflage, which I tripped over in the dictionary last night. It comes from the French word, which is spelt the same way, means the same thing and is pronounced as though it were French. It means to banter and talk in a frivolous manner -something, which I am fond of doing, especially if I can find another persifleur to persiflate with. Both derivatives are in the Oxford English Dictionary, incidently. According to my Oxford English Dictionary, (complete in one volume and requiring a magnifying glass to read and a forklift truck to carry), Thomas Carlyle wrote of Voltaire "... there never was such a persifleur, " which is good enough for me.

Talking recipes with people who like cooking. Jenny, who is staying over Christmas, is an enthusiastic cook, and knows how to feret out the best things from parisien markets. Her French mother-in-law, to whom she refers often, is a most accomplished cook, and you can pick up intriguing kitchen smells from this conversation. "She always stirs an egg yolk into her polenta before serving," she says. Technical stuff.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Shakespeare, water-seller, truffle

A column in today's paper by the novelist, Howard Jacobson, approves recent scientific research, which demonstrates that reading Shakespeare is beneficial to the brain. ..."His syntactical surprisingness. .. creates something like a neural flash of lightening, a positive wave or surge in the brain's activity, triggering a re-evaluation process likely to raise attention" at the time and stimulate new pathways for the brain thereafter". In other words as the American poet Emily Dickinson said of poetry: "it makes the back of your neck tingle."

At the Velesquez exhbition at the National Gallery I see that, in the glass held out for water seller in the Water Seller of Seville, there sits a fresh fig to sweeten the water. Does one ever learn to look at a picture properly? I've know that one for years, with the huge earthernware jug in the foreground and the lined, dignified face of the water seller central to the composition, but never before have I noticed the fig.

A black Perigord truffle arrives for Christmas; what a present! How to use it? after some discussion, we take Elizabeth David's advice and make omelates from the finely sliced tuber, which is allowed to impregnate the eggs for a time before beating them and cooking the omelates. We eventually cover the bowl in which the eggs and the truffle wait, but in the interval, the mysterious fungus smell takes over the kitchen.

Friday, December 22, 2006

fruit, manequin,waving

A section in Sainsbury supermarket is devoted to "snacking fruit".

In the window of a men's clothing shop, there is a manequin with a shiny, opaque, completely featureless face. It is wearing a dinner jacket. Its black tie dangles over its open shirt front. Blotto, I think.

A car emerges from a side road, the sun behind it. The driver waves. Is he waving to me? The other day in a queue at the WI market, a small boy greeted me and I responded to find that he was talking to his grandmother, behind me in the queue. I wave back ambiguously in case there is someone else in sight and, as he turns, just recognise the driver in time to realize that this time I have not made a fool of myself.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

hot stuff, space, tidings

A book arrives, which is to be a Christmas present for an expected visitor. It is Fuschia Dunlop's Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook. I like everything about this book including the author's name. The introduction begins promisingly by quoting Chairman Mao, who said that you can't be a revolutionary if you don't eat chillies.

In Sainsbury's busy car park this morning a young employee is carrying a circular board on the head of a pole. As soon as he detects that someone is leaving, he stands beside the car which is about to emerge and hoists the board vertically. It bears the solitary word "Space". He then uses the board to usher in the next car, rather like airport workers do when guiding airlines to a parking position.

There have been lots of magpies around this year. The other day I counted six on a rooftop. What I didn't know, at the time, was that there is a collective noun for magpies. It is "tiding", a seasonal word too.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

rime, squirrels, new book

Hoar frost on the branches of the lime. It begins to melt and, in the early sunlight, you can see drops of water collecting in transparent beads on the end of twigs.

The Grove is full of squirrels. They stand upright, holding a nut between their forepaws which they turn round rapidly as they gnaw it. All the time their jaws are moving, as they earnestly chew. Seen from a distance, with their forepaws together, they could be praying.

It's hard to finish a novel which has entranced you for some time. Nana by Emile Zola was always hard to put down. Starting a new one is hard until you have reached the point when it begins to intrigue you. The new one is Le Soleil des Scorta by Laurent Gaudé, I'm just beginning to miss the parched, barren hills of southern Italy where it is set, and the sullen peasants, who live there at the end of the 19th century. But what will happen to the bandit, who returns to a village after 14 years in prison, to sleep with the woman who has been on his mind since his arrest, knowing that the villagers will almost certainly kill him for his trouble?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

mist and fog, visitors, shadows

A misty morning makes me think of the difference between mist and fog. The weather forecast on Radio 4 this morning speaks of "mist and fog". Mist is beautiful. It reduces definitions but does not obscure them. It suggests mystery and contains a light of its own. Fog, as in the second paragraph of Dickens' Bleak House, is disgusting, opaque and penetrating. "The yellow fog that rubs it back upon the window panes... licked its tongue into the corners of the evening," wrote T S Eliot, describing the same thing. With our Clean Air Act, that sort of fog seems to be a thing of the past. And you have to exclude the "fog", as Californians call it, which comes in from the sea in San Francisco, and which is white and reaches out in long, thin clouds, and is nothing like the old fogs of industrial cities like London; more like mist.

It's pleasing to think of the groups of people from different continents which write and visit blogs and comment on them, part of a global village.

As I pass the empty basement of a house into which the sun is shining, shadows of passers-by, myself included, move along the white wall above the empty floorboards.

Monday, December 18, 2006

mouse, punch bag,father Christmas

A mouse scurries out of the alley beside the Grove Tavern and crosses the road in front of me. It's a long time since I've seen a mouse on the loose. How small it is and how fast it runs!

There is a house looking over the Grove where an enormous teddy bear, the size of a large man, looks down from one of the first floor windows. In the afternoon the sun shines into the windows revealing the interior of the rooms. In the room next to the bear's window I can see a full sized punch bag.

Just under the window of a house, which I pass every day, I spot a stuffed Father Christmas hanging on to a rope like a cat burglar.

Seed head 2

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Dove. surprise drinks, robin

In the High Street a white dove alights in a patch of sunshine.

As we pass a friends house, we are invited to join them for a glass of bubbly.

On a doorstep sits a robin coy as a Christmas card.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

blue and red, surprise, poetry

Pomagranite seeds mixed with blue berries taste as good as they look.

The opposite of a bill is a refund. It comes from Southern Water, which usually sends a bill at this time of year. It's the result of having a water meter fitted in May.

I am approached by a teenage girl at Book Fair in the Pantiles:
T G You must like poetry.
Me Why is that so?
T G Because you're wearing a beret.
Me I don't see the connection.
T G Leonard Cohen wears a beret.

Friday, December 15, 2006

windy days, meerkats, telephone tangle

Windy days, when leaves fly, branches swing, people put their heads down.

I like meerkats because of the way they stand up to see what's going on. They gather intelligence like you and me.

A telephone engineer kneels beside one of those pavement-side boxes packed with skeins and skeins of wires, each representing somebody's landline - the tangles of people's lives. He talks earnestly to one line, to which his handset is attached.

seed head 1

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Clematis seed, ghost story, unexpected cards

A single seed-head of clematis makes a startling photograph with the help of some fine tuning; the white fronds, tinged with yellow, which are attached to the cluster of seeds in the centre, look like a wild head of hair.

A friend who moved to Bury St Edmunds includes a ghost story in her letter. "Recently, a local dress shop was exorcised because the proprietor heard strange things in her basement, and the dog refused to go down there, his fur all standing en brosse. I'm told I have a secret passage, and I have heard conversations in the night - maybe a frustrated monk seeking a glass of mead, is buried in the foundations". The story is sharpened by an invation to stay.

Every year there is a surprise among the Christmas cards; somebody you didn't expect to hear from reminds you of old times. Usually the surprise is a pleasant one.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

leaf scoops, dancing washing, lamp and leaves

In the Grove, the gardeners, have blown the dead leaves into heaps with their mechanical blowers. Now, helped by plastic scoops, which they grasp one in each hand so that they behave like pairs of giant forceps, they load them into the back of a truck.

Washing dances on a line in the wind - a pair of frolicking trousers and shirts waving their arms.

The only leaves left on a plain tree are those surrounding a street lamp which its branches have grown around. They hang round the orange lamp like a green halo. Is it the light from the lamp or its heat, or both, which as kept the leaves in place?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Looking again, passion fruit, micro-kite

Heidi and I look more closely at the bicycle rack, in the form of two minimalist bicycle sculptures, outside Tunbridge Wells town hall, which I spotted a few weeks ago. How did it get there and why is it there? An inscription on the saddle of one of the bikes gives the answer. It reads: "A gift from our twin town Wiesbaden to mark the 400th anniversary of Royal Tunbridge Wells in 2006." Heidi says that she remembers, as a child, visiting Wiesbaden to see her grandmother who lived there.

Passion fruit is much better than it looks and quite as good as it sounds. If the brown skin is smooth it is not ripe; it's best to wait until it becomes wrinkled and even less appetising in appearance. I have been scooping out the edible seeds in their yellowy-green jelly-like coating and using their sweet-and-sour aromatic flavour, to add zest to the rest of our breakfast fruit.

In Calverley Place a young man is flying a two-tailed kite the size of a christmas card. He is sellign them at £3 a piece, and manages to take the money and dispense the packed kites while keeping his sample aloft.

Monday, December 11, 2006

tangerine sky, stamps, Christmas star

The phrase "tangerine sky" - it sounds as though it might be a Beatles song - comes to me as I try to find words to describe the sky behind the tulip tree where the sun is rising. It's not quite right, "but tangerine" is a lovely word, and the smell of the fruit is magic. Just now, the supermarkets are selling tangerines (or clementines, satsumas, or mandarines - I like to think of them all as tangerines), with their leaves attached. The dark green leaves beside the bright fruit is worth the extra cost. ".Andrew Marvell's "..He hangs the orange in the trees like golden lamps in a green night..." comes to mind.

I find a stamp collectors' shop which sells stamps for current use through the royal mail. It feels strange going into this little shop full of penny blacks, penny reds, one-cent-black-on-magentas and the like, and being at a loss to say that what I want, what I really, really want is stamps for my Christmas cards.

Over the Common I spot a bright star in the twilight. It seems to be stationary and then moves slowly in an eastery direction. Not a wise man in sight though.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

last pages, sinister cereals, delay

I reach the last pages of my note book. In one, raindrops have created a mirror image of an already illegible entry. It appears suitably worn and worked over. Looking back, I see that early pages cover last April's Munich trip and include a drawing of an old man in a heavy overcoat and black, broad-brimmed hat sitting in a patch of sunlight outside a cafe in Münchener Freiheit. There are drawings of various dogs, including a labrador called Carlos, and a rabbit, a lion and a dragonfly. I shall be sorry to set it aside.

In the "well being aisle" of Sainsbury supermarket, is a section entitled "free from foods". Further on is section displaying "adult cereals".

The other day I finished printing and folding this year's Christmas cards, thirty-two in all, with a smug smile ( a complex piece of work requiring some dodgey positioning of areas of type in relation to the picture) when, I spotted that I had mis-spelled "Christmas". Today I redo the card with improvements, and can't help feeling that it is a beautiful thing to be back where I started.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Changing platforms, balloon, whale cloud

At Tunbridge Wells railway station, the London train is due on platform 1 at almost the same time as the Hastings train going in the opposite direction is due on platform 2. A loudspeaker annoucement tells us that the London train will now be on platform 2 and the Hastings train on platform 1. There is a rush for the bridge, and a breathless realignement of passengers. Heidi remarks that it could part of a new government policy to get an obese public to take some exercise. A man eating a sandwich says: "I like that one. That's a good idea!"

In Covent Garden this saturday afternoon, people wander in and out of the shops, stroll to and fro, watch each other; a group of buskers perform "it's a wonderful life". A lone balloon flies high overhead, powered by the wind, in an easterly direction.

A tall, purple cloud in the western sky looks like a diving whale, the end of its broad tail upwards, its body diving into the urban skyline, where the sun is setting.

Friday, December 08, 2006

wine, efficiency, abacus

"...And Noah he often said to his wife when he sat down to dine
'I don't care where the water goes if it doesn't get into the wine...'"
That's G. K Chesterton. The recent wet weather must have put in to my head.

This morning, in my favourite cafe, a little pot of tea, (tea-bag plus boiling water from water boiler), mug and milk jug appear on a tray on the counter within 30 seconds of my request. My cheese and pickle sandwich appears within another 30 seconds (it is home-made with fresh bread, but pre-wrapped for convenience). It is always like that - a carefully thought out system, which works. That is one reason why it is my favourite cafe.

On the bars of the black wrought-iron gate into the Grove, raindrops hang like the counting beads on an abacus

Thursday, December 07, 2006

tertulia, flickering, energy

Tertulia is a particulalry Spanish word for a particularly Spanish concept. It describes an informal group or gathering which gets together regularly- usually in cafes - to talk about matters of common interest. I don't know how much the tertulia is still a feature of Spanish life. It certainly was in the mid-Nineteenth Century, when the novel Fortunata and Jacinta by Perez Galdos, which I am reading at the moment, is set. It is a civilized institution, and I love the thought of it, but reticence and a degree of self-consciousness, make it hard for us to fit something like it into our English culture. On the other hand, what else is a blogging cummunity than a tertulia? So perhaps there's hope.

The sun, low in the sky, feeds its light through the leaves of the bay tree, which dance in the blustery wind, outside my window. The light flickers on the books, opposite the window, so that it looks like candlelight.

I love the mad energy of the wind as it whips the bare branches of the lime tree to and fro.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Blackbirds and berries, silly, beret

As I pass a rowan tree, two blackbirds (a male and a female) are feasting on the berries. Profiled against the bright sky, they peck and swallow the orange berries, their greedy beaks working all the time.

In the Grove an elderly woman ticks off her over-active black and white mongrel. It has picked up an unsavoury piece of paper, which it won't let go of. "You are a silly", she says.

A man, who I have never seen before, greets me in the street."Bonjour," he says." That's a good idea! I've got a large collection of hats but not one of those". I don't know what he is talking about, until I realize that I am wearing a beret basque. I hurry on so as not to miss my place in the queue in the post office, but I do have time to note that the man with many hats is, on this occasion, hatless.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

ghost lake, distant view, granite in kitchen

The park in Tunbridge Wells called Calverley Grounds consists of a u-shaped dip or small valley with steepish slopes, where paths, flowerbeds and shrubberies following the rising contours. It is not surprising to learn that the park used, in former times, to contain an ornamental lake. After the heavy rain, a large spreading puddle in the grass, recalls how the park must once have been; on this rather murky day the lake and the past seem to be reasserting themselves.

From a high point in Tunbridge Wells, I watch a wild, soapy sky that would have appealed to Turner. Grey, silver-edged clouds ride against a lemony sky, while sunbeams descend on the distant heathland of Ashdown Forest; in the folds of the heath hangs a misty glow.

A square of black polished granite today takes its place set into the white work-surface of the kitchen. There, in an absent minded a moment, a few months ago, I burnt a hole with a too hot saucepan. Function and appearance have met in the replacement. Something better and more functional has come from a mistake.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Sleep, Christmas tree, change

Sometimes when I can't get to sleep I imagine what it would be like to be a stand-up comedian having to appear before an indifferent audience without any preparation. Strange to report, trying to think up what to say and how to say it, sends me quickly off to sleep.

In Trafalgar Square they are putting up the traditional Christmas tree, which is a present to the people of London from the people of Norway. Later it stands alone as yet without lights looking rather noble in the dark.

Going back to a restaurant which I haven't visited for some time, and noting that nothing has changed- not the menu, not the cooking, not the service. The only thing that is different is the clientel. They are the same sort of people, but myself included, are older. They are no longer there to see who is there; and for the most don't care, as long as they are.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

halo, wellbeing, I didn't get you

I wake to a dark, wet and windy morning. I sit up in bed with my cup of tea, and look out through the raindrops, which have been clattering against the window pane, and now cling there. Not all the drops are visible; only those lit by the street lamp which, at 7.30pm, is still on. The illuminated drops form a halo round the lamp, the others fade.

In the supermarket, among aisles labeled fresh meat, canned vegetables, cheese, biscuits, and the like, is one called wellbeing.

Outside a pub a woman shouts into a mobile phone: "I did ring you, but I didn't get you". Will someone set that to music.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

To market, to market, sirens, flash mob

The Pantiles, where the Spa of Tunbridge Wells started, has never looked better. It now has its own Farmers Market, and new stalls with striped canvas awnings have been provided. The two walk-ways of which it consists usually suffer from being a "tourist attraction". Now it has a real function, and the people who go there have something purposeful to do, and look all the more interesting for it.

The sound of police car and fire engine sirens still have a special thrill for me, especially when, this afternoon, I watch them, one after the other, negotiate the busy Saturday traffic, ignore the lights and pass on the wrong side of traffic islands. The freedom to break rules is always exciting even if you are not breaking them yourself.

I read about a flash mob party in Paddington station London, where at 7.18pm precisely, 3, 500 people, forewarned by email, start dancing simultaneously to the sound of their MP 3 players.

Friday, December 01, 2006


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Russian greeting, puddle mirrors, cd storage

As I enter Waterestones bookshop in Charing Cross, I am addressed by someone in Russian. I don't know the person any more than I know Russian (it sounds like Russian). I look elsewhere and wander away from him. He goes off in the opposite direction, still talking. There is no mobile phone in evidence. Perhaps he is talking to himself.

I have always liked puddles. When I was three years old, I used to like splashing through them. Now I like to see the sky and neigbouring structures reflected in them.

A big album arrives with loose leaves each of which can store four cds. You slip the cds into transparent envelopes and the sleeves into similar envelopes, and throw away the plastic cases. The space saving is gratifying.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Nelson, pomegranate explodes, nicked tea

It is some time since I last walked across Trafalgar Square. Last time, I remember, Nelson's column was enclosed by scaffolding and boarded up with a huge mural suggesting that it was under the sea. Today (or rather yesterday), I look up to see that the admiral has been scrubbed clean. Instead of the black statue that used to stare down Whitehall, there is one of pristine white as it must have been when new.

On my way into Tate Britain to see the Holbein exhibition, I notice what looks like a still life on a wall by itself. It resembles a picture by the Spanish painter, Sanchez Cotàn, who lived from 1560 - 1627. Cotàn was famous for small very simple still lifes where vegetables and sometime fruit are arranged in an inset in a wall, with some items suspended by pieces of string. In this instance the picture could, for a moment, have been mistaken for Cotàn's Still Life with Cabbage, Quince, Melon and Cucumber. Only there is a vegetable marrow instead of the cucumber and, instead of the quince, a pomegranate. The big surprise comes when, after you have been looking at the picture for a minute, the pomegranate, which has been hanging from a piece of string, explodes scattering its seeds, while the broken husk swings slowly to and fro. It is not a picture at all but a video, a contemporary work by Ori Gersht. It's worth a visit to Tate Britain just to see this surprising artifact.

I buy a cup of tea at the cafe in the corner of Charing Cross station and find myself a chair at a round table where two other people are sitting. I look down to sort out something in my case, and then look up to see that the tea, as yet un-sipped, has vanished. I return to the counter to find that the assistant, a girl with a high pitched voice like a bird, has cleared it away. "You've taken my tea," I said. "Why didn't you stop me?" she said. Not a beautiful thing, but a decidedly curious one,

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

red chrysanthemums,blogger in person, golden fruit

A vase of deep red chrysanthemums is in the living room. The tall stems have dark green leaves and almost spherical flowers of the deepest, carmine. The darkness of the red is relieved towards the middle of each flower by a few petals tipped with yellow and a few streaks of orange below each tip. Looked at closely, they resemble slow and gentle flames.

A blogger, who takes wonderful and amusing photographs and is a visitor to this blog from time to time, comes to see us in person today. As a fan of the emotional blackmailers handbook myself, I note that two dimensions suddenly become three, and hints of a personality displayed in scraps, suddenly fill out and become real. And yet there are few surprises; you know so much about the person, you are meeting already. Very rewarding.

The golden fruit of japonica in a front garden. They resemble quinces but are more evenly shaped. You can make jelly with them, as with quinces.

Monday, November 27, 2006

new oaks, dappled things, layers of cloud

The little park near our house, was granted to the people who live in the streets surrounding it, by the Duke of Buckingham 1n 1703. It is called the Grove and the deed, of which he was the chief signatory, makes special mention of "the trees there growing preserved for shade and not any of them to be cutt downe nor any building to be there erected." Three hundred years later, despite the storm of 1978, which felled many trees, and the introduction of a children's playground, it is still a place where trees rule. There is a continuing policy of replanting and the appearance, in the last few days, of a little cluster of three, new oak saplings is a reassuring sign that the Duke's wishes are being heeded three hundred years after his gift.

I wake this morning with Gerard Manley Hopkins' Pied Beauty on my mind:
"... for skies of couple colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh fire-coal chestnut falls; finches wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced - fold, fallow and plough;
And all trades, their gear, tackle and trim."

The other morning there were two layers of cloud. Low down and fast moving, a billow of dark grey smokey stuff; behind it and much higher, a bright stack of silvery, gold-lined cumulous standing out from patch of blue.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

thinking, clematis, kernals

Waking thought: If you think big, the universe will become bigger. If you think small, there will be more room for it to become even smaller. If you go on thinking one way or the other, you will eventually bump into yourself coming the other way.

Clematis seeds can be as spectacular as the flowers. Wild clematis, spreading like a blanket over headgerows and thickets, is also known as Old Man's Beard. Some cultivated varieties are similarly extravagant when they go to seed. Their drooping, hairy seeds make me think of the shaggy coat of old English sheepdogs, when it falls over their eyes.

Toasted pine kernals, slightly sweet and nutty, are good mixed with rice, or in a salad dressing. I always add some to the dough when I am baking bread, together with sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

Dancing trees

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

golden wing, rustle of leaves, Mr Crow

With the sun low in the sky, the underneath of starlings wings become golden as they wheel into sun beams.

There is an oak in the Grove which still retains a lot of its leaves despite last night's wind. When you stand beneath it, you hear a continuous "hush... hush...hush" as though it is soothing a child to sleep.

Mr Crow sits on his favourite tree, his black feathers glinting in the sun. Some starlings, who also like this tree, seem embarrased by his presence, and move off in batches.

Friday, November 24, 2006

best time, voices, big bottles

My best time of day is first thing in the morning when I take a cup of tea back to bed and read my book, looking up every now and then to watch the sun come up behind the tulip tree.

In the post office there are a number of recorded voices. Behind me, I hear a talking photographic booth: "If you are happy with the photo," it says, in a perky woman's voice, "press the green button...Here we go. We are now printing your order. Please wait". Ahead of me, two voices announce the number of the cashiers as they become free. The voices are recorded by a man and woman. The male cashiers operate the recording of the male voice, and the women, the female voice.

There come into my head the names of giant bottles of Champagne; just in case I should ever want one. A nebuchdnezzar contains the equivalent of 20 bottles; a melchior, 24.
Nebuchdezzar ll was a Babylonian king, who built the hanging gardens of Babylon. It was he who went mad and ate grass. Melchior - there had to be a seasonal connectiion somewhere - was one of the Three Wise Men. He brought the infant Jesus a gift of frankinsence.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

how long to burn up? cheese omelate, aspen

According to a big poster which arrived with the newspaper this morning, the sun will enter a "giant red phase"in around 4 billion years. This means that its outer layers will expand and boil away most of the earth's atmosphere.

A cheese omelate made with grated cheddar cheese and two eggs. Grate about 2oz of cheese with a fine grater. Beat the eggs and beat in half the cheese. Heat a little butter in a frying pan until it is just on the point of smoking but not burning. Add the egg and cheese mixture and shake, until it covers the base of the pan. Shake the pan. Then tip the pan to one side so that the uncooked egg meets the surface of the pan. Then tip it to the other side, so that another layer of egg cooks. All the time keep the pan just off, or on and off, the heat so that the base of the omelate does not become leathery. Add the remainder of the cheese to the centre of the omelate , which should still be slightly liquid. Shake, and as the cheese melts, flip one side of the omelate over and let it rest, folded over in the pan, for a few seconds. Then serve on to a hot plate.The whole operation should last a little over a minute. The omelate should be light and soft and the outside should be barely coloured.

Today, I came across the French word for Aspen, the variety of poplar, which has those wonderful trembling leaves. It is, evocatively, tremble.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

time to get up, clip-on bird, crayon box

At this time of year, I watch the light enter the bedroom from the side of the blinds and the furniture gradually take on familiar shapes. When you can see the time on the alarm clock, you know that it is time to get up.

A clip-on plastic bird arrives in a parcel of marzipan chocolates from Germany. I clip it on to the handle of the carriage clock in the hall, where it sits looking pleased with itself. No twitchers please.

I am addicted to crayons, particularly the aquarelle variety, which act like water-colours when wetted. Mine are in a wooden box, which bear the inscription Fundacio Antoni Tapies - the art gallery in Barcelona dedicated to the Catalan artist of that name; and that is where I bought them, several years ago. Today I use them to doodle Christmas card designs.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

That time of year, Satie, cold room

It is not only the season that reminds me this morning of Shakepeare's sonnet No 73. Someone is to perform it and other sonnets to music. This one begins with the familar words of which one doesn't tire:
"That time of year thou may'st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Against those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined chapels, where late the sweet birds sang.

Eric Satie's piano music has been a favourite for a long time. It's the sort of idle, melancholy
sound with a fleeting addictive tune, that you can keep going while doing something else. I read to day that Satie himself described some of his pieces as "furniture music", which you don't have to listen intently to. He was an eccentric man with an engaging sense of humour. Apart from the strange titles - Gymnopédies, Gnossiennes, Trois Morceaux enForme de Poire - which he gave to his pieces, Satie provided instructions on how certain passages should be played. These include:
"In the morning on an empty stomach"
"With a lot of difficulty".

One of the houses overlooking the Grove nearly always has the curtains behind its numerous windows closed. Today, two are open. The sun beams in. In one of the rooms, sits an elderly man. He is wearing an overcoat and a tweed hat.

Monday, November 20, 2006

where? bicycle rack, foregiveness

A young woman shouts into her mobile: "I'm in Liverpool train station". She is on the concourse of Charing Cross in London.

For the first time I notice a bicycle rack outside the town hall. It consists of two minimalist bicycle shapes constructed out of aluminium tube. Each has two spokeless wheels, a saddle, a crossbar and a steering column. . You leave your bicycle between them.

Under "foregiveness" in his commonplace book, An Uncertain World, W. H Auden includes the following:
Priest: Do you forgive your enemies?
Spaniard: I have no enemies. I have shot them all.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

500th entry, moving photo, separate leaves

This is the 500th Best of Now entry. The idea, which I took in June 2004 from Clare Grant's Three Beautiful Things (still going strong and in its third year), I interpret in this way. It is to take note of what is going on around you, and to bear in mind that you want to record only what gives pleasure - what, in one sense or another - is beautiful. There should be as little interference as possible from received ideas, aesthetic clap trap and political drivel. Above all because you are looking for things, which amuse and delight, you can afford to be positive without being sentimental or stupidly optimistic about the world. Having three things to note means that you can contrast and balance your choice, and so reflect the richness of daily life. It is not hard to note three beautiful things, but knowing that you have to look out for them brings each day into a sharp focus. It becomes a habit, which is a beautiful thing in itself.

A photograph, which I have taken of a pomegranite, when I upload it onto the computer screen, swims around like a fish before settling into a permanent place. I wonder if I am suffering a dizzy spell, until I realize that I have used the video facility on my camera without meaning to ( I have not used it before) and the swimming fruit was the result of my moving the camera to find the most suitable angle.

The separate leaves, which still cling to branches, shiver and shake and jerk about in the breeze, as though they are in a hurry to be free.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

people-watching, 3-d image, old gloves

Sitting in the sun in the Pantiles, drinking coffee in the midst of the farmers' market, and people-watching.

I read in a newspaper supplement about a gadget, which projects a 3-d image in the air like a ghost. It throws the image, from a DVD or computer, onto a microscopically thin screen of "modified air" - made from a mist of minute droplets of water. Its called Heliodisplay and is said to cost in excess of £12,000. Blow on the image and it will disperse and re-form.

The dead leaves of a horse-chestnut hang from the branches of a tree like old gloves.

Friday, November 17, 2006

colours of fruit, nests, wind sounds

The colours of exotic fruit are as good if not better than the taste. With the garnet of pomegranate seeds, contrast the bright green flesh of kiwi fruit; and with the kiwi's fine dark brown (almost black) seeds, match the prussian blue, almost black of blueberries. A finely sliced, ripe mango has an orange glow.

Nests which have been hidden through the summer are now revealed among the branches of trees.

I stand still and listen to the sounds of the wind. It rustles dry leaves; it strums the telephone wires; it drums on wheelie bins; it rattles loose windows and doors; it whistles through apertures; it hums in the air round my head; it vibrates to the distant tune of aeroplanes; it murmurs as I move on; in houses, even, it whispers. It is alive.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

butterfly-leaves, porridge, neanderthal

What a strange, prolonged autumn! There are fewer leaves on the lime tree, and they are now more thinly distributed. But this morning, the remainder are still clinging to the branches, bright yellow in the morning light, and, as these sparse remnants flutter in the breeze, remind me of butterflies.

In recent years I have grown fond of porridge. I enjoy stirring the rolled oat flakes into water as it comes to the boil, and watching the gruel bubble and quiver as it thickens.

There are few beautiful things in the papers, but I liked today's story about neanderthal man, homo neanderthalenis.It seems that these cousins of ours were still around 38,000 years ago. The question is: did they interbreed with homo sapiens during the millenia, when they shared the same habitatat? And has modern man inherited any neanderthal DNA? It reminded me of the book by William Golding called The Inheritors, which pictures the two cultures side by side, and leaves no doubt that the peaceful, vegetarian creatures, which Golding contrasted with the nasty, beligerent homo sapiens, were a great deal nicer.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Trains, flying leaves, favourite lines

I recently finished reading Emil Zola's La Bête Humaine. It is a dark book about betrayal and murder. But there are marvellous descriptions of steam trains thundering past a level-crossing keeper's cottage where some of the action takes place, and in the cabin of the locomotive where the driver and the mechanic struggle to control the engine for which the are responsible. The book seems to vibrate with the jolting train, the express between Paris and Le Havre, and you are left stunned by its swift passage, as you are by the remorseless progress of the story, from murder to murder.

Leaves fly horizontally past our bedroom window this morning like birds.

I wake with my favourite lines in English poetry in the forefront of my mind:
"At last he rose and twitched his mantle blue:
Tomorrow to fresh woods and pastures new."
But I am not going anywhere.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Wallnuts, wrong husband, schoolboy joke

They are selling wet wallnuts at a nearby greengrocer, ie wallnuts which haven't been artificially dried. They crack open easily.The wrinkled nut comes whole out of the shell, and, with its two halves loosely linked, looks rather like a brain. The nut has a thin brown skin under which the colour is a milky white. The taste is a mixture of creams and tannins; a faint, fading bitterness.

I am leaning over a box of books in the Oxfam bookshop, when a stange woman taps me on the shoulder: "Are you ready, Darling?" she asks. I look up. "I'm sorry," she says, "I thought you were my husband".

This one was new to me. "A French cat and an English cat set out to swim the Channel. The French cat was called Un Deux Trois, the English cat, One Two Three.
Which cat made it? The English cat because the Un Deux Trois quat' cinque".

Monday, November 13, 2006

green town, moving animals, abutilon

Tunbridge Wells, where I live, is rated, I see, as one of the UK's greenest towns. It comes third after Norwich and Peterborough.

Transhumance means the seasonal movement of livestock. I like the word because it evokes the way civilisations create regular patterns of life, which affect, and become part of, geography and history. I came accross the word in today's paper, where there was an account of farmers driving a flock of sheep through the centre of Madrid to protest against the erosion of ancient routes and grazing rights, some of which go back 800 years.

The white abutilon in the garden has been in flower since July and its white cup-shaped flowers with yellow centres have never looked better than today.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

No leaf fall, leap, timber smell

Because the leaves are not falling even in mid-November and the sun is now low in the sky, it is strange and beautiful to catch the light streaming through the yellow leaves from just above the roof tops, when normally at this time of year the branches would be bare.

Proverb for the rash: Leap and then look for somewhere comfortable to land.

Passing a van from which two men are unloading newly sawn timber to refurbish a shop I remember the smell of carpentry and timber yards and think that it is one of the best smells in the world.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Pearl gray, flapper, Mr Crow

This morning the sky is pearl gray, shining like pearls do, where the sun begins to pierce the cloud layer.

A man walks out of the sun; he flaps his coat outwards like wings. Is he saying to himself: "Look, I'm flying"?

Mr Crow sits on the top most branch of a tree, now bare of leaves. He owns the park. He is black, with shiny feathers; he is slow and purposeful in flight. Down he comes, lands heavily, bounces; with a clumsy waddle he proceeds to peck at the leaf strewn grass for lunch.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Starlings, historic facts, charity bound

Small swarms of starlings are beginning to take over the Grove. They did last winter and their numbers grew. Now they appear again on the trees like animated fruit. They sit on the branches and flute and twitter as the leaves fall, before taking off and wheeling over the park in small groups.

Hegel is often quoted, among others by Karl Marx, for this, and its worth repeating: "All great historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce."

In the High Street, a small procession of people each carrying two bulging plastic sacks; they disappear into the Mind charity shop.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Pink woman, new hillside, two-headed pigeon

As I walk up Grove Hill Road, a woman in an invalid buggy rides past me on the pavement; she is dressed in pink with a white hat, and we exchange smiles. She looks pleasingly cheerful as people in buggies often do.

When I look due south out of the window this morning I spot, beyond the trees, what looks like a massive dark hillside which seems to have grown up overnight. It is a bank of early morning cloud standing out against the brightening sky. A few minutes later it has shrunk to a mere stain.

On a chimney stack I spot a two-headed pigeon. It is two pigeons in profile, beak to tail.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Quinces, pumpkin face, weather

A quince tree laden with fruit, glimpsed from the train outside Tonbridge station makes me want to leap out of the train and raid it.

Entering London I see from the train a large flat roof used as a terrace. Beside a glass door are a table and two chairs. On the table is a scooped out pumpkin with eyes and gaping mouth, left over from Halloween. Nothing else.

Today it rains and doesn't rain. A grayness and damp prevails. It is not cold nor yet warm. The pavement has a sticky sheen.It is the sort of weather, which, if you were stuck in the middle of the Sahara Desert on in a steaming jungle, would make you think nostalgically of England

Monday, November 06, 2006

Squirrels, cappucino, horses

A squirrel sits on a branch and makes a noise a bit like a duck would make if somone were trying to strangle it. I've noticed this before. This is the noise, which squirrels often make, but why? Nothing seems to be challenging it. It justs sits there and squawks. There are lots of squirrels in the Grove, pehaps too many. Maybe they are suffering from over-crowding.

Words come into my head when I wake up for no good reason. This morning it was theFrench word for the hood-shaped, nasturtium, capucine. It is derived, I imagine from the capucin, which refers to the religious order founded by St Francis, or from capuchon, which means cloak with a hood, or from both since the friars wear hooded garments. Cappucino, the italian word for espresso coffee covered with frothy milk, has a similar origin, though in this case the root is supposed to relate to the colour of the coffee when lightened by the milk.

Behind me in the street I hear the following exchange between two men:
"How did you get on with the horses?"
"Useless. Two seconds and two, nowhere."

Sunday, November 05, 2006

sunshine and smoke

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smell of ironing, crunching an apple, seagull

The smell of freshly ironed clothes especially when the clothes have been drying in the sunshine.

Crunching an apple, not any apple, but an apple such as you pick yourself or buy from the farmers market that has been left to ripen on the tree and to develop its full flavour, without being allowed to go soft and sandy. The juice should spurt when you bite it, and it should taste sweet and sour at the same time.

A solitary seagull circles the Grove barely moving its wings.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Wall, smoke, leaves and generations

Patterns left by wear and tear, and weather on walls have always fascinated me. I photograph a wall beside a car park through which I often pass. The peeling layers of render shows the shape, and a hint of the colour of bricks, and different textures according to their condition. In places, the plaster has broken off completely, and leaves a shape like the head and neck of a prehistoric animal, its jaws wide open; or like a map of an island.

Someone has made a bonfire in one of the garden near the Grove. You notice the smell first, acrid but pleasing, and then see , as the smoke disperses, that the afternoon sun, low in the sky, shining through the branches of an oak, has created the sort of beams you might see on a misty morning in the country.

Under the turkey oak in the corner of the Grove, three generations play with the dry, fallen leaves. The children, a boy and girl, shuffle joyfuly through them; their parents and their grand parents (or so one would guess) pick up the leaves and throw them in the air and over each other.

Friday, November 03, 2006


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Frost, butterfly, squirrel

Frost on the lawn, , a silvery carpet through which the grass just shows.

In the vegetable garden, a tortoiseshell butterfly flits in the sun among the nasturtiums which are beginning to sag after last night's chill.

A squirrel scampers across patches of sun and shade in the Grove so that, as it runs, its long silvery grey body, relecting the light, seems to flash on and off like a Christmas decoration

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Teddy back, sun behind tree, chill in the air

For several years the huge teddy bear standing by the first floor window of the house called Windy Bottom on the corner of the Grove, has looked down on passers by, as they have looked up to see him. Recently however he had been absent from his watch. Now he's back with a notice which reads: "Thank you for your lovely cards. LoveU."

In the morning the sun rising behind the tulip tree opposite our bedroom window makes the trunk and branches glow as though they are radiating an inner light.

Today, at last, the weather is doing what it ought to do. The chill in the air makes you feel normal again.


According to most estimates the universe is 13.8 million years old. I left out the 3. Apologies to the universe and to anyone or anything else involved.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

how old did you say? soap and cigarettes, spotlight

Sometimes, I like to remind myself that the universe is supposed to be 13.8 billion years old. It puts things in perspective.

An elderly gent in Halls Bookshop is talking about World War 2. "When German soldiers were taken prisoner", he says, "they asked for soap. The English asked for cigarettes."

A group of people in the Grove stand talking in a shaft of sunlight, which picks them out, the sun being low in the sky, like a spotlight on a stage.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Faded hydrangeas, tea sounds, lost and found

Deep blue hydrangers, so spectacular last summer, are still a pleasure to look at, but now sitting in a vase in the hall they have been transformed into a blend of crimson and that pale green known as eau de nil, or Nile water.

The sound of tea being made. Hot water is poured into the pot, the brew stirred; milk jug, cups and sugar are set out and after a suitable lull, the tea is poured from the pot into cups - a sort of domestic symphony composed of whirlings, staccato taps and tinkles.

A book I had given up reading some months ago and mislaid, and now need with increasing desperation yields itself up after an intensive search.

Monday, October 30, 2006

A tenner for being late, nasturtiums, chattering

For various reasons we ordered our groceries from Sainsbury's this week. To save you waiting in unnecessarily, they promise to deliver within a one hour slot, which you can specify. The delivery was more than an hour late, and the delivery man handed over a £10 voucher to compensate for the broken promise, standard practice when this happens. You couldn't be cross.

In the vegetable garden nasturtiums have as usual taken over. The only thing that is unusual is that they are still vigorously in flower at this late date. I pick a bunch and enjoy the spicey scent. The colours range from yellow through orange to dark red.

I come across the french expression "jaser comme une pie borgne", to chatter like a one-eyed magpie. I like it because "jasser" so well describes the noise magpies make, and it seems especially appropriate just now as there are so many magpies around at the moment.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

busy sky, gnats, pruning

The Grove is busy with families, scooters and push chairs, enjoying the sun; and the sky above the park is busy too. Vapour trails criss cross like paths ending nowhere, and I count five planes travelling at different heights and in different directions.

In the sunbeams, gnats move to and fro like specks of gold, but some move up and down like yoyos.

We prune the lavender, cutting back the flower spikes which are at last exhausted and our hands and the surrounding air smells sweet.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Lego, Tesco, rain

It is a fact, I read, that if all the Lego in the world, were divided equally, we would get 30 pieces each.

Another "fact": In 2005 Tesco controlled 31 per cent of Britain's grocery trade and 13 per cent of retail sales. The figures must surely have changed by now, and to day we learn that another adjustment must be due. The Morrisons formerly Safeway store opposite Tunbridge Wells station, which ceases to trade to day, is to be revived by Tesco, which will open there at the beginning of December.

Rain is a beautiful thing.
"O bruit doux de la pluie
Par terre et sur les toits!
Pour un coeur qui s'enuie,
O le chant de la pluie!

Friday, October 27, 2006

people from the past, yingtang song, sounds

Someone gives us a lift to the reception following a funeral. It is a chance encounter. But after a while he says: "I know who you are!" and I say, "I thought I knew your face." The years fall away as we explore encounters from the past and people we know in common.

During the funeral service, they play the Goons' Yingtang song. It says a lot that's specificaly charming and unusual, about the person who has died and his family.

On the Radio 4 Today programme they have a feature about sounds that turn people on. I can think of lots that turn me on, but if I had to choose one, it would be the wild, raucous sound of waterbirds. The mewing of seagulls will do, but for sheer savage abandon, it would be the mingled cries of marshland and estuary birds, such as I remember once in particular along a dyke behind the Maltings near Aldborough. It recalled Stravinksy's The Right of Spring, as the Right of Spring, years later, recalls that walk.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

shades of gold, leaf, green and red

Going up the hill between the High Street and the Grove, I enjoy the variety of Autumn colours. I try to count them and find names for them. The spectrum within a sheet of gold, containing green, umber, lemon yellow, crimson, cream, sienna, ochre might sum them up.

A leaf, with streaks of crimson, curls like a claw on the tarmac in the middle of the road as I walk up Mt Sion.

Giant peppers from Sicily are on display in the delicatessen. They are in the process of changing from green to red; the green streaks are dark, almost black; and the red streaks, deep red, merging also into a depth of darkness, which they share with the green.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

draped, bell pull, kiss

Those expressionless, plastic lay figures in shop windows always fascinate when the window is being dressed. Today in Hoopers department store a group of alabaster-white women, revealing the lines where they are articulated above the hips, are ranged with their backs to the window, grouped as though watching the window decorators painting the backdrop. A dustcloth is draped over them not so much for the sake of modesty as to shield them from paint splashes.

As I pass the front door of a house, which gives directly on to the street, I see a visitor reach up and pull a handle. It is an old fashioned bell pull and I hear a responsive tinkle inside.

My friend Anna sends me a postcard in which she mentions a happy encounter. "I saw a daddy with a little boy with very blond hair floating above his head, jumping up to his dad to tell him something. It was a friend with his Downs sydrome son Archie, friends of our family. Archie has a beautiful face and I gave him a kiss. He wanted to do it again, We did it again. We did it three times." She adds: "All my gloomy thoughts flew away."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

cooking eggs, emptiness, snowman

I have been looking at Velasquez's An old Woman Cooking Eggs, painted in 1618. It captures a domestic moment. A woman is seated by a table on which various implements are spread, an egg in one hand, a wooden spoon in the other; the spoon is held above an earthenware dish on a brazier in which you can just see glowing charcoal; two eggs in the dish already sit in hot oil; a boy with a pumpkin in one hand, a decanter of oil in the other, stands beside her. She looks up, the boy looks down. Their eyes don't meet and never will.

Morrison's supermarket opposite the station, formerly Safeway, is closing its doors on Friday. Today most of the shelves are bare. It seems a nightmare of want.

In a furniture shop window is a little snowman made of twisted wire, sprayed white. He has a hat made of black wire, and a real carrot for his nose. White christmas tree lights are woven into the structure, as is a motor which cranks his arm to make him continuously lift and replace his hat.

Monday, October 23, 2006

always a birthday, greetings, kicking leaves

There are three or four customers in Hall's bookshop this afternoon. A little girl approaches each of them with a home made chocolate cake on a paper plate and offers a slice. "Is it someone's birthday?" asks one of the customers. "It's always someone's birthday," says the girl.

I am often surprised and made a little uneasy by someone I don't know greeting me warmly, as happened today in the bank. It took me a few moments to realize that he was talking to the man directly behind me in the queue for the counter. Something similar happens when someone comes up behind you in the street and says "hullo" into a moble phone.

Under the turkey oak in the Grove, I kick my way through the fallen leaves, and realize that kicking leaves is something I have done as long as I can remember.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

wondering, reading, autumn

Wondering what is going to happen in the next second.

Reading by the window where rain drops tap the glass and collect.

"Voici moins de plaisirs, mais voici moins de peines.
Le rossignol se tait; se taisent les sirènes".
"There are fewer pleasures here, but less pain.
The nightingale is silent; the sirens too."
Jean Henri d'Aubigné

Saturday, October 21, 2006

tuna, white heather, clouds

Something special for supper and beautiful to see as well as eat: tuna steaks briefly marinated in lemon juice and sesame oil, and seared on the griddle; with them a stir-fried mixture of vegetables - cucumber, sugar snap peas, red and green peppers, spring onions, lemon grass and coriander, spiced with finely sliced ginger, a little fresh chilli and a drop of soy sauce. To drink with these - a perfect match it turns out - a bottle of dry, aromatic Wolf Blass Reisling from South Australia, a present from Ken and Joyce last time they came to see us.

Long flowering white heather plants from the new farmers market in the Pantiles to go in the window box outside the dining room.

To read the afternoon, I watch the sky. For a moment, an almost perfect circle of blue appears between the surging clouds.

Friday, October 20, 2006

gold dust, ladybird, after school

Small drops of rain blow past in the sunshine like specks of gold dust.

A ladybird crawls across the head of one of the stone lions beside our doorstep.

In the heart of town, outside Cafe Nero, teenage school children gather after school. The girls scream and greet one another with hugs and kisses. They are like a flock of birds gathering on an especially propitious site, fluttering and shrieking, playing for territory, showing off their feathers.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

boot, leaf mosaic, oldies

You sometimes see one half of a pair of shoes abandoned in a field or by the road side, less often a wellington boot. In our twitten, (the little path that runs between the back gardens of houses in parallel streets), near the dustbins, lies a lone wellie.

Passing cars have pressed flat onto the tarmac the fallen leaves of the lime tree on the bend opposite; a rich mosaic of of reds, browns, ochres results.

A group of oldies follow a man in a brown suit into the Grove. He seems to be giving a guided tour. He stops and turn towards them as they gather round. It begins to rain. All the oldies open their umbrellas; he has no umbrella. As I pass, I catch the phrase " the eighteenth century ..."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

peace, jelly, acorns

"Quand on ne trouve pas son repose en soi-meme, il est inutile de le chercher ailleurs."
When you can't find peace in yourself, it is useless to look for it elsewhere. Le Rochfoucauld.

I work on the crab apples, which I cooked yesterday, and allowed to drip through the jelly bag all night. Now I have the pleasure of labelling. The scruffy little green apples have been transformed into four jars of translucent crimson jelly.

Crunching acorns under foot, I make the connection with the oak forests of the Andalucian sierra, and think of the pata negra, long legged Iberian pigs, which live up there, feed off acorns and produce the sweet, air-dried serrano ham, which you find in every self-respecting bar in Spain.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

memories, adagio, perfume

"Les souvenirs sont cors de chasse
Dont meurt le bruit parmi le vent".
Memories are hunting horns whose sound dies in the wind. Apollinaire.

Listening to Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings. It joins sadness with a profound feeling of content, and brings to mind:
"...And all shall be well and
All manner of things shall be well..."

Crab apples slowly cooking perfume the house.

Monday, October 16, 2006

accents, pomagranite seeds, three crows

Now here's a beautiful thing. Ever since I have written this blog I have been unable to use accents over letters, umlauts etc. within the blog format. Now thanks to Clare Grant, who had the original idea of describing, every day, three beautiful things in her log , I have discovered the knack, with the help of the program called character map. What a souflé to savour!

Pomegranite seeds are beautiful things. Just look at one. It is like a jewel, a ruby; its single seed looks like a source of light within it.

The other day I saw three crows struttin' there stuff in the Grove. Today, on a roof top above Five Ways, three crows (could they be the same?) take over the chimney and slates, fluttering and squabbling ; and below flows the traffic.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

10 verb poem, pumpkin, crab apples



Ron Wallace of Rhode Island, I read in the paper, has grown a pumpkin which weighs 1,502 lbs (720kg). It has a circumference of more than 9ft.

Today in search of crab apples we find that the tree in High Rocks Lane, which was barren last year, has recovered. We came home with a rucksack full of the unpreposessing little green fruit, and there will soon be several jars of translucent rose-coloured jelly with which to remember a gentle, autumn walk across the Common and down Cabbage Stalk Lane.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Kohl rabi, anniversary, October butterfly

At the farmers' market is a stall with kohl rabi, that strange looking, member of the cabbage family, which is notable for its swollen stem, a bulbous shape, the size of a tennis ball, or larger. This is the part you eat. When displayed at the greengrocer, the leaves, which are not usually eaten, are cut off, leaving spikes protruding from the bulb so that it looks a bit like a mine.

We pass a neighbour's house. The owners who are in the garden invite us for a drink. While we are sitting in the sun, we learn that it is their 55th wedding anniversary.

While we are at a cafe table opposite the station, I see a butterly fluttering past the station: I check the fact that it is October 14.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Flash mobbing, grape juice, dragon fly

I am intrigued by "flash mobbing", where people with ipods and mp3 players collect to dance in silence, they are united but separate, enclosed in their own worlds. The papers show a photgraph of the concourse of Liverpool Street station, London, full of dancers at one of these "silent discos".

The neighbour, whose grapes tumble over the wall of his house, brings round a large garden sieve loaded with tight little bunches of the black grapes (I stole one such bunch the other day as I walked past). There must be several pounds of them. I feed them into the juicer and produce, to everyone's satisfaction, pints of foaming, purple grape juice. Sweet enough to drink yet sour enough to be refreshing.

A dragon fly, not for the first time, but never, surely, so late in the year, flies past me up Mount Sion, keep more ore less to the centre of the road.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Holly,grapes,time to stare

Holly trees are laden with clusters of bright red berries. I am not sure that I believe the saw that this betokens a hard winter.

Bunches of ripe grapes tumble over a neighbour's wall. I steal a bunch. The grapes are small and not very sweet, and each contains a large pip. But, what is it they say about stolen fruit?

The slogan of this log (and others like it eg the emotional blackmailers handbook and three beautiful things) must be
" ... what is life, if full of care
we have no time to stand and stare?".

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

crows, vapour, milkmen

Usually there are two crows stutting on the grass in the Grove or flapping lazily into the trees, as though they owned the place. Today there are three.

The sky to the west where the sun is setting is laced with the vapour trails of aircraftin the direction of Gatwick airport. They shine in the setting sun, criss crossing paths going nowhere in particular.

Very early this morning while it is still dark, I hear the electric milk float stop, deliver to the house opposite and race its motor to start again up the remains of the hill. My mind goes back nearly 7o years to the sound of a milkman with his horse and cart, and the noisy clinking of the glass bottles you had in those days.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

caught, clock pigeons, chyrsanthemums

A shadow takes a photograph of its owner.

A cluster of pigeons occupies the roof of the four-sided clock tower, which stands above the railway station. The pigeons look like voluntary ornaments. The clock has been out of order for several months. This may explain the boldness of the pigeons.

The golden, yellow-highlighted, glowing flowers of russet Chrysanthemums, are the best of all Autumn colours. They sum up the gentleness of the season, only mildly tinged with sadness. of the season. Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 09, 2006

weather forecast, plastic water, watching the screen

I take pleasure in ignoring the weather forecast prefering to wait and see what happens.

A vase of roses in the post office has drops of water on the leaves. Like the flowers, the water drops are plastic.

From the terrace outside Sankey's I see framed in a window a man in his shirt sleeves looking in front of him. I can't see a screen, but he must be at at a computer. How many people in offices are not at computers?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

condensation, checking up, ash keys

The area of condensation on the bedroom window this morning goes up and down like a graph or outline of a mountain range.

A little girl, six or seven, checks her mother who is choosing carrots. "I'm not going to poison you with carrots after all this time," says the mother.

Ash keys sometimes do resemble bunches of keys as they hang in the Autumn sun. I doubt if they tinkle like real keys do when shaken, but if you could get close enough to distinguish the sound, you might hear them rustle or crackle.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

dried fruit, thin cat, toy drum

In the French market in the Pantiles is a stall with many different varieties of dried fruit. We buy dried, sour cherries. Better than a bag of sweets, we say!

A long, thin orange cat sniffs the tailgate of a black Rangerover, and sidles off. Not its sort of thing.

I can't resist playing with a toy drum with proper parchment in the smart toy shop in the High Street. I love toys as much, if not more, than when I was more of an age for them. Another grandfather passes. "I'll join in with the xylophone," he says.

dried fruit, thin cat, toy drum

In the French market in the Pantiles is a stall with many different varieties of dried fruit. We buy dried, sour cherries. Better than a bag of sweets, we say!

A long, thin orange cat sniffs the tailgate of a black Rangerover, and sidles off. Not its sort of thing.

I can't resist playing with a toy drum with proper parchment in the smart toy shop in the High Street. I love toys as much, if not more, than when I was more of an age for them. Another grandfather passes. "I'll join in with the xylophone," he says.

Friday, October 06, 2006

paved with gold, cowboy, skyscape

After the heavy rain, it is still warm and steamy. The sun appears unnaturally bright. The wet brick pavements, in reflecting it, seem to glow. The black tarmac of the roadway glitters.

As I walk, without stopping, past the open door of the Grove Tavern, I glimpse in the corner of my eye, a man, in a broad-brimmed hat, lining up his cue at the bar billiards table.

Big banks of white clouds move fast, chasing one another across the blue space between. A silver plane crosses a gap in the clouds.

It's all the same to me!

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

grass, all these I learnt, warnings

The smell of grass in nearby streets tells you in advance that they they are cutting the grass in the Grove.

Today is National Poetry Day. I wouldn't have known it, if I hadn't heard Prince Charles on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme. To celebrate the occasion, he was reading something by the travel writer, Robert Byron, whose book The Road to Oxiana was published before World War 2. It turns out, that it was not, strictly speaking, a poem, but a piece of prose, having no metric pattern, line form or rhyme - a prose poem perhaps. I tracked it down with the help of Google. The Prince chose well, no old chestnut, but something, which will be new to most people as it was to me.
It is a beautifully written list of flowers, butterflies and moths in the English countryside which he would like his son to know, as the writer came to know them in his own childhood.
"....He shall know the tree-flowers, scented lime-tassels, blood-pink larch tufts, white strands of the Spanish chestnut and tattered oak-plumes. He shall know orchids, mauve-winged bees and claret-coloured flies climbing up from mottled leaves. He shall see June red and white with ragged robin and cow parsley and the two campions. He shall tell a dandelion from sow thistle or goat's beard..." . There is more, and the piece ends: "All these I learnt when I was a child and each recalls a place or occasion that might otherwise be lost. They were my own discoveries. They taught me to look at the world with my own eyes."
The piece was quoted by Laurence van de Post in a lecture to the Royal Geographical Society in 1995. Van de Post was of course a friend and advisor to Prince Charles. The BBC will almost certainly be flooded with enquiries about its source, and rightly so. It is a forgotten masterpiece and a truly beautful thing by an observer of beautiful things.

The preposterous warnings by manufacturers, scared witless by the threat of law suites, are highlighted by Simon Carr in today's Independent. They are taken from a list published by the Michigan Law Suite Abuse organisation, and may be verified on should they seem too crazy to believe. Here are some of them:
A label on a new kitchen knife warns: "Never try to catch a falling knife".
A popular scooter for children warns: "This product moves when used."
A label on a hair dryer reads: "Never use hair dryer when sleeping".
A household iron warns: "Nevr iron clothes when they are being worn."

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Two conkers

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marrows, chard, magpies

Neglected while we were away, the courgettes have become magnificent vegetable marrows, some yellow and some green.

The chard has shot up. Huge green leaves are ready for picking. They are the size of docks but promise something altogether sweeter. For some reason the red or ruby chard has failed this year.

I see three magpies fluttering round a rowan tree and then flying up and taking over the roof and gables of a house. Then to my surprise they are joined by another, and then two more. Six magpies altogether, something I have never seen before.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

red creature, Golden october, virginia creeper

Sitting at a table on the terrace of Sankey's I spot a minute red creature - I suppose about a millemeter long - tearing here and there. At first I think it is some kind of spider, but it is too small to check whether it has eight legs, which would be an indication. Google helps but doesn't completely answer the question. Mites are similar to spiders having four pairs of legs - but spider mites tend to be pests don't they and inhabit greenhouses. And surely they don't race around tables on their own at top speed!

Sitting in the October sun with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Golden October.

The blood red colour of virginia creeper is most striking when it climbs through, and is contrasted with, variegated ivy. I watch its tongue-like leaves flame in the sun.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Watching umbrellas, dog shelter, conkers

In the shelter of a dripping doorway, I watch people pass. They lean into their umbrellas which they hold at an angle against the wind.

Outside the Italian delecatessen there are two sets of tables and chairs where people can take their espressos and capucinos. In the rain, an umbrella has been secured bridging a chair and a table. It shelters a small dog with white paws and long ears. The dog is wearing what looks like a macintosh stretched over its back. It licks the water from the pavement. The umbrella carries the logo "Porsche-Club Great Britain".

Fresh conkers: they shine as though they have been french polished. The rings, which show through the veneer of their shells form patterns like isobars on a weather map.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Onions and tears, monkshood, human race

An article in the paper (drawn from the Last Word correspondence in the New Scientist answers the question, why do onions make you cry? They contain, it says, a derivitive of sulphur, which is decomposed by an enzyme to form the volatile propanthial S-oxidide. This is the irritant or lacrimator. Upon contact with water - in this case on your eyes, the irritant hydrolises to propanol, sulphuric acid and hydrogen sulphide. Tearfully the eyes try to dilute the acid. What it doesn't say is what most chefs will tell you; that nearly all the tear-making irritant is in the root end of the bulb. If you cut this off and discard it before chopping there should be no tears.

About this time of year the monkshood in the garden is in flower. It is poisonous, but a bright, magical blue.

The human race is a race which, in the long run, no body wins.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Noddy, beans, fit

Outside East Grinstead, there is a cemetary called Mount Noddy.

The beans, which have served us so well this summer, have now swollen in the pods. But they are still useful. Removed from the pods and sauteed with a little chopped shallot and garlic, they become a dish in themselves, like the dried haricot beans, which you have to soak before cooking. But these require no soaking.

"Fit for purpose," seems to be catching on as a fashionable expression. I've heard it several times on Radio 4. If any one uses it to me, it will give me great pleasure to hit it on the head.


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Playa de Santa Sebastian, Sitges

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Friday, September 29, 2006

Waves, no, lonely cloud

For eight nights our bedroom two floors above the sea and half way along the narrow road, which borders the beach, echoed to the sound of waves breaking. After a while we could tell from the noise what state the sea would be in, inthe morning and whether it would be suitable for proper swimming or simply vigorous jumping over the breakers. A continuous roar meant rough water and powerful breakers. A pause between the sound of a wave breaking and the next, meant a calm sea. When we got home last night it was hard to get to sleep for the complete silence.

Two pieces of widely visible grafitti in the country outside Sitges stay in my mind. The first simply said in Catalan: "No a tot", which means: "No to everything". The second in the same ironic mode, in Spanish: "Todo lo que me gusta esta prohibido" which means "Everything which I like is forbidden".

It was a pleasure to photograph a solitary cloud in the evening sky, and to see the cloud on the screen when we got home.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

police, range of clouds, running dog

Two or three times a day, a pair of police officers patrols the peaceful stretch of promenade opposite the hotel. One is a man and one a woman The woman has a blonde pigtail falling half way down her blue-shirted back.

This morning the sky is clear, pale blue and bright. Above the horizon, backed by the light of the rising sun, is a long line of jagged, purple clouds aping a mountain range.

From the balcony I watch a dog running down the hill to the left, and over the zebra crossing opposite the hotel. Behind the dog runs a woman, puffing. It seems that they are on a usual errand. But who is taking whom for a walk?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

a face, swallows, children`s voices

"His face was simultaneously boney and doughy, a face fed on junk food." From Roger`s Version, a wickedly funny and profoundly perceptive novel by John Updike, which I have just finished reading.

Swallows, (golondrinas is the lovely Spanish word) fly inland from the beach. The late afternoon sun tints their white breast feathers a shade of gold as they wheel above our balcony.

The voices of the children´s choir in the church of the Monstserrat monastery are full of grace. And not even the crowds of tourists (of which I am ashamed to be one) pushing and shoving, and holding their cameras and video cameras above their heads to steal some of the beauty and tranquility of the scene, cannot spoil it.

Monday, September 25, 2006

summer lightening, snow white, swimming pool

Last night there was sheet or summer lightening over the sea and beyond the horizon. In the dark there was no visible horizon until the distant lightening showed it up contrasting the dark sea with the illuminated sky beyond the rim of the globe. When the lightening was nearer, it lit up the sky for a second showing the sort of dramatic cloudscape you see in the romantic paintings of Casper David Friedrich.

On the other side of a black railing outside an open ground-floor window sits a snow white cat.

The swimming pool is a peaceful place. We are nearly always the only users. Above it towers a date palm, its ripening dates falling in orange tresses beneath its broad, feathery fronds. There is also bougainevilla and brilliant red hibiscus flowers.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

French party, catching raindrops, wedding photos

A party of eight French people - four men and four women - arrive to eat in the restaurant where we are having dinner. One of the women stares at what we are eating as though to guage the quality of the food and then apologies when she sees that we have noticed. They go indoor to eat - we are outside - and settle at a long table. Later I pass their table and notice them eating and talking enthusiastically with a sort of intensity characteristic of the French. They are at a long table, the four men and one end, the four women at the other.

During a heavy shower outide a bar where an overhead canvas cover protects customers from the rain, a little girl, leaning her head backwards, catches drops of water in her mouth as they fall through a rent in the cover.

A bride and groom appear on the beach after their wedding, she in her white flounced wedding dress and black hair in a chignon, he in a tie and dark suit. They pose for a photographer, she swirling her dress, he spinning her round as though in a dance movement. Then, for the video camera, she jumps on his back, he bends forward and they both spread their arms as though flying.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

swimming in the rain, sea colour, la netedat

In the swimming pool, drops of rain water splash like fish rising.

This morning the sea is pearl grey; then as the sky brightens, a greenish glow appears and the waves unroll.

Plaques on the outside walls of houses announce in Catalan: " No embruteu les parets, la netedat es un gran senjal de civiltzacio." We have seen no grafitti in Sitges.

Friday, September 22, 2006

present, drums, walking

Opening a birthday present which exceeds expectation: the Everyman edition of Montaigne´s complete works. I read right away that Michel de Montaigne´s father was called Pierre Eyquem de Montaigne. He was mayor of Bordeaux. Is there a connection between his family and Bordeaux´s famous sweet white wine, Chateau dÝquem.

Tomorrow is the Fiesta de Santa Tecla, the local patron saint. Small children with drums practice for the procession. Everywhere the sound of beating drums. Tonight, fireworks.

On the beach a woman in a black singlet and striped shorts marches up and down along the edge of the water. She has thin brown legs from much walking. She walks swinging her arms loosely for hours on end. To complete the picture, four women line up on the beach facing the sea and perform slow oriental exercises more or less in time with one another. You get the impression that the beach has been taken over by some sort of insitution.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

no change, cooking, warmth

Nothing seems to have changed here in Sitges. Even the computer on the reception desk has been awkward as last year, but has yielded to my ministrations.

People on the beach spread fat on their bodies and gently cook in the sun until the crackling has achieved the desired crispness.

Palm trees in the breeze fanning their shadows with their giant spreading fronds.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

helmet, scooters, fish

A person (or monster) in a helmet and bikers' gear crosses the road fully accoutred. Until the helmet is removed, as it approaches the opposite pavement, you don't realise that it is a young woman.

At the bottom of the High Street there is an extra wide strip of pavement. Because there is a drop of about four feet to the roadway, it is bordered by a railing. Behind the railing is a sort of corral for scooters. They line up there, facing the railing, sadly waiting for their owners.

"Looking for fish? Don't climb a tree". Chinese proverb.

Monday, September 18, 2006

variable resource, six men and a hole, framed

In an obituary of the arts administator, Sir John Drummond, I read that John Birt, when he was director general of the BBC, replied as follows to a question put by Drummond about the BBC's orchestras: "They are a variable resource centre whose viability depends on the business plan of the controller of Radio 3". Apparently Birt said later that he had been joking, but Drummond, says the obituarist, was not convinced.

In Mount Pleasant six men are trying, with difficulty, to move a cash dispensing machine into the new premises of the Royal Bank of Scotland. A hole in the wall awaits the success of their manoeuvres.

Framed by two windows of a stationary bus are the head and shoulders of two old men, one in each fame, the one behind the other. One has plump, rather florid features, the other a thin and lined face. They present portraits in profile. Each stares straight ahead, never looking out of the window; and each, in his different way, has the bleak, empty stare of someone going nowhere.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Stillness, trotting pony, idiots

Some days recently have been completely still. Leaves, even at the top of the lime tree, do not stir. And sounds, close too and far away, are amplified by the heavy air.

Two or three times recently a pony and trap has trotted past our house - the sound of hooves on tarmac is rare nowadays, particularly in a town like ours, and beats the noise of an internal combustion engine any day.

I like and approve of the German saying: "Even the gods cannot fight against stupidity". The German Dummheit is a nice word for stupidity.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

talking, babies, Magners

Talking to an old friend on the telephone about this and that is a beautiful thing.

Fascinating, isn't it, the way babies look at you, especially when secure in the arms of a parent. It is an open, penetrating stare, unequivocal, uninhibited, that seems to imply a knowledge of what they see, which exceeds your own knowledge of yourself or any body else's.

A beverage, which seems to be sweeping the country at the moment is a cider, made in Ireland, called Magners after its brewers. It comes in a heavy, solid bottle, about half a litre (on other words a pint) in capacity. It is served in a pint glass on a stack of ice, which allows topping up aften the first pouring because of the volume of ice. It is dry, "crisp" they say, and has just 4.5% alchohol content. It is gold in colour with a hint of pink. It is just the drink for me at the moment.

Friday, September 15, 2006

pub sounds, pink limo, bombarded with beans

The sounds which emerge through the open door of The Grove Tavern on a summer afternoon, a harmonious, contented rumble of voices, with the click of a billiard cue at regular intervals.

Double parked at the bottom of Mount Sion, not exactly a beautiful thing, but a spectacular one: a long, shining stretch limo, its immaculate bright pink paintwork contrasting with the mysterious smoked glass windows.

This joyful piece of prose on the menu of a new Persian restaurant:
Baghali Polo with Mahiche (Persian treasure)
Basmati rice bombarded with bare naked baby broad beans
captured in a unique taste of dill, butter and saffron, served
with a succulent portion of lamb shank..."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Woman on phone, Fibonacci, starlings

I pass a picture window close to the road, where a woman is sitting with a telephone and a cup of tea. Absorbed with the phone, she massages one bare foot with the other.

I have always been intrigued by the sequence of numbers discovered by the thirteenth century mathemetician Leonardo Fibonacci. In the Fibonacci sequence of whole numbers each number is equal to the sum of the preceeding two. Hence Fibonacci numbers are: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13 and on and on for ever. I have known for some time that the number of flower petals or seeds in flowers from the daisy to the sun flower, are nearly always Fibonacci numbers. Today, I read that, particularly as the numbers get larger, the ratio of each number to the preceding one "converges" on the number 1.618... which is the "divine proportion" or "golden mean"recognised by Pythagoras as a symbol of health and used by Euclid to construct a regular pentagon and other more complex figures. The ratio was apparently known to the ancient Eygyptians who used it in the pyramid at Gizeh where the ratio of the altitude of a face to half the side of the base is almost exactly 1.618. Renaissance artists among others applied the ratio in architecture and the composition of paintings, a fact that did not escape the author of the De Vinci Code.

On the cross bars of a telegraph pole sit rows of starlings like musical notes.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Shoe box, discovery, intelligence

In the packaging cupboard, I find a smart shoe box in whichI can pack the collection of stationery I have bought for grand-daughter Giselle's birthday. The boxes of pencils and notes and the journal with a magnetic clasp fit perfectly; the box might have been made for the purpose.

For some time I have been meaning to read Effi Briest by the 19th Century German novelist TheodorFontane. Today, there it is in the Oxfam book shop in Chapel Place - a black-spined Penguin Classic edition in good condition, perfect for holiday reading.

Am I intelligent? No. But I am intelligent enough to know that I am not.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Hot air, spider, truth

I watch a red, hot air balloon float across the sky above the Compasses. Against the light you can see the flame inside and just hear the subdued roar that it makes.

Three times in the last few days I have blundered into and completely wrecked an almost invisible spider's web stretched at head height between the two side of the hedge above the steps that lead down to our back door. The last time was this morning. This evening, through the study window, because of the position of the sun behind the web, I can see that it has been remade in just a few hours.

When people preface a statement with the words "to tell the truth", I wonder what they normally tell.