Friday, August 31, 2007

old, grass, bus

A friend of Heidi's comes over for a meal. After several glasses of wine, she asks me when I was born. "1933", I say. "You're very old," she says.

The smell of cut grass is much quoted as a favourite thing. It is no less attractive for that, in the Grove, this afternoon, under an overcast sky.

An empty, red double-decker bus stands at the bus stop its forward door open, the driver's seat empty. Next to the door, printed in white letters is its name "Louise".

Thursday, August 30, 2007

babies, tomboys, puppy

On a square of rugs arranged in the Grove, several mothers and small babies gather with push chairs and baskets full of nappies, bottles and other accesssories. The babies, all more or less the same age, are cuddled, loll on the rugs and are picked up and held in the air.

Two girls climb on to the branch of a tree parallel with the ground and practice hanging there upside down, there legs hooked over the branch. Tomboys, they used to be called. Is the term still used?

Giles who lives by the Grove has acquired a newfoundland puppy. I meet him standing by the main road, the dog folded in his arms like a big, black fur coat. Her name is Seal because, in her present state of infancy, she looks like one. She is eight weeks old. "I'm trying to get her used to the traffic," he says, as Seal looks nervously at the road with shy, black eyes. "She doesn't like it very much, especially lorries."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

requiem, hibiscus, quiet

A tortoiseshell butterfly crash lands on the grass. We think it is dead. When we return, a wasp is eating its head and its wings are gently moving in time with the wasp's eager feeding. An hour or so later only the wings remain. Heidi places them on the garden table, where they lie, a brief memorial for a brief life.

Hibiscus, its flowers like crumpled tissue paper, and sultry girls on palm-fringed islands, with the flowers in their hair, go together. We have a fine hibiscus.

People walk by with quiet footsteps, on this heavy, overcast afternoon.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

benches, admission, lemon grass

For a long time young people have been gathering under some trees in the centre of the Grove to chat among themselves. They made a little home there, removing benches from beside the paths were they were sometimes bolted down, and forming a comfortable square on the grass, like two sofas facing one another. Though some people regarded this re-arrangement as a liberty, something to be disgusted about, others looked quite kindly upon them. Now, in an act of imagination and thoughtfulness, the Council has placed some new benches, of a design better suited to the young, where they like to gather.

An admission from an old friend that he had visited this blog unknown to me and had even made a comment on a post, is a source of pleasure and surprise. A literary man, he signed his comment, Barrett Bonden, a pseudonym, which I should have, but didn't recognise. Who is Barrett Bonden? Jack Aubrey's bosun in the Aubrey Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brien. My friend tells me that he has read all 21 of the novels three times. I have read them only once, but that is a poor excuse for missing the reference. If I hadn't, while not identifying him, it would have told me that the visitor was an O'Brien fan, and that, in itself, would have been gratifying.

A lemon grass plant in a pot, apart from its culinary potential, looks good among other herbs and flowers in the garden.

Monday, August 27, 2007

drinking time, moth, shuffled

A sunny August Bank Holiday afternoon, and everyone is drinking; the smell of lager hangs over the Pantiles. Drinkers, pints in hand, stand around or sit on the wall or the steps. Children run and tumble at their feet. A group is pumping out rock from the stage at one end. The place has become a big, open air pub. People, usually taciturn or sullen, gradually taken over by alcohol are granted the gift of speech and wisdom. The sun blesses the flow of talk. A few years, perhaps 20 years ago, such a relaxed and merry scene would have not been thought possible in Tunbridge Wells.

In the garden for a moment I bend down to dead-head a marguerite and realise that, sitting on the spent flower that I am about to remove, is a very small brown butterfly with gold spots on its wings.

We bump into a couple of people I have known for years. Both, when I knew them before were married to different people. You would not have thought of them as a couple, or even as likely to have known one another. But, they seem be united now, very happily it seems, by a curious mechanism that, these days, seems to shuffle people like playing cards.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

old smokers, climber, distant noise

A common sight now: smokers, mostly old people, often scruffy, gather outside pubs to puff. A circle of dog-ends surround their stamping grounds. Outsiders?

In the Pantiles, a great din this afternoon. Someone on the stage is playing a guitar supported by a bank of amplifiers. People lean back in the sun. Lager on the tables. The further away you are the better the music sounds - drifting background music, mingling with other sounds, part of the Bank Holiday atmosphere.

Some climbing clematis, which I planted against a climbing rose is clambering up the rose as I meant it to, but is only just now visible over the white abutilon and white hibiscus.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

name change, euphemism, smokers

The pub in Grosvenor Road, which used to be called the Orson Wells, recently closed and has reopened as The Black Pig. It is setting out to be an altogether different sort of place - smarter you might say. No need to go into details, but a printed notice by the door gives some idea of its intentions, which seem to exclude me as a potential customer.

A Civilised Pub for Civilised
People, Over 21's(sic) only but
children welcome when
Good behaviour always
No louche or rude attitudes.
No bad language or scruffy
The staff have the right
to refuse entry.
Thank you for playing along.

The Management

An old friend who was brought up on a farm in what is now the Czech Republic. She says that when she was a little girl she thought of the rabbits and sheep on the farm as her friends. When from time to time, they they were slaughtered and served up at table, her mother told her they had gone on a journey.

In the Gents at the Hotel du Vin in Tunbridge Wells, there are photographs of Sigmund Freud, Che Guevara, Winston Churchill, Groucho Marx and others. They are there because the hotel specialises in expensive cigars, which it sells from a special cigar bar; all were cigar smokers.
In the last few months, the hotel has erected a "cigar shack" , wide open at the sides, where patrons can smoke untroubled by the law.

Friday, August 24, 2007

mnemonic, leaf pool, bowling

My terrible memory drives me to invent all sort of strange mnemonics. Today, I look up for the third time the French word ourdir which means to warp as in weaving, but is often used to mean weave as in to weave or hatch a plot. How to imprint it on my memory and make it stay there? Ourdir, I say to myself, sounds a bit like the English exclamation "oh dear!" Well, if you can imagine someone with a Geordie accent saying "oh dear". That should fix it.

In the middle of an almost circular nasturtium leaf is a miniature pool, crystal clear. Radiating from its centre are the veins of the leaf. I count nine veins. Scattered over the leaf are tiny drops of water gathered in groups like galaxies. In the pool, I see reflected, in miniature, surrounding plants and trees, and myself.

As I pass a bus stop I hear a teen age girl say to another: "I'm going to doll myself up and everything."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

disappointment, the haiku, parrot

In the car park outside Sainsbury's, I spot a stall on which I can read the words "roasted" and "free sample". Suddenly I have an overwhelming desire for a quick shot of espresso. I think to myself, here's a new brand of coffee being promoted. I walk up the stall, and as I see the qualifying word "Felix", a uniformed girl asks, "do you have a cat?

Five, seven and five,
In English from Japanese,
Fits like foot in sock.

In Chapel Place the other day, people were looking up and saying, "there's a parrot up there somewhere". You could hear it but not see it. It was the same yesterday and again today.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

sorted, haiku, season

The second tranche of book sorting over, mostly art books and some cookery books, the shelves on the stairs up to the top floor studio, look accessible and tidy. The process reveals some interesting, forgotten possessions. The process of discarding is remarkably painless, almost a pleasure.

How the black road shines
When the rain has blown away,
Blinded by the sun.

This wet blustery afternoon people greet each other with the words: "It's August!"

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

misunderstanding, open mind, green

Into the charity bookshop comes a man with two plastic bags full of books. "I've brought these in", he says, showing the bags to the lady in charge. "Thank you very much," says the lady. "No, no", says the man. I have just bought them from the bookshop next door. I.. er just mentioned it, so that there wouldn't be any misunderstanding."

On a tv programme called Enemies of Reason, I hear and like: "An open mind is a good thing but not so wide open that everything falls out."

In the sodden a vegetable garden, I crunch a tender, raw runner bean. It tastes green.

Monday, August 20, 2007

sand paper, features, surplus

The sound of sand paper on wood in the open air, and the smell of the resulting dust. A park keeper is sanding a bench in the Grove preparing it for varnish.

Someone I pass in the street has a certain look about her which is familiar to me, though I don't think I know her. It strikes me that, sometimes, you recognise, in complete strangers, features or expressions, which belong to someone you know, or used to know. There have been times when, because of such resemblances, I have been on the point of greeting someone, whom I have never seen before.

Distributing vegetables fresh from the garden to neighbours, is the nicest way of dealing with surplus.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

farouche, feet, machine

I have always like the word farouche in French, but not in English. In French, it evokes a particular sort of shyness, a feature of wildness, of the savage and untamed. I imagine as farouche, the young, both animal and human, beautiful and reluctant to engage with those who come too near. I see lowered eyes, a turning body, which bounds into the undergrowth. But this sense of farouche does not fit the English word which is spelled the same. "Sullen, shy and repellent in manner", says the Oxford Dictionary (first sighting 1765), which acknowledges its French origin; but the wild element has been lost, and this is confirmed by the way the adopted English word has since been used. Chambers English Dictionary confirms the distinction. It defines the English word as: shy or ill at ease; sullen and unsociable; socially inexperienced and lacking in polish. But it nicely acknowledges that the French word, from which it is taken, means: wild, shy savage.

Passing the window of house I see a pair of bare feet pointing into the air.

There is something pleasing about the sound of some machines. In Salisbury's this morning a lift truck loaded with pallets of fruit and vegetables, goes "ooer ... ooer... ooer", a gentle, high pitched hum.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

stress, bag, quinces

Nearly everything in the vegetable garden. including lettuces, has been slow to fill out and mature this summer. Today, in the Financial Times Magazine I find an explanation. Apparently, according to a research centre in Flanders, a pair of enzymes called kinases act when conditions deteriorate, to turn on a network of genes to create a kind of "unforced hibernation conserving energy at the expense of growth." Unhelpful, but otherwise reassuring..

In the park called Calverley Grounds, there is a disused bowling green. It has been kept mowed, but is otherwise uncared for. Today, it is deserted but for a Tesco plastic bag resting in the middle. As I draw level, the bag swells with the wind and rolls from side to side. It seems to be alive, the handles stand out like ears. It stirs and rolls like someone waking up. Suddenly, it fills with wind and flies up in the air like a kite. It rises and rises like a kite, as though an invisible person is tugging, against the wind, at an invisible string attached to it. Then, as kites do, it sinks to the ground, admitting defeat. There is still a little wind and the bag gapes open as though breathless after its exercise. A little more wind, and it tumble slowly over and over until it reaches a more sheltered part of the green, where it seems to expire. I wait and watch hoping for more action, but, for a time at least, it has played its part upon its improvised set.

Quinces I love. At this time of year we begin to run out of the quince jelly I try to make every Autumn. A reminder came in book on plants and trees introduced over the years into the British Isles. No precise source for the following is given except that it comes from a poem of the Arabic world of the 10th Century"
".. it is yellow in colour as if it wore a daffodil tunic, and it smells like musk. It has the perfume of a loved woman and the same hardness of heart."

Friday, August 17, 2007


The latest set of Lucy Kempton's photographs illustrating the Handbook for Explorers series of poems has been posted on

cat bits, drift, squirrels

A van with the words Cat Components has a logo of running cats in profile. Intriguing until you look more closely and read the word: Cat Components for the distribution of car components.

On a still afternoon like this, music drifting out of a bar is seductive. The words "Strangers in the night...." float over passers by.

In the Grove three very small, very young squirrels tumble over one another, bite and square up and clamber up the thick trunk of a tree with difficulty. On an overhanging branch, they play follow my leader.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

gone, creator, two pennies

Cherry laurels are not, in my opinion, the loveliest of trees. They are nowhere near as attractive as the bay tree, Laurus nobilis, with its delicate, aromatic leaves and more modest habit. So I am pleased that they have cut down the cherry laurel on the corner of Mount Sion and Berkeley Road. It is still a pleasant surprise when you walk past, to see the sky and sense the light.

I feed the name of a neighbour into the memory of my mobile phone. The task complete, the screen reads simply and flatteringly: "Smith created".

"If you have two pennies, spend one on a loaf and one on a flower. The bread will give you life; the flower, a reason for living." Chinese proverb.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

potting, wild, twisted nose

"I learned it in England, where indeed they are most potent in potting. Your Dane, your German and your swag-bellied Hollander - drink, ho! - are nothing to your English." Iago to Casio in Othello, referring to a drinking song. Nothing new there. The remark would have gone down well with Shakepeare's audience, as it would with a contemporary English audience.

The lingering taste, and the thought, of wild ginger after a Thai meal in Sevenoaks this lunch time.

A charming book about the names of flowers tells me among other things that nasturtium comes from the latin nasus, nose, and tortus, twisted, because the pungent smell makes the nose wrinkle or twist. I prefer the French word for nasturtium, capucine, which refers to the shape of the flower, similar to a monk's hood.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

word trail, false autumn, crows

Much as I love reading French, I am not a good or natural linguist. I get into tangles and follow strange dictionary trails. This morning I encounter the French word mousson. I confuse it with moisson, harvest. So what does mousson mean? Monsoon. This leads me somehow to recall the word mousse, moss , froth, foam, and so the familiar (in English,) mousse as in chocolate mousse. I end up reassuring myself about moite, meaning sticky, damp; and finally, just to make sure, moitiƩ, meaning half - the end of a curious trail.

People are complaining again that the weather - we're not yet half way through August - is autumnal. Today the autumnal effect is enhanced by what looks like drifts of dead leaves in the Pantiles, but they are not leaves, rather the dry and sear, winged seeds of the lime trees, which form a walk at one end. At one point a street cleaner has swept them into a small heap for removal.

Four crows waddle on the grass in the Grove, in today's rain, almost without people; they peck at the sodden earth.

Monday, August 13, 2007

relief, going off, blown

Learning that the bank card which I thought I may have lost has been found and is being kept safely for me by the supermarket where I left it.

One elderly lady to another in Chapel Place: "She always goes off ...wherever you are ... in the middle of the night."

Lots of things are blowing about in the wind: leaves, paper, feathers, thistledown. And there's a butterfly. Is it blown or is it flying?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

quiet, sunflower, shower

People are on holiday. It is Sunday, but the Grove looks foresaken. Even the play ground is quiet. It is a pleasing quietness, only slightly on the malancholy side.

In damp and chilly July, the sunflowers which I had planted in May had a hard time. They grew, but they were weak and thin. They are normally sturdy plants with thick stems. But I had to prop some up with stakes to stop them collapsing. Today, with the warm weather, they look altogether happier. And one, has flowered. It is the reddish brown variety, with golden pollen on its black face, amid a halo of yellow-streaked petals.

A proper old fashioned shower. Outside the Compasses, one moment the sun is shining, the next big drops are falling on the table ...
"... and Noah said to his wife, as they sat down to dine/ Never mind where the water goes if it doesn't get into the wine"...
Big drops fall. We walk home not hurrying, not minding the rain, which isn't going to last for long.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

expression, bookish, dancing light

A black plastic refuse-bag awaits removal at the edge of a garden. Some dead weeds pushing through a rent in the bag suggest a chin and untidy grey beard. Stretch marks in the plastic lead towards the tear. Here is an expression, you feel, but one without a face. Where the bag has been tied at the top there is the appearance of ears. But there is nothing to suggest eyes or a mouth - features, which we are supposed to look for in abstractions, to find a human element.

"No," says a father to a small boy in a stationers shop, which also sells books, "you've got lots of books at home."

Patches of light, reflected by the CDs suspended from string to deter pigeons, dance across the ground, over the vegetables, up the climbing beans.

Friday, August 10, 2007

vicarious walk, fritata, think before speaking

There is an elderly gentleman ( he must be older than I, or I would not think of him as elderly) whom I see sometimes in Tunbridge Wells. He has white hair, a bushy, white moustache, and rings under his eyes. He is always well dressed and has a military bearing. He has just acquired a walking stick and carries a satchel over his shoulder. On my way out this afternoon, I pass him going in a different direction. Later, on my return, I see him resting on a bench in Calverley Park, I sense that he is going in the same direction as I. I find myself wondering whether he, too, is bound for the cafe, and worry about how he will negotiate the very steep steps down to the path that leads to the cafe. I find that, in a way, I am walking with him and wonder what is going on his head. While I sip my tea, I notice that he has taken the easier path that does not lead to the cafe. I watch him as he follows the path at the top of the slope opposite the cafe, note that he sits on a bench there for a second rest. It has been a long walk. When I next look, he has walked on. I try to picture him getting home and making himself a cup of tea slowly and precisely. Because I always see him by himself, I imagine that he lives on his own. I follow him into a sitting room where he picks up a book on military history, and sinks into an easy chair ...

A fritata, made with chard, the liquid squeezed out of the boiled leaves, the stems chopped and cooked separately and for a longer time. The slow-cooked cake-like omelet, with its marbled surface, looks as good as it tastes.

A French phrase which appeals is tourner sept fois sa langue dans sa bouche, to rotate one's tongue seven times in one's mouth, to think before you speak.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

gaudy, conflict, footsteps

Mediterranean culture is encroaching on England. When I was young, courgettes (or zucchini), green and red peppers, aubergines, basil and other food from Mediterranean countries were strangers to green grocers shops. Now they are as common as spuds. I thought this today as I admired the bright yellow trumpets of the courgette flowers in the garden, and remembered Robert Browning's slighting reference to this "gaudy melon flower" when homesick for England.

In the Grove, a small child walks along one path, his parents another. The child looks round to see if his parents are following. He begins to cry noisily when he sees that they are not following, though they are keeping an eye on him. The reason for the conflict? He wants to go to the playground. The parents do not. I walk on, and turn round to see what has happened. The child has won and the parents are following him into the playground.

The sound of footsteps on gravel is pleasing - restrained, yet firm and assured.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

kind rain, contrast, thistledown

Congenial of the rain to fall last night. This morning the leaves are wet, the earth refreshed, and ready for sowing spinach in the sun.

In the park, the Royal Tunbridge Wells Croquet club is next door to a basket ball court. On the perfectly kept grass, old folk in straw hats, flannel trousers, long skirts are leaning over mallets and whacking coloured, wooden balls. On bare, grey tarmac, the young, in jeans and tee shirts dance in front of a pole where they try, not always successfully, to lob the ball into the net at the top of it.

Over a cup of tea I watch a piece of thistle down drift steadily across Calverley Grounds. It keeps a steady pace and the same height above the ground until it comes to the slope on the north side of the park, where it rises on a thermal or follows an upward movement of the breeze.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

how, blue, thinking

How do I know that it is the same pigeon? (See yesterday's post and the question it raises). A good question, which I ask myself . There are a variety of possible answers.
1 It has a distinctive two-tone wing squeak, which another pigeon could not mistake.
11 It writes in its blog that it regularly meets the same old fool of a man in the same place (ie the corner of Mount Sion and Berkeley Road) Coincidence?
iii I always meet it (or another pigeon) flying at the same height, level with my head, in the same direction. If I look quickly enough, it winks at me in a familiar way.

Big white clouds today and in between deep patches of blue. Azure is not a word I would normally use, considering it the preserve of Romantic poets. But today the sky behind the clouds is azure.

When I wake up early in the morning I tend to think. If you can call it thinking. But in reality my mind just goes round in circles chewing up and regurgitating the same thoughts. I think: Real thinking is like climbing a rock face. You search for footholds and hand holds. You pull yourself up, with strength and confidence. You achieve a firm and steady rhythm. At the top you know where you are and where you have been. And even where you have yet to go.

Monday, August 06, 2007

blue beans, no panic, squeaking

The first of the blue, climbing beans called Blauhilde look spectacular next to the more usual yellow variety.

The tuneless singer is addressing passers by in Chapel Place. He wears a bowler hat pulled down over his head today. Last time I saw him it was a black, conical wizard's hat. He makes up the words as he goes along. Most people ignore him with a faint smile, but some schoolboys with skateboards, mock him. He hurries off, chanting : "there's no need to panic, no need to panic.

A pigeon passes me at eye level, as I walk along Berkeley Road in the direction of Mount Sion. It must be a regular flight path, because this is not by any means the first time we have met. Its wing squeak as though in need of lubrication.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Shostakovich, wasps and bees, beautiful words

Last night at the Proms, the National Youth Orchestra conducted by Mark Elder performs Shostakovitch's Seventh "Leningrad" Symphony. I watch it on TV and listen with fascination and enjoyment as the conductor and young musicians concentrate on something outside themselves, yet driven by skills and understanding, which come from within. The structure and intelligence of the music kept making me want to know what was going to happen next. At the start of every movement, the conductor seemed gently to caress and mould the air in front of him as though something tangible yet fragile and invisible, was there.

On the radio someone refers to a schoolboy joke: what bees are to honey, wasps are to Marmite.

According to Henry James the two most beautiful words in the English language are "summer" and "afternoon". That applies this afternoon in the Grove, where pools of shade lie in the grass, and groups picnic under the trees. Conversation is gently, lazy; cries are muted and laughter moderate like softly splashing water.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Goldilocks, salad day, watering

Whenever we have porridge for breakfast, which is most days, I think of Goldilocks and the three bears. If there is one thing I don't like, it is cold porridge. So I ask myself what sort of condition the porridge, which Goldilocks found in the cottage in the woods, was in when she came upon it? What did the bears expect on their return from their walk, if it wasn't cold porridge? How, in the circumstances, could they have abandoned their cottage for long enough to allow Goldilocks, to enter, try the three bowls of porridge, consume one of them, test out three chairs, go up stairs and try three different beds before falling asleep in the smallest one?
It must be this question or a similar one, which leads to the so called Goldilocks Enigma. This is the subject of a book of that name by Paul Davis, which examines how conditions on earth could be so precariously and miraculously balanced, as to permit the existence of life - a phenomenon, according to physicists, hugely against the odds.

A salad of lightly grilled or sauteed vegetables - courgettes, aubergines, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions etc - dressed with a light lemony mayonnaise on which fresh mint leaves are scattered, is worth preparing again.

What joy to be watering flowers and herbs in pots in the late afternoon sun, after so many days of rain, have made the chore redundant!

Friday, August 03, 2007

chance read, gypsy music, please,

A book picked up by chance. I read the first page and have had difficulty in putting it down. Someone must have left it behind when visiting, because I don't remember acquiring it myself. It is Un barrage contre le Pacifique by Marguerite Duras. A serendipitous read.

In Calverley Road shopping precinct, a gypsy guitarist plays. Standing beside him a barefoot dark haired girl in as black dress performs a few rhythmic steps, not quite flamenco. Outside a coffee shop, a young woman cradles her baby and pats its back in time with the music.

A child says to her mother: "I want a drink".
" Say, may I have a drink please, Mummy", says the mother, holding the drink out of the child's reach. " She pronounces the word Mummy in a staccato way with emphasis equally on both syllables. "May I have a drink please, Mum-my," says the child mimicking perfectly her mother's way of saying Mum-my." There is a note of long-suffering and a quiver of resentment in her voice. It is the resentment which comes from an innate sense of superiority. She must be four or thereabouts. What will she be like at 14?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

helicopter, policeman's helmet, no photocopier

For the sake of an accurate description, I have just weighed my new helicopter. It weighs 10 grams or 1/4 oz. The fuselage is made of expanded polystyrene, the rotors and tail propeller of plastic. It is powered by a tiny motor beneath the rotors, which gets its power from an external battery-powered charger. You plug the charger into the helicopter via a lead. You operate the helicopter by remote, wireless control from the charger. It requires some skill to fly it (it has to be indoors, unless it is very still outside). But I am getting better at it every day. So far it has proved remarkably robust having hit the ceiling on a number of occasions and plummeted to the ground, when I took my finger off the throttle.

We sit on the terrace outside the Spotted Dog at Speldhurst and feast on haddock and chips. The beer-batter, in which the fish is clothed is light, crisp and transparent. It deserves and gets a couple of pints of Larkins bitter, brewed at Chiddingstone, down the road, to accompany it. I've been going to this pub for 40 years or more. It was famous for its views over the weald. Then a malign neighbour who owned the field beneath the terrace, planted trees which soon obscured the view. Now a gap has been made in the trees, and the view is partially restored. Under the wall beside the terrace, policeman's helmet or Indian balsam, is flourishing. It grows profusely in these parts, especially on river banks. We watch the bees popping in and out of the purple flowers, in forward, and out backwards.

I read this morning in Coleridge's Biographia Literaria how, when at school, he copied out the sonnets of William Bowles in order to share his enthusiasm for them with his friends. "As my school finances did not permit me to purchase copies," he writes, "I made, within less than a year and half, more than 40 transcriptions, as the best present I could offer to those, who had in any way won my regard." I thought to myself: No telephone, no typewriter, no word-processor, no computer, no photocopier! I love Coleridge all the more for this.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

courgettes, drinker, fines herbes

Late but welcome are the baby courgettes, which I am cutting, the fruit no longer than the flowers, both fruit and flowers sliced finely for a salad or quickly jumped about in the frying pan.

On the blue plastic cover of the swimming pool, which I pass on my way to the vegetable garden, stands a pigeon, its feet in a puddle left by the rain of a couple of days ago. As I watch, it bows its head and ups its tail to drink from the same puddle, repeatedly and with apparent enthusiasm.

Chervil and chives share a pot in the garden where we sit. Every couple of weeks, I cut both to make an omelette aux fines herbes. Had they been visiting, Sherlock Holmes might have observed today: "You will note, Watson, that they have not eaten an omelette aux fines herbes in this house in the past two weeks."