Wednesday, March 31, 2010

consumed, ass, hail

Lunch or dinner? Pack torn open greedily, the fillets digested.

I muse on the word "ass" and its pronunciation. When I was young, some people, using it to refer, in its primary sense, to a long eared, hoofed mammal of the horse genus, or, in its secondary sense, to mean a stupid person, would pronounce it with a long "a" as most people now pronounce the word "arse" meaning buttocks. The persistence of the long "a" surprised me. Only someone unaware of the double entendre, I remember thinking, would say :"Don't be a silly arse". There was a schoolmaster, I remember, a bit if an ass really, who hearing me imitating him, said "who is that making a noise like an arse? The laughter took a long time to die down but, convinced that he had produced a witticism the exact meaning of which escaped him, he went off smiling. Notwithstanding the difference in pronunciation of "a" in words like "last "and "past", between the north and the south of England and between this side and that side of the Atlantic. If I used "ass" at that time, I confess to having preferred the short"a" version, because, even then, the long "a" sounded affected. More recently the American use of "ass" as an alternative to "arse" and with the same meaning, has made matters more confusing. Are there any asses in America with hooves and long ears?

Last night, hail clatters against the windows like devils out of hell. This morning a few drifts of white stones still survive in corners of the street and in the groins round the boles of trees.
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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

trees, sonnet, Alexandrine

For pigeons it is easy to choose; you are better off on a lamppost.

A dull theme for a poem refuses to come to life in the vers libre format, which I have chosen because I thought it best suited to the subject. I decide to make it into a sonnet. The search for the form demands new images. The images lead to new ideas. It all seems to be falling into place. There is a reason for rhyme and scansion and a given number of lines, where you least expect it.

After an hour or so wallowing in The Penguin Book of French Poetry 1820 - 1950, the long plaintive music of the Alexandrine, containing all that is beautiful in the French language, unfolds in my ears.
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Monday, March 29, 2010

17, curry, plan

A wrapper left on the road earns no less than seventeen syllables.

From behind The Raj Pavilion, the smell of curry, gusted by a damp breeze, mixes memory and desire.

My old friend greets me at the building society. In the weeks before Christmas she asks (as she must ask all but her most boorish clients): "have you done your Christmas shopping yet?" It is an annual refrain, which I look forward to as much as God Rest You Merry Gentlemen. But today it is too early for Christmas. Instead she asks: "Have you anything planned for Easter"
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Sunday, March 28, 2010

thread, farmyard, comfort

Tangles of threads, undone, wander in search of forgotten purposes.

In The Grove and Calverley Ground, our two local parks, the smell of the farm yard hangs, rich and heavy. Loads of pig shit have been spread among the shrubs.

In the window of furniture shop, a man tests a sofa while his wife looks on. Does her slightly worried expression, as she leans over him, and his expression of comfortable bliss reflect their domestic relationship? And will being seated for a few minutes in a public place properly test the sofa's true qualities. In my experience sofas and chairs begin to be uncomfortable only after at least half an hour's serious occupation. Then again, if the sofa proves too comfortable, will he (or she, when she gets round to using it), be lulled too often into the unintentional sleep into which some of us fall in front of the tv, particularly in the run up to a general election.
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Saturday, March 27, 2010

puddle, kaarch, hissing

The Cockney king and queen, covered in pearl buttons, soak in a puddle.

Ahead of me, one of our local crows flies towards The Grove. He sits on the barred, metal gate at the entrance and claims possession of the park, with a loud "kaarch". Next he flies on to the grass and struts up and down. "Kaarch, " he goes. "Kaarch". A great tit meanwhile issues its high pitched two-tone call from the top of a silver birch. "Doo dah. Doo dah". A strange duet. Kaarch. Kaarch," goes the crow, thrusting his head forward every time he calls as though he is trying to bring something up. "Kaarch. Kaarch."

A young man passes me. A wire proceeds from his ear where an earpiece resides. He seems to be hissing like the sound of air escaping from a tyre.
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Friday, March 26, 2010

mystery, scent, puppy

Like the moon, but light as bone, neat as a nut, it rises in the grass.

In Calverley Ground, I pass the long, yellow flower spikes and the spiny leaves of Mahonia japonica, without paying particular attention to it, until its scent wafts towards me in the humid wind. Then I see the bees which are there before me, busy as ... well , bees.
Almost certainly, they are bumble bees, which tend to be up and about early in the year.

A puppy, probably a King Charles Spaniel, in a pink jacket at the end of a lead entangles itself with other pedestrians. Its owner, a plump girl, says " sorry, sorry... sorry" as she weaves her own way in the creature's wake. But she isn't sorry at all. She is too proud of the  little bundle with its prodding nose and padding feet. "Yes, isn't he," she says even before people have had chance to comment. It takes her long time to make any progress, as she has to stop every few yards to agree on how sweet he is, and to say how old he is, and what he called, and ...
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Thursday, March 25, 2010

windows, prompts, seedlings

Look,you can hear the broken windows shout. Listen, their mouths are wide open.

The intuitive nature of  its search engine is said to the basis of Google's initial success. Today, I see just how intuitive it can be when I start a search on John Milton.  I type the letter "J", and Google comes up with a list of prompts, the first of which is jet blue. "Jo" produces Joann Fabrics at the head of the list; "Joh", John Mayer; "John", John Mayer again.  In response to "John M" Google comes up immediately with John Milton at the head of the list, having wisely and intuitively deposed John Mayer from prime position.

Although I have planted peas, beans, carrots and salad, there is as yet no sign of their germination. Perhaps I sowed them  too early, despite the instructions on the seed packets, which clearly indicate March. But in the greenhouse today, hope returns as I spot the first tomato seedlings standing up above the compost.
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

skipped, grammar, potatoes

Posted by PicasaThe dog in the skip, which I mentioned a few days ago has been rescued. I remark on this to one of the receptionists at the Doctors' Surgery which had discarded the dog. "Who saved the dog?"  "Must have been the RSPCA, " she says.

Outside a second hand bookshop in Cecil Court near Charing Cross, I find a heap of faded,  paper booklets called Tales for Little People. The original price on the cover is 1d.  They are about 100 years old. I cannot resist one called A Trip to Grammarland. It is the story of some dolls, one of which is called Heart's Darling. Heart's Darling is taken to Grammarland by a tiny winged creature called the verb To Love.
"...When she opened her eyes, she found herself in front of a large door with Grammar written on it. To Love rang a bell and the door was opened by an ugly giant.
"Heart's Darling screamed with fright, but the giant only grinned.
"Come in," said he, " and don't be frightened. I am the verb To Hate. You said you hated grammar so you have come to see me."
Among other characters are a lady called Subjunctive Mood and one called Conditional Mood. I am transfixed.

A large bed which I have just cleared awaits seed potatoes. At the moment I am chitting the potatoes - allowing them to sprout and rubbing away all but the strongest shoots. On Good Friday or thereabout they will be planted. Meanwhile,  the last four out of a pack of potatoes called Rooster bought from Sainsbury's for culinary use, having begun to sprout in the larder. They are particularly good, floury potatoes and I would not want them to be wasted. Instead I have put them in a bag called a potato bag with some compost. You load the bag with a layer of compost,  drop in the potatoes and cover them with more compost. When they begin to sprout, you add more compost. After about 12 weeks, I am promised a bag containing five or six pounds of potatoes. I can leave the bag in a corner of the garden where it takes up next to no room.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

window, next, spray

The inspection.

The snow drops, vanished; now for brazen daffodils with their big elbows.

As I walk out of the front gate, a woman passes, bending over to shield a small child with her umbrella. But it isn't raining. Then I realize that it is. But the rain is just a fine spray. I don't need an umbrella. I wallow in it like a blackbird.
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Monday, March 22, 2010

leaf, chess, transparency

It's my belief, says the leaf that I have become a fish. I would swim away if I could.

Engraved in my thoughts is a particular scene in Episode 3 of the the first series of Wired. The leader of a drugs gang explains the game of chess in words belonging to a remorselessly violent, street culture. Even if you don't know the patois, and if you didn't know the rules of chess, you would effortlessly learn how the game works from the scene. And, more important, thanks to the triumphantly achieved dramatic device, you grasp in a new light the relationships within the narcotics squad and among the members of the gang that peddles narcotics . It is at this point, after two episodes, where I admit to having been confused by its take on reality, that I realize how Wired has earned a reputation as a great, perhaps the greatest tv series ever.

After the hard Winter almost all the leaves have dropped from the privet hedge. The result is that from the window of my study, I can see and identify people passing in the street. The transparency, which must go both ways, will not last for ever. As a rule I feel cut off from the world by the opaqueness of the hedge, but for a while, as I do today, I enjoy watching passers-by, never too frequent, but frequent enough to be interesting.
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Sunday, March 21, 2010

bracket, lunch, crows

Its purpose dubious, its function forgotten, this once useful object has ended, or reached the present stage of its life, in the gutter.

Passing a staircase into an area outside a restaurant, I look down on four people having lunch. They are all eating the same thing. On every plate is a large, circular Yorkshire Pudding. It supports pieces of what I suppose to be beef. Round the pudding are bits of green vegetable and potato. Puddles of gravy are splashed over each of these compositions. A happy murmur accompanied by the clink of metal on china rises up through the well of the staircase. A bottle of red wine and half full glasses further adorn the table. I can see only the backs of the heads of two of the lunchers, while all that is visible of the other two are pairs of hands manipulating cutlery.

In The Grove, the two crows, who often preside on the grass, are back again after a short absence. I used to call them Mr and Mrs Crow on account of the proprietorial air which they assume as they waddle up and down, pecking here and there after insects in the soft earth. They seem to believe that the place is theirs, and you have the impression that other birds, and humans even, are merely tolerated. I am glad to see them back
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organic, two ways, commas

 junk. Another cast off icon to wonder at.

When you want to go to the Station, Grosvenor Road or Mount Pleasant from our house, you have a choice of ways. Quite Proustian, Guermantes or Swann? Only, in our case, it is the Berkeley Road way or the Miles Garage way. For Berkeley Road you turn right; for Miles Garage you turn left. The Berkeley Road way is the prettier and takes you past The Grove Tavern. The Miles Garage way is quicker if you want the Station or the convenience store, but only by about 30 seconds. Not that Miles Garage doesn't have its attractions. A small car repair workshop, it has been looking after people's cars since the 1900s. Both ways take you through The Grove - the compact, more or less circular, park which plays a persistent, if modest part in the lives of those who live in the area. But they take you through different entrances. The Grove is a place dedicated to trees and to small children, who have a playground within it. Some of us take it for granted as one does somewhere on one's doorstep, but it deserves to be noticed from time to time, as I try to do, for its bird life and human life, both of which are equally in evidence.

In Le Bal du Compte d'Orgel, by Raymond Radiguet, I come across these surprising words: " .. un alcoolique , collectioneur de virgules". Before reading any more, I fly to the dictionary convinced that "virgule" must have an additional meaning other than "comma" . But no: comma, it is; nothing else. I read on, and should have done so in the first place. The next sentence reads: "This collection consisted of counting the number of commas contained in an edition of Dante. The total was never the same. He would start again without relief." It is the sort of French humour which appeals to me, wry, a little surrealist and throw-away - a slant on the oddness of human behaviour. Radiguet published two novels (the other is Le diable au corps) before he died of typhoid at the early age of 20 in 1924.
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Friday, March 19, 2010

cover, catkins, audit

In the road discarded and squashed is the top of a drinks carton almost past recognition. Somebody, we should remember, designed it.

Seen from the train window, at this time of year, new hazel catkins like green rain.

Audits have been on my mind. We take stock, review, monitor, judge. We audit; we are audited. Daily, on high days and holidays and anniversaries, at equinoxes and solstices, with diaries and calendars, through windows and telescopes, binoculars and microscopes. It all comes together in a poem, which has been fermenting these last few days.

The Audit
Words you cannot do without
Grow scarce until they can
Just whisper like frantic wings.

Even balanced on a pin,
You cannot say goodbye like that
While faculties remain intact

To decorate and explain,
To earn the wherewithal to buy
A bag of chips, a pint of bitter;

To pursue conversations,
Which come and go like puffs of air,
In pubs, or walking by the sea.

The surplus makes you weep.
The books must be balanced
And love itself preserved

From extravagance and loss.
Letters in plastic sacks and files
Scattered like archipelagos,

On the floor, to navigate
Or be wrecked among,
Tell of lives half lived,

Of countries unexplored,
Of children waiting to be born
And voices in the room next door.

The auditors move in amazed:
(The particles dance on)
What they see is not there;

What they do not see is here,
Their task, to name what is no longer
Where it used to be, in the space

Between the spaces where it was
And will be again one day.
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Thursday, March 18, 2010

starry, elephants, one

Borrowed from the night sky and brought down to earth.

Have you noticed how certain phrases that come from, who knows where, catch on and stick in the fabric of every day language? Suddenly there is an elephant in the room. It's a dramatic image, quite pleasing. But how many elephants can you fit in a room?

From the train window, I see a horse alone in a field, in the middle of the field, sovereign, god-like. It is a solidly built cart horse. Perhaps it is lonely. But its strikes me that any solitary creature, visible in the middle of a field, - a crow or a bull perhaps - looks as though it is in charge, as though it owns the field.
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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

lollyop,roast beef, oysters

The end of a lollipop, abandoned on the road, is the cue for inclusion in my series of photographs of ephemera and detritus. To any one who is in doubt aboout where to go, the image says "go".

After lunch with an old friend at The Garrick Club, I wander back to Charring Cross via St Martin's Lane. There, I walk past a restaurant, perhaps better described as a cafe or snack bar, of vaguely Middle Eastern inclination, which I would visit from time, in the distant past, on my way home. It is still Middle Eastern in style - samosas, fallefal, hummous and the like, but it has a different name - Gaby's. As I pass it, I remember an enounter there, perhaps 30 years ago, which still fills me with a feeling of sadness. I was sitting in front of a cup of coffee, just about to leave to catch my train, when a middle aged couple joined me at my table. They explained that they had just arrived in London from Australia.  "We are looking forward to roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. It's our dream " they said, "on our first visit to England,"  and when a waiter arrived, they asked if they served it. I tried to explain that this was the last place in London where they might expect to find roast beef. The look of disappointment on their faces still haunts me. I had to catch my train. And wondered (as I still do now) if I was right in directing them to Simpson's-in-the-Strand, a few minutes walk away, where the tariff would have been disproportionate to that of the  cafe in which they had found themselves. I am still troubled, after all this time, by the culture shock which they and I, vicariously, had suffered.

Whitstable oysters and glass or two of Puligny Montrachet, 2002, Vincent Girodet, which I am still thinking about, - a treat for one who seldom ventures to London nowadays, to say nothing of the treat of talking about old times and present ambitions to an old and dear friend.
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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

fag end, Spring, no wait

Silk route.

At the surgery this morning, I ask at reception if, at some time, I could see the nurse so that she could check the dressing on my scalded stomach, where I spilt a cup of red bush tea last week. She could see you at 10.30, the receptionist says. I look at my watch: it is just 10.30. "Yes, " she says, as if it is hard to believe. "You timed it just right".

A sign that Spring has arrived: this morning on waking, I hear doves engaged in their particular version of Morse code, moaning gently to themselves in a soothing monotone. It makes me think of that verse in The Song of Solomon in The Bible. " For lo, the winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land." The words still make me think of a reptile and tempt me to imagine what sort of song might emerge from the small head at the end of its long lugubrious neck. Though I know, of course, that it was the turtle dove which the translators of the poem had in mind..
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Monday, March 15, 2010

lost, recognition, adjectives

Half of a CD pressed into the surface of the road has a message.

Outside Hall's bookshop, I encounter Peter who has been helping in the shop for the last few months He is setting up his yellow Brompton bicycle. He unfolds the frame, twists a few levers and there it is ready to mount. "With this warm weather, " he says, "I don't recognise people. I'm used to seeing you wrapped up in your winter hat and coat ." Now that he knows who I am, he adds politely, "nice to talk to you."

In a bath showroom in the High Street shortly to open, a notice promises: "Three floors of classic, contemporary and visionary bathrooms."
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Sunday, March 14, 2010

guitar, slow bread, blueberries

In the arcade.

Slowly fermented dough is the best. Recently my bread-making has been too hurried, owing to impatience and allowing too little time for the leisurely and dignified process required. To hasten fermentation, I have been using too much yeast (nearly always brewers yeast, only in emergencies, instant yeast). Quick fermentation means a comparative blandness, over-dependence on salt for flavour, and sometimes can lead to the roof of the loaf collapsing in the oven. Bread made with too much yeast makes me think of someone arriving late for a meeting, clothes awry, bothered and wild-eyed.
The best bread is made with yeast accumulated and bred from the bloom on grapes or other fruit, or what is in the air. But that process alone can take up to ten days. As a rule I have a yeast-starter left over from the last loaf and refreshed daily with rye flour and a little extra water. Ideally, I leave three days before the next loaf is needed before step one, which is to make a "sponge", a soft, runny dough, using up to a quarter of the volume of flour. This will go into the batch for baking. It should be allowed to ferment merrily and be fed, if it looks like slowing down. It should be left for for 12 - 24 hours. You make the final batch with the "sponge" and the rest of the flour, plus water, fat and salt, and any other ingredients such as seeds or chopped olives for olive bread. With the natural yeast, the dough will take up to 24 hours to ferment. It should be allowed todouble in size in own time. A warm place will help it along, but a cool one will prolong the fermentation. And that is the point. Slow fermentation allows the flavour from the flour to develop, and, in the case of sour dough bread (where a benign acidity drawn from the grain infuses the dough), which is what I have been describing, it will do no harm.
Slow's the word. Flavour's the result. People say that bread-making (unless you have a bread-maker, a perfectly acceptable machine, but one which has it constraints) is time-consuming. What I try to remind myself is that the various stages put together take very little time in themselves. But for good bread, the stages should be spread over a good many hours. The result is a beautiful thing, indeed.

In the checkout queue at Sainsbury's this morning, a carton of blueberries topples from the conveyor on to the floor where it explodes, scattering the berries (a little like sheep- or rabbit-droppings) over the floor. " It just fell off," says the man behind me, as a girl quickly sweeps up the mess. "Squashed blueberries and new white trainers do not go well together," says the man, moving uneasily from foot to foot in his new white trainers.
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Saturday, March 13, 2010

contre jour, toad, fishy

Into the sun.

Last year and the year before at about this time I met a toad in the garden. And then forgot about it. Today, while sweeping up some leaves, I notice that a leaf becomes animated and began to crawl forward on its own. It was the toad, if not the toad, a toad. I do not know much about toads. Do they live long? Do they lead solitary lives? This one moves very slowly. It crawls the way I was taught to crawl - one arm forward, one leg forward, other arm forward, other leg forward, keep your head down, keep your bottom down, a rifle in one hand, during my National Service training. Apart from the rifle, the toad seems to be reading from the same rule book. It fixes one eye on me, but does not seem worried by my presence. I miss wild life in the more or less urban setting in which we live. There are foxes it, is true, an occasional sparrow hawk and the usual garden birds. The world 'wild' does not sit easily with toad, but, still, I feel a little like like the leaf, which came to life, a few minutes ago, gently stirred by the encounter.

In the health food shop, a kindly lady, who works there, is polishing a spot on the counter with some kitchen roll and spraying it with an aerosol can. "There was a man here," she says " with a bag of fish. He put it down on the counter, while he was paying. I said to myself: 'Funny, I can smell fish. Do you go to the fishmonger round the corner, " she asks, and I fancy that for a moment she suspects me of harbouring a bag of fish.
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Friday, March 12, 2010

stains, bells, blackbirds

After the rain and the wind, leaf stains are left on the brick pavement by damp leaves which have dried and blown away.

Catching up with a podcast on the BBC's History of the World in 100 Objects, I am left with the image of an ancient, Chinese bell in The British Museum. And the Confucian belief that sets of bells are symbols of a harmonious society, where virtuous individuals work together for the common good. As I dwell on this, the thought creeps up on me that the recent collapse of capitalist economics in the West and the moral vacuum it has left behind, has left us with a society remote from harmonious principles. We are ruled by the pragmatic. Vanished from the political horizon is any but the worst sort of idealism. "The best lack all conviction and the worst are full of a passionate intensity". Voters, confronted by politicians who can no longer truly boast a moral compass, find themselves depressed and uninspired. Bells are beautiful things - church bells, Chinese bells. The programme, I think to myself, is a timely reminder to think about a harmonious society, however remote it may be, and to strive for one. If you have a bell, ring one.

There is one side of The Grove where, just recently, there are always blackbirds, male and female, pecking at the grass. I have counted eight at one time and there are seldom fewer that three or four in evidence. I suspect that, come the Spring, they will break away from the group to mate and to take over separate territories. Meanwhile, when I walk that way, as I do this afternoon, there is a little prickle of excitement in counting their number.
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Thursday, March 11, 2010

wayside, flyer, dog

While walking with my eyes fixed before my feet investigating ephemera abandoned in the street, for my current series of photographs, I am moved by these signs of spring by the road side, far more attractive than the cast-offs on which I have recently been concentrating.

As I am leaving the house, a man delivers a flyer advertising a pizza delivery company. I take it and I am just about to put in the waste paper box by the side entrance, when I see the pizza man coming back. Although the waste factor of such deliveries is known to be high and the youth, who delivers, it is probably anxious only to get his bundle of advertisements off his hands, I feel a sort of shame, pudeur, the French might say, and bury the flyer in a layer of newspapers so that he will not see it as he passes.

In the skip outside the doctors surgery is a big stuffed dog, about the size of an average two year old child. It has the doleful expression of the unwanted and the unloved. The surgery is about to move to new premises, which is one reason for its abandonment. The other, I suspect, is the now almost forgotten swine flu scare. It is noticeable that apart from requiring visitors to the surgery to wash their hands in anti-bacterial petroleum gel, the administrators have banished magazines and toys from the waiting room, presumably in case they are repositories of germs. In the waiting room a number of patients complain about the absence of reading matter. When I raise the question of the dog in the skip, there is noisyagreement. "There must be a child who would like it", says one woman. "Couldn't they give it to Oxfam! " cries another. How we love our dogs in this country, even when they are stuffed!
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

wasteland, news, cold

The derelict cinema, which occupies a large space in the centre of Tunbridge Wells, has proved over the years a fertile source of imagery for my camera. Now they are going to fence off the footpaths which take you past the best of it. Soon, they promise, the cinema and the shops on either side of it will be demolished, to be replaced by a shopping arcade, a hotel and a night club. Many people doubt that after 10 years of such promises, the new development will happen soon. Most are grateful. All they want is a another town centre cinema. Some may feel as nostalgic about the loss of this wasteland, as they do about the loss of the cinema, and of the fine house that was on the site in the 30s before the cinema was built.

A friend of Heidi's, on the telephone from Hamburg, tells her, yesterday, "I see Tunbridge Wells is in the news". Apparently the town was brought to a halt when a road was closed on account of an armed man in one of the houses." It's the first Heidi has had heard of it. I haven't either, and we live near enough the centre of the town." It is only today that we have the news confirmed. Apparently the incident occurred two days ago. It just shows how slowly news can travel even in the age of "instant news" and by what circuitous routes.

The icy wind is on everyone's mind, as it should be in a country where weather is a traditional subject of conversation. "When I got home," the owner of the convenience store tells me, "my wife said 'let's go for a walk'. 'No way, I said, not  when it's this cold, not at night, when it's even colder. No way, I said." Later, a man and his brother, regulars at The Compasses greet me with observations about the temperature of the wind. "Makes you ears stand up, doesn't it?" says one cheerily.
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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

threads, value, bellowing

This tangle of fine threads, from I don't what piece of fabric, catches my eye in Little Mount Sion for it bright colour against the road surface. It is minute, at most a couple of centimetres across. When I rotate the photograph 45 deg, as I do now, it pleasingly takes on the shape of a calf's head.

As I post a parcel to my grand-daughter, the girl at the counter asks me if the contents has any value. It contains a small book. But I find the question hard to answer. "If it's worth more than £500, the insurance will be extra," she explains. But I find myself puzzling about value as I leave the post office. The cost of a present has little to do with the value which I, as the giver, attach to it, and likewise to that which I hope the recipient will, in turn, attach to it. The important thing - and to that I can attach a value, and pay extra postage for next-day delivery - is that it reaches her in time for her birthday.

It is rubbish collection to day. You can tell by the agonised bellowing of the hydraulic lifts, which hoist and tip the wheelie bins into the Council collection vehicle. The sound brings to mind the extraordinary noise, which donkeys make, not all the time but occasionally just when you least expect it. It is, I suppose, a rare thing nowadays to hear a donkey in Mediterranean countries where they were once commonly used as beasts of burden. I remember how my class, when I was teaching English in Spain, some 50 years ago, had to explain to to me what the noise was. Today, perhaps, they wouldn't know themselves.
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Monday, March 08, 2010

python, swearing, plumbing

Beside some extensive excavations in the road, these orange coils promise revelations or dramatic consumption, but disappoint, remaining stubbornly passive.

An old man in a black, fake fur hat puffs up Mount Pleasant through a tide of pedestrians. As I pass him , going in the opposite direction, I notice that he swearing to himself like a car engine straining for more torque.

In Home Base, I enquire of a young woman about bath plugs. "In the plumbing aisle", she says. Aisle or isle, plumbing seems an unsuitable epithet for something that should be stately, as in a cathedral, or romantic as in the middle of the ocean.
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Sunday, March 07, 2010

bag, key, forgotten

Shades of blue discarded in a cobbled alley.

A healthy looking man goes to the front of the queue at the Customer Help counter in Sainbury's. "Excuse me," he says to the people at the head of the queue and to the young man behind the counter: "Could I have the key to the disabled toilets". There is a pronounced hint of embarrassed laughter in his voice, implying a degree of urgency. There is no problem. Only sympathy for whomever is in need. The keys are handed over. But a child with her mother, in front of the queue, is quick to spot, without fully understanding it, a vestige of social unease: "Why is he laughing?" she asks.

As I walk down Mount Sion this afternoon, I stop and about turn. The man coming up the hill, whom I am about to pass, asks sympathetically: "Lost something?" I say: "I've forgotten something". It's either something you have lost or something that you have forgotten, that at my age causes anyone to turn and climb back up the slope, which he has just descended with a light heart.
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