Monday, October 31, 2011

mosaic friendhip snow

Posted by Picasa Autumn mosaic in The Grove. Colours this year are more intense than usual, everyone says. And everyone may be right.

On a bench sits a man with his arm round a big woolly dog. The dog sits on the bench beside him, one paw on his knee. A similar  woolly dog sits beside the feet of the man. Contentment.

Last year heavy snow falls before Christmas had me shovelling snow with a spade, not the best way of clearing the footpath. Today I buy a snow shovel or snow scoop as it calls itself.  It occurs to me that this new tool will probably prove to be a  charm against heavy snow fall, and may hang around all winter, just a pretty face.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

crow parsley wet

Posted by Picasa  The crow whom I call Mr Crow patrols The Grove today. I always imagine that he believes that the park belongs to him, particularly when he has this expression on his face.

For years I have tried to grow parsley in a parsley pot,  an earthenware pot tapering towards the top, with holes in it through which the plants are trained. This year for the first time it has worked, a flourish of fronds,  a green halo.

Today the leaves in The Grove are wet and exude Autumn smells, mushroomy and a little decadent. A gardening programme on BBC 1 recommends stuffing refuse bags with dead leaves and keeping them moist to make your own leaf mould.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

tubes onions stealing

Posted by Picasa Scaffolding collapsd and ready to depart.

For as long as I can remember I have cultivated Welsh onions. They have the advantage of perpetuity. They look a bit like spring onions, but have somewhat larger bulbs, and grow in clusters. To harvest or to propagate them you  break away part of the cluster, and eat them chopped like spring onions or plant them out. Today I break up the clusters which have been occupying the same bed (vegetable bed!) for several years and set out a new row for next year and fill several pots with extra onions. Oh, and the taste? Better than spring onions, perhaps a little stronger,  more pungent but with a savoury, spicy undertow.

At the checkout in Sainsbury's this morning, I organise my collection of bags, ready for filling off the conveyor. To my surprise I find a solitary lime at the bottom of one of the bags. It is left over from last week's shopping, but I am pricked by a ridiculous feeling of guilt. A security guard looking over my shoulder could accuse me of purloining it. My problem is that I am obsessively honest, horrified by the idea of shop-lifting. But have to ask myself whether such compulsion doesn't mask, an underlying wickedness. If it were not that I feared censor, self-imposed or worse, the censor of others, I might be a natural born thief. Or at least a believer in the dictum that all property is theft.  I simply don't know, but I do remember the warm feeling of triumph when as a child during the war, we scrumped apples, from the school where I was a boarder. "What's this?" said the teacher, pulling back the bedclothes in the dormitory, to reveal the hard-won fruit. That's stealing, she said.

Friday, October 28, 2011

dill collared cheeks

Posted by Picasa The dill which provided gravadlax earlier this year has now flowered and gone to seed. It has in its present state proved a useful addition to flower arrangements and will doubtless provide fragrant seeds for seasoning.

For the last few years collared doves with their delicate, grey feathers and the black collars, which gives them their name, have been around in one particular corner of The Grove.  Apparently they have only recently been common in the British Isles. We have also seen  them regularly in Spain where they have been longer established. I have photographed them in both places. Usually there is only a pair in  The Grove but today I see four  birds in  the usual place, and then flying down from the fence, a fifth.

The skate, which we had from the fishmongers the other day pan fried in butter with capers, was all that we had hoped. The pieces are  usually described as "skate wings", appropriate for a flat fish of the ray family. I am not sure what a whole skate looks like, but today  the "skate nobs" at the fishmongers, turn out to be skate cheeks. "We're trying them out," says the fishmonger, "they're a bit like scampi. We'd appreciate some feed back."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

wall laughing last

Posted by PicasaPeels and cracks and strata revealed.

So impressed am I with Victor Hugo's compelling novel, The Laughing Man, that I have ordered a copy in English, to give to the next deserving person I encounter. I am only half way though the French original L'Homme qui Rit and find it difficult to put down. It is the first Hugo novel that I have read. The better know Notre Dame and Les Miserables have not appealed perhaps because of their fame as films and musicals. The pocket sized classic English edition of L'Homme... arrives to day.  When at school we learnt and recited VH's lament for the Battle of Waterloo which begins " Waterloo, Waterloo, morne plaine!...and produced mixed feeling of triumph, guilt for being on the winning side, and laughter because Waterloo station, just round the corner, badly fitted the melancholic alexandrine  music of the words.

Today the last of this summer's extraordinary crop of courgettes are to be grated, fried seasoned with a little feta cheese added to some beaten eggs,  and turned into a fritata, an Italian omelet of which we have  become very fond.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

touching specifically conker

Posted by Picasa Clouds, snouts approaching.

In Calverley Precinct there are often young people with clip boards. Invariably they are pushing one cult or another. Their habit is to greet you in a familiar way which people of my generation find uncomfortable. "How are you? " asks a young man, as it seems into the air, then catching my eye, adds, " you in particular?" But this old fart is not for stopping.

There is something about conkers newly released from their spiky green packs, that produces the sort of thrill you get when opening a present. Today digging over the bed where beans grew this summer I turn up a bright new conker, shining like  polished furniture. There nearest horse chestnut tree is about 100 meters away. Only a squirrel could have brought it there. But with some difficulty because it is a large nut for small jaws. Unless it was a fox! But foxes don't bury conkers. Or Do they?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

window slug Pam

Posted by Picasa Upper floor window of Hall's Bookshop with reflection of pigeon.

In the bed which I am turning over for the Autumn I recoil at the sight of an enormous  slug. It seems to glower at me.  Slugs are not my favourite creatures. To my relief this one turns out to be the vestiges of a rotting courgette or zucchini. I bury it with  special pleasure.

Inscribed on a bench in Calverley Precinct. "Pam. Born to shop. 1950 - 1997."

Monday, October 24, 2011

stacked TV ivy

Posted by Picasa Chairs and collared dove.

"Excuse me, have I seen you on TV?" says the waitress at The Crown at Groomsbridge. "You look just  like... you know that man in ...." A celebrity at last. Well not quite. Having denied my appearance on the screen,  I offer my autograph which is politely declined.

There a lamppost near our house where ivy has climbed exuberantly. It is almost half way up, as though it is some kind of rampant legging.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

walkies chill diet

Posted by Picasa On the beach at Sitges. The last of the summer wine.

A regular feature in the Saturday edition of The Financial Times is an interview with a well known person under the banner Lunch with the FT. I don't always read the interview, but I never miss the panel containing the lunch menu. What saddens me nowadays is the sobriety of the meal. Wine rarely features. A puritan frugality seems to be the order of the day where alcohol is concerned.  Lunch in my lunching day was rarely anything but over the top. Saturday's FT excelled itself in demonstrating this new puritanism. The subject of the interview was one, Millar S Dexter, who owns a "preppy" clothing chain called Crew. To accompany their meatballs at Paulino's in New York, he and his interlocutor drank Diet Coke and Peligrino. The meal was followed by two cappuccinos. Cheers.

I read but I do not write novels. Sometimes, though, the title of a novel  waiting to be written  comes to me even though I haven't a clue what it would contain. Today's inspiration is Wind Chill Factor. Aspirant or accomplished novelists are welcome to have their way it.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

fading spice crunch

Posted by Picasa There is still a firm of builders and property developers in Tunbridge Wells called John Jarvis. This abandoned building in all probability belongs to them. Its peeling logo against a lovely blue background and rusting corrugated iron have the air of something about which to be nostalgic.

In the Farmers' Market this morning outside the public library, I buy myself a mug of hot spiced apple juice, tasting of ginger and cinnamon. The store holder a former journalist, who  also sells apples and cob nuts dipped in chocolate, invites me behind the stall  to drink the juice quietly away  from the crowd. From there as |I sip  I watch shoppers coming and going,  stopping and starting while their lingering glances dwell on fruit and plants and displays of meat and cheese. Leaves blow past me from the lime trees that border the road.

In The Grove the sun warms the dry leaves turning from green to russet. On the ground they crunch under foot and rustle as you kick them. In the branches they whisper and gossip dry and ready to fall.

Friday, October 21, 2011

web bamboo resoles

Posted by Picasa Wired.

Every year at this time, there is the pleasurable chore of taking down the bamboo pole structure on which I grow climbing beans. In recent years I have become tidier and more disciplined. Now I tie the 8ft poles into bundles of 12, so that I can stack them neatly in a sheltered place. The beans plants look  straggly and begin to turn brown. The beans themselves have become pods many of which are dry meaning that beans can be de-podded and saved in envelopes for sowing next year. A pleasurable job but not a patch on erecting the structure at the end of May ready for a new crop.

What shall I put in this evening's soup? In a few minutes it will be time to make a stock with the remains of a leg of lamb.  The stock will be fragrant with celery and mint. For the soup there will be home-grown tomatoes for certain, a few beans, some finely sliced, very small  courgettes, late but not yet attacked by the frost. And probably some little cubes of the last bits of neat  from the leg.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

leaf tools fate

Posted by Picasa The tree in the leaf.

In these Indian summer days the sounds of people at work with tools as they fortify their houses against the coming winter are everywhere. The tools seem to imitate the noises that animals make: the hiss of sandpaper; the whistling and screaming of drills; the cawing of saws. On top of that when the rubbish disposal vans arrive, there is the anguished bellowing of hydraulic cylinders as they tip  and empty wheelie bins into the belly of the van.

There is a story in The Compasses that the chair against the bar beside the door is unlucky. Several of its regular occupants have met an early death. A good reason  to avoid it, but few of the perpetrators of  the myth are superstitious. Rather  they are driven by a gift for story telling. Today some one tells the man who is sitting there quietly doing the Telegraph crossword about the story.  "You don't like me do you?" he says laughingly to one of the myth-makers; "you never told me. Never mind, I'm not superstitious."  "He's a journalist,"  someone say, as we watch him he walks off with his Telegraph. " He's a clever man."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

towel circles tidy-up

Posted by Picasa Towel scape. The beach towel provided by Hotel, San Sebastian Plays spread over our balcony wall.  The sea sparkles beyond it.  Our holiday is already fading quickly kept alive only be photographs.

We all move in circles most of the time. Today, during a short walk to the local cashpoint, we meet the same people twice, then again. The people in question happen to  be Nick Law and Alec Law, the latter sitting up in his pram. The third time round they are accompanied by Clare Law who has been at the hairdressers.  Clare is of course the Clare who is the author of Three Beautiful Things, the inspiration of  this blog and I believe of many others which have adopted a similar formula.

Wires are one of the  less comfortable side effects of electronics. Today I rearrange my telephone, desk lamp and computer and loudspeakers in order to minimise the tangle and have everything in reach.  Soon all will be wire-less. For the time being, I play Erik Satie's Gnossienne No 5 to crown this small achievement.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

honey vase diplomacy

A bumble bee collapses on our doorstep. Give it some honey someone says. We watch it feast and revive.

On the garden table a vase of cut flowers seems out of place but cheers in an unexpectedly chill wind as coals might in a grate indoors.

 In the village of Hawkurst, where there is a small cinema., we are having difficulty in finding somewhere  to park.  In a cul-de-sac some people stare apprehensively at my friend Peter who is driving.  All the parking places belong to  the houses in the small road. We are about to go and the couple who  are loading a car continue to watch us with suspicion. As he backs the car, Peter lowers the window and says " I saw you were worried, we're not going to park. It's obviously a problem here."  The woman smiles meaning"it is" but says, "Have you tried the car park." Full," we say. "We're off to the cinema," says Peter. "Look," says the woman, " park over there,"pointing to a space over which she has parking rights. Peter offers her and the man with her a sweet as we leave to underline our appreciation of an act of kindness.

Monday, October 17, 2011

sails onions polysyllabic

Posted by Picasa Red sails at Sitges

When, several years ago,  I wrote about Roscoff onions which we were able to buy from Sainsbury's at the time, I was surprised and delighted to find that someone else knew of this delectable allium from Brittany.  My correspondent was Lucy Kempton who  has subsequently became a dear friend and collaborator in several ventures including  the exchange of poems to be found on our joint  blog, called Compasses. Yesterday, over here from Brittany, Lucy visits us and brings among other goodies from Brittany a bag of Roscoff onions from her local market. Time has made a neat circle and the onions are back in Now's the Time.

When tweeting I find myself using polysyllabic words, an added challenge to  what and how to communicate in 140 characters.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

explorer fog trolley

Posted by Picasa Exploring the beach at Sitges.

When ever I hear economists and bankers talking about the state of the economy I think of fog, old fashioned sticky fog writhing round lamp posts and chimneys, visibility about 8ft. So it is with some amusement that I see in the window of Maplin, the electronics shop, a fog machine. No need for one; just switch on a current affairs programme or read the newspapers.

In the supermarket my trolley tries to run away in a crowded aisle. I steer it away from an impending collision. "Well caught, " says the man with whom it has nearly collided. For a moment I hear clapping from the boundary, the unmistakable sounds of cricket.

Friday, October 14, 2011

hopeful looking treasure

Posted by Picasa In last rays of  the evening sun, a hopeful rose.

A pigeon is on the parapet of the house opposite this morning.  It is one I often see. It  looks over the edge, tilting its head to left or right, looking for something to eat. 

Almost anything I uncover when turning over the soil in the vegetable garden seems to have an archaeological value: a chip of blue china, the perforated lid of some kind of dispenser (Bill at The Compasses says  later that it could be the filter from an old gas mask); a bent and rusted piece of metal; a fragment of the serrated edge of a saw blade. Deterioration and corruption seem in a perverse way to add value, but the value is only for me. I assemble a small collection.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

extremities krill damp

Posted by PicasaFeet and legs in Mount Pleasant.

There is a health food shop in The High Street where we buy porridge and Moroccan mint tea. It is  packed with foods and remedies of all sorts however which seldom fail to intrigue. Today there is a leaflet on the counter promoting krill oil. Krill I know is a minute crustacean found in cool seas in vast quantities. It forms a major if not exclusive part of the diet of whales which suck it in like huge vacuum cleaners as they glide through the water. The oil is, the leaflet assures, packed with Omega 3 fats which are good for your heart, brain and vision. Whales must find it helpful too.

It is said that Eskimo people have a large number of words for snow, determined by the different sorts of snow encountered in the Arctic.  It follows that the rich English language should have a similar number of words for rain, which is so important a component of the English climate. I can't thing of more than two - rain and drizzle. But this afternoon I can think of no word to describe what the air is full of. Not rain surely. It barely prickles the skin. But not mist either because it leaves a distinct layer of damp on face and clothes and under foot there is a sheen as though a fine spray has been applied.  It is warm and plants seem to respond by releasing resinous scents.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

walls tracks scent

Posted by Picasa The Catalan painter Tapiés is in love with walls.  His abstract painting are inspired by the walls of his native towns, walls covered in plaster and often peeling.  He has a museum all to himself in Barcelona.  His preferred colour is ochre.  He would not have been interested in grey.  But this grey wall has some of the appeal of his paintings nevertheless.

The French poet Francis Ponge has this short poem called The Dog, complete in itself though it may not seem to be:
"I read a lot, forcing my self, out of duty, as I trot along, to go back twice, I swear, over these tracks.
Friends ... here it is!
(If I have succeeded in expressing myself, I will have some readers.)
It rings a bell with this blogger.

Cutting basil today I feel like a master perfumier investigating new components for a fragrance. I strip the leaves from the stem and the scent becomes stronger flooding the kitchen. Tonight I shall prepare a variation of the Provencal soup au pistou, pistou being the French version of the Italian pesto.  I am hoping that some of the scent of the basil will survive in the soup. The soup will also contain freshly de-podded white haricot beans, also gathered this morning.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

unexpected tweeting apples

Posted by Picasa  Much as I love the sea, I know very little about ships. It is not often that you see a square rigged vessel in waters normally associated with leisure sailing. This arrived one day and moored for a while off Playa San Sebastian. What would you call it? A two-masted schooner? A pretty thing whether or not you are a sailor.

Today I  feel an urge to tweet. Or twit? So over to Twitter where I post some thoughts and observations as they come into my head. Satisfying even if no one is listening or looking. I use the name Coqlicot which is how the French pronounce coquelicot meaning poppy.

"Would you like some apples?" Says a neighbour. I reluctantly decline. Apples are plentiful this year and we have bowls and trays of  them at the moment.  But I sympathise. It has been a summer of gluts and the trouble of cultivating beans and lettuces and the like is nowhere as hard as finding a home where they can be put to good use. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

stick sweet postmen

Posted by Picasa Shadow with walking stick and substance.

The sweet peas which I planted in the spring are in abundant flower this morning. Sweet peas in October! Word is going round that heavy snow is expected before the end of the month.We are in for a bitterly cold winter. One person says it and then another and another. Soon it becomes a fact. There will be heavy snow before the beginning of November. No doubt about it.

So that they may deliver the post, postmen in Tunbridge Wells are  themselves delivered in a large red Post Office van . The van disgorges them at strategic points in the town, together with their presorted mail, which they deliver on foot. Their rounds completed they wait beside the road for the van to pick  them up again. Today, as we sit outside the Bar and Grill in The High Street, a van passes us, full of postmen.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

ring two sides acorns

Posted by Picasa Sometime ago my brother Ken gave me a toy called a flying ring. I didn't realize until I put it on in how high esteem he must hold me. Though I have no aspirations to sanctity even to sobriety, it seems to fit like a glove.

The road that climbs the hill that leads from the station to The Town Hall and civic complex in the centre of Tunbridge Wells is lined on both sides by shops and restaurants. To the right as you ascend, these establishments tend to be more substantial. The reason is to be found in the alley, called with some pretension, Mount Pleasant Avenue, which runs parallel to it, and which allows the shops to have rear entrances and areas where dustbins and like can be be kept. I often take this road rather than the more populated one, because of the contrast between back and front, the sight of rusty railings and peeling paintwork and overspill from the commerce in front - a shoe for example left on a window ledge - shop assistants sitting on a step for a smoke, pipes, cables and ventilators, fire escapes  and   service units of one kind or another. Emerging from some of the kitchens there is invariably the smell of grills and stir fries, pizzas and sauces, and from other back rooms,"The smells of dust and eau de Cologne..".

What happens to the acorns in The Grove? Last year I could find none, nor any this year. Yet there are several oak trees lining the paths. Today walking on a road far from The Grove I tread on acorns aplenty. The the obvious hits me. The squirrels in The Grove eat the nuts or bury them. I seldom pass a squirrel at this time of year which is not sitting upright, its little hands together in front of its stomach as though in prayer, but in fact holding an acorn which it nibbles at speed. If they are are not eating them they are doubtless burying them.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

game bhaji show

Posted by Picasa When we are in Sitges there is usually someone playing this game.The sound of bat and ball heard from afar creates a pleasing harmony with the breaking waves.

At the Farmers' Market today a stall from which the spicy smells of the sub-continent issue forth,  offers samples of cobnut bhaji. Cobnuts are a variety of hazel nut local to Kent and Sussex. Bhaji is  an Indian street food, a sort of fritter. "Kentish bhajis" says the young man at the stall.

One of the things that drives this daily blog is a strange compulsion on my part, the origin of which I can't entirely explain.  It is  to have something to show of my own creation if not every day, most days. It is not something I am necessarily proud of. Neither do I wish to apologise for it.  It is just an affliction that I have to live with, and others who live with me, have to live with it too. Hence the need to keep a notebook in one pocket and camera in the other.   So I cook, I write,  I snap  and cultivate something or other the whole day through. Though  I am not compelled to do any of these things, I  would feel only half alive if I didn't do them.   Perhaps I am not alone in this. Perhaps there is a medical name for it. It is not something that concerns me greatly, but sometimes as to day when I walk though The Grove on my way to the Farmers' Marker, it is topic I like to meditate upon.  For some reason, I think of animals who do not suffer from such urges. Then I think of Walt Whitman who thought:
... he could turn and live with animals, they're so placid and self-contain'd,
I stand and look at them long and long."
Could a cure lie there - looking at animals - a pastime, which like Whitman, I find infinitely calming.

Friday, October 07, 2011

railings relief rotor

Posted by Picasa Beside the railing overlooking the sea.

A monotonous job it is to dig over the potato bed preparing it for spring sowing.  A relief from the monotony is to throw overlooked potatoes uncovered too late with worm holes in them or green tinged from exposure to the air, into a sack on the path. The challenge is not to miss however far away you are from the sack.

Among toys in a mail order catalogue is something called Balloon Copter. It consists of a set of rotor blades which have to be attached to an inflated balloon. As the air escapes the device soars into the air whistling as it goes.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

classic strong smoke

Posted by Picasa Cat in Sitges.

"Very interesting, Joe," says Tim the dentist as  he introduces mysterious objects into my mouth accompanied by blue flashes. He is reinforcing the back of a row of teeth  with a  sort of fibre glass brace, something new to dentistry it seems. "It's very strong; it's welded  with resin, "he says, adding to Trace, the dental nurse, " I should start teaching this." He is normally a man of few words from which I deduce that he is pleased with his work and his mastery of the technique. Meanwhile I can't wait to sink my teeth into something, anything.

The bus driver waiting outside his bus, has a cigarette between thumb and forefinger. It is a style of smoking I recall from earlier times, when a quick puff was often  followed by a fanning action of the free hand and the concealment of the offending fag behind the back with the other. For some reason the phrase " a cunning Woodbine" comes to mind, the reference being to a brand of small, inexpensive cigarette then in vogue among the indigent.