Monday, 30 June 2008

Signs of Summer

Who doesn't like Tomato Salad?


Let's try that again

Who doesn't like Tomato Salad
APART from MasterM


Let's try that again

Who doesn't like Tomato Salad
APART from MasterM and MissM...

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Essential Picnic Equipment

Dear Ali,

You will be glad to know
that I have bought
a corkscrew
for my picnic basket.
(I am not sure why I didn't think of this before.)
It is now safe to have a picnic with me.
You will no longer have to choose between
dying of thirst
asking total strangers if they have a corkscrew

Yrs, Embarrassed

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Paws for Thought

Now i lay(with everywhere around)
me(the great dim deep sound
of rain;and of always and of nowhere)and
what a gently welcoming darkestness--

now i lay me down(in a most steep
more than music)feeling that sunlight is
(life and day are)only loaned:whereas
night is given(night and death and the rain

are given;and given is how beautifully snow)

now i lay me down to dream of(nothing
i or any somebody or you
can begin to begin to imagine)

something which nobody may keep.
now i lay me down to dream of Spring


73 poems, 44

Friday, 27 June 2008

Convenience Food

MrM found this nest
when he was cutting back the ivy hedge.
As he passed it to me he said

'This family liked take-away food'

We are living on convenience food
for the next two weeks.
There is much coming and going at ChezMagpie
and so time for cooking will be limited.

Time for self indulgence will be non-existent
and so all deep and meaningful posts
have been postponed;
lightweight trivia only for the next fortnight,
no blog-hopping for me
and I apologise in advance
for not being able to respond to emails
as quickly as I would like.

Talk among yourselves
you lovely, lovely blog people.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Clara Peeters (1594? - c1657)

There are three people in our marriage:
MrM and myself, both present at the wedding ceremony,
and our second-hand bookseller, who appeared at a later stage.
Grahame has become MrM's very good friend
and every Saturday morning MrM pops into see him.

Grahame knows exactly what sort of books MrM enjoys reading
and ensures that there is a selection to choose from.
Occasionally, MrM finds something to appeal to MrsM.
His latest offering was an eclectic selection of women artists.
The Flemish painter Clara Peeters caught my eye
and I decided to find out more about her.

There is little to be learned.
Her date of birth is not known and her early life unrecorded.
The paintings date from 1608 to 1657
and it would appear that at some stage
she inherited the objets d'art of an earlier artist, Osias Beert.

Clara Peeters specialised in the still life compositions
of domestic objects that were just becoming popular.
These paintings would have been sold to wealthy patrons
and it is clear from her self portrait
that Clara Peeters was financially successful.
She sits beside her table of carefully displayed objects
with a self assured air.

Clara Peeters was one of a very small group of women artists.
She painted arrangements of flowers, metal, china and fabric
which demonstrated her considerable technical ability.
There are detailed reflections in the polished surfaces
and classical references to the transience of life.
I love the muted colour palette
and the strange juxtaposition of objects.

At the time that Clara Peeters was painting
religious imagery was forbidden
in the Dutch Reformed Protestant Church.
Artistic conventions were developed to make coded references
and that may explain the use of fish and shellfish.
Her contemporaries would have delighted in the visual puzzle
but it would require considerable study to decode now.

It is frustrating to look at the paintings
and know that they use a language that you are not familiar with.
I realise that in a lesser way the same is true of my photographs.
Each item is selected for a reason
and then photographed to the best of my ability.
I hope it is possible to appreciate the photograph by itself
but only I truly understand the context.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Gin & Tonic

MrsM read in the paper that Smart People
drink their Gin & Tonic with lime.

MrsM is VERY influenced by information like that.

MrM is drinking his Gin & Tonic with lime now.

Nothing so vulgar as lemon in ChezMagpie.

No Sirreee...

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

A Hay Meadow in June

I can remember my mother stopping the car one day.

"Some people have never seen a hay meadow
on a perfect June afternoon of sunshine.

Let's stay for a while"

And so we leaned on the gate,
watching the tractor

and breathing the sweet fragrance
of clover and buttercup.

"Don't ever take it for granted" she said.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Scrambled Eggs for Breakfast

For the past three years
I have worked with three lovely ladies
and they have become close friends.
I shall miss them so much
when I move to my new job.

Every Monday morning we ask each other

What did you do at the weekend?

Today I shall say:

Wasn't it wet on Saturday!
But it didn't matter because
we went shopping in the sales
to look for a new suit for MrM.
MasterM got lost in Kent and phoned us
from a farmyard full of barking dogs.
MissM finished her charity walk - yay!
Oh...and MrM bought seven more guide books...

and we had the best scrambled eggs on Sunday.

It is by absorbing these tiny details
over a long period of time that we understand
the gentle ebb and flow of each others lives.
If you listen carefully there are minutiae
which warn you of sadnesses and alert you to changes
even if these are not spoken of.

And, as I have discovered this weekend,
that is what real friendship is.
A sharing of each other's lives:
joy for joy and sadness for sadness.

I am so very grateful.

Sunday, 22 June 2008


MrsM has been pondering the benefits of a seaside cottage.
She could drink Sea Breeze cocktails
and watch the sun sink over the horizon
and recapture some of her childhood
strolling along the clifftops.

There are so many wonderful properties
....and so many potential pitfalls

MasterM would love the gym
but MrsM thinks
!!Coastal Erosion!!

MissM could roller blade on the prom
but MrsM thinks
!!Rising Sea Levels!!

MrM could sing without anyone hearing
but MrsM thinks
!!Electricity Bills!!

Smugglers Cottage, Pagham, West Sussex
in 1,500 acres of mudflats, lagoons and salt marshes

Poppy would frolic in 1,500 acres of Nature Reserve
but MrsM thinks
!!Mudflats - I don't think so!!

Stylish and Spacious
but MrsM thinks
!!Errr...New Dressing Gown Alert!!

Joan's Cottage, Talland Hill, Polperro

Small but cute in village location
but MrsM thinks
!!This one belongs to Steph!!

Great seaside views; easy access to water
privacy; potential for development.

MrsM thinks

Saturday, 21 June 2008

White Sweet Peas

for our daughter, Grace

who would have been 20 today

and for Edward and Harry

whose parents have just begun to learn
how to live with their loss

Friday, 20 June 2008

5 Reasons to watch "I am Cuba"

Good Reasons

To admire the extraordinary cinematography

To learn about Communism and the Cuban Revolution

Less Good Reasons

To impress your friends
who have been watching flimsy rubbish
such as 'Sex and the City'

To sing Cuban revolutionary songs
and annoy your father

Bad reasons

To watch your mother
putting on hand cream and then say

'Your hands were made for the plough
...not for killing...'

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Advice for New Bloggers

I started blogging by myself.
At the dining room table.
I pressed the button on Blogger that said
What is a Blog?
and before I knew what was happening
I was choosing font design.
It was all very scary and exciting
because I had never done anything on a computer before.

In fact
- if I am being honest -
I had only just learned how to switch on the laptop.

You can do it the hard way like I did
I can still remember the day
that I got the link to 'hide' under the writing
(that would be a hyperlink, folks )

or you can read these amazing posts
which give you all sorts of useful information.

Driftwood has written a great post on this subject
I love the advice on Blog Manners
which was posted originally at Meet Me At Mikes
MrsG drew my attention to these posts
I think that the commentary on Blog Security is excellent.

If you want to get inspiration
you can always sit at the feet of the great artists
and learn from their wisdom.

My advice is as follows:

1. When you choose a Blog Name you should Google it
and check that it will not get lost in a list of similar blogs
or sit uncomfortably close to weird sites.

2. Check out other blogs for inspiration
but do not slavishly copy the ones that you admire.
Have fun and play around with your own ideas.

3. Create an anonymous email account
that you use for your blog.
which is separate from your personal account.
Do not use your personal account to reply to comments.
This is a security issue.
Commenters who appear to be delightful at first
can quickly become obsessive.
I know.

4. Do not make assumptions
about people that you correspond with.
Remember that you only know
what they choose to tell you.

5. Install Site Meter at an early stage
and understand who is coming to your blog
and why they visit.

The second most popular post on the Magpie Files
is one about ties.
I can only assume that there are fabric factories in India
copying MrM's ties for the offices of the world.
I am relieved that pictures of my children
do not appear to be of interest to other people
but I keep an eye open - just in case

6. One day you will discover
that your content has been splogged.
This is an unpleasant fact of blogging life.
Do not burst into tears.
Shrug your shoulders and say
'Peanuts...I have been splogged'
or some similar profanity.

I have discussed splogging with a professional blogger who manages sites for customers and he tells me that there is nothing that you can do to prevent it because your RSS feed is used. I have noticed that it is more likely to happen if the words knitting, quilting or health are used.
So that is triple whammy for this post.

7. Use the spell check button
which Blogger thoughtfully provides.
It is so easy.
It shows you your mistakes in colour.
Learn to love it.

8. Who knows about Technorati Search?
You enter the address of your blog and it gives you
a complete list of everyone who has linked to you.
Then you can visit them and say thank you, thank you.
Unless you are a Big Important Blog
in which case you can take it for granted.

9. Do not forget that there are
cultural differences in humour -
something that you find highly amusing
might not read so well
on the other side of the Atlantic.

10. Don't be afraid to ask other bloggers
In my experience
they are very generous with advice
and glad to help beginners find their feet.

***edited to add***
Dear New Blogger,
finding your way to this post
from all over the Internet
If there was ONE piece of advice
that I regretted missing out from the original post
it was :
PLEASE put an email address in your Blogger profile
or on your blog.

It is very difficult to respond to enquiries from lovely people
if there is no email address to reply to.
All the long term, successful blogs have an email address
and it enables you to correspond off-blog
with the delightful people that you will meet.

And here are some lovely new blogs:

Blogless Kristina is no longer Blogless - hurray!
Go and visit her at
Jolly Hockey Sticks

New to me is
- I can feel the sunshine on my back every time I visit.

Speechless, Mostly is a photo montage of family life
but I am trying to persuade Lynn to write more
because she is funny and interesting
and has such perceptive things to say.

And finally,
if you have managed to read this far
without falling asleep

Do not forget that it is your blog.
You can write what you want to write.
Or not.
Do not apologise for things that you choose to omit.
Do not feel obliged to do anything
that makes you feel uncomfortable.

Always remember
why you started blogging in the first place.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

MrM, SuperDad

There is only one person in ChezMagpie
who can help MissM prepare for her Ancient Greek exam
and it is not MrsM.

In our family we divide labour according to ability:
MrM can scan Homer
and MrsM can chop carrots.

So that is what we do.


MissM has just phoned to say
that she has finished her 21st and last exam.
Party poppers and hugs all round.

MrM, Sous-Chef

MrM is preparing strawberries for Sunday lunch.

I have done these strawberries EXTREMELY well.
I think I could get into
the whole food preparation thing.

Doubtful silence from MrsM

I could probably manage carrots.

Are you mad?
You would need to use the potato peeler.

Don't you think I could manage a peeler yet?
What do you think I could do?



To be fair, he is not bad at oranges...

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

One Perfect Paeony

This year my paeonies have been battered and bruised
by the wind and the rain.
There was more rain yesterday afternoon
and so I picked this perfect paeony
to bring indoors.

The plate that it lies on is
Peony by Wedgwood.
It was manufactured in 1815.

Jane Austen was still writing novels
when this plate was used for the first time.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Dame Laura Knight 1877 - 1970

Last week MissM and I visited
the International Art & Antiques Fair .
It was a treasure house of beautiful things to admire.

Lamorna Cove

We were both struck by this picture
because it is from West Penwith,
a part of Cornwall we know very well.
Pebbledash, a blog-friend who lives nearby,
will recognise these cliffs.

I am grateful to the courteous stallholder
who took the time to give us some detail about the artist.

Self Portrait

Laura Knight was orphaned at an early age
and had to earn her living by painting.
After marrying a fellow artist, Harold Knight,
she moved to Cornwall in 1907
and became part of the Newlyn School.

The young couple found a studio home
in the claustrophobic valley of Lamorna
which had a colony of artists including Lamorna Birch.
It was a happy and inspiring time
and there are many sunny Impressionistic pictures.

In the sun, Newlyn

After the war Laura and Harold moved to London
and she developed her interest in ballet and the circus.

Ballet (1936)

Her paintings were very accomplished technically
and you can see influences
from artistic innovations of the time.

Grand Parade

It would be a mistake to dismiss her work as sentimental.
She was a talented portrait artist and her portfolio
included perceptive pictures of industry before the war.

China Clay Pit (c. 1912)

During WW2 she became an official war artist
and captured the energy and dedication
of the female munitions workers.

Ruby Loftus screwing a breech-ring (1942)

At the end of her life she painted the defendants
at the Nuremberg War Trials.

The Dock, Nuremberg (1946)

This powerful picture
of humanity disintegrating into chaos
is a lifetime away from
the posed picture on the Lamorna Cliffs.