Sunday 30 November 2008

Sleeping Beauty

MrM has made the bed.
It is, frankly, a disappointment.
It does not create the Designer Interior ambience
that we aspire to here at ChezMagpie.

William A. Breakspeare (date unknown)

However, today is different
because MrsM has just been on
a Performance Management training course.

Maxfield Parrish (1912)

Early Intervention

Can we have a private word please?

Jennie Harbour (1921)

Describe the Expected Standards

I want to talk to you
about the way that you made the bed this morning.
I am afraid that it did not meet
the minimum standard that has been agreed.
The pillows were not plumped,
the duvet was hanging off the bed
and the counterpane was unacceptedly wrinkled.
Well...I must admit that it wasn't my best effort

Warwick Goble (1913)

Determine the Cause

Do you need me to show you
how to make the bed again?
Do you have personal reasons
which prevent you from making the bed?
Do you understand why
we want the bed to look comfortable?
Errr...yes...I mean, no...

Edward Coley Burne-Jones

Develop an Emotional Contract

It is my job to manage this family
This issue threatens our success
I want to work with you to find a solution

W. Heath Robinson (1921)

MrM sniggers.
MrsM loses the calm, authoritative tone.

Arthur Rackham (1916)

She may need to consult her notes.

Friday 28 November 2008

Eye Candy

I looked at my blog today
and I felt sad.

There was a picture of some pebbles
and a crumpled sheet.

It is probably a fair reflection
of my life at the moment...

...but it is not what I want to look at
in the morning.

Thursday 27 November 2008

The Inaugural Address

The action takes place in a single evening.


My Office
Time : 5pm

The Professor of whom we speak is handing me a scrawled expense claim for a James Bond DVD. There are many gaps in the form – as usual. He has a young academic with him and within minutes we are all gasping with laughter as the Professor of whom we speak tells stories of his wicked childhood.

He leaves, shirt tail adrift.


A Large Lecture Theatre
Time : 6pm

The Professor of whom we speak is standing in front of several hundred people. There is an expectant buzz because this is an Inaugural Address. It is the moment that marks the promotion of a Professor. His family are there in the front row, his mentors from his meteoric rise through Academia, the Management, his colleagues from the Department, his students. It will not be a standard academic lecture – it will be a review of his subject to which he is a leading contributor and a look back at the people and places that have inspired him. We lean back in our seats – we know this will be a bravura performance.

His wife has obviously persuaded him to wear a more appropriate jacket.


The Foyer
Time : 7pm

The Professor of whom we speak is surrounded by a crowd of people congratulating him. He has spoken for exactly an hour without notes. He has checked his watch only once. He has entertained his audience and communicated his enthusiasm for a subject which takes him to areas of international conflict. He has acknowledged his mentors and thanked his colleagues. It is just as well he was not sacked for the false fire alarm caused by riotous living in his first month in the Department because he is a huge asset.

Even if he is incapable of completing an expense form.

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Text Alert

MasterM is on the last train home.
He has forgotten his house keys.

You can sleep in the Wendy House.
It will toughen you up.

Does it have central heating?

Only if you have a box of matches...

Oh...can you leave a hot water bottle out for me...

Poppy says she will let you in.

Does she have keys
or do I have to come in through the dog flap?

of course...
we waited up
and had that rush of pleasure and relief
when he walked through the door.

Tuesday 25 November 2008

My Life Coach

Clever Julia of Marmaladekiss
... life is a constant jar shake...!

I wish somebody would explain to me
how to motivate myself
to make room for the ironing shaped stone
which is quite large at the moment.

Clever Julia
Well ..
I guess you could disguise the ironing stone
as a "listening to music" stone?



Monday 24 November 2008

Meeting Ms. Eurolush

Ms. Eurolush:

she is small,
she has dark hair,
she has hazel eyes.
she has a handsome husband...
(I'm not saying that just because he reads my blog)
she has the most polite children you ever met
she wears a long black coat
and a wonderful red scarf
with a matching umbrella.
did I tell you about her bag?
it was Very Stylish

And you chat about holidays and schools
and dogs and Christmas markets
and mutual friends...
(Yes! You were all there with us!)

And all the time you are thinking:
a) I MUST see the famous Ms. Eurolush smile.
b) How can she eat pastries if she is this tiny?
c) She has an extraordinary gift for comic writing.
I MUST tell her that

BUT before you know what has happened
the morning has flown by
and it is time to go
and you haven't even begun to ask
everything that you really want to know.

And so you give her a big hug and say
"Come back soon because
we still have SO MUCH to talk about."

Saturday 22 November 2008

This is Fear and I am Afraid

Ms. Eurolush is coming to London - what could be nicer than meeting her?
MrsM emails her and tentatively suggests it.

Ms. Eurolush:
I appreciate you offering to take time from your weekend to meet up. I know how much you value your quiet time away from work. You are a busy girl!... Of course, I've already prematurely bragged several times to Mary and Eleanor about the possibility. A lot is at stake here!

MrsM ponders this. She has met Ali and Kristina without incident. She has spent a whole day with Val, Tracey and Monica. She has met Tracey from Australia. She has even met blog husbands. They have all been completely normal, delightful people.

Ms. Eurolush:
Have I scared you with the idea of bringing what amounts to nearly my entire extended family along? Are you regretting your proposal? Are you rubbing your temples at this very minute, sighing out loud and rocking back and forth? I do have that effect on people, you know

How did Ms. Eurolush know?
Is she psychic?
MrsM emails back and tries to manage expectations.
"I am normal - I hope you won't be disappointed"

Ms. Eurolush:
If anyone should FEAR meeting up, it is I. Little do you know how mousy and quiet I am. I stutter when I speak and am terribly wall-eyed. (This means while one eye looks your way, the other wanders off to monitor those around me.) I snort quite often. I have a strange habit of unconsciously twirling a single piece of my hair over and over and over--until it stands perfectly rigid on the top of my head, like some sort of hair-antennae. I should probably also mention the fidgeting. What else? The inappropriate and ill-timed giggle fits? How easily I am distracted by pigeons and gravel? That I carry a smoking pipe clenched between my teeth at all times? That I wear a monocle? That when I do speak my voice is a deep baritone? That every sentence I utter begins with, "In my humble opinion..."

MrsM considers her options.
She is committed to this expedition.
She discusses it with MrM.
"Do you think you will be safe?" he says
"I think she is just enthusiastic" says MrsM doubtfully

Ms. Eurolush:
Of course, I plan to be furiously taking notes the whole time we're together...detailed descriptions of you and your many unconscious habits and tics. Hope that doesn't distract you. I may also be making rough sketches of you in my sketch book. Just plan on sitting very still while we chat. I am meticulous with my doodling.

MrsM has an idea.
She can take MissM.
Nobody messes with MissM.

Ms. Eurolush:
We are extremely flexible with our schedule. If something doesn't work for you...we can always meet somewhere a different time...for dinner...lunch...breakfast...snacktime...teatime. All of them. Maybe we'll just all show up at your door instead. That would make this whole thing so much easier, don't you think? You wouldn't mind seven house guests at the last minute, would you?

MrsM decides what to wear.
It will be cold.
She plans to wear something warm.

Ms. Eurolush:
I plan to wear a red coat. But I may have a change of mind and wear a black coat, instead. As you can see, I'm unpredictable. It will be a mystery. Who knows what color coat I shall wear?

MrsM goes out to the late night chemist for some tranquilisers

Ms. Eurolush:
I'm shy, too! What will we do? I foresee lots of awkward pauses...nervous laughter...profuse sweating...and painfully little eye-contact.

Perhaps a "dance-off" would lesson the tension??


Bring your best moves...'cause it's on!!!

today is the Big Day.
If I don't return please send out a search party.

Friday 21 November 2008

The Pebble Theory

This theory is not mine
but I have lived by it for so long
that I can't remember where I first read it.

Imagine a big glass jar.
Put in three or four really big stones
then fill the gaps around the stones
with medium sized pebbles -
you may need to shake the jar
to make sure that all the spaces are used.
Then take a handful of small pebbles
and gradually pour them into the tiny spaces;
you will be surprised how many you fit in.
Don't stop pouring the pebbles
until you are sure that the jar is quite full.

Now imagine that the jar is your life...
and the pebbles are the things that you need to do...

This theory explains why times of transition are hard...
Because you can imagine what happens
when you try and squeeze another really big stone in
or change the huge stone at the bottom of the jar.

I know, I know...
the photograph is not a picture of pebbles in a jar
but at least it is MY photograph.
Taking photographs is one of the things
that has fallen out of my jar
since I started my new job.

I am sure that I will manage to shake the jar
and make some space
by and by.

And then I will take some wonderful photos
of pebbles in glass jars.

Thursday 20 November 2008

Cranberry Cookies

Sometimes it is very small things that lift the spirits

like an unexpected burst of sunshine
on a tray of freshly baked cookies.

Wednesday 19 November 2008

Just for the Record

1. A phone call overheard
“…that and hedgehogs are his abiding passions”

2. I authorise an expense claim for waders.
They did not need waders in my previous Department.

3. Much chatter and laughter
near the poster requesting volunteers for
the Traditional Naked Calendar.

4. A field trip discussed
“ was great...
a whole week digging
into the back wall of a cave with a teaspoon...
and now I get to go to Spain to analyse the samples...”

5. An interview candidate with wild professorial hair
and a collar half up, half down.
I wonder if it is deliberate.

6. My friend the Catering Delivery Man smiles broadly
to see me in my new office.
I smile to see him...
nobody lays out a buffet lunch as beautifully as he does.

7. A colleague who cannot attend the Christmas lunch apologises.
He has to go to Venice.
He is very regretful.
He would rather go to the lunch

8. An unexpected gift from China
in packaging pretty enough to frame.

9. A student with slender fuschia pink legs
like an escaped flamingo

10. New vistas opening up
through the leafless branches of trees
outside my office.

11. I did not buy the gilet.
But I should have.
I am too easily intimidated.

12. I have finally found some Christmas Cards that I like.
It was hard this year.
Now I can start shopping for presents.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Shopping with MissM

MrsM finds a felted wool gilet that she feels is Just The Thing.
She knows that it will sharpen her casual image.
She is quietly confident.

You will have to be careful.

If it rains.

Otherwise you might start to smell.

So that's a No, then?

I didn't say that
but you must be pragmatic.

Monday 17 November 2008

A Wet Sunday Afternoon in Fordwich

We had planned to go to the beach
but it was wet and grey and cold
and so we had a pub lunch instead.

Afterwards we strolled through the town.
It is a tiny place surrounded by water
and full of interest.

Here is the Town Hall - if you go inside
there is a ducking chair for Refractory Women
and a small room for the women to dry out afterwards.

Here is the parish church
which contains a carved stone of great antiquity
that may have been intended as a shrine
for the relics of St. Augustine.

The houses line the busy road

Medieval, Tudor, Georgian.

You could live in Primrose Cottage,
Sunflower Cottage, GiveAle Cottage...

Do not think that this quaint little town
is irrelevant to you,
dear friends from Australia
In this house lived John and Gregory Blaxland
Pioneers and Explorers

They set off from this tiny, historic town
sailed around the world and landed in Sydney.

And then "On Tuesday, May 11, 1813,
Mr. Gregory Blaxland, Mr. William Wentworth,
and Lieutenant Lawson, attended by four servants,
with five dogs, and four horses
laden with provisions, ammunition, and other necessaries,
left Mr. Blaxland's farm at the South Creek,
for the purpose of endeavouring
to effect a passage over the Blue Mountains ...

Sunday 16 November 2008

Renaissance Faces

MissM and MrsM have a cultural day out
and visit the Renaissance Faces exhibition
at the National Gallery.
It is inspirational
and there is so much that could be said:

about the development of portraiture;

Margaret, the Artist’s Wife ~ Jan van Eyck

the representation of status;

Marsilio Cassotti and his Wife Faustina ~ Lorenzo Lotto

the role of women.

Portrait of a Woman, 'La Bella' ~ Palma Vecchio

but MrsM finds herself distracted...

She knows that she should be enthralled
by the delicacy of the Hilliard miniature

Young Man among Roses ~ Nicholas Hilliard

or the fabulous ornament of costume

Portrait of a Lady ~ Alesso Baldovinetti

or even the complicated symbolism of the Holbein.

The Ambassadors ~ Hans Holbein the Younger

But NO...

MrsM is wondering what this lady is going to knit:

Portrait of a Lady with Spindle and Distaff ~ Maerten van Heemskerck

stripey socks to wear under her dress?
a cosy throw for her oak settle?
some adorable toys for Christmas?

Friday 14 November 2008

Happy Birthday MissM

MissM was the cutest baby ever.

She was so small that all her baby clothes were too big
and we had to buy special, doll-sized outfits.

She was tiny but she was clever enough to arrive with
a bright blue tractor for her brother.

You can already see how determined she is -
there was no way that she was going
to open her eyes for the photographer.

And there is something else...
guess which little girl knew that
she had the most beautiful nails in the family?
Even though she was only 2 days old.

Happy Birthday to our darling MissM...
we hope that this year is full to the brim
with good things.

Thursday 13 November 2008

The Boys are Back in Town

MrM reports back from a cultural weekend in Lisbon:

We take part in our first demonstration…
the teachers were revolting.

Kings of the castle

One just for Poppy

Stairway to Heaven …

With a welcome drink for two at the top

This guy is hot stuff -
but he is pretty laid back

Letting off steam at Sporting Lisbon

Shopping for souvenirs

Bottom of the post ...


MasterM wrote on his Facebook site
(a private message to be shared only with his 605 closest friends)
"Cheers Dad for an awesome three days"

Wednesday 12 November 2008

A Secret Visit to Hampton Court

A long time ago we went to Hampton Court for the day
and we had such fun!!

We explored the cellars and attics,
got lost in the maze,
admired the jugglers and fire-eaters,
hid behind topiary trees
and checked out the Real Tennis Court.
We had such fun
that MrsM thought it would be a great idea
to buy a family season ticket.

It was not a great idea.
Not at all.
It wasn't even half a good idea.
It was a VERY BAD idea.

We went too many times.

MasterM and MissM now harbour very negative feelings
towards beautiful, fascinating, historic Hampton Court.
They have threatened to lie down in the middle of the motorway
if we even think about going to look at The Great Vine again.

So now I have to persuade friends like Kristina
to meet me for tea at Hampton Court
and walk around the gardens with me
and admire the topiary.

In secret.

Thank you, Kristina, you are a pal.

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Twice as Nice

What could be nicer than lunch with MissM?

Lunch with MissM and her friend the Sassy MissS...

Imagine my quiet pleasure to hear them
analyse the American election;
review the results on a state by state basis
and put the outcome into a historical context.
They may be only 16 but the decisions of President Obama
will shape the world of their adulthood.
They are watching with interest.

And then after Semi-Freddo Profiteroles
we go shopping
and MrsM and MissM check out the usual suspects
French Connection dresses,
Office shoes
and Links jewellery.
MissS is extraordinarly patient
and if she hadn't been there
we wouldn't have even considered the silver mascara.

And yes...I am still on my Reading week...
but I have things I need to say...
all the posts are starting to spill over the edge again...
just ignore me...

Saturday 8 November 2008

Reading Week

Woman in Blue Reading a Letter
Jan Vermeer van Delft (after 1664)

I had a letter from my mother today!
The sheer pleasure of receiving this unexpected envelope
and the joy of reading the news from home.

I have not read a letter for ages.

or a book,
or a magazine
or a newspaper.

I think that I will curl up in my quiet, tidy home
and have myself a Reading Day

or shall I make that a Reading Week?

Don't worry, I will be back soon
but in the meantime here are some new blogs
that you might not be familiar with:

The Coffee Lady has been writing every now and then
and she says that she is planning to write more.
I hope so
do read her moving contribution to the kitchen poetry theme.

She recommended The Glass Doorknob
which I used to read and enjoy
and then stopped - who knows why?

I knew Limecat long before I started blogging
and we only discovered each others blogs accidentally
- she kindly visits the Chez
even though she is a pukka Craft Blogger with an Etsy Shop.
And I am not.

Limecat recommended Sarah Campbell
which is also a craft blog with great pictures.

Columbia Lily recommends Nikki at whimsy-girl
"She is consistently cheerful and upbeat,
and unbelievably creative.
She always makes my day a little brighter...

Viv does not have a public blog
but she kindly sent me a long list of wonderful blogs to read
She recommends Simple Me
and Joanna Goddard

Can I sneak in Trashy here?
Will anybody notice that it is
a gratuitous recommendation from me??
Beware - you may start seeing Donkeys EVERYWHERE.

And finally Helen at A Time to Dance
who is an enthusiastic recruit to Blogland
and a very generous commenter.
Welcome, Helen!
You have joined a wonderful and friendly group of people.

Friday 7 November 2008

Lads on Tour

Is there anything that you would like to know about Portugal?


MrM has emptied the shelves in the local library

and brought home a totally ridiculous number of guide books

MrM and MasterM are having a lads weekend in Lisbon...

and MrsM is staying at home

...somebody has to make the Christmas Cake...