Friday 27 February 2009

MasterM, Interior Designer

MasterM has a job in Buenos Aires for the next five months
with a seven room flat to rattle around in.
He tells us that the rooms are massive and rather bare
so he is looking for cheap ways to decorate.

MrsM suggests that he print some of his photographs
but MasterM is dismissive.
He would need so many because the walls are so huge.
Anyway, he has other plans...

A fishtank would look really cool...


I went to a petshop today
on my way back from the hairdressers
but they didn't have any Japanese fighting fish...

breathes out

...but they did have a really beautiful pair of parrots


...I could give them to somebody as a gift when I leave...


...there were some really cute Russian Mice

Have you actually thought
how many mice
you could have running around your flat
by the time you leave?

Good point!

Maybe I will just get a lizard.

p.s. fear not, dear Animal Lovers,
this is merely evidence that
MasterM is missing the endless opportunities
to tease his mother.

Thursday 26 February 2009

Whitstable Harbour

MissM and I decide that we must have some sea air
and so we head for the coast.

It is a grey day and the famous beach huts
are barred and bolted shut
but the inner harbour is bustling with visitors.

The quayside is littered with ropes and anchors,
nets, chains and blue plastic buckets.

The salty air makes us hungry
but not enough to eat cockles, whelks or jellied eels.

We are tempted by an ice cream parlour
which promises us that their ice cream
will make us 'weep tears of joy'.

After trialling the honeycomb flavour
MissM assures me that her eyes definitely welled up briefly
to prevent me from demanding our money back.

It is all very relaxing
and I only feel slightly enraged
by the spelling mistake

and couldn't care less
about the apostrophes.

Wednesday 25 February 2009

Life Lessons

Super-Stylish Monica has asked what I learned today.

I learned that
if you wear your blouse
inside out
all day
you really, really, really hope
that everyone thought
that the seams
were a design feature.

The Potato Peel Rebellion

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

MrsM is sorry to report that she is on the Naughty Step today.
She has said terrible things about the Book of the Moment.
MrsM is a 'Potato Peel' refusenik.

It did not start well because it is an epistolary novel.
MrsM racks her brain to think of similar novels
that she has actually enjoyed.
Her mind goes blank.

Next, the endless list of recommendations
on the cover made her cautious.
MrsM does not consider the review from Saga
'Utterly delightful'
as a selling point.

She consults MissM who blushes and says:
'It was very relaxing to read.'

She emails literary friends:
'A sweet, cheering book that you can read in an evening.
Or, an evening and a morning,
providing no one is bothering you.'

'I started it last night and it's quite pleasant thus far. '
The Coffee Lady
'I'm embarrassed to admit I had never heard of it.'

She reads blog reviews:
'Now I've read it ... I've been kicking myself
for not getting hold of it sooner.'

Eventually, MrsM had to start reading the book.
After half a page she asks MissM
'If I only read the first and last ten pages
do I need to read the rest?
MissM concedes that MrsM would probably not miss much
but says that she is very disappointed by MrsM's negative attitude
and unnecessarily restrictive reading habits.

MrsM looks again at the pages of glowing reviews
and sees the words from the Times :
' to lift even the most cynical of spirits'

Which just goes to show
you can't believe everything that you read in the papers.

Tuesday 24 February 2009

Creative Imperative

Why should the urgent necessity
to photograph THIS flower on THAT plate
arrive in my brain, fully formed?

I may NOT finish the coffee that I am drinking.
I may NOT consider alternatives:
it MUST be THIS flower on THAT plate.

And so the cofeee is left to cool
in the sunny kitchen,
the camera is found,
the flower picked
the plate washed.

And then the photo is taken.

Monday 23 February 2009


Milstead Parish Church

Sunday morning

at the end of winter

Saturday 21 February 2009

MrM and his barber

MasterM has his hair cut by George.
Photo courtesy of MrM.

MrM is very loyal to his barber.
For many years he went to see Franco
and Franco ensured that MrM's back and sides were short
(usually regrettably short)
When MasterM was suitably mature (9 years old)
he too went to see Franco.

There were subtle aspects to the whole experience
because Franco has an elderly assistant with a shock of white hair
known affectionately as 'Einstein'
who quite often gets distracted mid-haircut
talking about Italian football
so that the hair outcome is entirely unpredictable.
He also smokes like a train
and standing near him is a respiratory challenge.
MrM and MasterM always used to thank Einstein politely
if he offered to cut their hair
and tell him that they were waiting for Franco.

There is a third barber
who is occasionally in the shop .
He is known as 'The Other Guy'
and he is the best barber of the team
but it is tricky to say to Franco
'I am waiting for The Other Guy'
and so it was entirely luck of the draw.
Sometimes, if MrM was feeling very kind
he would let MasterM have his hair done by The Other Guy
while he had second best with Franco.

When MasterM was younger
he was required to have short hair for school
and so MrsM would take him to see Franco.
She always felt uncomfortable sitting in the chairs
among the tabloid papers
and the football conversations.
She would give MasterM a pound coin before they went in
and at the end he would hand it to Franco,
still hot from being clutched in his hand,
and say, just as his father did,
'Thank you very much, Franco. See you again soon.'

Later, MasterM decided to grow his hair.
Franco was not happy about this;
it was an affront to his professional pride.
MasterM was obliged to walk on the other side of the street
to avoid having a discussion with Franco.

Today MrM had to visit the barbers.
He has been having his hair cut near his office
but has not been able to make the time to visit
the friendly and talented George the Barber.
When he walked into Franco's nothing had changed...
Einstein waved him to a chair
but MrM said that he would wait for Franco.
Franco was delighted to see MrM
and wanted to know everything that he had done
since he was last in the shop.
He was shocked to hear that MasterM was now 19
and travelling in South America.
Who would cut his hair while he was so far away?

MrM tipped Franco generously,
said goodbye to Einstein
and wondered what to say to MrsM
about his seriously short haircut.

Back to the friendly and talented George the Barber next time.

Friday 20 February 2009


Camellia 'Liberty Bell'

Some people dream of roses around the front door
to scent the air on balmy summer evenings.

I have rose coloured camellias
around the dining room window
to give me moments of joy
on the cold, grey mornings of February.

It is a different sort of dream, I suppose.


Edited to add:
I realised later that
it is the dream of a pessimist
who expects the grey days in life.
Perhaps I should request a
David Austin catalogue.

Thursday 19 February 2009

Sand, Soldiers and the Sphinx

Listen up good people...
this blog is descending into froth and cake crumbs.
I think that an Educational Post is called for. we are going to talk about

Napoleon in Egypt

I am betting that none of you know anything about it.
So we all get educated
but we also get to look at nice pictures.

Napoleon and the Sphinx - Jean León Gérôme

Napoleon decided to invade Egypt
because he wanted to stop British Imperial expansion.
Which was a mistake.

Napoleon at Alexandria

He evaded the British navy in the Mediterranean,
landed at Alexandria and fought the Mamelukes
at the Battle of the Pyramids in July 1798.

Mameluke - check out that style!

It all started so well
but then Admiral Nelson trapped the French fleet
and defeated it at the Battle of the Nile in August 1798.

Battle of the Nile - Thomas Whitcombe

Which left Napoleon stuck among the sand dunes.

And after various horrible sieges and other small campaigns
Napoleon returned to France in August 1799
leaving an army of 8,000 soldiers behind.

Battle of the Pyramids - Antoine-Jean Gros

1n 1801 the French surrendered to the British and went home.
It had been an expensive foray.

However, Napoleon had a sense of destiny
and had taken a group of scientists, engineers and painters.

Interior of a Weaver's Workshop - Nicolas Jacques Conte

And so we have an extraordinary record of the campaign
And the exotic world that they found.

Watercolour - Baron Dominique Vivant Denon

They removed enormous quantities of Egyptian antiquities
into the streets and museums of Paris
and the artistic influence filtered through
into much of European 18th century life.

Sevres Fruit Bowl, 1804

So now you know.

This post was inspired by a visit to L'Institut du Monde Arabe
Which has impressed my colleagues.
Especially when I tell them that
we had meze for lunch in the Institut restaurant.
Oh yes!

Wednesday 18 February 2009

Tuesday, 'early doors'

Let us imagine, for the sake of argument,
that you have crawled out of your warm bed
at the ungodly hour of 5.10am.
You have driven your sleepy husband to the station
and you are now on the motorway to the airport.
What thoughts swirl around in your brain?

You think about breakfast.
Because you didn't have any.
And it is a long way to drive without breakfast.
A croissant would be good.
Specifically, an almond croissant.

You ponder the car accidents that you have read about
and are very glad that
you have just had the brakes replaced on the car.

You smile at the thought of MissM
still fast asleep in her cosy room.

You think of MasterM
on whose behalf you are delivering items
to be stuffed into a suitcase at the check-in desk
and carried to Buenos Aires by his friend B.

You think briefly about the meeting at 9.30am
when you will discuss the travel insurance policy
that will keep other people's children safe.

You remember the almond croissant that you had in Paris.
It was warm and crisp on the outside
and meltingly soft and fragrant
when you bit into it.

You choose a gift for a new baby cousin
whose arrival is much anticipated.
This is very pleasant and absorbs many minutes.

You consider what is for supper
but this is less pleasant
and you mind goes blank.

You are relieved that there is no snow on the road.
The time before last it was very scary.
Very Scary.

You remember the telephone conversation
with your mother the previous evening.
She tells you that the garden is full of snowdrops.
You can imagine it.
Each tiny clump nestled among moss and leaf mould.

Your mind goes sideways into Blogland
at the thought of snowdrops
and you consider if Poshyarns
has written your favourite post this month.


Would you prefer a Madeleine?



The almond croissant experience
is starting to become an essential part of the day.
Never mind the delivery for MasterM...
this has become an almond croissant pilgrimage.
If there are no almond croissants at the airport
there will be a very unpleasant scene.

Tuesday 17 February 2009

Acid Drops

Mapp and Lucia by E.F. Benson

There are times when you yearn
for really salty food
or the mouth-puckering acidity of lemons.
The subtle flavours of carefully balanced seasoning
seems a little delicate, a touch precious.

So it is with humour.
At the moment I have zero tolerance
of bland, delicate and precious.

The best prescription for this ennui
is the wicked, perceptive writing of E. F. Benson
whose biting satire of village life is just the tonic.
Like a dark reverse of Miss Marple
his characters are motivated entirely by self interest.
It is sheer joy to lose myself in the cruelties
of summer fêtes and musical soirées;
to see LuLu and LibLib
pitting their wits against each other.
I feel that zing on the mental palate
as his writing outrageously explores
the boundaries of social conventions in the Thirties
and can't stop myself laughing out loud.

Monday 16 February 2009

Golden Harvest...

Thirty years ago I worked on a daffodil farm.
In the height of summer
I would walk through the sloping fields
surrounded by labels:

St. Keverne
Golden Harvest
White Lion
Jack Snipe

And even now boxes of tight buds
evoke not the shallow sunshine of spring
but the hot dusty days of August
and trays of warm bulbs:

Dutch Master
Ice Follies

Sunday 15 February 2009

The Musical MissA

The Musical MissA is a good friend of MissM.
She is a very talented 'cellist...
but it would appear that she is not so confident
with Thunder Sticks.


After the match we were discussing where to go for a meal.

We can't have a burger because
MissA's family is Very Healthy.

That's not true!

You like vegetables.
You even like cabbage.

(who is not used to the M family banter)
But I don't like lettuce...

you like

(MrsM decides that somebody who likes Brussels Sprouts
should not be exposed to Drive Thru' Scottish food
and hastily offers to cook a nutritious family meal
...without lettuce...)

Friday 13 February 2009

Panic Stations

You know that feeling...

the one where you know how much you have to do
and how long it will take
and you know how much time you have to do it in
and the time that you have
is much less
than the time that you need.

And for quite a long time
you just ignore the implications
of this horrible equation.

It is the fingers in the ears scenario.

And then, one day,
your chickens come home to roost

(or, in my case, MissM comes home for half term)

and the list of things that I was going to do
before she arrived
seems to be as long as it was two weeks ago.

Which is why I am sitting here,
admiring pictures of 16th Century Turkish ceramics,
that I bought in Paris.

There is nothing that you can teach me

Thursday 12 February 2009

meanwhile, in Brazil...

...[I] was swimming in the river with caimans and piranhas
(I am not joking at all!!),
there were caiman literally 2 metres away from us
and it was fine...
until this
giant otter came swimming over
and our guide who was very relaxed
suddenly wanted us to get out of the water
because apparently they DO attack you!

I checked out pictures of the Giant Otter
and it looks pretty scary!
Those teeth!!

Yeah it is scary
and also big.
(hence the name Giant...)

MrsM remembers that she was worried about bull-running.
She hadn't even considered Giant Otters.

Wednesday 11 February 2009

Anatomy of a Weekend

MrM and MrsM are staying in the same hotel
as their good friends, The Double Barrelled Couple.

Mr and Mrs DBC leap out of bed early in the morning
and leave the hotel before breakfast.
There is so much to do.
They must climb the Eiffel Tower.
They must climb the towers of Notre Dame.
They must climb Montmartre.
They have no time for slackers!

MrM and MrsM are a shocking contrast
to this impressive work ethic.
They explore the hidden squares of the Marais

and wonder if they can take cheese back on the train.

They enjoy the street markets...
even though they seem quite tame
after the fish market at Catania.

There are shops that just sell honey.
MrM has a private tasting session
and agonises over which variety to buy.
MrsM just sits and watches.

They buy a gift for MissM just around the corner
from their favourite brasserie.

It starts snowing as they pass Notre Dame
so they go inside and listen to a choir practice.

and then they watch the skaters
as they pass the Hôtel de Ville.

MrM decides to stop and watch England play Italy
in a warm pub just off the Rue St. Honore.
MrsM falls asleep,
but nobody notices...
she hopes.

In the evening they eat in Le Soufflé,
a charming restaurant that specialises in...well...soufflés

and then stroll around the romantic Place de Vendôme.
It is all very pleasant and relaxing.

Of course, MrM and MrsM don’t do everything...
it would be a shame not have an excuse to go back.

Tuesday 10 February 2009

The Louvre at Night

Monsieur le Curateur has kindly offered
a private tour of the Louvre at night.

The lights in the galleries are low
which creates a dreamlike feeling
as we follow his stooped figure.

Monsieur le Curateur is immensely courteous.
He murmurs 'Bon soir' to the gallery staff
and laughs apologetically at their surprise
because he does not often take tours.

In contrast, Monsieur le Curateur's wife is animated
and enthusiastically points out the greatest of the masterpieces
so that we do not miss them as we walk past.

Here in the heart of the Louvre
is the Mona Lisa.

Monsieur le Curateur knows her only too well;
he has taken her to Japan.
Such terrifying responsibility.

I don't want to give the impression that we are alone...
on Friday nights there is free entry for the under 26s
and so we are surrounded by groups of students.

As we walk past the tall windows
there are glimpses of the Seine
and, in the distance, the two towers of Notre Dame.

Gradually the galleries empty of visitors,
leaving us alone with the marble statuary
and the Great Masters of Renaissance Art.

We end the evening with a meal in the restaurant.
Monsieur le Curateur shakes his head when we thank him
and says that it was just a small sample,
there is so much to see,
we must come again.

We leave at midnight
and the great reception hall is completely empty.

It is the end of an unforgettable night.