Thursday 30 April 2009

Planning ahead

Mr and Mrs Ralph Izard by John Singleton Copley (1775)

MrM and MrsM have a free weekend ahead of them.
For the first time for years and years and years
they have no responsibilities at all.

We could just go...somewhere...




I don't just popped into my head...

What is there to do in Herefordshire?

I have no idea.

There must be something to do.

We can drink Westons cider.

Pass the phone.
I will book a hotel.

Wednesday 29 April 2009


You can't see the house where I grew up
because it is just around the bend in the river
on the left hand side.

You can see the house that I could see
from my bedroom window.
It is the last house, low on the waterline,
on the right hand side.

You can see the quay where we caught the tiny ferry,
and the house with the salt and pepper chimneys
that we walked past to get to the beach.

I haven't been back many times
but if you love a place
you never really leave.

Photo by Hilary G.
who has a wonderful collection of skirts.
She now lives and works in Penryn.
I miss hearing her laughter
in the corridor outside my office.

Tuesday 28 April 2009

Just for the Record

It is the first day of the exam term.
Another year, another exam timetable.

The Chair of the Board of Examiners
and the Educational Support Officer
sit in my office looking gloomy.

Extenuating Circumstances,
External Examiners,

The Chair of the Board of Examiners
has started to think in decimal points already.

I tell him that the invigilator
has emailed from Jordan to confirm
that she will be back in time for the first exam.

The Educational Support Officer
is responsible for students with problems.
I admire him - it is a difficult job.

I point to the traditional tin of chocolate biscuits
for the sole use of examiners.
It is a feeble attempt to lighten the mood.

They dictate an email to be sent to all students.
My erratic typing makes them laugh.

We agree that "Groundhog Day"
is a truly great film.

The Chair of the Board of Examiners
takes the notices from the filing cabinet:

Quiet - Exam In Progress

It will all be over in five weeks.

I consider warning my blog friends
that I may be slow to respond to emails.

No change there either.

*with fivefold thanks to Quinn

Monday 27 April 2009

The Precinct Walls

It was the toadflax that started it;
tiny lavender flecks clinging to grey stone

and then there was the lilac,
heavy scented in the still air.

My husband and daughter waited patiently
as I climbed on a bench to photograph forget-me-not

and leaned over old railings
to capture pale magnolia.

I know now that was all leading up
to this one perfect moment:

then I put my camera away...
I was done.

Saturday 25 April 2009

messages from my family

my sister
...we LOVE the dognut story...

my father
...don't work too hard...

my father-in-law can borrow my gown and hood for Graduation...

my husband
...thankee for the hanky...

my son
...I have just emailed Lydia, the travel agent,
and I need you to pay for my ticket to Quito immediately
because it is a really good deal...

my daughter
...this is just the thing
to update your spring wardrobe

Friday 24 April 2009

House Rules


Buy rhubarb

... or daffodils...

from farmers
who advertise with hand lettered signs.

adapted from
Life's Little Instruction Book
by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Thursday 23 April 2009

At the Edge of Another World

I have just finished reading
A Boy at the Hogarth Press by Richard Kennedy
published by Slightly Foxed.
It is a delight - packed with anecdotes of a vanished literary world
and scrambled line illustrations full of energy and wit.

Virginia Woolf setting type by Richard Kennedy

The Hogarth Press was started by Leonard and Virginia Woolf
and published works by members of the Bloomsbury group
with cover designs by Vanessa Bell, sister of Virginia Woolf.

The Common Reader by Virginia Woolf
cover design by Vanessa Bell

Richard Kennedy worked there during the period
that Virginia Woolf completed Orlando
and talks of visits by Vita Sackvillle-West.

Lady in a Red Hat (Vita Sackville-West) by William Strang, 1918

This inspired a desire to visit Knole House
where Vita Sackville-West grew up as the only child
of Lionel Sackville-West, 3rd Baron Sackville
and so we joined the crowds on Sunday afternoon.

The Venetian Ambassador's Room by Ellen Clacy, 1888.

The most beautiful room in Knole is
The Venetian Ambassador's Room.

Vita described this room as follows:
"Green and gold...of all rooms I never saw a room
that so had over it a bloom
like the bloom on a bowl of grapes and figs"

Virginia used equally lyrical language
to capture the shimmering elegance
"The room...shone like a shell
that has lain at the bottom of the sea for centuries
and has been crusted over
and painted a million tints by the water..."

It was extraordinary to be in the room
and imagine them there, seeing everything that I saw.

(A slight overstatement as the State Bed is currently
dismantled for restoration - but bear with me...)

Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf, Hogarth Press 1919
cover handpainted by Roger Fry and woodcuts by Vanessa Bell

Later, in the gift shop, there was a shelf of rare books
which included copies published by the Hogarth Press.
As I held one of these books
and considered that it might have been packed
by Richard Kennedy or even Virginia Woolf
it felt as though my ordinary Sunday afternoon
and the exotic and complex world of the Bloomsbury Group
were touching at the edges.

Wednesday 22 April 2009

A Truth Quietly Told

C started his PhD after he retired.
He often drops by my office for a chat
and he always has something interesting to say.
When I saw him on Monday
he asked if I had had a good weekend.
It is what you say on Mondays
and I replied, without thinking very much,

"Yes, it was really nice.
We didn't DO very much
but it was very relaxing.
It was just my husband and me."

He turned back from the door

"Enjoy every moment of weekends like that."

I felt terrible because I had forgotten
that he had been widowed in the past two years
and I started to apologise
but he stopped me

"No...please don't think that I am asking for sympathy...
I just want you to know how precious that time is."

Tuesday 21 April 2009

A Method of Translation

MasterM is translating during a coaching session
between a South African coach
and an Argentinian rugby player.

South African Coach
Ask him if he can do the Goose-Step tackle

MasterM (in Spanish)
Can you do the tackle
when you step like a goose?

Argentinian Player
What on earth do you mean?

MasterM (in English)
He says that he has been trained
in the full range of tackle techniques

South African Coach
But can you make sure
that he can do the Goose-Step tackle.

MasterM (in Spanish)
Listen to me - when I say goose
you must say 'Si!' very loudly.

Argentinian Player

MasterM (in Spanish)

Argentinian Player

MasterM (in English)
He says yes!

MrsM wonders if MasterM will enter the Diplomatic Service.

Monday 20 April 2009

Snow in April

My Japanese cherry tree
is in full bloom.

The whiteness of the blossom
quite startling
against the Spring blue sky.

Little breezes create
petal flurries

and the grass beneath
is downy with April snow.

Sunday 19 April 2009

A Quandary of Quails' Eggs

Bought because they were beautiful...

What to do now?

Anyone for fairy cakes?

Friday 17 April 2009

The Naming of Plates

MissM complains that we are
The Only Family in The World
where the china is individually named.
We have The Croissant Plate,
The Roast Chicken Plate,
The Breakfast Plates
and The Creme Caramel Plates.
And that is before we start on items with handles...

And now I must introduce you to
The Biscotti Plate
which was purchased in Cornwall
just hours before I met Diana
who gave me a jar of delicious handmade biscotti.
Imagine the trauma for all concerned
if I had not had a suitable plate!
I hope that Walter approves.

Thank you, Diana,
I had the most lovely evening talking blog-shop.
I don't think I have ever done that before.
I can remember blushing furiously
when I met Kristina and being quite unable
to say the name of my blog out loud.
That was eighteen months ago
and now I am brave enough to admit
in a public place
that I write and publish my work on the internet.
How times have changed.

Thursday 16 April 2009

Rosa, Aged Two and Three Quarters

Rosa and her adoring family are in a cafe.

Rosa's Oldest Sister
Oh! Look Rosa!
A tiny doughnut
with my hot chocolate
Would you like it?

Vats not MY doughnut.

Rosa's Middle Sister
Here Rosa,
have my tiny doughnut.
It is just the right size for you.

Vats not MY doughnut.

Rosa's Cousin (MissM)
Do you want my yummy doughnut, Rosa?
Vats not MY doughnut.

Rosa's Aunt (MrsM)
Rosa, because you are special
you can have my doughnut.
Vats not MY doughnut.

At this point the coffee arrives for Rosa's Daddy.

Vats MY doughnut.

Rosa's Daddy sighs...

Wednesday 15 April 2009

Penberth, by road

You can reach Penberth by sea or by road
or by steep cliffside paths.
If you walk down through the valley
on the narrow road

you will hear only the sound of the stream
as it plunges between trees
and soft areas of tiny white daffodils.

There are wild violets
and fern fronds beginning to uncurl.

Do you love this house? I do!
It is beside the road
but I don't think that I would mind.

It is a very beautiful road
and leads to the sea
where winding gear pulls small boats
onto the safety of the cobbled slipway.

Somewhere on this road
I laid down my burden of sadness.
It didn't seem worth the effort
of carrying it up the steep path
to the gorse-gold cliffs.

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Roadside Signs

It takes four hours to drive to Cornwall
if the motorway is clear of roadworks
and caravans are safely parked on suburban driveways.

You pass signs to Winchester and Salisbury,
Bristol, Bath and Exeter.

There is Stonehenge, cordoned by tourists,
the Rocking Horse workshop,
the place where the bacon butties are hot and good,
the old fashioned breadshop,
the cafe where we accidentally flooded the bathroom.

Hills, moors and woodland;
roundabouts, laybys and bypasses.

And just when you think
that you will be driving for ever
you see the trees.

A perfect copse on the brow of a hill.

And you know that you are nearly home.

Monday 13 April 2009

Easter Eggs

Eggs collected by my Mother-in-Law,
who loves beautiful things.

We got up very early and drove on empty roads
to hear an Easter sermon
in a country church.

After the service small children
scrambled among tombstones
and discovered silvery eggs
hidden in daffodil trumpets.

In Cornwall my new nephew
was experiencing the thrill
of the family egg hunt in the orchard
for the very first time
at the age of five weeks.
Eggs balanced on mossy boughs
and resting under primroses
waiting for little hands
to put them in tiny baskets.

I wish I could have been there.

Saturday 11 April 2009

Breaking News

MissM has been temporarily suspended
from her role as Fashion Guru for this blog.

She has admitted wearing
this fluorescent red man-made top
with these purple spotted leggings
on a mountain side.
When confronted MissM was unapologetic:

"Did you want me to get hypothermia?
Sometimes, fashion must be second to common sense.
Anyway, I knew that only climbers would see me
and they were probably wearing weird things too."

MrsM has been temporarily suspended
from her role as Laundry Consultant.

She had a moment of madness
which resulted in a regrettable attempt to iron
aforementioned fluorescent red man-made top
This has negatively affected the functionality.

MrsM has not attempted to provide a rational explanation.