Monthly Archives: April 2012



I have some unsightly corners in the garden:

This disgraceful specimen of a compost bin is in fact a scientifically maintained micro-environment ūüôā ¬†Today I was delighted to find that it is fulfilling its purpose.


I’d be only too happy to discover that this one has brought a few friends. ¬†Maybe I should dig another pond. ¬†Sadly, amphibians need all the help they can get these days.

Hot pots


Last night I bisque fired the first batch of ware this year. ¬†I didn’t really have enough to do a full load, but was impatient to see if the kiln was still working. ¬†Fortunately it was, and this afternoon I took out the successfully fired pots.

When I opened the kiln there was a faint but strange smell emanating from the interior. ¬†Singed pvc coating of wires? ¬†Overcooked mildew? ¬†Roasted spiders? …

On wearing thin trousers


This morning I was fidgety and decided to look at a beach which I haven’t visited for some time. ¬†The gale was thick with rain, but it was our forebears, after all, who invented the seaside holiday in this self-same climate. ¬†‘Remember you’re British’, I admonished myself, as I was propelled gustily down the prom.

The tide was low, the sea moderate, the beach (surprise) was empty, and it was good to see it again. ¬†In a flash of common sense, before coming out, I had remembered not to put on jeans, so when I got back into the car I towelled down my saturated but synthetic trousers, directed the car’s heating at my ankles, and a fifteen minute walk round the supermarket aired the fabric off. ¬†I was glad I had spared myself the excoriations of wet denim.

Thrift and wallflowers on a cold wet cliff

A cold rained-upon English Channel

A cold rained-upon rock pool

A cold wet British beach

A short sojourn in 1700


The Way of the World was playing at the Festival Theatre in Chichester, with lavish costumes and a set consisting mostly of chandeliers.

I had forgotten how early this play is – I was thinking more 1740 or so. ¬†The comedy of the fops, like Shakespeare’s clowns, hasn’t travelled too well down time. ¬†The main action and relationships could also be quite obscure – the social context has to be reconstructed in your head as you watch to get the point. ¬†I probably read this once in my Eng Lit days but remembered nothing about it, so spent the first half, like many others in the audience, trying to work out who was conspiring against whom and why. So before the interval it was quite hard work, and the main amusement was tracing from Lady Wishfort the lineage of many literary ladies, including Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Lady Ingram and Lady Bracknell.

The drama warmed up in the second half, however, and the players managed to engender some genuine audience empathy for Millamant and Mirabell. ¬† I’ll never love Restoration comedy (or 18th century drama in general), but it was good to be reminded.

All walls


In thirty minutes and heels


This evening I had to wait for a while. ¬†It had stopped raining, but I had forgotten to change my shoes before coming out. ¬†So I went to the nearby town park for a walk I could do in skirt and heels. ¬†This is a rather special place, with many treats tucked into a tiny corner ‚Äď all this and more in half an hour, without getting your feet muddy.

Addressed to one particular middle aged person whose name I do not know


Nor do I know his or her gender, nationality, or anything else, including whether he or she is still on ground. ¬†Except that this person once wrote a short poem for a student magazine in 1976 or thereabouts. ¬†It was definitely not great art, but oddly enough I have remembered it ever since, probably with minor verbal inaccuracies. ¬†Once in a while it surfaces in my mind, and I smile. It surfaced again today, and I smiled again. ¬†If it’s you, I’m sure you will recognise the first lines of your poem:

I woke up this morning and got out of bed

The sun was not shining and nor was my head

The birds were not singing and nor were the sheep

But once I wake up I can’t fall asleep.

I won’t quote it in full as it isn’t my poem. ¬†If you are out there in cyberspace and reading this, I’d like to say thank you.

Things to do when you can’t sleep (vi):


vi:   Batten down the hatches

This presupposes that you have a roaring gale blowing hail, rain and numbers of small domestic objects horizontally across the garden, and that you cannot convince yourself that you closed the car window.  So out you go.  Somehow you feel more vulnerable in a nightdress and bare legs, even with a coat and boots over the top.  The howling darkness re-set the sleep clock, though, and once back in bed I went straight off.

Being a book giver


Monday 23rd was World Book Night.  The central plank of the event is a mass giveaway in which registered givers receive 24 copies of a book they like, and try to find 24 people who are not very keen readers to give it to, encouraging them to read for pleasure once more.

This year I am taking part and have Touching the Void¬†¬†to give away. ¬†I chose this for a number of reasons. ¬†At 200 pages it is not intimidating; it is non-fiction, where most of the giveaway books are novels; it is a terrific story of the old-fashioned¬†Boys’ Own Paper¬†kind; Joe Simpson writes a direct, unaffected prose; ¬†it could be enjoyed by men and women of all ages; and it has a ‘happy’ ending.

The source of its power as a reading experience can, I think, be deduced from our everyday metaphorical language. ¬†Most of us never get close to a real mountain, but in the quietest suburban life we sometimes say that we are going to lose it, we are holding on by our fingertips, that we are left out in the cold, we’ve lost our way, the outcome is hanging by a thread. ¬†Sometimes we say – with reason – that we are going over the edge or that we have hit bottom.

Simpson did all those things literally, in his own person.  The agony and persistence with which he crept off his mountain speaks to us, whether we already know that we are survivors of a hideous fall, or are uneasily wondering whether we will have the courage to keep crawling, one day, when something cuts our rope.