Monthly Archives: March 2014

Osmotic marmalade


Red ink on twenty pages of someone’s references … someone’s got to do it.

red ink

Soaking the rhubarb in sugar draws the juices; then the syrup is boiled down and added back to the rhubarb for another soak to pull out more water.  Today I miscalculated, and when the hot syrup returned to the cool rhubarb it coalesced into one giant boiled sweet.

boiled sweet

But it jammed up fine in the last boil.



What was I thinking?


Hours of darkness


First there was a glimpse of Illustrious, on her way to a big naval exercise:  not in a position to get a photo, but she looked fine in the sunlight, tugs shepherding her out to sea.

Then Warrior, fettled up for the summer season:

1 Warrior

And Victory, stumpy and simplified with her topmasts gone:

2 Victory

This one, I think perhaps Dragon, slid from the jetty with a loud siren blast:

3 Dragon?

And then the business of the day, the new Mary Rose gallery, looking like a cross between an ancient hull and a beached whale, with a slight touch of stealth bomber thrown in:

4 ship hall

The ship herself remains in an environmentally-controlled closed hall, now drying off for a few years with the aid of enormous ventilation pipes, to be peered at through surprisingly few windows on each of three deck levels.  It is much easier to see her now that she isn’t hidden in perpetual spray.

5 upper deck

On the other side of each of the three viewing walkways, galleries tried to evoke the contents of the corresponding deck with displays of armaments, equipment and small finds as it were in situ, in an attempt to integrate the artefacts with the surviving moiety of the hull.  At each end, sleek galleries displayed detailed information, audio-visual displays, and yet more finds, watched over in some cases by the skulls of their former owners.  In a useful convention, missing parts were replaced with transparent components to indicate the complete object.

6 demi culverin

Items I don’t remember seeing before include the whole of a top (for lookouts at a masthead) which survived because it was a spare, stowed below decks.

7 top

Lighting levels are low, preserving the organic materials as well as possible.  Many items look ludicrously and unnaturally new:  some of the bow staves, stored in chests ready for archers who never used them; a rosary; great cables for the anchor; a wallet; a massive wreath of parrel beads; a carved ivory plaque; boots; and, of all things, a woollen sock.

We were fully absorbed for three hours, wandering purposefully through the darkness, until our tummies were crying out against us.


Facetiousness and Freud


Once and future

It’s been a while.  I remembered White’s exuberant gallimaufry, of course, from the schoolboyish facetiousness of The Sword in the Stone to the genuine horrors of The Queen of Air and Darkness. The impact came fresh again as I followed Arthur and Lancelot to their doom.  It’s difficult to encapsulate the quartet, with its 1930s politics, tragic storyline, outbreaks of whimsy and snippets of arcane information, but I found myself marking a few treats.

  • Pure observation:  the ‘passion for nocturnal secrecy’ felt by the Wart in his night forest
  • Phrase-turning:  totalitarian regimes summed up for all time in the ant colony slogan, ‘Everything not forbidden is compulsory’
  • Creating nightmare:  the boiled cat
  • Low and unexpected comedy:  the gentlemanly Sir Ector restoring his dampened spirits by frightening an old lady
  • Vocabulary: ‘atrabilious hawk-masters’ and their bating falcons  entangling creances
  • Saying things without saying them:  the capture of the unicorn
  • Imagery:  the great gibbet at Montfaucon ‘which could support sixty bodies, depending like drab fuchsias’

My copy is now dim and crumbling, but will survive another reading or two.



Long corridors weary the feet, though mercifully I missed rush hour.  The light is dead.


The ageless frowst of the Underground huffs out of the tunnel ahead of the train’s arrival.  What makes up the smell, so entirely characteristic and indescribable?

Tube 3

Main line trains are tidier, but being filed into the slots makes me claustrophobic.  And people cough on your neck.


I wanted a spade


It was difficult not to walk into the pools:  the water was so clear and still as to be invisible.


I liked this texture:


I wanted a spade, as it was a day to dig moats and dykes, but I made do with gouging a ruler in the sand, then sat on a knobbly lump of concrete and waited for the sea to do something.

It took a while.  The waves were dithering  about, fussing, making little rushes, getting in each others’ way, occasionally going sideways, or deciding not to bother at all.

On the quiet, however, the tide was coming in, as I sat warming in the late sun.

Eventually the Channel sent in a few waves with a hint of a deep sea-going boom.  I emerged from a trance just in time to catch the obliteration of my final mark.

[vimeo 89043365]

With the last three waves the fog came, getting into my ears, setting dew on my hair and disappearing the world.


Dulcifying and emollient


A problem of choice remains:  should one eat baked custard hot, tepid or chilled?  Or just eat two spoonsful per hour as it progresses from one extreme to the other?

The sieve and the water are vital

The sieve and the water are vital

doneI applied this sovereign remedy to a Situation.  The solution hasn’t fully emerged, but perhaps I haven’t eaten enough custard yet.

Painted …


… for hours and hours.


The latest purchase from the audio book bargain shelf kept me company.  I’d not read any Brookmyre before, so it took me a little time to get into this, especially with multiple narrators’ voices to keep sorted (and only one reader’s voice to go on), plus some unpredicted twists in the tale.  During delicate moments when trying to keep a tidy edge, I did tend to lose the plot (lit. and fig.) and then had to reassemble backwards while also trying to listen forwards, but I think I caught up by the end.  It was enjoyable, though I didn’t catch myself having any of those paint-drying-on-the-brush-because-you-don’t-want-to-miss-a-word moments.

Lots more painting to do so I’ll be working through my collection and then probably still have time to come back for a second listen to this.  (Sigh.)