Category Archives: Words

Drinking Saint-Emilion from a nutella jar

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Yesterday’s transport was well fouled-up, worse for many others than for me, and perhaps it would be insensitive to talk about a Black Hole on wheels. Still, enforced intimacy with the other wedged standees made occasion for the kindness of women, hot news from the Hong Kong riots mingling with sisterly or motherly encouragement for the youngest, late for her interview.  Hope she got it.

Falling feverishly out of the train, I encountered more womanly kindness:  the church ladies supplying home made scones and tea, jokes, and advice to take five minutes quiet upstairs.  It was good advice too, and I wish I could have fitted the whole ceiling into the shot.

The rain held off, the cathedral filled up, the parents did their thing, and one of the nearests-and-dearests shared Emma with me by earbud to mask the announcer, but she left me in the lurch just before the Chancellor’s speech, when I needed Austen the most.  The Chancellor read a “poem” – a long poem – what he had wrote.  It was … bad.  Other excesses of the day included scarlet cloth and purple squiggles (jacquard? brocade? I never know) and a pink tie.  And a bonnet.

Today:  a forced march in the damp morning to look at a teeny place face-lifted by the upwardly mobile.  Is it Destiny or a dud?  I have opened a bottle, but so much progress has been made in the kitchen that for a moment I thought it would have to be drunk from a chipped mug or a marmalade jar.

There’s rather a lot for one.

Long ago

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It had its longueurs, and since 1984 some of them have got longer, owing to current events amnesia, while a certain pathos has crept in with the deaths of so many of the character prototypes.  On the other hand, both Mrs T and Her Majesty are still pretty much on the money.  A running gag about the hunt for President Reagan’s missing brain makes one feel a bit squirmy, and jokes about ayatollahs and Diana are even nearer the knuckle.

For those of us of a certain age:

the Norman puppet elicits a rich assortment of ambivalences.

Seasonal

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36 hours, and being Dickens there is a lot of redundancy, so it doesn’t matter if your attention wanders for a minute or two.  This came in handy for a number of very dull jobs, and in fact is well read.  I find Boz quite annoying, but every now and then I can’t help bursting into laughter,

One of the dull jobs:  skipped it last year, but now it’s back to stirring and reconstituting neglected glazes, dried to solid discs at the bottom of pots.  Also hunting for a low temperature glaze recipe which – and this is the key thing – uses up those bags of ingredients already sitting dustily on the shelf.  Gerstley borate?  No.  Lead bisilicate? No.  EPK? No.  Ummm…

Another stonking pantechnicon

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I’m showing my age again:  the primary association of “consumption” for me is the coughing, haemorrhaging and fading millions leaving this worldly scene, led by Keats, Brontë and so forth.  And I’m sure that unwritten History of Consumption would be fascinating, if distressing.

This is the other kind of consumption.  I was made happy by the information in Chapter 2 about lupin seed stalls in classical Athens; unfortunately it is not one of the chapters I am supposed to be reading.  A hasty route march through a chunk of 600+ pages is required.

Around to it

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In the back of my mind for a long time, and fortuitously spotted on a library shelf.

Diaries are so moreish, especially when the author is a writer of any talent.  The more personal sections of these diaries have been pruned, largely in consideration for persons still living at the time of this publication, but Channon was the man who knew “everybody”, knew the gossip, knew the workings of politics, was the ultimate worldling of his small world of society and parliament in the 1930s and 40s, so his insider view is of considerable interest.

At the same time, the sheer variety and humour keep the format refreshed:  Channon’s misadventures with royal chamber pots are irresistible (p 21), as is the tendency of Queen Mary to look like the Jungfrau (p 133).  My favourite absurdity, however, occurs in November 1940, during the Blitz, when Channon’s house received a direct hit while he was holding a dinner party:  ... there was an immense crash and a flash like lightning. … we all rushed into the hall, and were at once half-blinded by dust and smoke … out of the darkness sprang an ARP warden, whom I recognised as, of all people, the Archduke Robert [of Austria] …  I led them into the morning room, gave them drinks, and rang the bell  (p 274).