Friday, March 31, 2006


Sometimes the world shimmers and reshapes itself right under my metaphorical feet.

The trigger this evening was an account of tragedy and unrequited love. A noble heart, an unworthy love ( who am I to judge?) and the conceptual boundaries of language.

Rules can become richer in the breaking, like compost for new ways of feeling. "Inclusive language" meant so much to me, growing up, because I felt keenly that man did NOT embrace woman, as stuffy reactionaries used to tell us to keep us in our place. I gladly ignore grammatical niceties (such as the use of 'their' instead of his or hers) if the meaning is more fertile.

Might other species share emotions, morality and intelligence that we usually consider human? If it's true we gain understanding and empathy, and we can learn. Maybe being human is just a different shape of feeling. This isn't new, but revelation is about GETTING IT.

Of course sometimes I wonder if I cobble together a belief system out of the worst sort of cherry-picking.

Thursday, March 30, 2006


Julia comes to mind whenever I am dicing onions as it was she who instructed me in the proper way - almost mastered, though there's always that slippery bit at the end. Tonight she was also with me as I finely sliced red onions, to layer over finely sliced vine tomatoes in a salad I first had down in St Maws with Sheila, Julia, Mark and Graham and the extended cousinage. We had come for the eclipse and spent three wonderful picnicing days wandering over rocks and down beaches with the children, and finally assembled with thousands of others on gorsey headlands to see - a leaden sky become darker, and multiple explosions of flash bulbs as people tried to photograph what wasn't there. I didn't mind, I just loved Cornwall, loved the company and the feeling of fete. 1999 I think. A very Zen event.

All that from slicing onions. I was making poshburgers for supper with good meat and proper salads, seared mushrooms and shaved Parmesan, just to remind myself how good it can be. And it was.


My friend in ladies' lingerie in Sydney rang me to see what I knew about an American company wooing her, so I have settled in to dig. I have only just begun but it doesn't look promising. So far they stink to high heaven, I have uncovered lawsuits, complaints, scams.

Louise designs the most exquisite silk and cotton nightwear, supplies it to shops all over Australia and she is doing well in Europe this year. She is far too canny a business woman to dive into anything unprepared, but I'm glad I can help.

The extraordinary thing is that while this network seems to be steeped in shady practices, deceit and gouging, it is without doubt very big! Is it the wicked flourishing like the green bay tree? I find it painful.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


I simply have to get a good raucous bunch of singers together for dinner, soon. Caroline, Jane, Joan, James - of course what I really need is my family of origin. Volunteers? Or maybe we need a campfire. I have had such good times, in Peru, Scotland, Morocco, Africa. Seems like I'll have to climb again to get into the right company.

One of the best was at sea level, when Felix and I went round the back of Tralee in a caravan drawn by Ned the horse - he was the one who knew the way, made me realise what people meant by horse sense. Anyway, we tied up in a field behind the bay, Felix went off following his girl radar, then came back with the idea of arranging a camp fire. We scrabbled together some wood and suitable stones, Felix went to every tent and caravan he could find and told them to come when the sun went down, then we sat down with ginger beer and crisps and people drifted in with their offerings. One had a flute, one a guitar, one a bottle of whisky which was handed to the person who started a song. One distinguished lady drifted back and forth to come up with good quantities of wood - when I commented, she said vaguely, "I might have dismantled a fence." We sang and ate and drank until rain stopped play; next morning I woke my boy with the smell of good Irish bacon and field mushrooms frying. When I said that was a wonderful thing he had arranged, bringing people together like that, a real gift, he thought a moment and said, "Yes. It was the gift of congregation", which ever after I regard as a charism.


It has been an odd sort of time recently, work coming thick and fast, recce on Friday in SF for Mad Cow shoot and Walnut Creek for a ballet interview - I wanted actual cows but that seems to be quietly ignored, bet they want me to arrange an abattoir. Pre-production for the Big Movie takes precedence, especially if we have to go to the East Coast the week of Passover/Easter as has been suggested! Doesn't sound like the best timing to me. The last week is jam-packed, even Sunday for a fourth project. It sounds as though April is spoken for.

I have a fantasy of a civilised, gentle holiday elsewhere....

Of course I love being busy, especially after the succession of frightful jobs I took when I first arrived here. One problem, on reflection. I may be pointing in the right direction, but I still have no power, and I mind that. There must be a way to create/earn authority so I had better find it, I just assumed it in my previous life, so it happened. Maybe a status thing, maybe it's age.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006


I spent this afternoon in the company of little boys - three year olds, with two five year olds joining us later, and I enjoyed it as I would the company of rolling and tumbling puppies. Their interactions, their questions, usually after a long pause to indicate thought process, their sweetness and transparency were all charming. I have come back home to the peace of sky and sea, and the prospect of a tranquil evening. Wordsworthian.

I am very short on concerts here, probably because I never go out! I am not half as adventurous as Norma, Master of Dodas Ways, not in music, fashion or activities, and she has caught up on holidays. It might be because I am so cheap.

I have finished Dawn by Octavia Butler, and it was just the balance Gilead needed, something harsh in the writing and wildly inventive. Not quite the revelation Greg Bear's Blood Music was for me, but thought provoking.

Monday, March 27, 2006


I wonder what will happen when piece by piece, I lay the little anecdotal eggs I have been carrying for so long, here. Will my mind be freer? Maybe achieve that transcendental goal, to live in the present? Perhaps go deeper - perhaps more thoroughly. That thought makes my spirits sink.

Everyone I consider interesting felt like an outsider in youth, so those childhood slights and exclusions seem par for the course, no matter how keenly they were felt. No-one confesses to doling out that misery either, we all did it carelessly to each other, then limped home to nurse our own wounds.

Judith Martin says that adults have an unspoken Geneva Convention, she was writing about the dating scene which is so uppermost here (USA). That after several journeys through the pinball machine we develop compassion, a little fellow-feeling, empathy. Tracing that pathway would be true biography. It is not universal though, I can think of plenty of people who have only collected grievances plus moments of maudlin sentiment, the Monster springs to mind.

I love far more people more easily in my maturity, that is the great blessing. I felt I was living behind cellophane until I had my own children, and then another layer was peeled away in long boring convalescence when I was thirty-two. Probably it just goes on and on like an onion, as Rumi says. Nicholson version, not Coleman-Barks.

I don't DO anything with it though, I am no philanthropist. At some point I should, and if not now, when? I don't want to sit on riches, how can I share? Is willingness enough?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

To Market

The heavenly, heavenly produce here. Green beans tender and flavourful, sharp little key limes, tomatoes that smell like a childhood greenhouse, lettuce with the white sap still dripping from them, spring berries, glossy peppers, Cara Cara oranges, and lemon from my own tree.

We were having the debate about women vs men in hearing acuity. I find many cinemas etc quite painful, and loathe the cheap trick of music twiddling away incessantly under dialogue, I think it degrades the message. I keep quiet about these battles in front of The Client of course, but he raised it himself. We then debated Myers-Briggs, and it might be valid to argue that Es and Is hear quite differently, with I's far more sensitive to volume and confusion.

William and Stefan are off to see V for Vendetta, Felix swears I would enjoy it too but I have my doubts. Cinemas smell like rancid popcorn anyway, and my nose is DEFINITELY more sensitive than theirs.

Porridge, West Coast Style

I decided to cut myself some slack for Sunday morning, so for five days have been fantasising about porridge. Oat bran, strawberries, blueberries, walnuts, cream - with ground flax seeds and wheat germ. It was heavenly, and it met the need. Aaah.

Oh, bliss! just heard Tennessee Ernie Ford on XM singing "Sixteen Tons". I have taught that to so many children, and it's one of my all time greats for long car trips. In particular, trying to drive back to camp in Guernsey with a busload of blithe little boys on lanes so tight the hedges brushed both sides. Of course their favourite was always "If you see me coming better step aside/A lot of men didn't, a lot of men died/I got one fist of iron, the other of steel/If the right don't get you then the left one weel."

This is going to be a great morning, what's left of it.

Disappointed in Gilead overall, and have been trying to work out why. Was she trying to do a Nabokov? The antagonist is exactly the kind of bad boy women love, and jealousy makes fools of the best of men, but to be hostile to a baby??!! Need to talk with Zany about this, since she lent me the book in the first place.

It did return me to my theological days, formal and informal. Two practices most fruitful: fifteen years ago I spent a summer on the Lord's Prayer, always as I walked into work along the Regent's Canal - just about the only time I had to myself in those days. The blossom was out while I contemplated it straight. I then went through it angry -walked faster!- which art in heaven - all right for you! Mellowed as the days got warmer, through a benign father, then spent a long time on a benign mother, six weeks or so. Finally, as the summer became frail and the air crisp and golden I prayed to a divine child, and it opened up before me the very prospect of heaven.

The other is yoga, physical emotional prayer, more trustworthy than words. It tells me exactly where I am, posture by posture. Can I relax into child's pose? trust. Do I burst into flame in Triangle? that is openness. Getting a little flashy? Ego! Sometimes it is hard and I have to accommodate that, sometimes it flies along, and I let it. I always do the same sequence, a Grand Salute twice through, to ground me for the day.

So I don't go to church, and I don't go to classes. I will visit cathedrals this summer, and St Catherine's chapel, go to concerts but I don't think I can arrange to sing in any. That is how I named Suscipe, years before I found her. We were singing Gounod's Mass, and the tenors bellow "Suscipe! Suscipe!", then I thought, that is the perfect name for my cat, my little white queen.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


I woke early and understood everything, but came down until I found my thoughts scraping the bottom just like my kayak at low tide. I can get from here to there, but I keep bumping into obstacles, manouevre round, encounter another, and soon enough I'm not heading where I was going.

It is a wonderful morning, high tide, and the reeds are still low so the water is uninterrupted, just the little Oscar Romero bobbing at its dock. It was quite a storm last night, I got up and secured the swing seat, but the rain was warm, and maybe the Big Wet is over at last.

I have been thinking about the Ten Commandments, which I can only remember because of Arthur Hugh Clough. I find them uneven, so I need to think about them more. I can't detect a hierarchy but I am sure someone will enlighten me. For now at least, I much prefer Rabbi Hillel to Moses.

At this point I really miss David Dulley, because only he loved to nit-pick these issues as much as I do. It must be ten years now since he died.

This all brought on from reading Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. I am halfway through, a little sorry that the structure is intrusive but the language is beautiful. The protagonist is John Ames, several allusions there but they are not laboured. He is a good, honourable old man helplessly in love with his life, deeply enmeshed in his own doctrine and with glimmers of insight into his own irrationality - in fact I'm almost sorry there is any plot at all. When I finish this I am going to need something gutsy, Norma recommended Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.

We are shooting more authors in ten days, but it isn't as exciting as it sounds. I feel a bit sorry for them, propped up behind a desk while people gush at them, although they all say one of the great benefits is getting to talk with other authors. The desire for signed books is insane. The only one I admire tremendously is Dava Sobel, but that didn't mean I had anything to say to her. The essence of an artist is in the art, meeting them is an intrusion for me, that is, I am intruding upon them.

The one I found fascinating was Jan Karon, who has written a long series of cloying books. She herself is a wily, gracious Southern lady who arranges her life to suit herself, perfectly. "I think people like to look you in the eye, shake your hand" she said firmly to the organisers, so while the other authors were getting writer's cramp writing meaningless dedications she simply handed out pre-printed book plates, smiled graciously and listened, and her readers left feeling deliciously flattered at no great cost to herself. Her manners, her skin, her hair reminded me of Raine, Countess Spencer, and she was powerful, that surprised me, a backbone of finest tempered steel. I wish I had enjoyed her books better!

So here I am, still not into the promised bacon and eggs at 10am. It was a long, gruelling and triumphant day yesterday so this is the sweet pause before we start the next one.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


I was looking out the window to admire my papyrus and the first curled leaves of water lily breaking the surface - so I had to Google the Lady of Shallot didn't I? I was magically transported to Blackdown, I could smell the air, look out over Lurgashall and the smaller villages, remembering the younger Felix's hilarity at their names - LIckfold, Little Diddling...Much Diddling oh ha ha ha!

Sometimes I am just so homesick I could cry.

Noar Hill too, when I was living in Selborne. I would stop work at lunch and walk through the garden and up through the wheatfields to hear the larks, then across the meadow, into the woods proper, over the medieval chalk pits to the beech hangar. I knew that hill.

Half the trouble is that I have such a romantic view of England, since I was raised in Australia. It was quite a shock when I came to London wet behind the ears and didn't slip easily into the world I had read about, or the world I remembered as a child of five - picnicing on the moors with fog swirling around us and my mother pumping a little primus stove, the wonderful sun-dazzled prospect of the rock pools at Saltcoats with Arran so tantalising across the water, the glories of the Applegarth in Guisborough. I just don't remember the greyness and austerity which drove my parents to the land of Oz.

Thank goodness I still have June, and Abbotsbury. She will see the bluebells for me.

Double Insight

All the wittering I have been doing about scouring, ranging and folding things just so was displacement activity! I have been insulted, enraged and despondent about my lethargy. (I knew Psych.1 would come in handy).

The World of Nature Comes to our Aid. The fish eagle is back, and some snowy egrets little and large, but I haven't seen the bad-tempered blue heron for a while. Once again this year there are plants I can't remember noticing before, in wild abundance. This year it is a tree with strange fretted leaves set in fours around a dipping stem, and the new young tips are purple. A eucalypt? I was walking back from lunch with Will past Alamo Square, and they were street trees.

He is going to put in a security system, because when we got back the police were on the doorstep, Brian downstairs had been burgled. As we left Will had seen a young boy run up the steps and peer in, but the doors were locked, and who knows how often young boys run about looking at things? Brian's roommate caught one of them so he is in custody. Came in through the bathroom window, classic.

All my blether has been internal, to balance the outer world, and maybe it has tipped too far. The earthquake film has its approval screening today, they should be delighted. We did the last shots yesterday morning including a run down Market Street to the Ferry Building to match 1906 footage. It's a wrap.

I didn't enjoy writing that. I love my work, but there is no point writing about it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Damn! said the Duchess

I just re-read this whole blog, to look back at the ignorance and naivete which illuminated my launch into this world. Hah! I thought I could stop at any time.

Just dragging my feet getting to bed, though I have a new book which seems promising, Gilead. A slow, confident, mesmerising start; I am intrigued. Somehow not rushing to get to it, am I, but while I was brushing my teeth, cleaning my face the cadences of the first chapter were running through my mind like the deep drone of a male choir -Athine I suppose.

I am teetering on the brink of antipathy to the horrible bright pink cleansing cream I bought instead nice plain Pond's, on the theory that it was only cleansing cream and any would do. It is such a big pot, it will go on forever, with illustrations of strange doll-like women's faces on the side positively Third World, one blonde, one brunette, one...Mexican?

Actually if I go on like this I will talk myself into it on the grounds of oddity.

Monday, March 20, 2006


I am going out to lunch, so applied slap with the attention of a geisha. and I realised how long it is since I have done that, because the blog has taken over. Making up used to be my practical meditation time, going within, facing myself, losing myself in the music (Last Four Songs for this miserable morning). I used to say it ws the most creative thing I did all day; nobody, but nobody, can create an eyebrow like I can.

When I look myself straight in the eye, I can see I don't look well. Handsome yes, but the soft roundedness and exoticism of my youth is long gone, and I am tending towards Maggie Smith, an improvement on Susan Sarandon. Everyone thinks I look like someone, I'm used to it now.

I mind the loss of my vitality. The stringent regime I have followed since Feb. 1 has certainly dropped weight, but I yearn for my old stamina and bounce. I have good role models (copying again!), and among my age-set we discuss the implications of approaching sixty, and on the whole it is cheering, we are a practical, positive lot. I feel I am lagging.

More tests and monitoring tomorrow. I won't give up now.


But always please remember to call it 'research'. TL.

Of course I copy my friends, since I admire them. If I want to flirt, I have to channel Eileen, if I want to listen to music I cloister myself with a nod to Bernard. Cooking involves a cast of thousands. To listen with proper attention but without pressure, it is Eileen again, and to be mannerly...Eileen.

The root of this fawning dependence is that we are dissimilar. I want to narrow the gap.

I could do with learning more about Due Process from June. I'm the one in a silk nightie and wellies, scrubbing soot from her hands because I wanted to light the fire quickly so didn't change first, then there were turkeys on the roof so I just had to go outside and see them. You get the picture.

As for real plagiarism: I am developing overtones of Les Murray. Well, this is only a blog, and a very recent, experimental thing, so I intend to let it have its head. I have not been reading his poetry recently so it must be deeply ingrained. I melt into his spare, laconic lines.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


Time and Space

This evening when the moon rose over the water it made a path clear to my pillow, so intimate I nearly put my hand to my chest in astonishment - "Me? You?"

Now it is higher, the moment has passed, and the geese are apparently brawling with broken bottles across the inlet, blue murder relieving intimations of mortality from the far side of the world.

I took a while to realise we are all in free fall, it becomes clearer when friends fall off their perches. I was aware for years how fortunate I was to have both my parents, so when my father died I felt I really had him while he was there. Now, here, I see Suscipe becoming a little slower, a little less limber, and I try to bargain: stay, just a few more years. She is sixteen, and without a doubt the deepest and best cat I have ever had, not just affectionate, but loyal, quirky, queenly - when displeased her eyelids dip almost like a wildcat's; a Maine coon thing?

She learned to meow only since she has been with us and still sounds creaky. Hadn't been outside at all, crept across the deck at half-mast at first. Now she rolls luxuriantly on her back in the sun, and sits for hours watching - everything. She pats my face to wake me but takes the hint if I play possum, sagacious little cat. I love seeing the world through her eyes.

And all the while the silent laughter rings
As wind through an open window, saying,
'Be deeper still,
Be deeper, still.
Stand at zero.
Stand at zero.'

Saturday, March 18, 2006


The sun is out, and so am I! Today is a day for whacking thistles, planting out a longsuffering tray of Jackanapes and moving various Things which did not Thrive to other positions.

Both my bouganvillea are stone dead, the wind I suppose, which cut down thirty feet of clemantis armandii. New Dawn is raggy, the grapevine sickly, but citrus and jasmine are robust. Instructive.

I know pittisporum will grow here since they survive the Mistral, tough, glossy leaves, and I am watching to see if the expensive and suspect Empress Trees will fulfill their promise or demonstrate that I too am susceptible to Snake Oil.

Every single plant has beloved associations with places or people. except the Empress Trees. Maybe that is why they are under suspicion - no provenance.

Other experiments are rolling toward conclusion. A much-hyped face cream has not added lustre to my glory, and besides it smells like toothpaste, disconcertingly, so back to the Nivea. I so hysterically hate the fake green apple scent of the latest shampoo that I am using up all the odds and little hotel bottles, and letting the menfolk go Granny Smith. It doesn't seem to bother them.

The delivered box of random organic vegetables is working rather well, and we are getting to enjoy...kale. I have finished mending my crab nets, soon found a rhythm for it and now wish I had more to do, it felt so elemental. Maybe I could give myself a bad name hanging around the ports. George my son-in-law was a salmon fisherman in another life, he could give me pointers.

This is a strange hiatus. Only one day of shooting last week and that deadly dull. Next week is still in flux and there is little for me to do before it all erupts again in April. Eileen is off to Brazil for a mind-altering experience with scorpions, snakes and substances and I am wistful. I want some location work.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Frog Chorus

Yesterday I had my favourite kind of evening, sitting by the fire replacing the zip in Felix's leather jacket, musing and wondering how we have such a frog chorus when we are on salt water. Are there salt water frogs?

So much else to muse about - I ordered the Journals of Captain Cook on Amazon after starting on Cissy's pile of books for her dissertation. Exactly the kind of magical source material that opens worlds - and about time too, considering I was brought up on the shores of Botany Bay, and born near enough to Whitby. It echoes discovering that my father's father mined iron in Eston which went to build Sydney Harbour Bridge.

I spent my lost Wednesday reading commentary on the Dark Lady on the internet. It was not inspired; it tiptoed where I felt Wullie got what he asked for. I need to find a less reverend exegesis. I have also been haunted by the review I read some fifteen years ago, on a book about a young Scottish fishwife who famously insulted the duchess of Argyll (?), and who described her own sanity breaking "as irrevokeably as a butter dish" on hearing of the death of her brother at sea. I have Googled to no avail.

I am the perfect person for confinement, I love all the worlds inside my head. Maybe if I end up with the ga-ga I will be perfectly content - as long as I have Broadband. Paddy mentioned something similar. I was trying to persuade her to blog, but she says she would never write anything else if she did. It is a sore loss.

And my mum rang and emailed with some provocative thoughts and quotes prompted by my last blog. "Too personal to post", she said. It is not as though we are divining through our entrails though, is it? But where I find freedom and a frisson of risk in whispering to the reeds others seem to find - other things.

Rambling is a lot of the point. If I could tie any conclusions up in a bow I would have tried for a doctorate, but I fell out of tune with the question which called to me in my student days, " what makes us human?" Instead I fell hopelessly in love with qualities and essences which unite us above and below.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Sobranie Factor

"Our policy is one of continual improvement" - who said that?
At what stage did cotton buds become bog-standard, and long slender single-ended wooden ones become the thing? Or the shaped ones which are deliciously pointy and one end and flat/rounded on the other?

Loo paper here has become so flowery and embossed that I have to HUNT for plain. At least there aren't colours any more.

I can buy wonderfully long, sturdy matches to light candles or fires, and in coloured boxes, with coloured match-heads too, as well as the usual red-headed brittle kitchen kind. I have a weakness for designer matches.

I seem to be exercised by the tension between the generic, my ideal, and the seduction of novelty or refinement. I have given in on bedding, after a lifetime of yearning towards and getting plainest white linen, wearing it out, (I had thought linen lasted a lifetime) and then deciding in my vain days that coloured sheets didn't show fake tan. Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.

So easy to digress.

Refinements are delightful if they don't get too convoluted. My dear neighbour Mary decorates her whole house for Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter, and I am silently appalled by all that effort and expense even as I acknowledge there is a graciousness in her celebrations. I am not capable of it, does that mean I should be grudging? I love my friend June's gift of ceremony and have adopted some of it - the lighting of the fire, the candles, the appreciation of it all - or Sheila's scrupulous attention to the balance of fresh air and warmth, and always beautiful flowers for the sake of the soul. Grace notes which in my utilitarianism I tend to lack.

In essence I am always trying to get back to source, but this virtue is alloyed by excessive thrift, not to say downright meanness. I have been polarised by long association with Stefan's aristocratic fecklessness, which terrifies me no matter what our circumstances. As the child of a Scot and a Yorkshireman, what can I expect? I can see it in my siblings too.

The upside is that I tend to get good value; the downside is more troubling - did I grind the faces of the poor when I was in a position of power? I have a shameful feeling I did.

So I come back to the idea of a balance between grace and generosity on the one hand, and simplicity and pleasing discipline on the other. I remind myself again to look for the essence, not the manifestation, and to be aware of the downside of seeming virtues. Beware what you pride yourself on.

Saturday, March 11, 2006


Okay chaps: Stefan's website>blog>Ballet Tests. You may laugh.

Other pleasing things

Felix's periodic gifts of selected coffees. I am now enjoying Ethiopian Sidamo, espresso.
Email ping-pong with Paddy, who must surely have gone to bed now as it was 4am there.
The ups and downs of Tidetown, which is what this little stretch of houses used to be called locally. I love having neighbours, I love the ricketty look of the houses all up on their pilings, I love our avocets and ducks, even the noisy Canada geese who just bowled in like bikers hitting Smalltown, USA.
I love my flypaper memory.
I love my monogrammed linen teatowels, no matter how much stick I get about them.
I love the big sky here.
I love folding towels, teashirts etc absolutely accurately, and pairing socks the way Ameronse Groom showed me all those years ago. And rolled white facecloths, two dozen in a basket for a single use each.
Cutting fruit the way Norma learnt in Hong Kong, pineapple in a spiral, oranges transformed into their own little cups.
I love tracking down lyrics and poems on the internet.
I love getting esoteric films from Netflix and watching them on our gi-normous West Coast screen. Plasma is so yesterday. Last night saw Dark Days, so entrancing I watched all the extras, making-of, bios, the works.
I love being in touch with old friends.
I love the freedom to paint my walls IronBru.
I love going into the city to visit William, or Greenbrae to visit Cissy. I dress in metaphorical black bombazine and try to be on my best behaviour.
I love walking the city with William, he seems to have the same between-coffee interval and pace.
I love getting older. It really is another country, I had no idea.
I love that I still have my mother to talk and laugh with, Living National Treasure that she is.

Friday, March 10, 2006


What a useful concept.

I have spent the week painting, so plenty of thinking time. In one way it has been melancholy because Stefan is editing Robert Parker's jazz intro, strange to hear his voice when he has been dead a year, yet he sounds just the same, full of enthusiasm.

I have retreated to the comforts of the mundane, and the common sense of triage. This pleases me, This needs attention, This is out.

I am delighted with my cooker, maybe because it took a certain leap of the imagination to order it from the UK. I just rang John Lewis and they didn't turn a hair. Stefan once accused me in the trendy 70s of having "a John Lewis mentality": guilty as charged.

I am delighted with my poetry collection, less so with my music. I am just too literal, I look at a CD and can't tell what is inside so I dither. Love my new Callas though.

Ambivalent about my books, so many of my touchstones have vanished, could I have lent them? I hate being mean about something which should be shared. Others have lost their gloss, or become shrill or self-righteous. I did replenish my staples from Amazon used books, even the more scarce Whiteheads which I had only found previously in the British Library. The books I am currently reading are not engrossing. Hiding in the Mirror might as well be in Sanskrit for all I understand, the Dalai Lama is getting up my nose, and Nightlife moves along but hasn't pulled me into its world.

I really like children's books. Maybe I should reread His Dark Materials. I have sucked Mary Stewart's Merlin trilogy dry, there is something about her descriptions of season and place which deeply soothes me. Harry Potter is annoying, the central character so uninteresting and two-dimensional. For once I found the film better than the book. The Hounds of the Morrigan is a rich pleasure, I love the language, it is for reading out loud to little children with eyes like saucers. I want to read it to Ariana and Cian.

I will reread Peter Pan.

Maybe I will see if I can find the biography of Mary Russell Mitford on Amazon, An English Spinster. It has been on my mind because her father in later years kept up a low keening which got horribly on her nerves, and Stefan has taken to something similar, part of the creative temperament I suppose. I favour a tuneless whistle, which in time will lead to a mouth like a dog's bottom. I have ample opportunity to view my cinema verite self as Stefan has been doing camera tests; I need to become more conscious of my habitual expressions.

Far and away the most hilarious were his experiments with movement and blurring, for the film we are about to do on the ballet. He has been testing our own HD cameras versus the larger Sonys, and he needed someone to dance.

Er, yes, I danced for him. Nothing could improve the situation so I did it there and then, pausing only to put down the paintbrush. I am twisting his arm to put it on his website and will let blood kin know when it is up, as it also shows the colour I have painted the room (IronBru) and my new haircut and will make you laugh.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


There is nothing - nothing - more disgusting than the grey goo behind the sealant (hah!) between bath and tile. I was less revolted last week with the honest ordure of the sewage pump (and I was down there in heels and my good black suit).

It is all now scraped, sluiced, scrubbed and dried as far as I am able, and redeemed by the smell of pine disinfectant. It makes me feel that chaos has been returned to order, granny is in charge, and there's a big brown pot of tea, a comfortable chair by the fire, with good, wholesome food at a set table. Dettol however is ill-lit hospitals, sickly lino and pale green gloss walls, and scrubbed young nurses who should be pretty but are not.

Bleach is a cool laundry with blazing sun outside - must be a hangover from my youth.
Furniture polish is:
lavender, clean houses I have visited
Pledge, the suburbs, everything beige
that posh wax in a tin, is it Sheraton? - country houses

I love the smell of a man in freshly ironed shirt, with a hint of starch. And all soap should smell like L'Ombre dans L'Eau.

My granny's house always smelled deliciously of tea, just like the Cutty Sark in Greenwich. Pine trees are Toulon at dawn, when the train pulls in. Seaweedy low tide is Saltcoats, Rose Bay and here.

One of the up sides of California is the seasonal waves of scent- mimosa is over now but I have just had the first heavenly whiff of pittisporum I planted. Even the pansies seem stronger here. I have lemon blossom and honeysuckle too, though they are badly beaten down by the rain. It was warm enough for me and Caroline to sit outside to pick apart the root ball of her Bonsai white pine, yet is meant to be 30F degrees tomorrow. The world has gone mad.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Huevos Rancheros

Which I have made for the first time- and I like them.

Gently fry chopped onion and peppers (including chili peppers if you like, but no tomatoes, too watery), add eggs and cheese and stir. Hot and with peasant gusto, me gusto!

Tremulous sun over the devastation of the rain. Driving up to Olema for lunch trees were down, cataracts over parts of the road, the river was roaring and - no! - the sand traps on the golf course were eroded away to muddy puddles.

See a beautiful web site:

Why am I feeling so online chatty at the moment? No-one to talk to. I think we need a nice gregarious house guest from England, or Australia. Roger de Freitas, where are you?


We had the privilege of interviewing a man called Henry Gardner last week for the earthquake film (at this point I am glad of the inaccessibility of this blog). It is such a pleasure to meet a man of his calibre. His voice fascinated me and I asked him about his accent when we finished. He was taken aback at first, them warmed to talking about Jackson, Florida, where he was born, New York for school, and his mother, who was a stickler for clear and precise speech. I have the feeling he is asked few personal questions. I could hear the South in his voice, a comfortable pace and cadence, with quite open endings - ovah, moneh. Black baritone resonance.

We lamented the speech of the young in fogeyish fashion, spoke of our mothers' influence and the pleasure of words. I have deep respect for him, he has breadth of understanding, heart and strategy, and I took pleasure in his delivery. Reassuring to know that there are such men in government.

As I was packing up there were two noticable tremors. Ah, life on the fault lines!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

A Find These are murals of forests, sunsets, Santorini...

Also, Google "chocolate mousse" and second one down is from a maths site at Stanford, with great advice for manipulating search engines at the bottom. scroll down for this flavour.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

In a Bottle

It is a rather glowy side of life presented in a blog, I reckon. It isn't the place to snipe at loved ones and friends or they would soon be ex-friends, so it lifts the prudent writer above petty concerns. No great temptation to expose vulnerabilities either.

My mum marvels that I want to write a blog at all, steeped as we are in a tradition of secret journals, private business and keeping things in the family. I am the woman who went down to the beach at Burton Bradstock at dawn and burnt all her past diaries. I read some of them and it wasn't at all as I remembered, but that is beside the point.

The point is that a blog is selective. It can never be private, so is it an appeal to like minds? The pitfalls are winsomeness, pretension, preaching - for me at least. I have read some nasty rants and avoid them as a literal contagion, so an elevated tone is far from universal, I know. Is there a community of nasty ranters, as there is a community of road-kill potters? does it give them comfort?

Really I have it ALL WRONG. Why should I assume bloggers are prudent?

My favored hypothesis is that we each want intimacy, an I/Thou with a tender, understanding god created in our own image; we search cyberspace in hope of cyberZion. Ranters feel ignored, so may need it more than most.

What did Isaiah mean: "and all flesh shall see it together"? That humans would come to perceive ourselves in unity? We/Thou?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


My serenity is troubled. I need to come to terms once again with my worldview, at the edge where it catches and frays like a troublesome hem.