Saturday, April 29, 2006

Stale, Flat and Unprofitable

There doesn't seem to be anything to DO, not anything I want to do anyway. Shall I follow the spirit of this place and become a Mall Rat? (someone who wanders aimlessly round shopping malls). It sounds like the sixth circle of hell.

I spent the morning preparing for the last round of painting with masking tape etc, and did some alterations for Mary, made cushion covers etc, and that feels like enough. A spanking walk up Noar Hill would be my ideal, or even better, up to St Catherine's chapel in Abbotsbury. June and I go up there every morning when I visit, and sing, once the Archbishop of Canterbury came along with his wife.

A clumsy star rules this weekend. Last night I spilt garlic butter, not only on the table but between its authentic 19th century farmhouse cracks. Suscipe helped clean it up to some extent but the remainder dripped into the fringes of the rug which covers the hard cushion we use as a footstool ( it is LOVELY to have a footstool under a dining table, I saw it first in the home of a tiny decorator who lived in a cottage so quaint my hair brushed the beams in the kitchen. I digress).

I then spilt the strawberries in the fridge, got into a ridiculous tussle with a red pepper jammed up in the carton of eggs and lost my temper with my sewing box. Garlic butter got under my coffee cup and it's all a bit disheartening. Low tide, or I would kayak. Maybe I should walk to China Camp and check out the wildflowers, don't much enjoy it alone but it is good walking weather.

I am relieving my feeling by listening to a very boisterous mass, muscular Christianity at its least subtle. And by blogging of course.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

What Would Martha Do?

Changed my mind since last blog: maybe copycatting is exactly the way to get housework done.

To sweep and garnish always brings parsley to mind. Mopped, sprinkled, sorted all magazines (who is buying them?) and scraped little bits of paint off the floor with a fingernail. Washed the front door - it amazes me how many people forget to! Now I need to buy more paint and get out of the house, even was tempted to kayak but I am tired and would probably fall out.

The house will last deliciously until normal life resumes. Sigh.


I have repainted my entrance hall, and at a stroke have gone from Barnacle Bill to Yosemite Sam. It might look too South West but it is growing on me, a bright mustardy olive green like babycack.

Anyway it is only paint.

A vague anxiety at the back of my mind while painting is that the new Client is coming on Friday so I need not only to have the paint/ladder/dustsheets away, but to catch up on normal cleaning. This anxiety is disproportionate, he probably won't even notice. Why see my activities through someone else's imaginary critical eye? Sometimes I get stuck on someone's supposed opinion for weeks, a bit like those people who temper their every move by asking, what would Jesus do? (or my favourite: who would Jesus bomb?) This is not a wholesome attitude, I wonder how much other people do it.

This second-guessing only applies to areas where I know I am lacking, especially housewifery. I am utterly bumptious in other sections of my life, aesthetics or work.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


I was so gripped by Jane Fonda's honesty and passion that I Googled her when I got home, and read through back interviews there, and a beliefnet interview mum sent me. Stretching back to 2004 were the same phrases, points, structure which were in her talk yesterday.

It is unreasonable to expect novelty on a book tour, but her thesis is deconstruction of one's story. The publication of a further story sets the whole thing in aspic once again, and that is a pitfall.

She is a gifted actor and writer and she didn't seem pat, too polished, too winsome, but: it hadn't changed. I hope she is saving scads of stuff for a sequel.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


I awoke so well this morning, tuning in gradually to the birdsong and pearly grey light. By the time Suscipe came to me for her due I pounced on her and rolled her over, held her down and growled in her ear, and she, dear old lady, didn't miss a beat but started purring. That is trust, and animal compatibility, I love that she is so robust. I am not cut out for a scaredy cat, victim mentality hardens my heart.

Shasade said last night that she feels we are under the Lord of Misrule, I think she's right. The zeitgeist is upsetting applecarts and tying shoelaces together. It bypassed her for a house which came available but they couldn't reach her, which is cruel but not terminal. When things cut you to the quick, but you bounce back and turn it around. So Shasade is off to Brazil for a holyday and June will lick the Estate into shape while she is gone. Like being flicked with a towel, it can wake you up.

Provocative. The zeitgeist is provocation.

Viz: Caroline. The house she is in is to be sold, and she is thinking not of getting another house, but of finishing her current clients and travelling.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


Rounded out three days of shooting with a bounding walk down Marincello-which-is-not from Wolfback Ridge to not quite Rodeo Beach, filming and recording the four TPL founders and accompanying walkers. Felt elated and satisfied at the time but now can't keep my eyes open - we of course had to run in front, fall behind, catch up etc, and it takes its toll, even in beautiful surroundings and on a mercifully downhill slope.

These past three days have been so interesting, the Trust does such important work, and goes about it in such an inspired and sensible way, it is a pleasure to work with them, hear the speakers, see the structure etc. I am drawn much more to the social aspect of it - creating inner city parks in deprived neighbourhoods - than the preserving the wilderness side, but there is room for both. See

One day off before Jane Fonda.

I have been thinking about the Communion of Saints, but right now would far rather just sleep.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Deep Wisdom

"You see, what Civilians don't realise about demolition," pause for long draw on hypothetical pipe, "is that it is should be orderly to be most effective." I gaze deep into middle distance, over the heads of my awestruck listeners. "The satisfaction from a job well deconstructed is beyond words."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Pithy sayings

Just found a new one: "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." Not altogether true, but certainly pithy.

A favourite: "Charm is a good lubricant but a dirty fuel." should be said with a strong Scottish accent, DURTY. I say it to the Boy on a regular basis.

"It's no loss what a frien' gets."

I would appreciate contributions, email them if you are too shy to blog.

An addition: "If you can control your family, you've gone wrong somewhere."

Another addition: "Don't be a perpetrator, don't be a bystander, don't be a victim." Quakers?

"Don't mistake the map for the territory."

And an all-time great one for brooding on, also VERY TRUE: "Beware what you pride yourself on."

Yet another: "You can never get enough of what you don't really want." Why we get fat when unhappy.


Isn't it strange how vivid our thoughts can be, and half ours, half their own creature.

For the past week I have been thinking of my old Ethics professor, Jack Mahoney SJ, who found my spiritual advisor for me. He had a wonderful office which seemed to be carved out of the loft space of the church at Kings, reeking of cigarettes; you had to climb ever upward to get to it, and then I remember a muddle of sloped wooden ceilings, blocked windows onto the aisle, every surface covered with books and papers, and lead roofs and pigeons beyond the window. Such a dear man.

The question is: what is in the ether to bring individuals to mind so clearly they could be in the room? It IS communication, like waking from a dream which is an engrossing, vital meeting of minds.

When my father died, for days afterwards I had a feeling that he was walking in the Dales, they were fresh and green, and he was letting me know that he felt so well! Was I just imagining him back in the scenes of his youth? It was as real as anything else I have known.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Le Puff Le Pant

Feet have not touched the ground lately, only today had time for lunch and a very appropriate walk around the Earthquake Trail in Bear Valley. I felt a shamed, ghoulish thrill seeing all the mudslides and waterfalls along Sir Francis Drake, and now it is raining again. I took a hammer to my horrible kitchen tiles to relieve my feelings and provide a change of pace.

We seem to have acquired a marvellous new client, and it happened the minute we dropped the Monster so karmic things coming round, Man. He is creative, cultured, educated, reasonable, what a change! I think we are all reeling a little, especially with a series of sudden deadlines, and two other clients to satisfy this month.

Suscipe has been in the pook so I have been concerned, all the usual cat symptoms, needing to stay outside, alone, unresponsive, off her food. I want to respect her feelings but not let her crawl under the deck where I can't get her. I was trying to intuit why they seem to have such an urge to get outside and under things - fever? Anyway, she came inside and I brushed her and petted her and she seems fine again. Haunted by my dear little French cat which crawled off to die and did - in the citerne.....

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Crone who Forgets...

I left the stockpot simmering and came home to great clouds of smoke instead of avgolemono for our Pascal Feast. Yes, the last few days have been busy but I used to cope with far more, for heaven's sake.

Compare and Contrast

Tomorrow I must somehow deliver 4700 DVD of the Earthquake film to the Moscone Center. They fill the hall and spill into the living room, 47 boxes 22x15x8. I have a plan - in fact I have two plans, but whichever way it will entail an awful lot of huffing and puffing. Don't ask why FedEx couldn't deliver them direct. In this hat I am a navvy.

On the other hand, I am revelling in another delicious extravagant nightgown, courtesy of Louise. This one has a yoke and sleeves of muslin embroidered with roses, a body of pin-tucked lawn then a deep hem of the embroidered muslin again, but the piece de no resistance at all is that the muslin yoke sinks to the small of the back and ends with an embroidered posy and bow. In this hat I am a pampered lady.

In the sixties it was Incorrect to be a lady, but I have known some great ladies and love to learn from them - continue to learn. Judith's grace, warmth and allure. Joan's trenchant worldly wisdom and courage. June's intuition and superb organisation. Sheila's scholarship and wicked observation. Loveday's artistry, energy and hustle. Norma's intelligence and panache. Paddy's integrity and wit. And my stylish, gregarious Mum.

There, I have probably insulted everybody.

Monday, April 10, 2006

A Lovesome Thing

My garden is a tip so I intend to be ruthless over the next few weeks, ruthless and freespending. I can hardly go too far over the top as the area I have to work with is so small, and the bed you could call natural soil is blighted with privet TREES which I don't want to cull as they are better than nothing tree-shaped. So that whole bed will have to be content with being Neat and Tidy (and dank and sunless). Containers it is then, where I don't have rock, a 45 degree slope or agave.

There might be a change in the landscape quite soon if the soil under the topmost boulder continues to erode. I wouldn't mind a bit, as far as I can see it would just roll down into the pickleweed, missing my new fig tree. We are very restricted here as a Protected Shoreline and Marine Habitat, but I am intrigued with the though of extending the empire just a little bit, backfilling, lovingly planting more beautiful things.

My real dream is a potager, and an orchard, and a few chooks scratching around contentedly making lovely chooky sounds. If I ever have a next house I would quite like it to be on a hill. Where I am is perfect for sea level, but I might get to the point that I want to cash in my chips, and the though of a spiritless condo makes my heart sink.

I have two new sewing clients, just finished a project for one, just starting on the other. I love doing it, it is the perfect counterpoint to film work, and pin money to boot. I have bought myself a ring and feel very flash.

On Sunday morning I happened on a website of Scottish songs while trying to recall the words of the Eriskay Love Lilt, and sat singing at my computer for over an hour, all the dear old songs I remember. I feel like an anachronism, and I haven't handed on so many things I value to my children - songs, poems, Bible stories and quotations, my strange assortment of practical skills. "A ragbag of talents" Ruth called me with malice aforethought. If I ever have grandchildren I will indocrinate them before they have the wit to resist. I think I should be a village storyteller, the crone who remembers.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Butter Soup

Since we have reverted to soup weather, I have been cutting leeks and thinking of Lawrence Durrell, because he wrote about just this activity. His houseguest was a monk, who cut even the oldest, darkest leaf by rolling it like a cigar and cutting it with loving care in millimetre shreds.

Also Pearl Buck while I am washing all that good organic tilth from between the leaves, because she wrote about peasants boiling up soil to eat during famine in China.

While we were filming at the Yerba Buena Center we spotted a tiny mouse in the topiary! It had no fear of us at all, looked awfully young to be out and the little ballerinas were enchanted with it. We fed it edamame and it eventually vanished into the spanish moss after suffering itself to be petted.

I think all this has to do with 'the dearest freshness deep-down things'.
Butter is Rescue Remedy for soup. Just thought I'd pass that on.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Utility and Aesthetics

I am on permanent prowl for items which do what they are meant to do, current project: a nailbrush. Wood and bristle, the sort found in bleak clean Edwardian bathrooms with Pears soap and massive taps.

The simpering inadequate I am currently using is white plastic, with a set of soft white bristles standing straight up on the topside. It might get artichoke butter from under an aesthete's manicure, but it is not equal to gardening, especially for those little bits at the side of the nail that get stained. Why even make such a thing?

Mary passed on a Harper's to me so I read it in a bemused way, even enjoyed it. I gather white is big when we get to summer, belts and waists are back and shoes are hideous tarts' trotters. I am pleased to see that I am ahead of some trends simply by falling so far behind on the last lap. Unpainted, buffed nails. Trimmer hair - I always disliked that jagged, licked-by-the-cat, bed-head look. Capacious handbags. Powder not foundation.

Teeth here are impossibly perfect thanks to porcelain veneers, a new kind which don't leave a tell-tale dark line at the gum, and tooth whitening, and many mysterious expensive processes in between. It is discordant to see a grown woman with the gently scalloped incisors of a pre-teen but the overall result is good. Where does one stop with all this? My dinner companion on Saturday was charming, bright and so well-presented I had to resist casually inspecting behind her ears.

Molesworth et al

Did Google, and they all cost a bomb, second-hand only. Mum, do you still have those books?

For those who have missed this cultural gold mine, the Molesworth books were a post-war journal by Nigel Molesworth, imprisoned in a dreary pre-prep called St Custards. Probably the brother school of St Trinians.

A quote from the protagonist :
Gosh chiz this is molesworth 2 my bro he is uterly wet and a weed it panes me to think i am of the same blud. He is always eating and cheeks everybode. You kno when fotherington thomas sa there are fairies at the bottom of his garden molesworth 2 sa there is a dirty old rubish heap at the bottom of his then zoom away bombing sparows worms the skool dog and other poor dumb creatures. I diskard him.

This is possibly an acquired taste. Certainly not Californian.

Sic Transit

My jaunty and becoming new haircut has overnight reverted to an Elmer Fudd. Well, it has been six weeks, and I do expect industrial service from all my indulgences, any fule kno four weeks is maintenance, six weeks is rescue.

And no hello clouds hello sky, another leaden morning; I awoke secure in the knowledge of defeat. It is quite cosy back here at the end of my burrow, and no-one shall ever find me if I stay very, very still.

I should Google Fotherington-Thomas, what were those books? I remember mostly because of the family link (ahem) with Ronald Searle.

Saturday, April 01, 2006



Apparently the last blog (Reductionism) was gnomically incomprehensible. It was written after a properly convivial and raucous meal and I suppose I was over-excited by art and company.

The trigger was the tragedy of a great-hearted labrador who took up a stuffed pheasant as a Phantom Puppy, carried it, loved it, then absentmindedly allowed it to cross some mental boundary, conceptualised it as a Lovely Stick and chewed it to pieces then was very sad. I've done much the same thing myself.