Thursday, August 31, 2006

Win Some

Decided the best possible use of my morning was to finish painting my bedroom, did it and bloody hell the stain is still seeping through (fourth coat, including sealer).

All I can say is that it is looking better. Better, not perfect. At least I was listening to Brahms' 2nd Piano Concerto, for no reason at all I feel intimate with it, I hear self-awareness in that music, and play, except for the finale which takes on such a different tone, like an enforced happy ending. I don't want to know more about it because I could easily be wrong, like Songs of the Auvergne, which when I finally read a translation deflated all my expectations, being as they were, "There is a shepherd on the far side of the valley, wayoh wayoh wayoh, there is a shepherd on the far side of the valley, His flock eat the grass."

Maybe it is the same with any lyrics. Carmina Burana certainly.

Not the Last Four Songs, or Ode to Joy. To me they are perfect, the music said it in perfect accord with the words.

In Sussex I would stack my favorite CDs and work through the day in my wonderful vaulted room, perfectly happy, even elevated, although I saw no-one. I often finished those days perfectly refreshed even if I had been working twelve, fourteen hours, as I was towards the end. Frustrating that I moved here just as I was getting good-sized contracts, snakes and ladders. I do love to be near my children.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Washing Day

While I was asleep my mind must have gone back a century or two, for I woke wondering if we have lost something of the rhythm of everyday living and how we could recapture this without resorting to idiot drudgery. Today, therefore, is washing day. I put the teatowels into a big pan to boil, as it used to be done. Felix's bedding went to soak and bleach before washing in the machine, then it will dry in the sunshine, not the dryer. I want the best of both worlds.

Of course I have been weaving other tasks in with this, making soup from an excess of vegetables, cream-of to pander to the Lost Tooth, although I have also been nibbling ripe figs so not adhering to the no-bits principle AT ALL. William constantly and darkly wonders if anyone adhers to their own stated code of conduct, or simply believes that they do. Maybe maternal inconsistency helped put this load on his soul?

I also idly did another okcupid test, the Big Words Test, and I'm irritated that I scored less than perfectly, the more so since I scored 16 and there were 16 definitions, and the last question was whether or not one had cheated and I hadn't. Moreover the test itself has spelling mistakes in it! My vanity has been pricked and I deserve it. Rats.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Extraction

Such a feeling of space and order and freedom from my dear little house. Autumn is the time for this after the carelessness of summer; I am checking the eaves, and the chimney, and things are beginning to be tied up and battened down before the rain, well before the rain. Not quite harvest time, but soon enough. The afternoons are increasingly golden, and I am so happy just to watch them. We should be getting stilts through soon, heading south.

The children are already back at school including two of my adult children, and that always was the marker. I had a secret treat for myself when the elder two were at their first schools: I would drive them there on the first day, and on the way back I would stop at Harrods' food hall and have a malted milkshake all by myself. It was really hard to find a milkshake in London at all in those days, I wonder if it has changed.

Today's food is smoothies (have they superceded the milkshake?), broth and melon, nothing with little bits in it which could irritate the socket. I am mesmerised by the enormous hole inside my mouth when the tooth itself seemed of quite modest size. I keep thinking of that picture of a redwood with a car driving through, what an obscenity. What shall I do with the tooth I wonder? Incorporate it into a still life? I insisted on taking it, wasn't going to leave it there of purposes of witchcraft.

He did a great job, not a moment's pain, although at one point I started to sweat and couldn't breathe, and felt an urge to clock him one before rationality took over again. I was startled that I could be so primitive, reassured that I still have instincts of self-preservation, no matter how disgraceful.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Strong Healthy Children

Of all revolting things, I have a stye. It feels anachronistic, belonging in the days of lice, boils on the back of the neck and impetigo. Not that I had all of those in the dark days, but it makes me feel like a scabbie-hedit wean, and I hear my mother's voice telling of these shameful things.

I did have impetigo when we first came to Australia, and remember standing in tears of shame as my father used the local remedy - hot starch on bits of clean rag, which dried on then pulled off the scabs. Medieval.

I feel a hot rush of protest now when I see frowsty hair on little children whose parents should know enough to brush it - and run a damp washcloth over face and hands while they are at it. This again from my mother, and I took it seriously. My children may have had lice (there was a time in London when they afflicted even the best schools) but their hair was always brushed.

Which returns to my theme of tides in these things. In 1969 I returned to London from working at the Manchester Boys and Girls Society with distinct itching under my chignon. Dear old Dr Levi exclaimed, "Het lice! I hav not seen zem for tventy years!"

The ruling form of neglect here and now is overfeeding. Slim parents with fat children buying them ice cream, and people who exist on baby-leaf salads stocking up on Fruit Loops for the kids. It seems to be accepted that children won't eat or enjoy adult food. While I'm at it, when did it become normal for toddlers to have placatory food always in their hands?

Felix is off at Burning Man this week, asked me yesterday what food to pack. I said with a ghost of a smile, take apples. All of them hold it forever against me that when they said they were hungry, I would tell them to eat an apple.

I stand by it!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Call it a Garden

After hours of toil the side slide of rocks and ashes (I am sure it was a dump for years) is neatly emptied, lined and filled with decent topsoil and a large number of very patient plants. I have not quite finished as Cissy called in after Hawaii and I was ready to stop, but I think it is actually better to take another day to finish off, instead of stubbornly crashing on all red and sweaty and incapable of fine motor function. I look so like my father in these circumstances, the glint of madness, and glasses slipping down my nose.

I have a new truc to be in love with: Atlas Fit Gloves from Malaysia. They are closefitting stretch stockingette with a thick rubber palm, and they fit so beautifully I forget I'm wearing them. I have had expensive gardening gloves which slipped or twisted or got hard when wet, but these are little beauties, and I have retained all the nails which grew while I was incapacitated this last week, and they are clean. Normally I look as though I have been digging ditches when I garden, I always thought it was rather a badge of honour at the Chelsea Show to be grubby.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

And I'll be happy to see those nice young men in their clean white coats...

I have lost another day this week, dammit! I keep thinking it's Wednesday when it's Thursday.

Drugged, of course. Antibiotics, and they make me very sleepy. Stefan says I am unbelieveably easy to get along with in this condition. Just wait until the tooth is pulled, next week.

Monday, August 21, 2006


I have tried before to get in touch with old friends Roy and Debbie Yates (in New Zealand now?) and failed. They were living with their two daughters in an old school bus called L'Escargot, true pure hippies in the early seventies. Google drew a blank, until last night I had the wit to Google their daughter, discovered she is also in films, emailed and got a reply this morning! Mum, are you reading this?!

Some of the first jobs we got in London were with her grandfather, Michael Forlong. I am thrilled to reconnect.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

More Dentistry

I have a sore tooth, why does it happen on a weekend? I just seemed to bite on it wrongly, as if my teeth don't fit. Well, I know what to do.

I had a communication from my brother Clion: he has a Jessica, Lachlan has a Jessica in England, now Will has a Jessica. So how does Clion know? I only met her on Saturday. My my the bush telegraph works fast!

Anyway, she is just wonderful so I see no point in being reserved about it.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Chemistry of Smell

Why did I not do better at science at school? It is a black hole in my understanding - more like the dark side of the moon. A hemisphere of ignorance.

This came about because Felix had his teeth cleaned, and it started me thinking about bad breath. The paintstripping, full-on dragon's roar I remember of adults from my youth seems to have gone, unless my own nose has become less sensitive... I think not, but there are still sulphurous whiffs and I was thinking, why sulphur? and come bang up against not knowing.

I remember the olfactory receptors from Biology but not the categories, and I know the elements the way you begin to know people when you move into a village, names but not the dynamics which are the living, breathing essence of it. It's like seeing Arthur Murray footprints on the floor when you long to dance.

Sidetracking: I sniffed perfumes yesterday, and they are getting worse - lolly-water, old tarts, loo cleaner. I blame Britney Spears.

And pragmatically, to learn more about smell, I should watch dogs and flies. They know.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


I am a very dull chicken today, scratching and squawking round my little patch. Contentment makes poor copy.

I have signed on for a great many political actions so hope I am not extradited. Involved, responsible and concerned is what I am aiming for, not a Pommy Plot. Today three petitions, one sign-up and one letter to the San Francisco Chronicle. Sometimes I even give money.

The thought of Dorset and then Italy in four short weeks is exciting. I have been here just five years and am delighted every time I bump into someone I know, it makes me feel I belong. Of course I don't, but one can pretend. I don't belong anywhere any more, because everyone seems to move so my community is virtual. This is an important lesson for someone as territorial as I am. Disconsolate wanderings around Soho have taught me that.

I am also slightly claustrophobic, which goes hand in hand with territorial. Claustrophobia I am convinced is closest kin to the terror of the soul trapped in the body. What does that make agoraphobia? Fear of non-existence?

"Let me not be!
For non-existence sings with clearest voice:
To ONE we shall return."

Sunday, August 13, 2006


A very strange, quiet day, mostly I read, but otherwise just did laundry, cleaned the mirrors or sat. Maybe it is a necessary balance. The thought of going out was anathema.

I did book my train ticket from London to Weymouth, and paid for it, tickled that I could do such a thing from the other side of the world. Felix and I then looked at Google Earth for a while, before he had to go out to dinner.

I shall rouse myself only to bank a plump cheque as Stefan prostituted himself today. Tomorrow is much more exciting, helicopter shots for him, so I shall swab the decks ready for my profitable sewing, maybe cut out.

The Classic Slave Narratives I am reading lead to great introspection. We would all like to think of ourselves as enlightened, but would I be? There seemed to be precious few.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


As I was scrambling over river rocks on top of the roof of a casino carpark this morning I wondered once again at the life I have chosen, which delivers me to places like this.

It's like magic.

We did very well today, a gruelling schedule, running with sweat and just plain running, so I think the stem cells are still working some good. We came home to the lovely calm of the water, the new young blue heron picking over the tide's leavings and the house cool and welcoming.

My hair is bleached from the sun, in one day.

Tomorrow will be totally different, in the PR company's offices in San Francisco so I might even dress up. Have I raved yet on this blog about the wonderful new eyeliner I am using? (which doesn't dissolve even when my eyes are stinging with salt).* It is a cake eyeliner by Laura Mercier, and the big trick is that you apply it from under your top lashes and over the bottom ones, so there are no Cleopatra swoops on the eyelid, just a well defined eye.

While I'm doing testimonials, I love the Kirkland Borghese serums you put on under moisturiser. They feel so silky I would use them just for that, and I'm sure they are doing my skin a power of good, but the real benefit is that my eyelashes seem longer, whether through growth or not breaking off I don't know.

I still love the mineral powder I use instead of foundation, it is so light I could never go back to smearing goo on my face, and just to round me off, Colorstay lipstick which went on at 7am and is still perfect 14 hours later.

Furthermore oh captive audience, buffed fingernails are groomed and ladylike and don't chip. All this started as a cosy chat about makeup and has become a roundabout statement of personal philosophy. That's what I love about blogging, I never know where it will lead me - a bit like filming.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

One last round of clearing and packing Caroline's house with Jane and Caroline before her move to the convent (my favourite bit was taking down the exquisite sand dollars which circled her bathroom, and wrapping and packing them, in a biscuit tin). Most of it was inelegant lugging and unscrewing brackets and shelves and all the lovely, shapely hooks she has collected.

We stopped for tea and I made it as we did in France, rosemary straight from the bush since all the real tea had been packed, then Caroline demonstrated the Highland Fling she had learned as a child, triggered by finding the kilt she used to wear. Apparently the Dean has said they need people like her, a breath of fresh air, and it is certainly going to be an experience, one year only. But we shall miss her.

I put up the soffits and finished the painting, so that is my kitchen done. I also made big boxes to store photo albums of another life under the sideboard, is that appropriate? I hate clutter and treat this place like a boat, any void has a function.

Stefan can't smell and has started sneezing again, so the stem cells have been a tantalising experiment, he is very disappointed. Suscipe is scratching again too, so back on cortisone for her. We seem to have had short term gains.

Friday, August 04, 2006


So far I have brushed handfuls of fur from Suscipe, walked the ridge (the same coyote scat on the path for months now, will it dissolve in the rains?), unloaded the dishwasher and made breakfast in bed for Felix, mixed up liquid fertiliser, had breakfast with Mary, watered, gone to the dump and Rafael Lumber before visiting Cissy to see the storyboard she shot here yesterday. I am so impressed, the lighting is really good and I look gorgeous! She can film me any time!

I will see if I can get it up here, for everyone to ooh and ahh.

Now it is mid-day and I am flagging. This afternoon I cut templates for the kitchen soffits. Back in harness.

Carpe Temporis Punctum

I awoke impossibly bright and chatty, still on East coast time, dreaming about light. One of the wonders of living here is the lovely play of light over the water at the end of the day, and as the year swings around fingers of afternoon sun come into the front of the house too, long and low.

A couple of weeks ago I called Ghazi in to see how the papyrus heads I had culled and stuck in a vase were illuminated and transfigured for minutes only by a sidelong glance of sun. She called me an aesthetic Epicurean and I have been rolling it around on my tongue ever since, and it pleases me. Mostly because it comes from a pure source; you notice how some people put such a sting in the tail of an observation. Not Ghazi, I am quite certain she is one herself, and there is a sisterhood.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Home Again

Only recently Stefan asked if I wanted to go to New York for a couple of days and I wasn't keen - didn't want to spend the money really - yet here we are just back from New York and Toronto! It is SO different when we are working, we have a purpose. It didn't hurt to be staying on Central Park South looking the length of it over the trees. 104 degrees in the city is something else again, the air was foul and there were distinct whiffs of sewer along 5th Avenue.

Interesting subject matter too, we are all riddled with prions (badly folded molecules) which create islands in the brain, causing Altzheimer's, so eat drink and be merry as long as it isn't hamburgers. Prions accumulate over your lifetime, and they contaminate other cells. Just thought you'd like to know.

What I hadn't realised (if the hypothesis is correct) is that Altzheimer's is a recent affliction, a product of the twentieth century, and although it isn't caused by CJD, they are both prion-related diseases.

Oh dear oh dear I am a health bore, but there is nothing more convincing than interviewing the researchers concerned for making up one's own mind about the weight of their argument.

Mainly we were filming case studies of stem cell therapy, very troubling. The people we interviewed are looking for miracles, and they are being relieved of a lot of money for progress. Scientific monitoring and followup seem to be non-existent. I can't help but feel some doctors are simply on a gravy train - certainly I heard of extortionate charges, and they seem to be inflated to meet the pocket of the individual.

Balance against that the simple procedure Stefan had, and the indisputable gains he has made. He outstripped me walking throught the terminal, when usually I have to wait for him. He can smell coffee, and petrol, and now food, and even scent if it is strong. He doesn't cough or snore or need to blow his nose, and his voice is less husky. Maybe the answer is that any treatment works better if you are not very sick. But all those dreadful, limp, brain-damaged children whose mothers are radiant with happiness because the child has made some tiny, tiny gain - it would break your heart.