Monday, December 25, 2006


Dee rushed in wild-eyed yesterday as we were about to go out to lunch: she had lost her car keys and needed a lift to the ferry. We worked out a far better plan in the car, to take her all the way in work, have lunch there and some Urban Adventure. Everyone was content with this, especially as the ferry wasn't for another hour and a quarter. We had a slap-up meal on the house then wandered around Union Square, could hardly see the tree for newsmen. Stefan went to Apple. Everyone was good-humoured, the shops were bright though I still find it a little shocking that they open on a Sunday, not from doctrine, I like the rhythm of the old ways.

Altogether the most seasonal thing we have done for years.

I have now seen illuminated CAMELS for sale, and they are very taking and totally ecumenical. I shall add that to the artificial snow inside the mall in Las Vegas.

Merry Christmas

Today started with a rollicking phone call from Annie, "June says those tits aren't what they used to be!" Quite right, but it was the jolliest Christmas card ever, with Nicki, Sandy and me refreshing ourselves in a mountain stream, photo by Annie of course. Why can't nymphs be mature?

May I also say in defense of my left bosom that it was a wide angle lens: I have my pride. Annie dear, if you email me the photo I'll attach it here.

They were calling from Mango Cottage, drinking mango Bellini and with Joey lording it on the sofa since dear Polly is no longer with us to object. I could almost taste the fish pie.

Blossie told me it was snowing in Melbourne so I spent a happy half-hour reading the Sydney Morning Herald, and sure enough it was.

What shall we do today? Felix has already agreed to a walk once the fog clears so we shall all go down to the beach before lunch. Buttermilk pancakes for breakfast.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


I took Marlyn in early to have her nose altered in ways she doesn't like, then drove back through China Camp to see the sun come up and sing the Gayatra Mantra, six years since Aphra and I did the same at Stonehenge. As then, so much mist I couldn't see the sun at all. China Camp is always magical, I am content.

Googled the Applegarth out of sheer nostalgia, then Wensleydale sheep. There are far more breeders in California in the past few years. Will I ever be one of them?

I was very excited yesterday after planting my new fig, because I think I might have worked out how to organise my garden in the ongoing Master Plan. The vine is just not happy where it is so I might put a clematis armandii there, although the last one was killed by the wind, this is round the corner, less sun but more shelter. Besides if it ramps, it will have all the sun it needs.

Solanum where the clematis was killed, tough as old boots.

I was going to buy eight wine barrel halves to put behind/between the pittosporum and oleander for Cara Cara oranges, olives and lemons, but I am wondering if I should build redwood planters instead. Buying is easier....

I need pots for variegated Jacob's ladder, pole. caerulum, to be planted with New Guinea impatiens, and more pots for hellebore, all to go under the blasted privet trees. I don't like the trees but they are established, coarse and messy though they be.

It's good to have a plan.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


True winter: frost, darkness, dazzling low sun.

I realise I like not having central heating and keeping the window open at night because I feel connected that way. Heating isolates me from the winter in a way the wood stove doesn't, and sleeping curled into my beloved duvet with Suscipe on my shoulder and air on my face makes the comfort all the more precious.

Waking up to see the sun rise over the water is the final touch of earth magic.

This is sounding like a parody of the American Express ad. Oh dear.

It is so much better to see the essences of things, without being distracted by appearances. I think cinema has raised the aesthetic bar so high, makes it easy to form superficial judgements, to concentrate on the spinach between the teeth. Maybe I have just tired of being hyper-critical, as if that raised my bar.

The Brazilian film House of Sand was stunning, physically slow and beautiful, spare of words and unsentimental. Everyone see it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A One-Horse Open Yacht

A pleasure which is totally dependent on the season: the boats at their moorings, rigged with extravagant Christmas lights. We pass four marinas on this road, each better than the last, bows and snowmen, one with two reindeer halfway up the mast, icicles, trees, Santas, angels. THAT'S the way to do it.

I bought a fig tree for the gap in my front planting, on the theory that figs like a constricted root space, and do well in rocky soil. Digging for me tomorrow, after I deliver Zany's cushions. It has been a long time since I grubbed around.

It is probably illogical, but I feel the floor is cleaner when I sweep after having made a dreadful mess with threads and scraps and little bits of fill than it is after a normal sweeping. Much as a good storm clears the air.

Another quiet evening, Stefan is working through, Felix is going out, I have Chicken Up Your Bum, baked potatoes and Felix has a chocolate cake all sharing the oven. Let's hope we can coast quietly through the next week and then we go to Incline Village for a few days of luxe, then 2007. How very, very strange.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

LAN Party

I might have a solution to my hair problems.

During my red phase the root area, previously pristine, had a neon hue so I reverted to Espresso brown. Now I notice that I have the grey regrowth, a brown strip, a red strip, then my longtime brown.

Could I start a trend by alternating the red and brown until I have a football jersey effect? It would appeal to me to time the change perfectly so each stripe was even.

We had a very satisfactory screening yesterday, then a convivial lunch at Sam's with the addiction people, and rolled slowly home in a glow of accomplishment - well, Stefan's really, not mine. I had sort of forgotten that Felix was having a LAN party, so when we got in there were ten or so amiable large young plugged in all over the room, even the kitchen so it could continue while they cooked. Suscipe was in the thick of it of course, mainlining on the attention.

Stefan closed the door and had a little nap, I took him soup after a while and retreated myself, reading and enjoying the party next door, eavesdropping shamelessly. Slept like a baby.

Off to lunch now in Olema, after loafing around all morning; the most energetic thing I did was rehabilitate my left eyebrow. My mother would approve.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Frabjous Day

And totally unpremeditated.

I had Friday morning breakfast with Mary, speaking the shorthand as usual, a deeper pleasure for me as I do miss my friends sometimes. Then it was such a seductive, bright blustery morning I walked over the point and along the beach, picking up vivid maple leaves from pink to raspberry to purple, some butter yellow leaves from who knows where, seed pods, arbutus, driftwood, beach glass, shells... I came in with bulging pockets and made an immediate still life in the old porthole.

Then Marlyn rang and on the spur of the moment we went into the city to return the excessively expensive clothes which I had bought and regretted. We had lovely fun, light-hearted shopping and lunch, so I am back here with gardenias, l'Ombre dans l'Eau and a wonderful light ochre jacket reduced from $578 to $110. I have work stretching pleasingly into the new year, Stefan has the bit between his teeth on the Big Movie, and dinner is in the oven.

Oh, and I booked our Virgin Blue tickets from Sydney to Coolangatta February 28, landing 3pm ( Captain, art thou sleeping there below?)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dear Diary

This afternoon Felix glued my finger back on for me, and sat by the fire holding my hand until the Superglue set. Isn't he a darling?

The cast of my hand of course, which I broke while showing it to Will and Jessica.

Yesterday I operated a Teleprompter for the first time, good fun, a little nerve-wracking as it has its quirks, such as seizing if you get to the beginning or the end. Another blossom in my skill-set, though.

I feel an urge to be more creative, all of a sudden. Kevin pointed out to me that Stefan's room is the only one left untouched, and my blood ran cold. Nothing left to do? Will I have to sell?

I could always start on the rental unit downstairs, ripe for conversion as it is, and with the challenges of low ceilings and strange struts all over the place, since it was originally the boathouse. I would love to polish the original 14" plank floors, put in bigger, better windows (a round one in the main bedroom? I have photo which shows a Pirates of the Caribbean touch, heraldic eagle on the ceiling, barred porthole). Allow light in from the rear, windows onto the rocks with reflected light from the water. Wood-burning stove in the corner, the chimney is already there.

Pipe dreams. It is producing a steady and respectable income as is. Ah me.

If I could have a second property to have my wicked way with! I need to work more.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Oh, ok

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And—which is more—you'll be a woman, son!


It was darker at 8 this morning than when I woke, the rain has settled in but it is so mild we have the doors open onto the water.

I reread If in the night, prompted by Jessica's fierce screed on failure. It was voted Britain's favorite poem some years back, I certainly love it, or the first two verses anyway. The final verse is a worry, suggesting as it does it's better not to care, and I much prefer my mum's version of the last line: "You'll be a WOMAN, son!".

So much of Cissy's history reading deals with the downside of Empire, an uncomfortable new light on the assumptions I grew up with, and my own fogyish love affair with Victorian rectitude. I don't have much common sense so I often miss the bleeding obvious, all the while in love with high-minded principle. Norma is good at spotting that sort of thing, she is pragmatic and willing to see consequences. What I notice from my tower is that failure is a feeling.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Sweet Refreshing Rain

We came back last night to a lovely soft rain, at last. Felix had friends in, the fire was lit and it was so welcoming after two days in Gomorrah. Las Vegas is monstrous, and I am so ill-attuned to its ethos I hardly want to see its up-side: friendly, cheap, tolerant, mind-boggling. Gondoliers! Cirque du Soleil! an enormous shopping mall with a dancing spectacular while we ate our humble tuna salad!

Felix has made ginger beer. I wonder if it will explode like the ginger beer of my childhood.

One thing: I felt more glamorous in Las Vegas. Here I am a bit grim round the chops, there I wore jewellery and sparkled a little. The people watching is most rewarding. Stefan says he wants a cowboy hat now, so I asked if he wanted me to wear tucked in jeans and boots and a tight spangley top. However much you may say such gear is inappropriate, the ladies at least looked as though they tried, and you could see what they were aiming at. Sheer defeat rules the dressing of too many respectable ladies.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Her name is Jenny...

for two days now I have been waiting for a name to swim to the surface, but it won't. She lived in Albert Street, had four sons at the Hall, the eldest was Robert, she was Jenny, her husband Duncan... she was really beautiful, delicate dark little face, good bones, never wore makeup, came from Melbourne and married a Brit. Her husband was something to do with the Head of the River, and Robert was in the Oxford eight one year.

Everything but the name!


We seem to be having a deal of trouble with little brown ants, who always come inside at the start of the wet weather but who this year have taken to swarming on the kettle. It leads to DREADFUL cups of tea, especially since it is a smart black number and they don't show up too well.

It also leads to idiotic conversation on the cause. Are they thirsty? Cold? Just exploring? and why now?

It is a mystery to me that they leave the Kombucha alone.

The Farmers' Market was just beautiful yesterday, even sweet little strawberries. It fuels my dreams of self-sufficiency.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Strangely Useful

I have an addition to my strangely useful category: the little heated pad my mother gave me, intended for wrapping round a rheumatic knee, or on an aching tum.

Its new manifestation is as constant low heat to bring on bread dough and Kombucha culture. Now that the weather is crisper, and without the British institution of an airing cupboard (they don't even know the term here), my usual corner is too chill.

Further on the airing cupboard theme - isn't it the little things which make one feel alien? The light switches go on UP not on DOWN, the US tends to have forced air not radiators, I had to hunt for a heated towel rails, and towels get sad and damp here as there. Neat little Brit boilers are roaring US furnaces, and no-one has heard of HWCs or (my circle comes complete), airing cupboards. On the West Coast, anyway.

Biscuits are cookies, scones are biscuits which makes a nonsense of the word, grilling is broiling, and pints are not pints. I do enjoy the alien corn though, thank you.

So, my Kombucha had developed nasty small dots of fungus and the fermentation had patently not taken place, it was still sweet and insipid, so I will see if gentle warmth helps it on. If not I shall dump that batch, salvage some untainted pancake and try again.