Tuesday, January 30, 2007


I don't know why one aspect of housekeeping should oppress me more than another when it is all cyclical, but having to wash the shower curtain when it develops a strange rusty tone (otherwise simple and white) really irritates me.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes

Oh we do have an image problem with this one:

Firmicute is a positive cheerleader of a word, sounds so much more appealing than Bacteroidetes. Shouldn't someone with an abundance of Firmicutes be bouncy and rounded, bubbling with health? And yet those with a predominance of Bacteroidetes in their gut are the ones with waists, and the Firmicute team are OBESE.

There is no justice in the world of NomenClutter.


I woke in WaterWorld this morning, everything fluid and glistening, tide pale and high and the islands dark sepia and two-dimensional. I can't ever rationalize how everything cooperates in an impression like that, how one morning the geraniums are bright, the water blue and the birds sociable, and another morning it is all sober and handsome with one austere large bird calling from the air, and no colour in anything, only light.

We worked late yesterday, got home at midnight after a full evening shoot, I was third camera and loved it so the time passed quickly. This morning we all slept in for varying reasons, though I woke at eight for coffee and a tranquil long read. I am in the middle of The Future Eaters again, but broke off to dampen my mind with Joanna Trollope. I get too involved with Tim Flannery and need a break, though anyone who can make an entire chapter of extinct marsupials rivetting reading gets my vote.

We leave for Sydney three weeks today, and I will be back seamlessly into a familiar way of life, remembered broad leafy streets, the quality and smell of the air, handsome, solid houses instead of these West Coast pretensions of softwood and matchboard. There is a new TacoBell going up in central San Rafael, springing up in no time at all, and by the time we get back I know it will look painted and real and landscaped - but I know better.

In truth wooden houses can be very resilient, preferable in an earthquake area, but that doesn't mean they feel solid to me.

I really wonder if human beings and 'civilisation' are such a great idea, that the world might be better off, certainly more beautiful, if we made a tactful departure with apologies for the mess and no way of ever paying for it, like irresponsible party guests. Are we really a higher order of consciousness?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Australia Day

Yesterday I went to an Australia Day party which only proved Australians are thin on the ground here. Three including me! Americans too of course, but the cultural infra-structure just wasn't there.

My contribution to party spirit was the Judy death chapter from Seven Little Australians, a true Aussie icon. I left it there anyway.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Driven, maybe?

After a day in heels and makeup I felt like a dainty task to ground me - something like sorting the linen cupboard with lavender bags. Yesterday involved a lot of heavy manual labour. I was in a temper so a truck-load of good soil to spread and thistles to weed filled the bill perfectly, and I even found that one anonymous pot was a cool orchid such as I have been lusting after so the whole day was shapely. The shape of THIS day is far more ladylike.

My bathroom cupboard is now a fragrant vision of order and ruthless pruning, and my bedside table is much better than it was, only lacking neat little boxes to hold genera apart. I don't know quite how to get my hands on such and wish I had stock-piled some which came to hand for other purposes. I have brushed the cat and my toenails twinkle, but the glint has not left my eye and I must do more.

Should I lie down until the feeling goes away? Is this quite healthy?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sunday Evening

It feels late because I put a film on at 5:30 but it is only 8:30, and Felix showed me how to scan so we have added a picture to Mucking About, I showed him how to make chocolate sauce, and now I feel vaguely hungry although we have already eaten. People eat so early here!

Last night was a private dinner for sixty at the Yellow Bordello, don't know why so called, it didn't look yellow to me. It has also been a Catholic school, a boarding house and a Sufi commune, four storeys up a steep hill, deep porches and wonderful rooms panelled and coffered in redwood. Seven fantastic courses, rillettes, wild candy-cap bisque, salad, duck ravioli, pheasant, Niman Ranch steak, lavender xocolate so good I should spell it like that evermore.

I showed him how to make xocolate sauce. Much better.

Ed was the chef and he surpassed himself, and I enjoyed the people at our table but most of all I enjoyed that it was surprising, another facet of San Rafael which I could never have suspected.

This afternoon I searched unsuccessfully for chaenomeles japonica 'Pink Lady' for the last barrel, a happy quest because I will get there eventually. I am fired up to do more gardening, move my hangdog New Dawn from the water's edge and the sunstarved Thompson's grape to a better position. I don't think I can trust it to cover the east side of the house, I need something very robust, maybe virginia creeper? I really have no mentor on conditions here. I would love someone to talk gardening with here.

I have finished Dalva by Jim Harrison and will take a while to let it settle. I can't imagine being happier than sitting up in bed with the sun rising over the water and reflecting over the ceilings and walls, ducks and birds quite raucous outside, Suscipe curled at my side, the air fresh and cool, hot tea, good book, and the day ahead.

Friday, January 19, 2007


Leaps and bounds today. The wine barrels are in place, with drainage holes, gravel, soil and trees in place and watered, and they are handsome. Chuffed.

I had breakfast as usual with Mary and told her about the smart brown jacket I had dithered over in the Tiberon Thrift Shop, she said she was going there and would see if it was still in, and could I check Costco for the soft little hoodie she wanted. Well, both were in, so we swapped hostages this afternoon, very pleased with ourselves. I went for a walk in The Jacket down Beach Road, met Joan and went in for a drink and to admire her orchids and spectacular 270 degree Bay views and sunset. I just love having neighbours, and the ones here are the best I have ever had. The best bunch I mean - I loved Joan Barrington in Midhurst, a naughty thought in a bland world. It makes me re-examine London; I had always protested when people said it wasn't friendly, and now I know differently! It is unfriendly!

It is extraordinary than people can cease to exist. I love the fantasy that if only we could know the right email address, the right website, we could be in touch again with our dear departed. I can almost see Joan on Skype, hear what she would say, and I would love her view on the afterlife, it couldn't be banal. She would be with her beloved Jonah and would probably still be smoking two packs a day.

Maybe I need to make a late start on hallucinogenics.


So many pleasant and engrossing things to do today, but when the muse strikes, she strikes.

Taro has been on my mind, the large, ballsy, cocky Pekinese of my adolescence. My mother brought him home from her school and we tried to find his owners but couldn't, so he stayed. He was jaunty and handsome, and strutted along with the rolling gait of a sailor, glossy black and gold, and with an eye for the ladies. We began to realise there were pekinese crosses all along Old South Head Road for miles - probably in a radius in fact, stopped only by the sea. It was a wonder he wasn't run over, we were more lax back then.

As he grew older he lost part of one eye to an angry cat, he became grizzled and less glossy and very snappish, and subject to embarrassing priapism: he who lives by the sword... Eventually, after I had eloped to England, my father took him to the vet to be put down: very old, very creaky, with only a glimmer of his chutzpah left.

Maybe there is a name for Pekinese crosses as there are for Poodle crosses. Certainly Taro did his best to work his way through the combinations. More than one Pekador.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


We have come to a parting of the ways with the Monster and I feel gentle relief - great troughs and shouting and bathos don't suit me, even if I do feel I should know how to cope with them. For sheer ignorance, inconsistency and bull-headedness he was hard to beat.

In contrast the WildCare film we finished last week was so professional and well-planned and downright pleasant to work on it throws the other into grim relief. Why did we put up with it? The money for starters, and the subject matter was interesting. It hasn't occurred to me before to refuse work for personal reasons but I suppose there just is a limit.

Today's shooting was confrontational and unprepared, and I will be surprised if tomorrow's happens. We shall see.

I am enjoying a string on the subject of poodle mixes in The Deep North, Labrador territory. There is a subtle etiquette in joining a conversation online as there is in the world of the flesh, and I fear intrusion, my own worse than someone else's. On the other hand it truly is a global village and I enjoy that. I confess I enjoy the Britishness of it as well, here on the edge of the Western World.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


It was 20 degrees overnight, with warnings of dry ice on the road. I had sat for an hour reading the papers at 5 and my feet were still icy at 9, so breakfast by the fire, remembering that in my youth in Sydney there was no heating in the houses - except Marina's, her parents being more realistic or sybaritic than most.

In particular, we would sit in our classrooms at Kambala, cement floors and whistling gaps under doors, with our gloves on and feet pulled up onto the rungs of the chairs. We even wore our despised bloomers to cover the gap between lisle stocking and trunk. Our splendidly outrageous English teacher, Miss McWhinnie from Scotland, would whisk into the classroom in a swathe of mittens, scarves and even a woolly hat, outraged at coming to Australia and being so cold. It was a human moment in the classroom, while we giggled gently and she described Scotland, where at least you could expect to be warmer indoors! I remember my grandmother's house in Saltcoats being like toast, the fire in the back parlour, a lovely smell of fresh tea, and always welcoming arms, for we were the first children in the family for a long time and were made much of.

My mother remembers that there was always a pleasant feeling of coddling there, that the gaps between cuff and hand, or hat and coat were assiduously seen to, and that after a bath every crevice was dried, the towels warmed before the fire, so she now can't bear to see us, her Australian children, step from the shower and wander about in a towel with water still glistening on our backs and legs.

When I new-build as I surely will, I want underfloor heating in key areas, and maybe a stone fireplace where you can sit with your back pressed against the warm stone.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Like Riding a Bicycle

I have just ridden around the marina on Felix's bike and didn't fall off, though it felt close a couple of times. A kind man adjusted my gears for me so the funny noise stopped; I felt like a novice of course. It was as exhilarating as I had hoped, in bright sun and cold wind, and I think next time I'll head for McNear's Beach (when I am more ambitious I'll go to McFar's).

We did a frustrating shoot in San Francisco this morning, doctors are terrified of the Medical Board no matter what their results are, it is an eye-opener, they become more outspoken as they near the end of their careers, have less to lose and want to speak out.

New Orleans has been postponed so this weekend will be domesticated, prob ably setting up wardrobe fittings with William. I have had satisfying family doings this week, getting the bike with Felix, carting bookcases back from Ikea with Jessica, Christmas tree disposal with Cissy. I told her my theory that Christmas trees are the sad little tarts of trees: uprooted, tricked out for our pleasure then ruthlessly discarded when they lose their bloom. Rape and pillage.

I had a hunger for ribs so they are marinating after a long simmer, then will barbeque as long as I don't have to stand there and freeze. One of the many fascinations with Jim Harrison's writings is his relationship with the cold - this beyond the sheer pleasure of following his convoluted stream-of-consciousness, just the way we think. Or maybe some of us. He is every bit as twitchy and narky as most of my family, so it feels familiar, though I would love a hefty dose of their woodmanship as well. I am such a townie by nurture, I don't know if a predilection for pioneer skills is enough. Steep learning curve.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Nonist

n. \'nä "ni-z&m\ An unwillingness to bind your world view to any ideology; to embody an objective view point, assuming little, guided by reason.

This is an enjoyable site and I like the idea although there are a lot of words in there... Just Google the nonist and it comes up.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


We have had such unseasonably warm and dry weather that the air is already scented with mimosa. A wonderfully dopey indulgent day, everyone heavy-lidded after lunch and I had one of those blissful naps through which I could hear every note of the birds and smell the salt in the air and fresh tortilla chips cooking. An orchid I left outside has two stems and a flower out already, that's how I spotted it, and needn't feel guilty as it is doing better than those I am cossetting inside. Hmmmn.

New Orleans apparently this weekend so my barrels must wait, and I have promised an Ikea run with Jessica as well. It was good fun meeting her parents this weekend, and easy, so that is a very good thing, a further blessing on our children.

Felix is at Mac World today and will go again with Stefan tomorrow, sooner them than me. I will deliver the latest batch to Zany and try to think of some rare adventure while they are occupied. Sheep hunting up near Sacramento? I'll ask Dan on Thursday if he knows of any in Mendecino.

Foolish as it may sound, the sheep are shaping up. It is probably a good while in the future but I don't see why I shouldn't have the pleasure of planning now.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Why now?

After all these years of trailing my dressing gown sleeves in coffee grounds, cereal, cat food and washing-up water, I have cut off the excess and made neat cuffs, tight enough to push up my arm.

It is a good dressing gown but more than nine years old, so why now? Maybe I shouldn't stop, I seem to have short arms (and long pockets, ha ha) so practically every jacket in my possession could do with a hitch, although I tend to turn soft cuffs back because I like the look anyway.

I remember a woman in a shop in Hampstead who could make any garment alluring by the way she wore it, usually putting the collar up, belting it and turning back the cuffs, very Suzy Parker. She was irritated that I never bought anything, that wasn't the point, she was. Maybe I owe her an apology.

My mum tends to do the same (minus the belt) so my eye is pre-conditioned. She sent a wonderful photo of herself at Slice of Heaven, elegant in blue with a shimmering silver scarf. I'll see if Felix can attach it for me, or show me how. Monkey see monkey do, but monkey has forgotten.

I have started desultory research on a small-holding suitable for Wensleydale sheep, chickens, fruit trees and a potager. It will need water, free-draining soil and I would appreciate some ups and downs.

I need to buy fly pheromones today. Don't ask.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Mucking About

A lovely morning browsing the web while everyone else slept in. Because my 6'x2'6" office is off the main room (it used to be the entry porch) I can sit like a spider on the web, alert to any filament that twitches. It is almost like a stage set, all doors visible.

I wanted to refresh myself with Have I Got News For You, but couldn't remember what it was called or how to spell Deayton. Worrying away at it produced results and I spent a happy half-hour, visited The Deep North which is like having a cosy chat with people I don't know.

Cissy surprised me yesterday, she had read my dissertation: I had forgotten she had it. I glanced through it and was flooded with memory and pleasure, I so enjoyed that time. I was sorting foreign money that evening and found my old Kings student card, there I was, so intense, so earnest, a whiff of Joan of Arc. So young, although I wasn't, forty-four.

Cissy herself is having an article published in Ex Post Facto! I congratulated her and asked about the competition she had entered to design a crest for the HSA, she then heard about it that afternoon, because she had won, with fulsome thanks and a $25 gift voucher. Multi-talented.

Felix bought prime coffee beans from his secret source in San Mateo and we now grind. Becoming foodies, maybe it is the Australian connection, since they have the best food sensibility I know. I tend to the wholesome rather than the sensual side of eating, but I still want to enjoy it.

2007 feels VERY GOOD so far, busy and productive and full of new pleasures, many of them gadgets, including a new phone as the old one interfered with the Wifi. Felix bore it home, with the coffee, and fragrant strawberries, and four new kinds of meat from Bruno's. I even have a handset here, beside my computer, there's posh.

I have stopped dyeing my hair. Stefan hates it in his heart of hearts but is restraining himself for my sake. I like it because I was feeling I was pretending (strike one), and it wasn't coming off! (strike two). I always notice the white star at the crown of the head on other women, so reminiscent of Black Beauty, reeking of poor-old-duck. So Nasrin bleached out streaks in the previously dyed - she had some nasty moments while it was bright orange - and I have a transitional highlighted mop far more sophisticated than I had hoped.

I need to work today (if I ever get on with it), but first I am twitching for a yomp over the hills. Bliss.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Toy Boy

We are back from Tahoe fresh and rosy after a delightful two-day shoot, staying on the lakeside which spookily was my fantasy last Christmas. We even had fun! I really like Earlene and Jim, and we met Inge and Michael again, and Belinda and I went for a four-mile walk to um, Starbucks and back....okay okay, not exactly a mountain hike! Stefan took a lot of photos with his new camera, murmuring appreciatively all the while, and the cherry on the cake of his new toys was a Magellan GPS from Burton, which absorbed all his driving time on the four hours back, even when I was at the wheel. It is quite extraordinary that it can tell where we are, altitude, orientation, speed, and of course there is a lot of simple humour to be had by arguing with the voice of sweet reason or even Disobeying. Oh Ha Ha Ha. It is a sad day when I aspire to be as well-tempered as my appliances.

It was a spectacular drive down from the mountains, bright blue sky, sparkling snow and photogenic trees, then rounded bald brown hills that reminded me of Picasso's head and made me brood on testosterone - if ever hills were laden with it these are they. Then into Teletubby land covered with impossible green velvet, then flatlands with orchards and eventually quiet marsh, with birds. As we bucketted down the highway in the hinterland of Point Molate we got our first glimpse of the bay, sparkling water, low mist outlining every fold of hills standing one range behind the other, up to Mount Tam, and our own familiar islands so close yet so glamorous that I saw them anew.

We were listening to XM radio all the way, singing along to Number One Hits of the Sixties, every one of them familiar of course, but when it came to February 1963 they played Telstar and I became actually tearful, reliving the excitement of that far-off, innocent time, the first satellite remembered as we listen to music courtesy of satellites, and even navigate our way courtesy of satellites, eleven of them.

I feel very good about 2007. God bless us one and all.