Tuesday, August 28, 2007


The lunar eclipse last night was suitably mysterious. I always forget how dark it gets when even a small part of the full moon is covered.

While I was at the keyboard the invasive spartina team arrived - no kayaking today, but I can sit on the deck and call, "You missed a bit!".

What Women Want

Sitting here with my breakfast I feel unaccountably isolated and Sad (as in Ant and Bee). What price papaya and strawberries when one is Sad?

So I should DO something. Steve came over yesterday, popped up a rafter and said he'll be here Wednesday, so as I nearly killed myself yesterday cutting the hole for the skylight I think today is made for fun, if I can work out what that is.

We fly to Hawaii on Thursday, a lot of papaya I hope, and swimming all day, surf, Asian food. I went with my mother almost exactly three years ago, after Cissy's wedding and their anniversary was Wednesday. My birthday is Sunday.

I shall sew for Zany, go to Borders and maybe kayak. There's a plan.

I read a silly Sunday article about Life Lists - 100 things to do before you die sort of thing. I don't think I have 100 left, but I realised I would like to :
have an on-going nurturing relationship with a child or children
have an orchard and chooks, and a vegetable patch. And a root cellar.
renovate houses

I have done or am doing most of my preferences, so that is reassuring. My crise spirituelle came when I realised that if I didn't organise going to Peru, it was unlikely to happen. So I did and I went, and travel isn't an imperative for me now.
Lucky to travel for work so often.

It was interesting to see Berkley Bedell on Spirit Lake, his home and activities chosen, not dictated by his financial success. I'm sure it happens all the time, just it is hard to identify. Million$ tend to sing a siren song.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


"Honest, officer, I haven't seen her for days."

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Happy Happy Joy Day

Norma rang in the small hours with the wonderful news that her house has sold ahead of auction, so all her hard work and focus has paid off, and handsomely. And Ned has been making his bed to professional standards!

I wonder what she will do between now and the end of November when they move (especially since they go to Nepal in December, or Ladakh, or both, I forget - they are building a school there). Chucking things out, I suppose, and continuing to scan and store the archive. Maybe a little leaning on the laurels, and drawing and redrawing of the new house.

Yesterday was such a lovely day, it was a relief to get my hair tamed and we shopped for trifles like milk and bread, and a very large suitcase to replace the lighting case which gave up the ghost this last round of baggage carousels. In Washington I saw it rearing at the top of the belt before somersaulting into the barrier, laden with $40 light bulbs. The new one is a peculiar shade of blue, all the better to see you with my dear.

The shape of today (intended): to level the shower tray, fix it, and maybe even fix the first round of backer board for the shower. I want to look at little round porthole lights, and fans, too.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Mya Papaya

The papaya seeds I so carefully germinated have turned into sturdy little plants with round, veined leaves, I am as thrilled as a granny.

Mary is still in Albuquerque making her report to a hostile board, so I simply went for my usual hike, back to a long chat with June in Dorset, lying on the deck with Suscipe on my chest and the hummingbird checking us out, then spoke with each of my darling children and now am listening to my favorite music on iTunes while blogging and drinking good coffee. Bliss can sometimes be built up in layers, like lacquer.

Yesterday I cut the compound angles of the new rafters and worked out the tricky bits round the skylight, frustrated only by my lack of strength - I simply can't hold the things up to screw them in. That is perfect happiness too, doing something I love, unhurriedly, with good tools. This morning I will level the shower tray, then get my hair cut so no longer Shetland pony.

The lunar eclipse is Monday/Tuesday 2 a.m. and we will have grandstand views, then the Alpha Aurigid meteors on September 1 are best seen from Hawaii! I am spoilt.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

No Place Like Home

It is just lovely to be back, cardboard-strewn, sawdusty and untidy as it is.

We came back to clippings Alan Stewart sent (he has been clearing out too!), one of him grinning his head off with Samantha Fox, and the House and Garden spread of our Soho loft (real Soho, real loft). Also to this from Paddy - what is it with everyone and their archives at the moment? Ah, youth.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

At the Airport

Well what do you know, here we are waiting for a plane to Washington D.C. which was due to leave at 4.05 but now might, just might leave at 7.30. It is now past 7 so we are not too hopeful, but we are happy it is late because we didn't even get here until 4. So confusing, but I bought coffee and chocolate and have a book.

The shoot of the ex-congressman went well and he is an interesting man, made his fortune in fishing tackle but still very down to earth, I was expecting a MacMansion, not a simple, charming lakeside house. I have been oddly charmed by this neck of the woulds (felicitous typo). We were saying as we drove through absolutely interminable corn and soy fields, punctuated by red barns, how secure people living here must feel. It is not flashy, but green, grounded, prosperous, plenty to do, plenty to eat, space and peace and good people. How could they have supported a war?

Sunday, August 19, 2007


We are certainly in a different part of the world here, from the Sun Country crew who briskly sent back a mother of four young children from pre-boarding and told a tottering wheelchair-bound lady "just stand over there for a minute" when standing was what she patently couldn't do, to the other crew member who said when Stefan asked for a blanket, "oh you don't want one, they're dirty!"!

The luggage carousel was D, we were told - but the signs said it was C. The car rental lady said, "oh dear, I was just going off to move a car!" The receptionist said, "none of our rooms are clean yet." They all have taken truth serum, and it is curiously refreshing.

It looks like England, lush green fields, drizzling rain, but in Winona county five people just drowned in flash floods, a house was washed off its foundations and onto the railway track, and the fields were awash, some roads closed.

We are in Onalaska Wisconsin now, staggering off to lunch after the overnight flight. Wish for a decent night's sleep before we shoot tomorrow.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Farrow & Ball

I took my *new* Farrow & Ball colour card to bed with me last night to guarantee instant sleep, which it did. It presents as a maddeningly exquisite aesthetically led company which somehow stumbled into effective marketing and trails its own logic like an affectation.

Exhibit One: the colours are grouped on the card (and easily found on the website), but the numbered descriptions of those colours on the back of the card follow a different system, so No.1, Lime White (which I used throughout Heatherwood in Midhurst) is on fold two of the colour card, and is followed by No,2, Hound Lemon, which can be found on fold six, just below Pale Hound which is No, 71.

Exhibit Two: Numbers are consecutive until No. 96, Radicchio, then leap to No. 201, Shaded White. At No. 238, Monkey Puzzle (A typical 19th century estate colour which has, like so many successful colours, endured down the generations. Good with both brick and stone and indeed furniture.) the number leap again to No. 2001, Strong White. Does this reflect marketing pushes?

The names are idiosyncratic and often evocative. So I enjoy the descriptions.

The colours are matchless.


Strangely haunted by feelings of guilt, twitchy and aimlessly prowling while the work I have given months of planning to sails forward, not without hitches but they are wonderful plumbers. I eavesdrop all the time, and we were commenting after they had gone on the quality of their communication with each other: spare, cogent, intelligent. I suppose that is why two days work is $4000, and worth it.

They have completely rerun the cracked cast-iron waste pipes which meandered through the storage room, put them to the side wall so a whole corridor is freed. I shall scour it today, there is mud on a half-wall which almost looks as though swallows had nested overhead, though I don't see how they could. Unless it hasn't been cleaned since the boathouse was enclosed, twenty-odd years ago...

So why these three a.m. hand-wringings? I feel very illegal, for all sorts of reasons even I am not rash enough to record. Maybe is it spending the money, or the real possibility that the USA is slipping into an abyss of its own making. Yes, I suppose that would do it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


I kicked myself yesterday morning, for after weeks of anticipation of the Perseid meteor shower on Sunday night, I forgot to watch. So, last night I looked out for stragglers, and was rewarded: one delightful shooting star.

Since the day itself was a comedy of errors from six o'clock onwards, that little meteor was very satisfying.

Monday, August 13, 2007

For Heart Health

The deeps have music soft and low
When winds awake the airy spry,
It lures me, lures me on to go
And see the land where corals lie.
The land, the land, where corals lie.

By mount and steed, by lawn and rill,
When night is deep, and moon is high,
That music seeks and finds me still,
And tells me where the corals lie.
And tells me where the corals lie.

Yes, press my eyelids close, 'tis well,
Yes, press my eyelids close, 'tis well,
But far the rapid fancies fly
The rolling worlds of wave and shell,
And all the lands where corals lie.

Thy lips are like a sunset glow,
Thy smile is like a morning sky,
Yet leave me, leave me, let me go
And see the land where corals lie.
The land, the land, where corals lie.

I sat and sang it all the way through, and wished I had the Janet Baker recording.

P.S. Stefan downloaded it for me. Lot of warbling going on now, and Perfidia is out of my head at last.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Black Mammy

This is wholesome and heartwarming. I hope she was recompensed.

I woke early to a calm and living morning, I could hear the trees growing and was thankful after the savage and debilitating depression of yesterday, brought on I think by Felix's questioning of the previous evening. The answer is, I am perfectly happy to be here, but I am going at the wrong speed, wrong rhythm. I am too slow for myself.

I give you my heart to care for til you need it no more
For I cannot be there once more & I hope you will talk to me
For I can possibly sit here til you email me
Although chores call and the sun rises
I will wait til I see you again

Monkey Mind

For days now I have been saturated in the music of 2046, particularly Perfidia, which occupies my mind like a mantra so all I need do is tune into it, it is always already there. This morning however, as I made myself an ethereal second breakfast of melon and jasmine tea, I realised the file has been corrupted and I was singing Chlamydia.

I need not ask who has been messing with my mind.

The monkey also loves opera bufo (having a fondness for Mr Toad) and maybe more to the point, a great love of puns.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


One of Stefan's business cards was washed into tiny lumps like hand-made confetti (maybe expensive artiginal confetti) - it must have no tensile strength whatsoever.

Fifty ducks, the most I have counted so far.

I appear to have given away my tilecutters, probably thinking I would have no use for them again. Maybe my actions are not informed by past experience and are in fact random, neither wise nor foolish, and behaviour has no rational coherence so I will never, ever, be old and wise. Or more likely, I shall be both old and wise and old and foolish, and incapable of distinguishing between the two.


Artisanal: small scale, traditional production
Artisinal: miss-spelling of above?
Artiginal: has 163 entries in Google, but no definition, not even in the beloved Oxford Compact which sits demi-virginally on the lowest shelf. There is a cluster of usage related to Italy, is that a clue?

Ravening for coffee after my walk as usual, and having found only one small, perfectly ripe blackberry, I made a hearty peasant omelette, and as I leapt about the kitchen I realised that breakfast is the most balletic meal of the day, because I know what I'm doing and it goes in sequence, and hunger lends speed too I suppose. Like those Japanese chefs, or 80's cocktail barmen.

The photo yesterday was of the fence opposite the front door. I love the lobelia and pulled all the intruding self-sown nasturtiums but that one, and it came up with that flower. The gin bottle is one of the many I have pulled out of the water (someone upstream on a binge), and I found the 'private' sign after a storm on the beach.

The simplest, most delicious biscuits:
6oz each flour and soft butter, 2oz sugar. Mix, add two desert spoons of coffee granules, roll into little balls, flatten with a fork, 160C for twenty five minutes (they won't colour, so don't cook them too long).

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Tuesday, August 07, 2007


After a long drought I have found a book which opens worlds before me, so delightful that I ration myself. It is an account of daily life in China in the capital of the Southern Sung dynasty in the thirteenth century before the Mongol invasion in 1276, almost excessively well documented and with a modern feel, not at all like medieval records of Europe. I should be able to stretch it out until September. Jacques Gernet is the author.

I am still snailing my way through the Greek Myths, onto the second volume now, myth by myth. This is more in the nature of challenge, not pleasure. What a bloodthirsty lot. It is very different seeing the familiar stories in context. Very third chakra.

I might have bitten off more than I can chew with this new bathroom, I am finding the thought of all the insulation and studwork oppressive, but a quote for professional insulation came in at $4500. I can put up with a lot of fibreglass prickles for that.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Seoul Sister

Laconic line from Norma: "Off to Seoul tomorrow for an ad and back Friday", included in an email with the professional photos of the house taken with the magical fish eye lens: my word, it is the portal to Stylist World. The blurb is good too, so I hope it all combines to heat up bidding nicely. It almost makes me believe in a Personal God that she has location work to do at such an opportune time. She might not have time to wander, but she’ll at least get room service.

It was she who introduced me to the delights of the Korean bath house so I hope she has time to mine the motherload. It can sound so glamorous to go to an exotic location, work of course but always a change of scene and pace. She has been slogging on the house for the past three months (we are allowed to say obsessive) and loves the Far East, used to live in Hong Kong. I munch papaya for breakfast and imagine it, and more sensibly, I shall Google.

Carolyn now has me all hung up on commas. I become irritated by excessive commas and prefer errors of omission; could I have gone too far?

Sunday, August 05, 2007


What is up with that duck? Quack quack quack since 4.45, then Suscipe chimed in with her own version of a Greek chorus, a sonorous 'Woe! Woe!" until I gave up and got up.

So, here I am with delicious coffee and a delightfully open day - no demolition today, oh no, maybe the Farmers' Market then a trip up to Napa. I seem to have split my index finger at the nail, pulled something in my knee and have theatrical bruises (see previous blog for photos) so today I shall be a Lady.

I have gone right through my pull sheets and house drawings to pare them down, and I am so struck by the consistency of my vision for this house, documented by obsessive scale drawings, plans, elevations and notes. I have the same layout in 2003 for the bathroom I am building now.

Three articles in the New York Times about Silicon Valley millionaire who don't feel rich, more specifically, they seem to suffer a driving sense of lack. What fools! I hope it made them appear less rounded than they really are.

I was thinking up the hill: what does the American flag represent to me? Along with all the predictable sour cynicism I uncovered a small, glowing Resistance movement, the best kind because it has come out the other side. I want to sign up.

We had breakfast out on the deck looking faintly ridiculous in Panama hat and broad-brimmed straw respectively, and I have conceived a wish to look sinister, like Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer the first time you see them in Rosemary's Baby. I don't know if I can do sinister.

We counted thirty ducks to the east, and probably missed some in the reeds.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

What I'm Up To


I had a windfall apple up the hill this morning, in August(!), sweet and fizzing with orgone energy but I ate carefully and sure enough, there was an Inhabitant. The oranges I so often get are always sound, and there are brambles too, so I enjoy the communion and walk hope with juice sticky on my fingers.

We had a hilarious dinner with Felix last night, stuffed him with red meat and he did his washing, and he enjoyed pulling nails out of wood, and the smiling loo seat, and helped me unload the tiles from the car because by then I had had it.

I have 2046 on iTunes and play it incessantly, especially Perfidia which reminds me of the lacrymosa from Mozart's Requiem.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Not Sparkle Arkle

After a week of filming and demolition the fluff is rising, especially from the loathesome loose insulation erratically scattered in the roof space. I never thought I would find pink fibreglass superior, but this stuff is just awful, can't even be shovelled efficiently. I have swept and vacuumed but it must still be free-floating.

I have the four lengthwise joists and all of the sheathing down, and spent an hour this afternoon pulling nails out with a crowbar to reuse the wood. It made the most fantastic noise, a loud, sustained, vibrating shriek which I mightily enjoyed. It sounded a bit like a very loud duck call, but no ducks this afternoon when yesterday there were dozens, and egrets, stilts and even a couple of cormorants, my beloved swallows too but the most joyful and bold of all, an emerald hummingbird no bigger that two joints of my little finger, who hovered just two feet in front of my face, checking me out. I saw him this morning on my way to Mary, feeding from the fuchsia hedge where I think the nest was.

My new CD of 2046 has arrived and I have been soaking myself in the complexity and richness of the music, flooded by memories of the feeling of the film, the colours and faces.