Saturday, September 29, 2007


She has been scratching in a total frenzy, so today was bath day. Quite little really, isn't she? She went to dry off in my house files, knew exactly what she was doing and they are not better for the experience.

It was the signal to slow down and attend to domestic neglect, so I sat on the swing seat unpicking Mary's waistband, just listening to the creak of the springs, and the clack of sheets against masts that reminds me of a hesitant maestro rapping on the podium. I can tell so much from unpicking, these threads were unbalanced and the stitch so large it was relatively easy, whereas a properly made English shirt is next to impossible to deconstruct. The Indonesian seamstresses are poorly paid, so larger stitches are faster and they don't stop to correct the tension. In London I used to look at brick buildings and marvel that each one was put there by hand. The bricklayers were poorly paid, but the buildings are still there.

Two nights ago we were visited by at least on hundred swallow swirling around and around above us, and last night a parliament of crows were disciplining one of their member while the hummingbirds disregarded them entirely. This morning was enlivened by one cantankerous duck. And one pissed-off little cat.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Indian Summer

I have made such good progress with the tiles (one row to go) and the boarding in the bathroom, I am going to follow my own example and lie out on the deck, under my lovely umbrella.


So let's see: the vine is four years old and these are our first grapes. I am proud, 2.4 ounces!!

Sunday, September 23, 2007


You can see I was just twitching to get out my crowbar.

Another Pair


I should have blogged about the delicious cioppino I made this week, the bread, the crawfish whose stock was the base for the cioppino... but there has been no time elapsed between last Sunday and today, the whole week telescoped most weirdly. I found a bird's nest abandoned with one lonely egg in it so it is now gracing my collection, complete with thistledown wisps from Suscipe and a lot of scrabbling earwigs I should never have brought inside. My grandfather Rose teased me with earwigs and I mistrust them heartily.

Loving the Voyage of the Narwhal - so far. It reminds me of the last C.S. Lewis Lion Witch and Wardrobe book, what's it called... and of course His Dark Materials. And the Ancient Mariner. There's a poem about icebergs too, end "that intolerable street" so I shall Google.

And here it is - the Ice Cart:
Perched on my city office-stool,
I watched with envy, while a cool
And lucky carter handled ice. . . .
And I was wandering in a trice,
Far from the grey and grimy heat
Of that intolerable street,
O'er a sapphire berg and emerald floe,
Beneath the still, cold ruby glow
Of everlasting Polar night,
Bewildered by the queer half-light,
Until I stumbled, unawares,
Upon a creek where big white bears
Plunged headlong down with flourished heels
And floundered after shining seals
Through shivering seas of blinding blue.
And as I watched them, ere I knew,
I'd stripped, and I was swimming too,
Among the seal-pack, young and hale,
And thrusting on with threshing tail,
With twist and twirl and sudden leap
Through crackling ice and salty deep --
Diving and doubling with my kind,
Until, at last, we left behind
Those big, white, blundering bulks of death,
And lay, at length, with panting breath
Upon a far untravelled floe,
Beneath a gentle drift of snow --
Snow drifting gently, fine and white,
Out of the endless Polar night,
Falling and falling evermore
Upon that far untravelled shore,
Till I was buried fathoms deep
Beneath the cold white drifting sleep --
Sleep drifting deep,
Deep drifting sleep. . . .

The carter cracked a sudden whip:
I clutched my stool with startled grip.
Awakening to the grimy heat
Of that intolerable street.

-- Wilfred Gibson

Lentil Soup

One of Cissy's birthday dinners. George and Cissy in the foreground, then Will, Dan, Griselda, and me behind Cissy.

The pleasure of making a traditional, simple lentil soup: onion, pancetta, carrot, celery, stock and bay leaves, red lentils, pepper and ground coriander. I will add ground cardamom and fresh basil if it lacks edge.

I might be able to complete the tiling tomorrow. I would love that. I keep wanting to add fancy bits - shells or edging, little bits of seaglass, and I am resisting MANFULLY in dread of cute. As if skylight, horizontal boarding, driftwood isn't cute enough. Love it.

We have been feeling all Equinoctial, poleaxed and ready for autumn. I cut back the half-dead fuchsia to the hummingbird's dismay, he thriftily visited the few flowers while he could. And the may, two stands of fennel and stray bits and pieces. The remaining fuchsia has a better chance, and I will fill the exposed burrows and get good earth to plant again - that part of the slope is coarse subsoil and clinker. Oh, I have grand plans.

I can't call beautiful rich tilth 'dirt' the way they do here, though logically I should object to 'soil' too I suppose. "When I am laid, am laid in earth..." has the proper poetic appreciation. Is this what Neuro-Linguistic Programming bangs on about? Or Eileen mysterious 'words of power', which I still haven't coaxed out of her? She was laughing rather a lot when she mentioned them.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Birthday Cake

I should really be making Cissy's birthday cake, but after a fairly tumultuous week it is lovely just to sit trying to raise people on Skype. Fruitless, sadly. However I shall approach the cake with a more eager and joyful mind if decontractee.

I spent the afternoon at the dentist's, and we had great fun. A piece had fallen off a little front tooth so I had that fixed, then we got carried away and replaced the never-right muck-up of my big front tooth, then she evened out all the chips at the bottom and suddenly my teeth look a lot more American. Photo soon.

I drive Lucy to the airport tomorrow morning (she got into the post-grad. course!), then we film in Sonoma, then back for Cissy's family celebration. Today Maggie brought Mrs Benson for our now traditional deckside lunch whenever she comes over from the East Coast, we had meetings on Wednesday, so when will I ever finish tiling the shower? It is going very well so far, but slowly, slowly. I wanted company and I have it - now I want HELP!

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Death in the Family

Barbara, my cousin Brian's wife, died last night unexpectedly, Margaret emailed to tell us. I didn't know her well at all, Brian always visited us when his ship was in Sydney and I remember him telling us about Barbara while he was wooing - he said she was smashing. I saw them both at Aunt Emily's funeral, and then when Norma and family spent that wonderful year in London, she and I drove up with our two little boys and Brian entertained us royally. I thought at the time what a wonderfully expansive personality he has, Naval men are particularly open and friendly and resourceful (methinks), and he was like a big blond pasha at the head of the table. Barbara much quieter, dry wit, beautiful grooming and intimidating housekeeping skills. It is particularly poignant that her first grand child is due in March. She must have been so thrilled with the news.

Isn't it strange how strong childhood ties are? Brian as the oldest cousin was without doubt the leader when we all lived in Yorkshire, then when he was sailing it was always a red-letter day when he came into port, and a couple of times we all went cruising together and he was just like another brother. He still sails and skis, that marvellous Rose robustness. I hope he continues. Precious little comfort we can give him at this distance.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Slice of Heaven

Cissy and I had a delicious girl day at the Bay Club and Frantoio, twelve hours of unrelenting pleasure including dinner with George and Stefan afterwards. I awoke so bouncy and full of myself, all the result of that luxury injection, it is a positive duty to cast off puritan relicts. Have we a duty to be happy?

A long while ago, mainly when 'dealing with' my mother-in-law, I expounded a tactic called 'hardware solutions', which is using a thing to ease uneasy relations with another, instead of one's own precious time or heart's-blood. So, I hunted down a bone china mug with a rim to replace one she mourned, and such-like, rather than conversing ("I don't understand the way you speak Tricia, it's too fast and kind of jerky.") Now, I am sorry I wasn't just a little kinder in my heart.

That doesn't negate the power of hardware solutions themselves. There are times when worthy activities, a positive attitude and contemplating those less fortunate need a boost from putting money where mouth is, in this case from Cissy. Thank you darling.

Carly and Fae are selling their twelve acres of rain forest aptly called A Slice of Heaven. See:

Heaven comes in many slices.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


We did an interview early this morning and have a meeting to film tonight, driving test in between which means get the car cleaned, so the day was shot before it started as far as tiling was concerned. I accidentally opened iPhotos and was completely sidetracked with 646 photos, mostly of the last five years in this place. My goodness I have done a lot! I reeled at the impact - house, garden, bathroom, kitchen, ceilings and skylights. Stefan wants me to board the living room walls, he so likes it in the kitchen. Have I the strength?

Of course the real issue is that it doesn't stay that way. Heroic effort is enjoyable, if only it would stay that way, but no, dust settles, clutter gathers, weeds grow.

I THINK: I will do some then and now side-by-sides, so I can really appreciate the changes. A little patter on the back. The one at the top there shows growth from spring 2006 to autumn 2007 - pretty good eh? The tree is a paulownia, arboreal equivalent of a pumpkin for speed of growth -and the leaves look pretty similar too come to think of it.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Lady-Mode and the Other

I have been having such fun with Facebook. I am sure I have only scratched the surface, but there is time.

Felix led me gently through the paths of Skype last night, although I can't use it yet as I don't have a microphone. Free phone calls to Australia are a strong incentive. Global village indeed.

Today I really, really am getting on with the cladding of the bathroom. I was sidetracked on the weekend, what with being social and then being knackered from moving all the trees in their wine-tubs away from the now overwhelming pittisporum hedge. Would have been much easier if I hadn't watered them first. I was filthy with mud and sweat when I finished, so I had to have a shower and wash my hair and scrub, then I thought I might as well style my hair for once, and repaint my toenails, then makeup seemed a fun idea and before I knew it I was so deep in lady-mode all I could do for the rest of the day was sip Earl Grey. We strolled down to the beach, called in on Meryll and saw the plans for her new studio - what a shame I am just getting to know her and she is moving! then back to make Yorkshire pudding among other things for Felix's visit. He brought lavish lilies which are scenting the whole house.

Dee just came up with a colander full of fragrant tomatoes, she has a bumper crop. Global to local.

I have just ordered Pensees from Amazon. Very fond of Pascal, especially since reading a deep and subtle article on Freud's evolving attitudes towards religion.
Here's the link:

Saturday, September 08, 2007


I have just ordered online a thing I can only call a Recessive - a preformed niche for soap, shampoo etc which fits between the studs in the shower wall. It is EXACTLY what I had envisaged and I feel so twinkly-eyed and justified somehow in my search, that I almost don't mind the $17 carriage.

A productive day. I loaded the truck with debris to take to the dump, where the highlight was dunny-hurling. I think it flew about twelve feet before meeting its destiny. We bought new tyres for all four wheels even though only one had a nail in it. Then to the builders' yard for thin-set, spacers, backer-board, notched trowel, tile-cutter for I had given it all away after the last bathroom, thinking I would tile no more. And effete silicone caulk in aerosol form, what a luxury.

For light relief I bought a 2008 diary, thinking of Mrs Miniver all the while. My one is coral coloured leather, little and slim but it has maps in the back instead of all that useless info. Two more items I had been fretting after as well: a funnel with an integral sieve, for my Kambucha brew, and a real, scratchy metal scouring pad, tracked down after a long and disbelieving search. Does no-one else always burn the carrots?

Such a pleasant dinner last night with D & D, good talking. I love good talking. Must get out more. Not be Recessive.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Nothing like a Rousing Hymn

1. Guide me, O thou great Jehovah,
pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but thou art mighty;
hold me with thy powerful hand.
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven,
feed me till I want no more;
feed me till I want no more.

2. Open now the crystal fountain,
whence the healing stream doth flow;
let the fire and cloudy pillar
lead me all my journey through.
Strong deliverer, strong deliverer,
be thou still my strength and shield;
be thou still my strength and shield.

3. When I tread the verge of Jordan,
bid my anxious fears subside;
death of death and hell's destruction,
land me safe on Canaan's side.
Songs of praises, songs of praises,
I will ever give to thee;
I will ever give to thee.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Particulate Matter

The sun is looming and red, the air is hazy and there is a fine layer of ash over everything from the bushfires two hundred miles away. A strong, cool onshore wind won't be helping.

While I was watering the garden this evening I was poking around looking for vole damage and found plenty, especially a cavern under the wallflowers. I pulled up the plants and hosed the hole down to get some idea of its size - about five gallons. Not feeling kindly towards my furry friends. Lovable little critters of California indeed.

William isn't feeling too sweet towards our own lovable li'l critter. While he was staying Suscipe yowled and miouwed and lurved and patted and was generally so needy he got up at 1 am and drove home...

Value Judgements

"Two men looked from prison bars,
One saw the wind, the other, rich loam."

It's the put-down in "mud" that offends me, the dig of the elbow in passing. Like Lucy in Peanuts, I want ups and upper ups, not ups and downers. Add an up whenever you can.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


So, what have I learned from five days in Hawai`i?

Not to read stray thrillers left behind. Nauseating tone, deprecating violence yet inventing it for entertainment! Or because it’s in the author and has to get out.

I love being in the sea, and snorkeling is another world.

Sun might be bad for the skin, but it feels good. Really good.

Food is boring but compulsive.

I have been moving in ever decreasing circles. Living in fear.

I am chastened and embarrassed that this could be so, and I think ageing has a lot to do with it, in which case I hope to heaven that there is a way through it, and not just to la-la land. I don’t think I can ever reclaim the feeling of invincibility which was my birthright. I can pinpoint the unwelcome epiphany, seven years ago. Norma, Mike, Jean and Ned came to stay with me in Midhurst. The chimneys – tall, mock-Tudor affairs - were being repointed and we climbed the scaffold to admire the view. Heatherwood is the tallest point in Midhurst and we were fifty feet off the ground, and suddenly my knees felt strange, stomach lurched, head swam, and I thought, so this is fear. I looked over the parapet last night while we were barbequeing, Diamond Head in the background, and there it was again, simple visceral fear. And as we walked down to Hanauma Bay to snorkel on Sunday I was peeing myself until I got in the water, then it was magical, as I knew it would be. The fear is somehow external, but it is there now. I could make a list as long as your arm of all the things that make my heart clutch and worse, create an atmosphere of free-floating anxiety which inhibits and confuses me. I have lost my elastic, I used to be able to handle anything.

If I push through and tough it out I have panic attacks, so I have to understand it and dismantle it from the inside, because it is getter more pervasive. I have been hyperventilating about the new bathroom, for heaven’s sake! Maybe Borders has a book on irrational fear in the elderly.

Practical things: avoid sensationalism, lurid news, thrillers, violence, especially American entertainment-violence. I’ll even go out of my way to avoid bad manners, they upset me too. I can try to avoid acting from fear but that is a mare’s nest because I have a glimmering that cracking hardy got me into this. On the other hand, being honest about my feelings with my nearest and dearest has not been an unmitigated success. Maybe we all live in fear,anxiety and disempowerment, and trigger each other off? Once we lose the illusion of control. Shoot me now.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

More Hawai'i

The Aurigid meteor shower was a fizz though I sat and strained my eyes in the right quadrant. The next evening we drove west hoping to observe the Green Flash, chose a posh hotel with four lagoons and saw a magnificent sunset in lovely company and even with Hawaiian singers and dancers in the background, but no green flash. Pictures will be posted, though the little camera hasn't the right lens for that sort of thing.

On my birthday we snorkelled a glorious reef at Hanauma Bay, so many wonderful fish, a beche de mer, a plaice and hundreds of dazzling colours and sizes of coral and I came home with Baboon Bottom (not enough sunblock for the position I assumed half the day). Even this morning when we went for the Last Swim I looked down and there was a tiny fish snuggling into my bosom, they don't seem to worry about our intentions at all. It reminded me of the hummingbird.

The skylight and new gutters and bathroom wall are all in, so I am content. Tomorrow I will get cracking.

The next time I go to Hawai'i I want to learn to surf properly, on a board.

Saturday, September 01, 2007


If there is anything more delicious than fresh coconut juice I have yet to find it, and if there is an activity more delightful than bobbing around in mild surf I have yet to do it. The world is a beach.