Friday, November 30, 2007

Troll Garland

Ham and eggs at 7 - proper slices off the bone before we drove past Inverness to film organic ranching at Marin Sun. Icy wind over the bare green hills, white tops on the ocean and bright, low sun, frollicking goats, neat, cautious hens (they lose about ten per cent of the flock to hawks), and finally two hundred and eighty cows , some calves and even a great Barry White of a bull who simply ignored us, though the calves were charming, curious and friendly. Stefan was charged by one cow but didn't even notice as she came up behind him and veered off at the last minute. You suddenly appreciate the sheer bulk of an animal when it is running full tilt.

Next to Point Reyes Station for coffee at Toby's Barn, out in the sun greeting all the passing dogs - it is one of my favourite places, not yet spoiled by townies like me. Then to Port Sonoma, over the Petaluma river to film Navajo Churra sheep, guarded by Pyrenean Mastiffs so we weren't able to go into the field. I found my troll garland there.

Isn't that a splendid day?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


And there are mornings when the lark's on the wing, the snail on the thorn.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Curious Flavour

We were talking last night about Ailment of the Moment, which seems to be bipolarity if judged by fresh tv advertising, and is trivialised by such which can't help the truly bipolar a whit. Since we all have moods it is a relatively small leap to pathology, if that is what one is looking for.

It doesn't answer why we can wake one morning bouncy and eager as Pippa Passes, and another laden with the woes of the world. Not truly cyclical either. Note: meditate more.

So, there was a Curious Flavour to this morning, and I am pondering its origin. This is back to reality Monday after the Thanksgiving long weekend which lends a slightly hung-over feeling (so unfair I can still feel hungover when I don't drink!), the pleasant promise of closure on the chairs and cushions is muted, the world has moved under my feet now I am on Leopard, I slept in, and I ate apple pie last night with Cissy and George so feel I have no will-power at all. So, the over-all flavour so far is chastened.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

How I Spent This Morning

The task for today is covering Constance's fourteen beautiful old French folding iron chairs and I am now four in on the seats. Whoever did them last time was staple-happy to an extreme so some need a lot of gouging and yanking, but I have my iTunes and the excitement of waiting for 7'1" tide at midday, cups of tea and illicit toast.

Moreover I have addressed niggling mending, like the pocket of my good camel coat which had come away at one corner, and nail varnish sploshes on my white jacket (I was trying to mark a previous high tide on the post, and the brush flew out of my hand and sprayed). I also threw away unflattering colours of nail varnish and lipstick, thinking all the while of Collette's Cheri, in which the aging heroine decides the time has come for pink and cream underwear, more flattering than white. I am coming to the same conclusion for myself, and softer, prettier colours altogether. Shall I have to abandon black, hence half my wardrobe? Everything apricot like Estee Lauder, and no lamps above eyebag level.


I am still tantalised by the tale of the fishwife - C19, 18? - who was clever and eloquent and somehow scraped together an education and was courted by a gentleman. When his mother scotched the engagement the fishwife retorted with splendid invective, ending, "your heart is as cold as your bottom is reputed to be!"

So, can I find any trace of this fascinating woman? I am sure it was in a literary supplement some twenty, thirty years ago, and the feeling I am left with is that it wasn't fiction, she did exist, and wrote too. Was she east or west coast of Scotland? A feather of recollection says east.

She had a series of family tragedies in that hard life, and when her favourite brother was lost at sea her mind shattered "as irrevocably as butter-dish", and she spent the rest of her life sequestered.

That is all I can remember, except that unlikely as it may sound, her never-to-be mother-in-law was the Countess of Dundee, or Aberdeen. Maybe.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Winchester House

I managed to pull a marvelous surprise for Stefan yesterday, drove him all the way to the Winchester House before he knew where I was taking him. When we left we had heated discussing about whether she was crazy or not (Sarah Winchester). He says she was, I think she simply had the means and liked the process and did what she wanted. One thing for sure, she had no vision, all 160 rooms are quite small, farmhousey, no matter how much inlay and Lincrusta. A waste, really, she could have built a small town for the same money.

Still, it was a most refreshing item, and we ate with Will on the way back. Today I shall work.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanks Giving

Why are some parties better than others? We had a wonderful time last night, sang and laughed and ate rather a lot, with the fire and candles and the table properly set. Will liked his presents, Felix brought coffee and George and Cissy wine and cake. The sunset was beautiful, we came inside as it got colder and it was all over by 7.30, very California. I went to bed just brimming with happiness and satisfaction. I think I'll call this Thanksgiving.

One thing strikes me - we took photos of course, but in the endless, endless line of pictures of us sitting around a table with our faces turned towards the camera, how could the feeling of this special time be captured?

I got up in the small hours of Sunday to see the Leonid meteor shower but it was overcast, so up again 2am this morning, the stars were wonderfully bright and clear but again no meteors. I have a perfect negative track record on this, and yet, my mother and I saw a shooting star while sitting by the ocean at Seabright? Seashore? Salt - on the other side of the Pacific, having dinner with Tim and Angela.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Second Sleep

I had my coffee at 6 this morning, and pottered around soaking mushrooms for Will's birthday feast before getting back into bed and expanding effortlessly in that magical second sleep where you are aware of everything from the inside out. At 8 I sat up listening to the birds, eating scrambled eggs with Suscipe not-incidentally on my lap, wondering how other birds regard hens (slave nation?) and how I could be so fiercely protective of birds while eating - their babies.

I am re-reading the Paramahansa Yogananda autobiography I bought in Delhi so long ago. Maybe he has the answer.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Old Grey Squirrel Test

A great while ago there was a schoolboy
who lived in a cottage by the sea,
And the very first thing he could remember
was the rigging of the schooners by the quay.
He could watch 'em from his bedroom window
with the big cranes a-hauling out the freight,
And he used to dream of shipping as a sea-cook
and a-sailing for the Golden Gate.

He used to buy the yellow penny dreadfuls,
he'd read 'em where he fished for conger eels,
As he listened to the slapping of the water
the green and oily water round the keels,
There were trawlers with their shark-mouthed flatfish
and the nets a-hanging out to dry,
And the skate the skipper kept because he liked 'em
and the landsmen never knew which ones to fry.
There were brigantines with timber out of Norway
just oozing with the syrups of the pine,
There were rusty dusty freighters out of Sunderland
and clippers of the Blue Cross Line.

To tumble down the hatch into a cabin
was better than the best of broken rules,
For the smell of 'em was like a Christmas dinner
and the feel of 'em was like a box of tools,
And before he went to sleep in the evenings
the last thing that he would ever see,
Was the sailormen a-dancing in the moonlight
by the capstan that stood beside the quay.

Now he's sitting on a high-stool up in London,
the Golden Gate is very far away,
For they caught him like a squirrel and they caged him,
now he's totting up accounts and turning grey,
And he'll never-never-never sail to 'Frisco
but the very last thing that he will see,
Is the sailormen a-dancing in the moonlight
by the capstan that stands beside the quay.
To the tune of an old concertina
by the capstan that stands beside the quay.


Such trouble with our server. This is today's equivalent of you-can't-get- good-help.

I am going to make columns of lists, a forest of lists, stalactites of lists, just for the fun of it. Headings will be prejudices, envy, smells, cooking, likes, words, stories, plants, worries, projects and anything else which occurs to me.

I was tired last night after my day-on-a-ladder, so to help me sleep I looked through the Bartholemew Mini-Atlas I keep by the bed. Over and over I am surprised by the difference in looking at pictures or maps rather than reading, completely separate area of the brain, holiday for the chattering mind. The curious thing is that I haven't been to most of these places, but I have images of them, phantom smell and weather and atmosphere, phantom feeling. I shall never-never-never sail to 'Frisco but I am part of this earth and have links, however tenuous and subjective, with the whole world and every detail of it. As I get older my sense of self is more diffuse, more melting and changing, and it is a lovely feeling, I melt like buttah.

This is me:

Looking up the curious places
In his tattered atlas, too
Lands of jungle and of sun,
Ivory tusks and dusky faces,
Whence his latest treasure flew
Like a tropic moth, he thought,
To flutter round his dying lamp. . . .

It is better than it sounds.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Shining Hour, Improved

Today is earmarked for banging and crashing (putting up the ceiling), but in deference to Dee and Ed's sensibilities I don't whack until 10am, so here is how I have filled the time:
  • we had bacon and egg on the deck, watching the ducks and drinking coffee. I'm just sorry I didn't think to include mushrooms
  • read a hilarious post William forwarded to me, including the 192 comments. See it -
  • emailed, and sent my bathroom hacks to Ikeahacker
  • processed two loads of washing all the way to their drawers and hangers
Before I pull out the chop saw I want to record how much I am enjoying grinding through Robert Graves' Greek Myths II. I have just finished Jason and the Argonauts and am teetering on the brink of the Odyssey. So much I didn't know, I'm ashamed of myself.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


I should know by now that when I tackle some substantial project other things go undone, so why does it bother me that the kitchen is cluttered? The bathroom hall light too has parted company with the strange fibreboard of its ceiling and dangles from its wires like something from a scare movie. Swinging would add.

So, my happy home is irking me. Yesterday I cut and fitted most of the side battens for the horizontal joists, and boarded the apex of the gable to my satisfaction, but stopped at four and enjoyed a Triple Feature, of which the best by far was Brother, Where Art Thou? Since I can't work as hard as I used to in youth, I work cunning and enjoy the time left over. Nowhere in this formula is there time for straightening the kitchen, but there is time for cooking, so it is easy to see where the mess comes from. I look in the mirror and see my grandmother's face.

We are able to do something useful about the oil spill though, as we are filming rescued birds for WildCare this afternoon. So the ceiling can wait, and meanwhile I am enjoying my absolute favourites on iTunes.

Monday, November 12, 2007


I am having trouble with, partly because I don't understand how it works beyond bare basics, and partly because they seem to be having problems. It's a good concept, inconsequential remarks which don't demand an answer, muttering to oneself really. I can do that. It has more substance though when you feel it is possible someone will hear, and maybe even respond.

So now I share with the world my amusement that my lavender is blooming (November!). In fact many things are rallying and putting out new growth, because they have natural rain instead my watering, however dedicated, and it is still warm and light enough. It really tickles me.

I am doing a career management thingy of recording my strengths, not so much what I regard as my best abilities but the things that make me feel on top of it, pleased, rewarded, valid, useful, strong. Mistress of the Universe, actually. What if the answer were torture? Or, Food? When I am eating I feel totally validated, appreciated, in control, how is that for a sidetrack? Stuff working, just bring on the toast.

I am suspicious of feelings. How can we be objective about feelings? This sort of exercise has limited validity because there has to be an assumption of balance, rationality, objectivity which isn't necessarily there in the mix. Good enough for my purposes, but I hanker always after universality. One of my strengths.

And furthermore, my credo: beware what you pride yourself on. I can't think of a single virtue which doesn't need balancing, even balance.

I shall continue to think on this while installing the insulation.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


In a determined effort to be upbeat I have scarfed DLPA and l-tyrosine, a teapot of of my best jasmine tea and home-made biscuit, watched the reflections from the water dance on the ceiling, killed an annoying bluebottle and rubbed scent from a magazine on my wrist, rather nice, Prada's infusion d'iris, smells like old, good leather to me, undertones of frankincense.

Highlight of the day though was Rodeo Beach where we watched the oil mop-up - several chaps with spades, watched by a lot more - or so it seemed, I am probably uncharitable. It was closed but there were plenty of hikers and cyclists milling around on the headlands, plenty of gallows humour. The beach looked clear enough, but the rocks were crusted with oil. Bloody tanker.

I recommend Social Crimes, Jane Stanton Hitchcock.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Another sunlit upland valley of the mind, found at the Salvation Army: Phyllis Rose, Parallel Lives. These are stories of five Victorian literary marriages, and part of my pleasure is the overlap with History and English, long, long ago. Something of my adolescent love of study, tainted but true, filters through to the here and now sweetly purified by years in the granite and shale of my hinter mind.

I came home to an empty house, very unusual now, so turned on music and oven and made biscuits for the quarry, soup for an army, and laid out clamps, measures, saw and boarding ready to start on Stefan's ceiling, but the sun has at last come out so I might muddle happily in the garden, green and sprouting in Califoria's quirky false autumn-spring.

I have pleasure stored up for me too - Jazz Cleopatra: Josephine Baker In Her Time is waiting for me at the library. I have been reading too many novels of late, brought on by the authors lunches I suppose - another this Saturday. And eighteen chairs to cover for a new client.

Recommended film from our viewing last night is Knocked Up. Funny, true, bad-mannered.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Playing in the Sand

My favorites from yesterday. The driftwood was too big to cart home, but we found a wonderful wavy kelp whip to mount on Stefan's wall.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

And We Went Forth...

...onto Limantour Beach

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Record of Progress

Getting Heavy

Two mice yesterday, and droppings under the sink and in the cereal cupboard where stuffs are decanted into big Nonni Biscotti jars, thank heavens. I am beginning to feel like a mass murderer, and wash my hands repeatedly in luxurious fig soap, to the envy of Lady MacBeth.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Long Walking

William and I walked all over the Mission today,from Hayes Valley down to Dolores Park (Our Lady of Sorrows, but Francis of Assisi Mission - we didn't go in). Then down to MoMa, all five floors, and bus back to his place. We stopped for Refreshment quite often of course.

I have moved the big chair into my office for aesthetic reasons and am typing crabwise. It isn't working out. AT ALL.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

About Time

After all this time, I have removed the plate rack, replaced the rug and hung Loveday's picture properly in the hall, and it is all the way it should be.

Put up the lights in Stefan's room... put the correct stop on the pocket door. Silly, fiddly things that weren't bothering me half enough.