Wednesday, 29 March 2017

cutting the cake

When I tentatively suggested a big family picnic at Brentor on Mothering Sunday my brother and sisters got very excited and the whole project snowballed. I spent a lot of time imagining all the things that could go wrong but I shouldn't have worried - my family are picnic pros.

Five cars filled with aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents arrived at Brentor at the same time, a small miracle because one family drove up from Penzance and another family came down from Bristol. My father was given the task of scouting out the best place to sit and we all followed with armfuls of rugs, picnic hampers bursting with goodies and enough thermos flasks of coffee to set up a cafe.

We sat in the warm sunshine watching boy cousins climb on the rocks and girl cousins demonstrate their gymnastic prowess, sharing memories and enjoying each others company. Everyone had brought their favourite picnic food to share and so there was a feast of spinach quiche and salad, pasties, pork pies, baguettes and cheese, crunchy apples, flapjacks and party rings. At the end my mother cut her famous Dundee cake and for a happy moment it felt as though we had slipped back into our childhood.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

team photo

When your children are adults
the best gift of all is

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Wednesday 22 March

I arrived at London Waterloo yesterday afternoon intending to walk to the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square before returning to the South Bank to meet a friend and go to a concert in the Royal Festival Hall. It is a very pleasant stroll across the Jubilee footbridge looking down the river towards Westminster and I used to do it every day when I worked in London.

As my train approached the platform I could see that the entrance of St. Thomas's Hospital A&E was crowded with ambulances and police cars and that traffic was stationary on surrounding roads. The air was resonating with the sounds of sirens and helicopters and when I reached the South Bank I discovered that the whole site was taped off and that it would not be possible to walk across the river. Behind me a police van was shouting at pedestrians and telling them to clear the area.

These are the things that I saw and heard and my question to you is what would you do next if you were in my situation? Would you find another route across the river and continue with your plans for the evening or return to Waterloo, a crowded train station. How would you get information about the safest place to be?

I turned to Twitter and read on @BBCBreaking that the incident was in Westminster so my alternative route was out of the question. @MetPoliceUk were giving advice on roads that were closed and it was apparent that the incident was very serious with a large cordon around Westminster Bridge. There was no evidence of coordinated attacks in other parts of London but I checked @southbankcentre and saw that the site had been closed on police advice. @LPOrchestra quickly confirmed that the concert was cancelled and so I could make the decision to return home.

In contrast, my friend chooses not to have a smart phone or use social media and apps and I realised how vulnerable she has made herself by rejecting changes to the way that information is shared. She was dependent on other people before she could make decisions about the safest course of action and because reception for analogue phones is poor when everyone else is using their phones it was difficult for her to keep in contact.

I learned two things yesterday:

1. You do not know when you will be in a fast moving security situation. It could be a train station, a concert hall, an airport, a shopping centre. Think about how you would access information to keep yourself safe. In my experience Twitter is the quickest way to get information from reliable sources so it is worth investing time to become familiar with how it works.

2. Always have a fully charged back up battery for your phone in your bag. If areas are cordoned off or transport stops you may be using your phone for several hours and your family will need reassurance that you are safe.

I hope that you are never in a situation where this advice is helpful but please be prepared so that you can make informed decisions and stay in touch with your family.

This post is dedicated to those affected by the incident at Westminster on Wednesday 22 March and to the emergency services for their work protecting the people of London.

impossible blossom

Almond Blossom, 1890
Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890)

From Blossoms

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

Li-Young Lee

“From Blossoms” from Rose
Copyright © 1986 by Li-Young Lee
Source: Rose (BOA Editions Ltd., 1986)

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

blossom report

Prunus Incisa Kojo-no-mai

I can highly recommend taking photos of your garden first thing in the morning. It improves the mood. Especially if it is sunny. But only if there is no one to scold you for letting your porridge get cold.   

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

kimono envy

Girl in a Red Kimono
George Hendrik Breitner (1857-1923)

The Japanese Print
William Merritt Chase (1849-1916)

Lady with a Fan
Charles Sprague Pearce (1851-1914)

Richard Edward Miller (1875-1943)

The Japanese Parisian
Alfred Stevens (1823-1906)

The Silk Kimono
Lee Lufkin Kaula (1865 – 1957)

Woman in Kimono
Mary Brewster Hazelton

I will neither confirm nor deny that I have been researching antique kimonos with a view to purchase one of the aforementioned items. Any conversation that I might have had with MissM on the subject is entirely coincidental. Nothing can be inferred from the large number of images of kimonos on my laptop. MrM will testify that he is completely unaware of any intention related to imminent kimono purchase. 

Monday, 20 March 2017

virtual sushi

This is not my sushi but I'm going to claim some of the credit because we gave MissM the vouchers for the Waitrose Cookery School at Christmas. After a very enjoyable session at Finchley Road she is now a Grand Sushi Master with black belt and knots. Unfortunately I had to restrict myself to drooling over the photo because the sushi was consumed by MissM and her flatmates. MissM is fired with enthusiasm and has persuaded me to enrol on a breadmaking course with her. There will be photos of me looking hot and covered in flour in your future. You have been warned.

Friday, 17 March 2017


Never in doubt.

Thank you for your friendship this week. I'm going to be spreading compost on the garden because that is what Tracey the Boot Camp Gardener has decreed so you can be sure that whatever you are doing is going to be somewhere above me on the scale of Weekend Fun. Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, 16 March 2017

spring sunshine

Light Wash
Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009)
© The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens

It was sunny on my day off! I hung out the pillow cases and watched them blow on the washing line, drank a mug of coffee and listened to a blackbird in the holly tree, admired the dayglo pink camellia flowers, looked carefully at the green buds on the cherry tree, gloated over bold patches of daffodils by the summer house and thought briefly about cutting the grass before putting on my sunglasses and going for a spin in the car with the sunshine roof open. By the time I came home winter had left the building.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

emergency cake

There are days when comfort food is essential.
If you have given up chocolate for Lent
the only answer is cake.
Coffee cake.