Tuesday, 24 January 2017

positive self-talk

Amaryllis grew 3mm overnight.

Have calculated that the EDF (*Expected Date of Flowering) is 24 October 2017.

Am getting well ahead for Christmas 2017 decor plans.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Opus Anglicanum

Clare Chasuble (1272 - 1294)

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

It is Friday night at the V&A. The galleries are full of the bright young intelligentsia of London, a man who is the spitting image of Ai Wei Wei, and MrsM having a date night with MrM in the Opus Anglicanum exhibition

The exhibition is awesome in the original 'full-of-awe' meaning of the word. Exquisite embroideries which have survived for hundreds of years, lustrous materials in rich colours, delicate shadings of thread, shimmering gold accents. Most of the extant examples are church vestments which have been protected by ritual use and careful storage in huge cope chests or buried as funeral garb.

Two of the bright young things are walking around just in front of us and they stop in front of the Clare Chasuble and exclaim "This fabric came from Iran! In the thirteenth century! Isn't that absolutely mind blowing!" Everything about this chasuble is extraordinary: the blue-green satin fabric which must have travelled from Iran to England, the vibrant colours and sinuous silver embroidery, the lively characterisations of the figures, and the fact it has survived for over seven  hundred years.

It is almost certain that this chasuble was commissioned to commemorate the marriage of Margaret de Clare to Edmund, Earl of Cornwall in 1272. Margaret de Clare, aunt of Elizabeth de Clare who endowed Clare College, successfully sued for divorce in 1294 on the grounds of cruelty and then lived quietly until her death in 1312 when she was buried in Chertsey Abbey.

Many thanks to the fascinating Edward II blog for untangling the lives of the three Margaret de Clares.  

Friday, 20 January 2017


In a surreal moment I hear myself saying "Hello, I am enquiring about one of the pictures on your website - how much are you asking for the large stuffed antelope head on the red chair?".

Let's face it - I'm desperately hoping that MasterM doesn't have time to negotiate a deal because this is well outside my comfort zone. Just looking at the photo gives me the creeps. I do not want to be in the same room as that poor disembodied head. I have an unreasonable fear that I am going to be asked to collect it from the antique shop and drive home with those beady eyes watching me from the back seat.

I feel my role as MasterM's mother slipping uncontrollably into the scary paragraph at the bottom of the contract where it says "...and any other tasks that your line manager son considers to be consistent with your job description".

I think I need support from my union.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

a duty of care

Ard Daraich, a pink house under a hillside.

A house enveloped by layers of garden so that you are not sure where the house ends and the garden begins.

A house lived in, filled with beautiful things, soft at the edges.

A house that taught me that it is the attention to comfort that makes guests feel at home : warm beds, crisp sheets, comfortable chairs, candles on the breakfast table, a log fire waiting for you at the end of the day.

A house with a guest book composed of the laughter of other people who have passed through.

I try to pinpoint what it was that I loved about Ard Daraich and I see Norrie in his striped pinafore making porridge for our breakfast - so perhaps it is not the beds or the log fire after all, but a feeling that you are being cared for, a rare thing indeed. 

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

over the sea to Skye


Dunvegan Castle


In October we had a blissful week in Scotland driving from Edinburgh to Skye and then on to Fort William. It was perfect timing - the end of the tourist season so the roads were empty but the colours had started to change and at every turn the scenery was breathtaking. I didn't want to leave.

This selection of photos from our two days on Skye is for Karen at Cornflower because we had a very jolly evening with Mr and Mrs Cornflower in Edinburgh and this is my first blog opportunity to say thank you. Afterwards I received a letter from Karen in her exquisite cursive handwriting which says 'Haste ye back'. We will!

Tuesday, 17 January 2017


I did a little applique work over the weekend, sewing on MasterM's pips. It was not as easy as you might think because the embroidery is done on very thick black fabric so there was a minor finger injury and some unladylike language before I resorted to a thimble and tacking respectively.

It was odd to realise that I could not remember the last time I had threaded a needle and yet I used to sew for pleasure. Dressmaking, patchwork, embroidery and tapestry were once essential for my creative self-expression and now they are abandoned at the high water mark of another part of my life. My lovely friend Caroline, a keen needlewoman, would be shocked if she knew and encourage me to join a class or start a new project and perhaps I will but, right now, sewing on pips is enough.

Monday, 16 January 2017

burnt offering

MissM is taking her role as mentor very seriously. I have just received a message enquiring what my next recipe is in the 2017 Recipe Challenge. I had to admit that last night New Recipe #2 had started out as Pork Chops with Rosemary and Pears and ended up as carbon fibre.

MissM asks what went wrong. I explained that I should have cut the carrots into chunks so that they cooked at the same rate as the other ingredients, the recipe stated a high oven temperature which must have been a typo and finally it was a mistake to fall asleep in the bath while it was cooking. I promise to do better next time.

Friday, 13 January 2017

MasterM : Officer

Just before Christmas we attended the Sovereign's Parade at Sandhurst. It was the culmination of a year of training when MasterM and his fellow Officer Cadets paraded before the Duchess of Cornwall, representative of the Queen. 

We sat in the stand and felt so many emotions:

Surprise that MasterM had ended up applying to join the Army. Relief that he had made it through a tough year where he was challenged physically and mentally. Joy that we could be there with his sister and grandparents to watch and applaud. Gratitude that Master has ended up in a place which uses his gifts and experience. Astonishment at the gold braid, flags, trumpets and pageantry.

Meanwhile...what was MasterM feeling?

Anxiety that we would accidentally step on his polished boots.

Thursday, 12 January 2017


MissM says "How are you getting on with your resolution?" I look around, hoping that she is talking to someone else but there is no-one else in the car. I prevaricate and ask "Which resolution?" as though there is a long list. MissM is implacable "The one where you promised to make a new recipe every week" I laugh weakly "It's only a few days since the New Year..."

MissM helps me to understand how disappointed she is that I have failed already and asks me to message her with details of the first new recipe. "You will enjoy the challenge once you start" she promises.

I fry sausages and make lentil ragout. It is filling but brown,  I message MissM as requested - she keeps me honest, that one. Only 51 recipes to go. It's going to be a long slog. 

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

stretch and breathe

There is a day in January when it is all over. All the preparation and shopping and wrapping and cooking and eating and clearing up. You cannot predict when it will be but it was today. Not yesterday, first day back at work. Or the day before, MasterM and MissM go their separate ways. Or the day before that, the dismantling of the decorations. But today there was space to stretch out, breathe slowly and think of Spring. The empty days of January are ahead, uncluttered and tantalising. I think I shall go to the garden centre tomorrow and spend my Christmas money.