Saturday, March 31, 2007

hugs, beautiful grass, experience

Teen age girls greet each other in Calverley Park with screams and hugs.

I take some photographs of a spreading tree and its shadow, and then, on an impulse, with the macro on, get a close up of a daisy. "Beautiful grass!" says a watching girl, a satirical note in her voice.

Having used my notebook in yesterday's rain, I find that the page, where raindrops dampened it, has a battered, worn look. Furniture dealers call this sort of thing "distressed", when it is done intentionally to give an appearance of age. But the page of my notebook, now dried out with faint bumps and shadows is, to my mind, best described as experienced.

Friday, March 30, 2007

goodbye hernia, motoring, reading in the rain

The surgeon writes to my GP: "Your patient has done very well following surgery. He did not really need any analgesia. The wound has healed very nicely, the repair is sound. I have therefore reassured him that all is well and he does not have any restriction on his activities. He may lift!" And lift I will, for the first time in six months.

Behind me in the main walk in the Grove, I hear what sounds like a two-stroke engine behind me. It is raining hard. Sheets of water on the new, gravel tarmac reflect sepia images of trees and grey sky. It turns out that it isn't a motor. It's small boy in an anorak , hood up, on a scooter. The scooter is fitted with a device which makes it sound like a motor. He whizzes past. If I were small boy with a scooter, I would be made very happy by a device, which made my scooter sound like motor bike.

In the rain, I meet my neighbour Michael. We stop in a shop doorway. "What are you reading? " he ask. He too is reading Zola, Paris in his case; Le Ventre de Paris, in mine. We agree on Zola's technical excellence as a novelist. The rain drives down.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

feathers, portrait, leaf buds

Mist over the common this morning: the trees appear through it like feathers, soft and pale.

In the window of the picture framing shop are a variety of prints and reproductions. And one mirror. Or is it a portrait ? And if it is, of whom?

Watching leaf buds unfold. They are packed with power, charged with life. The compact, unfurled leaves of the horse chestnut look like the fingers of a clenched fist. The green is dazzling, lit by the power of rising sap. Leaves are lovely but buds are beautiful.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

fishcakes, research, ice cream van

Fishcakes made with a mixture of salmon and cod. The two fish side by side waiting to be cooked are a pretty sight - pink and white. And so are the finished golden brown fishcakes.

My friend, David comes to visit us. We walk up to Monson Road where his grandmother lived as a young woman, and look at the house, now occupied by newspaper offices where she lived. The times-they-are-a-changing, we think.

Across the Grove comes the sound of an icecream van announcing its arrival. In the jingle I detect Greensleaves.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

forsythia, grilling smells, worst meals

A single stem of forsythia appears in the middle of a dense lelandii (Cupressocyparis lellandii to gove it its proper name) hedge half way up Mount Sion. Lelandii is a notorious tree left untended in the suburbs. It grows tall and straggly and excludes people's light, but it is innoffensive in a hedge if kept pruned. Forythia, another feature of suburban gardens is a welcome sign of spring, showing its flowers before its leaves. It, too, can get untidy when it has flowered. But this combination is winning, a yellow flame in a green night.

Even a vegetarian might find that the smell of grilling meat, which comes to us this morning from a restaurant in the High Street, sharpens the appetite.

In the Pantiles, we bump into friends outside Ragged Trouser and, over a snack and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, talk about the worst meals we have ever had. Heidi remembers a peanut soup on the menu at a dinner party in America. Adrienne remembers choking over a dish of sea urchin eggs ( a delicacy I always thought). I enjoy the sunshine, but can't think of a "worst" meal, other than the 50-course banquet, which I once had to sit through in Hong Kong, and which was not so much bad as an embarras de richesse. A feature of it was braised turtle, which reminded me of a tortoise-shell dressing table set of my mother's. Only you had to suck the meat off. I donated it to my neighbour, a Hong Kong gastronome.

Monday, March 26, 2007

fire engine, beautiful thing, lost lake

In the window of a charity shop, I spot a battery-powered remote controlled fire engine with extending ladder. A note says: "It works." For a moment the figure 660, without a full stop after the first six, makes me think that this prodigious toy is priced at £660. But, no, says the lady in the shop, it's 660p. "My husband couldn't stop playing with it!" she says. I sympathise with him. But I decide, after some thought, to put away childish things.

Outside our house I meet a beautiful thing coming up Mount Sion. It is the wise and beautiful Clare Grant, who thought up the idea of noting three beautiful things every day, and has done so herself on her blog, for more than two years. She now lives round the corner from us. A strange and beautiful thing is that, when I first encountered her blog, I had no idea that she lived in the same town. Asked to guess where she lived, when I first read it, I would have said San Fancisico, New York or Sydney, so fresh and "new world" was the idea. Last year Saga magazine rightly listed her in its annual list of the nation's sapient talent.

I walk through the larger of our two local parks. It is called Calverley Grounds, and unlike most parks, has steep and picturesque slopes. A bandstand and a cafe sit in the middle. Once, in the dip between the slopes, there was an ornamental lake, fed by a stream. Both lake and stream are no more. But if you walk across the grass as I did today, there is mud on the grass where once the water of the lake must have lapped.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Dylan Thomas, insect wings, hoe,

Last night while I am brushing my teeth, I hear on Radio 4 the recorded voice of Dylan Thomas reading his poem And death shall have no dominion. It takes me back 60 years. I remember attending a reading by Dylan Thomas of his and other poems at the the Institiute of Contemporary Arts in London. I was still at school. It is his voice, not so much resonant as resounding, lyrical, liquid. No Welsh accent as such, but the rhythms and intonations are Welsh. He also read, or chanted is a better word, when I heard him all those years ago, the War Song of Dinas Vawr from Thomas Love Peacock's The Misfortunes of Elphin.
"The mountain sheep are sweeter
But the valley sheep are fatter.
We therefore deemed it meeter
To carry off the latter ..."
The Misfortune's of Elphin is a good humoured, ironic and witty romp in the Wales of the sixth century. It features magnificent, drunken revellers, war lords, and bards. This morning I go back to the book for the first time in 40 or 50 years and find that it is still as funny and charming as ever.
Here's an example at random:
Elphin and Teithrin stood some time on the floor of the hall before they attracted the attention of Seithenyn, who during the chorus was tossing and flourishing his golden goblet. The chorus has scarcely ended when he noticed them immediately and roared aloud: "You are welcome all four.
Elphin answered " We thank you. We are but two".
"Two or four," said Seithenyn, " all is one."

The sun picks out transparent wings as an insect dances on the window.

We are visited by the owners of a shop, which specialises in garden antiques and gardening and cookery books. They are interested in buying a jardiniere, for which we have no use. We agree a price and they say they will throw in an ancient but sturdy draw hoe, which I saw in their shop and had set my mind on. It will encourage me to keep my vegetables neat and weed free when this year's seeds appear.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

pomegranite, strapping son, tomato

I hope one day to track down the persian poem on a pomegranite, to which Lucy referred here last time I mentioned the fruit. I am reminded that poemegranites, in fact, originate in Iran, where they still grow wild today. They areused in persian cooking in poultry and game dishes. The fruit of the wild tree is apparently very sour. The fruit is mentioned in the Bible (Dueteronomy 8:8, and notably in the Song of Solomon). It is to be found, too, in Greek myth. Persephone, daughter of Demeter, goddess of fruit and fertility, was carried off to the underworld by its god Pluto. Persephone vowed not to eat, while in Pluto's kingdom. But she forgot, for a moment, and took a mouthful of pomegranite seeds. Rememembering her vow, she spat them out, all, that is, except six seeds. For the price of those six seeds, she had to spend six months every year with Pluto, but was allowed to return to this world for the remaining six. And she does return, of course, every year at about this time, bringing Spring and Summer with her.

My strapping son Toby has come to my rescue in the vegetable garden, neglected all winter as a result of my hernia. He has spent all day preparing the beds for sowing. Potatoes are now in the ground and salad leaves and lettuce are sown.

There is an expensive gardening shop in Chapel Place. It sells what look like hand-crafted garden implements and various items of gardening clothing, which seem to belong to movies of the 1930s - floppy hats and leather aprons, that sort of thing. This year, they are selling Italian seeds. I buy a packet of a plum-shaped tomato variety called Rio Grande, which I sow today in seed trays in the greenhouse, my first bit of gardening since my operation.

Friday, March 23, 2007

euphorbia, parrots, fragment

The pale yellow, almost green flowers of euphorbia (the common name of the wild variety is spurge) are appealingly understated. The little flowers are surrounded by petal-like bracts of the same colour. The overwheming impression is of freshness, a new start. I stop to admire them, where they grow in the triangular shrubbery (known locally as the village green) in Berkeley Road. They blossom modestly amid daffodils, crocuses, lesser celandine, and periwinkle, but still give a good account of themselves.

Tulips, with crinkley, close-knit petals and thick stems, called parrot tulips, are in the flower shops and on the stall by the station just now. The stall-holder calls them simply "parrots". As the flowers open, there is something a little naughty about them, like frilly knickers.

Two men pass me in the High Street, one with a scarf tied carelessly about his neck is telling the other: "So she said 'I'm married now with two kids' ...". They walk on in the opposite direction. There, I thought, goes a short story.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Wild garlic, lawn-mower, donkey

There is a stall selling wild garlic, otherwise known as ramsons, in the WI market this morning. The flowers are white and the leaves, long and pointed. Both the bulbs and the leaves are ready for gathering at this time of year. If you walk in the country where they grow, you often catch the savoury aroma before you see the plant. You can use wild garlic in salads or make a frittata with it.

For some years now there has been an old lawn mower standing under a hedge in the corner of a front garden near here. It seems to have rusted and merged into its surroundings so that you don't notice it often. It moves me somehow with a sense of fellow feeling.

Coming out of the news agent in Chapel Place I hear the immense, creaking sound of a donkey. When did I hear it last? In Cyprus, where some friends run a donkey sanctuary? Or in some village in Spain where donkeys were still used as beast of burden? Only it isn't a donkey. How could it be in Chapel Place, where the church of King Charles the Martyr and the book-lined frontage of Halls bookshop preside? No, some men are working on scaffolding above the sandwich bar next door to Halls, and the noise comes from a hoist at the top of the scaffolding, which is being used to raise cement in a black bucket.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

lamp posts, menus, chorus

I like the way the lamp posts in the Grove, lean at odd angles. They are of traditional design and their unstable appearance belongs to an age, where things did not have to line up and stand to attention. From the end of the main walk in the centre of the little park, you can see three lampost set up in a straight line. Each seems to lean a little more to the left.

People reading menus in a restaurant window have the same look of sharp intelligence that you see in dogs, when food is around.

The dawn chorus wakes me this morning at around 5 o'clock. One of my earliest memories is being woken by the din of bird song, when we lived in Forest Row, a village near East Grinstead, about 20 miles from where I live now. I was four at the time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

peeling, drops, mirrors

Pomegranites used to be a chore. Now, at at last, having worked out a way to peel them, I look forward to the job. You cut a pomegranite into quarters and try to follow the demarcations made by the pith. You will find that the fruit-encrusted seeds, each glowing like a ruby, are arranged in "pods" which cling together and are easy to separate without taking with them too much of the pith. It takes time, but the reward is to end up with a bowl full of shining, juicy seeds.

As I walk beneath a gutter, big drops of water overflow and fall at my feet. The sound is "pitter-patter", the sound which rain drops are supposed to make but normally do not, because gnerally they are wafted by the wind, when they seem to whisper, or fall without interruption with a continuous drumming.

There are mirrors everywhere in the sun after the rain. Drops or sheets of water on black railings, tarmac, brick pavements, branches of trees and shrubs, even on leaves waving in the wind, reflect the light. There is a dance going on, mindless, undirected, full of energy.

Monday, March 19, 2007

lady birds, sleet, leaf buds

Heidi keeps finding a ladybird on her writing desk. We think it is not always the same one.

A sleet shower: ice cold needles in the wind.

You can see the leaf buds of a horse chestnut tree on the common from the other side of the road. They glow like eco-friendly electric light bulbs.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Little Red Riding Hood, kite, soap likenesses

Between times I am reading fairy stories as told by Charles Perrault. I had forgotten that Little Red Riding Hood had come to a sticky end. Perhaps the story they told me was bowdlerised. But I recall her as a streetwise child, who made her escape, when the wolf, with the intention of making a meal of her, invited her to join him in her grandmother's bed. I may have passed this weak ending on to my own children. I hope not. Perrault's story ends this way:
"Grandmother, what big eyes you have!"
"All the better to see you with, my child"
"Grandmother, what big teeth you have!"
"They are to eat you with!"
And with these words, the wicked wolf threw himself on Little Red Riding Hood and ate her."
No nonsense there.
But I do have a soft spot for James Thurber's version of the story. It ends: "So the little girl took an automatic out of her basket and shot the wolf dead", to which he adds the moral: It's not so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be".

A father with two small children, a kite and a camera, attempts to fly the kite, keep the children happy and take photographs of happy children flying a kite. I'm not sure that he succeeds but I enjoy the way he persists.

I have a weakness for soap operas, and an ailment which arises from it. I keep seeing people who remind me of characters from East Enders. They are not necessarily of the same age or sex as the characters; it may be a way of walking, a hair-do, or a set of features, which puts me in mind of the soap. Today I see a baby in a pram, who is the image of Tracey Slater, a bright but troubled teen-ager, with a sharp tongue. She has a disdainful expression most of the time with her mouth turned down and her lower lip scornfully curled. This baby is probably six months old, and as I look at it, it stares back with that knowing, penetrating look that babies have, bold and full of knowledge and intelligence. It looks at me, this child, full of scorn, its features frozen in contempt.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

laughter, jackets, teenagers

As I approach the Grove Tavern, I hear a man laughing energetically. He is still laughing as I draw closer. He is laughing into a mobile phone. "You're giving me a stomach ache, now", he says into the phone. The laughter continues. "Ye er," he says. And goes on laughing and laughing.

Calverley Park this warm, blowy, Saturday afternoon is blossoming and budding not just with flowers and leaves but with teenagers. They sit in circles on the grass, lounge on benches, kick footballs. The girls shriek, the boys shout. The rite of Spring.

A board advertises the Calverley Park Cafe. I read: "Breakfast, Home-made Soup, Jackets etc." How long before potatoes cooked in their jackets and filled with various stuffings will be universally know as "jackets"? Please note Oxford English Dictionary!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Pencil, greetings, curiosity

I like my pencil with an eraser at one end. Press the eraser-end and you extend the lead. Twist the barrel and the eraser extends.

The style of greeting seems to be changing. I've noticed it for some time. A passing neighbour today says: Hullo, Joe. Are you alright? I reply "Yes. You?" Sometimes people say just: "Alright?" to which one smiles or nods and replies: "You?" Not so long ago, the more usual exchange used to be "How are you?" And regardless of the facts:" Very well, thank you? How are you?"

The houses round here are mostly Victorian or of an earlier period, have small gardens and are close together. Curiosity, meanwhile, is an ailment of someone looking for interesting or beautiful things. Through a hedge, I spot something unusual. It looks like a life size sculpture of a big, brown chicken. It moves, and I realize that it is a live chicken; it walks with the jerky, acquisitive, movement that birds have when they are on the lookout for worms.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

food, fairy story, another ball

I have started to read Le Ventre de Paris by Emile Zola. Anyone who loves food markets will love the detailed and colourful description with which this book opens. An escaped convict arrives in the Les Halles food market of Paris soon after its completion in the 1870s. Starving and almost dead from exhaustion, he is been given a lift by a market gardener, while it is still dark. Her horse-drawn cart is stacked with carrots, cabbages and turnips. Left to himself amid the mounting piles of every variety of foodstuff, in the flickering light of oil lamps and the din of vehicles and traders, he is befriended by an artist, who is captivated by the atmosphere of the market, and knows all its corners. I mark this passage because it sets the scene so well. "His stomach gripped by hunger, Florent, heard the enthusiastic words of the artist. It was clear that Claude, was not thinking at all of the beautiful things as nourishment. He loved them for their colour".

Memories stir as a result of an email from someone whom I haven't seen or heard of for, it must be 4o years. It takes me back to the time when I was working on an engineering magazine called Mechanical Handling. We occupied offices in a little road off Covent Garden in London called Bleeding Heart Lane, and we were looking for a temporary secretary. The agency sent Vivian, as I recall, a slight girl, with long, straight, black hair and a very white complexion. Because we were desperate from someone of her caliber, and because she came from so far away and looked so amazing, she seemed like something out of a fairy tale. She was Canadian, and it turned out that she had missed her plane home from Heathrow. Because her ticket was for a chartered flight, she had no means of getting home. For the next few months she earned the money for her fare, and we had the benefit of her hard work and friendship. She reminds me, in her email, that she, her brother and a friend of her brother spent Christmas day with me and my family.

In another tree in the Grove, another football hangs among the branches almost at the top.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

tears, balloon, three babies

I commiserate with my friend Hedley, whom I meet in the Grove, about Wales' s recent loss in rugby. It is an emotional business for the Welsh. "There were tears in my tea," he says, and then refers to the match on Saturday when Wales plays England. "It will be singing and tears," he says.

Pigeons circle the clock tower above the station. Something seems to detach itself from the flock. It is a small red balloon. It rises steadily into the sky, passes over the High Street, rides against a soft, grey cloud, and disappears.

A woman pushes a set of triplets down Mount Pleasant. They face her, one behind the other, in a special push chair, with seats in a straight line. A man comes out of Wagamama with some women. "Three babies!" he says with an enthusiastic Scottish accent.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

retrieved, harmonica, unbelievable

One of the two footballs stuck up the tree in the Grove has been retrieved. But the other remains immovable on a high branch. I shall watch it with interest until, unless it is rescued, it is hidden by leaves.

Going through a drawer of my desk, I come upon a minute Hohner harmonica. It is not quite four centimeters wide, but has four holes making an octave, (you blow in and out for successive notes). I am far from musical and sing out of tune. But I have always managed to get a tune of sorts from a harmonica. I like particularly its melancholy twang. This one was given to me by the great Larry Adler, whom I met and a lunch party, a good many years ago. It came in a little cardboard box with his name printed on it. Alas, I no longer have the box. It is amazing how much sound, to my ears, reasonably tuneful, such a small instrument can produce.

The way we talk about the weather rather like the way we drink tea has a quirky ceremony about it. I pass a neighbour pushing her shopping trolley in the sunshine. " I can't believe this," she says.

Monday, March 12, 2007

tune-less singer, high balls, pumpkin seeds

There is a man who walks through the town singing in a peculiar, tuneless manner, not proper songs, but, it seems, songs composed of whatever comes into his head. I hear him in the Grove before I see him. I look in the direction of the sound, and there he is. He is carrying an orange bag, and, as he crosses the main walk of the park, performs a little, rhythm-less dance. Nobody takes any notice of him. And he doesn't mind, because he seems completely self-absorbed.

Three boys are trying to dislodge a football lodged in the branches of a tree. They kick or throw another football at it in order to knock it down. As I watch their unsuccessful attempts, I notice yet another football stuck in some branches even higher up the same tree. Will they fail in their attempts, and lose the third ball up the tree? I make a note to check the number of balls in the tree the next time I walk past.

In the Pantiles, we drink big glasses of Sancerre in the warm sunshine and nibble grilled and spiced pumpkin seeds.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

lampost climbers, racket, conversation

Yesterday evening I watch three schoolboys climb a lamp post against a wall at least seven foot high. They walk on the wall and sit there for a while, kings of the castle. The lamp post, one of those installed a few years ago, swings wildly like a tulip that has just been assaulted.

This morning there is a vast racket overhead. A helicopter hovers low over the rooftops for a couple of minutes, then drifts slowly sideways, before flying off in an easterly direction. It could be a scene from a movie, though, in a movie there would be some outcome.

There is an elderly gentleman whom I pass occasionally and often see in Halls bookshop. He wears a deerstalker hat. Today, for the first time, we greet one another in the Grove (this is Tunbridge Wells, where it takes years before you acknowledge the presence of people you often see but don't know). We pass the time of day pleasantly and exchange notes on various ailments. He laments the absence of conversation, nowadays. I concur. We have a conversation. I say that I hope it will be taken up on future occasions. He agrees. We each pursue our constitutional.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

light bulb, book, mug of tea

I saw the other day, as though they were acting out a formula joke, three men changing a light bulb in the Pantiles.

A book, Sergei Aksakov's Russian Gentleman, which I ordered a couple of days ago from one of Amazon's registered dealers arrives today in a neat package with a note: "Hope you enjoy the book." I will, Iknow.

There is an an interview with the Japanese writer Masahiko Fujiwara in today's Financial Times magazine. 'In England,' the interviewer says 'he had been shocked to see esteemed professors slurping tea from their mugs. "We have tea ceremony. Everything we make into art."' I have always admired the charm and restraint of the Japanese tea ceremony. But, as much as I admire it, I don't think I could could could cope with it for long. The very thought disturbs me. So I make myself a mug of tea and slurp it, a biscuit in the other hand, with the smug contentment of one who has long practiced the English tea ceremony.

Friday, March 09, 2007

eye at the door, medical prose, shaking

This morning, as I pick up the paper from under the letter box, I see a blackbird on the hedge. He is watching me, with one curious eye, through the panelled glass of the front door.

Medical matters generally leave me cold, or uneasy. But I am taken with the prose in the letter, which the surgeon wrote to my GP after he operated on me on Tuesday. It strikes me as precise, succinct and unambiguous, as good prose should be. So, although I understand so little of it, I feel I should share it, if only on account of its elegance.:
"I operated today under local anaesthetic attending to his left inguinal hernia. I found a large indirect sac and a small, laterally placed, direct one as well. I have divided and high ligated the former and inverted the latter, I have carried out a Lichtenstein tension free hernioplasty with light-weight open weave Ultapro mesh between the conjoint tendon and inguinal ligament. There are no problems with the procedure and he is due home later the same day.

On the steps of the Down Town Fish Bar, the fish and chip man, flirts with the girl in the car workshop opposite. He sings and perform a little dance: "I'm available.. " he says. "You're shaking my baby ... you can dance with the guy, who gave you the eye."

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Light patterns, cyber friends, cobwebs,

The sunlight comes through the window and creates patterns on the wall and on books in the shelves.

The pleasure of receiving good wishes from people, cyber friends in particular, who are in touch because of remote but true affinities. Who would have thought that a reference here, the other day, to sweet onions from Roscoff in Brittany could have forged a link with a langauge teacher, poet and photographer who lives in that part of France? Look at

Lots of cobwebs today. As they move in the wind and catch the sun, they look like fine shafts of light flying through the air.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Professor, Aksakov, Venice

It was flattering to be greeted at the hospital, where I was operated on yesterday, as Professor Hyam. Perhaps my life took a wrong turn, or I have forgotten some earlier distinction. It is also good to come home on the same day.

My friend Anna asks me to track down a nineteenth century Russian writer, now little known, called Sergei Aksakov. His best known book is a memoir called Family Circle, published in 1856. I hadn't heard of him. I enjoy doing this kind of research.

"Take it easy", they say. So I go to Venice, with the help of one of Donna Leon's, detective stories, all of which are set in Venice. I pick on Death at La Fenice, in which a famous conductor is murdered in his dressing room in the opera house. It is Leon's first book - I think I have read most of the others. It is not her best, but it's still good to explore the cold, damp alleys and courtyards of the city at a time of year when tourists are absent.

Monday, March 05, 2007

applause, correcting, haiku

Pigeons rise in a small flock from a roof top. Their wings clap like a burst of applause.

I tend to do my daily sudoku with a pen. This makes me all the more careful not to make mistakes, and adds a little spice to the game. But if I do make a mistake there is correction device called Pritt, which rolls a thin film of quick-drying correcting material over the error. A cheat's last resort.

I have a little book of Haiku by Basho, one of the great Japanese masters of the form. Although haiku are generally written in lines of five, seven and five syllables (seventeen in all), because these are translations, and probably quite literal, they are presented in even briefer lines. eg
From the heart
of the sweet peony
a drunken bee.
I would not like to think that this absolves those who attempt haiku in English from the classical seventeen syllable form. Bit I do think that the staccato sound of the shorter lines does have a charm of its own probably closer to the Japanese sounds.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

eclipse, salt, raindrops

Last night I watch as the shadow of the earth gradually covers the full moon. At about 11 pm, the entire moon looks like an orange, just a hint of silver at the permimeter.

While they are carving some serrano ham for me at Sainsbury's delicatessen counter, a man standing beside me says: "I can't eat that because of the salt. I can't eat salt". I realize that he is the same man who made this observation at the same counter a few months ago, while admitting to a fondness for Spanish ham. I say: "We've had this conversation before." "Yes," he says, "we have". Groundhog day?

I like looking at raindrops hanging from leaves and branches. They seem to contain the universe.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

new angle, brightness grows, rules of argument

From Eden Road there is a point where you can look across at the weather board clock tower and cupola of the church of King Charles-the-Martyr. You usually look up at them from below, in the Pantiles or Chapel Place. Here you are almost on a level with them, and they looks so different that, for a moment, you cannot place them. When you do, you appreciate them all the more for their elegant architecture, set against the slopes of the Common.

In the Farmers' Market in the Pantiles today, there are stalls bright with daffodils, polyanthus and primroses in pots. Their brightness sprouts in the sun under the striped covers of the stalls.

A few minutes spent with Montaigne this afternoon are rewarding. On the education of a child he says, with particular aptness, when you consider how poorly people, politicians in particular, engage in argument nowadays: " Let him be made fastidious in choosing and sorting his arguments and fond of pertinence, and consequentially, of brevity. Let him be taught above all to surrender and throw down his arms before truth, as soon as he perceives it, whether it be found in the hands of his opponents or in himself through reconsideration."

Friday, March 02, 2007

goose, crocuses, rosemary

From a bench in front of the Crown at Groombridge, I spot some Canada geese grazing in the field by the lake. One stands still with its neck stretched up, on the look out.

Crocuses appear, little explosions of colour - purple, yellow, white. Close up you see the orange stigmas. From one variety of crocus, Crocus sativa, the stigmas, separated from the flower, become the world's most expensive spice.

Rosemary shows off its pretty, blue flowers. Small, among the green spikes of the leaves, they have the blue of Mediterranean skies.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Surprise, welsh rarebit, catikins

It was a pleasant surprise to find that it was already March 1 today. March sounds so much more hopeful than February.

Welsh rarebit rather than toasted cheese. An easy recipe is to mix cream cheese with grated cheddar, a spoonful of mustard, an egg and, if you like, a little beer. You can also add a drop of Worcester sauce. Spread the mixture on the untoasted side of slices of bread which have been toasted on the other side. Return to the grill , cheese side up, until the mixture begins to bubble and go brown.

Passing the triangular shrubbery in Berkeley Road, known locally as the "village green, I imagine I see drooping leaves on a hazel tree, to realize quickly that they are long catkins dangling there - lambs' tails as in Little Bo Beep