Wednesday, September 30, 2009

memory, the young, Dodgeball

Posted by PicasaHoliday memories will continue for some time. ...And Heidi stole an hibiscus for my birthday - from the swimming pool, and presented it in a tooth mug.
The proprietor of the convenience store says he is short of staff: "Holidays and illness, silly things like that" he says. " Youngsters don't work like we used to. They've got too much going for them. The want a pair of shoes; see a pair in the shop for £100 and then buy it. It comes too easy." I had thought of him as an amiable young man. But, perhaps, encouraged, a little mischievously by me, he is making grumpy, old man's conversation. It catches up with all of us I suppose.
Trying catch up with magazines and the like, I note an article by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London. He is describing a visit to New York to promote London. He says that while in New York, he is asked for his views on our National Health Service. "My strong instinct, " he writes, "is to swerve. As the man says in Dodgeball - the world's greatest ever film - dodge, dip, duck, dive and dodge." That's what politician's do isn't? How neatly expressed! I haven't seen Dodgeball, but I think I'll ask for it at the video shop, even if it doesn't turn out to be the world's greatest film

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rusinol, stealing, routine

Posted by PicasaSantiago Rusinol (1861 -1961) writer and painter, at the foot of whose memorial stray cats (see yesterday's post), for whom kind people regularly provide bowls of food, set up home.
I steal, for Heidi the deep red, (blue when first in bloom), flower of a hydrangea, which protrudes over the front garden fence of a house in Mount Sion. Seen close to, the burgundy florets are tinged with green, and calming to contemplate.
Routine is something that applies to children and old people and is intended to shelter them from shocks and surprises. So I prefer to talk about patterns of behaviour when it concerns me and others of my age. There is no doubt that at home and on holiday our days follow certain patterns. Looking back on our holiday I like to dwell on our schedule if that is not too inflated a word. First thing: Raise the Persian blind to see what the sky and sea are doing. Spend a few minutes breathing in the salt air and watching early risers walking beside the sea or performing exercises on the sand.Item 2 Go down two flights of stairs to the swimming pool, which invariably we have to ourselves. Item3 Breakfast on the sea front from the hotel's generous buffet, including its first class coffee. Item 3 Walk to the shops for a paper (International Herald Tibune for Heidi, El Pais for me). Stop for a coffee or, latterly a frshly squeezed orange juice at a bar. Item 4 Return to hotel, change for the beach. Swim again, walk up and down, watch people and the waves running up the sand. Item 4 Go for lunch at one of two bars where tapas are served. Watch the sea while picking at such delicacies as pescaditos (whitebait) and almejas (clams), return to the hotel for siesta and reading. Item 5 Coffee or tea and then back to the beach for another swim and the pleasure of the afternoon and evening light. Item 6 Back to the hotel for more reading. Item 6 Dinner at one of two restaurants where the fish and crustacea are fresh and usually grilled on the plancha. No culture, note. Just a few days of self-indulgence to remember.

Monday, September 28, 2009

cats, storms, on time

Posted by PicasaApart from surrounding the statue of the painter and writer, Santiago Rusinol , a little garden opposite the sea, has become a refuge for cats. Generally they are the sort of cats, which people would not choose to keep as pets. Nevertheless cat lovers are happy to leave bowls of food and water, which suffice to keep the cats comfortable. However the demands on space in this garden are substantially reduced by competing cat lovers. Some people, who own holiday apartments at the other end of the sea front, are cat lovers before all else, and have at any one time, as many as 40 cats on their premises. So much do they love cats that they admit, that on once occasion they flew an old cat of theirs to Switzerland for medical treatment at a cost of £25 000.
"You must have had terrible weather," says a neighbour, whose son has just returned from holiday in Majorca, which is not very far south off Sitges and Barcelona . He is complaining of constant storms. We say that we saw the storms at sea and on the horizon, but rarely if ever felt their effects. We saw the play but did not take part in it.
In the period of my life when I had staff to manage, I hit on the idea, tongue in cheek, of setting the time of meetings to the minute but not on the hour or quarters of an hour. Now I find that I have an appointment at the doctor's surgery for a flue jab at precisely 4.39 pm. It's a good idea because it gives the impression of urgency and of a busy schedule; and perhaps ensures that feckless patients remember to show up.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

preparations, ET, bay

Posted by PicasaBefore the fiesta.
I read today that there is an international agreement, which prevents scientists from replying to an extra-terrestrial signal, unless they agree that to respond is a good idea. This is apparently the work of an organisation called SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). Science fiction has flooded us with stories of extra-terrestrial invasions by usually sinister aliens. So such precautions are understandable. On the other hand, curiosity combined with a profound longing not to be alone in the universe, would be hard to overcome in the event of a signal being detected. But, where would the possibility of intelligent connections lead? World politics are bad enough. Imagine, as science fiction already has, the reality of inter-terrestrial politics. The only benefit of some sort of threat might be that the raggle-taggle human race might be persuaded to forget its squabbles and disagreements, and unite in defence of the Earth or what's left of it that is worth saving. For myself, I have always been on the look out for a signal and always will be.
The bay tree which we cut down in May is fighting back. The tree surgeons promised to poison the stump but forgot, and I was reluctant to remind them. But on returning from holiday we find the shoots at the side of the stump are threatening to become a bush and, before long, a light-excluding tree, so I set to work with the secateurs. There is no shortage of bay leaves. The aroma is heady and makes me think of casseroles.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

edge, carnations, coincidence

Posted by PicasaNothing spectacular about the jetsam at the edge of the sea at the moment, but one shell where the tide leaves it, suffices as a statement and a memory.
Alberto Bigaire, the proprietor of the Costa Dorada restaurant, where we often eat, sits at a table by the door, where he has a good view of the tables outside the restaurant. He says, unlike some of the other bar owners and restaurateurs affected, that the the new traffic-free sea-front has meant more business. I point out that he seems to be alone in believing this. Others have said that especially at lunch time, business has been down. "I have better food and better waiters, " he says. I believe him, and when, on our last day, he asks me to telephone a carnation nursery in England to confirm an order - he is a keen gardener, and arranges flowers from his garden on the lunch tables every day - I interpret with some satisfaction, though not a lot of skill. I like being involved even in small way with a restaurant in a town which we have become fond of over the years.
On the plane going home, I strike up a conversation with a man with an Australian accent who is sitting next to me. He and his wife are on their way, as part of a five week visit to Europe, to spend some time in the South east of England. "Where I ask will you make for first?" "A little place called Tunbridge Wells, "he says. "You don't live there?" he adds, when I laugh with pleasure at the quality of his choice.

Friday, September 25, 2009

storm clouds, consuming, rosemary

Posted by Picasa The days are for the most part fine, and forecasts of thunder storms are proved correct only as a frequent spectacle enacted over the sea.
From the swimming pool, swimming slowly on my back, I watch through the foliage a man eating and drinking. on a balcony. All I can see is his hand and his face. I watch as he raises his hand with something to eat and then raise some sort of cup to his lips. Suddenly eating, that most common of activities, seems a curious one, and I watch fascinated as if I were seeing it for the first time.
On the sea front are two gardeners who have the pleasant job of planting rosemary round the base of date palms. At least I think it is rosemary and bend down to pinch a spray, which as I smell the aromatic leaves, I know for certain that it is.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Santa Tecla, fireworks, poor,

Posted by PicasaDuring the Fiesta of the local patron saint, Santa Tecla, on September 24, figures of "the King and Queen" and other characters are brought out of the town hall. There is dancing and raucous music, fire cracker explosions and a big parade through the town.
The previous night at 11 pm there is a fireworks display outside the church of Santa Tecla and Saint Bartolomew. We watch from our balcony as rockets turn into giant palms, which slowly unfold and collapse, the sky drenched in showers of golden seeds. The bell tower of the church stands out against a sky, which glows brightly from time to time like slow lightening, and fades in wreathes of smoke. To the sound of harmless but ear-shattering explosions, we think of that terrible phrase, "shock and awe".
Out friend Artur tells us about a mutual acquaintance, a Swiss man who married a local girl. He has lived in Sitges for a long time. Apparently when he was first married he complained that his wife's father, a prosperous man, rode about the town in ragged clothes in order to give the impression of being poor. Now many years later he himself is seen riding an old bicycle and looking as though he is barely above the poverty line, though we know that his wife owns a great swathe of property facing the sea.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

models, walkers, shower

In the late afternoon someone is taking publicity shots of some models at the edge of the sea. There are two models - a young man and a young woman. The man wears white trousers and the girl a long white dress. The man is up to his knees in shallow water, the girl is lying in the water. The photographer assisted by a girl with note pad calls for different postures. The girl is soaked and there is wet sand all over her dress. An hour later, having adopted various poses, hand in hand or embracing, they are still at it. The sun is getting lower. The models must be getting cold. I find myself hoping that they are paid well.

Three dog walkers stop to talk to one one another. Their little dogs strain at their leashes in different directions. Sometimes they bark at one another. Sometimes they bark at other dogs walking past, who are lucky enough to be led by more active humans.
We have chosen the right table although we did not anticipate rain. Before the torrential shower arrives, the sea changes colour and white horses appear within only a few minutes. Then down comes the rain and suddenly everyone is running for shelter including a group of school children on a school outing. We are dry under an awning but the children have to cluster like cackling chickens under the umbrellas intended to keep off the sun rather than downpours. They gnaw their picnic lunches while we pick at our tapas. It is a piece of theatre we don´t expect but which adds depth to the pleasures of a full day.Uniform weather would be boring. Soon the sun is out again and we stroll back to the hotel in its warmth while the waves break on the sand beside us.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

birthdays, old love, free

Suddenly everyone seems to have or be about to have a birthday. Yesterday, in the little supermarket round the corner, one of the owners announces that it is her birhday. Embrazos all round even with strangers such as ourselves. Today I read that Marja-Leena´s daughter has been celebrating her birthday on the 19th. My grandaughter, too, has a birthday on September 19 which this year, her sixteenth, her Mother celebrates by taking her to Paris for the weekend.
We first encounter the elderly gentleman on the ramp leading to the beach. "Look," says Heidi to me indicating a stream of vintage cars, with a special licence to parade on the pedestrianised seafront. "There´s an MGB" Heidi says. "You see them all the time in England," the gentleman barks, with distinctive military intonations, "but I suppose they´re rare enough in Spain." He wears a bushy military moustache and has a pink face. We decide to call him the brigadier. Later the same day, we watch him and his wife wade out to sea, take a dip, and stand around beyond the breakers, without making much attempt to swim. She must, like him, be in her seventies, with a figure one might describe as mature rather than plump, and a pretty face, a former English rose. Later still, as the sun goes down, they have the beach more or less to themselves and stand by the sea their arms round each other´s waist. They stand close together and gradually enter into a long gentle embrace.
This morning from the balcony I hear a clatter and see a man dump on the pavement a collapsed inflatable tent. He kneels down beside it and, squeezing out the remains of the air, rolls it up and folds it until it fits into its cylindrical pack. He is wearing shorts, trainers and a loose jacket. He is clean-shaven with untidy but not long or noticibly unkempt hair. He wears a wrist watch. He is in his forties. He goes down to the beach and returns with a rucksack, to which is attached a rolled sleeping bag. He straps the tent to the rucksack, removes his jacket, secures that to the rucksack, and slings the lot onto this shoulders. Down the seafront he goes, a free spirit.

Monday, September 21, 2009

vibrations, mat, exercise

I put my hand on the top of rail of the new aluminium railings above the half moon beach (about 300 metre long) and feel gentle and continuous vibrations. I realize that they must come from the breaking waves, communicated via the sand and the sea-wall into which the railings are set. It occurs to me that the railings might serve as some kind of musical instrument which reacts to the waves as an aeolian harp reacts to the wind.
We watch as a gust of wind sweeps a beer mat off a neighbouring table and rolls it upright and supported only by random currents of air for longer than we think possible. Finally the living wheel becomes a beer mat again, flat and lifeless on a manhole cover.
Every year there are different people exercising on the sea front. This year is notable for a tall girl who, every morning, uses the the new railings as an exercise bar. Standing on one leg and hanging onto the rail with one hand, she hold her other hand at head height and with her free leg kick up to reach it. This feat performed, keeping both legs straight and her feet slightly apart, she bends repeatedly and reached forward to touch the ground with the palms of her hands.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

forecast,sunbeds, jogger

Weather forecasts are nearly always a waste of time. Weather is interesting in itself and it seems preferable to wait and see what happens rather than to worry or become complacent about what might happen. Since our arrival here, the forecast along the entire length of this coast has promised overcast skies and thunderstorms. In fact we have lovely days of sun with sufficient cloud only to relieve the monotony. There has been one magnificent thundertorm at night following a display of lightening over the sea during the evening (See and earlier post). But the best is the drama brought to the daytime sky by stacks of cumulus on the horizon and mountainous arrangements of cloud overhead through which the sun invariably pours down. Beside all this the symbols for lightening (zigzag in a circle) or for cloud ( black cloud shape) in the media forecasts, are grossly innacurate.
This morning, a sturdy girl arranges a line of sunbeds on the sand. She collects two at a time from the vertical stack where they are secured at night. She pats the bright blue canvas of each bed, and holding one in either hand, transports them to the line. Soon the sunbathers (neither of us is or will be so inclined) will soon arrange themselves, like pork chops, suitably oiled and seasoned, as for the barbecue.
A woman jogs past in appropriate trainers, tee shirt and shorts. In one hand is a plastic bottle of water. In the other is a leash at the end of which lopes, a little ahead of her, a jogging alsation, or German shepherd.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

faces and places, dogshow, soap

Coming back to the same town every year, you notice changes in topography and in the faces of the people you meet. The disappearance of cars from the sea front and the new paving which extends up hill to the church and cemetery changes the atmosphere almost entirely for the better, allowing an uninterrupted view of waves breaking on the sand a few yards away from the front of the hotel where we have breakfast and from our balcony. Changes in the contours of faces is slighter but still apparent (a reminder of how one´s own face must have noticeably changed in the course of a year. Some look thinner, the result of exercise or dieting or both; some look plumper; all look a little older. Some shoulders of people older than us are more bowed; some legs move more slowly. But these changes unlike the topographical changes are not for dwelling on. You note them and look up at the ever changing, unchanging sky.
Sitges is not a smart town, not a place where you have to worry about what you wear or don´t wear. But one feature which strikes you as you watch passers by on the sea front is the variety of their dogs. "It´s like Crufts," says Heidi. And indeed we count the breeds in the daily parade in front of the small bay. Of those we can identify we have noted at least one borzoi, bulldog, bassett hound, scottie, West Highland terrier, Yorkshire terrie, Pomeranian, chiuaua, labrador, dalmatian, schnauzer, various spaniels and other breeds or blends which we couldn´put a name to.
In the gents in our favourite restaurant, I put my hand under the soap dispenser, and behold the soap appears on my waiting palm, which has made contact with nothing, its release dependent only on the proximity of my hand. A piece of technology, which somehow makes you feel cosseted.

Friday, September 18, 2009

lights, footsteps, espresso

Barcelona airport is just down the coast. You don´t notice the aircraft during the day, probably because the flight path is quite high and over the sea and so consistant that you become used to them. But at night, still apparently silent, the planes are only identifiable by their navigation lights. Soundless spirits gliding among the dark clouds and pools of stars.
From our balcony I watch a tall girl in tee shirt and shorts, with a bouncing tail, running barefoot over the wet sand at the edge of the sea. She leaves footprints but they soften and quickly vanish in her wake.
There´s an espresso coffee machine in the breakfast room of a type which I have seen advertised but always eschewed because of the cost of running it. You feed it with cartridges, one for each cup, press a button and your waiting cup is filled with a perfect stream of hot espresso. Extra boiling water can be added from a separate station. Expensive it must be, but the quality of the coffee compares favourably with what we became used to in previous years dispensed from a big thermo flask.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

waves, benches, swallows

Nights, the waves´ whisper
Leave tokens, on the smoothed sand,
Of stolen cargoes.
New benches, which they have fixed on the sea front, are flanked by single "arm chair" benches set at an angle at either end. This avoids the discomfort of three or more people, who wish to converse, sitting on a bench in in a straight line. A thoughtful and sensitive piece of design.
This year again swallows, just a few, swoop over the sea after insects, as I have noticed while swimming only once in previous years.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

change, tracks, reading

Change is often a problem for the elderly. I for one don´t mind it. Hence the pleasure of being on holiday. No Archers, no Eastenders, no BBC News, no Sainsbury´s and above all, no Stasi type British Government surveyance. Big poster advertisments at Gatwick urging travellers to help catch "benefit cheats", ie to shop them if you know any, makes me glad to be saying goobye, albeit for a few days, to the land of hope and glory. A feeling reinforced by the knowledge that about half the adult population are now potentially suspect child abusers, unless they pay to clear their names by checking them against criminal records (ie they are considered guilty until they are proved innocent, which contradicts one of the great, as I thought, irreducible principles of the English Common Law).
Here there is no change where it matter. For example there is a computer which guests can use on the reception desk. But change there is, and for the better: the road between the hotel and the sea has been replaced by paving for pedestrians only and there is a view of the sea unresricted by parked and passing traffic. We breathe the fresh sea air and bless the change as we breakfast in the sun to the sound of breaking waves.
From the plane, I trace, with my eye, tracks across the wooded hills of Catalonia, like partings through thick hair, and imagine myself walking among the scented pines down there instead of flying thousands of feet above them.
Holiday reading is refreshing after the diet of Proust and Zola which has dominated the last few months at home: The Girl who Played with Fire by Stieg Larson; Restless by William Boyd; The Anthologer by Nicholson Baker (a birthday present opened before departure); Masters and Commanders by Andrew Roberts; If on a Winter´s Night, a Traveller by Italo Calvino; and another birthday present, still in its wrapper until the big day.

Monday, September 14, 2009

hibiscus, reading, balls

Posted by PicasaOur hibiscus has done well this year perhaps because its neighbour, an abutilon, gave up the ghost in the Spring. This bloom is lit by the declining sun and no artifice is applied.
Passing a window at two or three feet from the road, I catch sight of a hand, holding an open book It is in the full light of the window, while to its right, its owner is in comparative obscurity. Fleetingly, because I can not stop to stare, I note that on the open page of the book are lines of verse. Something about the way the book is held, respectfully from below, fingers maintaining it gently open, makes me think well of the reader and of what he is reading, whatever it may be.
In Calverley Ground, the Royal Tunbridge Wells Croquet Club is next door to a court where the lads practice basket ball. The contrast in balls and dress is remarkable. In the club, elderly folk on the lawn, are all in white, white trousers, white dresses, white hats. The wooden balls are brightly coloured and make a sound like a muffled rifle shot when struck or when they strike one another. On the basket ball court, on the tarmac, the dress code is tee shirts with messages, and shorts or jeans. The hair of one boy stands up in a spike, of another, it is shaved as smooth as a billiard ball. The basket ball makes a popping noise as the boys bounce it prior to lobbing it into the basket. I think of Rabbit Angstrom when, in the last volume of John Updike's masterpiece, in a belated effort to return to a sport at which he once excelled, he over exerts himself, and keels over, an old man whom readers of the novels remember as a feckless youth.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

home, cucumber, pesto

Posted by PicasaWhen they eventually demolish the cinema in the centre of the town, this pigeon will have to find another home.
In a front garden of a neighbouring house, is a flower pot. In the pot is a cucumber plant. Suspended from the plant is a cucumber. Not one of your supermarket cucumbers, thin and straight as a rake, but a big, fat prickly cucumber.
A generous basil crop produces three servings of pesto - made with handfuls of basil, Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses, pine kernels, olive oil - and used in different ways. The first, a traditional sauce with pasta, the second added at the last minute to sauteed potatoes, and the third dresses a rack of lamb as the lamb comes out of the oven. It proves to be a more versatile sauce than I had imagined in the past, and, if covered in olive oil to prevent it going black, goes a long way and keeps well in the fridge for several days.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

works, anniversary, skip

Posted by PicasaOperation.
It is the 10th Anniversary of the Tunbridge Wells Farmers' Market. Someone has baked and decorated an elaborate cake. The Mayor arrives looking jolly. The cake is breached in his honour and he is pursued with a tray of slices, one of which he dutifully accepts. Meanwhile a small crowd of people eyeing the cake gathers about the stall where it is displayed. It is like birds fluttering round a bird table. After a while the tray of slices is offered to those who seem most eager, and the slices disappear, while those who have been disappointed look hungrily at the large section of the cake, which still remains intact. Perhaps it is being saved for the stallholders when the market closes. The cake watchers wander off probably looking for free samples of cheese and fruit.
A kitchen shop has closed recently and much of the detritus remaining, after the sale and removal, ends up in a skip. I approach with my camera and begin to take shots of unlikely juxtapositions. I look up to see, at the other of the skip, a dour young woman adding cardboard to the jumble within. She looks at me disapprovingly and I look at her. No word is exchanged, but I refrain from photographing her, which, though it might have led to difficulties, I now regret.

Friday, September 11, 2009

two petals, phrases, engagement

Posted by Picasa A courgette petal and a nasturtium petal.
The absurdity of phrase book language has never been better captured than by Eugene Ionesco
in his play (or as he calls it "anti-play"), La Cantatrice chauve, The Bald headed Prima Donna The text, written entirely in the language of phrase books, makes me laugh aloud however often I read it. The translation below is mine. The text, particularly because the characters are English stereotypes, is funnier in French.
From the stage directions of the opening scene, which I have abbreviated, your realize that it is all about stereotypes.
Mr Smith, an Englishman, in his armchair and his English slippers, smokes his English pipe, and reads an English newspaper, next to an English fire. Beside him, in another English armchair, Mrs Smith, an Englishwoman, mends some English socks. A long moment of English silence.
Mrs Smith.
I say, it's nine o'clock. We have eaten soup, fish, potatoes and bacon and English salad. The children have drunk English water, We have eaten well this evening. It is because we live in the suburbs of London and because our name is Smith.
Mr Smith goes on reading clicking his tongue...
In the vegetable garden, the sunflowers don't stop growing and must now be 12 ft tall. The blooms, though, are not as brazen as they were at first, and the better for modesty and neatness. As I look up, I notice that a group of three or four buds at the top of a stem have engaged with the branches of the old and decrepit apple tree next door, a touching sight.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

open, Wuthering, Arabic

Posted by PicasaThe open window.
Outside Hall's bookshop I meet one of the assistants. "You haven't spotted Wuthering Heights, have you?" she says. "We had four copies and they have all gone." I say: "That's because it's on tele..." "Yes," she says, "And it's an A Level book."
I find an Arabic phrase book to join my collection of phrase books. It has a useful section called Talking to a Girl. I will not trouble you with the Arabic. The English will suffice as an indication of its value.
You are a beautiful girl.
I admire you.
I loved you from the first sight.
I like to see you often.
When can I see you again?
What about spending the night together this evening?
Can I call you?
What is your phone number?
I love you!
I was happy with you.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

builder, laurel, species

Posted by PicasaYoung pigeon with twig outside the Town Hall.
I look down on a path in the Grove and see at my feet an unexplained cherry. I look up to see the leaves of a laurel tree. It is, I realize, a cherry laurel, not strictly speaking a laurel , but a member of the prunus family and therefore, in fact, related to plums and cherries. It has always seemed to me to be an uninteresting tree, with its monotonous sprays of shiny leaves, dark and cheerless, but I am glad to be able to put a name to it.
Among the facts to be learnt from the current BBC wild life series, Lost Land of the Volcano, made in an extinct crater in a remote part of the forests of New Guinea, is that there are 1 million known species of insect in the world's forests and an estimated 5 million species yet to be discovered.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

portrait, lonely, digitizer

Posted by PicasaHermann Rorschach, Swiss psychiatrist, inventor of the Rorschach Test (1844 -1922). Portrait in paint peeling from a lamp post.
In the gutter, a child's rubber ball, a little smaller than a football. It rolls in the breeze up and down. No one claims it. A lost planet.
Google, I see, has plans to digitize everything ever written. Well, "the world's libraries" is how they put it, copyright laws notwithstanding. Where will they draw the line, one wonders? Newpapers, scientific and technical journals? That's an awful lot of print. Amusing to think about though.

Monday, September 07, 2009

music, twitter, alarm

Posted by PicasaThe Tunbridge Wells music festival in the Pantiles.
The idea of twittering strikes me as better than the act of twittering. Twitters limited to 140 syllables do not have to be broadcast on Twitter. This blog will do as well. To start with: "There's no going back now, says the bullet".
Machines which go bleep are so numerous that when we are disturbed by one in the middle of the night bleeping at 3 minute intervals, we spend ages searching from room to room for the source. It transpires that it is a carbon monoxide alarm that has gone off. There is no gas appliance which could explain its behaviour. The alarm's presence is explained by the old central heating boiler, now replaced, which apparently might have leaked an odour-less gas and killed us. The new boiler renders the alarm unnecessary, but we see no reason to dispense with it, until, that is, it wakes us up. The instructions on the alarm are alarming. If the bleep is continuous, it says, open all the windows and evacuate the house. Fortunately the bleep is sporadic and we are advised to switch off all electric devices, and open all doors and windows, advice which we ignore. In the morning a gas man arrives, who says that the alarm has gone off because the battery is running out, despite a note on the machine which indicates that it can be used until 2010. I hurl it with some satisfaction into the wastepaper basket.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

visitor, HD, geography

Posted by Picasa Two or three times this summer in the morning or early evening, we are visited by hot air balloons. This one sails over our house and drifts off in a northeasterly direction. The quiet roar of the burner switching on and a gentle upward lift in response is, I would imagine, part of the charm of this mode of travel, particularly as up or down seem to be the only directions over which the operator has any control.
We do not have a high definition facility on our TV. I stop to watch an HD TV in a shop window. The detail is impressive. But how much detail do you want? And does the greed for reality increase in proportion to the level currently achieved? After HD, 3D and after 3D, feelies, smellies? It's the same with telescopes and field glasses: you can never get close enough to what you are observing whether it is a planet or a puffin.
In the supermarket this morning:"Is that where you're going, Bavaria? or is it Bulgaria?"

Saturday, September 05, 2009

eye, croissant, basil

Posted by PicasaA lone eye sunk in the wall of a car park catches my eye. It's purpose is unknown, but it casts a good shadow.
Today outside the Italian Delicatessen on the corner of Chapel Place, we breakfast on coffee and croissants. We could be in France. The croissant is light and you can taste the butter, which has been used to make it, rather than the substitute fats, which nowadays rob most croissants of their character. The croissants are baked by the neighbouring butcher, whose bread and pies are as good as his meat and poultry. We are fortunate to live where we do.
While preparing a meal this afternoon I remember the basil which I should have brought home from the greenhouse this morning. It is a rich pleasure to be able to cross the road to cut a bowlful, and to smell the freshly cut leaves while bringing them home and adding them to beaten egg.

Friday, September 04, 2009

fork, watching, fishmonger

Posted by PicasaEngagement.
I have to hang around for a while by the intersection in Tunbridge Wells known as Five Ways. I stand on the pavement and decide to watch. I lean on one of those locked metal cupboards containing switches and terminals and watch, through the traffic, the tail of the queue outside the Post Office on the other side of the street, form and reform, as its head is sucked in towards the numbered counters, and newcomers arrive. I look at a traffic bollard. It is white, with a yellow base and the "keep left" instruction, reversed out of a blue circle on top. Not a lovely thing, but useful. I note that it casts a shadow on the brick platform of the island. Against the base of the bollard, a meagre ragwort plant has managed to take root and profiles its dusty leaves against the yellow plastic. Back to the post office. A man is sitting on the railings outside, his back is to me and the traffic. His jean-clad bottom hangs over the top railing like a lip. His knees are splayed out, pointing in different directions, while his feet, angled backwards, are supported on the lower rail helping his balance. I have these details in my head because I am making a quick sketch of the man in my notebook.
Sankey's, the people who own the pub and fish restaurant at the top of the town, have today opened a fishmonger's in Vale Road next to the station. For a long time there has been no fishmonger here and the sight of serious looking fish with worried eyes, and intense crustacea at rest among sparkling pebbles of ice, is a welcome one, at least to lovers of seafood. This afternoon, a large, doleful halibut and a brazen red snapper among lesser fry, together with their filleted brethren, greet me and are greeted in return. Some razor clams, upright like pens and pencils, in a jar, spill their white flesh from narrow shells.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

objects, threads, twig

Posted by PicasaIn the courtyard outside the backdoor of a friend's cottage, I snap these objects arranged and assembled over time.
We are not troubled by the sound of aircraft here, though early in the morning and last thing at night, when other background noise has faded, we can hear planes approaching Gatwick . It is not an unpleasant sound and not intrusive, no more than a resonant hum, and it provides a pleasing link, as the jets home in, trailing invisible threads from America, Africa, the Pacific.
On the raised patch of grass outside the public library, a wood pigeon struts up and down, its amber eye glowing in the sunlight. In its beak is a substantial twig. You would think that it is about to fly off to a nest-building site, but no such thing. Up and and down it walks, with that peculiar nodding gait, which pigeons and chickens have in common. Is this some kind of mating ritual? Possibly, but the other pigeons coming and going on the grass take no notice. It makes me think of a dog, determined not to let go of the stick, which it has just retrieved for its owner.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

chard, twittering, shower

Posted by Picasa The chard known as ruby chard. The stems, which take longer to cook than the leaves, which resemble spinach, are best cooked separately. After blanching the leaves, I sometimes add them to a frying pan where onions are beginning to caramelise and cook the two together for a while.
It never occurred to me to twitter, until I read Dave Bonta's post in via negativa, on micro-poetry. He points out that haiku and the 31 syllable tanka both fit snugly into the 140 character Twitter format. It occurs to that the apophthegm - brief, pointed and practical - is another attractive possibility to engage twitterers. I suspect that Twitter is not intended for such rarified activity, but the format should be seen as a challenge rather than as a receptacle for idle doodling. I recommend Dave's post and the examples he gives of the sort of material suitable for twittering. For instance: "For me neither the honey nor the bee", which somehow resonates with opportunities to vary the usual, to twitter for example.
Sitting under sunshades outside Sankey's at lunchtime, the rain suddenly tumbles down with tropical intensity. We manage to remain dry, just; though the rain is rushing through holes in the umbrella. I watch Heidi nursing her Sauvignon Blanc and remember G K Chesterton:
"And Noah said to his wife as he sat down to dine,
I don't mind where the water goes, if it doesn't get into the wine.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

tomatoes, anniversary, coffee

Posted by PicasaThese tomatoes have a natural black tint when they ripen. They are small but remarkably sweet. For three years my tomato crop has been ruined by blight. This year, I nearly gave up and grew only three plants of this unusual variety. I wish I had planted more.
On the anniversary of the beginning of World War 2, I keep thinking of Woody Allen's joke: "I don't like listening to Wagner. It always makes me want to invade Poland."
My beautiful thing for today is the clean, bitter taste of coffee which lingers long after you have emptied the cup and left the coffee shop.