Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bench, the drift of names, and a pin between her teeth

The charm of benches.

The names given to flowers drift back through time. Yarrow or milfoil owes it scientific name Achillea to Achilles who is said to have used   it to heal wounds made with iron weapons. Nasturtium's scientific name is Tropoaelum majus.  It comes from  tropaion,  the Greek word for trophy. Linneaus, the eighteenth century Swedish botanist known as the father of modern taxonomy (he is  the inventor of the binomial nomenclature still used to day), bestowed  the name  on the plant because he fancied that the leaves resembled shields and the red and yellow flowers, blood stained helmets.

Just a few minutes ago I bump into  a book  which I had forgotten about, by Paul Claudel, the French poet and diplomat. It reflects the long time he spent in China a Japan. It is called A Hundred Movements for a Fan. It is a rare example  for the time (The Nineteen Twenties) of a Western writer engaging in oriental styles of brevity and delicate minimalism. The poems (not far removed from haiku now so popular in the West but then scarcely known) each consist of just one phrase, "long enough to support a single breath", are written in French along side Japanese hieroglyphics.  Here is an example:
   Her two hands
   behind her head
   And a pin
 between her teeth
My edition (Quartet Books)  has the original French and Japanese alongside an English translation.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Backs, automatic speak, and responsibility for human evil

Backs outside the pub. A reassuring, solid  and unpretentious association.

I am becoming accustomed to the automatic speak of young people in service industries. It is I think the same young woman who questions me today across a counter with the familiar, "are you doing anything with the rest of the day?  Last time it was, "are you doing anything this weekend?" But I am asked that question quite often. Today in the supermarket, I was spared, "do you want any help with packing?" Not so the vigorous middle aged man ahead of me at the checkout despite the fact that he had no more than five small purchases to pack. He  was able to sweep them quickly into his bag.

Human beings, I think to myself as I watch the TV news, having proved themselves capable of love, and the sublime creations of language, music, art and architecture, are also responsible for acts so repulsive that we find it hard to accept their perpetrators as human at all. But they are human. And being human ourselves we must accept some responsibility for their behaviour, however remote it may seem

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Morning, basil and losing face

  Every morning we inspect the morning glories which vary from morning to morning. This morning  they are more glorious than on most mornings.

The greenhouse is overflowing with basil, the scent is spicy. I deliver pots to neighbours and still have sprays and sprays to cut for pesto. Tonight I will grate Parmesan and pecorino with crushed pine kernels olive oil and handfuls of  pounded basil leaves. The pasta? Trofie, the short, twisty worm-like pasta, designed to be coated to the maximum with the unctuous sauce.

I think to myself: Politicians, given the choice, will lose the wars that ensue from their  wrong decisions, rather than risk losing face.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lavender, bank charges and politicians talking morality

The purpose of lavender

I have enjoyed the services of the same bank for the last 60 years.  They are the basic services no more and no less. The Bank does well enough out of my custom, I don't doubt, and I have no serious complaint. I like it no more and no less than any other bank.  The personal relationship which used to exist  between bank and client  meanwhile has vanished. I can't say that I know a manager who looks after my account and takes a personal interest in me, as I used to feel in the past, though I was then just as poor as I am now. The one thing that I have noticed is that at the least opportunity a charge of some kind is added for routine extra services. Fair enough banks have to live. So when last night a telephone call from a market research organisation some answers to  questions about the services provided by the bank I was quick to decline. "If you could set aside 15 -20 minutes now or at some other time", the young woman said.  Sorry I couldn't. But when I put the phone down an esprit del'escalier hit me. Of course I thought I should have accepted the invitation and mentioned in passing my interview fee of £30.00 a minute. Not unreasonable. Retired old farts like banks have to earn a living.

I think  to myself listening to the news: "When politicians begin to talk about morality it is time to take cover."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tomato, clothes and lamp posts

How voluptuous is the tomato! No wonder that on its arrival in Europe from South America, apart from being treated with initial suspicion,  it was given names like poma amorispomme d'amour and pomodoro. The Italian for tomato remains pomodoro

 I have mixed feelings about clothes.  Their purpose is not always clear cut and is wide ranging. Essentially they are  to provide: ceremony, warmth, sexual titillation,  pockets, and a means of hiding areas of the body not usually exposed to public scrutiny.  Sometimes,  prompted by an inner dandy, I find myself taking  pleasure in them. Dressing up is fun.  And why not? Clothes are one of the good things of life. On the other hand, day to day, I don't want to have to change  clothes to work in the garden or sit at the computer or paint the ceiling, go fishing or  climb a rock face. Tradition and practical considerations, I know, require different clothes for different occasions. But how good it would be to have an all purpose, self-washing, self-mending garment, like a skin or hide, which you could hop in and out of once or twice a day!

I watch a  pigeon arrive on  on a lamp post. The lamp post swings. It may be  in my imagination but I seem to remember that when Vivian Leigh,  steadies herself  against a lamp post after careering down some steps in Gone with the Wind, it too swings. I used to think that it must have been a studio lamp post of the frailest kind. But now I wonder whether it may not be in the nature of lamp posts to  swing and sway like saplings in a high wind.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Love in a mist, hugs and information and sweet corn.

Love-in-a-mist. The fruit.

Spontaneous party irrupts outside The Compasses as we unexpectedly meet friends and their two  grown up daughters. Much hilarity as hugs and information are exchanged all round.

Harvest the first sweet corn for lunch.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Lake, short stories and

The lake at Groombridge House where  herons fish.

Robbie commenting on my latest seeks a defintion of the short story two posts back, ventures one himself.  His description is spot on but it defines only one aspect of the genre. Here are some reflections quickly put together.
First,  does the term need defining?  Aren't the words "short"  and "story" enough in themselves? How short it is doesn't matter?  One  paragraph can be enough, one word even, why not?  
When I started writing the current series on my blog One Fine Day  almost a year ago I  thought to myself that I  would  dive in and see what happened.  I got the idea from my brother Ken, (aka Lucas). They  were going to be brief  even of their kind (flash fictions, as Lucy called them), because I wanted to produce a lot of them and in a relatively little time. Since then I have come to realise that  the short story of any length is distinguished from the  novel, itself a many splendoured thing,  by concentrating essential information  and in leaving out what is not essential to a single plot. Plays also concentrate information though their plots may be more complex.  That one of the greatest short story writers, Chekhov, is also one of greatest playwrights strikes me as no coincidence. But really what I mean to say is that short stories are what you make them. They can range from the pub joke to the story of the Good Samaritan. They differ from novels not just because they are shorter but because they are less complex, have fewer dimensions and are, as Robbie suggests,  more simply focused.
Their attraction for me lies in the style opportunities they present, that they take relatively little time to write and absorb, and that they can pack quite a punch if necessary despite their weight. Or they can merely be entertaining. At least I hope that this is the case with what I am trying to do.

Persicaria is a plant which is about a lot at the moment. At first I couldn't pin it down. Dock-like leaves and flowers in short spikes, usually purple. A plant beloved of bees which is possibly another explanation  of its popularity with bee conscious gardeners. Now I know that it is one of those plants which has changed the name by which it is generally known. The Readers Digest of Garden Plants and Flowers  calls it polygonum or knot weed, while persicaria is how most nurseries describe it nowadays. Confusing. But I am glad that thanks to a stall at the market I am now enlightened. A useful plant for partial shade.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Heron, rescue and uncertain course

Beside the lake at Groombridge.

Christo a neighbour who is a computer consultant responds to my telephone call by coming round within minutes to eliminate an intrusive piece of cyber wickedness called Delta which sets out to take over from Google on my screen, and probably to perpetrate no end of evil in the works.

A butterfly, a small white, staggers up towards the sun. Behind it a  bank of cloud of a grayish purple profiles its delicacy and uncertain course.

Friday, August 23, 2013

waiting, second chance and no amplifier

Swallow on aerial.

It occurs to me that:
People who have failed in a job should be seriously considered for reappointment  because they are likely to have learnt from their mistakes and will be eager to restore their reputation.

In The Pantiles a young man, almost certainly a music student, is performing on a violin. I am no expert but he seems to be doing so with skill. The music, Bach I think, drifts through the crowd drawing you to it. It is an adornment to a  summer afternoon. It fits. I reach in my pocket for all the change I have. Above all he has no amplifier and there is no need of one.

A couple  dining at a restaurant table beside a lake under a starlit sky  are in the midst of an intense row. My latest  short story in  One Fine Day reveals its resolution. See

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Builders, BLTs and herons

The new house next door to the vegetable garden is nearing completion.

 BLT stands for bacon, lettuce and tomato. It is a sandwich which as far as I know originates in the USA.  Reference to Google images, will confirm that it is invariably made, apart from  tomato, lettuce with a mayonnaise dressing, with rashers of crispy bacon. Someone I know is a fan, and chooses it from a pub menu whenever she spots it. I mention it because of a second  restaurant experience from which lessons might be drawn by restaurateurs.  (Remember the mobility scooter which crashed into our table the other day).
We are sitting outside The Crown at Groombridge when the BLT is served. After an initial foray the complete absence of crispy bacon is apparent. It is returned to the counter, with the polite observation that instead of the bacon the only meat seems to be thin strips of cooked ham mixed up with chopped tomato, lettuce and mayonaise.. It is bacon I am told. "I'll ask the chef. If it is bacon  you are  going to have to pay".  The question of payment has not arisen  and  as far as I am concerned, will not arise.  It is not the issue. The thing is that the guest in question, as most people familiar with the delicacy would be, is expecting crispy bacon rashers. "Chef says it is bacon," says the young woman at the counter. Now I know very well that technically it might be called bacon as in the cooked bacon or ham hock that is sold in butchers. But  the customer is proverbially always wrong, or is it the other way round? Either way  I am not going to enter a debate about the chef's interpretation of the term or of the recipe for BLT. So I let it rest. And that is today's beautiful thing. Why spoil a summer day, some drinks in the sun and the pleasure of good company for the superior knowledge of an aspiring Escoffier? My beautiful thing is not to react. Until now, I suppose.

 I know that herons nest in the  trees on the bank of the lake at Groombridge.  Today, ranged at equal intervals  on bank are four  standing on on their long legs among the reeds. I photograph them and their reflections in the still water for future reference.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Friends, writing and punctuality

Friendship observed.

Among words of advice from the late distinguished crime-writer and stylist,  Elmore Leonard , "If it sound like writing, rewrite it."

Thought for the day. Early is as unpunctual as late only less risky.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Butterfly, catastrophy watch and Health and Safety

The still and the dead.

A black and white cat lives across the street. It is behaving oddly attaching itself to passers-by and following them as far as the corner. Every now and then it ventures on to the roadway endangering its life. An old lady neighbour concerned about its well-being knocks at our door to see if we know where it belongs. It is unhappy, hungry and thirsty. The creature  is carried to a person who looks after lost cats. She finds that it has a chip implanted in it which indicates its provenance. It appears that, like most of the human beings in the vicinity,  it is doolally .  Hence the alarm. Back with its owners it has returned to patrolling the other side of the street. Meanwhile people in the vicinity are keeping a day and night watch to ensure that  it observes the Highway Code.

A polite and helpful young woman responds to my telephone request for  a boiler service. Tomorrow morning, we agree. "By the way," she says , "Do you have a dog? It's Health and  Safety, you see. One of our engineers was bitten".  "No dog", I say. "Just the tiger and two leopards". Fortunately she has a sense of humour.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Vegetable love, smoking, crash-bang-wallop

Everything in the kitchen garden has shot upwards and outwards since this photo was taken a few days ago. As Andrew Marvell  might have written,  my vegetable love is growing vaster than empires.

The computerised check-in at the Doctor's surgery is satisfying in an odd sort of way. "Are you Male or Female?" it enquires, before asking you for the month and then the day of your birth. When you have answered these questions it usually tells you who you are and which doctor or nurse you have an appointment with and when. Fine. But this morning a new question intrudes "Do you smoke?" it demands. I click "no" and ignore "yes", but it is not satisfied. It persists:  "Have you ever smoked?" I cannot tell a lie. As a young man I used to enjoy lighting up at parties or as I remember with particular pleasure on the top deck of a London bus.  an appeal that was almost cinamatic.  So I tick, yes. "Ah", it seems to be  saying as the words: "When did you give up?" appear followed by a list of years.  The year when I finally stopped buying cigarettes escapes me. It was  long before the list of years proffered. Then I notice a window with space for an unspecified year,  presumably for the use of oldies. But was it 1978 or 1979? Or did I in 1983 resort to a few puffs to see me though the Three-Day Week? My finger hovers and the screen goes blank. "Your check-in has failed", it says, "please report to the reception desk". I begin to explain about the smoking but they are not in the least bit interested and there is queue behind me.

We are sitting  at a table on the pavement outside a new Bistro in Mount Pleasant. On the pavement behind Heidi  old lady approaches on a mobility scooter, where it appears she intends to park it. But she can't stop and she drives straight into the back of Heidi's chair pushing her forward and scattering china and cutlery to left and right. Eventually she remembers how to switch the machine off. She continues to sit on the scooter staring in front of her, more surprised than shocked. A waitress escorts her into the restaurant but seems quite unconcerned with us, who were waiting to  order something to eat when the incident occurred. We move to another table, stepping over broken china, not a little shocked ourselves,  but there is no sign of  the waitress or  a word from the old lady who looks in good shape. After a while we leave in search of  a safer and more courteous place to eat.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hunting, perspective and magazines


In a small garden like ours we  tend to monitor the behaviour of individual plant. The agapanthus is better than we expected. The fuchsia is taking a rest before its second bloom, the white rose is free from black spot and so so one. In real gardens they speak of  the health of groups of such plants that grow in swathes in long borders. Likewise in the vegetable garden it never occurs to me to inspect an individual runner bean or sweet corn or beetroot. It's a question of perspective.

What do you with magazines? Half read they pile up rebuking me for not having read them. There comes a point when I never will.  With so many books to read, to say nothing of the stuff that turns up  daily on screen,  why bother with transitory bumph? Perhaps I put up with magazines because  once I used to edit one and cared deeply about its arrival on my desk every week. Though once an issue was out, faults came to light and I cared less for it. As I now care less and less for the mountain that grows by the minute on my desk.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Scarlet Emperor, bully magpies and butternut squash

 I ordered two varieties of climbing French bean seeds in the Spring, but forgot the runner beans. At the last minute I found a packet of the old fashioned but reliable Scarlet Emperor. They will probably be stringier than the modern "string-less" varieties, but they are demonstrating their vigour already and there is no doubting the impact of their colour. Early pods are ready for picking but you have to take care not to get stung by bees pollinating the fat later flowers.

A row in The Grove. Two bullying  magpies pick on a collared dove. They make noises like  timber quickly sawn. The dove is smaller but brave and stands its ground.  Says, bugger off. The magpies bugger off as magpies should.

Butternut squash swell among the shady leaves, creeping tendrils and yellow flowers, promise an abundance for Autumn roasting.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Relationships, peristence and pockets

Bud and flower.

In the High Street an Austen 7 drives past. It is  rather older than  me but in better shape. My Mother once had such a car a photograph tells me. As it chugs by this one looks very much at home. Old things which persist should be valued if only for their persistence

A blue zipped fishing jacket  goes for repair.  It has lots of pockets. What shall I do without it? It seems to me that the chief purpose of clothes is to incorporate pockets.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Hedgehog, ribs and flying seeds

Two plants of which I forgot the name came up in the herb bed in the Spring.   Echinacea is one of them. I was able to identify it as soon as it flowered. Tinctures increase resistance to infection. The dried rootstock is used as a digestive and antiseptic.  The Greek echinacea means hedgehog.

Through the letter box comes a flier for Tops Pizza. Fast food including pizzas deserves a special  linguistic study. The chief attraction of the leaflet is "New! Hot Dog Stuffed Crust". Among the "sides served with your choice of two dips"  are the remarkable "Boneless Ribs".

I sit in the garden listening to the lime tree above my head. The wind swishes the leaves. The pale flower petals and tobacco coloured pollen has  blown away. The winged seeds whisper among themselves. They are turning yellow and getting ready to fly.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Immigrants, cynics, sceptics and "et patati et patata"

Collared doves among the roses in the garden of some friends who feed them so regularly they have become family members. Though discouraged they wander in and out of their kitchen. These delicate birds are new to the British Isles. The first pair bred here in 1956 and quickly multiplied so that there are now believed to be 230 000 pairs. According to the The Royal Society for the Preservation of Birds the collared dove is the seventh most commonly seen bird in British gardens. Matched with pink roses they seem to  belong to a tapestry or or to a pattern for chintz curtains.

Indignation about the misuse of English words  often lies in the territory of crusty old people who don't like change.  I tend to be wary of  protests about usage because language evolves; a word begins with one meaning and with time adopts newer quite different meanings which repeated use eventually makes legitimate. How to balance precision and accuracy against  natural linguistic evolution? I ask myself the question this morning when on The BBC's Today Programme, I hear the word "cynical"used twice on separate occasions when each time the speaker seemed to mean "sceptical". There can be no doubt of the difference. The one implies  distrust or incredulity of human sincerity or goodness, while the other suggests an inclination to question or challenge accepted opinions. Cynics are thought of a having little faith in their fellows while sceptics may be admired for a balanced and moderating influence on affairs. The confusion between the two words is now almost an epidemic.  So is the language changing? Or did I hear this morning  professional communicators who should know better using it with a reprehensible sloppiness?

A rare example of onomatopoeia applied to something essentially abstract is the French expression et patati et patata meaning "and so on an so forth"

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Explorations, coffee and virtue

Vegetable, animal and mineral.

The café opposite the station like one or two other independent place in Tunbridge Wells is superior in one  respect to the chains - Costa, Café Nero and Starbucks which have branches in the town. You can choose a table,sit down and someone will take your order and bring it to you. You pay the bill only before you leave.  As I fill a quarter of an hour this afternoon I think: a relaxed and civilised procedure which is what a coffee should be all about. Joining a queue at the counter, carrying your drink yourself and finding a table if one is free, is just the opposite.

In the Mind charity shop I find a book by  Matt Ridley, the science writer. It is called The Origins of Virtue. It suggests that cooperation is built into human genes and those of other animals and demonstrates that we do not simply engage in  savage competition for survival at the expense of others, as some interpreters of evolution believe. It seems to me an attractive thesis. "I doubt if you will find any virtue there," says the old man who helps at the shop. It seems that he has not looked into the book and has never heard of Matt Ridley. "I like philosophy," he says as I depart.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Grove, jackets and a voice

From time to time I post in this blog about The Grove, the little park which is to be found at the top of the hill called Mount Sion. Here is a panoramic view which gives  an impression of its dimensions more complete than the occasional photographs of birds, squirrels and people which you may have seen here. I took the photo from the corner of the park at the entrance from Belview at the top of Grove Avenue.

My friend's reference in Tone Deaf  to the word "jacket"  ceding in commercial language to "blazer"   the other day comes to mind this morning in Sainsbury's. On a bag of potatoes I read the words: "Baking Potatoes. Great for Jackets". So baked potatoes in their jackets have become jacket potatoes. I find it as hard to think of Robbie in what used to be called a blazer with brass buttons and all as to imagine a potato in one, but who knows what to expect from copy writers and publicists?

On the radio a woman's voice touches my soul. If you can fall in love with a voice this is it. She is talking about pine martens and interviewing an expert on these rare animals. Her voice contains a mixture of laughter, surprise, curiosity, and enthusiasm for what she is describing, an unusual and delectable mixture. It bubbles up and out of the radio like spring water.  I don't want to know or even to imagine what she looks like. What I hear is enough.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

White and green, never after 8 and love

 White  rose with green buds.

 Ahead of me in the queue at the fish stall at the Farmers' Market a talkative woman says to the fishmonger: "My grandmother used to say you should  never buy fish after 8 o'clock in the morning..." After a pause she adds," but she was a Londoner".

The Belgian market gardener asks me if I speak Spanish. He recites the six word of Spanish he knows. Hola,  Adios, Buenos dias ...etc". I ask him if knows  manana, and with out explaining the old joke, say that it is the Spanish for urgent. It is lost on him. I walk on but he catches me up."I know something else in Spanish," he says beckoning me away from the crowd. "It must be rude," I say. "No," he says with a schoolboy giggle: " Yo te quiero, mi amor."  Is this a declaration? Surely not.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Bin, Cardiac HIll and projects

Shadows on a wheelie bin.

"They call it Cardiac Hill," says a woman, as we make way for one another puffing up Little Mount Sion.

Projects are important for the elderly. A neighbour travels today to Cumbria to buy an unfinished boat, which he intends to finish himself. He retained  the rigging of an identical boat which he once owned but sawed up for firewood, and looks forward to making up for his mistake. He is 83, as good a carpenter as he once was a surgeon.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Exit denied, abundance, jellied eels

No way out. This is not a deliberate photograph. I pointed the camera at the window while testing it, without noticing the poor fly.

After the rain heat, after the heat rain. After the rain abundance, an embarras de richesse . While my back is turned courgettes (zucchini) become marrows. Butternut squash plants, with similar but smaller leaves and less conspicuous orange flowers, send forth their tendrils and infant gourds among  them. Likewise ridge cucumbers invade in all directions mingling their prickly green fruit with dill and coriander. The little gem lettuces are bolting like leafy mountains. The sweet corn Runner beans clamber over the top of their 8ft poles, while bees nuzzles their scarlet flowers.  Radishes, which I should long ago have pulled and discarded, are in flower. Fennel and dill throw their yellow umbels towards the sky. The swathes of wild flowers planted to attract them  swarm with bees and butterflies. This is a busy garden. Too busy perhaps. Far removed from Andrew Marvell's green thought in a green shade.

In the fishmongers a grandfather accompanied by two small children is waiting for his purchase to be filleted. Behind him a lithe, half naked man with tattoos is doing a sort of dance between a cold display shelf on one side of the shop and dry goods shelf on the other. He collects a carton of jellied eels from  one, a bottle of vinegar from the other, opens the carton and dresses the contents with dollops of vinegar. He noisily explains his purpose to his wild looking girl friend, who slips away, having dropped a carton of some other crustacea into her bag. The tattooed man meanwhile tastes his eels and disappears through the door. "Did you see that? Did he pay?" says the grandfather to the fishmonger as he returns to the counter with his fish. "He'll probably be back," says the fishmonger unconcerned. "He usually comes back."

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Filling station, society and recycling

This England.

The flying ants which emerged  yesterday afternoon from their nests to take advantage of the humidity set me thinking. Do we take the extraordinary devices Nature provides to procreate species to much for granted? After the ants have mated in the air before losing their wings, the females burrow into the earth softened by rain to build found new colonies. The males, their sole purpose of impregnating queens once achieved, collapse and die. Ant society is composed of males developed from unfertilised eggs, wingless, sterile workers developed from fertilised eggs. And queens are  also developed from fertilised eggs cared for in a specific manner.  Such complexity, such timing! Oh and homo sapiens. Save that for another day.

At the bottom of The High Street, a lorry belonging to Choice Textile Recycling invites "Call on us for your book recycling needs". I have sometimes thought that writers in producing new books often do no more than  recycle what they have read. But I think Choice Textile Recycling is intent on chewing up old books and turning them back into paper. Ebooks I suppose are one line of defence against such aggression.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Investigation, copulation and persistence

Investigation in progress.

Unbridled sex is in the air. It is flying ant day,  heavy and humid. Males and queens copulate in flight. The earth, still damp from yesterday's rain , allows the  impregnated queens to dig a nest and start a colony, which they are probably doing as I write. 

The only flowers in our garden when we came to this house twenty five years ago were Japanese anemones, perennials which once established, are hard to dislodge. They still grow in the same place.  I love and admire the persistence of the pretty pink blooms

Monday, August 05, 2013

Whiteness, hypocrisy, and savoury

White on white.

A flood of touristsis  touring The Pantiles this morning. Cameras hang on  bellies. Oh my goodness. I sometimes wonder if so many photographs will in time erode the facades and organisms they snap. Who can blame people unused to cameras fearing that  photographs may  tamper with their souls?   I am a tourist too. But  I go about it sneakily. My camera is hidden away. Hypoctrite lecteur, mon semblable, mon frere.

To deal with a glut of courgettes (zucchini) I type out my recipe for a frittata of the vegetable grated and seasoned with pieces of feta cheese and basil. I have evolved the recipe over the years to combat similar gluts and to win over, I hope, even the most ardent enemies of the vegetable marrow or Curcurbita family.  Copies go to neighbours  as  a incentive to cook adventurously.  Omelet?  More like a  savoury cake  which can  be eaten hot or cold. An ornament for a picnic.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Bikes and people, baby and insignificant events.

Transport and pedestrians.

I'm still enjoying the current Private Eye cover which  bears the headline "Woman Has Baby". Nothing else except the sub heading, "Inside Other Stuff".

Sometimes I justify to myself the pedestrian nature of this blog, which is largely concerned with  small things and unimportant events. I tell myself that  small things and unimportant events can sometimes stand for  larger things  and point the way to more significant issues in our relationship with the world. On  the other hand should I not content myself with the thought that they must stand on  their own, significant for no other reason than they exist in a mystifying universe? A seed unfolds to become a stem and from the stem a leaf emerges; a blackbird lays an egg; the egg hatches, fledglings fly. Huge events.


Saturday, August 03, 2013

Food, inspiration and lovely thunder

...this is what he was thinking about.

After the unsavoury din of politicians sniping at one another, a TV programme about Thomas Heatherwick inspires and restores sanity to the world for a few minutes. He is the man who among other achievements master-minded the  cauldron  with its separate fire-breathing stems spreading and closing like a flower at the opening of The Olympic Games last year, and the giant cube for the UK pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai, from which emerged like the prickles on a shining  hedgehog 66,000 "windows" at the end of 7.5 meter long glass tubes each containing a seed. It was voted the the number one  pavilion of the 250  in the show. Now, with the approval of the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, he is working on an idea, a dream of the actress Joanna Lumley, to build between Covent Garden and the South Bank a zigzag bridge across The Thames in London, with walks and look-out points interspersed among trees and flowers.

Woken by thunder and lightening  last night I am reminded of childhood. "They're moving the furniture if Heaven, " and old lady, I can't remember which one, used to say. My Mother meanwhile who was scared of thunder, determined not to pass on her fear to her children, would move about the house covering mirrors and drawing the curtains, while she intoned, "lovely thunder, lovely thunder." So for me, if only on her authority,  thunder storms  have always  been lovely.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Thought, territory and "the top of the morning."

Pausing for thought or inspiration.

In the vegetable garden a black cat emerges from the shadows under a hedge. It poses for my camera. I follow it as it explores lettuces and beans, sweet corn and some garden netting laid out on the ground ready to form some pigeon defences. What's this? A second black cat arrives through a hole in the fence. The two cats look at one another for a moment in surprise. They are both unsure of  territorial rights, because in an instant they turn and race off in different directions, one under the hedge the other under the fence.

A traffic warden passes in the street. Few people like traffic wardens. So I say good morning to be kind. He responds surprised at a friendly greeting. Perhaps he  rightly suspects me of not being a motorist.  It occurs to me that it doesn't hurt to say good morning to as many people as possible in a friendly sort of way. Who knows? It could make their day a mite more happy. It might even make mine happier. I've always liked the expression "the top of the morning," Irish I think. But perhaps it would sound odd in Tunbridge Wells.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Blue and white, princes waiting and Sophia Loren.

 New to the garden this year, a clematis Multi Blue. In its second flowering it is climbing as I hoped it would into the cistus which closes shop for the year at the end of June. It the two ever flower together,  the blue and white will be a happy combination.

An old friend rings with a problem. She is committing her favourite poems to memory. A difficult task which she seems to accomplish despite her 80 years. Did I recall a poem which begins "Suppose we kill a king and then a king and then a king.."? She seems to think that we once discussed it in the distant past. If we did it has vanished from my mind. Who wrote it? Where can she find it? I am at a loss, but as we talk about it, leafing through a few indexes brings it to light. It is by Robert Horan, an American poet born in 1922. I can see why she likes it, and as I read it, it begins to come back to me, rather Jacobean in style, political, dramatic. "Princes are waiting everywhere; suppose by poison or by water, kill a queen; her daughter sits upon the stair...." Wikipedia tells me little about Robert Horan, who appears still to be alive. He was, if anybody cares,  a friend of Samuel Barber and Carlo Menotti.

In a magazine my eye catches a photograph of Sophia Loren. The caption reveals her age as 78. She is  the sort of person you don't think of a having an age. It strikes me that I am two years older than her, a piece of data which I imagine will be of little use to me now or in the future.