Friday, 29 May 2009

Week Six. Friends with Keats, Mae West and Robbie Williams*

And in the manner of the late lamented Robert Robinson, "Can you see a link ? Thats right, well done family Fotherington-Thomas, it is angels"

Not the soppy, wandering around after you doing good stuff, angels that the internet and crystal huggers seem to be rather fond of these days but spirits, metaphorical or actual. Vengeful, guiding or just plain "I might have drink too much because I thought I saw...." angels.

The relationship between humanity and spiritual beings has been a continuing theme since time began. Such a useful way to explain the inexplicable and gives the author the opportunity either to write fantastical stories or to explore the inner workings of the human mind.

Two of my favourite books are in this weeks heap. "The Vintners Luck" by Elizabeth Knox and "Knowledge of Angels" by Jill Paton Walsh, read them, please, they are wonderful.

And before anyone asks, yes I do own "Angels and Demons" and it is not from shame that it does not appear above, just that the house is so untidy I can't find it.

*I'm no angel, but I've spread my wings a bit. ~Mae West
Philosophy will clip an angel's wings. ~John Keats
I'm loving angels instead ~ Robbie Williams

Thursday, 28 May 2009

The Joys of Self-awareness

Yesterday I went to Sainsburys to hand over a large chunk of money buying food to nurture my family. (A fair amount of which will no doubt be spurned, because, "there isn't an A in the month, you know I don't like that anymore, I don't eat anything yellow" etc, etc)
Just as I left the building to wrestle the bags into the boot I got a text from Girlchild requesting I purchase lots of Frijj Chocolate Brownie flavour milk as it was on special offer (GC works in Sainsburys and was going to be there herself about 4 hours later ) I decided not to bother even though she had, very kindly, explained how it would protect her from osteoporosis.
On my return home I was greeted by Girlchild and another Victoria Sponge. It looked heavenly, she has recently discovered a real talent for baking, and I began to fantasise about a slice of cake and cup of coffee.

"Where's the Frijj Mum ?"
"Oh, sorry, couldn't face going back in, can you get them when you're at work ?"
"No, no you know I can't, you know there's nowhere to put it, the shop will be shut when I finish........... white noise.......... high pitched squeaking............. right then, you can't have cake !"
"Errr OK, er sorry"

The cake continued to make it's siren call, but I ignored it, knowing the retribution would be long, loud and likely to result in "things being said....."

This morning Girlchild wandered in to see me and passed comment on the fact I had not eaten cake,

"No, you told me I couldn't"
"Oh, no it would have been fine........."
"Well, I just didn't want to make you cross"
"Cross ?"
"You can be a bit horrid sometimes ?"

"Of course I'm horrid - I'm an 18 year old girl"

Self-awareness on that scale I think guarantees a life that will be fully within her control.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Gwinnie style snifflings

I was thrilled to be given this award recently by Cassandra Castle, writer of the blog "Jacob Wrestling". Not because it features shoes and sweariness, both of which figure regularly in my life, but because it was given by Cassandra, a writer and a woman I hold in high regard.

The award exists to be passed on (as they all should) so below are the rules:

1. You have to pass it on to 5 other fabulous blogs in a post.

2. You have to list 5 of your fabulous addictions in the post.

3. You must copy and paste the rules and the instructions below in the post.

Instructions: On your post of receiving this award, make sure you include the person that gave you the award and link it back to them. When you post your five winners, make sure you link them as well. To add the award to your post, simply right-click, save image, then “add image” it in your post as a picture so your winners can save it as well. To add it to your sidebar, add the “picture” widget. Also, don’t forget to let your winners know they won an award from you by emailing them or leaving a comment on their blog.

Right, obsessions.......

Shoes, in almost all shapes, colours and heights. Prices, well that's another story. I am tempted to sin so often but fortunately the memories of my bank manager stop me sometimes. Why do I like shoes ? For a lot of my working life I have had to present a corporate image, which often is not really who I am, hence "quirky" "extravagant" "eccentric" shoes. They are there to remind me of the true TR. (Also, even if I put on weight, my shoes still fit !)

Weekend Newspapers There is no better way to fritter away a weekend than lolling on the sofa with a selection of newsprint. I know you can read it all online, but it is just not the same as real hard copy. The papers are filleted for easy reference, Business, gone. Motoring, gone. Sport, gone. Money, don't make me laugh. Then the other sections are mulled over, making notes and tearing out little bits of information that "might be useful - one day". Finally on to the magazines for the pretty pictures and fantasy of other peoples lives. Heaven.

Food and cooking for friends. I love to cook, I love to eat, if there was ever proof of the axiom you can't have a thin chef I am that proof. Food, like sex, can be so many things, comforting, exciting, on occasions dull but always a perfect way to show somebody you care about them.

Art Galleries The peace and quiet of an art gallery, the opportunity to revisit old friends, to challenge yourself with new work, the wonderful shops where I have spent far too much money over the years. The excitement of a new catalogue at a well curated exhibition.

OK ,trailing around the Louvre being slowly pummeled to death by surly school trips can take the edge off a bit, but to get a bench in front of a wonderful Botticelli or a favourite Turner makes it all worthwhile. I can also confirm that art galleries are a wonderful place for a little light flirting, eyes meeting as you stand in front of a picture, the chance to make a few intelligent bon mots, the meeting of like minds. Who needs a bar when you've got the Bargello ?

My children To be brutally honest a few years ago they may not have figured in this list, which is, of course, far more a reflection of me than them. Now though, they are a real passion. Hopefully not on the way of a helicopter parent but because I find them funny, challenging, entertaining and it is such a joy to see them beginning to live their lives as individuals. What a shame I didn't find out until now.

and now I pass on this award to 5 of my favourite bloggers, and my apologies to anyone who has already received this particular accolade, but remember, you can never have too much of a good thing. because Twitter just isn't enough I suspect she has, deservedly, received every award in the blogosphere, but I know there will be deep and simmering obsessions that should be exposed Because she needs distracting at the moment, writes beautifully and will forgive me my first addiction to see if "The Apprentice" counts as an obsession because she needs to have fun writing, now her exams are over

Saturday, 9 May 2009

A young man and another moment of embarrassment

Readers may I introduce you to a good friend of mine ?
Reader, Mr Albrecht Durer,
Albrecht ... the readers.

I have previously blogged on my love of the Pre Raphaelites and how they, unwittingly, steered me into a degree in Art History, but this gentleman was my first love.
It is a self portrait by Albrecht Durer, a German artist of the Late 15th/early 16th Century probably best known for his engravings. "Melancholia I" and "The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse" and his watercolours, "Praying Hands" and "The Hare" but he was also a jeweller, a mathematician and a writer. A Catholic, but a Catholic who read and discussed Reformation works by writers such as Erasmus and Luther. Not always the best career move in those days, but he was among the great Renaissance men, who thought, researched and travelled to broaden their minds. A true polymath

Durer painted and drew self-portraits throughout his life, with one of the earliest dating from 1484 when he was a boy of 13. The picture above was painted in 1498, a handsome, confident and wealthy young man, who looks out of the picture directly into your eyes "look at me, I have arrived". his confidence, his arrogance enchanted me.

Anyway, years passed and I was in Madrid for 4 days whilst my husband was at a conference. First port of call (after a brief detour into El Corte Ingles) was The Prado, Spains National Gallery. It is packed with amazing art, the semi pornographic paintings by Titian for Phillip II, the tortured nightmares of Goya and the knowing observations of Velasquez. I was in seventh heaven wandering from room to room, then, with no warning, on the far wall of a small room in the basement was "my boy".

It was a remarkable moment and I am embarrassed to admit I burst into tears, much to the discomfiture of the custodian sitting there, who had probably imagined a quiet and uninterrupted afternoon enjoying a post prandial snooze. He muttered darkly into his lapel, requesting back up, just in case I had evil designs on his charge, his eyes flickering towards the mad woman who was by then sniffling and smearing mascara around her face. So much for the English stiff upper lip. Eventually I pulled myself together and summoning a ghastly combination of Spanish, Italian and English tried to explain what had happened. His face cleared "Senora, todas las mujeres inglesas tienen gusto de hombres extranjeros"*

The three paintings below are other gentlemen who's awareness of their own worth and strength of character shine out of the canvas, enjoy them.

* apologies to Spanish speaker I cannot promise the accuracy of my translation, and for non Spanish speakers "all English women like foreign men"

Friday, 8 May 2009

Proof I lie...... the garden is green

Spring has sprung the grass is riz and despite my moanings of three days ago things are growing and flowering in the garden. The Clematis Montana has gone mad, but when it's in flower it is a joy. I am pleased with the white bluebells and Geranium Phaeum together, and all the bulbs are flowering. The tulips in particular have been lovely.

The pots on the yard are beginning to fill out,narcissi on the back door step, lilies, a fig, lilac, hostas and a load of herbs all trying to convince me summer is on the way. So far the slugs haven't found the hostas or the courgettes. I won't hold my breath.

The fountain is running again now, but what is idyllic plashing at 7pm in the sunshine becomes an intrusive torrent at 5am. That won't be a problem for long, it will seize up in the next 3 days, and I'm not cleaning it out. Nope, not me.
Palms and eucalyptus, can I fool myself I'm somewhere warm ? Unlikely, but it's a nice place to escape to with a glass of wine and a book. There's not much more you can ask for in a garden is there ?

Finally, the ridiculously overdressed Acer. When the clematis is in flower this is what happens, however, as well as the floral decoration, the tree is festooned with lights, bells and mini disco balls. Not all gardening is tasteful and we are a gnome free zone.

Week Five. Mrs and Mrs.

I'm not getting as much reading done as I would like at the moment, so I have decided to do some lists by theme. (Themes of course, mean I can play with cheesy "stage sets" too, so indulge me, the frustrated stylist.) This week, wives, the missus, her indoors.

Now I realise this is by no means an exhaustive selection. Noted by their absence are Mrs Dalloway, Mrs Pettigrew, Mrs Beeton and Mrs Pepperpot, all somewhere about the house but pleading alternative engagements.

Starting from the top we have

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell. One of the books I was force fed at O'level and therefore completely lost any interest for me, only to return some years later and discover she has the same eye for detail and dry wit you would expect of Austen. Yes, there are a lot of words but each and every one is right. Enjoying Gaskell ? I must be a grown up.

Mrs Shakespeare by Robert Nye. A charming, slim book that wears its skill lightly. An acerbic yet entertaining view of life as the wife of the bard (Marilyn had it easy with Arthur by comparison), which yet again, like so much good fiction, educates as it entertains.

An Unequal Marriage by Emma Tennant. Pride and Prejudice the sequel. Suspect a purchase made when needing a little undemanding writing. It did the job, but a bit like Carnation and cream, which serve the same purpose but are totally different, it left me wanting a good helping of Austen.

The Journal of Mrs Pepys by Sara George. A lovely book. Although writing about life in the 17C she does it in way that makes you think of your own relationships and of the way things have changed for women. It is by no means a feminist polemic, but it certainly helps enhance an awareness of our good fortune being intelligent and independant women in the 20C.

The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan. Story telling at its best, you are hauled into the lives of women, who although from the same culture have widely differing views of life. The way they resolve these differences and achieve an acceptance if not understanding is wonderfully described. Tan writes so sympathetically you actually care about all the protagonists, irrespective of their beliefs and choices.

The Pilots Wife by Anita Shreve. Read this so long ago that I barely remember the plot line, I know I enjoyed it and found it rather sad. More than that I cannot say. This is not in any way a criticism, more a reflection on my own goldfish brain.

The Bondage of Love by Molly Lefebure A study of the life of Mary Shelley. I know nothing about it, I own it, I may read it one day, otherwise I shall have to hope the facts slink in while I'm sleeping.

But the title seemed perfect for the list, whichever way you look at it, marriage has ties

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Musings on horticulture

I had an idea for a different post, but by the time I returned from a gentle meander around home turf all such thoughts had disappeared. It is as if we have been napalmed, hit with agent Orange and deforested for the benefit of MacDonalds all at the same time.
The dog has executed a redesign. His name is not, and never will be,Capability Brown. There is some grass remaining, but only to act as a delicate accent around each lovingly crafted hole and the fence is but a faint memory.
I have previously likened the garden to a re-enactment of Ypres, but this is beyond all imagining. Obviously there is something fascinating going on in the antipodes and the dog plans on getting there, this led to my temper not improving due to "depth testing" several of the holes that were cunningly disguised in the way of a comb over. Digger (yes, I know it's our own fault calling him Digory) sat watching and smiling. There is work to be done, and I know just the man to do it.

Please don't misunderstand me, I do not aspire to Chelsea and nor has it ever been a garden of "park planting" with lobelia neatly in rows behind marigolds and in front of salvia. It is a garden for sitting in, or playing in. Once I had dreams of croquet - the most civilised of mortal combats - but with these holes it is going to have to be extreme snooker. There has always been an element of randomness and over dense planting, if I like something it is planted, if it thrives so much the better. It is a little disconcerting though how many of those plants that flourish are on the list of deadly dangers. Euphorbia ? check, Foxglove ? check, Laburnum ? check, Castor Oil plant ? check. (Fortunately my children would not eat anything green so they were saved from A&E by pickiness.)
In light of todays discoveries I will have to accept I will never be the new Vita Sackville West but I might get to try out as Wilfred Owen. I'm off to sit in a hole with my Moleskine and a pencil.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Tagged by Potty Mummy, KatyBoo and Supply&Demand

Are memes the blogger equivalent of buses ? Nothing for months and then.... three invitations at the same time. I have to thank "Potty Mummy", KatyBoo (welcome back, you were sorely missed and Katherine of "Supply and Demands".
As the meme were very similar I have filleted out the individual questions from each donor and added them at the end of the original 18, I therefore apologise in advance as you have extra answers to plough through. I am quite certain I am nowhere near as fascinating to the world out there as I am to myself - navel gazing a speciality.

1. What are your current obsessions?
Twittering, an encyclopedia written by surrealists.
The thought of chocolate - post Easter gorging has resulted in a ban on the luscious, voluptous, tempting, unctuous......stop it now

and the ongoing options
shoes and
Radio 4

2. Which item from your wardrobe do you wear most often?
Shamefully, my wonderful aubergine silky towelling dressing gown from the White Company, known in the family as "The Yoda Robe". I hide in this even when clothed, it is my comfort blanket and we live in an old house with many draughts.

3. What's for dinner?
Uncertain, I haven't looked in the fridge. Either stir fry or something involving fish, as I got quite excited about sea bream yesterday watching "Great British Menu"

4. Last thing you bought?
Half of Sainsburys yesterday in the real world and just one or two (honest) books from Amazon, online

5. What are you listening to?
Muse initially, but it has segued into Leonard Cohen

6. If you were a god/goddess who would you be?
Pre-acknowledged goddess would have to be Eris goddess of Chaos, but were I to create my appropriate deity she would be goddess of proscrastination and indecision. Ditheria

7. Favourite holiday spots?
Anywhere in Italy, excluding most of the airports, obviously

8. Reading right now?
Cheri by Collette

9. Four words to describe yourself;
Over excited labrador puppy

10. Guilty pleasure?
I am not sure any pleasure should be guilty provided no one is hurt. Oh, hang on "Neighbours"

11. Who or what makes you laugh until you’re weak?
Eddie Izzard
Many bloggers but especially Belgium Waffling whose skills I suspect are the result of a Faustian pact made with the Holy Tortoise and KatyBoo who is the new Shakespure, Shikspeer, Shayks.... oh I give up (and apologise to Caryl Brahms and S J Simon)

12. Favourite spring thing to do?
Pottering in the garden, planning, waiting for the wisteria to come out

13. Planning to travel to next?
York, if that counts as travel, otherwise I have a wishlist of London, Paris, Italy and New York but they are all a bit "See what happens"

14. Best thing you ate or drank lately?
First English asparagus with butter followed by ripe figs

15. When did you last get tipsy?
Last week - "but it wasn't my fault M'Lud, she made me" points accusing finger at RazorKitty

16. Favourite ever film?
Now this was difficult, possibly "Perfume" or "Some Like it Hot".

17. Care to share some wisdom?
If I had any, do you think I could afford to share ? Erm, however scared you are about something, plunge in, the worst that can happen is you will be proved right, and that in itself is a result.

18. Which book/play would you like to be a character in and why ?
Beatrice in "Much Ado About Nothing", clever and witty yet compassionate . Hides her fear with bravura but has the grace to acknowledge her mistakes.

The next questions are those from KatyBoo and Katherine that did not appear in the previous 18

KB1. Do you have any weird phobias?
Really don't like little fish in aquaria - the way they shimmer about makes me itch

KB2. Favourite song?
To sing - Zadok the Priest by Handel
Bring Me to Life by Evanescence
Vivaldi's Gloria
To listen to - Lou Read Perfect Day
Led Zeppelin Stairway to Heaven
and if I need a good cathartic sob nothing beats Allegri's Miserere

KB3. What’s your favourite meal you make without sticking to a recipe?
Almost anything with pasta, depending on season and what's available. The chameleon of the culinary world.

KB4. Who would play you in a movie of your life?
If it was for attitude they'd have to get Christian Bale in drag, logically I imagine Victoria Wood or Imelda Staunton would get it, in my fantasy Sarah Bernhardt.

KB5. Facebook or Twitter?
Both, but Twitter has my attention as more real time. Facebook is useful as a diary but is much less of a witty "salon"

KB6. What is your favourite word?
Hug - onamatopoeia of the very best

S&D1. Who is your favourite male celebrity at the moment?
Edward Norton, although the chap playing Cheri could be a runner.

S&D2. Wow! How Do You stay looking so young? Share your secret!
I ignore the teenagers

S&D3. If you
could change anything in your life so far, what would it be?
Allowed myself the confidence to enjoy being me, carpe diem.

Rules of the meme. Respond and rework. Answer questions on your own blog. Replace one question. Add one question. Tag 8 people.
Not wanting to run the risk of double tagging anyone, I am leaving this open, anyone want to give it a go ? There's a lovely pick and mix to play with.