30 April 2009


I found this in my son's room this morning. I'm not sure why it made me laugh - the curiously beady eyes or the generous helping of eggs?.

Same story twenty years earlier.
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27 April 2009


Apologies for the erratic posting. My only excuse is that there has been a lot going on. Including rain for most of the day. So i count myself particularly lucky to have missed the showers today when I decided to walk to Temple along the Embankment, where I could see the rain travelling east, while the sun behind me lit up the river and London. For a few minutes there was the most magical light that made me love the city and the river and the light and the rain.

Then I noticed that I wasn't the only one admiring the view.

20 April 2009

joys of spring

Back of the shops, east end of Roman Road

There's so much loveliness around at the minute. Even the graffiti is full of joy. Unfortunately though I have a job interview tomorrow so only have time to share this tonight.

15 April 2009

a walk in the woods

If you turn north off the Mile End Road by the Regent's Canal and walk through the park, there is a short avenue of trees, like a little wood, that runs along the backs of the houses in Clinton Road. Young boys hang around on top of the mound on one side of the wood and young girls sit gossiping on the benches on the other side. In the wood, you'll find a solitary cowslip, euphorbia robbiae and grape hyacinths.

And if you are really lucky, as I was today, you'll see butterflies basking in the late afternoon sun. A blue butterfly to quick to catch. A majestic peacock lurking in the nettles.

And most exciting of all, speckled woods - a male and female perhaps - enjoying the dappled sunlight and guarding their territory.

I would have skipped the last few hundred yards home if I'd had the energy. As it was I just smiled to myself like a fool.

14 April 2009

a trip to the cemetery

Round about this time of year, my mum likes to get along to the cemetery to wash down the headstones and do a little planting. It weighs on her mind if she doesn't. This may sound a little maudlin, but it is not at all. In fact, this is no different to any of those other seasonal springtime tasks. And walking through St Patrick's is like a walk through time, as you pass by the graves of aunts and uncles, grandads and nans, neighbours, school teachers, bishops. Oddly comforting.

It is not the smartest of cemeteries. There are no famous people buried here, and it probably has more than its fair share of public graves. It's all a bit ramshackle unlike the more orderly and regimented affairs managed by the Corporation of London further out on Wanstead Flats. The rumble of traffic from the A12 and passing Central Line trains don't make for a particularly peaceful setting either, though that doesn't seem to stop the blackbirds singing away.

The superintendent seems to know everyone and has shown infinite patience towards my mum with her prevarications over various designs of headstones and the intricacies of family politics over who is responsible for whatever. (Let us not even begin to think about the tellings off I've had from various relatives because of tardiness in organising appropriate memorials.)

When she was younger, my mum and her sister used to trip along during the summer with their flasks of drink and some tuck and have a nice time sitting in the sunshine. Now she wants to organise a memorial bench for others to enjoy.

Another little something for the to do list.

13 April 2009

found and re-found

I had not intended to spend my holidays doing housework, but after a week of painting the floor in our bedroom, retrieving and re-assembling the furniture and its contents proved to be a longer job than I had anticipated. I thought that the traditional Good Friday frenzy of cleaning would have done the trick but somehow it went on ...and on. There were bags of recycling, decisions to be made about what was demoted to the cellar and what was reinstated. There were clothes to be retrieved from under the bed and others to be put away in their place, optimistically, for the summer; more clothes and sheets assigned to the mending pile, and others sent to charity; and imagined clothes - fabrics and patterns - mentally admired in front of mirrors and stored away for making another day There were photos and pictures relegated or promoted to more prestigious sites, and old letters and books tucked away again for sentimental reasons.

Then there were more peculiar discoveries - these plaster casts which were meant to be a "prescription" for making corrective insoles. They put me in mind of Rachel Whiteread's House which was made just up the road from here. I think of House quite often. For a start, it smelt of London, a kind of damp and dusty scent. And then there the little domestic features, locks and window frames and those little snickets for closing windows that you have to wipe and dust around, the sort of features you pretty much ignore unless you are cleaning them.

So I have been working my way through the disorder, moving furniture, rearranging things to try and create more space out of the same area by shifting and re stacking. Everything was starting to reach a satisfying conclusion, Then, on the final leg, I discovered the treachery of the moth collective. They had eaten into two of my rugs, leaving holes and burrows and nasty little larvae requiring drastic action. What a bad hausfrau I am - I didn't know I had to vacuum under the rugs too (and clearly more often than my normal shamingly infrequent efforts). I'll know better in future.

Meanwhile, we are the proud owners of the poshest weed-suppressing-carpet-cover on the allotment.

04 April 2009

beach admiral

Mudchute Allotments are home to a range of flags, mostly patriotic. This is the Isle of Dogs after all. This flag, however has a rather different background. For a start it's a tea towel. And it's not a permanent fixture. This yellow ensign was sent to John by a friend, the joke being that it was the flag for admirals with no real job - so called beach admiral. That's a little unfair, though. This man is the workhorse behind this plot. I do back-office, project planning, logistics, and light manual work only. He, on the other hand, has dug over this unwelcoming and resistant clay, schlepped and heaved planks of wood and stones on a sack truck, wheelbarrowed in piles of manure, compost and leaf mould, and generally turned a bindweed covered and couchy plot into something that could grace the pages of Garden's Illustrated. Perhaps. With a little imagination.

There are some signs of beachiness around here, though - a small bed with shells and pebbles left over from the seaweed we brought home from the seaside to feed the asparagus. And it looks like it has worked. I was astonished to see it up and almost tall enough to cut so early in April. This is good news, very good news.

And there's the deckchairs, of course. The potatoes on the left went in to day. They are "Colleen" - how could I resist? The others are Arran Victory, a purple type,

I reckon being a beach admiral isn't too bad a job.

Even if you do have to sweep down the decks yourself while the crew lounge in deck chairs.

01 April 2009

mirror, mirror

It has been an unsettling week. We are in the middle of painting the floor of our bedroom and that has meant we spent emptying one half of the room and camping in one corner, unable to open wardrobes or reach tantalisingly marooned items on the other side. The indoor camping was not so bad, and there was something pleasing about the room being uncluttered. But having to use unflattering mirrors in the brighter, harsher light of spring was not so good. Did I really have so many furrows and wrinkles and was I really so washed out the last time I looked in the mirror?

The inevitable half lie of "having nothing to wear" also resurfaced. You know and I know that this cannot be true, especially when part of the painting task has been moving drawers and dismantling wardrobes, drawers and boxes full of clothes. But it always happens this time of year. Unpredictable and uneven weather, cold in the morning, warm at midday, cool again on the way home, mean that it's hard to get it right when it comes to dress-up. And I am totally, totally out of sorts and grumpy when I have a bad clothes day - clothes too hot, too tight, too long, too short, clothes that don't make me feel good - I need those colours, textures, swish and sway to lighten my day. (The importance of that swishing and swaying is probably behind my current workwear passion of skirts in party fabrics worn with a more practical woollen cardigan; never mind bloomin' power dressing.)

It just so happens that I have been reading eLinda Grant's "The Thoughtful Dresser" this week so clothes have been on the brain as well as the floor. I wouldn't claim to be well read on the subject or even a follower of fashion but I am interested in the choices we make about clothes and how they make us feel. Linda Grant says " We care about what we wear, If we don't we are fools. Only babies don't worry about what they look like, and only because no one has yet shown them a mirror".I agree with her, up to a point. There's nothing wrong with not caring about what you wear, but it ain't my way. Or Linda's. She is also spot on with her description of clothes as "fabric friends". Isn't that why we darn and mend and shorten and remodel, to keep those friendships and memories alive a little longer? (Justine Picardie's book is excellent on this.)

She has this to say on the the vexing question of ageing: "At sixteen and again at sixty you are at the age when you use clothes to discover new identities. To stand in front of a mirror and see a different person with each garment you put on; to explore all those possibilities, those various selves". I do that most days, don't you? Why wait till you're sixty?

It might be time perhaps to put away the brown and grey and get out the irises, though.