Sunday, October 26, 2008


My posts have been rather lengthy of late...

I don't mean them to be. Its just, once I'm started, I tend to go on...

I plan to write shorter posts for a while
(all other things being equal)

which will be fitting as we are now officially into shorter winter days.

Here is London - embankment and around Charing Cross - between the hours of about 5.30 and 7.30 last week.

We put the clocks back last night.
I'm glad for LG who may get some daylight before she arrives at school in the mornings, but less glad for myself as I'll be cycling home from work in darkness more regularly.

But - at least for a few days - I'll be arriving home to tea and cake

though it'll be tempting to make rather short work of it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


I'm looking forward to catching a glimpse of some other bloggers' workspaces.

Quite ready to admit to being a nosey parker.

Its so funny to think that some of you know what the contents of my cupboards look like - without necessarily knowing anything much else about me.

the strange world of blogging...

Anyway, I posted some pics a while back of the view from my computer desk... this sort of a view:

I've been getting quite a bit of entertainment lately from watching the little teeny tiny mice outside this window, hiding from the neighbourhood cats and nibbling on the bird seed which I've spilled while filling the bird-feeders.

I will get a photo of them if I can.

oh, oh and I just remembered, oh this is another thing I have been watching from my computer desk lately:

Unlike the unfortunate spiders who build their beautiful webs across the front door, this spider seems to have picked a pretty feasible and sustainable location and I hope this web lasts and lasts.

And, no doubt, i will take photos and more photos...

and here is my main workspace itself.

Items of note: most importantly, cup of tea. Also, card-reader, iPod cable, scribbled note about things not to forget to do today, box of tissues, spare pens and clangers.

When I moved desks and computers a month or so ago, I wasn't sure how I would cope with such a small desk space.

Well..... I am tending to spread onto the floor

Though I write etc. mostly at the computer, I still need space for books and papers...

... but this is in a more controlled way than previously.

Compare the floor space near my desk and bureau, as it has been in the past (fairly habitually):

and as it is now.

Congrats to me, n'est ces pas?

(note my camera, at the ready for photos of spiders, mice....)

The bureau itself is another story...

I do most of my work at the computer now, hence the spilling over onto the floor phenomenon.

But there are some things I still sit and do the old fashioned way - and the only space I (potentially) have is at the bureau.

I was at my sister's house last weekend, and she too (recently) has taken possession of a family bureau.

And the front flap/desk-bit shuts!
And when you open it, there is space!

empty space

its an inspiration!

As is my niece, A., (known to some one of you as S.A.) who told me how she'd enjoyed sitting at the bureau and writing a Jane-Austen-style letter to a friend. A friend who she sees regularly. But she just wanted to write a hand-written letter.

Isn't that great?

Particularly in the light of recent hand-written correspondence from friends which encourages me (as does my niece) to spend time writing, as well as all the time at the computer, I plan a purge of this bureau.

In about 4 weeks, which is when my current workload should decline somewhat, I will sort and file and destroy and consign to garbage/recycling, and be ruthless .... and I will endeavour to clear the bureau so that it can be shut.

And opened again.

and sat at.

and used for writing....

and not just checking bank statements, but writing letters, and cards, and postcards... and Jane-Austen-style stuff

so Look Out


SO now you know about my cupboards, and about my workspace

how WEIRD is that?

Saturday, October 18, 2008


old newspapers inside a Williamsburg window, Brooklyn.

i wasn't planning to post today, having no particularly obviously bloggable thoughts in my head...

...but walking up the road to buy my weekend paper, various things which I've been thinking about began to form themselves into little groups, jostling for attention.

I'm not sure if anyone else will see the patterns or whether my saturday-brain will make the connections clear, but I'll throw them out there and hope that you will make more sense of them than I.

(now theres a thought - I could scatter random thoughts, and you could write my blog post for me, in your comments...)

anyway : systems, systemic, systematic....

Since my bad hair day week month number of months, the black toxicity is all grown out or cut off, I have short short hair which I like and my ears are pretty much back to normal.

Except that lately, they have been itching and complaining a little...
Maybe there are still toxins in my system or some evolution has occurred such that my ears are now a first indication of over-tiredness or stress.

The canaries of my immune system.(though hopefully they will never be that yellow)

I've been discussing equality and human rights with students - comparing and contrasting racism and sexism and explaining the concept of hegemony: how prejudice, stereotypes, assumptions and agendas of power can become so absorbed into a system [like a plant absorbing a systemic bug-spray] that they operate from the inside, they seem (to everyone, those with power and those without) only right and natural; obvious and common sense [as the bug-spray permeates roots, stems, leaves, capillaries, becoming part of the plant].

Sometimes i fear that racism and sexism have become resistant, super-strains of bigotry which we will never be rid of.

I dreamed - a little fragment, too-brief snippet of a dream - I was back in the house where I grew up, in my bedroom {i think i was an adult, not child but i'm not sure} putting away toys, especially dolls, old and antique dolls. Some of them I recognised but many I didn't. And my mother was there, just a presence. Thinking of her still brings tears so quickly and the pain doesn't get any less but its part of me now.

I was so angry last night (returning from a great evening out in London with a certain Rambling Woman) to see news headlines that Cameron, our opposition leader, was attacking Gordon Brown over the current economic crisis. Not that I would absolve Brown of all responsibility - he's a politician who has had economic responsibility and power for quite some time, he must carry some responsibility. He has been a key part of the system. But it seems rather obvious that this crisis has to do with assumptions about money, markets, growth, credit, wealth that go way deeper, wider, larger and further back in time than Brown's specific and personal role.

Does Cameron think that we've forgotten Thatcherism?

I know little about economic history or theory, I don't understand why "growth" is assumed to be so good and necessary as a basic and overriding imperative. Growth in wealth and standards of living seems to be so much a concern of those who have no need for any such growth - and the way economic "growth" works seems to be of little help to those who really do need and deserve it. The system seems to demand that we spend and spend - but for whose benefit? It seems to me a good thing that one result of this crisis is that, in the UK, a lot of people who can afford to are paying off bits of their mortgages. This seems not to be seen as such a good thing for "the system".

I've read some articles, leaders etc. suggesting that the scale and seriousness of the situation may be something of a (partial) victory for socialism. I find it hard to be so optimistic. It seems to me that capitalism and consumerism are a hegemony and those with the power to actually change things are those who are most cushioned from the shocks which might jolt the system out of whack...

The postal system is a Good Thing. I've received two lovely postal deliveries from two lovely bloggers and i have myself proceeded a couple of steps in the direction of sending postcards to people. Just because. Just to say hello.

My neighbour at the front door just now with a delivery of water snails* reminded me that I should report to you the presence of frogs in my frog pool. Despite the absence of frogspawn this spring, and no signs of splashing or croaking during early summer, I have witnessed the comings and goings of frogs of various sizes and degrees of shyness.

I know some of you will be pleased by this exciting news, as I was myself - both pleased and excited. And I'm sure there is something which could be said about frogs and water and ecosystems, but i think thats my Saturday quota of thinking all used up now.

*water snails of a different variety {pointy and whelk-shaped, rather than elliptical and flat} from those I already have. I say this in the firm belief that some of you would want to know....

There is no seventhly.

I shall go and look for a relevant photo to post with this.
Or not.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


This week's Thursday Theme is unexpectedly apt, because our house is more than usually full of baked goods.

Bought by my in-laws who are staying this week, there is an array of cakes, tarts, doughnuts, biscuits and muffins around the kitchen and in the fridge and there are about 4 different kinds of bread wedged into the bread-bin.

Fortunately for my waist-line, they are not really the kinds of cakes, tarts, doughnuts, biscuits and bread to tempt me. Though I have enjoyed the odd muffin.

Just the odd one.

Oh and a bit of tiffin yesterday.

or maybe two bits....

oh alright, three.

Quite unrelatedly, here some photos of our autumn which has been, on the whole, brightly blue and full of crunchy sunshine.

Oh and as I typed that an extraordinarily large bumble bee was tapping at the window right next to me. Winter seems a long long way off, despite the falling leaves.

In fact, the Autumn theme and the baked goods theme may not be entirely unrelated after all.
I do tend to feel more than ordinarily inclined to make cakes in the autumn.

I haven't acted on this inclination yet.


freshly baked ginger cake in front of an open fire....


Thursday, October 09, 2008


Hands are handy

Thursday Themes are handy - once again I was lacking blogging inspiration, but now I have something to post.

This is (or was or was designed to be) a glove mould - its made of porcelain and was the one New York gift I bought myself on my first Spring trip over this year.

There was a whole wall of these in a Greenwich Village shop - if I ever go back, I will take a photo.

I just knew I wanted one.

Normally my little inner voice would say "... yes, but do you need it?do you really have space for More Stuff?..."
But being on holiday for no other reason than the sake of "My Self", my little inner voice was muffled by the silvery duct tape of self-indulgence and treatiness.

On my summer trip over, I bought myself
a. some vintage buttons

b. these:

from a thrift store.

Aren't they unusual / unnerving / cute / freaky / sweet / odd / special / disturbing / appealing / bizarre ? (delete as applicable)

They are about 2 inches tall - you know, Christmas-decoration size.
(though i deny any allegations of Christmas thoughts in August)

This one is unique, not only by being green and yellow, but also by having its bits - limbs, hands and feet - all present and intact.

Four of them have a hand gone or mostly missing, together with the odd missing foot or two.

This one has no hands at all nor even remnants of hands. (both feet intact though)

But this one, saddest of all, came out of the box with no head.

Being headless must surely be worse than being handless?

Imagine my relief at finding the head nestling in the bottom corner of the box.

The head, hung up by itself, would make a truly unusual / unnerving / cute / freaky / sweet / odd / special / disturbing / appealing / bizarre Christmas decoration, don't you think?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Stuff And Spong

I've felt this post coming on for a while and was spurred on by Steve's post on stuff.

As some of you know, I like to muse about stuff.

Sometimes stuff and nonsense.

Sometimes stuff and spong.

For anyone who is bemused by the word "spong", I direct you to another, earlier, post of mine (rather a personal favourite).
And I would urge you to begin using this engaging and all-but indispensable word.

Anyway, my current musings about stuff are related to the ongoing* (um..... in the sense of still existing, not in the sense of anything happening in a 'going' sort of way...) plans for decoration of our dining room.

I did start stripping off wallpaper in July, workload declining, full of summer zest and energy.

I did foresee that this would be a project requiring some months.... given the way things go in our household (use of 'go' related to 'ongoing', see above*).

I did think that I'd have made a bit more progress by now, but

(end of strategic empty space)

Any old 'ow - and heres where the Stuff And Spong comes in - I have made significant progress since the summer with a complete clear out of The Cupboard.

We have too much storage space in our kitchen and dining room. Way too much for hoarders.

The dining room has a Very Large Victorian Cupboard which has been full of all sorts of old stuff and nonsense. And Spong.

The top shelves (too large and too inaccessible) have been groaning for lo, these many years past, with:

never-used childrens' party ware;
scarcely used pasta-machine;
more cake tins than we would ever use at one time;
milk-shake-maker which worked for about 3 days;
little Ikea box full of drawers containing candles, night-lights, pastry cutters, old (or are they new?) batteries, assorted spong;
wine-making kit;
dyeing equipment;
mystery plastic cutlery, don't know how it got there, ever ready to fall on your head;
old plastic containers which might come in handy one day;
other less interesting and less useful items.

you get the picture?
here is a picture:

In addition to the old, out-of-date, never-will-be-used and simply useless, this cupboard also contains way too much crockery. We have recently inherited my parents' Greenwheat dinner service. I love this crockery, I grew up with it and am very happy to have and use it.

But we now have 27 large dinner plates.
Does anybody need that many?


* lots of bags have gone to charity shops, recycling, rubbish collection
* bits and pieces have gone to friends and family of the easily-persuadable variety
* some Stuff is cluttering up the study waiting to be given to friends with small children (watch out oh watch out friends with small children)
*some Stuff is waiting in the study (also clutterwise) to be given to local primary school

There was Stuff which my family were happy to pass on.

There was Stuff about which they were given no option, and of which they remain ignorant.
There are no pictures of such Stuff.

There was Stuff which M. was unwilling to part with last time I cleared out, but which he was now quite happy to pass on:


There was Stuff which I thought we could get rid of, but which other members of the family wanted to keep:

(should have put this in the "no option/Ignorance" bag. Its NEVER been used)
(do you know what it is?)

I'd have taken more pics. but i was having too much fun playing loud music and being ruthless.

So, here is our newly sorted, emptied, re-classified and altogether more spacious Cupboard:

Beneath these capacious cupboards are two drawers, and then two smaller cupboards.
These little cupboards contained much spong and at least one slug - discovered, during the process of the clear-out, squished beneath my knee.

I am still in recovery.

The trauma was mitigated, however, by the most precious and unexpected find of the day - in amongst some bags and boxes and piles of LG's drawing-sticking-colouring-cutting-painting-sparklythings-collage-creative past:

This is now in the garden, adorning the fence near my girl-shed and frog-pond.

The cupboards currently house the contents of our china cabinet which, now being empty, can be moved - in order to continue stripping wallpaper.

So you see, there is method in my Stuff and Spong.

(what a lot of words. My musings about Stuff always produce a lot of words. I suppose its something to do with the nature of Stuff... and Spong....)

(the drawer-spong which featured in that earlier post is now, once again, encroaching. The kitchen was not part of my rather half-hearted springJune-cleaning... Question: will the mice find it? will they find it appetizing?)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

hippie advice

Todays Thursday Theme is mailbox,

and these are mailboxes in Liberty, NY.
I only have a couple of mailbox pictures (may have used this one before) as we generally don't have them here in the UK - but here its my handy link to some more pics from my US trip in August...
because one reason for being in the Catskills that weekend was the hippiefest concert at Bethel.

(oh and its so so lovely to be looking at these hot hot sunny summer photos as the weather changes here in England. dragon-breath for the first time this morning...)

Ched had been to hippiefest before and knew what to expect, so I guess didn't need advice - knowing to be prepared with blankets to sit on, warmer layers for the evening [when there was a little bit of a chill, after a spectacularly beautiful day of sunshine] and a LARGE bag of popcorn.

Steve and I, however, both received some interesting and entertainingly cross-generational advice.

Steve's advice, from his father:
"make sure you visit the Bethel (Sixties/woodstock) museum"

My advice, from my daughter:
"Don't smoke weed, mum. Eat it in a cake."

It was a perfect evening, amazingly clear air and colours up there in the mountains, with a groovy atmosphere and crowd of all ages.

Oh, and the music was GREAT.

More on the music here, with other associated psychadelica.

Some sat their way through it all

some got up and danced

these guys scarcely moved a muscle the whole evening, even when hit directly by various airborne missiles (beach balls, toilet rolls...)

Ched took some great people pictures.

The setting sun cast long long shadows ...

... before we wended (went?) our way homewards in darkness.