Thursday, April 30, 2009

Water - randomly

There are holes in the sky where the rain comes in
But they're ever so small, thats why rain is thin.

by Spike Milligan

The Thames Flood Barrier, Charlton (just down the road from me). 
We have recently been assured that the barrier will go on working until 2070, rather than 2030 as previously thought.

Though I assume that it very much depends which side of the barrier you are on....

River in the Dordogne, France (sorry, feeble lack of precision).
Water like molten gold.

Royal Victoria Dock, East London (just across the river from me)

Storm King park, New York State  (with Andy Goldsworthy's dry stone wall)

The Thames near Westminster.

Swimming regularly - helps keep me going at the moment.

As does the thought of a summer holiday in Jersey, with long walks by the sea:

Video - Suffolk, East coast of England. Unknown dog.

Water - a Thursday Theme

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pool of garbage

Only on flickr...

In my inbox, an invitation to join the 'Pool of Garbage'.

["pools" on flickr refer to groups who collect and contribute photos on a particular theme to the group pool.]

I do belong to a number of rubbish and garbage groups on flickr.
Some of them are quite specific - "Rubbish in the river", "I hate shopping trolleys".

Here is a selection of my "rubbish" photos:

I add pictures to these pools, but don't often go there to browse, its rather depressing.

Possibly the most bizarre group or pool invitation I've ever had on flickr is an invitation for this photo:

invited to be part of the "tea tags" group.
I kid you not.

Its an indication of the weirdness of the world of flickr that I didn't think "how amazing!  theres a tea tag group, who would have thought it!". 
No, I thought  "where's my head?  should have thought to look for the tea tags group."

Maybe its also an indication of something or other that I found the existence of such a group somehow strangely heartening....

Friday, April 24, 2009

The garden is full of petals from the crab-apple tree, like confetti on the grass.

It does look good enough to eat.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Flower days

Did you know that wine might taste better, depending on which day of the week it is?

or which hour of the day?

And I don't just mean that it tastes better on Friday night, because.....  its Friday night!
Or that it tastes better on holiday because.... you're on holiday!
Or that it will taste better on the days when your richer and more fussy friend is buying....

No, there is apparently increasingly widespread acceptance of the view that the taste of wine changes with the lunar calendar - that wine from the same bottle might taste considerably better on Tuesday than on Friday because of the way wine as an organic substance is affected by lunar and cosmic rhythms.
Or it might taste better at 8pm than at 4pm.

I learned this from my Saturday Guardian*, which enlightened me about the concept of "Fruit" and "Flower" days (best for wine-drinking) and "root" or "leaf" days (which are worst).

Some major retailers in the UK set their critics-tasting days according to this calendar.
They have "not shared [this] belief with customers for fear it will add yet more mystique to wine...  It may be a little step beyond what consumers can comprehend... We don't want to make it more complicated." (source: a Tesco's manager quoted in the article)

Well, personally I'm delighted to have the pleasure of wine enhanced by this extra complication and mystique.  I've seen one response, in a letter to the Guardian, suggesting that this is a belated April Fool's joke.

But I hope its true.

Cheers, and heres to the next fruit/flower day.

* Credit for this story to Robert Booth, "Tesco and supermarket rivals go for wine tasting by moonlight", The Guardian 18/04/09

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I think it was through watching Trading Places that I first became aware of the notion of "futures trading" - buying and selling goods not yet produced, on the basis of expert projections  (I think??).  Central characters in the film make huge amounts of money dealing on the basis of educated guess work and privileged information about future production - production which could be affected by a range of uncontrollable elements including weather and global politics.

Well its all old news now of course and we are all so much more familiar with the concept, the processes, the folly, the hubris and greed and catastrophic outcomes of that kind of finance.

But I have been thinking about futures quite a bit lately, with uncertainty about both my future employment and M's. 

So thats us. Along with  thousands - at least - of other people.

And I've been thinking about what a privileged position we personally are in to have the luxury of worrying and stressing about our future.  It is undoubtedly a gross obscenity the way banks, businesses and individuals have made fortunes out of the lives and futures of those less powerful and less informed. But even those of us who have been less powerful and less informed may still be living hugely privileged lives. 

Its really hard to write about this without sounding trite or glib but even being in a position of worrying about old age and pensions, or worrying about paying the mortgage for the next year or month or week - thats a luxury.  A luxury in comparison with the lives of hundreds of thousands around the world who aren't sure if they will eat this day or this week, or whether they will be alive tomorrow.

And I'm not quite sure what to make of the fact that my best survival tactic at the moment is to live as much as possible in the present.  To appreciate the very many good things in my life, to smell the sweet spring air and enjoy the flowers (and the tadpoles) and spend as much time as possible with family and friends.  To live life every day, rather than being defined and determined by anxiety about the future which is, after all, uncertain.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this in the light of the experience of those hundreds of thousands who have no choice but to live absolutely only in the present because that is all they have. My living in the present is so much an entirely different kind of reality from their living - or surviving, if they can -  in the present.

I am uneasy about the fact that thinking about this gulf of difference makes me feel better about my life and more able to cope. 

It does make me think that focussing on living in the present as a way to counterbalance the uncomfortable "luxury" of concern about the future is therefore a kind of double-luxury.

My brain is in danger of getting entirely tangled up with these thoughts, especially at a rather early hour for Saturday morning (I will probably post this rather later after checking that it is at least semi-coherent...) (semi-coherent is good enough, right?)  so I shan't go on any more.

But there is a post here at  Brian Miller's blog  which expressed very well a truth I have to go on and on trying to remember and live by.

And here is the latest tadpole update, about 4 weeks old, wriggling around with - I'm guessing - no thoughts of tomorrow.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Ploughed earth in Suffolk, UK

I am hoping that before too long, there will be little green shoots of basil, sweet majoram and dill emerging from the earth in these pots.

Here is some spinach which is already emerging, further down the garden.

And I think I have blogged before about compost, but I make no apology for repeating myself because I wonder every year at the magic which turns this

into this

The magic of the earth recycling and renewing itself.

A Theme Thursday post

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


of spring

in my garden

Thursday, April 09, 2009


Today's Thursday Theme is Egg.

So here is some more about my frogspawn.

There is a nostalgia about frogspawn and tadpoles, for me (more than easter eggs or chocolate bunnies in fact) as something associated with childhood, with primary school classrooms and spring and family outings to countryside ponds with jam-jars at the ready.

Outings such as this in fact:

which is from Further Doings of Milly-Molly-Mandy by Joyce Lankester Brisley,  this copy given to me by my Auntie Chris and Uncle Pete on the occasion of my 4th birthday.

Milly-Molly-Mandy went on exciting excursions like this with her friend Billy Blunt 

and what better time for such excursions than a Bank-holiday Monday?
(do other countries have Bank holidays?)

She did other largely more girly things with "little-friend-Susan" and was quite a well-rounded and appealing character.  

I am sure that you'll be reassured to know that Milly-Molly-Mandy and Billy Blunt did indeed catch tadpoles, and also that they later returned the tadpoles to their natural habitat.

Last year my frog pool had no frogspawn or tadpoles, though I did catch sight of a shy but reassuring frog or two, just once or twice in late summer and autumn.

The year before that I had imported tadpoles from a friend's pond into my little pool where they grew and wriggled and thrived and then hopped away.

This coincided, 2 years ago,  with my mother's last few weeks of living and dying - and I find myself, actually, without words - though I'd intended to write something about the significance, for me, of the tadpoles and froglets and process and season.

But I do (as nearly always) have a picture - this was taken last Sunday, a week after the "emergence"  of the frogspawn: 

I can age-stamp the spawn in this photo fairly exactly because I was a witness to the process of its production - not intentionally, I hasten to add.  It took me a while to realise there were two frogs there, not just the one.... they were so still!  and I did then creep away not wanting to disturb them - or to appear "disturbed" myself.

This reminded me that when I was a student, years ago, I came across mention of a textbook of Roman Catholic casuistry - a book listing and categorising sins.  
Recommended bedtime reading in the C17th no doubt.

This particular text apparently stated that watching the procreation of mammals and/or large animals was a mortal sin [Big Bad = eternal damnation unless "dealt with" through the sacraments of the Church]  but watching small animals or insects or birds "at it" was only a venial sin [Little, Less bad = purgatory at worst].

I can't remember if frogs were mentioned specifically.  I imagine they came in the latter category.
Lets hope so, eh?

Since I took this photo, the frogspawn are significantly more tadpole-shaped, and the blobby jelly seems to be almost completely dissolved. So I suppose they are actually nearly egg-less now - hatched, in fact -  but they don't yet show any signs of wiggling.

I check on them daily.

I think part of the reason this is so all fascinating is that frogspawn and tadpoles allow us transparently to observe a process which is normally hidden away secretly,  inside the egg or womb.  We can watch and wonder at the whole amazing transformation from blobby egg to springy spronginess.

how fantastic!
I will keep you updated.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

I've had a day full of satisfying home and garden activity and really wanted to post something, but my brain seems rather empty.

My mind does sometimes shut down these days, as if to tell me that its done enough thinking lately and has nipped out for a break, leaving the office unattended.

It could, of course, be age-related but I prefer to think that this is another symptom of my newly discovered and greatly-prized ability to say "NO" sometimes.

Or else maybe the physical therapies of messing about in the dirt, cleaning windows and sorting out storage problems has lulled the poor tired grey cells (I prefer to think of them as green, actually) into a happy trance from which they are reluctant to emerge.

And rather than try to kick-start them into activity, I shall just lapse into silence now and leave you with whichever random recent photo takes my fancy:

cranes in central London, near the British Museum

and with this from my latest music discovery, Bat for Lashes, who I think is just FANTASTIC:

Thursday, April 02, 2009


10 p.m.

10 a.m.

10 24/7

"Ten" thanks to  Theme Thursday