Wednesday, February 25, 2009

1985 called and they want their cardigan back

In one of my rare acknowledgements of current fashions, I thought, while strolling through a local shopping centre last weekend, that I might buy one of the new "boyfriend cardigans" for myself. They're a good length, look comfortable but are still reasonably "with it" (I have potentially betrayed the punchline of this blog with the use of that very middle-aged phrase). Upon closer inspection, I realised I already had a very similar garment lurking in my wardrobe at home. It had been there for some time in fact. Since 1985 to be precise, when they were first in fashion.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Away and here

I cannot tell you how much I enjoy being on holiday. I love it. In fact, I can honestly say, that I have never been anywhere that I didn't love. Some places, of course, I have loved more than others but there has never been anywhere that I have haboured an on-going dislike of. Even if that conclusion needs to be reached through rose-coloured glasses some years hence. I am always trepidatious about leaving behind the trappings and comforts of home before I go, but once I am there (wherever there may be) I am in my element. I love the very 'awayness' of being away. New things, things I have never seen before (and may well never see again), things which draw me out of myself and away from any problems which I have left behind and which may be waiting for me on my return. Strangely enough though, I always manage a disaster (thankfully minor so far) while I am away. There is a photograph of me amongst the April chill of Hay-on-Wye in Wales, an unbecoming woollen hat rammed onto my sinus-swollen head, my eyes puffy. I staggered around Japan with swollen ankles. There's evidence of this too - digitally captured I stand amongst the ordered and beautiful splendour of one of Kyoto's many temple gardens, one ungainly, elephantine foot swathed in bandage. In Germany, I thought it would be hot, so I took skirts and cheesecloth tops. It was so brisk that I had to buy jeans and a jumper at our first stop in Cologne. In Japan, I thought it would be cold, so I took my thickest jumpers, scarves and woollen hats. It was 28 degrees celsius most days and so I spent a considerable chunk of time hunting amongst the Japanese clothing shops for anything cooler which would fit my decidely non-Japanese frame. The more I think I am prepared, the more I try to cover every eventuality, the less prepared I seem to be. This is just one life-lesson which I have taken from traveling (if not quite thoroughly absorbed into my everyday life just yet) and it alone gives me all the more reason to love traveling so.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Chocolate and sentimentality

A food stylist I am not but this I think gives you a good sense all the same of how I spent part of my Saturday afternoon. I have recently been on an increasingly zealous mission to de-clutter our very small house and in doing so I have found many things which I had forgotten I had or even that I owned in the first place. One such find was a dauntingly large pile of recipes—single pages pulled out of newspapers and magazines—in some cases ten-plus years old. They are joined by pages my mother pulled out thirty-plus years ago and also, pages kept by my grandmother from fifty-plus years ago. This is the difficulty with de-cluttering, for me at least: the clash between a desire for calm, order and neatness and a strong sentimentality. A topic for another day, perhaps. This, however, is cranberry and pistachio white chocolate, as selected from said pile and as originally created by Donna Hay. Her picture, I should add, is much prettier.

Friday, February 13, 2009


The spiritual views which I subscribe to primarily implore a love of nature. But nature is making itself very hard to love at the moment. The countryside is burnt black, people are dead, homes are destroyed, the relief of good, heavy, soaking rain just won’t come and even on our own little urban patch, the garden is alternatively a sickly yellow, a burnt brown or a bleached-out white. The sun has left its angry imprint everywhere. Many spiritual belief systems reverence nature but this has a flip-side which many adherents today fail or choose not to observe. Nature, as much as it can calm and nurture, can also be furious and destructive. Against its might, we can ultimately present little resistance. And its might, when roused by decades of various forms of environmental abuse, is mighty indeed.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Cranford has finally made it to our tv screens here, some time I believe after it was screened to considerable acclaim in the UK. I enjoyed it thoroughly, though I must admit I have not read Elizabeth Gaskell's book. It has been on my shelf for many years, since my long-past days as a rather lazy English Lit student, when it was on the required reading list but I somehow managed to avoid it. Some people, of course, loathe period dramas, and there are elements to them which you can see would rankle: first, the oft-levelled charge: "But nothing happens!" and also, that they present an idealised view of the past. Both of which are mostly true. No-one ever seems to have bad teeth or body odour issues, unless the story is set during the Black Death, and these surely must have been the case in the days before toothpaste and efficient water supply systems. But there are also components to these dramas which must be basically accurate depictions of the pre-electricity age. The slowness of life. People did not leap into their cars and head out of town. They didn't plan holidays on the other side of the world (except in extraordinary circumstances). They didn't have emails to check or mobile phones to answer and they certainly didn't read blogs. They went visiting. They were aware of what was going on immediately around them (perhaps too aware if Cranford is anything to go by). They observed the seasons. They rose with the sun and often slept when it set. They lived by candlelight. They sewed, knitted or baked what they needed. And, of course, a lot of this often made for very hard work (especially if you were not fortunate enough to be born into the middle or upper classes) but it also gave communities a slow tempo and an essential bond which is perhaps lacking in many ways today and which people seem to be seeking out - the trend towards slow food, the growing interest in making rather than buying, the multitudes of communities grouping together online. I am not sorry bonnets, corsets and many societal restrictions have fallen by the wayside, but perhaps we have lost other things too, and it is the echo of them which draws us to Cranford.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I work largely on my own, spending a lot of time in my own company, and making my own particular path through the yellow wood. The world of blogs, however, has given me a wonderful chance to follow all sorts of other roads travelled. I have been by turns cheered, inspired, heartened and consoled. Will I be able to do the same? I guess I’ll just have to wait and see…

Oh, and be sure to look up Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken” so all this makes a little more sense.