Category Archives: summer

Have you seen the blackberries this year?

And I’m not talking about little electronic emaily gadgets.  Ho no. I’m talking about the food for free that I picked by the canal on the way back from work the other day.

It’s been a perfect mix of rain and sun this summer, with very few days that were dull but dry.  Though the blackberries are a little early, they are absolutely splendid: 3/4 of an inch across and surprisingly sweet.  Bake ’em up with apple and a crumble topping.  It takes ten minutes to put together with a food processor, and five of those are spent looking for the apple peeler.

Crumble topping is demerara sugar : butter or marg : self-raising flour in the ratio 1 : 2 : 4.  If you weigh out enough flour first, you can add the others to suit.  You want your topping to be at least 3/4 of an inch deep.

Whizz the dry ingredients in the blender and sprinkle in a cinnamon or ginger if you feel like spicing it up.

Peel the apples and wash the blackberries and put in their cooking dishes.  If you are using cooking apples sprinkle with brown sugar, but I think blackberries are nicer with coxes or braeburns and no sugar.

Pour the crumble mixture  on top of the fruit and bake in a medium/hot oven for half an hour or twenty minutes depending on if you set it to medium or hot.  Creme fraiche is the perfect accompianment, though there are those who like ice cream of course.

School’s out

Woo Hoo!

School’s Out for Summer!

It isn’t of course, I still have my day job to go to,  but I have just finished an assignment from hell: 4000 words on a subject so vague that they served waffles in the coffee-breaks.  It is one of those topics which should be impossible to fail (ha!) and at which it is certainly impossible to excel.  “This is as long as it’s broad” I said between waffle-breaks; “do you want us to consider the subject in width or in depth, because we can’t do both.”  In depth, he said, and so I’ll be criticised for not mentioning this, considering that or discussing the other.  Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.  No high marks possible here.

But enough.  It’s done.  Just proof-reading and proof-reading and proof-reading to do between now and Monday when I post the bastard; “fly-fucking” as my Danish friend described the tedious process of moving a comma from, one side to, the other.

It’s May.

It’s magical marvellous May. The leaves are fresh, the lambs are running races, the cherry blossom is out, there is more green everywhere, every day.

If I could be whoever and whatever I could, I would be 35 and weigh 10 stone in May forever.  Today the temperature was perfect, warm in the sun and fresh on the skin.  I have a garden to weed, a house to paint, curtains to sew, books to read, scarves to knit, weddings to dance at, pots to plant, parties to go to, wine to drink, laughter to share, friends to delight in, and a whole blissful summer to do it all.

I’ve not felt this giddy when sober for years.

“I don’t know much about art….”

When I went around the sculpture in the garden exhibition, I went round with a colleague, his wife and the one I go round sculpture exhibitions with. Interestingly, they all claimed to have parents who were artists, but their approach to the exhibition was very different.

My approach to this sort of stuff is a rather breathy enthusiasm – “Oh, wow, doesn’t it look like a spaceship?” or “Oh, look, blown glass bubbles in a tree, how coo-oo-ool is that?” My valley-girl inarticulateness in the light of the candy battle of Helm’s Deep is a case in point. I get terribly excited about this sort of stuff and go off at a dozen or so tangents, like a pack of hounds in a fun-fair.

A much less satisfactory picture from the Razr.  In theory this shows some leaded light panels hung from the branch of a tree, but you can see how badly its pixellated.  This picture was the main reason I went with the Sonly Ericssons instead.

The one I go round exhibitions with engages at a more knowledgeable and academic level. This is a kid who was taken to the Tate before he could walk and who refers to holiday snaps as “images”. He talks intelligently about what he is seeing – perhaps he’ll comment on the references the artist is making to the work of other artists, perhaps he’ll think about the artist’s intentions. Not only does he ‘get’ art, he gets the context too.

But the other two were much more passive. “Oh, yes, it’s a garment made out of glass hanging on a steel coat-hanger in a tree – it’s very pretty”. MMmmmm. “Kingfishers above the water. That’s nice.” I was left gasping like a trout on a riverbank at their lack of engagement. Nothing touched them. They saw it, but only seemed to see what was in front of their eyes. I am not sure whether or not they were deliberately holding back. The exhibition was my idea, not theirs.

But how can anyone walk through a woodland glade where someone has planted hundreds of fabric flowers and have a reaction which is limited to “oh, look, hundreds of fabric flowers in a woodland glade”?

I may not know much about art, but it seems that I know even less about people.

Calvinist Weather

I loathe and dislike the darkness and storm-lashed bad temper of winter, and I’m not too fond of the coldness of it either. I loathe them to the point, sadly, where I can’t always enjoy the summer the way I should because it will be followed by winter. ‘Ah yes’, I say to myself as the sun set fades at 10:30 on a downy summer’s evening, ‘but it’s all downhill from here; it’ll be gales and dark by 4.00 before I know it’.

How Calvinist. You’ll be punished for enjoying the good things god gave you. How much better to be miserable all of the time.

Then it struck me that the hard-line protestant religions, including Calvinism, are all either from the mountains or the north. They are from places with seasons, anyway; places where the winter is a dangerous endurance-test, rather than a mild interlude.

How much nicer to be an easy-going Catholic where it doesn’t really matter what you do, because the next day’ll be mild or warm or pleasant or wonderfully hot, and all you need to do to enjoy it is confess and get absolution. No bitter frosts, week-long gales, dead plants, damp houses, pneumonia, chilblains or frostbite for you. Just a couple of hail marys and go in peace and have a nice day.

Summer flowers, winter mornings

One summer’s day eighty, ninety, maybe a hundred years ago my grandmother’s sister filled a green bowl with poppies and cornflowers and great white peonies.

Every morning, the first thing I see when I wake is that green bowl of summer flowers which she painted all those years ago.

I like that.

Summer flowers


Early morning mist.
Cocks launching their challenges
across the valley.

New Phone

It wasn’t my fault, ok.Well, the being in Bristol on the wrong day was my fault, I guess. But the upgrading the mobile phone wasn’t. Really it wasn’t. I’d left at 7.00am. It was now 9.30. It was, as I said, the wrong day. Who would turn round and go hammering straight back along the motorway again on such a hot morning? A nice cup of tea and maybe a little window-shopping – where’s the harm in that? Flicking through the papers and drinking a Chai Latte, perhaps.

If they must put large signs in the street advertising the new Sony Ericsson with the 3.2 megapixel camera, what am I going to do about it?


So here are some of the pictures I took. For a camera, it’s a bloody cool phone.

I really like living in the future.





sun and breeze touch skin
stroking the boundary between
me and the summer

Puss in Boots

The cats are noticeably less neurotic since I fitted the cat-flap. Hardly a surprise, really: they can come and go as they please, sleep the afternoon away, get up for a light snack, saunter out, take the air, indulge in some elegant exercise, look splendid, out-stare their rivals, kill birds, and come in again and complain bitterly when they get bored of the outside world.

A charmed life, being a cat. Rather like being an 18th century aristocrat, if you think about it. Or a member of the Waffen SS.


Green ferns and fir trees.
Murmuring woods remember
ghosts of dinosaurs.

The dinosaurs pre-date flowers as well as birds and most mammals: they inhabited a world of ferns and fir trees.