Tuesday, 30 August 2016

On being a pretty building. A few quotes. And doing what you love.

... for now I am in a holiday humor 
W Shakespeare

Family holidays. Or six go travelling while two go to prison/canine-holiday-camp aka. kennels.

The two-legged, travelling members of the family pose for a shadow pic - shadows lengthened by the evening sun have lengthened anyway with passing years (... mine, though, appears to have broadened). And I wonder how many more of these shadow pictures there will be and if we shall ever pose just six of us, again. Or if the breadth generally of our shadow profile will extend to include partners and children and when and who they will be. And dreaming of wider shadows and little hands and little arms reaching across the gaps, I define and re-define family. As generations have before. Poignant. And joyous. And wonderful.

What is a holiday if not a time for sentimental dreaming?

Holiday - noun - defn: an extended period away from work or school; often spent away from home or travelling and during which one is free to pass time in pursuit of rest and relaxation or seeking enjoyment and fun. From old English halig-daeg meaning holy-day. 

How do you define a good holiday? I guess it depends on who you are. On where you live. On the level of you expectations. On how much time and money you can afford to commit to the holiday. And on whether you choose to holiday alone or with others.

What do you throw into your own personal holiday pot? What mixture of delights?

A highly reviewed book ...

... even if, though excellent, chilling and haunting in its characterisation and its setting stark and bleakly brushed like an abstract expressionist painting and its poetic voice a mind-popping firework display of words, it ultimately disappoints because I struggled to find a character that I could like.

Monumental scenery ...

... even if, though built to commemorate those lost at sea, it was commissioned by Mussolini one of the butchers of twentieth century Europe.

Children ...

... even when they want a bit of alone time. To watch the crab eating the weed growing on the wharf wall.

Children ...

... even when their friends have all come on holiday too. Apparently.

Pretty buildings ...

... even if middle daughter, on critiquing the local architecture, expands her observation to declare that her mother is indeed a pretty building, too. And her brother adds later that their mother is not just a pretty building, but is a magnificent ... or was it monumental? ... pretty building. I think I prefer magnificence. Less heavy. Less solid. Less suggesting of something fixed and immoveable like a beached whale. Which is not a good image. Particularly for a mother daring to wear the bikini she bought in a sale two years ago and has never worn. Until now. Please ... no, not a whale! A magnificent pretty building - I'll take that. Smiling.

More, actual, pretty buildings -

A quick search for quotes about holidays revealed these (among many many others) -

'A good holiday is one spent among people whose notions of time are vaguer than yours.'
J B Priestly

Which is oh so true - no-one needs to be hurried on holiday; no clock-watching; no time-table; no rush. Find your holiday pace and stick to it. Breathe. Relax. Sleep a lot. Switch off. 
But not so much that you miss the flight home.

'After all, the best part of a holiday is perhaps not so much to be resting yourself, as to see all the other fellows busy working.'
Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

I hope that was Mr Toad speaking. Thinking he was busy in charge of his new caravan. Ordering Ratty and Mole. Observing the other fellows busy working. 

'No man needs a holiday so much as the man who has just had one.'
E Hubbard

Surely, a universal experience felt on that first morning back at work. I think every holiday needs a day for packing pre-travel and at least a day, post-travel, for washing, shopping and recovering from the journey.

Searching for holiday quotes also found one by Billie Holiday -

'If I'm going to sing like someone else, then I don't need to sing at all'

Which to all my creative friends means find your own voice, believe in it and stick with it. Don't be bullied into being like someone else. If you have an original idea make it your own. Don't be someone else. There is no dignity in complying and in fitting-in with general expectation, only a slow withering of ambition and a narrowing of self-belief and confidence. 

In the same vein, there is this magnificent quote from the actor who was the original, wonderful Willy Wonka -

'Success is a terrible thing and a wonderful thing ... Just do what you love'
Gene Wilder.

RIP - remembered with a smile.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Work dos; working hard for a bit of a do in the garden and a soup of salad.

The work do. That unique cocktail of duty, deference, dread, drama and dignity. It exists in many forms - from the snatched coffee at the nearest coffee shop to the full black-tied, multi-coursed, competitively-dressed, formal, vast-venued dinner with all sizes and shapes of gathering in between. They are associated with a stalwart we-are-all-in-this-together mentality and are, we are told, proven to be good for team work and bonding. So we commit to the do, even if staying in to clean and re-grout the bath might be a more attractive or more appealing option for an evening's entertainment.

Attending your partner's work do might elevate bleaching the loo to a preferred way to pass the hours. However, however, however ... my cheeks are burning as I admit that it needn't be so.

If the dread can be swept under the carpet and the gossip suppressed and the bitchy 'I can't believe she's wearing that' tongues bitten, it can be fun. When your partner's colleagues are mostly friends, then a work do should be fun. Hard work - yes. Dreaded because of all the preparation and the fact that it will be outside and the defeat on display that is the annual battle between gardener and weed and the worry that it might rain and sticky fingers and glasses of wine will invade the house - yes to all of those. But ultimately it will be fun. Well ... cheeks burning again ... if not exactly fun, then, not exactly unpleasant either.

Instead, it becomes a camaraderie of those manning the sink and gathering the empties and filling the rubbish bags and clearing the plates and loading the dishwasher. And finding some paper and a pen for the child who wants suddenly to write a letter to grandma and then showing her how to write grandma. And forcing a smile when more children present you with all the fruit they found and picked. And making coffee. And magically producing another football when the first one got lost. And serving the ice creams and telling the colleague that the flake he wants is quite probably in the hedge at the bottom of the garden so why doesn't he go and look for it there. And then laughing because you both realise that the sarcasm was unnecessary and a bit silly. And hugging the son who turns up unexpectedly mid-afternoon and can always be relied upon to provide excellent hugs. And wondering where the time went and why there's so much food left. And where the dinosaur came from (! - yes; small plastic and lovingly chewed) and whether the child who left it will be able to sleep. And thinking about the garden bench but still not sitting in it. And hoping that there's nothing left on the ground that Four-legged-friend and Bertie Baggins shouldn't eat. And finally stopping. When the last car has left. And noticing the silence. And noticing just how much lettuce is left.

Lettuce soup:

chopped onions
sliced spring onions
olive oil or butter (depending on whether your family is lactose intolerant too)
masses of lettuce (shred or tear the bigger bits)
vegetable stock
salt and lime pepper
juice of a lemon
chopped tomatoes
spoon of Indian spices
fresh basil
chopped garlic

if not vegetarian then I guess some shredded ham hock might be good.

No ... I seldom measure anything. Just guess and go with what you've got and what experience tells you looks right - be honest, it's what you'd end up doing even if you started by measuring things anyway ... unless of course you're a man.

Lettuce soup was good soup. And the work do was not at all bad either. Bit ashamed tbh that I implied it might be otherwise.

... I'm off to apply a cold flannel to my burning cheeks. 

When a perimeter is a circumference and a dress size and a painting-shaped space on my wall

Littlest, wearing a classically draped dress (think Roman statue and generous folds of cloth), commented that her small frame didn't fill the dress, hence the draped effect and that this was due to her perimeter being somewhat less than the perimeter of the (modestly framed) friend who leant her the dress.

"Perimeter?" I queried. "You mean circumference? Perimeter is usually used to describe the edge of something vast, like a sports's field."

"Ye-e-es ..." she pondered, not really concentrating. But in not concentrating, she insulted her friend (who is most definitely not vast) and forced my brain to momentarily juggle 'perimeters' - bra size? Dress size? Waist? Hips? Chalked dead-body-on-the-floor outline? Height? Of course, she meant dress size. The dress she had borrowed was a size 8. Littlest barely fills age-appropriate dresses and could probably fit her perimeter into some age 8 clothes. Which got me thinking - the age at which you switch from dress age to dress size is blurred. It depends little on chronological age. And depends more on growth and the attainment of a mature perimeter. Littlest longs to be fashionable. But the fashion for her diminutive perimeter is very much little girl rather than young teen or even the young adult she aspires to. Some retailers get close to what she wants but more often she borrows and drapes her perimeter in clothes that are too big. She has started making her own; I'm now thinking 2 dimensional flat paper pattern perimeters and pins and scissors ... you too?

Pins and scissors and nurturing a love of fashion and making plans for a fashion blog (Littlest's - at the concept, titles, design and planning stage) led us to a holiday treat - a pair of country mice on a visit to the big city -

The perimeters on show at the London Fashion and Textile Museum are all of the tall and narrow, elegant, gazelle-like form. Missoni designs for lean Missoni models.

Perimeters notwithstanding, however, Missoni is all about fabric and woven wool and pattern and art and colour and the exhibition was visually stunning. Littlest's small perimeter was in fashion heaven.

The exhibition led us from art

to colour

to weave

to dress

... Missoni genius. Plus highly desirable Missoni accessories.

Art on-a-roll and crossing London on a mission, we went from Missoni to Tate Modern and the Rothkos. I wanted to see Littlest's reaction to them. They divide everyone like marmite. I love them. She hated them. But we had both forgotten just how good the Richters are. Painting inspired by music. An absolute delight to see them again.

I'd happily make a perimeter sized space on a wall at home for one of these. But I'd have to rob a bank or hope that Littlest establishes a fashion house as successful as Missoni first. No pressure ...

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

High summer. Hi summer! A word procrasti-ramble, chilling and talk to the hand.

Another season. Another picture of the never-sat-upon bench. 
Not sat upon by me anyway. 
What would I do were I to sit there? 
Probably fret about not pruning, mowing, clipping, picking, weeding, trimming, burning, edging, feeding, watering, planting and writing/reading/blogging. Arguably, I could do the last three from the bench, but as I haven't sat on it, I don't know if the house internet stretches that far. Reading doesn't need the internet. I could sit and read. But I would need blinkers to hide the 'hello-we-thought-you'd-missed-us-so-we're-just-going-to-perform-a-little-seed-scattering-dance-in-the-breeze-for-you' weeds. And it would also require a plentiful supply of bribery for Four-legged-friend and Bertie Baggins, to stop them bothering me until I get up; I suspect they think I'm ill when I stop and need to check that I can still move and that the hand that feeds them hasn't popped her clogs. Or that some other cliche-ridden disaster hasn't befallen me. Their persistence assists my not-sitting behaviour. Ensures it comprehensively. They let me sit on the tractor because they can run around the garden after me. They let me sit in the car and drive off. But they wait anxiously for my return ... and dinner. As healthy lifestyle aids, they are pretty up there. If I sit on the sofa in the kitchen they lick my feet, slobber on my clothes, tail-wag hairs into my coffee and 'sing' plaintively until I get up. So, I am not allowed to rest. Ever. Which is a good thing. For my waist-line. Thankfully, they are not allowed up stairs. What would they think of me trying to lie down and sleep ...

It is a very pretty bench. Cushions would enhance any future sitting plans. Making cushions may however further delay the actual bench sitting goal, at least for the duration of the cushion manufacturing process. 
Plus, I would rather be decapitating weeds in the sun than be trapped inside pricking fingers with pins.

Summer time.  And the livin' is easy.

High white cloud sunny time.
And soon to be harvesting time. 

Sun-bathing time for Bertie Baggins; exhausted after all that must-guard-against-bench-sitting time.

High summer is a good time of year. A bit hot. A bit buggy. But with a promise of autumn apple crumble. And home made apple chutney.

Hi summer! And hello to summer flowers and projects.

A new herb bed. Thanks to the plant sale at Castle Acre Priory.

And for my mediterranean corner, hot geraniums. Which is about as hot as I like summer to get. A manageable heat. One in which you can still walk and garden and read and not melt. Melting is for Italy. Soon. I'm hoping for cool terracotta floors a pillow for my head and a good book.

I have never understood anyone - any parent, that is -  who says they dread summer holidays. I love the time to chill; the lack of routine; the catching up on sleep; the sound of singing; the hours spent dreaming; the games; the stories; the unscheduled picnics in the garden; the trips to the seaside; the swing of the hammock; the pyjama days; the days when your feet never wear shoes; the long evenings with wine and laughter and citronella candles and torches to find the croquet balls (!) and barbecued food and salad and berries that explode their sharp, sweet bursts of intense flavour inside your mouth and ice-cream. And above all, I love the togetherness. And the not having to rush.

Littlest loves the hammock. But doesn't love being asked to share her art before it is finished.

Speak to the hand. No words required.

Later: Littlest's latest. Finished.

And the day ... nearly finished. 
And the bench drenched in the rays of the setting sun ... still un-sat-upon

Perhaps, I'll dream about my bench and the cushions I'll make for it and a cool evening breeze and cold grass between my toes while I perspire/glow/burn/drip-with-sweat and swat away mozzies in Italy.