Sunday, 26 October 2008

A list of countries appearing in the stats for 3BT

Brunei Darusslam
Costa Rica
Cote d'Ivoire
Czech Republic
El Salvador
Faroe Islands
Hong Kong
Islamic Republic of Iran
Lao Peoples Democratic Republic
Netherlands Antilles
New Zealand
Puerto Rico
Republic of Ireland
Republic of Korea
Russian Federation
Russian Federation Tatarstan
Saudi Arabia
South Africa
Sri Lanka
St Kitts and Nevis
Syrian Arab Republic
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
United States of America

Friday, 24 October 2008

Fifty things I remember about my time at Sissinghurst Primary School

This is part of my 50 things I remember project. Here is a list of all the 50 things posts.
  1. Mrs White the dinner lady saying: 'Eat your fritter'. A fritter was a diamond-shaped piece of battered fish.
  2. scratchy hemp skipping ropes
  3. peering through the silver grey fence panels at the flowers in the church yard
  4. staying in at break because a funeral was going past
  5. looking through the gate at the fourth year juniors sitting in the field with the goats
  6. Helen Pope's and Bronwyn Riley's heads touching as they shared an advanced spelling book. They would also play their recorders for hymns in assembly
  7. Using pooters to catch insects (beakers with two tubes, one you suck and the other to vacuum up the creatures. Mr Martin explained that the sucking tube had a valve to stop you getting a mouthful of ants.
  8. Mr Martin telling us to sing louder in order to drown out the new children who were crying in assembly.
  9. The clunk-clunk of the fire escape door. And being too scared to use it, until I learnt to read the 'push bar to open' sign.
  10. Leaning against the wall to get up on to stilts -- there were three sizes, bigs, mediums and small, all splintery and varnished in bright orange and yellow.
  11. Being told off for telling the girls who came to take us for games that our teacher always let us play with the stilts.
  12. Mr Martin's fierce orange eyebrows
  13. Mrs Covelli's fierce black eyebrows
  14. Being told in assembly that Mrs White was very ill, and then later that she had died. And then sitting on her memorial bench, and wondering if she was watching.
  15. I didn't like the name of one of the dinner ladies so I called her Mrs Jones. Her real name was Mrs Grabham (Mr Martin said that this was a very appropriate name, and we should do what she said or she'd grab us).
  16. On hot afternoons going out for a nature walk round Chad Lake.
  17. There was a wendy house behind the blackboard.
  18. Weaving on cardboard shapes with fat yarns.
  19. Ned Crowe coming in from boys electronics in the hall and picking up a thick piece of wool from the floor and saying 'Whatever is this'.
  20. Holding hands with Ben Bower and him saying I was just the sort of girl he would like to marry.
  21. Country dancing -- and crying because I couldn't do Lucky Sevens, and being surprised at how kind Mrs Covelli was.
  22. Mrs Covelli escorting Mairi Smith out of the classroom, holding her shirt sleeves up so her painty hands wouldn't get everywhere and calling her a messy little girl.
  23. Not being allowed to go home until all the scissors were accounted for.
  24. Mrs Covelli counting down from ten while we tidied up.
  25. Jonathan Martin getting under the mobile classroom
  26. Digging down in the gravel in the adventure playground and finding the gravel got wetter the further down we went.
  27. Digging a hole in the sandpit and being afraid we might get to magma.
  28. Priscilla Parish holding forth on the correct way of taking a crisp from someone else's packet.
  29. Buying packets of crisps from the school secretary Mrs Smith, who had wirey black hair and a beatific smile.
  30. Insisting that the nit nurse checked my doll's hair before she checked my own.
  31. Mrs Suthers making me stand up on my chair to sing a song about Jesus because she said I hadn't been listening.
  32. Mrs Hall explaining the correct way to carry chairs (which I can't remember) and the incorrect way to carry chairs (which I can remember): Don't carry it on your head. Don't support it on your hips with the legs sticking out to the side.
  33. The smell of scented rubbers, and scented felt tip pens.
  34. Calling felt tips 'felts'. 'Can I borrow your felts?'
  35. Queuing for the loo before going into the swimming pool and discussing whether it was all right or not to wee through your bathers before you swam.
  36. Walking back from the games field holding hands with Eleanor Milburn and doing 'All girls together, no boys.'
  37. Nearly up-chucking at the smell of Emma Bowyer's fishpaste sandwich.
  38. 'Georges win! Andrews in the bin.'
  39. Gordon Russell dropping a fat, snotty tear on my green reading card. He was standing behind me in the queue to have his reading heard, and had just been told off. I was cross, because it was a newish reading card and I would be stuck with the stain for a very long time.
  40. I had to do a maths exercise which involved colouring in a square to show how many boys there were in the class. They ran around so much that I couldn't count them, so I coloured in all the squares. Later, I was told off: 'Mrs Covelli doesn't have 30 boys in her class!'
  41. Being frightened of a dinner lady's twisted hands and shining knuckles -- Mrs Filmer must have had painful arthritis, which is probably why she always seemed so cross.
  42. Finding a cross carved into the trunk of the lime tree in the front playground.
  43. Horrid boys trying to push girls into the damp and smelly boys' loos in the back playground.
  44. In the summer, we were allowed to eat our lunch in the front playground. My form teacher Mrs Covelli came and kindly asked me what I was doing alone in the cool deserted dining hall. I explained that the sun was too bright and hot, and that I preferred being inside. She sat with me and ate her lunch, and complimented me on my pink Victoria Plum lunchbox.
  45. Singing lessons with Mrs Crowe, in which we sang 'We All Live in A Yellow Submarine' and 'John Brown's Baby's Got a Cold Upon its Chest'.
  46. One afternoon our teacher was late back from lunch. We lined up outside the locked classroom and sang 'We all Live in Tub of Margarine'. When she still didn't come, we sang 'We All Live in a Bubblegum Machine.'
  47. A rumour flew round reception that if we put two words too close together, the thing to do was to put a neat dot in the middle of the line.
  48. Getting changed after swimming under my blue towling poncho. The highlight of the swimming class was doing a whirlpool -- we would walk round the circular pool, pushing against the water, and then stop and let ourselves be washed backwards.
  49. A lesson where we had to read one of a set of non-fiction books -- they covered every topic you can imagine, and we could choose whatever we liked -- and answer some questions at the end.
  50. Simon Butler asking a girl who had come in to do work experience how to spell 'kerfuffle', and her looking really confused.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

50 things I like

  1. The Addams Family
  2. fingerless gloves
  3. handcream
  4. embroidery
  5. workshops
  6. Mini cheddars
  7. sunshine
  8. apple juice
  9. Futurama
  10. Kazu Kibushi
  11. Sushi
  12. Fleece blankets
  13. Lie-ins
  14. Eating breakfast with Nick
  15. Listening to the radio
  16. The typefaces Palatino and Garamond
  17. Pencils
  18. Google
  19. Oranges
  20. Abel and Cole
  21. BBC 7
  22. PaulV
  23. bunches of anemones
  24. buying a few expensive chocolates
  25. Nutella
  26. Going to the beach and making footprints on the sand
  27. Autumn colours
  28. Wild Mushrooms
  29. A mug of coffee
  30. footpaths
  31. Maps
  32. Candles
  33. A campfire
  34. Browsing in a bookshop
  35. Walking
  36. Planning something fun
  37. Snuggling
  38. Having a bath
  39. Neil Gaiman
  40. My suitcase
  41. ginger biscuits
  42. slow cooked meat
  43. rare steak
  44. wild food
  45. Scherenschnitte
  46. turquoise
  47. fossils
  48. The Mighty Boosh
  49. Sunsets
  50. playing creative games

Sunday, 21 September 2008

I'm in the literary magazine qarrtsiluni.

That is all.

List of words associated with the elderly

older people
life experience
assisted living
walking stick
Darby and Joan, Evergreen, University of the 3rd Age
marmalade jam
hearing aid
grey beard
During the war we...
When your mother was a little girl...
I remember
mobility aids
feeding the birds
it's not how it used to be
butterscotch, York fruits, Murray Mints
Bronley soaps
fruit cake
bus travel
what's that, dear?
road accidents
...a more innocent time
driving very slowly
blue rinse
getting up very early
twilight years
dying at home
staying in own home
power of attorney
prescription drugs
stockpiling pills
conversations about illness and death

Sunday, 14 September 2008

List of words associated with success

hit the target
hit the mark
tour de force
hill top
grand prix
first pas the post
came out on top
winner takes it all
victor ludorum
chequered flag
in the bag
top of the pile
best in show
blue / red ribbon
finish line
game, set and match
throw a six
top of the heap
gold medal, silver, silver gilt, bronze
yellow jersey
top score
high score
he shoots, he scores
top marks
leader board
bull's eye
effort has paid off
in the cup
hat trick
won by a nose
scraped in
broke the tape
convincing win
broke a record
number one
lap of honour

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Stitch watch -- Pincushion

Here's a little pin cushion from a Vari-Galore kit that I finished tonight. I am very proud of it and so pleased to own something so beautiful. Katie keeps looking at it enviously.

I thoroughly enjoyed making it -- the instructions leave enough freedom to make it good fun, and the hand-dyed threads are gorgeous.

I picked up the kit at a show at Ally Pally last Autumn. I've been checking the Vari-Galore catalogue and wondering what I should order next. I'd quite like to try some turkeywork... and also ribbon embroidery. And more stump work.

Friday, 15 August 2008

List of items to do with moving house

lost items found
items lost
cups of tea
money concerns
nostalgia for old house
regret at leaving
excitement about new house
smell of cardboard
relief that it's over
learn to love your boxes
one box a week
irregular meal times
worries about parking
newspaper and bubblewrap
lorry's engine running
trip to the dump
discovering lovely things I'd forgotten I owned
fear of theft
a fresh start
change of address notes
new things
dead tired
break from routine
wondering if the day will ever end
sound of cardboard tearing
tape and the smell of tape
sound of ripping tape
things put together that are not usually together

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Embroidery watch

This is the sewing I keep at work. Sadly, we're not allowed to listen to streaming internet content, so no BBC7 in my lunch hour. I may have to buy some sort of MP3 player. Don't ask for better pictures -- there are none.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Things that happen when it rains

  • There is a rush to get everything inside
  • A curious emptiness
  • Damp clothes
  • Clamminess
  • Drips off umbrellas
  • Constant noise
  • Cars swooshing
  • It's not so bad once you're in it
  • Wanting to be indoors
  • A drop falling off a leaf
  • Rushings in gutters
  • Scallop shaped waves run downhill
  • Blurred light reflections on the road at night
  • It gets dark early
  • Bruised flowers and soft fruit
  • Wet shoes
  • Dust puffs up where the drops hit it
  • The smell of wet dust
  • Wet and muddy footprints near the door
  • Dirty floors
  • Long columns of water
  • Uncertainty about how long it will last
  • Sheep go to shelter, or do not go to shelter and we think it means something
  • Fish jumping
  • Chills and coldness and aches
  • A dripping nose
  • Wet hair
  • Whispering as the rain falls on the ground
  • Streams of water in places previously dry
  • Mud
  • Lying in bed hearing the rain falling on the roof
  • Worrying about things left outside and about water getting into places where it should not be
  • Puddles
  • Being splashed by cars
  • Clots of dead grass in drains
  • Squelching on a lawn
  • Soaked trouser cuffs
  • Slippery surfaces
  • Landslides and floods
  • Rain diamonds on grasses
  • Spray
  • Deciding we don't have to worry about the watering
  • Accidentally standing on a snail
  • High winds lashing rain against the windows
  • Feelings of safety and security because the weather can't get in
  • Stamping in puddles while wearing wellies
  • Making damns and streams from a mud puddle
  • Falling rain showing up in the light of a streetlamp
  • Longer stopping distances while driving
  • Not being able to dry clothes

Monday, 28 July 2008

Indicators of warm weather

  • short sleeves and trousers
  • bra straps showing
  • bumble bees on flowers
  • sticky tarmac
  • cars with windows down
  • other people's music
  • a curtain flapping out of an open window
  • people describing the outdoors atmosphere as 'really chilled'
  • slow walking
  • deep shadows
  • sunbathers on towels in the park
  • a longing for cool drinks
  • the smell of cucumber
  • clinking of ice cubes
  • lethargy
  • sunburn
  • traffic jams; the smell of hot cars; scorching my legs on dark leather upholstery
  • aromatic plants
  • not being able to sleep in the heat and throwing off the covers and sleeping under a sheet
  • cold showers
  • sound of an aeroplane overhead
  • sound of a lawnmower or a strimmer
  • children shrieking and splashing
  • scent of pine woods
  • buzzing insects trapped indoors
  • ants circling
  • not trying to keep warm
  • prickly heat
  • seeking shade
  • heat haze
  • stillness
  • bird song
  • crickets ticking and flies buzzing past your head
  • flowers make splashes of bright colour on brown and green background
  • drying grass heads
  • things flipping and flollopping into the pond
  • flower heads turning towards the sun
  • creatures rustling in the shade
  • the sun is warmer than the air
  • the grass is damp
  • ice cream vans
  • air conditioning shivering my skin and fans whirring and drying out my throat
  • thin cardigans
  • not wanting to touch white paper or white sewing
  • strawberries, cherries, raspberries, melon
  • dust outside
  • bare feet
  • treading in water and leaving footprints on the terrace
  • finding tea very refreshing
  • not wanting to be near supermarket freezers; and seeing that all the other people in the queue have bought meat and drink for a barbecue
  • not drinking enough
  • Pimm's; white wine; cider; cold beer; gin and tonic with lime
  • vegetables and herbs from the garden
  • very soft butter
  • food spoiling in the sun and outside air but no-one can be bothered to clear it away
  • horses crowding into the shade and standing with their heads down
  • trying to get some air through the house by opening all the doors and windows. Closing all the doors last thing at night, and opening them all first thing in the morning
  • putting my face against something cool

Sunday, 27 July 2008


This is my first go at sashiko embroidery -- it's a beginner level sampler that I picked up at the stitch fair at Ally Pally last autumn. I think I might sew this panel on to my black cotton shopping bag.

It comes from Euro Japan Links. They offer more advanced samplers, and I'd like to try them out. As you can see, this effort was a bit wonky, but I'm sure I'll improve with time.
I'd like to try this sort of sewing on some denim -- I've got a pair of jeans with a busted crotch; and if the tailor at Manuela's Retoucherie says 'No', I'm going to cut the legs up and make me some panels.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Ways for Clare to make work bearable

  1. Adjust your mode of transport -- if it's fine, walk in. If it's not, get the train. Check for train problems before you leave. Wear comfortable shoes for gettig to work. Empty your handbag regularly so you are not carrying un-necessary weight. Keep an umbrella and a waterproof at work.
  2. If you're running late, don't worry -- phone in and apologise. It's not going to get you there any earlier.
  3. Choose five outfits for the week -- most of my clothes can be edited up or down depending on the weather. Keep a pair of black shoes, and a pair of brown shoes at the office.
  4. Have five photographs on your desk, and change them each week.
  5. Buy sandwiches from the van, and have snacks available (unless there's something particularly nice to bring in).
  6. Keep handcream and a nailfile and a lip salve on your desk -- those are things you like to have by you, and there's no shame in that.
  7. Keep a needlework to do at lunchtime.
  8. Work out how much spending money you have and enjoy it. Take a look at how long you must work for certain things.
  9. Be positive.
  10. They have a library downstairs, so there will always be something to read at lunchtime.
  11. Have something to do that is not obviously not work for those times when there is no work to do.

Monday, 14 July 2008


Tania has tagged me.
  1. What were you doing ten years' ago?
  2. 1998. I was between university and the working life. I was at my parents' house, which is in the middle of no-where, and I was applying for every entry-level job that involved editing, hoping that one of them would let me move somewhere with better access to public transit. In the September I ended up working for my region's local newspaper, The Courier. There is some irony that this question should come today -- see the next answer.

  3. What 5 things are on your to-do list today?
    • Say YES to Courier job. (done)
    • Buy a present and card for Louise.
    • Think about supper so my tired housemate doesn't have to.
    • Write 3BT (done), Once Around the Park and my notebook prompt. (done)
    • Hunt down 3BTs all about change for a submission.

  4. What would you do with a billion dollars?
    Gradually buy the entire block of flats where Nick lives and make it into one house then set up a fund to ensure we have enough to live on comfortably for the rest of our lives. A billion dollars is such a mind-boggling amount of money -- I have no idea what I could do with it! A quick Google indicates that I might be able to buy YouTube or a social networking site; but I think I'd be inclined to get rid of whatever I didn't need as quickly as possible so that I don't have to worry too much about it.

  5. List the places you have lived:
    • A white weatherboard and brick semi-detached house in the middle of wheat fields.
    • A black converted barn in the middle of a forest.
    • A strange-smelling university hall of residence.
    • A buttermilk coloured terraced house beside a busy road, in a room with bars on the tiny window and a drafty door down to the cellar behind the bed.
    • A split-level brick house in the middle of a city, in a room with a curtain for a door, a piano and a sliding window out to some external steps.
    • A damp concrete box on a sunny residential dead-end street. I grew sunflowers on the flat roof outside.
    • An end-of-terrace with garden, shared with my partner's best friend and his collection of wonderful books.
    • A second floor flat on the High Street. The kitchen was beautiful and I still miss it.
    • A first floor flat with a huge living room and beautiful fireplaces on the junction between two residential streets. My room overlooks some lime trees.

  6. List the jobs you have held:
    • Writer
    • Assistant to a writer
    • Editorial assistant at small publisher
    • Proofreader
    • Sub-editor at a company producing material in Braille and large print
    • Freelance journalist
    • Healthcare journalist
    • Freelance Sub-editor for a homes magazine
    • Sub-editor for a gardening magazine
    • Freelance sub-editor for newspapers
    • Freelance editor for a website
    • Sub-editor for a local newspaper
    • Memoir editor
    • Plant label typer
    • Cherry seller
    • Apple picker
    • Baby sitter
    • Dock leaf weeder

  7. List the people you'd like to know more about:

Friday, 4 July 2008

Ten beautiful things about classes and courses.

1. Now it is spring and the nights are drawing out. For the first time this year, I hurry to a writing class in daylight, taking a short cut across the park.

2. Twelve years after leaving school, I am still amazed at how, in the real world, no-one shouts at you for being late. They just want you to get to your seat with as little disruption as possible.

3. Stapling my scripts for writing class. It's all very well seeing the lines on the screen, but having real pages makes me feel as if I've done the work.

4. I like it when the class gets the giggles -- this week it was because of Sarah's stories about a mischievous writing trip to Venice.

5. For nibbles at writing class we have discs of smooth milk chocolate flavoured with Earl Grey tea.

6. Russ patiently shows me how to take tiny slivers off the bowl of my wooden spoon with a crook knife. I am surprised at how quickly and neatly the bowl forms and I work at this until it gets too dark.

7. During yoga, I open my eyes and spot a classmate silently pointing out the sunset to the woman next to him.

8. Learning new knots and the stories that go with them. 'This one is used by Siberian goat herders because they don't have to take their gloves off for long when they are making it. Wave to your friend over here... if there's a triangle there you're doing it right...' 'Round this one twice then both once...'

9. We read my plot and the teacher says: 'Everyone, let's brainstorm this.' And within minutes, the other students have produced a selection of ideas from which I can write the first couple of scenes.

10. My poledancing teacher says: 'That bit at the end where you stopped yourself falling. You were supporting your own weight on your arms, which you said you couldn't do. Now I know you can. Busted.'

Monday, 30 June 2008

How to open the door to beautiful things

Section 1 -- connect with people
  1. Give things away through Freecycle
  2. Write to an author
  3. Write a thank you note
  4. Postcrossing
  5. Bookcrossing
  6. Help someone in trouble
  7. Say: 'YES!'
  8. Volunteer
Section 2 -- love the world
  1. Go for a walk with an open mind
  2. Look at the sky
  3. Clean or mend something
  4. Watch animals
Section 3 -- be mindful
  1. Stop and wonder why I'm doing what I'm doing
  2. Make time to walk without filling my head with its own sad thoughts.
Section 4 -- be free
  1. If you aren't happy, ask yourself why, and change something
  2. Don't always worry about what other people think

Monday, 23 June 2008

I do and I don't.

This came over from Sarah Salway

I do write when I'm carefree.
I don't write when I'm thinking about selling my house.

I do write when there is no noise.
I don't write when there is music with words.

I do write when Nick is around.
I don't write when someone is standing behind me making comments.

I do write in bed, in cafes, when on the sofa, at my computer or sitting still.
I don't write while travelling.

I do write late at night and early in the morning.
I don't write at tea time.

I do write when I know what I want to say.
I don't write if I don't give myself a starting point.

I do write when I have a deadline.
I don't write when I've got all the time in the world.

I do write when I assume no-one is going to read it.
I don't write when I try to edit as I go.

I do write if I take the time to catch the character's voice and the setting.
I don't write if I don't prepare.

I do write when I'm not waiting for a phone call.
I don't write if I keep checking my emails.

I do write if I promise myself a reward.
I don't write if I beat myself over the head.

I do write if I scribbling like no-one is watching.
I don't write if I worry what others might think.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Chin's 33 Happy Moments

I first made Chin Sheng-t'an's acquaintance in The Idler magazine. Chin lived and thrived in the late Ming period -- he was executed in 1661. He is most famous for a version of epic novel, The Water Margin. His 33 Happy Moments is less heroic, but very lovely. I think he is a born 3BTer, and his work deserves to be more widely known, so I am quoting it here -- I appropriated this text from The Idler with the permission of the editor.

1. It is a hot day in June when the sun hangs still in the sky and there is not a whiff of wind in the air, nor a trace of clouds; the front and back yards are hot like an oven and not a single bird dares to fly about. Perspiration flows down my whole body in little rivulets. There is the noonday meal before me, but I cannot take it for the sheer heat. I ask for a mat to spread on the ground and lie down, but the mat is wet with moisture and flies swarm about to rest on my nose and refuse to be driven away. Just at this moment when I am completely helpless, suddenly there is a rumbling of thunder and big sheets of black clouds overcast the sky and come majestically on like a great army advancing to battle. Rain-water begins to pour down from the eaves like a cataract. The perspiration stops. The clamminess of the ground is gone. All flies disappear to hide themselves and I can eat my rice. Ah, is this not happiness?

2. A friend, one I have not seen for ten years, suddenly arrives at sunset. I open the door to receive him, and without asking whether he came by boat or by land, and without bidding him to sit on the bed or the couch, I go to the inner chamber and ask my wife: “Have you got a gallon of wine like Su Tungp’o’s wife?” My wife gladly takes out her gold hairpin to sell it. I calculate it will last us three days. Ah, is this not happiness? (note from ed: that’s nearly two bottles of wine each per day).

3. I am sitting alone in an empty room and I am just getting annoyed at a little mouse at the head of my bed, and wondering what that little rustling sound signifies - what article of mine he is biting or what volume of my books he is eating up. While I am in this state of mind and don’t know what to do, I suddenly see a ferocious-looking cat, wagging its tail and staring with its wide-open eyes, as if it were looking at something. I hold my breath and wait a moment, keeping perfectly still, and suddenly with a little sound the mouse disappears like a whiff of wind. Ah, is this not happiness?

4. I have pulled out the hait’ang and chiching (flowery trees) in front of my studio, and have just planted ten or twenty green banana trees there. Ah, is this not happiness?

5. I am drinking with some romantic friends on a spring night and am just half intoxicated, finding it difficult to stop drinking and equally difficult to go on. An understanding boy servant at the side suddenly brings in a package of big fire-crackers, about a dozen in number, and I rise from the table and go and fire them off. The smell of sulphur assails my nostrils and enters my brain and I feel comfortable all over my body. Ah, is this not happiness?

6. I am walking in the street and see two poor rascals engaged in a hot argument of words with their faces flushed and their eyes staring with anger as if they were mortal enemies, and yet they still pretend to be ceremonious to each other, raising their arms and bending their waists in salute, and still using the most polished language of thou and thee and wherefore and is it not so? The flow of words is interminable. Suddenly there appears a big husky fellow swinging his arms and coming up to them, and with a shout tells them to disperse. Ah, is this not happiness?

7. To hear our children recite the classics so fluently, like the sound of water pouring from a vase. Ah, is this not happiness?

8. Having nothing to do after a meal I go to the shops and take a fancy to a little thing. After bargaining for some time, we still haggle about a small difference, but the shop-boy still refuses to sell it. Then I take out a little thing from my sleeve, which is worth about the same thing as the difference and throw it at the boy. The boy suddenly smiles and bows courteously saying, “Oh, you are too generous!” Ah, is this not happiness?

9. I have nothing to do after a meal and try to go through the things in some old trunks. I see there are dozens of IOUs from people who owe my family money. Some of them are dead and some still living, but in any case there is no hope of their returning the money. Behind people’s backs I put them together in a pile and make a bonfire of them, and I look up to the sky and see the last trace of smoke disappear. Ah, is this not happiness?

10. It is a summer day. I go bareheaded and barefooted, holding a parasol, to watch young people singing Soochow fol-songs while treading the water-wheel. The water comes up over the wheel in a gushing torrent like molten silver or melting snow. Ah, is this not happiness?

11. I wake up in the morning and seem to hear someone in the house sighing and saying that last night someone died. I immediately ask to find out who it is, and learn that it is the sharpest, most calculating fellow in town. Ah, is this not happiness?

12. I get up early on a summer morning and see people sawing a large bamboo pole under a mat-shed, to be used as a water-pipe. Ah, is this not happiness?

13. It has been raining for a whole month and I lie in bed in the morning like one drunk or ill, refusing to get up. Suddenly I hear a chorus of birds announcing a clear day. Quickly I pull aside the curtain, push open a window and see the beautiful sun shining and glistening and the forest looks like having a bath. Ah, is this not happiness?

14. At night I seem to hear someone thinking of me in the distance. The next day I go to call on him. I enter his door and look about his room and see that this person is sitting at his desk, facing south, reading a document. He sees me, nods quietly and pulls me by the sleeve to make me sit down, saying, “Since you are here, come and look at this.” And we laugh and enjoy ourselves until the shadows on the walls have disappeared. He is feeling hungry himself and slowly asks me, “Are you hungry, too? Ah, is this not happiness?”

15. Without any serious intention to build a house of my own, I happened, nevertheless, to start building one because a little sum had unexpectedly come my way. From that day on, every morning and every night I was told that I needed to buy timber and stone and tiles and bricks and mortar and nails. And I explored and exhausted every avenue of getting some money, all on account of this house, until I got sort of resigned to this state of things. One day, finally, the house is completed, the walls have been whitewashed and the floors swept clean; the paper windows have been pasted and scrolls and paintings are hung up on the walls. All the workmen have left, and my friends have arrived, sitting on different couches in order. Ah, is this not happiness?

16. I am drinking on a winter’s night, and suddenly note that the night has turned extremely cold. I push open the window and see that snowflakes come down the size of a palm and there are already three or four inches of snow on the ground.Ah, is this not happiness?

17. To cut with a sharp knife a bright green water-melon on a big scarlet plate of a summer afternoon. Ah, is this not happiness?

18. I have long wanted to become a monk, but was worried because I would not be permitted to eat meat. If, the, I could be permitted to eat meat publicly, why, then I bold heat a basin of hot water, and with the help of a sharper razor, shave my head clean in a summer month! Ah, is this not happiness?

19. To keep three or four spots of eczema in a private part of my body and now and then to scald or bathe it with hot water behind closed doors. Ah, is this not happiness?

20. To find accidentally a handwritten letter of some old friend in a trunk. Ah, is this not happiness?

21. A poor scholar comes to borrow money from me, but is shy about mentioning the topic, and so he allows the conversation to drift along on other topics. I see his uncomfortable situation, pull him aside to a place where we are alone and ask him how much he needs. Then I go inside and give him the sum and after having done this, I ask him: “Must you go immediately to settle this matter or can you stay awhile and have a drink with me?” Ah, is this not happiness?

22. I am sitting in a small boat. There is a beautiful wind in our favour, but our boat has no sails. Suddenly there appears a big lorcha, coming along as fast as the wind. I try to hook on to the lorchas in the hope of catching on to it, and unexpectedly the hook does catch. Then I throw over a rope and we are towed along and I begin to sing the lines of Tu Fu: “the green makes me feel tender towards the peaks, and the red tells me there are oranges.” And we break out in joyous laughter. Ah, is this not happiness?

23. I have been long looking for a house to share with a friend but have not been able to find a suitable one. Suddenly someone brings news that there is a house somewhere, not too big, but with only about a dozen rooms, and that it faces a big river with beautiful green trees around. I ask this man to stay for supper, and after the supper we go over together to have a look, having no idea what the house is like. Entering the gate, I see that there is a large vacant lot about six or seven mow, and I say to myself, “I shall not have to worry about the supply of vegetables and melons henceforth.” Ah, is this not happiness?

24. A traveller returns home after a long journey, and he sees the old city gate and hears the women and children on both banks of the river talking is own dialect. Ah, is this not happiness?

25. When a good piece of old porcelain is broken, you know there is no hope of repairing it. The more you turn it about and look at it, the more you are exasperated. I then hand it to the cook, and give orders that he shall never let that broken porcelain bowl come within my sight again. Ah, is this not happiness?

26. I am not a saint, and am therefore not without sin. In the night I did something wrong and I get up in the morning and feel extremely ill at ease about it. Suddenly I remember what is taught by Buddhism, that not to cover one’s sins is the same as repentance. So then I begin to tell my sin to the entire company around, whether they are strangers or my old friends. Ah, is this not happiness?

27. To watch someone writing big characters a foot high. Ah, is this not happiness?

28. To open the window and let a wasp out from the room. Ah, is this not happiness?

29. A magistrate orders the beating of the drum and calls it a day. Ah, is this not happiness?

30. To see someone’s kite-line broken. Ah, is this not happiness?

31. To see a wild prairie fire. Ah, is this not happiness?

32. To have just finished repaying all one’s debts. Ah, is this not happiness?

33. To read the Story of Curly-Beard (who gave up his house to a pair of eloping lovers then disappeared). Ah, is this not happiness?

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Things I have achieved in the last 12 months
  1. Tried book crossing
  2. Got into the daily prompt-writing habit
  3. Sold an article
  4. Finding a part-time job
  5. Once around the park
  6. Learning to use InDesign
  7. Not losing my boyfriend
  8. Played some sessions of RPG games
  9. Quit my job and observed that the ceiling did not fall down
  10. Got a response from the BBC Writers Room and learned to enjoy a positive rejection
  11. Started a 3BT Facebook group
  12. Wrote Once Around the Park for a while
  13. Got my daily reading under control using Google Reader
  14. Learned to trust my filing system
  15. Learned to use Duxbury and Brailler to produce documents in Braille
  16. Watched Ellie growing wiser every time I saw her
  17. Was brave enough to stand up and say what I wanted
  18. Discovered that if I'm going to write, I'm jolly well going to do it in my own voice
  19. Learned to enjoy watching television again
  20. Decided not to buy any more CDs or DVDs
  21. Decided not to fly any more
  22. Made drafts of two plays that I am really happy with.
  23. Took crits of my work on the chin
  24. Felt genuinely proud of my brother for getting an article in a national newspaper before me
  25. Aquired a soldering iron and used it to (finally) fix my hairslide
  26. Decided that in the grand scheme of things, the feelings of my friends are more important than those of strangers (ie, not to be ashamed of my friends in public

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Sounds heard at a trade show

Muddled voices in a large space
Heels on a wooden floor
Door shutting
Phone ringing
A laugh stands out
Cafe calls 'One tea, one cappuccino'
Shoe squeak
Coffee machine whirrs and sucks
'You've got two long big section here and anover one over there.'
'I said to them before.'
'Can I take dis one?'
Voices on two-way radios

Saturday, 31 May 2008

Fifty things that make me happy

  1. Talking to my siblings on the phone
  2. Earning a bit of extra money
  3. A cup of coffee
  4. Anticipation
  5. Pretty dresses (mine)
  6. Compliments
  7. Seeing my friends happy
  8. Laughing at a stupid joke
  9. Making a good joke
  10. Writing
  11. A journey
  12. Shiney wet roads
  13. Stars
  14. My leafy waterproof
  15. Hearing other people's beautiful things
  16. Letters
  17. Stamps from abroad
  18. Hedgerow fruit
  19. Overhearing conversations
  20. Rainbows
  21. Oddities
  22. A good sunset
  23. Watching insects
  24. Strootching in leaves
  25. Jumping in puddles
  26. A good pen
  27. Dinner invitations
  28. Gossip
  29. Seeing how I have improved at something by looking at earlier attempts, or talking about what it was like when I started out
  30. Finding a book I want
  31. Greenness
  32. The smell of rain on dry earth
  33. Central heating
  34. Clean hair
  35. A light suntan
  36. Beaches
  37. The wind in my face
  38. The colours of embroidery thread or beads
  39. Ice cream and a hot pudding
  40. Martini
  41. A few olives
  42. Unexpected guests
  43. Children playing
  44. Sparrows
  45. Crabs on a beach
  46. Short stories
  47. A parcel of books
  48. A clean fridge
  49. The smell of baking
  50. Imaginary lands

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Page 123

This is a meme and it came from Elspeth Thompson, who has mentioned me in her book, and has the same name as my cousin (but my cousin uses her other first name).

Pick the nearest book about a foreign place. Go to page 123. Count down five sentences and then type up the next three. Here are mine.

They, too, had been attacked by typhus fever and smallpox. I said farewell, and, mounting my horse, heard angry words behind me. Turning round I found that some of the lepers wanted to near to speak to me, and the Yakuts were driving them away in horror, fearful lest they might catch the disease.

Kate Marsden: On sledge and horseback to outcast Siberian lepers. In Mary Morris (ed): The Virago Book of Women Travellers. Virago Press 1996.

My colleagues gave me this book for my birthday after I returned from a 10-week holiday in Africa. I have always loved travel books (particularly historical ones) and in the pages I ran into some old friends (Christina Dodwell, Dervla Murphy, Mary Kingsley) as well as some new companions (Lady Mary Wortley Montagu who created a scandal in Turkey, and Eliza Farnham, who was 'determined to decrease misery in the world').

I tag: Ellouisestory

Monday, 31 March 2008

Alternatives to work.

Each morning, my housemate and I talk. 'I don't want to go to work today. Let's:

  • Go to Brighton'
  • Steal some sperm from our boyfriends, have three or four fat babies and live on benefits'
  • Ring each other in sick'
  • Watch all the DVDs we own'
  • Lie on the sofa with the curtains drawn'
  • Pretend it's snowing and we can't get down the path'
  • Have a drill for what we'd do if the door swelled shut'
  • Just quit'
  • Sit in a coffee shop'
  • Drop out'
  • Forget it'
  • Have a duvet day'
  • Hold each other hostage'
  • Bake banana bread and muffins and sell them to hungry office workers'
  • Wait in for the boiler man'
  • Go fishing'
  • Buy a stack of women's magazines and make bitchy comments about celebrities'
  • Make another pot of tea'
  • Go back to bed'
  • Pretend we've broken up with our boyfriends and need to have a day off'
  • Drink a hot chocolate in every coffee shop in town'
  • Eat a second breakfast'
  • Miss the bus and fail to catch the train'
  • Lose our keys'
  • Have really bad women's problems'
  • Claim a cat that we really like has died'
  • Watch daytime TV'
  • Go back to sleep'
  • Pretend we are too posh to work'
  • Acquire some sugar daddies'
  • Sit in the window and sew'
  • Clean the kitchen until it shines with an Arctic whiteness'
  • Work from home'
  • Knit yards and yards of scarf'
  • Embroider our lives on a table cloth'
  • Look after our parents'
  • Go to the cinema when the sun is shining'
  • Watch a film and cry'
  • Suffer from non-specific malaise'
  • Light an aromatherapy candle'
  • Call up our burlesque teacher and ask for a class'
  • Doze'
  • Go and see our beauty lady'
  • Wait in for parcels of clothes'
  • Have absolutely nothing to wear'

  • But we never do.

    Wednesday, 26 March 2008

    Sounds during Sunday lunch at a quiet restaurant

    Plates clattering
    Traffic outside
    Faint music
    Gentle conversation
    -- Everything all right?
    -- Today we've also got...
    -- I'll just get the card machine
    A glass put down
    Cutlery on plates
    Eating noises
    Things being crossed off and things being written on a blackboard
    A cork removed from a bottle
    Wine pouring
    A hunt for change
    The card machine printing off a receipt

    Thursday, 13 March 2008

    What I am reading.

    Joe has asked me to record the sixth, seventh and eighth sentence on page 123 of a book I happen to be reading:

    ...spun gold, added a good foot and a half to his height.
    Lord Tywin had given him that crown to replace the one that was lost when the mob killed the previous High...

    Sunday, 9 March 2008

    List of sounds heard during the interval at the theatre

    Everything is deadened
    Music that has nothing to do with the play
    'I must say...'
    'To me it seemed...'
    Tip-up seats creaking
    Things being unwrapped
    Newspaper cutting rustling
    Plastic sandwich bag whispering
    Bag of sweets pulled open
    Cellophane unwrapped
    Very quiet conversations punctuated by laughter and sneezes
    Deep or high voices stand out
    A sudden laugh
    'Excuse me... excuse me...'
    Stiff paper flapping -- programmes used as fans

    Thursday, 6 March 2008

    Sounds heard in a secondhand bookshop

    Traffic passing outside
    A polite enquiry
    A strip light buzzing
    A cardboard box slid across a gritty floor
    Foot steps across a wooden floor above
    A box being untaped
    Till bleeping and cash draw opening
    A mobile phone ringing

    Wednesday, 5 March 2008

    How to be mopey


    1. Put-upon -- this can be achieved by having someone ask you to perform small tasks; and also by doing many tasks that they do not ask you to do.

    2. Anxious -- ensure you are always waiting for a phone call, and believe that life cannot continue until this phone call comes.

    3. Blocked -- something is preventing you from doing what you want to do; it could be lack of money; or it could be the phone call; or it could be your to-do list of small tasks.

    4. Hungover -- or dehydrated. This is achieved by drinking too much, or too little.

    5. Frustrated -- an erratic internet connection.


    1. Go to bed later than you meant. Stay up doing something that you don't really want or need to do -- channel surfing, or playing Mine Sweeper.

    2. Sleep in for at least an hour -- but feel guilty about it. Have local radio playing during your lie-in.

    3. Instead of getting dressed, waste some time, either channel surfing again, or reading a book you don't enjoy but think you ought to read.

    4. Eat something for breakfast that you don't like because either you are too lazy to go out and find something you do like; or because whatever it is needs finishing.

    5. Turn the computer on and launch Mine Sweeper. Close Mine Sweeper. Launch Minesweeper.

    6. Phone your mother.

    7. Get dressed in clothes you dislike.

    8. Start a project. Become bored with it.

    Tuesday, 4 March 2008

    Fifty things neighbours do that annoy each other

    1. Move boundaries
    2. Put up fences and hedges that cast shade
    3. Rev engines
    4. Park in the wrong place
    5. Allow their garden to run to weeds
    6. Having noisy children
    7. Play loud music in their garden
    8. Play musical intruments outside
    9. Work with a car stereo playing
    10. Let their dog bark all night
    11. Sit on their porch and just... watch
    12. Allow their children to run free
    13. Leave footballs and bikes out on the drive
    14. Form cliques
    15. Argue loudly
    16. Have thin walls
    17. Do building work without discussing with neighbours
    18. Let their car alarms go off
    19. Build an aviary next to the fence
    20. Steal fruit from your garden -- not just the stuff that drops on their side of the fence
    21. Not look after parcels
    22. Pilfer mail and newspapers
    23. Drive over planters
    24. Cause a flood by leaving the hose on or by water gardening badly
    25. Light lots of stinky bonfires
    26. Have noisy sex
    27. Have parties and not invite you
    28. When you complain, turn the TV right up
    29. Talk about you behind your back, rather than coming out and saying what you're doing to upset them
    30. Complain about you
    31. Have a noxious compost heap
    32. Smash milk bottles
    33. Instead of asking you not to park in a particular place, put a barrier up or vandalise your car
    34. Borrow things and not return them
    35. Angle their outside light so it shines through your windows
    36. Send anonymous notes to complain about things
    37. Ignore planning permission rules
    38. Allow their children to scream all the time, and yell at them
    39. Refuse to bell their cat so it frightens off your wild birds
    40. Spy on you
    41. Zap your TV with a universal zapper
    42. Shoot your porch light with an air rifle
    43. Dump junk mail through your letter box
    44. Kick your bins over so the bin men won't collect them
    45. Refuse to pay for shared maintenance -- cess pits, shared paths and so on
    46. Pile old recycling up on the kerb and then do nothing about it
    47. Drive across the corner of your front lawn
    48. Sweep up leaves that blow out of your garden and dump them in your porch
    49. Refuse to look after dangerous trees in their garden that overhang your property
    50. Run a brothal or a crackhouse

    Monday, 3 March 2008

    List of everything I can hear at my desk

    The hard disc whirring and croaking
    My keyboard tapping
    Bird song
    An aeroplane circling
    A car going past.
    My neck joints crunching.
    My chair creaking
    The creak of the desk
    My metal buttons hitting the desk.
    The return key, which makes clunk, rather than a clatter-tap.
    My own breathing.