Friday, March 23, 2012


As the truck roars by the edge of their field, two wild rabbits sit up from their breakfast, and their pricking ears are illuminated with the early sunlight.

In the smart new kitchen at Ockenden Manor, I make an early delivery which coincides with the moment when Murielle, their wonderful French baker and patissier and chocolatier, is handing out some little slices of a cake she’s made with walnuts and oranges.  It is probably what the Gods eat when she’s at home in those southern mountains.

At the bottom of Horsted Keynes village, I approach the chicane-cum-crossroad with a caution born of experience.  The hedges make it a blind junction and there are aged pedestrians in sight.  As I slow to about 20mph for the left-hander, so a brand new Range-Rover coming from the opposite direction, and driven by a woman young enough to be my daughter, cuts across my path at about 50mph.  I stand on the brake and the truck demonstrates the efficiency of its electronic traction control with a brief skid, the tyres squeal but there is no sign of a wobble.  She shoots by with a look of terror on her face.  In the mirror I am pleased to see nothing but a little cloud of blue smoke illuminated with the early sunlight.

and later ... three more illuminated and beautiful things

The first yellow butterfly of the year flitting past an oakwood.

A green woodpecker flying along side a dark bank of cypress trees.

A huge spherical bumblebee, with long black hairs and a bright orange bum, hovering besides a metallic purple car.

Friday, March 9, 2012

a sordid and vexatious scene of domestic debauchery

I arrive home late after a long and arduous day at the end of a long and arduous working week.

I slump on the sofa for half an hour waiting for the brain’s energy system to regain some of its charge.

The Loved One slumps on the other sofa.  Her arm is mending quite well, 65 days after her fall, but she still has a lot of pain.

I have been moving some very heavy objects up gradients and over resistant surfaces, and so I have a few aches and pains of my own.

Eventually I make some tea.  Earl Grey for the Loved One.  English Breakfast for myself. 

We take a few deeply comforting sips on our respective sofas but then I go to the kitchen and return with a bottle of very good Spanish brandy and I pour in a generous quantity to top up my tea.

The Loved One looks at me knowingly and reminds me in a very level tone that as a matter of fact the bottle is hers … I had offered it to her as a gift when I returned from my last but one trip to Spain … skint.

In turn, not wishing to lose face entirely, I cheerfully suggest that she should look on this action as one which amounts to my doing her a favour.  The bottle is currently too heavy for her injured arm and I am hastening the time when she will once again be able to help herself.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

howard hodgkin's collection of indian paintings on show at the ashmolean

i was never deeply interested in hodgkin's own work although the colours are often really really nice, but this collection of his is simply marvellous ...

Friday, March 2, 2012

souvenirs of the alhambra ... not !

yesterday morning's sunny 3BT

The road winds through the ancient woods and forests, and I speed in and out of the billowing and pouring mists towards the dawn, and sometimes the road catches the colours of the sun and the sky, glistening and gleaming orange or pink or gold amongst the last shadows of the night.

The big old buzzard is the same colour as the leafless hedgerow and sits perfectly still there in broad daylight, never losing sight of the five glossy pheasants sunbathing on a grassy knoll.

The girl stands in a sunny spot at breakfast time, ten yards from the front door of a hotel in a village just beneath those misty woods.  I imagine she might be from China, of maybe from Tibet.  Tall, strong looking, round faced but expressionless or thoughtful.  At a glance, her skin seems brown and perfect and there is a rosy tint beneath the tan.  She wears an archaic blouse, heavy-looking soft cotton in royal blue, only the collar button undone, long puffy sleeves and tightly buttoned cuffs.  Her skirt is a lighter blue, a simple A-line to the shins, above simple Chinese slippers.  She stands with arms dangling, radiant and relaxed and self-contained in beautiful symmetry until she lifts her right hand, the palm towards me as the truck glides past, spreading her fingers into a comb, and slowly stretching her arm until a yard of dark silky straight hair stretches away from her at shoulder height and there is still some left to dangle gleaming from those outstretched fingers.  And then I’ve gone.