So much fab, so little time

There has been so much to marvel at, a surf and foam and froth and bubble and deep rolling waves of turquoise-tinged depths shot through with slanting columns of sun’s gold.

A prelude to a “what I’ve been doing recently which explains mostly off-lineness” post. Which may well lack links and illustrations initially since it’s being constructed on the phone on a train heading to what is the last scheduled highpoint of this long and glittering summer of peaks. (There are now links and illustrations because of course it didn’t get finished while away.)

Perhaps first was You, Me, BumBum Train to which the wonderful C (of seed swaps and piranha-populated garden centres and cuttings and wisdom) produced tickets. I’m not sure whether the prohibition on saying what it’s “about” is still in force so I shall merely say that it was a unique experience, exhilarating and challenging and thought-provoking in equal measure.

Then there was Latitude with the brother of my sons and my heart, A, and the chaos-promoting provocateurs Hg and the flock of murderbirds. So much to see and hear and do.

wisdom and truth

Three highlights. The sight of b2 dancing on A’s shoulders listening to and, more importantly, seeing, Vampire Weekend, his face split in a grin so wide I wonder his cheeks didn’t crack. The opportunity to ponder how much letting go is an expansion and enrichment prompted by the evening-to-early-morning antics of b1 with A&J. And watching a giant bubble of rainbow iridescence drift through a deep blue sky, split into smaller bubbles and eventually burst to a spray of drops showering other upturned faces as the incomparable Mumford & Sons sang one of their heartbreaking, electrically life-infused songs.


Cold is the water
It freezes your already cold mind
Already cold, cold mind
And death is at your doorstep
And it will steal your innocence
But it will not steal your substance

But you are not alone in this
And you are not alone in this
As brothers we will stand and we’ll hold your hand
Hold your hand

And you are the mother
The mother of your baby child
The one to whom you gave life
And you have your choices
And these are what make man great
His ladder to the stars

But you are not alone in this
And you are not alone in this
As brothers we will stand and we’ll hold your hand
Hold your hand

And I will tell the night
Whisper, “Lose your sight”
But I can’t move the mountains for you.

And turning to A to see my tears in his.

high up

Then, after seven years or so of delighting in the online presence of the Thinkery‘s thinker I got to meet “Dr Krista” (for thus she is known in these parts, because of the scarf of course) in person. A triumphant vindication of the ability of the internet to connect one with the profoundly simpatico and for that virtual friendship to be confirmed and enriched by an encounter IRL. She took me to bits of London I’ve never seen before


I took her to other bits I had (but hadn’t noticed)

if you ever need the fur removed from a cherry

and, best of all, my father took us both to Oxford to see bits neither of us had

overcome by beauty

That is not my father recovering from the strain. Just in case anyone was wondering. It might, however, be Christ Church Cathedral prompting Stendhal syndrome.

It was in fact the summer of American Academics – Krista introduced me to the fascinating and delightful J who, I only later discovered, after not unearthing the fact despite 12 or so straight hours of gabbing, is the blogger I know as Momo. (See above re comment about bloggers IRL.) And the conductor of the Household Opera was in London too, wearing a handknit of such surpassing gorgeousness the pattern had immediately to be purchased and added to the lengthening queue of objects awaiting cooler, knitting-friendly, weather. Here are the three of us – K and A and I – on a London jaunt: two academics and an amateur (and it was too hot to keep the Pas de Valse on, if I’d thought I should have requested it. Bother.)

two academics and an amateur

Both Krista and Amanda have written about their UK tours – K here and A here, far more interestingly than I could. Particularly, of course, the parts of their trips for which – shock! horror! – I was not actually present. Suffice it to say we had a serendipitous city Sunday of varied delights.

Then, at a brisk pace, the bs and I were off to catch up with more bloggers under the guise of having a beach holiday.  One, Lucy, I have known since the age of 10, so this hardly counted as a first IRL experience although since her move to France we’ve actually seen each other seldom.

How heroic is it possible for one person (or rather two, since Tom was also central to the arrangements) to be? I merely announced the intention to camp and was, forthwith, presented with a shortlist of possible campsites. I chose. The one that it’s not possible to book in advance. So L&T arose at some ungodly hour on the day of our arrival, drove the considerable distance to the municipal site in question, prowled its purleius, located a group looking likely to leave the otherwise entirely chocka site, waited until they had fully departed and flung a pop-up tent onto the pitch in the apparently recognised and respected form of bagsie. Not content with this they then drove to the port to pick us up. Came back to the campsite. Helped put up the (ridiculously enormous) tent. Fed us. Watered us. Produced vital and enormous lengths of electrical cabling. Provided Molly as a Maizy substitute (she couldn’t come, I already missed her.) They only departed when it was too dark to do anything other than sleep.


What an idyllic holiday. The golden-sanded barely inhabited bay of a beach two minutes in one direction, chilled local cider two minutes in the other. And moules and gallettes and crêpes. We swam in the sea. We burnt in the sun. We ate – abundantly and deliciously. We chilled when and where  and how ever we felt like. We laughed. We slept. We did it all again. It was absolutely perfect.

hows that for a beach

And we got to hang out with Lucy and Molly for a whole day. Which she (the former) may well have recalled here, under St Michel (the îlot just visible in the picture above and accessible only by a causeway exposed at low tide) which made me gasp and smile in recognition. We, the adults, so entranced and excited by the real. live. hermit. crabs. in teeny tiny shells!! and the boys, busy with some complex digging-and-damming engineering project, casting a polite but cursory glance over our outstretched sandy palms and attempting, and failing, concomitant interest.

We also got to do our washing in a proper machine see Lucy and Tom in their natural habitat and meet Gillian too! and Porridge, who confusingly goes by another name when not bounding the blogosphere. Both were even more delightful IRL, should such a thing be possible. We ate and drank (of course). And walked in the Breton not-rain which closely resembles British rain, stopping to shelter under a tree only when it was deemed to be raining, a meteorological condition which would be known elsewhere as a monsoon. But cold. We learnt that in Brezhoneg the sky is not just “grey” but can be described by a plethora of words covering, well, the colours of rain-bearing and rain-producing clouds. In addition there is, apparently, no word for “blue”, the nearest being a form of “green”. Fortunately back at the beach the rain held off until the exact moment we had the inner tent spread out on the ground when striking camp, at which moment the heavens opened several sluice-gates over our pitch.

Once back, while the boys went off for yet another holiday I went to Dartmoor with friends. Walking, mirth, stones, myth, talking, wool.

Finally now the run down towards the new school term – uniform, shoes, stationary, a certain amount of nagging about homework and revision. The weather is glowering and chilly. I wonder whether the 100 or so tomatoes on the plant by the back door will actually ever ripen. Leaves are flung off the trees. Cycling into the headwind feels like late autumn, not mid August. And so the wheel turns.

Chelsea Physic Garden

With K and J.

Ripping, twisting, piercing, flapping, splitting, tearing, oozing, bursting, cracking, squelching, thrusting, rotting, spiking, furling, living, dying.


I think the iPhone bindweed set is finished now. Presumably one of the reasons these delicately beautiful plants are regarded as weeds rather than anything more exalted has to do with the shortness of their season. A picture a day on the walk to (or from) school and in a fortnight they’ve gone from bursting budding to hollow husks.

Oh yes

It all started inauspiciously enough – had to go back to feed the forgotten animals, walked to the wrong local station, arrived at the right local station to find no travel card, at journey’s end came out of the wrong station exit. Was this all a very ill omen or perhaps a conduit in the universal bad luck channel diverting some, at least, away from the Black Stars?

Up in north London the evening sun was golden, an aroma of woodsmoke was fanned by the slipstream of the passing buses and the pavements raucous with the banter of sunning saunterers. So we missed the kick-off. Too bad.

lucky belt

At the door of the bar we realised just how bad. Ghana were one-nil up we were told by the jubilant young man outside. Already? Could this be true? Oh yes!

hand clapping

The bar was small and packed. An enterprising remittance company had produced free bags containing a castanet-type rattle in the team colours in the shape of hands which clapped when shaken. Subsequently every series of passes, every successful tackle, in fact pretty much any time a Black Star player even looked at the ball evoked a crescendo of plastic claques to accompany the flag-waving.


Adversity, on the other hand, was signalled by silent stillness. Oh that penalty.


That, however, was later. At half time we were still one-nil up and the break provided the opportunity for in-depth analysis

half time discussion


flags 2

and that fervent fellowship denoted by the blaring of car horns

iStreet 2

I had to leave at the 73rd minute with the score still one all. The celebrations at the end of extra time were, apparently, spectacular.


Roll on next Friday.


The Docklands Light Railway is a great favourite in these parts because of the still magical experience of standing in the very front (or very back) of the driverless trains.  This weekend b2 and I went to stay with friends who have the great good fortune to live near a DLR station.


Here we are going there, at the back of the train, in one of the tunnels. Please note the hand-knitted cotton jumper of awesomeness.

rounding a bend dlr

Here we are going back, at the front, going round a bend above ground.

heron quays

And because, like bees, you can never have too many exciting trains, here we are drawing in to Heron Quays with an oncoming train speeding (a relative term of course) towards us and Canary Wharf (the red arches in the distance) ahead.

little soy cat

While on our adventures we met this cheerful cat. An excellent time was had by all.

Eye eye


What a joy to meet up with a friend from years ago and (re)discover so many shared interests, particularly at Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance & the Camera at the Tate Modern. It probably helped that we were pretty much on the same charger as regards the “permission” hobbyhorse. However it was thought-provoking about boundaries, assumptions and culture.

watching the match

So how do I justify taking this picture, people watching the <strike>UK</strike> England*-US world cup game on large screens at the Royal Festival Hall? After all I didn’t rush round the room asking each individual if it was ok. I suppose there are two things – firstly I was entirely obvious, possibly even slightly exaggerated, about what I was doing which I hoped would give anyone unhappy about being in a picture the opportunity to hide their face; secondly I chose the picture in which the child’s face is turned away from the camera. I like how trying to denoise the image (it’s the trusty iPhone after all, not a sophisticated low-light device) has rendered it rather like a painting.

The reason I was in the RFH for the football was because I’d been to the sublime Celebration of Kate McGarrigle. I hope devoutly they make a CD of the concert. It made me want to learn to play the squeezebox and write poetry about my children.

* I think it must have been subconscious retaliation to the Scot in the party who purported to change allegiance to the US on discovering one of their team allegedly “felt he was playing for Scotland too” which caused this otherwise inexcusable error. Despite the fact that having your own personal match commentator with a beautiful accent is sex on a stick.

On the bus

men waiting for work

The bus paused for the lights at the large intersection next to the wall where, every day, men congregate in garrulous groups waiting for work. Sometimes I pass when a van draws up, rapid negotiations are transacted and one or more clamber into the back and the van drives off.

Mostly the men stand with their fists pushed hard in their pockets but today I noticed one who was systematically burning the hairs on the back of his hands with his cigarette, between drags. Even from the height of the top of the bus I could see the skin was covered with shiny white sequins of old burn scars.

man with bare feet

I’d scoffed most of a packet of biscuits (it’s a long journey) before realising that while not illegal it might have been inconsiderate.

man with scar

The light on the scar on his knee – that was what I was interested in. But unfortunately the camera wasn’t.