These nights never seem to go to plan

Mid-week and a decreasing pile of work on my desk. The  cheering prospect of fresh fish for supper.

Gauzy butterfly light at dawn, giving way to dense cloud and humidity. Outside the trees pendulous, dark, heavy. The leached yellow of the catalpas, their long seed pods clattering. Indian bean tree, as it is known elsewhere. The myrtle – Australian brush cherry – starry with blossom. Dishevelled sequence of late summer becoming autumn. All night I have been dreaming about a train journey along the coast, small bays and inlets washed with light, scintillating, a dazzle of atomised porous light. From Webster’s Duchess of Malfi, the murderous brother beholding his dead sister: “Cover her face, mine eyes dazzle.” Watching out for something or somebody I could not name, the child in me leaning out of the train window into the sea winds, watching the light as if it was a crystal ball to scry. Years ago a friend gave me a handblown oval of glass and as I raised it in one hand I saw in that convex mirrored surface the reflection of a woman who was not myself, dark-haired with heavy eyebrows and slightly protruding eyes, saying something in a foreign language.


What did I do? I carefully averted my eyes and placed the glass ball on a high mantel between two carved teak bookends and a framed painting of poplar trees on the bank of a river in Normandy. Another landscape scoured with light, poplars like pencilled feathers and the river smooth as an oil slick. You don’t have to embark on every adventure you’re invited to join.


Thinking about making an adapted Yotam Ottolenghi Turkish salad to accompany grilled fish. Oven-roasted courgettes ( zucchini), chunks of eggplant(!), red bell pepper, chopped  ripe plum tomatoes, a handful of juicy pomegranate seeds, rocket, flat-leaf parsley, coriander, a yoghurt dressing flavoured with a hint of cumin, plenty of fresh mint, crushed garlic and lemon juice. Yum, yum.


In the background, Sam Smith singing Stay with Me. Heard so many times before that it sets off a drifting but not unpleasant boredom in me. Like Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud. What’s prevalent in the zeitgeist.


An article on the helpfulness of anxiety. As opposed to thinking of anxiety as debilitating, it might be worth considering the value of anxiety as a social check or brace:

MacKuen found that when people’s views…were challenged, they tended to become either anxious or angry. No surprise there. But here’s the interesting part: those who became anxious showed a greater tendency to seek out more information about the policies in question, a greater interest in learning more about both sides of the issue, and – perhaps most surprisingly – an increased willingness to explore new solutions to the problem. The angry folks, by contrast, were less interested in informing themselves, and when they did seek out more information, they tended to just look for things that were in line with their initial views.


Ships passing in the night

Outside at the gate a couple dressed conservatively, him in dark  suit and tie, her in powder-blue  jacket, skirt and  stockings, court shoes. Smiling. I closed the front door behind me and went out to say hello, not clicking on the electronic remote to open the gate. (How we live, the security, paranoia and high fences between householder and street, cultural insanity, But still.)  He slid a copy of Watchtower magazine out of a faux-leather  briefcase.


Mary: Oh um no, not interested. Have a good day.

Him: Do you not want to be saved?

Wife, staring past me through fence at study window where large dog is barking his head off: Is that a dangerous Rottweiler you have locked up in there?

Mary: No, not at all! That is a friendly Great Dane standing on a  bed in the study saying hello.

Him: You could be saved today, you know.

Mary [thinks: Do I want to spend eternity with 44 000 people dressed for a  1950s Rotary meeting?]: No thanks. Goodbye!

Wife, peering past me: Do you ever let that attack dog out of the room?

Mary, flabbergasted: Oh yes, of course, there is  a huge backyard and he gets his walks and  runs around wherever he wants [but not right now because he would want to befriend you and give you more time to convince me to become a Jehovah’s Witness]

Him: So you care more about that brute of a dog than the fate of your soul?

Mary: That’s right. Bye bye!


Ships passing in the night.


The housemate says she is giving up eggplant for Lent and will stick to eggs and bacon. She’s lucky we don’t have grey slabs of dried cod and sacks of lentils to get us through the last months of a northern winter.


A while back I designated an empty drawer in the kitchen for ‘miscellaneous’ items and this morning I opened it while searching for teaspoons, found it jammed full of lids for canning jars, screw-drivers, spare light bulbs, folded mutton cloth, baking parchment, napkin holders, balls of string, etc etc. No teaspoons, no idea  when or why these bits and pieces migrated to this drawer. What did I want with mutton cloth? To strain homemade yoghurt labneh? Napkin holders of indigenous wood with a guineafowl pattern. Time for some autumnal spring-cleaning…

Swim through the chambered nautilus

Rainy and dark morning, lights flickering and on and off. Trees dripping in the back garden, wood pigeons huddled for shelter. Bonnie Tyler playing somewhere in the background, a subdued slightly hoarse rendition of Total Eclipse of the Heart bringing the pulse of the 1980s into the dim rooms. Time warp back to the soundtrack of Watership Down, women still rare enough  in rock amidst the white boys and white noise, those moog synthesisers and vestigial echoes of a disco back-beat, those performers with their smudged-up mascaraed eyes and teased-back white-blond hair haloed in arc lights, so  long ago, so anachronistic to see now.


Every now and then
I get a little bit nervous
That the best of all the years have gone by


Filing copy to  a sleeping New York and snowed-in Boston, thinking of a proofreader just waking in London: how we work now, collaborative  and on the whole smooth connections across the globe, the shape of publishing and communications to come, business partnerships, allies, friends and  the like-minded creating new platforms, hubs, ezines, websites and printed matter across time zones, cultures, space and deadlines.


Too wet to walk dogs, all snoring in a comfy tangled heap. I need to find recipes for a surplus of eggplant. Aubergine, brinjal, bright purple shiny thing. Pyramid of blue-black glossy brinjals  at bottom of fridge. Listing possibilities: Imam bayildi, ratatouille, Eggplant Parmesan Rollatini, moussaka, Baba ghanoush, smoky eggplant dip (how garlicky is too garlicky?), eggplant stuffed with tofu, my eggplant glop with minced sundried tomatoes, Melanzane ripiene. We shall have enough varied eggplant on offer for  a fortnight of meals. How overjoyed the housemate will be!

Work, love, cooking, gardening, sitting on a dog-haired sofa watching the slate-grey fall of summer rain that might be autumnal rain by now. A tumultuous unpredictable blue globe spinning on the tip of my index finger, tilting towards  what will become the future, that bright vertigo beckoning us into another kind of dance.


From Rebecca Solnit’s  A Field Guide to Getting Lost:


“Many love stories are like the shells of hermit crabs, though others are more like chambered nautiluses, whose architecture grows with the inhabitant and whose abandoned smaller chambers are lighter than water and let them float in the sea.”