Monday, October 31, 2005

Matty boy

Matty's restaurant failed, big-time. It was a jolt for the bank, because the business plan had seemed all right. However, it had not accounted for the disturbing impact on customers of such menu items as "salmon baked in a herbal crust" and "goat's cheese mountain".

It took a little while for Matty's talents to find a niche. A pet's funeral parlour seemed on the right lines, but his first attempt, bluntly called No More Pets, misjudged its audience.

But Matty knew most people only came to browse so he developed a takeaway version - box, trowel and fragrance - and that showed some potential. (It was supposed to be embalming fluid but it was Febreze with the label off.)

You need to know your own mind in business. All the capital was gone, and Matty was a bore in the Footman for the next six months. He hoped some listener would clap him on the shoulders with a wallet. Eventually that's just what happened. Marek had walked straight in from the bookies, and that was the beginning of Heavenly Pets.


Friday, October 28, 2005

remember june

When spring turns into summer at the beginning of June there is a change in the landscape that is a kind of silveriness. The main constituent of this is the grasses which all at once, as it seems to us, grow tall and throw up glistening grassheads; above all, the ubiquitous false oat-grass (Arrhenatherum elatius) with its pearly strings of spikelets.

Spring is the time of year when even people who have no special interest in wild flowers are compelled to notice them; snowdrops, crocusses, daffodils, primroses, cow parsley, bluebells, buttercups. Now the variety of flowers is greater, but as individuals they are not so starkly apparent. The silveriness of the lowlands creates a shimmer, a hazy, greyish mirror that denies the human eye the directness of its delight in the flowers and shoots of spring. Its real function is to cool the ground and protect the plants from hot sunshine by reflecting it back into the atmosphere.

Hairy tare (Vicia hirsuta) is a plant that no-one but an enthusiast notices, though it’s common as a mass of filigree on hedges and roadsides. It’s a small annual vetch; small in the sense that the leaflets and whitish flowers are small, but it can easily scramble to a meter or more through a hedge. The plan is to rise above the fast-growing summer growth and to flourish in full sun; no energy needs to be wasted on structural strength, since it merely floats on the massed herbage. Compound tendrils cling around other plants and, in particular, around themselves, so the plant pulls together and develops a kind of sprawling latticework, the natural equivalent of knitting.

I have no idea what kind of insects, if any, are enticed into visiting the small flowers – I have never seen any insects showing an interest, and I suspect all the flowers self-pollenate. Under a good lens the flowers are seen to be perfectly formed small pea-flowers, white finely streaked with violet. Their larger relatives are perfectly designed for bees, but what kind of bee would be small enough to manage these flowers I can’t imagine. The plant goes to seed quickly and bakes brown; every pod has two fruits, and all the nutrients for these pods can be produced from the shrivelling up of the rest of the plant.

Scramblers and climbers have highly evolved mobility. This is obvious in the tendrils and no less so in the leaflets, which open or close along a central axis and will bend in different directions to provide a precise control of light, wind-resistance and moisture-loss.

The plant’s common name presumably indicates that it was once a nuisance to farmers, though the biblical tare must have been something different (possibly darnel, Lolium temulentum).

The elderflowers appear in creamy saucers; they are harvested up in Gloucestershire. The harvest begins in the farm’s own orchards, but is permitted to spread out to the lanes nearby.

The common grasses of lanesides are false oat-grass (Arrhenatherum elatius), Yorkshire fog (Holcus lanatus) rough meadow-grass (Poa trivialis), perennial rye-grass (Lolium perenne), barren brome (Bromus sterilis). On chalk these are replaced by upright brome (Bromus erectus) with its first buttercup-yellow anthers showing, quaking-grass (Briza media) and crested hair-grass (Koeleria macrantha).

I went up to Cley Hill, a detached chalk capstone perched on the greensand ridge separating the young limestone of Wiltshire from the old limestone of Somerset. Elsewhere the greensand produces a forester’s soil, attracting the builders of large stately homes such as Longleat and Stourhead. But Cley Hill is pure chalk. I looked around for the bee orchids and found eight flower-stems, some with their first flower. At this time of year the hill also has numerous common spotted orchids, fragrant orchids, and twayblades; along with other chalkland flowers such as horseshoe vetch, milkwort, rockroses, wild thyme, sainfoin etc. All these flowers are currently rather small, and the overall effect remains a grey-green sward with brilliantly-coloured flecks.

Elsewhere the most noticeable drifts of colour come from the eerily tilted masses of moon daisies (aka ox-eye daisies), the horse-fields full of meadow buttercup and on waste ground the dazzling dandelion-like flowers of beaked hawksbeard.

When it rains in June the days are particularly grey, and all the abundant growth of flowers and grasses is knocked flat and looks as if it is seriously damaged. But new growth is so fast that it recovers in two days. When the sky clears it is suddenly really hot – sunburn, damp clothes, open windows, ice-cream.

(written June 2005)


Drop-heire that kild lustie Pudding

Then is there heere one Mr Caper, at the suite of Master
Three-Pile the Mercer, for some foure suites of Peach-
colour'd Satten, which now peaches him a beggar.
Then haue vve heere, yong Dizie, and yong M Deepe-
vow, and M Copperspurre, and M Starue-Lackey the Ra-
pier and dagger man, and yong Drop-heire that kild lu-
stie Pudding, and M Forthlight the Tilter, and braue M
Shootie the great Traueller, and wilde Halfe-Canne that
stabb'd Pots, and I thinke fortie more, all great doers in
our Trade, and are now for the Lords sake.

(Pompey in a confiding vein, once he's settled in to prison life)

My essay on Measure for Measure is here.

Monday, October 24, 2005

It's a better than good time

It was now half past seven. She passed from room to room, floating on air. Every one of them had to be open; the windows murmuring crickets and scents from the garden, new sheets and tablecloths, the clutter of photograph frames and souvenirs tidied into drawers.

Beside the jacuzzi plump towels hung over marble. She fiddled, spritzing fragrance without disturbing anything. Her fingertips smudged her ear-rings and lightly dusted her neck. It felt milky, vulnerable.

She remembered Notre Dame. One midnight they skidded through the icy rain and hauled themselves into the last brilliant carriage as it shrank into night.

It was many years since she had exposed herself to midnight, or even to rain except in hat and gloves. Her legs couldn’t run now, she panted not like an angel but like a red-faced padrona with a mop.

She knew he was not very well either, he looked scurfy and vague, she did not want to overwhelm him. She remembered him tall and mop-haired, and after graduating a giant in mirror-shades who idled poolside in Los Altos while she swam miles. Last night his linen suit was a web of creases, he was stooped and he had sour breath, he probably drank too much, but after they’d done the show they sat in a park and began to laugh and joke: in the old days he had been a Communist, she used to get up and sing whether anyone wanted her to or not.

He choked with mirth, appreciating her. The sunset sparkled on his lenses and he told her: You’re still my number one, you know. She sat on the bench, wild with excitement, and couldn’t say a word. It was an awkward moment.

Two marriages and four children later, it could not mean exactly the same thing. This estancia was her wealth, it was also her fear, her comfort zone. She was going through the salon smoothing it away.

She did have a little dope stashed away in case it was needed. With the evening newscast she preferred a liqueur coffee; it never stopped her nodding with sleep. 215 lbs, and he used to say she looked like Joan Baez.

Outside, a car scrunched gravel – but it pulled into the neighbour’s drive. He wasn’t even due yet. She had been trembling on the lip of the sofa, but now she sank back into it. Like her girls said, Chill.

When he finally did get there the doorbell woke her up. She pulled herself out of her nest crossly, and finally remembered that Dolores wasn’t there to answer the door. The corners of the house felt so distant and it was cold because of all the open windows. Damn him, this had better be good, she thought. She hated the ugly mood that was cancelling all her preparations. The thought of tussling on apricot in her own room, surrounded by her medicines, was grotesque. This had better be dynamite.


Friday, October 14, 2005



Mmm, a bit more-ish.

This soap’s almost gone.

Mmm I could keep on eating those. Ooh mmm.

We need soap and pegamento solido.

God these are going down.

We’ll have to get some more of these. No we won’t we’ll make do with the other ones.

But I like these...

We’ll use up the other ones...

We’ll get some more anyway. You make a list.

(hears me writing)

Are you making a list?


Romeo, where art thou Romeo?


A poo, my kingdom for a poo.


Out, damned Spot.


Tell me a Shakespeare sonnet.

(I recite Sonnet 15, When I consider everything that grows)

You don’t half fidget when you do it. Your arms are going like this and your legs are going like that.

Now do a Shakespeare sonnet without moving. No, not the same one. A short one.


Twenty-first bleeding century. They’ll rue the day.

Monday, October 10, 2005

sycamore fade

The sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) is said to have no significant autumn colour - the leaves are normally still green when they turn dry and crinkled and biscuit-coloured. You may not be very delighted by these pictures, but the architecture of a crown made from these elements is subtly impressive and once you've noticed it you'll want to keep looking out for it.

The crisping happens on the outermost leaves first, the October air glazes the trees leaving them still and burly - Botticelli period. After many hours a cloth's blind buffing communicates, as by hand-heat, with the inner core; a serpentine patina resides in pebble and tsuba.

(The other time I notice sycamores is in May when the leaves are fresh and small, a very pure green, and they overlap each other in tiers creating a sumptuous layered effect.)

These leaves (of London Plane) are flashier, closer to the stereotype. Trolls make cigars out of them; at night you can hear the crackling.


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

29.09.2004 16:09

J: Poops, catch!

(G catches paper scrumpled up into ball)

(J farts)

J: fucking hell it’s getting worse


G: Jesus

J: It’s horrible

D: You’ve really hit some form this afternoon

J: I’d like to thank my sponsors Kelloggs for the dodgy breakfast cereal


G: I disagree with you Dave Steff is not a twat. Who wants a drink from the machine.

D: Pot of tea please

G: from the machine...

D: what do you think of this John.

J: the quality’s not up to much is it

G: (to himself) Linda!?...

M: 38, please...

D: Where’s that picture

G: Right, drinks, you lot want water and Mike wants a 38. (Exit)

Powered by Blogger