Saturday, July 30, 2011

Pussycat Dreams

I discovered this cut-out-and-make cat at The Museum of Childhood shop.
It comes in the form of a card which I'd bought for my 13 year old niece but Jake refused to let it go!

It's designed by Alice Melvin who has a whole load of other wonderful goodies in her shop.

This is the sort of thing I'd like to have a go at making one day - 3D paper shapes and "sculptures".
So many projects, so little time...sigh.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Kiss her on the cheek, tell her who you are, but be prepared to keep doing it, over and over.’

I hadn’t been ‘home’ in years. Since then, my 94 year old Grandma has been having memory lapses. Not many and not severely. But my father would visit her and she’d keep asking him, “Where are your children? How many do you have? Why don’t they live with you?” and my Dad would keep answering.

Every now and then he’d say “I don’t know, you ask me so often I forget!” Then they’d laugh and five minutes later, she’d start up again. Then one of my aunts would fetch the photo, the one where Grandma’s holding my Johnny, her great grandson, and she’d say, “Oh! Yes, I remember now. Show that picture to your sister.” And they’d laugh again.

“She’s already seen it Mum.”

Apart from that, she’s as strong as a water buffalo. Even when the freak cold front hit Bangkok recently, Dad got influenza, Mom got strange rashes and everyone was bundling up in jackets and scarves, but Grandma just wore a shawl around her shoulders.

While we’re eating lunch, Grandma starts up again. “Where are your children, why don’t they live with you?” Even as I’m sitting there.

Everyone points but Johnny and I look different now. Grandma squints, then smiles, then repeats the questions. She only asks them of my father. I look around the room at my uncles, aunts, cousins and realise why. They all live with her or within a few miles of her.

I think of my London flat, all the days I spend alone with Johnny, trips to the playground just the two of us, going to play groups to be with strangers.

I used to be relieved living so far away. I didn’t want all the noise and scrutiny, the crush of such familiarity.

I look at my Grandma as she waits for an answer.

“It’s a good question Grandma, a very good question.”

(333 words ~ prompt: "remembered" – from one of my books)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

what is there to do here?

the boys who’d asked
what is there to do here
huddle in close
pick snails off leaves
disappear with cups
to pick “blueberries” off Brambles
return with chins and fingers
stained wine red

as we walk
comfrey leaves are stuck
to arms, chests
badges peeled and reapplied

birds become more than ducks and swans
trees acquire names like Ash and Hazel
unripe apples are picked and bitten
then kicked about
pale-green pebble-hard footballs

we progress like a higgledy-piggledy train
adults orbited by
running boys and quiet, feisty Maddie
a passerby smiles
“This is a very large family!”

I stop for a moment to hold it all
a floating lotus and lily-pad island
geese climbing the banks to join us
a glimpse of red and black and white
on a chaffinch

and beyond
the sound of a gong
a Buddhist temple bell
no one else hears

Friday, July 22, 2011

The magic of now

It's Jake's birthday tomorrow. A couple of weeks ago, I started getting stressed about not having planned the quintessential fantastic child's birthday party for him, even though what we do have planned is much more authentic for the child he is now (going to Lea Valley Regional Park in Cheshunt with a group of close friends & his cousins).

But I'd seen photos of a friend's son's absolutely fantastic professionally made-to-order birthday cake and I thought - shit - I haven't even thought of the cake and I went into a panic about it which led to me buying a claydough train cake topper and having grandiose ideas about making an amazing cake with train track icing piped across it (never mind that I have never done such a thing before).

Well, life is what happens when you're busy making plans. And today, I had to surrender to working with who I am and what resources I have right now. And remind myself that Jake himself would be happy with any cake at all.

At bedtime, when Jake found out I was staying up to make his cake, he decided he wanted to stay up and help me. By that point it was already past 9 o'clock. Ordinarily I would've put my foot down and insisted he go to bed or go to bed with him then come down to make the cake later, but I thought, what the heck, why not. And help me he did, with such focus and absorption and fascination (and skill too!). I got a chair for him to stand on and he helped me sift the flour and the sugar and cocoa powder together, he helped me pour the milk and the vanilla essence into the mix, he stirred the batter, he helped me break up pieces of chocolate to be melted and added to the mix, all the time giving me a running commentary with sentences that began with, "And what we're going to do now is...." (I soooo wish someone had been filming it all!)

When I got the melted chocolate out of the microwave, he asked me what we were going to do with it. I told him we were going to pour it into the cake batter and as I did so, he watched and said, "Oh wow! That's gonna be tasty! That's brilliant!!" and then a few moments later, "Aw, thanks!"

Then we went to bed and he fell asleep with fingers smelling of chocolate and vanilla.

The cake is cooling now and we're going to decorate it in the morning. I'm going to use a star-shaped bubble wand as a stencil to sprinkle icing sugar stars on it. And then the claydough train is going on the top, along with three candles. Jake, of course, insists on decorating the cake with me in the morning.

And you know what, that beats a fancy bakery-ordered cake any day of the week.


Thursday, July 21, 2011


Watching the skater boys under the Royal Festival Hall
the rrrrrroooollllllll rrrrrrrrrrroooooolllllllllllllllll rrrrrrrrrooooooollllllllllllll of their wheels
the THWACK THWACK as they defy gravity then land
most of the time followed by FUCK or faces twisted with disgust
but every now and then WHOA!
and they go again and again and again and again ~

Fearlessness takes practice
has to be birthed with each breath
whether you fall or soar.


(Often we hear about a desire to live without fear.  But I see by watching them that fearlessness is not an absence of fear but continuing despite it).

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Covent Garden (a stone for the river)

On her break, the silver statue of a Victorian woman sips from a bottle of iced tea while watching a Big Issue vendor throw a tennis ball for her dog to catch.

when things fall apart ~ expanded

"When things are shaky and nothing is working, we might realise that we are on the verge of something.  We might realise that this is a very vulnerable and tender place, and that tenderness can go either way.  We can shut down and feel resentful or we can touch in on that throbbing quality.  There is definitely something tender and throbbing about groundlessness." - Pema Chodron

(And before you start sniggering - she's a Buddhist nun).

Monday, July 18, 2011

when things fall apart

"When things are shaky, we are on the verge of something." - Pema Chodron

Let's hope it's not an abyss.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Who likes short shorts?

If you do, my short short "Stain" is now up at Metazen.  I'm particularly proud of this as I adore Metazen.

So - enjoy!  Or not.  Whatever.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Disaster Averted

At the
                        of a very steep and full escalator at Holborn tube, a wheel on Jake's pushchair got stuck.  I said "Oh shit"
and quickly and quietly did a sideways
                                                                     off the escalator, pulling Jake & pushchair with me.  While I was shuffling, there was a mini-pile up of bodies behind us, forcingpeopleevenclosertogetherthanbefore.  And yet, the only exclamation I heard was "Oh". 

As soon as we were out of the way, the bodies proceeded as before, a line of giant upright ants

I couldn't help myself and said out loud, "We're fine, thanks for asking."  Nobody even looked.  I suppose I should be grateful.  It could have been worse and we could have been flattened, or lynched. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Some spare stones

7 July ~ Judy smiles and tells me to relax.  In two breaths, on pink graph paper, the silent tracing of my heart.

8 July ~ At Grandma & Grandad's - I kiss Jake good morning.  He smells of bacon though none's been cooked for days.

9 July ~ Donald visits with Dizzy the dog, her tail whacks Grandma on her bandaged knee, Jake takes one look at her and runs back outside.

10 July ~ at a bus stop, the folds of a man's carrier bag reads "together we'll beat er"

Today ~ Pink dahlias as large as Jake's head bloom by the side of Blackhorse Road

At the playground ~ five sparrows take a dust bath in the calm between children's footfalls

At the doctor's office ~ boxes of leaflets left opened on low tables, their titles peek out in red:

"Eating for your heart" and "How to live with heart failure"


Just wanted to say I'm sorry that my main stones blog doesn't have the capacity for people to leave comments.  I chose that layout for its prettiness and didn't realise till after. 

Wednesday, July 06, 2011


Apart from the writing of small stones, words and I are not getting on at the moment.  They are getting on my nerves and I'd really like them to leave me for a while, give me some space.  So rather than write, here's what I've been doing lately...

Monday, July 04, 2011

A minute too long

smoke fills the air
as I pull a charred popcorn sculpture
from the microwave

Saturday, July 02, 2011

On the train home

I remember how it came to be that the front pocket of my handbag is full of crushed daisies.


Read my other small stones here.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Stitch a Year

From 1st July 2011, I will be adding stitches to a piece of freeform embroidery every day for one year. The "rules" are that I will make all the stitches on one piece of cloth, use one colour of embroidery floss each day, make a minimum of 12 stitches each day and not undo or unravel the stitches made unless I absolutely have to. Apart from that, it will be completely instinctual.

This project is inspired by Jay Hudson's knit a year project.

I'm doing this because I taught myself some basic embroidery stitches last year and have done little with it since. I also have a fat stash of embroidery floss which I bought with some of my redundancy money.

I am also drawn to the discipline / practice aspect of it, like a mindfulness meditative practice but through the act of stitchery. I like the unplanned instinctiveness of it and the excitement of seeing what unfolds. I'm also hoping it will help me to focus on the present moment and on making peace with what is - as opposed to trying to control and get everything perfectly right.

I'll be documenting my progress here.

the pond of pea soup

a spare stone for the river

just after the cranky old cyclist

shouts at us to


on an otherwise empty lane

curving through marsh land

a pair of mute swan glide past above us

pure white and huge

against a greying sky

wings lilting in unison

black and orange beaks




gone in a breath


I'm still posting daily stones on my small stones blog, but I will post any "extra ones" here from time to time.