Monthly Archives: April 2012


This comes from too-slovenly dusting of too-tightly packed bookshelves….




A weekly dust

and not even that with any thought.

A cursory unthinking swipe

while they shout,

“Look at me, take me,

peel me away from these too-close neighbours

whom I didn’t choose.

Hold me in your hands and

let my pages shiver again like swan’s feathers stretched”.


Put down the duster and the polish and

follow their lines.

The celadon spines of the Penguins.

The patterned Fabers.

The monochromed Carcanets.

Look closely at covers cracked like old paint on a window frame

sunburned, windburned, aged.

Books read on Intercity trains and Manchester buses and

London tubes while

landscapes cracked, barely noticed:

fields and moors and back-to-backs and streaks of advertisements and soot.

“Remember me?

Choose me?

Remember when you read me lying on your belly on the grass

knees bent, feet warming in the sun?

Remember my words?

Remember how I made you think?”


Too much din.

We are made of the things we have forgotten.



Leave a comment

Filed under oddbods, poems, poetry


Measuring. Pinning. Pricking my fingers. Unpinning. Re-measuring. Bending ’til my back hurts, cross-legged on the floor. Watching the rain pour into my garden, fill the pots, drown the shoots struggling for air. A claustrophobic day. Fiddling tiny dress with tiny pleats. Expensive, heavy, buttermilk silk; it stands without support, its bell skirt, imagining a small body inside. A dress for a bridesmaid.

This is the easy one, the one that will be enjoyed just because it’s big and swooshes. It could be made of anything: tin foil, old net curtains, plastic bags. It doesn’t matter because the imagination of the small girl wearing it will prevail.

The next one won’t be quite so free of scrutiny: the one for my daughter. I showed her a photograph of Dior’s duchesse satin ‘Zemire’ dress (1954). A mistake. Curses. Blast.

This is what she’d like. Please. For her bridesmaid’s dress. I smiled and said, “of course, darling girl” and kicked myself hard in the shin. In essence, it’s not really more than a tight bodice and a full skirt and she has a point: it is the most lovely dress and not overly sophisticated. A pretty good choice for a fledgling young woman. And the expensive, heavy, buttermilk silk will look a treat….


Filed under dressmaking, oddbods, sewing

Little Black Dress

I’ve done it. The teenage thing. Party on Saturday…no frock (well, none that I want to wear)…so make one….

I’ve burned the midnight oil, neglected the children, said ‘sod it’ to the domestics and made a dress. As far as I can see, the only effect has been slightly goggle-eyed children but they’ve been fed and I’ve managed a few words of parental guidance during the past 48 hours. It feels a little like those 7 day dancing competitions in the ’40s….an endurance test with scant sleep and hurting bits.

Anyhow, it’s an LBD of which no woman can have too many. Just the slightest difference in neckline or length or fit can be enough to be either perfection or disaster for a particular event. It’s burlesque for me this weekend and although this dress looks formal, it’s a snug fit, reveals just enough shoulder and plummets at the back. Just need fishnet stockings and a red lippy….

The quality of the photographs is a bit suspect but it’s dusk and there are heavy purple skies and that odd yellow light that you get in a storm.

I’m looking forward to wearing this: even the Boy said that I looked ‘dashing’. Perhaps not the adjective I’d’ve chosen but better than a grunt and a fine word indeed for an 8 year old.




Filed under dressmaking, oddbods


I’m having trouble accessing technology. The children hog it: one designing tree houses and the other blasting his way out of Afghanistan. They’ve disappeared into the garden and I’m tempted to lock the door ’til I’ve finished. It’s hard to work while the children are on holiday. Their stuff breeds like triffids: there’s no floor space left thanks to lego and the table’s full of airfix and oil paints.

I’ve just finished an embroidery……I’m quite pleased with it….

Thought I’d post the old ones while I’m at it…….

This one’s a bit scruffy round the edges but I think it’s my favourite. Just need to get it framed.

I just need to get on with some proper work too….I’ve two bridesmaids’ dresses to make, a client waiting for the outrageous pink feathers and I quite fancy a new frock myself….

Leave a comment

Filed under embroidery, oddbods


I spent my time in Wigan digging dad’s garden. It used to be mum’s garden but gardens don’t live after the one who loves them dies and it had turned scruffy, despite my desperate attempts to nurture it. Nature is simply too powerful and I couldn’t maintain it from 200 miles away and I’ve had to watch it slowly turn feral. I pulled out nettles and brambles from the back field last October which had found a joyous and unhindered path under the hawthorn hedge and turfed over the unkempt borders now invaded by pulmonaria, that velcro-leaved thug, and mounds of concrete-rooted geraniums. At least dad can cut grass. Just about.

But this time, I restored a part of the garden that had been hidden by dead leaves. There is a row of Cyprus trees along one edge of the top garden, in front of which mum had planted slow growing doily-leaved acers, each in its own precise square of large grey pebbles. It was a such a lovely part of the garden: neat, elegant. And over time, although the acers thrived, it became over grown and forgotten. This week I raked off the rubbish and dug out all the stones and smoothed the earth and set the pebbles back into their neat squares and lifted the moss so that fresh turf can be laid and gave the acers a hair cut and it made my cry with joy to see it back to near-perfection. There’s a bit of mum still there.

I think I need to get this off my chest……

Last Day Here

I knew that you wouldn’t come back.

I watched you go. Pale. Dark-eyed and dying.

To Christies.

Dad backed the car out of the drive and you went from me, not waving.

You wore the trousers that you had bought in Selfridges a year ago,

me with you, pregnant.

Laughing in the changing room. They fit!

Fine black wool. Wide legged with a heavy swing: elegant, perfect.

You charmed the assistant and a strange woman smiled a wide smile at you.

But that day they hung from your hips in loose folds

and no one noticed.

You were too hot although it was March

and a cold wind blew hard into the house from across the fields

through the open windows.

I wedged open the doors with cushions to stop them banging.

Your skin like aged parchment, yellowing.

Always tanned and glowing before.

We put our cheeks together, mother and daughter, and I felt your bones.

I fed my daughter while you slept

and then lay down next to you like a child,

my head on your shoulder, trying not to touch your body,

in case it hurt,

your liver gun shot with cancers.

You had nice skin once.

It always turned brown in spring after gardening started

and your fingernails were always broken and rimmed with soil

and your finger skin grained green.

I stroked your arm.

Bring me my bible, you said, the black leather one, the one I had as a child.

I forgot the first time.

But I put it in your case the day we left without you and read what you had read.

I pulled your case through the foyer

into a clear blue morning, sun splintered,

my daughter strapped to my chest, head nodding, small socked foot in my hand.

I had your gold bracelet in my pocket, its smooth yellow discs, limp.

I couldn’t take off your wedding ring.

Couldn’t even try.

Couldn’t find your other nightdress anywhere either;

best to throw it away, the nurse had said.


Filed under gardens, oddbods, poetry

Neither Frocks Nor Poems But Nice All The Same

Back from The North and have found a few minutes to upload some photographs of the garden…I think it’s more fizzily spectacular in my head than reality!

Euphorbia amygdaloides Robbiae

Chaenomeles Nivalis

Early morning garden

Parrot tulips just about to explode

Leave a comment

Filed under gardens, oddbods

Still a Yellow Thing

My garden is a joy, a fizzing sherbet of yellow and acid green and I can’t post photographs because I’m in The North, visiting, and very far away from any kind of technology that would allow me to do so (I’ve cranked up the old pc and have made a coffee and scrubbed the kitchen while it very gently warmed up to lift off…). I planted Euphorbia amygdaloides Robbiae last autumn and have been waiting for its butterfly-bright flowers to open all winter. And they have: tall bracts of yellow-green flowers that remain steadfastly undiminished by pelting rain. The daffodils planted among them have bowed to the weight of Monday’s downpour but not the Euphorbia, it’s strong, upright, defiant.  There’s a metaphor in there somewhere…

The Chaenomeles nivalis has been in bloom for weeks now, if not months. Some flowers have only just burst, others have wilted and browned and become slippery-rotten. It’s been its best year yet and I’m waiting to see how many flowers hatch into small, hard, unprepossessing fruit. Edible and a fine addition to an apple pie but nothing compared to the truly magnificent, pendulous quinces with which I make jelly and which vanishes down the gullets of small children, spoon by quivering rosy spoon.

I travelled with the children on the West Coast main line yesterday along with several thousand other people who had also sharpened their elbows in preparation for the battle for a seat (reservations mean nothing). Conclusion: defibrilators ought to be compulsory kit in every carriage. There’s always an overly red puffing chap, hard bellied and broken veined trying to squeeze a suitcase the size of an elephant into the overhead gap. I fear for him…..

Having announced to the carriage my children’s predilection for throwing up on pendolinos (people flee…we get our seats) we headed north. From the window somewhere in Northamptonshire I saw a field of oilseed rape luminous yellow against a dark slategrey sky. The perfect unblended meeting of colour. Glorious.


1 Comment

Filed under gardens, oddbods