Thursday, December 31, 2009


A fine reminder from cultural offering.
Have the children thanked Aunt Maud for her generosity? As a further incentive to drop by the CO, I've commented with a link that could save your sanity.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A seasonal message from Aunt Jane

A guest post from my dear sister. Whose house acquired an Aga in 1938 (and Jane some years later). We are not in the least little bit jealous.

Dear All

Happy Christmas!  How are you all?  How can I help you feel better?

The problem with Yuletide letters is they’re all about us.  How can we make it more you-focused?  Tell us, for example, how much you enjoyed Prague at Easter, all done up in flowers and ribbons, and selling bangle-shaped doughnuts (you know, that’s such a good look for you…).  Did you catch a glimpse of Mr Obama, or just the enthusiastic cavalcades zooming about? 

How did you manage with your rather quiet summer of short visits and day trips?  Did you prefer kite-flying or roller-skating?  Why have you decided not to go skiing next February?  How many of your young companions can’t be trusted not to get lost in the snowy wastes, after that fiasco at the firework display? 

Is your vintage Aga working?  How do you find the gentle warmth and slightly annoying way it never can get up to stir-frying heat?  Do you like slow roasted stuff?  How much laundry can you cram into your new kitchen to make use of the energy?  What sophisms do you use to convince yourself the carbon foodprint – genuine slip there – isn’t really so bad as long as you don’t use any other heat source in the kitchen?  Does growing your own leeks count, or did all your veg suffer so much in the drought that it was hardly worthwhile?  Yes, drought.  Where were you in August?  And how much effort did you have to put in to rescue any kind of tomato crop from the blight?  Did you have any apples to speak of?  Could it be because you had to destroy the bees’ nest in your bedroom chimney last year, so only had moths this year?  Are you a little tired of insect infestations, and do you worry that the house has a grudge?

And here’s one:  how many of your young relatives got a distinction at Grade 7 flute, and how did it make you feel?  How did their siblings cope with their merit at Grade 2 clarinet?  Was it a blood-bath or merely a stand-off?  Well done.

And another:  how many of the 10 courses of the ‘menu decouverte’ at Top Chef Raymond Blanc’s flagship Manoir des Quat’ Saisons could you manage, and how many of them contained duck and marmalade?  How many times now have you asked for a Martini and then cracked when they asked you what kind, so you ended up with champagne after all?  Were you sure you didn’t have to drive anywhere when you finally got round to experimenting with recipes?  Can you remember what you decided?

Are your ears any better, now that you’ve decided homeopathy can’t be any less effective than conventional medicine?  I do hope so.  How distressed are you that swine flu is still a threat after all these months, when the kids could so easily have brought it home from school and Got It Over With?  Are you otherwise in reasonable health, all things considered?  If not, I hope it won’t last long.  Er.

How long do you think it will take you to finish the en-suite bathroom?  Have you found appropriate tiles and someone who will finalise the plumbing?  What colour will your cohabitee choose, and how will you persuade them that your idea was better?

Which of your senior relations has recently moved back to their own house after a prolonged stint in residential care?  Is it an improvement?  What will you worry about now?

Do please write back with your contributions, and in the meantime, what kind of Christmas are you having?  Hope it’s lovely,


Monday, December 14, 2009

Her Majesty's Neb

Some of you may be lucky enough to find a Jimi wallet in your sock a week on Friday. Some of you may be discerning enough to have one already.

Those of you from the fog-shrouded North-East Atlantic Islands may be concerned that recent events (,dear boy,) have pounded the pound. How can you maintain liquidity in the face of up to 33% devaluation?

Do not despair: follow Her Majesty's Nose to store four notes where our American friends can store but three.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Plumbing the depths of Design

When working from home, I take the dog and half an hour for a walk at lunchtime. A couple of days ago, we saw a heron, lazily flapping through the sky en route to snack on someone's Koi pond. One of the many benefits of a short daily walking holiday is the opportunity to unhook your brain for a few minutes and let it make random connections. Dog, heron, carp, document design: what could be more natural?

If you

  1. produce documents of any sort
  2. are not a trained designer and 
  3. have not yet seen Jon Moon's work,
then you would profit from his book or the templates freely available on his site. He recommends and illustrates four simple principles: Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity. Which suggests an obvious fishy acronym. Being British, Jon naturally went for the toilet alternative. That's just the way we are wired.

Or plumbed.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Why write this blog?

Too much time on my hands? Er, no! (And it's getting worse: nearly two weeks already since my last effort  shuffled out of the draft pile and emerged, blinking, into the light of day.)

Can the poor suffering world struggle by without my Message? Quite possibly.

Am I looking for an argument? Well, no again: (I already have a wife).

I thought I'd start this blog with a long and insightful post into what I am hoping to gain and what you, Dear Imaginary Reader, might like to share. But events have supervened.

And I find to my horror that the Blasted Trunk has got there first. Again.
A blog is a great way to figure out what you want to do with yourself because writing regularly is a path to self-discovery. And a blog is a great way to build a network of people who respect you for your ideas, so it is the perfect tool for helping you to attain your goals and dreams, when you know what they are. And, this pretty much covers everyone, right? The super-focused and the super-lost: You should all be blogging.
I am at the less focussed (Editor Alice assures me that either spelling is correct) end of the spectrum.  A focus will no doubt emerge from the mists.


The real goal is something to which La Trunk alludes only indirectly. In every one of the blogs I follow, the writing has got sharper and clearer from month to month and year to year. I am hoping that, plugging away in notional public, I will develop the writing muscles. I am looking for that clarity of thought and word that rings out like a bell. A bell whose master bellmaker has shaved off exactly the right amount of bronze from exactly the right places so it rings loud, pure and true. That is the only measure of writing that has ever worked for me.

It is still and will probably always be slow and painful, with many reworks and corrections. Effortless superiority is probably beyond me. I saw one of Our Hero's manuscripts once, almost illegible as every word had been scored out and rewritten at least once. Plain superiority will have to suffice. If it was good enough for him, it's good enough for me.

And here's a secret: the tinkering is actually quite fun!

A Merciful Providence has ordained that the really bad stuff is at the bottom, where (I thought) no-one will ever see it. (That plan didn't quite work, but no doubt the scars will fade in time.)