Dear Diary

You are the only one I can tell about this.  You see, I’ve done something very silly, and I don’t know what to do.

When I took the washing out of the machine this morning, a soggy wad of paper plopped on to the kitchen floor. Filled with an all too explicable mixture of curiosity and apprehension, I picked it up and peered at it, quite forgetting the basketful of tangled clothes which glowered at me, impatient to be hung out on the line. The sodden mass of paper appeared to consist of more than one sheet, folded over and packed tightly so that the whole structure resembled a miniature Swiss roll. However, this wasn’t what you might be thinking (a roll of banknotes). Oh, no. Indeed not. This was something far worse. This was an exam revision paper. And not just any revision paper. This was Physics! My son’s most difficult school subject, and the exams coming up in a few days. Calamity!

I had to act quickly, Diary. I remembered what the main character had done in a book I read recently. Sian, working on an archaeological dig in the atmospheric town of Whitby, with its brooding, haunted abbey and its hundred and ninety-nine steps. You see, she was given some terribly creepy papers in a glass bottle and had to unroll them with infinite care to reveal a (possibly) terribly creepy secret which had been locked in the bottle for ages. It helped that she was a qualified conservator of old papers and parchment and knew exactly what she was doing. Whereas I only had my panic-driven instincts.

Diary, I used something I can most accurately describe as intuitive autopilot. Gently, I peeled and separated the delicate layers: damp, dulled, greyish. Soon enough, I found myself able to make a judgement about the size and age of the paper.  A4, folded into an A5 booklet.  Photocopied approximately two weeks ago. Tiny black letters and numbers plotted together into questions and equations. Dotted lines for answers, like tiny black beads of Whitby jet. Which is where Sian was working on her papers.  (You know, Diary, the terribly creepy ones.) Spooky. And … no! A tear, a hole, a gap, as the stubborn pages stuck damply together, and I unwisely tried to pull them harder.  But it was too late to stop, Diary. And so the sorry process continued, until I was holding two rectangular doilies up to the light, hoping the Physics in them hadn’t slipped through the holes like potato water through a colander. Would my son notice? Would he still be able to do his revision? Should I own up?

I’m not ready to share the secret of what I did next, so no one will ever know.  Not even you, Diary. Though the truth will out, they say.
But you can find out what happened to Sian by reading ‘The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps’ by Michael Faber.

Early Motor-Cars

I don’t like cars.  Driving them, I’m a menace; discussing them leaves me cold. And as for how their engines, or how they work? Incomprehensible – and about as interesting as a party political broadcast (sorry Dave, Ed and Nick*). But this post is set to be a rule breaker.  It concerns A Book About Cars.

The first surprise about this work is its size: a veritable wallpaper sample book! Next, the cover (it probably lost its dust jacket years ago); it has broad Oxford-blue and off-white deckchair stripes – bold and confident. This book knows who it is and what it wants to deliver! Then there’s the gold lettering and the somewhat whimsical  drawings of vintage vehicles. The ‘motor-cars’ of the title evoke visions of a lost world, the kind of motoring enjoyed by Toad of Toad Hall (well, possibly not).

So far, so fifties. OK, so this copy’s cover is not the cleanest and the spine has split. But somebody has clearly loved this book: read it and re-read it. Inside, it’s obvious why. The illustrations. Not photographs of vintage cars –  we’ve all seen those before. (Apologies here to photographers and car enthusiasts). Elegant illustrations: subtle and oddly flat. Large enough to frame and hang on your wall, and I suspect that many of this book’s siblings have met that curious fate. These are cars without the noise, the fumes or the bone-shaking. Pressed like rare flowers between the oversized pages. I love them. I might even read the text to find out more about them, given time. And that’s saying something!

‘Early Motor-Cars’, by George A. Oliver

* Other political parties are available.

Richard III

A visit to Leicester planned within the next few days.  I had really hoped to witness the procession through the city before the reburial, but had to give up on that when I realised that the dates wouldn’t work for me.  So, the next best thing…

I bought a camera in haste for my last (actually my first) trip there.  Leicester was abuzz with the news that the remains found on the archaeological dig were indeed Richard’s; between the cathedral and the Guildhall there were lengthy queues for a small but fascinating exhibition.  It was cold and grey, and a long wait, but the excitement generated by the discovery kept everyone’s spirits up.  I could hardly believe that the medieval king I had first heard about at school when studying Shakespeare, then read about more deeply in search of the truth, was now at the centre of such events.  History reaches out to grab you.

I took some pictures of the cathedral, the Guildhall and the site of the dig (or as close as I was allowed to get to it). Looking at them now, I can still feel that sense of anticipation on a chilly Leicester afternoon…


Unbelievable! Brilliant blue sky and warm enough to sit out in the garden and drink raspberry lemonade.

Some long-overdue jobs tackled: more of my beloved pansies planted out (is it possible to have too many?); old plant pots tidied a little, though still quite messy; an enormous stump finally taken out of the ground (not by me!) to make way for a new hedge, of which more in a later post.

A lot of new life in the garden. I love this time of year: something different to see every day. Butterflies and bees passing through, quite high overhead; didn’t settle.

I did find a ladybird, a snail and a spider though: