Friday, January 30, 2009

The Lady of the Ring reaches her destination

Firstly, concerning the Cleary Necklace:

Hey Jen, YES, you TOTALLY know this book:
Page 85 - "Nobody could expect a boy to enjoy the company of a girl who hadn't learned to like Chinese food, who couldn't even pretend enthusiasm, and who spilled things all over her clothes like a two-year-old. Her first grown-up date was ruined...."
Page 17 - "She knew that the Doggie Diner was a small business that delivered horse meat to the owners of dogs in Woodmont...It was just that she was so startled to have a boy appear from nowhere."

Hey Laura, the pages in my book are literally falling out as I flip through it now!

Hey Coffeelady, you crack me up....or

Hey, Bablebabe, how is it possible I NEVER KNEW about Jean & Johnny? I think my childhood was not quite as good as it could have been. Damn!


This is where we last left the Lady of the Ring, and now the journey continues:

The lady and her fellow travellers soon returned to the carriage, some held hands as they ambled along, others enjoyed a moment of private reflection, staring blankly at their feet moving along the pebbled pathway. The lovely lady walked alone, staying at the back of the group and feeling decidedly unwell. You see, dear reader, it is one thing to embark on a journey, and it is quite another thing to reach your journey's destination. The lovely lady knew that she was a short carriage ride away from the place she was going to, and this instantly changed her memory of the place she had left. Suddenly, the place she had left seemed warm and comfortable, with its sun-filled rooms and curtained privacy and courtyarded birdlife. She yearned for her dear old ring, that truest of jewelled friends, that dependable polished circle which had illuminated so many years of her life. "Perhaps they were the best years of my life," she thought to herself, sadly.

As the carriage wheels began to roll forward along the dirt track, the lovely lady sat on her bench and looked out of her small window. She saw a flicker of green pasture, three tiny cows, a white picket fence, a flash of blue sky, and then an orange flash, followed by a vibrant red and a melancholy purple darkening to a deep blue velvet and then black. The lovely lady's tiny window was now a black square, and as if a tiny night-light had been plugged into the carriage by a devoted mother, little twinkling stars appeared in the window. The lovely lady smiled at the stars and felt a bit better about the future.

Then the carriage stopped with a jolt, and all of the lovely creatures turned towards the lovely lady and watched her gather her bags together and carefully make her way towards the door. The minute she stepped down from the carriage she heard the door behind her shut with a determined click, and she turned to watch the carriage continue on its journey. The round pale faces of her companions clustered around the windows and watched her with wide, unblinking eyes. She raised her right arm and waved at them, and as they saw her do that they all blinked at once, as if they were the many eyes of the carriage itself, and then they disappeared behind the curve of the road.

"Hello you," said a voice to her right.
"Hello sis," answered the lovely lady, "Were you here all along?"
"No, silly, I just arrived," and the lady of the voice pointed to a small red car parked beside the road, "Didn't you hear me beeping the horn as the carriage stopped?"
The lovely lady stood perfectly still and stared at her sister, her sister with the tiny red car and the cheerful voice and, and the bright, shiny, golden ring on the fourth finger of her left hand.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Cleary Necklace

The multicoloured beads in the Cleary Necklace were lovingly hand-made from the Puffin paperback "Fifteen" (by Beverly Cleary), first published 1956, reprinted 16 times (this edition 1979).

The jeweller who brought this jewelled masterpiece to life claims that any fifteen year old girl who wears the necklace will immediately be blessed with a sweet, naive and innocent belief in the power of love.

Today I'm going to meet a boy, Jane Purdy told herself, as she walked up Blossom Street toward her baby-sitting job. Today I'm going to meet a boy.

Why, I know lots of things about him, Jane thought suddenly. The boy was at least sixteen because he had a driver's license. He had a nice smile and merry eyes - greenish-grey eyes. He had brown hair with a dip in it. He was not really tall, but he was tall enough so a medium-sized girl could wear heels and not feel she had to scrooch down when she walked beside him.

By a quarter to six on Saturday Jane, who had been too excited to eat lunch, was ready. She sat on the edge of the sofa in her carefully pressed suit, pulled on her white gloves, and after a few minutes pulled them off. Then she put them on again, decided they made her feel as if her hands belonged to Minnie Mouse, and peeled them off a second time....Never had Jane seen Stan look so attractive. He had a fresh, scrubbed appearance and was wearing a grey flannel suit, a white shirt that set off his tan, and a green tie, just the right colour for his greenish eyes.

She was seeing everything in a new light. This was the reason Stan had not called! An appendix, of all things! He must have been pale under his tan that morning, not because he was angry, not because he was hurt, but because he had a pain in his appendix!

When Jane reached Stan's block, a stocky little girl about eight years old, who had been roller-skating aimlessly up and down the sidewalk, darted up to Jane. 'What are you carrying that for?' she demanded.
'Because,' answered Jane.
'Because why?' persisted the girl.
'I'm taking them to a sick friend,' Jane told the child.
'My brother had his appendix out. He just came home from the hospital today,' the girl informed Jane.
Jane lowered her bouquet for a better look at this child, who had brown pigtails, a dirty face, and Stan's grey-green eyes.

Jane felt Stan's hand brush hers, but when she looked up at him in the flickering light he was staring straight ahead. She was surprised to feel his hand on her arm and still more surprised - almost unbelieving - to see his fingers unclasp his identification bracelet and remove it from his arm. Silently he fumbled with the bracelet and slipped it around her right wrist....The silver links on her wrist were still warm from his arm.
Stan leaned toward Jane. 'O.K.?' he whispered.
'Yes,' she whispered back and smiled radiantly.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Dark Necklace

The Eleanor Dark necklace has been created in honour of Australia Day 2009. It features pearls found in the depths of "Waterway," Angus & Robertson Publishers 1979 (first published by William Collins, London 1938).

It was this place that you saw, this pale, flat water between dark headlands; but the headlands were not Blue's Point and Potts Point, Longnose Point and Slaughter-house Point. They were Warringarea and Yarranabbe, Yeroulbine and Tarrah. Far along that slowly brightening waterway you could see a little island, dark in the middle of its silver path - not Pinchgut, where miserable convicts suffered or hung in chains, not a foolish little fortress, staidly renamed Fort Denison, but a lovely soaring column of weather-worn rock, holy place of your people - Mattewaya...

But you must return with joy to your own life or it becomes a worthless thing. You must weigh its beauties and its uglinesses with detachment, and God help you if its beauties seem the less!

They were not messages which the windows framed, but symbols. Fragments of their lives, as though, denied a complete intermingling, they might still say: "Here is some of myself for you. This was my thought to-day, this was my mood, at this I was working, this is what I saw, or felt."

It would not really matter, for instance, if you had to go to Manly every day to serve behind a shop counter - the beginning and the end of your day were still voyages in miniature, lit with glamours which had also attended the journeys of Marco Polo and Diaz, Vasco da Gama and Magellan, Christopher Columbus and Captain Cook! You had the strange movement of the sea under your feet, and the salty breath of it blowing into your lungs; you saw gulls and heard their wild crying; for a few minutes as you passed the Heads there was nothing between you and the edge of the world but blue ocean.

She saw the bare, brown legs of Sim and the grey-patterned skirts of Lady Hegarty go by, and she shut her eyes in case they should speak to her, taking refuge in a pretence of that devotional abandonment to sunshine in which one may remain as undisturbed as if one were at prayer.

Lost in her thoughts she shook her head. Hostile - no. It had never descended far enough from its majestic aloofness to be hostile. There it was, here it is still, untouched. Not it, she thought, but we, its invaders, have changed. We have built cities and roads and railways over it, we have torn gold and coal out of it, we have pastured sheep and cattle on it, we have spread fields of wheat, fields of maize, fields of sugar-cane across it like a bright carpet - and we have not altered it by one iota. It has altered us.

For him the knowledge that they were alive was all-sufficient; his physical bond with them was so slight, and played so small a part in his love for them, that they could be, to him, an almost purely intellectual joy. But for her there was the old, inescapable torment of the flesh which makes maternity at once so invincible and so dangerous. The savage possessiveness of a creature who will give her life not only in defence of her young, but slowly, unspectacularly, by inches, to serve their daily well-being, may become, insidiously, a possessiveness which demands their life of them.

A little sailing boat with all her canvas out was racing for the Heads, making for the harbour like a bird homing.

Friday, January 23, 2009

P.L. Travers necklace

{Please note: No books are harmed in the making of my pearl necklaces, they are merely virtual.}

The nanny next door will be celebrating her birthday in a few days, and this is the necklace I would love to give her, as a token of my understanding and affection.

I dived for these pearls (thanks Julia for that wonderful phrase in your latest commentbox) in the Collins Modern Classics edition 1998 of "Mary Poppins."

First pearl
...and Michael suddenly discovered that you could not look at Mary Poppins and disobey her. There was something strange and extraordinary about her - something that was frightening and at the same time most exciting.

Candlestick charm
"I was only saying," said Michael, meekly, "that we hoped you wouldn't be going away soon --" He stopped, feeling very red and confused.
Mary Poppins stared from him to Jane in silence. Then she sniffed.
"I'll stay till the wind changes," she said shortly, and she blew out her candle and got into bed."

Second pearl
"Isn't it a funny thing, Mary Poppins," he said drowsily. "I've been so very naughty and I feel so very good."
"Humph!" said Mary Poppins as she tucked him in and went away to wash up the supper things......

Starling charm
The twins sat up and looked at her.
"Huh!" said the Starling contemptuously. "Look at 'em! They think they're the World's Wonders. Little miracles - I don't think! Of course you'll forget - same as Jane and Michael."
"We won't," said the Twins, looking at the Starling as if they would like to murder him.
The Starling jeered.
"I say you will," he insisted. "It isn't your fault, of course," he added more kindly. "You'll forget because you just can't help it. There never was a human that remembered after the age of one - at the very least - except, of course, Her." And he jerked his head over his shoulder at Mary Poppins.

Snake charm
"Mary Poppins," she said, looking very hard at her, "were you at the Zoo last night?"
Mary Poppins' eyes popped.
"At the Zoo?" In the middle of the night? Me?....."
"But were you?" Jane persisted.
"I have all I need of zoos in this nursery, thank you, said Mary Poppins uppishly. "Hyenas, orang-utans, all of you. Sit up straight, and no more nonsense."
Jane poured out her milk.
"Then it must have been a dream," she said, "after all."
But Michael was staring, open-mouthed, at Mary Poppins, who was now making toast at the fire. "Jane," he said in a shrill whisper, "Jane, look!" He pointed, and Jane, too, saw what he was looking at.
Round her waist Mary Poppins was wearing a belt made of golden scaly snakeskin, and on it was written in curving, snaky writing:
"A Present From the Zoo."

Last pearl
Down below, just outside the front door, stood Mary Poppins, dressed in her coat and hat, with her carpet bag in one hand and her umbrella in the other. The wind was blowing wildly about her, tugging at her skirt, tilting her hat rakishly to one side. But it seemed to Jane and Michael that she did not mind, for she smiled as though she and the wind understood each other.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Trapido pearl necklace

A seven-pearl necklace inspired by Barbara Trapido's first novel "Brother of the More Famous Jack", a book (paperback, Penguin, 1st pub'd 1982) which kept me company through the many sleepless nights of my early mothering years.

1st pearl
22 - The kitchen is large and dauntingly grotty. There is excess rubbish piling up in a Heinz bean carton beside the overflowing rubbish bin. Where the legs of the table meet the floor there are encrustations of toddler food. The tops of some home grown vegetables are wilting on the work-board alongside seeping used tea-bags and half-eaten bowls of that morning's cornflakes. It is also perfectly apparent to me that the Goldmans write their telephone messages all over the wall....Rosie has scratched up a conspicuous message in black marker pen for her father. 'Jake must fone criss,' it says. Underneath it, Jacob has written, 'If criss fones me again tell him to phuck off.'

2nd pearl
83 - Roger told me, on one occasion, that I laughed too much. There were other things I did which caused him displeasure. I read Vogue magazine and I did my knitting in public. These were badges of female subjection which Roger attempted to eliminate in order that I might go forth as his brave and equal consort.

3rd pearl
102 - Jane herself was certainly not at her best that day. I entered to find her crabbing unreasonably at Sylvia, who had wet her pants. Jonathan, who came into the kitchen to make cheese doorsteps for himself, ignored her very pointedly. As she had once said to me, she was not one of those insufferable people who does it all right.

Centre pearl (4th)
137 - I spent my thirty-first birthday listening to the radio news in the bin. I was knitting up the dishcloth string at the time and beginning to feel a little better. A little less desolate. The radio announcer addressed an eccentric remark to me.

'Now we have a humanist's despair before the News,' he said.

'Did you hear what he said?' I said.

'A few minutes to spare before the News?' said the occupational therapist. The radio announcer had obviously said it only to me. There is a comfort to be got out of feeling that you are completely crazy.

5th pearl
145 - 'Why is it all so clean?' I say. 'This is very bad for my nostalgia. I always thought dirt was a principle.' Jacob laughs a little and shrugs.

'Dirt is in a sense a principle, isn't it?' he says. 'One doesn't want to have one's wife on her knees chasing dirt. One wants to put the needs of one's children before the needs of one's possessions. One doesn't want to bow down to wood and stone, you know, like the heathen in his blindness. My children are grown up. You want me to tread fish fingers underfoot forever just to please you, Katherine?' I like him as much as I ever did.

6th pearl
208 - 'Your scheme will work on one condition, Katherine, if I may say so,' she said, 'and that is that you wring - I emphasize wring - from that stubborn and truculent son of mine, a very specific and very business-like commitment to share the domestic work and the child-care with you.....this is what you do. You put down a schedule for him , in writing, and make him sign it....Photocopy it and leave a copy with me, because if you don't, I have a good idea how it will be in that little house of yours.'

7th pearl
221 - 'I like it here,' Jane said, over her tea, while I fed the baby. 'Jake was wrong about this place, wasn't he? It suits you very well. I could stay here forever. Rosie is determined to marry that young man, you know. I don't like it one bit. That's what I'm going back to - planning a wedding.'

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Pearls Project

Today I ended up, most unexpectedly, at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

After a day filled with work, Miss Commentbox and I found ourselves with a couple of free hours this afternoon. Miss C said to me, completely out of the blue, "Let's go to the Museum," and I said "All right," and so we drove in to the city, found a perfect parking spot, and looked at art.

Much of the art made me very very tired. Art usually has that effect on me...I become overwhelmed and bored (simultaneously), my eyes start to water, my legs feel very weak and I crave chocolate. Miss C, however, was in her element, and I found myself following her as she slowly moved from room to room.

Then we reached the fourth floor, and everything changed.

My eyes stopped watering when I saw the phrase "The Pearls Project", and I stopped yawning as soon as I laid my eyes on Simryn Gill's beaded necklaces.

Here is an excerpt quoted directly from the description in the Tate Modern website:

"For Pearls, (2000-06), an ongoing project, Gill asks people to nominate a book or text of personal importance, from which she uses every page as the material to create beads. For instance, a writer and critic from the Philippines proposed The World Atlas; a young London architect chose Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness; and a teenage boy in Brisbane selected Philip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials. With their words, phrases and images now only partially visible, the transformed books are returned to their owners to wear like precious jewels or powerful fetishes."

Have a look at a couple of photographs as well. How fabulous.

The MCA here in Sydney apparently held a raffle for its staff and 4 people were given the opportunity to send a book to Gill and receive a beaded necklace in return. How fabulous.

My imagination has been captured by this Pearls Project. I especially like the way the pearls break the rules of what can and cannot be done to books, and I also like the heartbreaking temptation of wanting to wear your favourite book while also wanting to still be able to read it (intact). I like the idea of finding familiar words or phrases on each bead, or using them as worry-beads, or hanging them in my library and just seeing them there, those jewels.

I am going to do something with this idea of a Pearls Project, but I'm not sure of the details yet. In the you have a favourite book? I'm not sure that I have one favourite actually. If Gill offered to make me a necklace would I take her up on the offer? With which book? Would I wear the necklace in public? Would I have second thoughts?

What would you do?

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Tale of the Tiger Bird

[A poem inspired by this photograph in Suse's "Gallery 365"]

I am walking through the garden,
Barefoot tip-toeing over the lawn,
Through my labyrinth of hanging sheets, beach-towels,
And a couple of flapping poems.

Home from my holiday, here I am,
Home from the sand and sea,
And yet here is that same old Tiger Bird,
Still walking stalking me.

It’s a growling bird,
Sharp-toothed whiskered,
Its two paws move rhythmically,
Across the tiled courtyard and past the blue gum tree.

It enters my houseworked cage now,
And the gate shuts strong and tight,
“It’s just you and me now Tiger Bird,”
I tell it with evil delight.

“If you stalk me even now,
After saltwater houseless rest,
Then you shall stay with me forever,
And we shall never accomplish our quest.”

Centuries, centuries hence,
It will still be just Tiger Bird and me,
In our personal backyard,
Caged-in, roof-tiled, flightless reverie.

A bag of tricks, part III

My neighbourhood florist moved to a new location a couple of months ago, and ever since then the shop on the corner has stood empty.

Every time we walked past the empty shop we would wonder who would move in next.

Now we know....

Just look at what my bag birds brought me:

I expect Frau Mueller's van to show up outside my front door any day now.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A bag of tricks, part II

As I walked down the steps towards my destination the two little bag birds tweeted sweetly on my shoulder. Much to my relief I saw the "cafe open" sign. Phew. Sydney gals don't like to go anywhere that doesn't have an adjacent cafe. Libraries, bookstores, pools, beaches, supermarkets, schools, parks...and here, a cafe with deck chairs overlooking Blue Heaven. How handy.

You see those chairs in the left corner of the deck, they have a big sign next to them which reads "Reserved for bloggers. Please enjoy at your leisure, and thank you for filling in your comment box as you exit."

I walked in, paid my $5.70 fee, hehehe, bar-gain, took 4 strides forward and looked to my right. Sculpture!! Art!!

Looked straight ahead. Jetty!! Fisherman!!

Looked to my left. Blue Heaven!! Botanical gardens!! Navy ship!!

The bag birds immediately took in the remarkable view, basking in the sunshine. Their tweets sounded a bit Germanic all of a sudden, and they seemed to be saying "Ja vol, sunshine oon Yanuary very very gut." (Ok, I don't know ANY German, don't judge me).

Then I swam. Twenty laps. Which is a hell of a lot for me. As I swam I chanted "I glide through the water like Miss Fish. In fact I AM Miss Fish, Miss Fish and I are twin fish slipping through the water." Then an elderly man swimming breaststroke overtook me. There's a lot of training ahead of me before I can join the shoal. Dammit.

But the bag birds didn't seem to notice.

They were too busy sun-baking while reading the paper.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A bag of tricks

Miss Commentbox needed a lift to the city early this morning. She had enrolled herself in a course in preparation for the HSC (Higher School Certificate). I said to her "Darling, why are you so serious about your studies? Why do you need to take extra courses at the university during your summer holidays? You need to get your priorities right. You need to stay home and bake us more cupcakes."

Miss Commentbox's cupcakes are LEGEND.

Here are the mini cupcakes she made for the inaugural Sydney Bloggers' Event. Butter cake with white frosting and delicate, pastel-coloured sprinkles. Miss Commentbox even has a special carrying case for them, because we don't want any of the perfect frosting peaks to be ruined by any accidents on the road.

So I had to wake up very early to give Miss Commentbox a lift.

But I slept through the alarm, so I was very late and Miss C was very upset with me. I raced to the car without washing my face or brushing my hair, or my teeth. We made it just in time thanks to my superb driving skills, and then there I was, in the middle of the city, still half asleep. Had I even brought my bag with me? I couldn't remember. I checked the boot:

I had my beach bag there, left from that day a while back which held a promise of a swim. But what was that IN the beach bag? Why, it was my CITY bag, but I didn't remember bringing it along!!!

The two little birds on the bag seemed to talk to me in tiny, cheerful chirrups. They were hypnotising me. I returned to the front seat of my car and drove, following their PRECISE directions.

Here is where the bag birds told me to park. The red car is mine, I like to call it my "Noddy Car".

I put the bag over my shoulder, and the birds told me to walk up a block and then stop RIGHT HERE:

There was a line all the way out the door of the bakery. But at least I didn't have to feel self-conscious about my unbrushed hair.

This is what the birds made me order, and we sat together at a pavement table and slowly started to wake up properly. The coffee was very good, even though they misspelled my name.
The couple sitting at the table to my left were ultra-cool. One of them was filling out a form for a course at the local film school.

Soon, the birds beckoned and I followed. They told me to drive straight, and then left, then right and right again. Then we parked, and this is what I saw:
I'll tell you all about the continuing saga of the mysteriously hypnotic bag birds in tomorrow's post.

It was THAT great!!!!

Monday, January 12, 2009

There is hope for the film industry

I just heard via the grapevine that the film "Slumdog Millionaire" has won FOUR Golden Globes. Best film, best director, best screenplay and best musical score. How fabulous is that?!!!

I was listening to this song as I drove home from Kim's place the other day. Very very loud.

And tomorrow I'm going to buy myself a yellow scarf so that I can perfect my dance moves in front of the mirror.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Magic beach

I have been sorting through piles and piles of books which my son has decided to outgrow. It is very naughty of him to continue growing and maturing, and I am moved to tears as I remember all of the fun I had reading those books. Yes, I do stress "I had" because I developed a habit of falling in love with my kids' books and keeping them on my own night-table. I think I may even have loved those books more than my kids did. It also didn't help that, at the time, my mother (who loves kids' books even more than I do) was living in an apartment in London DIRECTLY ABOVE a children's bookshop. We received almost weekly packages during those years, and my father claims that my mother single-handedly helped the bookshop owner renovate and expand his business. Mum also boosted the British postal service profits, but that's another story.

I have always secretly believed that, if you live long enough and look closely enough and love the books enough, you will eventually find the locations and characters from your favourite children's books. "Where The Wild Things Are" was simple, it was set in my house during the year my son was two and a half. I discovered Pippi Longstocking in Maria's blog only a few months ago. The four March girls from "Little Women" SEEMED, upon a first superficial reading, to have grown up in a small New England town in the 19th century, but they in fact travelled much more widely...all the way into the 21st century (currently living quite happily in the general vicinity of Atlanta, Georgia and a small village in Germany).

Today I made another fabulous literary discovery - Magic Beach is alive and well and entertaining adults and children alike, a mere hour's drive from my home.

Alison Lester does not name the children who come to life in her glorious illustrations and rhymes, but I discovered their names today. The children are Oscar, Felix, Jasper and Grover. Oscar is the one with the huge plastic sunglasses collecting shells, Felix is the one sitting beside his mother and explaining to her why he may not necessarily like his new school, or then again, he might, or maybe not. Jasper is easy to spot because he is the one lying on his back in the water fully dressed, grinning wildly and giggling. Grover is the baby who is cheekily pretending to hide behind a clump of grass in a sand-dune, knowing that his mother really sees him but also secretly thrilled that perhaps not, but then probably yes, but then perhaps not.

There's a lot of exhausting activity, squabbles, laughter, tears, sand, salty water, sunhats blowing off in the wind, and heat rash. But eventually they all get together and start building a sandcastle for their mum. The sandcastle they build is a huge circular affair with three levels, two tunnels, a water-filled moat, shell decorations and leaf flags. Then Oscar says "Stop everything, I need to write a letter up there," and he climbs up to the very highest sandcastle tower and writes the letter K in the damp sand. All four boys then clap and jump for joy, and say they're hungry and thirsty and hot, and so they all walk home, slowly, through the hot sand, carefully crossing the road and following each other in a line as they walk down the front path to the door of their beachside home.

The thing is, though, Magic Beach was MUCH more magical than I had anticipated, for I didn't only see Alison Lester's characters walking along the sand. I also saw Mary from Frances Hodgson Burnett's "The Secret Garden", and Little Bear's adoring mother who surprises him with a beautiful cake, after watching him so very patiently and lovingly as he prepares his vegetable birthday soup.

I wonder what K, Mary and Mother Bear saw when we walked along Magic Beach together this afternoon? Whatever it was, I hope it was a story with a happy ending.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Lady of the Ring goes out for dinner with friends

The Lady of the Ring and her beautiful bald man arrived at the restaurant to find the other couple already seated and waiting for them. As they greeted each other, the Lady noticed that each of her friends wore a simple gold ring. The beautiful bald man noticed that his Lady was noticing the couple’s rings, and he felt happy in the knowledge that this would be an enjoyable evening. You see, the Lady’s beautiful bald man understood only too well the importance of accessories. Many an evening had been spent in the past sitting in a restaurant opposite a couple who had no rings, or who wore mismatched rings, or who fought over their rings. Sometimes the couples they met in restaurants bickered about whose ring was the most beautiful and the most right, and that was a terrible conversation to listen to while eating dinner.

As they all ate their food and sipped their wine, the Lovely Lady noticed a strange glow gathering around their table. This glow was coming from her friends’ rings, and for a lightning-quick moment the Lovely Lady felt sad that her friends’ glow was so warm and strong, while she had left her glow at home. For as the Lady and her beautiful man had left their home earlier that evening they had argued about something, and that argument had taken hold of their rings’ glow and placed it in a tiny comment box on a shelf in the study, hidden underneath a disorganised stack of bills, receipts and to-do lists.

When the Lovely Lady and her beautiful bald man returned home, they both ran into the study and raced towards the shelf where the little comment box was hidden. They rummaged through the scraps of paper impatiently, but soon realised that the box was missing and in its place was a little handwritten note saying: “Hello Mum and Dad, please come into my room even if I’m asleep. Thank you.” So they went into that room and looked down at the perfectly round little brown-haired head of a little girl who was lying in her bed fast asleep. One of her arms was tucked under a soft, pink blanket, while the other arm lay stretched out above her head, and clutched in her little dimpled hand was the tiny comment box. The Lady prised the girl's fingers away from the box and opened it, and as she did so a soft warm glow filled the small bedroom and pulsed around the room.

“I’m so tired,” said the Lady.
“I know,” said her man.
“I don’t have the energy to argue any more,” said the Lady.
“Did we argue?” asked her man.
“Are you being sarcastic?” asked the Lady.
“You’re just tired,” said her man.
“You’re right,” said the Lady, with a sigh.
Then the man plucked the box from his Lady’s outstretched hands and opened it. Inside the box was the tiniest pearl; it was the pearl of wisdom. He picked the pearl up with his delicate fingers and put it in his mouth and swallowed it. The Lady of the Ring looked at her man in dismay.
“You are completely mad,” she said to him.
“I’m mad about you,” he answered.
The Lady laughed and laughed and brought her lips closer and closer to his, until they touched each other in a jewel-encrusted kiss, and the glow which flowed from their kiss enveloped them in its sweet scent of the wisdom of two decades.

But that wisdom is a secret.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A friend pops by for a cup of tea

A friend of the Lady of the Ring drops by for a cup of tea and a chat. “I have the most exciting news,” says the friend as she takes her left hand out of her trouser pocket and holds it out for the Lady to see. “I don’t think I understand,” says the Lady tentatively, wary of saying the wrong words and spoiling her friend’s happy mood. “Oh,” says the friend, giggling nervously, “it’s the ring, silly. It’s a new ring.” The Lady takes her friend’s newly ringed hand in her own two hands, and squints down at the gold band and its sparkling jewel. “It’s the new me,” says the friend, “it’s a ring that fits so much better than the old one, and it makes me happy to look at it.” The Lady pours another cup of tea, sipping slowly and staring out at the green depths of the garden in which they are sitting.

Soon they finish their tea and the friend says goodbye. Her new ring seems to twinkle in farewell, and the Lady could swear that when she held her friend’s hand she could feel the ring say something in a French accent, and she could feel someone kiss her on each cheek, three times. “It’s so different, isn’t it?” whispers the friend as they stand by the front gate, “It’s from Europe, you see. European.” At the very last minute, just as her friend is about to drive off, the Lady whispers to her through the open car window, “But what about your other ring? You know, the old one?” “Oh Pfft....” answers the friend, “I put it away. It just wasn’t right for me any more, it didn’t make me happy. But the kids still take it out and play with it occasionally.”

The Lady spends the rest of the afternoon sitting in the garden and watching the sun set. As the stage set darkens, the mosquitoes begin to hum around her garden seat, but she remains there, unmoving. Soon, a short bald man arrives at the back door of the Lady’s house, and the light which falls from the open door illuminates the Lady in a strangely theatrical manner. The man laughs and says, as he walks towards his Lady, “Oh, I see, it’s going to be a dramatic evening.” He sits beside her and asks how it is possible that she is not being eaten alive by mosquitoes. She sits beside him and asks how it is possible for her friend to have found a new ring so quickly.
“What?” exclaims the man, “She has a new ring? But...What happened to the old one?”
“Ah...well...apparently the old one is occasionally given to the children to play with.”
“To play with?”
“Yes, you know, pretend games...dress-ups...that sort of thing.”
“But that ring was real before, how did it suddenly become an imaginary plaything?”
“I have no idea,” replies the Lady, “But it’s going to take me a bit of time to get used to this type of magic.”
“All right,” said the Lady’s beautiful man, “So can we go in and have dinner now?”

Cave of Jewels

The Lady of the Ring remembers the cave of jewels which she had discovered 20 years ago, and is incredulous at the excavating, cutting, shaping, polishing and setting which she has accomplished so far.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Lady of the Ring watches the New Year's Eve fireworks on her fortieth birthday

She had buried the jewels in her backyard, and she had dropped the jewels into the sea, and with that she hoped never to see those pesky jewels again. No necklaces, bracelets or earrings would adorn her body any more. Her days of being trapped at home with the ring were behind her, and after a while even her friends stopped asking what had happened to it. When she visited other women in their homes and saw their rings, she felt a little sad for them. "Poor little darlings," she thought to herself, "So much work ahead for them, so much ring work to be done, so many jewels to put away every night and take out every morning. All that hateful polishing to be done."

But sometimes, very rarely, when the moon was just right, and the tides were big, and the finches hopped onto her windowsills of fantasy, she would miss the jewels. And missing jewels, dear reader, is an extraordinarily heartbreaking feeling, especially when you know that no matter how far you dig, or how deep you dive, you will never find them all again.

But she was a clever lady, this ringless lady, and she knew what to do to relieve the aching sadness of an empty jewellery box. She looked up.

"I almost forgot," she whispered to herself, "to look up."

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Here I am, in my little shack by the sea, on the very first morning of 2009. This photograph is proof that Mr. Commentbox finally made it down to the beach. He was my shack butler - bringing me refreshments, handing me my towel, checking for bluebottles and for any passing joggers who may want to chat me up (thanks Alice, your comment was spot on...hehe).

KMKAT requested that her sandcastle be, in fact, MY sandcastle. Her exact words were "a little sandcastle retreat", which was really very selfless of her, don't you think? I took her request very seriously, immediately requesting that my friends and family now refer to my beach shack as "The Castle", and to me as the Queen of the Castle.

At the entrance to The Castle I built myself this little darling sandcake, and I requested that all of the visitors to The Castle serenade me with birthday songs upon their arrival at MY beach.

But I am a benevolent Queen, and I did not forget my sandcastling responsibilities.

So here, for your enjoyment, is Anna's beautiful sandcastle, as per her request -

"A star of sand and shells and an unexpected item."

Then I went for a little swim, and read a bit (Agatha Christie today), and thought about KMKAT and how unfair it seemed that she didn't have her very own sandcastle. I sat up and picked up my straw basket so as to rummage through it in the hope of finding inspiration, when what did I see? The basket had left a lovely print in the sand, and it looked remarkably like the pattern of a knitted sweater or a scarf of some sort.

Just as I had finished photographing this sandknitted delight, the phone rang. Yes, I do sometimes bring my phone to the shack, and today I was expecting one or two calls....I pick up the phone and I hear a voice which I haven't heard in many years.
It was my dear dear friend S from the US. I sat in my shack beside the glorious beach and was suddenly transported back to 1991, a snowy day in Providence RI, a newborn Miss Commentbox, an extraordinarily young Eleanor, and a "Mothers' Group" organised by the local Community Centre. There was S, standing in front of me, carrying her baby boy (I spoke to him too on the phone, his voice has definitely deepened since then) and smiling at me. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship and much shared happiness.
So what did I do? Of course, I made the beautiful S a sandcastle of her own:

HAPPY NEW YEAR everybody.
I had a fabulous time with all of you in 2008, and I look forward to continuing laughter and friendship in 2009.