Illustration Friday: TEA

Tea – an epic tale thereof…


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When Cats Do That Thing…


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For the Hell of it

Over on the socials, I’m in a group page with a shared interest in the area where I grew up. Somebody recently posted their recollection of a certain nun – one who was bolted to our church and was also the headmistress of our junior school. The recollection and the comments that quickly piled in, were none she would’ve been happy to read, but somehow still were light enough, and for the most part they came with a shrug. I didn’t remark. I wanted my own space for that.

Which is this, by way of reply.

A heart no longer beats in that nun (did it ever?) but let’s rename her Sister Assumpta for the hell of it. Broader than she was tall, and greyly like a pot on the stove – heated to spitting, spite and froth by whatever flame and craving raged under her. This wide bride was placed (post-War, by forces unknown) in charge of small children for whom I cannot remember her having a smile or a soft voice. A clanking bag of threats and harm. Woe betide you… and always the swish and the palm-searing thwack of her cane. In short, she was short of everything: compassion and kindness and stature; short-tempered. But long-lived.

Alongside her, and her-almost-opposite, worked Sister (let’s call her) Josephine. Rake-thin and bony against her boss’s squat and pudding frame. Sister Josephine took us for sports – for football, even, red-tracksuited, whistle-in-mouth, jogging the touchline with her veil comically training behind her; jet-trail of our Flying Nun. Sister Jospephine looked after the Altar Boys. Assumpta just wanted to disfigure them. So, there, for balance.

An aunt of ours became pregnant, unmarried, at eighteen. Condemned to a home, the history goes, she was forced by the nuns to scrub stone floors on hands and knees.

My mother met an old teacher-nun of hers from the school that was the horrid gothic grave crouched on the hill coming up out of the city. Somehow both sprightly and decrepit, the dust-covered bully grabbed my mother’s arm in her claw and hissed something approximate to remembering. I remember: Mum being terrified anew of the nun, forty years on; how she had made her school days a misery. With harsh words for the hell of it.


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The Unbearable Lightness of Pie Season

(To the tune and the moves of Night Fever) “Pie Season, Pie Sea-sohhhnn…”

A nod to the progress of this year’s (2016/17) season. Top row: Poster for our Inaugural Bake, and two shortlisted potential brand identities and designs for the whole pie-baking (and some fermentationals) gig. I think I like best the Steamy Window thing. The pie-tin device is pretty strong, and the naming, let’s face it, is pretty sweetly rooted in a seasonal truth. But then the fox is kinda cute. Hey, I know, it’s what I do when I’m not making pies…



And then below, an economic collage of 4 of the 5 bakes this Season, to date. There were actually two batches of Sausage Rolls, but one photo tells the tale, thanks very much. And as for the very latest pies (bottom right; locally sourced ham, leek, potato and Stilton in a creamy mustard sauce) – notice how this photo shows the greatest number of pies ever baked ever anywhere in the history of pie baking. Period. See what I did? Terrific.


Past Pie Season ramblings here and also here.


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This Year

It’s only the 4th of January but it’s hard to imagine I’ll see a better thing on a screen this year than Olive Kitteridge (HBO, 2014). On top of its long and difficult beauty and humour, it throws us at the last a performance by Bill Murray which is breathtaking in its measured, soft simplicity. ‘I’m just waiting for the dog to die,’ says Frances McDormand’s Olive, ‘and then I’ll shoot myself.’ Bill Murray’s character laughs a real laugh. It’s the pressure release of the full four hours. And it’s fabulous.

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Back to work yesterday and back to the gym today. The latter return is the first since September when I went over on my ankle after Morrissey in Manchester. I plug myself into the lovely blood harmonies of Joseph. The former is since just before Christmas, when I swapped making pictures for baking pastries. Like so:sw-sausage-rolls

A new Peanuts desk diary is begun with its customary gravity. The 5th in these years out on my own. This year is a year for big decisions.






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Christmas Green

I was thinking of a way to write about a particular feeling of Christmas, when I came upon this old piece I never posted (least, I don’t think so). Turns out it says pretty much everything I wanted to say now. Not so surprising, perhaps, as it comes from the same place, that’s lit up just the same. Happy Christmas, please, y’all.

Christmas Green

All Christmases are gathered by the tree’s green light, the room closed with curtains and no lights from the hall, entire dark – carols and such ecstatic, quiet-delicious promise and new life in plastic, red and batteries, new life entering my own. For so aware was I of all I owned that a kind of immigration would take place; ceremonious and trance-making and serious; for toys, objects, things – in red and orange plastic, blue metal: the actuals imprecise but the memory sharp around the behaviour and state of mind. A little green light in my eye, flaring and rayed and moistening. Then the following bright long days with crafts, doomed (nevermind) hobbies; Spirograph, complicatedly at the table, where my cold turkey happens, withdrawing from tiny green lights, a blaring radiator and a wombing, magical room.

Early evening Christmas Eve, the rituals of a child and his religion of glitter and glass; a Victorian boy, Edwardian girls, in 1973. A flushed face in the glow of green, and family transmogrified into strange angels or at least the touched and merry. I cling to the carpet, its folded, rounded edges at the stairs, under the sockets by the television’s legs; cling and soar and watch the room and squint, scrunched-eyed, at the starry tree.

Church service, at the altar or not, delivers the kicking sex of Christmas; butting and layered; the congregation a flyblown colony of bright, good lust; ruddy and powdered, scraped and newly knitted. Crochet, nylon, French cologne; the mass is electric and occasional jeans and leather catch my breath: adrenalin, esteem and anticipation, the service a deferral of the best of the day to come – a delicious parading before, and before tripping giggling to the stellar heat of oven birds, sherry and absolute physical, sensual, sensuous joy, selfish, fabulous love.

Christmas is the ultimate upstairs – the heart’s bedroom made boudoir.

Everyone is ready, bride-like, by the lights of Christmas. Every year I am falling in love. Every year, falling in love. Singing, eating, drinking and in the mood – palms and ear to the ground, listening to the earth’s hibernating heart, its lights low: clothing picked out by torch beam. A sock. New gloves.

If I had to invent a religion it would be of light – green light.

And its roots would be in the Northern Lights, and all ceremonies would look truly to The North. The place would be… well, let’s consider a bid from Finland. A place of pilgrimage, of self-realisation, lightfulness. No priests, no packdrill beyond pantone and ampage, or howsoever green illumination might be both standardised and revered – and yet no standardisation, no controls. It’s your own green light on, yes, your tree. Low to the carpet; green light upon the earth, a small pool of spilled light, the end of an 8-stud LEGO dipped in it, its own colour sacrificed, like the suddenly new colour of a car waiting under a streetlamp; our ride home.

At home the aurora borealis machine is switched on and the wonder of Luminas quickens our tipsy hearts. Beds are moved into the living room. Bohemian Rhapsody loudly as we fall towards 1976.


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Toronto, Then

Three years ago this week we were in Toronto. I just came across these photos whilst looking for pictures of Christmas trees (for a post about Christmas trees). The trip was half business, half holidays, and for the most of it I was wretched ill with some bug picked up on the inbound flight, made no better by a really rotten week of weather. Is it too much now to assure you we had a lovely time? On this date, the 8th, three years ago, it was our last day in the city, a Sunday, and in the afternoon we stumbled across this bar, the Triple A, or AAA, on Adelaide Street. There was a small private function on, or was going to be, and officially the place wasn’t open, but we slipped in anyway and were welcomed to take up a discreetly distanced booth over yonder. We did; we settled in; we stayed put.

The bar and the occasion are remembered for feeling really well again. For the easiest, most relaxed service. For the having back the appetite for the handwritten notepaper menu, and especially for the greenly-bitter, local Kensington beers. And, kids, remember this was 2013, when hipster was really, really okay (I personally have no beef, however served). For the artworks on the walls reminding me to revisit my old stuff – to take those folksy chances, trust my earlier penmanship. For the adhering to this that made me turn again to the ‘Cut-Out Poetry’, which became a big thing for me. For the whole period of productivity that followed. For those memories while we looked after Dad. For the darkness of the discovered Sunday afternoon and the lights of Toronto below us as we flew back home. And for the tequilas we got for being Honest Joes about the uncharged round.

Sometimes I try to think, what are my top three bars, pubs, in the world. And I think that it’s so very much to do with… everything.

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