Week-end: red plush seat season

Ornate theatre auditorium with a lot of gilt and red plush, seen from high up in the gallery

The good

A serenely joyful Monday. Visiting friends. A night at the opera. Red and yellow trees. Ripe pears. There have been some lovely moments this week. And there is encouraging progress on the Bicycles and Broomsticks Kickstarter.

The mixed

You know, I really could enjoy autumn if only I didn’t have to do so much. And by ‘have to’ I mean ‘want to’, ‘feel obliged to’, and ‘be contractually obliged to’. As it is, I find myself simultaneously getting irritated by the memes about the joy of crunchy leaves and pumpkin spiced lattes, while enjoying the crunchy leaves. (I have never tried a pumpkin spiced latte. I have never tried a plain latte, not being overly fond of milk.)

And! I finally finally finally got up to date with my accounts (I use You Need A Budget). It took an awful lot of coffee, but I did it, and nothing is telling me reproachfully that it was last reconciled nine months ago.

The difficult and perplexing

I’m boring myself here, but I’m tired. I’m beginning to wonder, actually, whether I’m not so far over Covid as I thought I was. But it may still be the time of year, combined with the nasty shock of things actually happening.

What’s working

High drama, sequins, lounging on the sofa, hot baths, soap made with coffee grounds.

Reading

I progressed a little further with The Master and Margarita. The Master has now shown up. In The Fellowship of the Ring we have reached the Old Forest and Tom Bombadil has shown up. In non-fiction, I read the introductory sections of Philip’s Guide To The Night Sky (see Acquisitions) and very much enjoyed the general Sir Patrick Mooreness of the writing. I will return to the seasonal specifics later.

Writing

Some editing on Book Bus Stories. Some connections in Starcrossers, which continues to head north towards ten thousand words. I’m going to finish joining it all up and then see what I can cut. Or throw myself on the editor’s mercy. Maybe both.

Mending

I’ve been having a lot of fun with the darning loom this week. I’ve darned a pyjama top (it’s very obvious that I mostly sleep on my right side), a pair of walking socks, a pair of ordinary socks, two pairs of jeggings, and one of Tony’s merino T-shirts.

Watching

Tosca (English National Opera, London Coliseum). I’d never actually seen Tosca and felt it was about time, and really, when you can get tickets for a tenner and I’m in London anyway, why not? So I did. It was an enjoyable show, very trad production (bicorne hats and all), good singing, understudy (?) Scarpia acquitted himself very well, Tosca herself was great, though I think Caravadossi ran away with it. My formative Tosca is Agatha Christie’s short story Swan Song, so (without spoilers) I’m always slightly surprised when the opera keeps on going for another forty minutes after Vissi d’arte (or Love and Music in this case, as ENO do everything in English). I am glad I did not accidentally leave at the interval.

Although I will say that the ten pound seats are proportionately tiny, front to back, and I was glad it wasn’t a full house and there was space for us to spread out.

Another three episodes of Heartstopper with my friend N, with popcorn and everything. It’s very charming, but my overwhelming reaction is relief that I never have to go to school ever again.

Also, what I need to get me through the dark evenings is a bucketload of sequins, unconvincing musical cuts, and dodgy scoring, and since figure skating doesn’t hit Eurosport until this coming Friday I’ve been watching Strictly Come Dancing.

Cooking

Bubble and squeak (accompanied by fierce debate as to whether you can really call it that when it isn’t made with leftovers); upside down chocolate pear pudding (experimenting this time with adding ground almonds and more milk than I’d meant to). I’ve just peeled and chopped up all the time-limited apples for apple sauce. I filled a saucepan with apples, resulting in half a saucepan of apple sauce, and there is still most of a bowl of (more durable-looking) apples left.

Eating

Pears. Some of them have been divine. The trouble with pears is that they so often go straight from rock-hard to rotten. I had one on Sunday that was both at once. I cut the rotten end off and sliced up the sharp remainder and ate it with Comté cheese. Very good.

I had a very nice paneer kebab at Le Maison Bab in Covent Garden before the opera. And a cocktail called a Paloma Pomegranate to go with it. Very nice. Very pink.

Playing

Ticket to Ride with N and M (not the Agatha Christie ones), followed by Labyrinth and Funny Bunny with M.

Noticing

How quickly the leaves are changing. And they really are lovely this year.

In the garden

As you might have guessed, apples and pears.

Appreciating

Pure distilled emotion. Lie-ins.

Acquisitions

It is always great fun to explore the charity shops of a town you don’t live in. I did very well, and came away with a knitted top, a Friedrich Hollaender/Marlene Dietrich songbook, the vocal score for Cowardy Custard (never heard of it, but it is a way to acquire a lot of Coward music all at once), Consider Phlebas, Philip’s Guide to the Night Sky as mentioned above, The Woman Who Stole My Life (I do like Marian Keyes), By Royal Command (Charlie Higson made a very entertaining interviewer; I’m interested to see what the Young Bond books are like), The Star of Kazan (to replace an copy with a snot stain – not mine), and all five acts of Mireille. Which I think I have only ever encountered on a pianola roll before now.

Hankering

Well, I was looking at a couple of leather jackets, but neither of them fitted well enough to convince me. This reminded me of my intermittent desire for a proper bomber jacket with a sheepskin or knitted collar. And I was very tempted by a darning loom with twenty-one hooks and a long board (the hooks more than the board, if I’m honest). Plus things I’ve mentioned in previous weeks and may buy now I’ve sorted out my money and payday has arrived.

Line of the week

In the Old Forest:

In the midst of it there wound lazily a dark river of brown water, bordered with ancient willows, arched over with willows, blocked by fallen willows, and flecked with thousands of faded willow-leaves.

Saturday snippet

A currently load-bearing bit of Starcrossers:

She used a word I didn’t know. “I suppose you’d call it a guess, though it’s more than that. You’re obviously from the Containment, you enjoy a certain level of rank, though perhaps enjoy isn’t the word, and none of the other Heir’s heirs have a reputation for venturing into Crew territory.” For the first time, she smiled. “And yes, they do also show me the news pieces.”

This coming week

A relatively quiet one at work. I think. I’d like to get the first draft of Starcrossers done and maybe even move on to working out what can come out. A Cursillo event on Saturday, which I am hoping will come together. And there’ll be some figure skating to watch.

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!

Week-end: the higher the brow the harder they fall

A stone sill a great height over a city has arrows and town names and distances carved into the it; one of those is '230 - Londen'

The good

The Kickstarter for Bicycles and Broomsticks is live and is nearly half-way funded only a few days in. I have written a story! My story will be published! People will read my story! In a year when I have more writing-imposter syndrome than usual, this is a good feeling.

We had a lovely time in Belgium, with a further two and a half days in Brugge, an hour people-watching in Brussels, and the comparative glamour of Standard Premier class on the Eurostar home.

Today, by contrast (but equally good), I’ve cycled ten minutes up the hill and slightly less down again (eating croissants and discussing questions of theology in the middle), and walked 5km in one hour, and watched Filippo Ganna cycling 57km in one hour, and pottered in the garden, and generally had a nice quiet day.

The mixed

Home trains. We got off the Eurostar to find that nothing was running to Ely, so we got on a slow train to Cambridge, then discovered that the next train to Ely was in fact running. And on Tuesday I miscalculated my tickets and had to buy a single to go with my super off-peak which I’d left it too late to use. Plus the fact that as things turned out I didn’t really need to go to London on Tuesday after all, except by the time I knew that I’d booked tickets to something I actually did rather want to go and see, so…

But! The Ely-King’s Lynn line is finally fixed, and the timetable restored, so I can get a train straight through to work in the morning, and I have two through trains per hour in the evening. Which is all marvellous.

The difficult and perplexing

My RSS reader came up with an error for Cate’s Cates this week. Catherine was a joyous, kind, witty, and eclectic internet presence; she died very unexpectedly earlier this year; and now a little more of what was left is gone.

Being eaten alive by mosquitoes in our room at Brugge. The bites are fading now, but at one point I had three on my right cheekbone. Fortunately the place also had a very flattering mirror and I could pretend it was a tripartite beauty spot, a mark of distinction, rather than untimely acne. The ones on my arms and feet were really itchy, though.

And I continue to be a zombie outside daylight hours.

What’s working

Well, not doing things outside daylight hours, but that gets increasingly difficult. I’m not even doing terribly well during the daylight hours, though Radio 3 is helping.

Promising myself I’d do an hour of admin and then stop (and setting a Forest Focus tree to enforce both).

Snag tights (the only snag, ha, is that all my other tights are infuriatingly ill-fitting by comparison). I was particularly pleased by the white-fishnets-over-black-opaques combination.

Reading

Very intellectual this week. I had put The Master and Margarita on my e-reader some time ago, and began that on the Eurostar home; I’m about a quarter of the page count and two decapitations in. Then I finished Art and Lies yesterday. Very good, impressionistic, visual, disquieting. (Note: all the content notes.) I couldn’t quite face going back to The Master and Margarita and more potential decapitations, so I started Sisters of the Vast Black (Lina Rather) which is delightful so far. (Nuns! IN SPAAACE!) Last night I was feeling too exhausted for anything new at all, so put on my pyjamas and lounged on the sofa with The Fellowship of the Ring (and the cat on my lap). I’m pretty sure I fell asleep like that.

Sewing

I got five badges (see Acquisitions, below) onto my camp blanket despite the best efforts of the cat.

Watching

Today, Filippo Ganna’s Hour Record, the end of the Lombardia, and highlights from the Singapore Grand Prix. At other points in the week, the keyboard finals of the BBC Young Musician of the Year, Star Trek: Lower Decks, and quite a lot of quiz shows from BBC iPlayer.

Looking at

Art in the Groeningen Museum in Brugge. I will never now be able to unsee The Judgement of Cambyses. There was some Bosch in there too, about which all I can say is ‘it was smaller than I expected’. But there were also things that I remember and enjoyed looking at: St Luke Drawing The Virgin Mary, for example, where the poor Madonna is trying to feed the baby Jesus, who is distracted by St Luke in the way that babies are. And a couple of really striking late nineteenth-century landscapes.

Then on Tuesday I went to see the Fashioning Masculinities exhibition at the V and A. A few of my friends had been to this and enthused. And it’s closing soon, and I can’t get to the V and A and back in a lunchtime (I’ve tried), so I thought that since I had to go to London to pick up my laptop, I might as well make an afternoon of it. And a fascinating afternoon it was. Although in some ways it was just as interesting looking at the other exhibition-goers; some of them were dressed very strikingly indeed.

Cooking

Caldo verde, sort of, and an attempted Black Forest sponge pudding from the remains of a chocolate tray bake and the end of a jar of cherry jam. I think I might have done better to bash the cake up more and mix in a little milk. But it was perfectly edible.

Eating

The most delectable waffle I have ever tasted. It was most beautifully light and it came with cream, ice cream, and kirsch-soaked cherries. I ordered a pot of coffee alongside it and that came with a macaron and a hard almond biscuit. This was at a café in Brugge called Carpe Diem.

We also ate some mussels and shrimp croquettes, and I had a thing called Croque Boum Boum for lunch on our last day (it’s a toasted cheese and ham sandwich with bolognese sauce on the top), but it’s that waffle that I’ll remember.

Drinking

Beer. I am a bit thrown by the way Belgian menus don’t tend to include the alcohol percentage, and tended to stick with known quantities for that reason. I did, however, risk a Tripel Karmeliet knowing that it was going to be pretty deadly.

And a lot of coffee.

Moving

I climbed the belfry at Brugge. Over three hundred steps. On the whole I prefer the one at Ghent, which has dragons, but I’m glad to have done it. I ended up at the top when the carillon was going for the hour, which was quite a thing. Couldn’t help but think of The Nine Tailors

Noticing

Golden sunlight and long shadows, and the sharpness of the demarcation. A tiny two-spotted ladybird landing on my hand. The stars, when I went out to pick some rosemary last night.

In the garden

Apples, loads of them. Pears, quite a few of them. Today I pruned one of the apple trees and cut a load of wisteria and the vine back.

Appreciating

The fluffiness of the cat. The honesty and curiosity of the Way of Breakfast group. A weekend in which I don’t have to do anything much.

Acquisitions

I was very pleased to find cloth badges for Oostende, Wenduine, De Haan, and Littoral Belge at a flea market stall in Brugge. Then, in a souvenir shop, I found a Brugge badge that I preferred to the one that I’d already got, so I bought that one. Anybody want a Brugge badge?

Picked up Susan Sontag’s Notes On Camp from the V and A.

Hankering

More Snag tights. And I am still thinking about jeans. (Both my pairs of jeggings have worn through, too.)

Line of the week

I said last week that it ought to be Art and Lies. This week it is, although it was hard to find a single best line; so much of it is short, bright, fragments that don’t look like so much on their own, but cumulatively are utterly dazzling. However:

The crescent curve of the train mows the houses as it passes, the houses disappear behind the moon metal blade of the silver train.

This coming week

I have finally got all the ducks lined up in a row for a work project that’s needed doing for a long time. On Monday I’m beginning another writing stint. Saturday we’re going to see friends. I want to have the energy to enjoy all those things in their different ways.

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!