Crumbs confettied the tablecloth

“She tore the rolls down the middle and crumbs confettied the tablecloth. She smeared on parsley butter. The bread was oven-warm against her lips. The butter’s sweetness melted into the salt of the bread. Something in her uncoiled as her teeth sunk into its embrace. So the next date she asked for two, and the next date and the one after that. The crusts were always crisp and the centres always soft.”

“Gluten” by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan – a short story available for free on the internet via “At The Table”. 

It made me sad to leave the galley-proofs

It was when Martin York was especially upset that he would call me up to his office to talk to him. It made me sad to leave the galley-proofs of a novel by Cocteau or a new edition of Tender is the Night folder on my desk. Many of the Ullswater Press books were so good, so rare.

A far cry from Kensington – Muriel Spark. With the same postwar atmosphere (refugees having sweet cakes and lemon tea after the Oratory and before their lecture circuits; Kensington boarding houses and a woman of 28 as a war widow) as The Girls of Slender Means but even more moral detachment, and an unexpected happiness at the end. As calming as lemon tea.

Reading club

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Time for a round up of things that have caught my eye recently, including some features from old favourites:

From Cup of Jo, these pieces on eating out with kids (love the tip that until the food comes you’re 100% with the kids, but once they fall into their food you can have an adult conversation then) and navigating life in a house with teenage boys

Talking of teenagers, here’s an incredibly touching article about a mother being able to see a new side to her daughter through Instagram. The story was so different from what I’d expected via the headline in an entirely good way.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus getting angry, and colleagues reassessing her career path in the light of social changes of the last 30 years. Interesting to see in a long career what gets picked out as it’s theme, and I think it says so much about the contemporary commentator.

Practical philanthropy (clearing “lay away” debt, meeting school meal payment debts, charities like The Beauty Banks or Refuaid) etc all get my vote and here two women cleared medical tuition fee debt for those who would otherwise never have paid off their costs of training.

Photo by the amazing Georgia Rose Hardy, who also came up with these:

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A tough life needs a tough language

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I’ve never previously wanted to read Jeanette Winterson, which just shows how easy it is to get a wrong impression of an author from public dialogue. (Dickens is a prime example of an author I loved as soon as I actually read him.) This extract is funnier and blunter than I’d have expected and now I’m curious to read her memoir “Why be happy when you could be normal?”

Thank you year

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For those of you who are settling down to write this year’s thank you letters, you might be inspired by this lady in Hermann Fenner-Behmer’s “De Quoi Ecrire?” and grab a jaunty hat, fur stole and glass of wine. Or how about Gina Hamaday, who for this year has written one thank you note a day in themes for or each month: school teachers and mentors, former bosses, friends and beloved authors. Read more about it at Gina’s Instagram page “thank you year”.

You are living the dream (and blog of the week)

Putting pencils in the kids’ Christmas stockings reminds me of Ben’s fourth birthday, when our friend Daniel asked him if anything special had happened yet and Ben said, with his little eyes glittering with excitement, “Well, Daniel. Yes. I got juice without any water in it.” “Juice without any water in it!”, Daniel said. “You are living the dream.”

The excellent gift guides and game recommendations are only one reason that I’m enjoying the new to me blog, Ben and Birdy. The writing is the other! Happy Birthday to my mother, who is also happy with small presents to mark the day. 

my IKEA wine rack

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For this Michelangelo commission I had great fun yesterday trying to convey the sound of metal ladders being pulled up from the damned as pictured in The Last Judgment and that of angels’ long-stemmed trumpets knocking the heads of the elect. I found the right sound for this latter action by bouncing the bowl of a ladle against the top of my IKEA wine rack…

Attrib. from “Attrib. and other stories” by Eley Williams. The Angel isn’t not Michelangelo at all, but I imagine the sound of trumpets knocking would be quite golden so I decided this angel might be a better fit.

When I think about you

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what I call you

when I think about you

and you are not there:

my wild-strawberry

my sugar-lizard

my comfort-bag

my sugar-spinner

my care-chaser

my aurelia

my stone-flower

my slumber-child

my morning-child

my full-forgetter

my window-bar

my moon-hider

my silver staff

my evening glow

my sun-thread

Friedericke Mayrocker. What words would you use? Art by Lakshmi Hussain, whose art you can buy via her site here, or just follow her Instagram feed @thislakshmi