Sunday 28 February 2016

28 Feb : Francis Towne

Francis Towne (1739–1816)
The Temple of Vesta (1781)

© Trustees of the British Museum

Francis Towne was a watercolour artist who lived in Exeter at the end of the eighteenth century but in 1780 he embarked on the great adventure of his life and set out for Italy. For the next year he painted the classical landscapes and architecture that he saw en route and particularly during his extended stay in Rome. The sequence of paintings was bequeathed to the British Museum but consigned to storage for over a hundred years until they were rediscovered. Francis Towne's paintings of Rome are on show until August and very lovely they are too - subtle shades, detailed lines and powerful compositions. This was a man painting as fast as he could, trying to capture everything that he saw in that one magical year before he returned to Exeter. It was moving to see that some of the paintings have finger prints at the edge where Towne has grasped them in his urgent need to capture a vista before the light changes. It made me realise how fortunate I have been to spend time in Rome and I long to go back to explore the city with a new perspective.

Saturday 27 February 2016

27 Feb : MrsM, Cook

Roman floor mosaic depicting birds, fish and fruit basket
Museo nazionale romano di Palazzo Massimo

This weekend MasterM came home on a mission to eat as much as he could. He is going on an expedition in Wales and explained that he was pre-loading with carbs to get him round the course. MrsM dutifully put on her apron and cooked until her arms were dropping out of their sockets. There was a grand finale of roast lamb followed by apple crumble with custard and MasterM sighed and said that he could only eat One More Mouthful. MrsM sighed and started the washing up. MrM sighed and wished that every weekend was a cooking weekend.

Meanwhile, in her London residence, MissM was preparing a stylish Leap Year dinner party. When did that become a thing?

Thursday 25 February 2016

25 Feb : Truth

G. W. Lennox Paterson (1958)

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Last week I was amused to receive an email from a student at the University of Southern California inviting me to contribute to his PhD by answering a questionnaire about my blog. The purpose of his research is to study "the relationship between what you post on your weblog to your actual stances on issues, attributes about yourself, and things that you do". In other words, if I tell the truth to my readers. I admire his confidence that he can pick out truth and untruth from over two thousand posts and thought it would be kind to give some pointers.

I have only written one post about politics so that is an easy place to start.

I still have the same box of yeast in my kitchen cupboard

I am MrsM, but not perhaps he can untangle that for me.

I like the idea that he is going to use "clever ways to cheaply leverage human knowledge and effort" by extrapolating from my blog to "characterize an offline population". That will be a world of women sitting on the sofa ignoring the ironing.

Tuesday 23 February 2016

22 Feb : Skillz

MrsM is eager to learn as much as possible about Geology now that she is working in the Department so she points to the long rod that the student is holding and asks what it is. MrsM imagines that it is something to clean rock surfaces.

The student explains it is a juggling stick. Because he runs courses on circus skills. His speciality is juggling with fire. Would MrsM be interested in a session or two? 

MrsM regretfully declines the kind is busy enough without setting fire to one's hair...but it is nice to be asked.

Monday 22 February 2016

20 Feb : Lunch

Once in a while we go out for lunch on Saturday. Not a pub lunch followed by a brisk walk but a leisurely lunch in a smart hotel. It is the sort of thing that you do on holiday but MrM has decreed that it is a shame to restrict such things and so we treat ourselves. This weekend we went to Hotel Endsleigh, a romantic hunting lodge which was built for the the Duke of Bedford between 1810 and 1816, now run as a country house hotel by Olga Polizzi. The dimly lit dining rooms look out over a deep valley which was wreathed in mist and it seemed quite possible that the Valkyries would arise at any moment singing grim Wagnerian choruses. We did justice to the menu and then retired to the sitting room to drink peppermint tea in front of the fire. An elderly man snoozed under his Saturday paper. It was all very civilized.

Friday 19 February 2016

19 Feb : Cosy

Friday afternoon

I have spent this afternoon on the sofa, reading and watching the daffodils unfurl. Also, chatting to The Little Boy Next Door who came to review the biscuit tin. I remarked on his new haircut and he explained that 'Mummy made a mistake when she cut the fringe so she had to cut more off'. I felt his pain. It has been a particularly busy two weeks with late nights, early mornings, and the house in various states of chaos but now I feel ready for the weekend. Exhale.

Thank you for your company and comments over the past two weeks. I wish you could join me here for a cup of tea beside the fire but instead I shall wander around Blogland and drop in to catch up with your news. Get out your tray cloths!

Tuesday 16 February 2016

16 Feb : Easter

Copyright 2004 British Library

The Head of the Research Group says...

"When I was a student I had to learn Fortran and one of the exercises was to calculate the date of Easter. It was very interesting - so many variables - variables which nested inside one another. You had to include leap years and so forth. I calculated it for the next thousand years and I still use that programme. I see that there are plans to fix the date of Easter and I understand that how convenient that would be for school holidays but it would be a shame because I couldn't use my programme for teaching any more." 

He looks pensive. I wonder if I am supposed to contact the Pope.

Thursday 11 February 2016

11 Feb : Calm

Terry the Chippy is making a nice job of the window in the dining room. He looks very young but he has three sons and a French bulldog puppy so I think he comes to work for some peace and quiet. Tomorrow he will hang the new back door and then on Friday he will swing the sashes. I'm hiding from Nigel the Decorator at the moment because I chose a colour from the wrong paint range. He sent me a message very kindly suggesting that I might have made a mistake and that he would drop by with a colour card for me to peruse. I probably have made a mistake - he is a prize winning paint specialist - but it was all too much so  I ran away and left Terry the Chippy to talk paint colours with Nigel the Decorator. I can't wait until it is all over and I can return to my normal idle lifestyle.

Wednesday 10 February 2016

10 Feb : Rocks

First day in my new job.

When I arrive in the office the Head of the Research Group is a bit flustered. "There has been a delivery for you. Flowers. I don't think we have ever had flowers in this office before. Who sent them? We didn't. Should we have done? Not that I don't like flowers. I often wish someone would send some to me." I'm listening but there is a photo of him on the wall behind his head. He is standing in a motorised canoe on the estuary of the Tutuling River in Indonesia. It's very distracting.

Next step is to clear my desk of rock samples.

Tuesday 9 February 2016

9 Feb : MrM, Chef

Goldilocks and the Three Bears
Arthur Rackham

New York: Macmillan Company, 1918

MrM is preparing Bircher muesli for breakfast. It is his signature recipe. MrsM passes him the organic jumbo oats, cold pressed apple juice and filtered water. The best apple in the fruit bowl is carefully grated and combined with delicious creamy natural yogurt. This is not artisan cooking, it is a work of art.

Finally he turns to the spice bottles and adds a pinch of this, a smidgin of that.

"Oh ..." says MrM "...I've added cumin instead of you think it will make a difference?" 

Monday 8 February 2016

8 Feb : Monday

Let's just stare at this cottage for a moment. It is in the precinct of Salisbury Cathedral. The door! The arched windows! The dear little higgledy-piggledy shape! The garden was lovely too - a long rectangle adjoining the path filled with snowdrops. Surely a garden gnome lives here? I couldn't resist stopping to take a photo even though I was in the middle of a gale force wind and worried that I would be swept up into the stratosphere.

I am afraid that this is the only photo in my camera from the past two weeks. I think I have been alive but there isn't much evidence. Looking ahead there will be work days, gallivanting days and Mr Chippy hanging new doors at home. It's all a go-go but I am hoping to squeeze in a few moments here so I must remember to take some photos. Happy Monday!