Tuesday 28 February 2017

Raising Horizons

Dr Tori Herridge is a palaeobiologist specialising in researching extinct dwarf elephants. When I met Tori in 2012 I was very impressed by her ability to communicate her research with passion and glad to see her subsequently feature in several TV science programmes. Tori went on to co-found Trowelblazers with three friends, using social media to raise the profile of previous generations of female scientists. Using crowd sourcing they have pieced together an online database to ensure that the contributions of these women scientists are recorded and it is humbling to realise how many have been prevented from getting the recognition they deserved.

Last week I visited the first Trowelblazers exhibition Raising Horizons which was hosted by the Geological Society in Burlington House and loved the clever collaboration with a portrait photographer. Stunning images of representatives of the current generation of female scientists dressed as one of their predecessors looked down over the staid library of the Geological Society. The labels describing the portraits were fascinating, giving details of both the historic and contemporary scientist. The picture below describes Dr Rachel Bynoe dressed as Honor Frost, a pioneer of underwater archaeology, and this was of particular interest to me because when I worked in the British Academy I was close to the office of the Honor Frost Foundation.

I have worked as administrator for several remarkable women scientists: archaeologists, geologists and palaeogeographers. I have seen how committed they are to their research despite the challenges that they face in a working environment that is still male dominated. I am grateful to Trowelblazers for acting as advocates for these women and for the generations of women scientists whose work was unrecognised or attributed to male colleagues.

Monday 27 February 2017

happy hour

The weekend started with cocktails at
It's almost worth going just for the flowers.

MasterM's cocktail arrived in
a cloud of dry ice.
Which we all agreed was pretty cool.

MrsM chose the 'Hairthief' cocktail
with a dash of absinthe.
And regretted it on Saturday morning.

Thursday 23 February 2017


You know those long arm IG photos of bouquets? I used to think they were easy. Turns out I was wrong. Or perhaps my arms are unusually short. Also, one handed phone photos? Don't do it if you want to retain your sanity. But when I get a surprise bouquet from MrM because it is 35 years since we met for the first time - well, I am going to do those things anyway.

Wednesday 22 February 2017

message for Santa

Molly Longlegs
George Stubbs 1762

MasterM is having riding lessons.

Just done our first bit of jumping today!
Very cool! I want a horse for Christmas!

I will tell Santa.

It's not going to happen.
MasterM will have to be so good
that it will seriously cramp his style.

Walker Art Gallery

Tuesday 21 February 2017

picking up stitches

So, I started knitting again. Picking up where you left off isn't quite as straightforward as it sounds because there is the phase when you think about possibly restarting and then get distracted. Next you have to work up the courage to open the bag, pull it out and try to remember where you are which is always too difficult and so it goes back in the bag. Time passes and then you get exasperated with yourself and at this point I imagine Monica pointing to her pile of completed projects and telling me not be a wimp which is a surprisingly effective motivational strategy. Of course you still can't remember where you are in the pattern so you start at the wrong place and have to rip out your first two rows and you almost stop again. If you can overcome this period of frustration you are finally on your way to rediscovering the joy of knitting, sitting in front of the fire gradually covering your knees with a soft aran throw worked to a pattern gifted by the lovely Kristina.

Monday 20 February 2017

sunshine in St. James's

A sunny afternoon in February. Children everywhere. Running, scooting, cycling, rollerblading, wrestling, wriggling, cartwheeling, hand-standing. An intoxicating, exhausting, exhilarating experience to weave your way through the crowds. Especially if you had forgotten it was half term. Which is what happens when your children grow up.

Friday 17 February 2017

rescue remedy

This is my recipe for the days when you feel frozen with horror after reading too much twitter.

Put the kettle on and make some fresh green mint tea. Take your favourite mug, breathe deeply as you add the hot water and enjoy the minty goodness. The next step is to buff up some furniture with beeswax polish and select your favourite duvet cover so that you can change the sheets even if it is not the day that you normally do this, ensuring that you inhale the lovely clean linen fragrance. Wrap up warmly and get out of the house, off for a little jaunt in the car and the first stop is the car wash for a scrub and blow dry. When the car is clean and shiny drive to a florist and spend an absorbing hour trying to decide which colours to buy so that you can go back and arrange the flowers in your favourite blue and white china. If you want something frivolous to listen to instead of the radio I can recommend 'The Corinthian' by Georgette Heyer read by Georgina Sutton. When you have finished arranging the flowers find your best hand cream and relax.

At this point do not, under any circumstances, sit on the sofa and look at twitter.

Thursday 16 February 2017

a bunch of grapes

I love old fashioned junk shops where pictures are stacked against rickety tables, piles of china languish in cardboard boxes and assorted flatware mingle with old watches and paste jewellery in glass cabinets. I spotted one last week en route to a tyre centre with MasterM and so I left him considering the prohibitive cost of replacing a tyre and walked back with my purse feeling pleasantly warm in my pocket.

Through the dusty windows I could see an elderly lady reading a novel next to a two bar electric heater and I felt my pulse rise as I walked through the door. I was immediately distracted by the £1 bargain basket which contained a rare Wedgwood plate with a hairline crack. That was definitely being rescued and coming home with me.

There were so many things that I wanted to buy but I was very restrained and selected this charming little watercolour. It is in a shabby frame with a lopsided mount but just look at the delicate detail and colouration. I have no idea how old it is or what it was originally but I am delighted with my find and will be taking it to my friendly framer for an upgrade.

The lady wrapped up the plate in newspaper, put the picture in a shopping bag and said that she hoped that she would see me again. I promised that it wouldn't be long before I was back.

Wednesday 15 February 2017

bitter sweet

Can I tempt you to a slice of treacle tart? I realise that it may not be featured in the index of your healthy living bible but I could cut a very tiny slice so that you can inhale it. I am not sure if you can inhale clotted cream - that could get a bit messy - so I'm afraid you may have to do without that.

This is my treacle tart recipe, inherited from my mother, but includes the bitter zest and juice of seville oranges giving it a delicious burnt caramel flavour. I got this idea from Jo Clark at Notes from a Sussex Kitchen - I love Jo's passion for cooking and her inventive use of seasonal ingredients which feature on her blog and inspirational instagram account.

MrM was happy to have another helping but MissM was not convinced "It tastes nice but I prefer Grandma's treacle tart." Fair enough.

Monday 13 February 2017


This bold wave of snowdrops, white capped,
cresting over heaped churchyard turf,
curling around groyned gravestones.
I do not remember such icy exuberance
when I looked before, too eager for joy,
but I am beyond the wall now and careless,
caught in the breaking, drenched in wonder.

Alice Christie
13 ii 17

Friday 10 February 2017

risk analysis

It's another day in the office of the Research Group. A visiting academic, explaining his project, points to a minuscule island in the middle of the ocean. "This is where I need to be but I can't work out how to get there."

Our feisty research assistant gives him a withering look. "When I do field work there" she says "I fly from Darwin to here...get a ferry to here...then I hitch a lift on a fishing boat from here..." The visiting academic gives her the side-eye but she points to the map again "Obviously I don't get on the fishing boat here because of the pirates."

I can see that the visiting academic is reviewing his career choice.

Thursday 9 February 2017

requiescat in pace

My friend June died today after a courageous battle with cancer.

I can see her clearly in my mind's eye, wrapped in a large apron, surrounded by buckets of flowers, as she prepared flowers for our parish church. These are examples of her arrangements and I wish I had taken more photos because she had a wonderful eye for floral design.

June was a gentle person and the epitome of humility. I am surprised to discover that someone with so light a step can leave such a deep impression on your heart. I will miss her very much.

Rest in peace dear June

Wednesday 8 February 2017


This is not the best window box I have ever created. It is too monotone, too scruffy and there is one plant which is the wrong shade of blue but it has given me so much pleasure since Christmas. These winter flowering pansies have a tragic history of neglect, sitting in a tray until I hastily planted them when I remembered that Tracey, the Boot Camp Gardener, was coming to visit. A couple of days later I noticed that they had collapsed from the frost so they were banished to the end of the garden. I rediscovered them after Christmas, flowering their little blue socks off, and gave them centre stage. The flowers may look fragile but they have survived a series of brutal frosts, collapsing completely and then reviving as soon as the temperature rises. It won't be long before they are replaced by a Spring window box full of bulbs so this is an appreciation post. Winter flowering pansies, I salute you

Tuesday 7 February 2017

tall tales

MasterM's friends are spilling the beans.

"Do you remember that party when MasterM said he was in the import/export business, specialising in giraffes? And the girl was quite impressed. Especially when he told her that giraffes can't lie down so he had to charter special planes."

MasterM is unabashed.

"I explained that I saved costs by using the space underneath the giraffes' legs to transport rhino but sadly she didn't believe that."

Monday 6 February 2017


MasterM and MissM were both at home this weekend and it was like drinking from a bottle of old whisky, very concentrated and with powerful echoes of times past. The ritual is the same every time - read their post, collect laundry (MasterM), inspect book collection (MissM), 'borrow' some printer paper (MasterM), read The Week (MissM), sleep (MasterM), discuss holiday plans, eat MrsM's finest cooking and get financial advice from MrM. And then they set off for their everyday lives laden with gifts:

pot of iris
6 x Comice pears
bottle of Quarr Abbey cider

pink giraffe silk tie
MrM's ancient Barbour jacket
jar of Quarr Abbey raspberry jam

MasterM had been invited to play for an alumni team at his school and so met up with old friends whom he had not seen for a long time. It was very heartwarming to see how much he enjoyed this even though he has social networks in London and various points south of the Equator. This is the Facebook generation and they can keep in contact with school friends even if they are geographically separated but nothing beats an afternoon playing football together followed by a few beers. Meanwhile MissM and her school friends have formed a book group and they take it in turns to choose a book and host a meal to chat about it. I felt a brief pang of envy as I remembered how lonely I had been as a new mother at that age but that was quickly superseded by gratitude that they both understand how precious friendship is and that it is vital to invest time and energy to maintain it. 

Wednesday 1 February 2017


It is foggy here on the Isle of Wight, my home for the next few days, and at night I can hear the fog horn booming which is curiously comforting - an auditory memory from a childhood by the sea. The fog creates a sense of being cocooned, separated from the world, which is appropriate because I am at Quarr Abbey on retreat. It is a chance to read, write and reflect and I am very grateful to the monks for this opportunity to experience silence in a noisy world.