I do love a fire. I don’t care if it’s in a cobalt tiled grate for roasting chestnuts and marshmallows, on a windswept, frozen inky beach after at botched attempt at lighting a floating lantern, in a metal bucket in the garden for cooking bread or accompanied by fireworks and the smell of cooking onions on the common.

This fire was on a Yorkshire beach in February.  We were frozen.  But the magical, flickering light and the sticky, sweetness of the toasted marshmallows warmed our cockles.


This is what decay looks like

“I’m not going if it’s just pictures” announces our youngest as he flops to the pavement in a strop, clutching his death-trap scooter.  Five years old and already an art critic.

“It’s not just pictures, there’s a stuffed, dead, dog” I reply, “Now come on.”

“Oh.  OK then.”  He picks up his scooter and follows us to the tube.

My art dealer father thinks very little of anything remotely instillationy, preferring skill with a brush to flashing lights, but his grandson disagrees.  We’ve taken our children to exhibitions ever since they were tiny, and instillations always win out.

Children approach art in a very straightforward way.  They don’t worry too much about deeper meaning or skill, they just want to know what it is and why the artist did it.  And if we can’t answer those questions, is it funny?

David Shrigley at the Hayward Gallery was definitely funny.  There was a biscuit nailed to the wall, the aforementioned stuffed dog and a picture of a man weeing, labelled with the word ‘piss’.  And it made us think.  Why the biscuit nailed to a wall?  What would we put in our museum if we had one?  What is art anyway?

There are worse ways to spend a Saturday morning.

What would you save if your house was on fire?  It goes without question that the children and the husband would be out first, followed swiftly by the dog.  But if you had time to gather some belongings, what would they be?

The children’s favourite toys, the ones they sleep with, often smelly and greying, but loved with a fierce devotion, would have to come.

My Diamond Jubilee teacup, bought with some money my aunt gave me with the instruction to “buy something nice”.  It’s a bit bling, but it’s very lovely.

My wedding ring.  I made it myself out of white gold, made the husband’s too.  I used to have really tiny fingers, but since having babies no longer.  The ring needs resizing, but until I get round to it, it’s in my bedside drawer.  That definitely has to come.

Family photos.  These are mostly old and irreplaceable.  Photos of grandparents, great grandparents and great great grandparents.

My photos, the photos I’ve taken.  I have boxes of slides and prints from the olden days and a hard drive full of digital pictures.

Travel souvenirs from last year’s round world trip and other trips.  The picture is of my rather beautiful Kiwi Christmas present.  I have a similarly lovely birthday one from Sydney.

Pepper the dog.  Couldn’t leave her.

My iPhone.

There’s probably other stuff too, favourite books, childhood teddies, MacBook and cables, my bed, but it’s just stuff isn’t it?  None of it is really important.  Love is all you really need.  Besides, it would be quite hard to get the bed down the stairs.


I got the idea from this post after reading The Burning House, an absolutely fascinating website.  I have of course contributed.

It’s awards season again.  I won’t win an Oscar, but I could win a Brilliance in Blogging Award (I’ve been shortlisted in category seven, Go!, if you fancied voting to get me into the final, I’d be everso grateful).  And if you enjoyed voting for that award (come on, you know you did) then please could you also nominate me for a MAD award.  You’re a diamond.

The smoke from the campfire is swirling around us in billowing clouds and stinging our eyes.  Our hair will smell of it for days afterwards.  The late summer dusk means it’s light until long past her bedtime, but we tell ghost stories anyway, taking it in turns to hold the torch for maximum ghostly effect.  Finally, night falls, and we crawl muddily into our sleeping bags, drifting off to the sound of water rushing over stones and the cooing of wood pigeons.


This post is part of The Gallery at Sticky Fingers. This week’s prompt is ‘light’.

Back in the mists of time, when the world was young and I didn’t have wrinkles, I had the cheek to write a Gallery Post that didn’t include photos.  The theme was ‘A Novel Idea’ and it was supposed to be photos inspired by a favourite book.  The book I chose was ‘The Snail and the Whale’ and my general gist was that I was waiting to include the photos that we took on our trip.

We’ve been home a while now, and I’ve still not sorted through my photos.  They’re sitting on a hard drive, and I’ve not even looked at half of them since I took them.  So when I saw this week’s Gallery Prompt, Landscapes, I got a bit excited.  Now is the time.  I can’t pretend that I’ve done an exhaustive cataloguing process, but I’ve had a quick trawl and tried to come up with a few that could illustrate Julia Donaldson’s fabulous book.

Of shimmering ice and coral caves and shooting stars and enormous waves, and towering icebergs and far-off lands with fiery mountains and golden sands.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m a planner, a writer of lists, a researcher, I don’t like surprises.  Our round the world trip was my biggest feat of planning to date.  For three years, I read guide books, followed blogs, watched TV programmes, and together, as a family, we drew up a long list of things we’d like to do, places we’d like to go.  As we moved slowly around the world, we tried to include as many of our wished for things in our itineraries.

From the earliest days of the can-we-do-this discussions, we wanted to see the snow monkeys in Japan.  We looked at photos, watched a documentary and took regular peeks at the monkey web cam, watching the shaggy primates in their snowy wilderness.  They captured our imagination.

In the whirl of elephants, jungles and volcanoes, we sort of forgot about the snow monkeys.  It wasn’t until we arrived in Japan, and were planning where to go to provide the maximum Japaneseness in the minimum time that we remembered, and decided to visit Yudanaka.  Yudanaka is a ski resort, with natural hot springs and is home to the famous snow monkeys. We were visiting in the steamy height of summer, so no skiing, but you can still bathe in the springs and see the monkeys.

Yudanaka is ugly.  Without the softening, white blanket of snow it’s a concrete scar on the mosquito infested mountains.  Our ryokan smelt overpoweringly of dog, and the loo seat was covered in shaggy fur that was no doubt meant to be cosy in winter, but just screamed germs. The monkeys, when we’d trekked up through the beautiful, buggy, forest to find them, were looking bored in a small, unattractive, concrete pool, surrounded by over excited tourists.  We’d seen prettier monkeys in prettier settings in lots of places by the time we reached Yukanaka.  After three years of planning, the whole thing was a bit of a disappointment.

Travel, and life, can be a bit like that.  I find at these moments it’s a good idea to take the Japanese approach, and see the beauty in the details.  The soaring straightness of a cedar trunk in the forest, the trickle of steaming hot water over smooth rocks in the outdoor bathing pool, the single blue hydrangea flower in a vase on the counter of a bar, the hand-drawn sumo posters in the booth of a cosy neighbourhood restaurant.  Yudanaka wasn’t a bad place, it actually had a lot to offer if you like pet stag beetles and sumo wrestlers stew.  I just needed to adjust my expectations.


I am taking part in Photo Friday at Delicious Baby. Head on over for lots of lovely travel pictures.

This is her pleading face.  Please feed me.  Please love me.  Please take me with you.  She’s sitting by the front door as I get ready to leave.  That particular day I wasn’t taking her, and she knew it.  I’m probably anthropomorphising, but I think she looks sad.  It’s the eyes.  I was a little bit sad too.  I was only picking the children up from school, or going to the post office, but I like taking her out.  Her verve for life and ability to find pleasure in the smallest things, a biscuit crumb, a squirrel to chase, a puddle to swim in, make taking her outside a pleasure.

Our regular walks have become a highlight of my of my days.  Crunching frosty grass, splodging along muddy tracks, receiving a sleety facial, it’s all good when accompanied by a lolloping hound.  If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t venture outside in driving rain and howling wind, but I’ve no doubt that a brisk stomp on a daily basis is doing me a lot of good.  And seeing her grinning face as she bounds up to me with a stolen tennis ball in her mouth, makes me happy.  They should give out dogs on the NHS.


This post is for the Gallery at Sticky Fingers, whose theme this week is ‘Eyes’.