Color My World Wet – Washing the Frog Pond

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“It’s time to scrub out the Frog Pond.”

“It is getting a bit greenish, isn’t it? But such a job!”

“We have to keep topping it up, it’s our humidifier.”

“Last time we added water it had scum on the top.”

“That’s because the frogs don’t keep it clean.”

“Come on, it’s not that hard; just time consuming.”

“OK, I’d better do it while the water is low.”

“Make sure you scrub every shell and stone; we need them to sparkle.”

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This little rough earthenware pond with the blue glaze inside was made by Robert Fournier at Lacock Pottery in Wiltshire. My mother was a potter and became great friends with Sheila (Cook) and Robert, and I bought the frog pond during a visit to Lacock. Sadly the Fourniers are both gone – Sheila in 2000 and Robert in 2008. This photo is from his obituary in The Independent and he is making one of his signature ponds – quite a bit bigger than mine.

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Robert’s wife Sheila – also an amazing potter – and my father, Stan, would exchange poems. They often visited us in London.

The Pottery at Lacock is now a Bed & Breakfast, but the Fournier pottery lives on in museums and galleries, and in our dining room.

It is called a Frog Pond because there are four frogs that sit on the ‘bridge’

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and, if you look very carefully, you can see one on a ledge under the water.

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Colour Your World: Mauvelous

[I pinched this wonderful, colourful word from Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss] I always pronounced Mauve as Mow-ve in England, but here in the US they say Maw-ve which sounds terribly affected to me. Chacun a son gout, I guess.

12B May 2015 (2)12B May 2015

Lilac & wisteria at my little London house last May.

Tea for (Too many?)


When it’s just me and himself and he starts to say something that triggers a thought, I tend to interrupt, thus becoming one too many in the conversation.

“Would you just let me finish!”

Add a couple of friends – or better, two couples – and that phrase doesn’t appear.

Six can sit comfortably around the dinner table and by carefully choosing the guests, a fine evening of conversation (encouraged by my fine food, of course) will ensue.

But once in a while when I find it difficult not to put my two cents in, I get “Would you please let ___ finish.” Nobody else seems to mind or are they just being polite?

Dinners with just the two of us are often eaten in silence, or near silence, especially in a restaurant. In a family run trattoria  in Milan once, we were the only people not talking up a storm. I wrote a poem about it afterwards. This is part of it:

The Milanese regulars have come in convivial companies

To refresh their minds while re-fleshing their bodies.

We concentrate on our food, alone in the crowded room.

Quiet Americans, we sit segregated, separated

Even from each other, eating, seldom looking up,

Speaking only to wonder at the wine,

Salute the insalate misti, so unexpectedly delicious.

Swapping the occasional delicacy, but few words.


A lone diner enters, sits down next to me. We nod:

“Buona Sera,” but with his quiet intrusion become

Almost more reserved, more alien, more alone in the crowd.

He too eats wordlessly, the only silent Italian here.

Finally, with dessert the ice is broken.

A question about Taleggio cheese – is it from goats’ milk?

The Uncle-waiter does not understand. We try sign language, but

“Non capisco,” and our neighbor comes to our rescue.

“It is from cow,” he offers diffidently,

And discreetly returns to his meal.

But we, emboldened by this linguistic lifesaver,

Thank him and now, finally, we can talk.

[I wish I knew how to put a poem in my blog without the spaces between lines. Can anyone help me?] 

Daily Post – Counting Voices  <ahref=””>Counting Voices</a>

What’s The Deal With Charcoal, Anyway?

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The Charcoal Burner

After publishing my office wall blog, I had another look at the Ernest H. Shepard drawing from A.A.Milne’s Winnie the Pooh poetry book “Now We Are Six” and, indeed as I should have known, Christopher Robin has Pooh tightly held in his right arm. They were inseparable.

If you grew up with Winnie the Pooh as I, my three sons and five grandsons, did -not to mention my siblings and their young- you would probably have read the poem about The Charcoal Burner. It is in the volume “Now We Are Six.”

It’s one of the more esoteric (don’t you love that word?) poems, but of course CR is now 6 years old and therefore, quite grown up.

Anyway, CR is peeking at the old charcoal burner man who lives in the Forest. He “sits and thinks of the things they know / He and the Forest, alone together”; Christopher Robin’s Charcoal Burner “has tales to tell” and the next picture has CR and Pooh on a log, listening to the tales.

Haiti is over 7,000 miles away from Christopher Robin’s Forest, but it also makes and uses charcoal. The tale told in Heifer International’s magazine, WORLDARK,, is that charcoal “burns hotter and more slowly than wood. It also produces less smoke and is far easier to transport.” In Haiti they make it by hand “from wood, roots and brush” because there are so few trees. It’s made “under mounds of dirt” and employs many, many people when there isn’t other work to do.charcoal 001

How many of us think of the mechanical process of making charcoal as we load it onto our barbecues? Or as artists that use charcoal to make their drawings? I wonder if Mr Shepard’s drawing above was made in charcoal. That would be appropriate, now wouldn’t it?

I suspect the young Haitian boys are not just onlookers like Christopher Robin, but help “chopping bushes and digging up roots.” I hope the adults tell them tales as they work.


Creating the (Physical and Mental) Space to Write

Where do you write? What devices or tools do you need at your desk? Daily Post from Cheri Lucas RowlandsWall words 001

This is what I look at every day as I sit typing stories, poems, songs, e-mails and blogs in my “office.”

They are all there – my family, my PA, my almost families. The boys grow up but they stay the same age in my photos. 

There’s a Pooh picture – the real Winnie the Pooh, not the Disney cartoon. Actually Pooh isn’t in this one – it’s Christopher Robin watching the Charcoal Burner in the Great Woods. I must write about charcoal sometime.

Cartoons abound, some with dreadful puns: Two arabs walk past a tent with two men painted on it; one is labeled ‘Nomad’; the other, jumping in the air is just ‘Mad.’ One arab says to the other “That’s a good one,” and the other replies “I know a bedouin.” Took my brother a while to get it.

There are special headlines that catch my eye: “Hugh One Day, Who The Next? With UNM, It’s Always Somebody” (I have no idea now what the article was about.) “Instead of Answering Machines, HUMANS” (if only!)

And all those silly Horror-scopes that give us a laugh at breakfast. I stick up the ones that say I’m great: Your inventive mind is ablaze with new ideas. Then the letdown: It’s about time you took your intelligence seriously. Get organized.

Some of them are a bit risqué. Like the ‘Art of Ancient America’ on the bottom right, or the cartoon of “us” under the photo of my father, busy at his desk.

That family group on the left was of my aunt’s 100th birthday, and the one above is my Indonesian family celebrating Lan & Seng’s 50th anniversary. Another wall is full of just family.

My three beautiful sons share a frame with my smiling PA (when he had a beard).

It is fun to look up and see these bits & pieces. And there’s a shoe-box somewhere with everything I took off the bulletin board on the wall of my former office. One day (perhaps) I’ll make a scrapbook of them all.

But for now, I’d better finish this blog before the timer in the kitchen rings.



Drawing a Blank

<a href=””>Drawing a Blank</a>

In the early days of our relationship, before I had molded himself to my ways, he was often cross with me. I interrupt. And he absolutely hates anyone finishing his sentences.

“But that made me think of something and I had to tell you before I forgot”

If I (often) know what he is going to say and say it first, he says (pompously – well, he was a professor):
“If I could be allowed to finish what I was going to say” and then he repeats what I just said.

If I interrupt, and then ask him what he was going to, he says “nothing.”

Very frustrating.


I always mean to give him his own back, but when the time comes I’ve forgotten. Anyway, that’s not me.

And now we both have adjusted a bit; well, one does after 28 happy years, doesn’t one?

For Want of a Nest

pigeon's lost eggs

When I was hanging out the washing a few days ago I noticed how vocal the birds were. There was a virtual chorus of cooing. Especially from the collared doves we have in abundance in our part of Albuquerque – more than your basic pigeon, which I’m not fond of.

The warm weather must have spurred the mating and nesting season. I must remember to put out the saved dryer lint for them to use.

One year we did have a pigeon set up residence in the yard. Whenever we went out to eat in the arbor under the dense wisteria vine, the bird would fly away. We decided it had a nest up there, though we couldn’t see it because of the foliage.

That autumn as the leaves fell and we could at last see through the tangle of vines to the sky, I noticed these eggs. That poor mama bird hadn’t made a proper nest at all. So sad. I just left them there because there wasn’t anything I could do; they were past saving.

On a happier note, we expect the hummingbirds back in April. Heaven knows where they nest around here, but it isn’t in the wisteria.