April is the cruellest month.

April is the cruellest month. I didn’t have time to post much.

These fairy bells are called Ancolies in French. In English they are called Columbines.

Mais, l’ancolie am I when I think of Virginia Tech.

Bégonia is just Begonia. La terre est bleue comme une orange.



I was translating a list of fish that can be caught in Gabon and had to look up “otolithe”. I had never seen the word before, in French or English.


Pseudotolithus senegalensis
Cassava croaker

As well as a fish, I found another meaning:

An otolith, (oto-, ear + lithos, a stone) or otoconium is a structure in the saccule or utricle of the inner ear.

Browsing the web, I came across the word again, in a fascinating article.

This phenomenon is common enough, sometimes called synchronicity, when you encounter a word for the first time then come across it again immediately afterwards. It sort of pops into existence. The second time you meet it, it feels as if another reality has winked at you. The reality of hidden connections.

It conjurs up lithops and monoliths, palaeontology and palimpsest, which reminds me that the word that set me off on this blog leaves me free to delete everything and start all over again.

Fish are fascinating. I never think of them hearing. Watching salmon attempting to jump up waterfalls is the best lesson in determination I can imagine.


Picture in the mirror

“Whenever I thought I knew where I was or where I was going, I changed course, automatically, without being explicit with myself about what I was doing. Like some kind of amoeba that consistently, determinedly avoided coming into contact with …

With what? Knowledge of itself?

Knowledge of its actual whereabouts or destination?


Excerpt from Diary of an Analysand

I was given a small mirror in the form of a book at the airport the other day in the perfume shop. It was a free gift. I put it in the drawer next to my desk. Feeling chirpy this morning, I took it out and admired the look and feel of it. I flicked it open and caught sight of the lower part of my face and was utterly horrified – the bottom of my face is all fat and flabby I have a double chin like a spare tyre, and as if that wasn’t disgraceful enough I have the beginning of whiskers coming through! I felt as if I was looking at a rodent. An oversized, bemused rodent. Like some character from the Wind in the Willows or another children’s’ story.

OK, so part of me is an ugly animal. That’s life. Accepting the horrific aspects of ourselves. Any part of anyone can be made to look repulsive or attractive depending on the angle of the view, the distance, the predisposition of the looker, the intention and the art of the producer of the image.

What is the relationship between photograph and mirror? I find myself repulsive in photographs, when I first see them. Then I look at the same photographs years later and find my image somehow pleasing.

As a young woman I remember wrangling with self-image and finally arriving at acceptance; I breathed a sigh of relief saying to myself “your face is OK”. The next day I looked in the mirror and saw the first signs of ageing.

Many years ago I had a recurring nightmare. I dreamt I woke up in a panic and tried to switch on the light. It wouldn’t work. I panicked more, then effectively woke up. I had to sleep with the light on, and found this intensely annoying. So intensely annoying that I stared long and hard at myself in the mirror and told myself to stop it. It worked.


Car boot sale

I know he loved me. I felt the thrill of excitement when he first found me, and bought me, and carried me home and read me straight through, without a break. He was my ideal reader and he made me feel like his ideal book. The connection between us was unique and inimitable. I also felt his sadness at our separation, when he had finished reading me, he was disappointed that I had to come to an end, he would like to have read me for ever and ever. He wanted to go on reading me; I know that, I could feel it.

So how could he be so cruel as to rip my shiny jacket off and put me on display between grubby headphones and an old chess set with two missing pieces? I thought our relationship was special, but now I felt cheated and used. He was trying to get rid of me, and for a derisory sum; not even a fraction of what I was worth, of what he paid for me in the first place.

It was cold and damp at the car boot sale. I longed for the luxury of the shag pile rug, the intimacy of the room with the closed curtains, the silence…

A young woman picks me up. She smiles at my first reader.

“Is this any good, then?” she asked.

“Wonderful. I couldn’t put it down. Very moving and extremely funny” he answered. “And cheap, too! You know how it is, I devour books, and I just don’t have the space to keep them all, no matter how much I’d love to. And anyway, I believe that books are meant to be read, and I would rather somebody else had a chance to read this one, and enjoy it as much as me, than stick it on a shelf like some kind of trophy".


Empty spaces

"The word parchment, usually pergamenum in medieval Latin, derives from the name of the city of Pergamum whose ancient King Eumenes is said by Pliny to have invented it in the second century BC during a trade blockade on papyrus.”

Parchment is made from animal skin and has imperfections; sometimes in pages of manuscripts one sees holes.