Saturday, December 20, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
But I don't think I had realised just how soul destroying antique markets can be for the stallholders - or perhaps things have become worse over the years. And I don't think it can all be laid at the door of the 'credit crunch'. TV shows where participants regularly beat prices down so that they can make a profit by selling items at auction have a lot to answer for. It is, when you think about it, completely the wrong way round, which is why they do it. It's very hard to make any kind of profit that way. And the dealers who capitulate 'for the publicity' (What publicity? They don't get any!) are only succumbing to the kind of pressure that TV companies are very good at exerting. It is, after all, their job.
TV shows and car boot sales, that's the problem. Boot sales are where you expect items to be cheap, although in my experience even those have become more than penny-pinching. I once saw a man chop up a nice little wooden table at a boot sale. He had wanted a couple of pounds for it. He didn't want to take it home. People had been offering him 50p. He said that he knew if he left it by the bin at the end of the day somebody would take it. So he chopped it into small pieces first. As a good recycler I didn't really approve, but I understood him completely. A day's quibbling over twenty penny pieces induces the sort of misery that can only be relieved by chopping up small tables.
Anyway, back to the antique market. We spent saturday sorting, labelling, pricing, packing and dismantling the car in driving wind and rain so that we could get everything in. On saturday night I made the picnic and put it in the fridge. On sunday morning we got up at 5.30 loaded up the car and were on the road by 6.45, also phoning our son, who had offered to help with the unloading, to give him a wake-up call.
We were forced to take a detour; a stretch of the main road was closed because of an 'incident' and we nearly lost our way because of road works in Glasgow but still arrived in good time. The weather forecast had been reasonably good, but an icy and torrential rain was falling. We stopped along the road from the venue and between cold showers, hefted boxes of stuff, piles of pictures, stands, easels etc down the steep ramp into the hall. Then I went and found a parking place while my husband started to assemble our stall. By 9.45 we were more or less there, and drinking a coffee, our son was on his way home (possibly back to bed?) and the first 'customers' were arriving.
We had what we thought was a good cross section of items. Not boot sale stuff, that's for sure. And not junk. We were showing a collection of Alan's paintings at very reasonable prices (£80.00 for an original acrylic isn't exactly extortionate- in fact these are print prices) We had a selection of costume jewellery, some vintage clothes, a few vintage toys, textiles, etchings and other artworks as well as some gorgeous Indian and Chinese embroidery and a few other curiosities.
Did we have any customers? No.
Well, we made the price of the stall and the petrol. And that was it. No profits.
But - and I have to say this is all uncharacteristic of Glasgow, which is my favourite city in the whole world - it wouldn't have been so bad if, with a few welcome exceptions, the people hadn't been so uncongenial. There was a handful of pleasant individuals, including the lovely man and his daughter who appreciated the paintings, couldn't afford to buy them, but asked interesting questions and seemed to enjoy what they were looking at. There were a few other smiley people who chatted, and passed the time of day.
Sadly, they were vastly outnumbered by an army of grim elderly ladies (I know, I know, I'm heading there myself, although definitely without the scowl) who handled the stock as if they were sorting through garbage, and baulked at paying anything for anything. The last straw was the young woman who spent the best part of ten minutes stroking, fingering, opening out and looking at an utterly stunning Indian wedding sari, one of the most beautiful textiles I've had the good fortune to find: five yards and more of gorgeous damask with a golden pallau, encrusted with beads and embroidery, all hand done as well. Its only faults were a few loose threads here and there. I could think of many uses for it, the most simple being draped as a curtain. It came with an equally beautiful beaded veil in gold silk satin which I've decided to keep for myself since it makes a lovely evening shawl. Because the girl seemed so taken with it (and because our takings were non existent) I offered it to her for £25.00 which is about what you would pay for a cheap voile curtain in one of our better known household textile chains. This - for five yards of vintage hand beaded silk - seems almost laughable in retrospect. I had obviously taken leave of my senses. But that's the 'market' effect for you. Her husband had his wallet in his hand. Then her mum, watching the proceedings from a safe distance, persuaded her that it would be a waste of money.
As they left, minus the sari, she said 'if it's still here next time, I'll have it.'
No, I thought and by this time I confess I was feeling a bit grim myself. You won't. Because it won't be here, I won't be doing another antique fair, and even if I was, I wouldn't be selling such a fine piece of work at such a crazy price. But I held my tongue. I knew for certain that she would regret it later on, because I've done exactly that kind of thing myself.
After that, the day just got worse and worse as our smiles got more and more fixed.
So it was with a huge amount of relief that we packed up, fetched the car, hefted everything back in (even colder, still rainy) and embarked on the long drive home where we had to offload everything and reassemble the car . Then, completely exhausted, we sat on the couch with a couple of large glasses of wine , looked at each other and said 'never, ever again!'
Actually, it isn't strictly true, because we do have one more craft fair coming up, but that's a charity event, we'll be showing mostly Alan's paintings, it's something we do every year and - because it's close to home - it doesn't present too many logistical problems. If we sell a couple of pictures all well and good. If we don't it won't be a disaster and we'll have done a bit of promotion in a good cause on the side.
What intrigued us though was just how many of the particants remarked that they had had a 'good day.' By which (since we could see exactly what was going on) they seemed to mean that they had made the stall money and a little over. But why on earth would anyone want to do a couple of days of hard labour - just to cover their costs and have a few quid over?
Our son, trudging back through the rain to help us load up again, remarked 'the world's changing mum. And this isn't the way of it.' I reckon he's right. There's a lot to be said - especially with antiques - for being able to see things, handle them, learn about them. It's one of the nicest things about buying in the saleroom, being able to see and touch interesting old items as well as being able to learn about them from more experienced fellow dealers. But it was significant to me at least that the vast majority of our fellow stallholders looked like retired people. And when they stop, I wonder if anyone younger will be willing to do it? Which would be a pity, since I rather like buying items at these Antique Fairs. But if I think somebody is asking a fair price, I don't try to beat them down to peanuts. And I always handle the objects as though they are precious - which to the stallholder they so often are.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I'm not a madly religious person, so I don't know why I love this angel (you can see him in the old citadel of Carcassonne) so much. He has been badly defaced, probably during the Mediaeval upheavals which involved the Cathars and the King of France and consequently has the look of a prize fighter after a particularly bad bout. But then perhaps he's Michael, who was - by all accounts - no mean contender himself.
He's a large stone personage with very shapely arms, and a wide, sensuous mouth and he simply exudes peace. I found myself loitering beside him for ages, taking photographs which didn't quite capture what it was that was so beautiful about him, and eventually just gazing and gazing. The guidebook dismisses him in a few short lines which is a pity because I think whoever made this was an accomplished sculptor. The angel manages to possess qualities of raw, real humanity and an intense spirituality at the same time. He's warm and protective, injured and numinous, all at once. You can tell I was smitten, can't you?
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
However, just a wee thought, from Scotland, in the current worldwide financial difficulties: woke this morning to a banking person rabbiting on, on Radio Scotland. She was heard to observe, among much else, that Scotland is attractive to businesses because it is 'cheap'.
Which got me thinking.
Housing throughout most of Scotland is as expensive as most of England and considerably more expensive than many desirable areas in England, even in the South.
The cost of living is pretty steep here. Food is no cheaper than in England and in the remoter parts of the country, very much more expensive.
Fuel costs are the same, and since it's undeniably colder, for longer, our bills are arguably a good deal higher.
The council tax we pay up here is phenomenally high. In fact conversations with friends in England have often included questions such as 'What do you live in? A castle?' when in fact we live in a nice old terraced cottage.
So what exactly can it be about Scotland that is so 'cheap' for businesses?
Oh yes. I've guessed it. Wages are exponentially lower up here. Which means that most of us, in the current climate, are struggling to survive, as compared to our friends in the south.
And if you can do something about that Mr Salmond, you'd definitely get my vote.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
I STILL HATE MY MEMORY FOAM MATTRESS.
Sadly, my husband still loves it. The only solution (I have investigated all possible options) would be to buy two matching single beds. He could have memory foam on one. I could have a nice normal sprung mattress on the other. That way I might resume some kind of normal sleep pattern. But at the moment, it's just too expensive to replace bed and bedding. Maybe some kindly bed manufacturer out there will take pity on me....
Sunday, August 10, 2008
I write this deep into one of the wettest summers I can remember (although I can certainly remember some which were equally wet!) Far from being tinder box dry much of Scotland is utterly and completely rainsoaked. So is much of Wales and Northern Ireland and a friend tells me that her garden in rural Oxfordshire is pretty much the same. The usual Atlantic fronts have beset us in unrelenting droves.
So which bits of Britain does he mean exactly? Last week the Scottish news was informing us in suitably alarmist tones that we could expect lots and lots of flooding nationwide - because of Global Warming. Nothing whatsoever to do with our national obsession with concreting over our gardens or building lots and lots of houses on the floodplains of our rivers and streams then?
Are we to fry or drown? Which is it?
No wonder we become cynical about so much that is written about the environment. Presumably the findings about tinder box Britain are based on some kind of statistical model which refers to the dry spells but doesn't include this year's torrents. Our weather is certainly behaving badly, but the analysts who are as changeable as the weather aren't helping.
Sunday, August 03, 2008
Friday, July 25, 2008
That was how the Guardian reported the results of the Glasgow East by-election today. And in a blog called The Scottish Home, even though I'm usually writing about textiles and gardens and things like that, I just have to say something about it before I go back to the latest novel - called the Physic Garden - which is progressing nicely at about 30,000 words.
I've said it before on this blog, and I'll say it again. I love Glasgow. It's my favourite city in the world. Its people are surely among the most friendly, bright, irreverent, inventive and creative in existence. But the city's east end has extreme problems of poverty and deprivation that all these many years of a Labour government have done little to address. The fact that this poverty sits cheek by jowl with the newly gentrified Merchant City, where £1000 handbags and designer chic are commonplace, doesn't really help.
I'm no political economist, but I remember attending a conference a few years ago and hearing somebody speak about how he had taken photographs of some of those sixties tower blocks in Glasgow with heat detecting cameras in an effort to assess why the buildings were so disastrous for the residents - full of damp and bronchitis-inducing black mould. Asthma was endemic among the children. Clothes were ruined. The residents themselves were always being blamed for this. They were boiling kettles, breathing, that kind of thing. (I kid you not!) He said 'we looked at the pictures and wondered what all those little blocks of insulation were. Then we suddenly realised that they were curtains in the windows. We had taken the pictures at night. The drawn curtains were providing infinitely better insulation for each of the flats than the walls!'
Over the past few weeks, the English press have sent representatives north to trash Glasgow's east end. And they've made a pretty good job of it. A.A. Gill (gonnae stick to cookery pal?) in the Sunday Times produced a predictably glib piece of non analysis. None of it has gone unnoticed. The East End has serious problems but it is by no means as wholly bleak a dystopia as was painted. And this from guys who live in London for God's sake. A wee biblical quote comes to mind: 'And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?' Away and consider a few beams, eh?
All of which amounts, I suppose, to a lot of votes for the SNP. As a lifelong and instinctive Labour party supporter myself, I voted for them (the SNP that is) in the Scottish parliament and will probably vote for them in a general election too unless Labour stops marching us relentlessly backwards towards 1984 and lecturing us about how we don't really understand them.
I started watching the election results programme last night but when Labour demanded a recount at about 1.30 I decided that enough was enough and went to bed. Still I put on the radio only to realise that Radio Scotland stops broadcasting around midnight and switches to Five Live which is the general UK news programme. I drifted off to sleep only to wake up in the early hours when the results were being announced. We got a wee chat with a professor from Strathclyde University, and then suddenly we were off on the Obama trail. No more analysis or comment from Scotland. And it's that sort of thing, folks, that really gets your goat when you live north of the border. That and the relentlessly London centred news. Wall to wall Boris when it was the London mayoral elections. SATS disasters which we don't have in Scotland. (We don't have the dreaded SATS up here but we do have assessments in reading, writing and maths, pupils are tested "when ready" and there's no big deal made of it. It's marked internally. The results are private. Teachers do their job. It works. )
And don't get me started on the new weather maps which condense the whole of this huge country into a distorted squidge at the top end of the screen. And as somebody pointed out recently on a comment programme, Glasgow has had a knife problem for years, but it's only when it starts happening in London that the politicians suddenly start focussing their hand wringing on it.
So food and fuel prices may have a lot to do with the election result as Labour would like to believe. But a general dissatisfaction with Westminster, coupled with the perception that the SNP have done pretty well so far is surely an even bigger factor.
Enough politics for one day. I'm away back to my textiles and my book.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Later in the afternoon we got a bus back to the city centre and ate a very late lunch/early dinner in Dino's in Sauchiehall Street (something of a Glasgow/Italian institution this, excellent food, even more excellent service.)
One of the nicest things about the day from my point of view was that it was a brief return to the time when my son was a wee boy and suddenly stopped being a baby and started being a really pleasant companion. Obviously he has grown up and away and independent, and I wouldn't want it any other way but just sometimes it's lovely to have a real mother/son day - wander about with absolutely no agenda other than enjoyment and conversation. Standing on one of the footbridges over the river, and watching the seaplane landing - an enchanting and emotional moment - was one of the high points of the afternoon. For a brief moment I don't think it mattered whether we were this middle aged woman standing with a viking at her side - or a much younger mum with the wee blonde lad in glasses he used to be!
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Overnight too, it quickly became obvious that after the last engineer's visit, I had mislaid the service policy documents. Aaaaargh. They probably, said my husband, went the same way as the car tax disc. That was eventually found, still in its envelope, at the bottom of the dustbin. Not the nice clean blue recycling bin, you understand but the slightly smelly green household waste bin.
A frenzied search of all folders, drawers, cupboards, and even the insides of cookery books, lasting several hours eventually resulted in the discovery of the original receipt, service numbers and handbook, filed away under a completely non intuitive heading. But still no policy documents. Nevertheless, knowing that I had paid to renew the service agreement earlier this year (about three weeks before the damn thing started to go wrong - phew!) I got up, made coffee, phoned the recommended number clipped onto the fridge receipt and immediately entered the Kafka-esque universe of the call centre.
It was one of those voice recognition processes which never can quite recognise my voice. It understood Hotpoint, and Fridge Freezer but baulked at the date of purchase. Eventually, on option one, I got through to a polite human being who told me that I was definitely insured, but since I was calling a service centre, I would need an authorisation number, and that could only come from Curry's. He gave me a number to call which would allow me to confirm said number, as well as agreement number and possibly replacement documentation. I dialled the number he had given me and realised, half way through the same voice recognition process that I was back where I had started, calling the service centre. I spoke to a different polite human being (one with either a summer cold, or such ferocious hay fever that she was practically incoherent). She confirmed that I would have to get an authorisation number from Curry's and gave me a number which I realised was the same number. Option six, she said, helpfully.
I dialled again. More voice recognition. It was beginning to understand me, familiarity I suppose.
But - dear God - I was back where I started, with the service centre. Moreover, there was no option six. There were only four options. I listened again and decided to try a different option. Can't remember now whether I pressed three or four, but I got through to another nice polite human being who said 'the whole system has changed.' He quickly summoned all my policy details, gave me my agreement number (I am insured until 2012!) and an authorisation number to boot.
He has promised to send me new policy documents within the next few days.
I called back to give the service centre my precious authorisation number and book an engineer's visit and pointed out (politely - the whole transaction was extremely polite!) that the information they might be giving customers in similar circumstances was somewhat out of date. The number worked but there was no option six. I honestly don't think she believed me.
The moral, I suppose, is - whatever you do, don't lose the documentation! When the new agreement arrives, I'll be filing it under home insurance. And not in the bin.
The fridge freezer is working again.
For how long? That's the question.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Monday, July 07, 2008
Now before I go any further, let me say that I'm all for recycling. My whole eBay business is based on recycling and nobody is happier than me to see a piece of lovely old linen being given a new lease of life, used and treasured by a new owner. I'm no fan of plastic bags either, having done a fair bit of sailing in my life, and seen the mess they make of certain West of Scotland beaches. I usually have a reusable shopping bag, and in fact the back of my car is always full of bags, wine carriers etc.
But on this occasion, I had nothing with me except my handbag. I filled a wire basket with more than I had intended of course. The delicious meal (Marks and Sparks food is undeniably good, though pricey) plus some strawberries, plus yoghurt and their strong leaf tea, of a kind which is getting harder and harder to find here in Scotland. I queued at the check-out and when I got there, the assistant said in what can only be described as accusing tones 'Don't you have your carrier bag with you?' This is what happens, you see. Our politicians used that horrible, hectoring, nannying tone, and it's infectious.
'Oh, no' I said, waking up from what had been a queue induced trance. 'I'm sorry. I don't.'
'Well' she said, 'Do you want a 5 pence carrier or a 15 pence carrier?'
I looked at my far too expensive shopping. I looked at her. I looked at the long queue behind me.
'Do you mean' I said, 'That you are proposing to charge me for a bag?'
'Yes' she said, a little smugly.
I did a very quick assessment of the situation. The long haul back up the town flashed before my eyes. The fact that I could buy just about everything on there in Morrisons, much more cheaply. The fact that I don't believe for one instant that Marks and Sparks really care all that much about saving the planet. The fact that they didn't have - for instance - brown bags for people who might have genuinely forgotten their reusable, environmentally friendly carriers. The fact that there was a long queue behind me. The fact that the assistant was unfriendly. It took seconds.
I said - quite politely, I think - 'In that case, I don't think I'll bother thank-you' turned on my heel and walked off. I could hear the assistant ringing for help, even as I left the store.
It was the single most satisfying thing I had done all weekend.
As I said at the start - I don't really hold with plastic carriers and often shop in Lidls, where the food is cheap and excellent, and where I am completely happy to trolley all my stuff to the car and pack it for myself in an assortment of bags and boxes.
But - here in the UK at least - environmentalism has infected some of our big commercial organisations with a kind of smug 'take it or leave it' attitude which sits very ill with the fact that they are expecting us to spend more and more of our hard earned cash.
It is exactly like a bunch of slightly overweight politicians who have just voted themselves a vast sum in additional 'expenses' presuming to lecture us on wasting our food....
Friday, July 04, 2008
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Monday, June 23, 2008
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Here's the latest of Alan Lees' 'naive' studies of - mainly - Ayrshire and Renfrew, with a few wee excursions elsewhere. The Pavilion which you can see in the background was built in 1911. I used to go to dances there when I was 16 (ie a long time ago but not quite as long ago as that!) It was very very respectable in those days, no alcohol as far as I remember. After that it seemed to go downhill a bit but more recently it has been nicely restored as 'Pirate Pete's' aimed at children and the exterior looks much as it must have done back in the early twentieth century when the tourist trade on the Clyde was flourishing and many Glasgow people came 'Doon the Watter' on holiday. This is a lovely detailed artwork which you can also find here. Alan Lees, having moved from sculpture to painting over the last few years, is finding these old Clyde Coast scenes particularly inspirational and particularly popular. This one has a variety of people including an ice cream seller, a wee lad with his 'gird and cleek' at the bottom right, an elegant young couple, two wee lassies at the drinking fountain and a variety of other children skipping, playing football, etc. He can hardly keep up to the demand for these pictures, which seem to strike a chord with so many people. 'They make you feel happy' said one customer recently - which is no bad thing. Because of the demand, he is considering having prints and greetings cards made but is also trying to work towards an exhibition for next year, for the great clan Homecoming and the Robert Burns anniversary. If you own a likely Clyde Coast venue (preferably one with a historic holiday connection, eg a hotel or restaurant or traditional cafe) and would like to host such an exhibition for summer 2009 please do contact us via Alan's website
Monday, May 05, 2008
Arran was just emerging from the morning mist and Ailsa Craig was floating on its own cloud, like Tir Nan Og, in the distance. We were taking photographs as inspiration for paintings so you'll probably see some of them on here in due course. The whins are in golden, coconut scented bloom and the hedgerows are full of bluebells - it really is an idyllic time of year. For the first time ever, we walked down towards the lighthouse at Turnberry, which was built on top of Robert the Bruce's castle (well, one of them anyway!) - you can just see the remains in the picture. It involves a pleasant walk across one of the most famous golf courses in the world, and you get the distinct feeling that the right to roam is an ever so slightly unwelcome concept for some of the golfers - but the path is a good one and access is through a well made wooden style so the hotel is certainly amenable to civilized walkers, which is what we were!
Monday, April 28, 2008
You can also use them as picnic cloths for those special occasion outdoor meals! Picnics fall into two categories in my book - those ordinary everyday sandwiches in a plastic box and tea from a flask affairs where you've taken the kids, the dog, or just yourselves on a hike and need sustenance - or those more elegant summer events where you might indulge yourself with nice food from a wicker basket, and dare I say it - champagne in glasses - all served on a cheerfully retro tablecloth. Not that we manage it very often, but when we do it's always memorable. I'm about to list a heap of them in The Scottish Home - so why not spoil yourself and make plans for an old fashioned civilized picnic?
Monday, April 21, 2008
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Here's another of Alan's nicely evocative and faintly nostalgic paintings - an Edwardian beach scene, with children paddling - inspired by Barassie Beach. These naive and colourful paintings are - slightly to our amazement - selling well although admittedly the prices are highly competitive. I think people find them cheering - as I do myself - pictures you can live with, pictures that remind you of a long lost world where the pace was slower, and pleasures were simpler. Well - that's what we like to think anyway!
Friday, April 18, 2008
Monday, April 07, 2008
Sunday, April 06, 2008
Monday, March 31, 2008
A much better option would be for everyone to agitate for all new houses to be built with solar panels. This is, on the whole, a very sunny country and the new energy efficient houses on the Isle of Gigha - for example - are both cheap to heat, and almost too warm. Yet in this village alone, we have a small estate of new houses, none of which have solar panels as standard. Installing them later is an expensive business, especially for what essayist Slavenka Drakulic calls the already 'ecological poor'.
If developers could be forced to include them from the off, it would make far more difference to the future inhabitants of the houses than tokenism of this sort. But of course that might eat into their already healthy profits. Grrr.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
Friday, March 28, 2008
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Friday, March 21, 2008
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Monday, March 10, 2008
Britannia is beautiful, particularly the engines (I have a really soft spot for these stunning elderly Clyde built engines!) How could they ever have thought of scuttling her? The tour is well done and informative and because it's still early in the season we had plenty of time and space to look around. You'll find all kinds of useful information on the link above, but I have a couple of personal observations - one is to wonder why on earth, as a Clyde built vessel, she isn't berthed on the Clyde? And the other interesting observation is the relative lack of opulence aboard her. I mean there are some pretty opulent pieces of table silver, usually of some historical significance (they always make me think of that quote from Dickens, I forget which novel, where the silver is assumed to be saying 'wouldn't you like to melt me down?') But the interiors are relatively simple. No gold bath taps here. And all, so they say, at the Queen's behest. No fuss. It is a very restrained interior, much like (one assumes) Her Majesty. The other wonderful place is the vast laundry. All those uniforms, all that linen to be laundered every single day. They never closed. And it still smells of soap powder.
More about Holyrood in another post.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Monday, March 03, 2008
Monday, February 25, 2008
I've been writing a piece about Glasgow, and the word has been much in my mind. But I was thinking about it even more today, when I posted what I thought was a faintly humorous observation about something on a professional website, to be met with a series of what can only be described as spiky responses. And it struck me that I have been living in Scotland for so long (we moved up here when I was twelve - it's my country, my home) that I now take ironic self deprecation coupled with a certain gallus sense of mischief completely for granted. It never occurred to me that somebody might actually take me seriously. The Scots I know and love regularly puncture pomposity with a few well chosen words. I'm used to it. It's a baseline for all interactions. But I had forgotten that not everyone understands or approves and I do sometimes wonder if this isn't one more symptom of the chasm which seems to be slowly but surely opening between our countries.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Sunday, February 17, 2008
We provided the venue, the cock a leekie soup (traditional, with prunes) home made oat bread, potatoes and cheese. The rest of the meal was brought by assorted friends, including haggis, home made steak pie, and three spectacular trifles, all different. As we sat there over coffee, there was a sudden power cut, but since we had a great many candles already lit, nobody much cared. There is a sense in which this old house comes to life when the electricity goes off. I always feel it, and it seemed peculiarly powerful that night. When our guests had left, I pottered about by candlelight, gathering up glasses and dishes. I paused in the sitting room, listening - and as always, felt that there are people living here still who prefer candlelight. The next day, I wrote a poem about it.