Archive for November, 2003

Miss Urquhart’s Masterpiece

Sunday, November 30th, 2003

We haven’t been buying pictures again. No, really. The cover story this time is that it’s possibly a midwinter or birthday present for the Payrologist if he likes it. He writes, incidentally, (he is one of the few people left who write multi-page letters on good paper in a firm hand, a hand habituated […]

A superior Jacquerie

Thursday, November 27th, 2003

The hayfork has arrived,which is to say that we have it in our possession and that we are (despite the tone of the Queen’s speech which suggests that we’re all going to be locked up for our greater security and comfort) apparently still at liberty to enjoy it. We collected it today from the most […]

Newsflash of Canadian Origin

Monday, November 24th, 2003

FLASH … Yesterday, at the Main Post Office in Aberdeen, a Commando squad took into custody **********, a Lady Novelist, and her husband, Dr. **********, a Northern Professor. ******** and ******* alleged that the large parcel they were attempting to claim was an antique wooden Canadian pitchfork, sent to them by […]

Going to Work on an Egg

Monday, November 24th, 2003

We get our eggs from the Geordie Ambassador’s missus, whose hens are so pampered I am surprised she hasn’t knitted them all little woolly balaclavas and legwarmers against the cold weather. They are wonderful eggs, gloriously random, massive great things alongside tiny pullets’ eggs, round ones, tall thin ones, brown, white, speckled. Since they tend […]

Sweet Dreams

Sunday, November 23rd, 2003

This weekend, it has finally turned properly cold. We have been amazed that it has held off so long; but suddenly it’s here: clear black nights with diamond stars, the leaves and grass furred with tiny spicules of white frost, the last leaf fall. We enter our winter regime, the house becomes a secret place […]


Friday, November 21st, 2003

The Canadian Professor sent us the following email about the household’s Christmas present:
Thirteen Uses of a Christmas Present from Canada
1. Theological: an illustration of the doctrine of the Trinity, earthier, if not earlier than the rabbit of Long Melford. Vide Nicholas Lash.
2. Eschatological: for the first three of the four last, or whichever three […]

Rural Mysteries

Thursday, November 20th, 2003

It is not often round here that there’s a knock on the door after dark. Jehovah’s Witnesses, canvassers and so forth tend to do what they do in hours of daylight, perhaps in the belief that if they appear unannounced at lonely houses at night all kinds of things might happen. All kinds of things […]

Legitimate Protest

Wednesday, November 19th, 2003

The arrival of President Bush in London reminds me of one of the more glorious moments of the city’s past: the International Incident of Barclay and Perkins Brewery, in South London, by Borough Market. It was the brewery’s draymen who are the heroes in question. In 1850, one General Haynau paid a diplomatic visit to […]

Yahoo, Anybody There?

Sunday, November 16th, 2003

Do any of you technocrats have any idea where I can find a contact email for Yahoo that will actually get read? They are driving me mad at the moment: they keep sending me emails saying they don’t have my credit card details and will close me down; the point being that I only use […]

Missing You Already

Sunday, November 16th, 2003

We were unexpectedly blessed with a crisp, blue and gold autumn day. Not what you expect in Aberdeenshire in mid-November, so I went out to finish planting the bulbs –– we blogged the bulb order weeks ago, but what with trying to finish books, festschrift articles, a little light teaching and one thing and another, […]

Heroism of a sort

Sunday, November 16th, 2003

The Northern Professor was contemplating a festschrift which I had sitting about: celebrating the lifetime achievement of someone who had contrived to be a professor at Cambridge from 1969 to 1982 without ever having written a book: to be quite precise, he had reached retiring age having written all of twenty articles (the N.P and […]

Great Chain of Being

Saturday, November 15th, 2003

I wandered out into the garden this morning to look at the weather (the expressive Scotticism ‘driech’ about covers it, if you want to know), and the sheep, who had been lying up in their field, stormed down to the fence and huffed and stamped at me –– my garden, like the house itself, is […]

Insurance policies

Saturday, November 15th, 2003

Two more intaglios have found their way into the house: quite lowgrade Roman ones. Bought from an individual in Brentford or thereabouts, an area which as I recall saw a certain amount of traffic by the military in the first and second centuries. The ‘seller’s other listings’ on Ebay suggested a very definite flavour of […]


Wednesday, November 12th, 2003

The Lady Novelist is somewhat perturbed. Academic life permits the odd moment of looking beyond one’s desk: in the ten minutes before giving a lecture this morning, I am pretty certain that I saw a story on the BBC Web-News which made a number of points of which this was the first: that President Bush, […]

Un Rapporto Eccessivamente Morbido

Sunday, November 9th, 2003

Of course the English Ascendancy has always been quite right. It is a clear sign of a rotter to know too many foreign languages, as an interview panel at the University of Cambridge once trenchantly reminded me. And as for the crime of holding treasonable correspondance with those lying overseas, they should never have taken […]


Friday, November 7th, 2003

The Lady Novelist admits to a fair variety of recondite obsessions –– Latin women poets, Abyssinian cats, and intaglios are high on the list –– but above and beyond that, she has a tendency to develop passions for plants (not ‘a passion à la Plato for a bashful young potato or a not-too-French French bean’, […]

Murder in the Cathedral

Wednesday, November 5th, 2003

For tedious reasons of my own, I have been prodding about in the Latin literature of the twelfth century, which is how come I found myself in the library the other day taking a look through the letters of the future St Thomas à Becket, before he was done in on the orders of Henry […]

Help Wanted, GSOH Essential

Wednesday, November 5th, 2003

The Lady Novelist has just accepted a commission and would like to ask if anyone can help. It’s a Radio 4 short story for St Valentine’s Day –– they’re commissioning a series of them, to be broadcast that week –– and the theme is ‘Once Seen’. There is a category of small ads, apparently, unknown […]

Her Grace the Duchess of Morpho Eugenia, aka A.S. Byatt

Wednesday, November 5th, 2003

I was talking on the telephone last night to my dear friend from Cortona who has directed me to this ideal kingdom. You need to scroll down until you reach the Viceroy of Redonda’s announcement of this year’s annual prize, a list of the noblesse of that Kingdom, and the patent for the ennobling of […]

The Wonders of the Mobile Telephone also intaglios

Tuesday, November 4th, 2003

I rang the Papyrologist’s fin de siecle flat in London yesterdayand he wasn’t in, so I rang his mobile telephone, conversed amiably for a moment and then, hearing traffic, asked him idly where he was, thinking that he must be in the City somewhere, to receive the reply that he was just getting out of […]