grains of sand


The tiniest detail has the power to make me happy – finding the ‘pins and fixings’ tin, choosing a couple of cup-hooks and the bradawl, screwing them into place to hang the broom, the dustpan and brush, the cotton bag housing the bread and the one with the veg, all – wonder of wonders – on the inside of the kitchen cupboard door. I am ridiculously pleased with myself. A slightly competitive friend has just sent me a photo of his superior behind-closed-doors arrangements with special fitments, but I’m delighted to have made good and mended with what was at hand.


While I’m pondering on why that is all so very satisfactory another memory comes to mind – of a very unattractive sight. On the motorway I stopped at the services; walking in I saw a bath, a real bathroom bath, full of something red. Not a pleasant set of associations for a start. As I passed it was clear the something was in fact baked beans, and the explanation was charity: for £5 a particular young lady would agree to sit in the tub and suffer a tin of cold beans to be poured over her head. There was something so counter-intuitive and repellant about this whole performance I couldn’t bear to watch as the girl, fully clothed, climbed in – and I did wonder about the eventual fate of the beans – going to the pigs I suppose… So – as utterly displeasing as my cupboard door was pleasing – strong feelings.


These are not matters of beauty but somehow of what is proper, or fitting, or appropriate. Things find their own places and we feel at ease and have a sense of it all having been worth the wait.

bunchJust as I’d happened to bump into that bean travesty I was lucky enough to see a flower shop on my route through Bermondsey where the toast-eating owner had these real glories to offer – definitely something beautiful to delight my hosts, along with the box of ripening honey mangoes.


A diverting entertainment in Norwich was provided by this edition of ‘Housewife’ magazine, one shilling. A happy parade of summer fruits dances merrily into the factory in Squashville and swaggers out as jaunty bottles-about-town. fruitMy first thought was – what a lot has changed since June 1950 when this ad was published; then I thought no, wait, strip away that charming mid-century styling and what do we get? Many manufacturers and advertisers are still trying to tell and sell us the myth that they care whether our fruit, peas, cows, sheep, eggs are ‘happy’ aren’t they…even though many of us want to talk turkey about the food industry and stop it horsing around with ingredients. But this stylish Picquot Ware kettle is a design masterpiece and as such lives on – and is still available, now at £135! And what do you think of these Gothic foundations?



One of the pleasures of birthdays is the exciting moment of the cake being lit with candles, the song and the hip hip hooray, the secret wish of the first cut. This action-packed football pitch choccy confection was very well-received by a fresh eleven-year old, his brothers and his mates – I felt quite proud!


I’ve been seeing a lot of men in hats lately, rather surprisingly – two bowlers, a coolie, a trilby, a dandy straw number and a fedora. The first bowler, brown, was jaunty atop a youthful cyclist glimpsed from the car. He had a checkered brown close-fitting overcoat, drainpipe legs, and shiny tan brogues too – quaintly stylish, perhaps pedalling to a performance as a mime artist or puppeteer. Another day, slightly misplaced in Victoria, I was approached by a round red-faced gent in a suit and a black bowler offering to help me. He was, he said, put there by the local traders; thankfully he certainly knew his onions when it came to the geography of SW1. The coolie, trilby and fedora were slumped together rather the worse for wear, shading their owners’ heads from a few hours of sunshine after a night out. And the dandy straw number was of course worn by a dandy.


What did the brassiere say to the hat?


Always makes me laugh! 

And I’m rather pleased with my cheerful new stickers – 35 different images – it’s pot-luck which one you’ll get on your order.


Off this evening to see the opening of my niece Sophie’s exhibition plus performance Every Day it’s the Same at The Book Art Bookshop and then to catch my nephew in cabaret at The Pheasantry in Chelsea in one of his incarnations as Sidney and Percy – I’m told “it’s a bit rude, auntie”!


To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower

Thanks to Alan, Molly, William Blake and the Mortons in Norwich

14 thoughts on “grains of sand

  1. Love the painting P. got me for my birthday. Thank you so much.
    We had that kettle at home you know. x

    • Thanks Lizzi, glad you like it. Yes, I first saw that famous kettle at your house, and I think your Mum and Dad gave it as wedding present too – for my first time round that is! x

  2. Hi Sarah, Evan Mansell ( my Gradad ) loved that joke too!!! Especially because he got to use the word brassiere!

  3. Love your hat and bra joke!!And the Kia -Ora ad. Fifties was ‘propa’ artwork, eh.
    I’m off to Paris to do some drawing this weekend. I would love, eventually, to organise a blog like yours. It’s so enjoyable. wishes, April

  4. I just love all your blogs, with your attention to detail and the ‘colours’ are all so amazing – I see your picture and is that you, I just remember a little girl in an indian outfit!!

  5. Oh, I do share your joy in a small task accomplished, Sarah! – preferably with fitments already to hand. That curious, meditative scraping sound of sorting through buttons or screws or hooks-and-eyes in an old tin, questing just the right one for the job.

    There is an entire body of research into the properties of sand and how it behaves, by the way. Really fascinating.

    Do keep going with your lovely postings.

  6. Hi Sarah, I once read the following in a newspaper: “All these days that have come and gone, I did not know that was life”, Anon, and I shivered with regret that I had not kept a diary. You with your remarkable attention to the details of life will never have that regret. I find your record amazing – keep it flowing. David

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