Thursday, January 18, 2018

A bit of lit in Lewes

Felt  cheerful this morning still. Up and doing stuff of one kind or another. Even getting a cut and paste book rejection (from the large agent I sent the children's book to yesterday) didn't phase me. I think they were just bouncing that kind of book at the moment. Resilience.

Put a chicken in the oven, and waited till Lorraine had got home, (Dawn was staying the night) before boofing off to Lewes to the John Harvey Tavern to a Needlewriters event to hear three poets: Jeremy Page, Mark Urbanowicz and Robert Seatter. Enjoyed the readings. Robert's was from The Book of Snow, a beautifully produced book mostly about snow and paper. He read very well too, so I bought the book. Jeremy read a short story which was quite funny, and about life on campus. I noticed a woman in the audience who I thought looked just like Caroline Lucas who, when she left, turned out to have been Caroline Lucas.

Also enjoyed hanging out with my poet pals in general, and Robin, Sarah, Stephen (who gave me a copy of his new pamphlet Plainsong Robin had a single copy of her new pamphlet, All The Relevant Gods too, which will be launched next week), Charlotte, Clare Best, Catherine Smith, Jeremy Page and so on. They are a nice bunch. Stephen gave Robin, Sarah and I a lift back to the station, and Sarah and I made off to Brighton. A lovely night, and I fashioned a chicken sandwich for myself when I got home.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A turning point

Spoke to Mum twice today, and Mason has been released back into the wild, which is very good news.

Another very productive day. It felt like some kind of turning point. After several hours, I finished my draft of Sin Cycle and have sent it to Sarah, Robin and Charlotte, who have all said they don't mind having it inflicted on them. After this I sent my children's novel out to two more agents, having had no response from the last one I sent it to. My targets this year to improve my resilience in the face of inertia and my networking. I need continuous but sustainable effort.

This made me feel in a good mood. I went for a long walk down to the sea to celebrate, and felt cheered in the sunlight and fresh air. I bought Jacqueline Saphra's book All My Mad Mothers (she was one of the T.S. Eliot prize readers on Sunday. I have also sent off for the collections from Ocean Vuong and James Sheard). And simply walked home again to do some more work, and then read some of Saphra's poems.

Lorraine home a bit late. A Sainsbury's delivery from a loquacious driver, who even before he had stepped in our house dramatically announcing, 'I have good news and bad news' about something that needed to be substituted.

Lorraine keen on a French cop show we watched tonight called Spiral, whose second episode started today with a severed head in a sink. I like how it is written, with lots of moral ambiguity in the characters.

Below the low sunlight made the views from the pier dramatic.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Productive day

Terrible night's sleep but a productive day. Feeling more positive and purposeful than I have in some time.

Lorraine waking up, then once I was thoroughly awake, went to sleep again after I had put my hand on her shoulder, which magically sent her to sleep as it does quite often.  I was in the wide awake club however.  I dropped off for a few minutes just before I got up, but  I woke up shouting No! After a quick nightmare about Calliope leaping at a magpie, which flew high up with her. After this I simply got up instead, looking out of my study window half expecting the scene to enact itself outside my study window.

Had a very good day's work, starting very early, which made me feel happier than I have felt for a while. I have also almost finished the group of poems I'm calling Sin Cycle, which I feel quite pleased with. They are freer, more irreverent and funnier than poems I have written before, but no less serious. I spent much of the day happily buffing them up.

Hus came around and finished off the floorboards work, which necessitated a good deal of banging and crashing. Had a coffee with him, and chatted. I like Hus. Spoke to Mum, and briefly to Janet. In the afternoon I went for a walk for getting on for two hours while listening to Woolf's Fire and Fury which is funny and depressing by turn. The characters described in it are vile. I wonder what Woolf is like.

More work on Sin Cycle when home, then I cooked a vegetable surprise when Lorraine got home. Back on Netflix and saw an episode of the new Star Trek, set in a parallel universe where Star Trek folks were bad. I remember an episode like that from the first series.

Below the entrance to the walled garden I popped into on my long walk.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Up with the floorboards

Up on with Monday. Talk of Blue Monday again, not that I buy into these things, but with dark grey skies and the rain pouring out of it, I counted my lucky stars that I wasn't pressed in a train somewhere in South London.

Hus came around with a friend and pulled up the floorboards in the hallway. Turns out it wasn't as bad as I feared. After a few hours work, they had fixed it. He is coming around tomorrow just to finish off. It did mean the day was full of banging and crashing which didn't help my concentration any. At one point they left to buy wood, and Calliope of course dived into the hole and disappeared for quite a while, leaving me to picture her being boarded in. But she emerged covered in dust some time later.

I continued the Great Sort Out , and going through various files and throwing stuff out, and tidying cupboards. It feels quite good. Also working on poems and having a long cold look at all my current activities. I spoke to Mum too, and Mas is still in hospital, and will be for the next two days at least until they finish testing him.

Went for a walk in the afternoon after Hus was done. I am listening to The Fire and the Fury, the book about Trump at the moment. As expected, it is damning. Fascinating in parts, but not particularly well written.

Ocean Vuong won the T.S.Eliot award today. I wasn't wildly impressed by his work on first hearing it,  although he did whisper a breath of fresh air into the room, and his work was about something real and important. I shall buy his book I think.

Lorraine home late, and we ate reheated biryani, which was as good the second time around, and went to bed early as neither of us had slept well last night.

Clouds I spotted on my walk in the afternoon.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Poetry at the South Bank

Got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning, and felt strangely grumpy all day, despite having lots of nice things to do. I phoned mum, and then got dressed.

Lorraine and I walked down to Cote for lunch.  Lucky Lorraine had to endure a bout of me moaning about my lack of success in poetry and writing and so on. The usual litany of January stuff from me. However my lovely wife had helped me sort my head out by the time we reached the restaurant. Problem is when I have a large moan I feel much better very quickly, but make everyone else feel horrid. Nevertheless we met Catherine and Tanya, and Guy and Tim. Interesting chats with everyone, including Tanya, who is a big fan of visual art. Was approached by old friend and colleague Spooner too as I ate.

Then Lorraine and I grabbed a cab, so I could get home in time to be picked up by Robin to go to the T.S.Eliot award readings. A tricky journey as part of the motorway was closed. However we managed to get to the South Bank in good time.

A few familiar faces, at 'the poet's AGM' again hosted by Ian McMillan, including Lucy, from Matty boy's agency, attending her first TSEs with a friend. Robin and I sat with Rishi Dastidar and Pete Reynard of Proletarian Poetry to whom Robin had sold two tickets. As ever, the readings were interesting. The best readers were Tara Bergin, Caroline Bird, and Jacqueline Saphra, the most unusual was Ocean Vuong, who read with a bit of a Michael Jackson voice. Douglas Dunn, a bit of a grand old man of verse was also shortlisted.  

Robin and I didn't hang around chatting, but she drove me home again, luckily the journey much easier this time. Had some good conversations about poetry and life in general while we were driving. Home at 11:30, and after eating a slice of bread, crept into bed beside Lorraine.

Below part of the mobs of poets and poetry readers. Robin and I attempt a selfie.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Biryani and Blackjack

Lorraine and I sloped off to Sole Sister's this morning to get our feet serviced. A nice guy sorting my plates of meat out, buffing them and getting rid of excess skin and sorting my bruised nail out and my slightly ingrowing big toenails. They almost looked like a real boy's feet at the end of it. Then we mooched about five ways briefly, and bought some vegetables and looked in other shops.

Spoke to Mum, and Mas is still in hospital for tests, but is bored and wants to go home all the time.

Then we took lots of stuff to Oxfam, me loads of books, and we also got rid of a few other bits. It is what is known in Kenny Towers as a house poo. Not necessarily pleasant, but everything feels a good deal better afterwards.

Then back home, and Lorraine did some epic cooking of biryani and other lovely side dishes, and I helped where I could. Suddenly feeling really sleepy and tired, and dozed for ten minutes as Lorraine worked.

Soon Anton, Anne, Klaudia and Oskar came around and we had a meal, then played cards afterwards, Klaudia's favourite card game, which is Blackjack and she is very good at it. My goddaughter will be 14 soon. Hard to imagine. 

It was good fun, and Lorraine's grub was delicious. Calliope, sitting in the middle of Lorraine's jigsaw, then getting involved with everyone as usual. Here is a photo of her sitting on Anton's lap while we were playing Blackjack.

Friday, January 12, 2018

The helpful blandness of Starbucks

Mason still in hospital. Otherwise a better day for me. Doing mind maps and just generally taking a helicopter view of my activities.

In the afternoon, I had a quick chat with Sonia, who said she noticed with approval how much tidier my study was, I walked it town and sat in Starbucks for a bit. For some reason I find this an excellent place to think and work, as do many others. It is partly the place's blandness. Also I think its position. There must be a strange kind of feng shui about being on the corner of two streets, where you can see the world going by. Anyway, I spent quite a bit of time in there working and thinking before I walked home again.

When Lorraine arrived home, we zoomed straight out to the Preston Park Tavern for a spot of dinner and a couple of beers. Lorraine had a good day today, with one of her staff writing to her board of governors to say what a good job she was doing.

Sloped home early, and boofed happily into the weekend.

Below the helpful blandness of the non-ideologically sound Starbucks.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


Up early but feeling a wee bit jaded after an evening out with Anton. Enjoyed looking out of my window this morning at the mist coming down from the downs, and looking down on the backs of gulls. I wrote to Tracey first thing, but then managed to turn to day into one of those were I manage to drive myself a bit mad, feeling an urgent need to get on with stuff, coupled with an equal and opposite inability to focus, or find any inspiration. Everything I worked on, I made worse. Gah. A kind of frustrating standstill.

I enjoyed walking across to Hove to see Janet and Ken, and drink tea and share a couple of brownies. Ken was looking a bit brighter than when I had last seen him. There was a bus there when I left, so I simply jumped on it and returned, and found myself more able to work productively late on than I had all day.

Mason kept in hospital, though is not too ill, and was dressed and ready to go when Mum arrived to visit him. Luckily, she persuaded him to stay.

A quiet night in with Lorraine. I griddled some smoked haddock, and we ate this with rice and vegetables. All really healthy.

Reading a book that Romy lent me, called The Year of Magical Thinking, a memoir of a year in which writer Joan Didion's husband dies suddenly and her daughter is fighting for her life. It is a well written and moving, but not exactly comforting last thing at night reading.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Time travelling

A brilliant start to the day, with Lorraine bringing me tea in bed. The day became slightly trying due to assorted first world problems not worth reporting. Not making as much progress as I had hoped, although had got a good idea down for a poem. Enjoyed cooking a big vat of turkey and vegetable soup, which I helped myself to liberally for lunch. In the evening out with Anton. I took an extended walk before I met him in the Joker as I'd cooped myself up all day.

There have been changes afoot in the world of chilli chicken wings. The purveyors of Woof Woof Wings have moved on from The Joker, to be replaced by another team who also serve chilli chicken wings with a different name. I suspect fowl play. While the new wings were perfectly okay, they were not the same as bone fide woof woofs. We had some grub there, and a couple of refreshing lagers, then at my request, we went back to the Mitre Tavern, a pub in Baker Street. This should be called the Tardis Tavern as it is like going back in time to around 1980. Most of the people look as if they've been sitting there since 1980 too. Anton was a bit sniffy about it, but I pointed out that people pay good money to go to foreign countries, but here you could visit the past for the price of a pint. On the way out I began to wonder if it hadn't actually been full of ghosts, and it might be completely different if we stepped through the door again.

There was much to discuss with Anton, mainly about Life with a capital L. So we went to The Great Eastern too. Here we sat next to a couple who were on their first date, but were quite chatty to us. The Great Eastern on a dark January midweek night like this a very nice place to be, being warm and cheery and not too crowded.

Fond farewells to Anton, and then home where I crept about quietly so as not to disturb Lorraine.

Below a quiet corner of The Great Eastern.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Happy hermit

Like a hermit today. All grey outside. After working on some poems first thing, I spent most of the day organising my workspace. The Big Sort Out as I am thinking of it. There is still work to be done, but there are increasing outbreaks of space and order. It feels great, and I feel the clearing out being reflected inside my head.  When in doubt, tidy up, as the Oblique Strategy cards say. Otherwise little to report.

I spoke to Janet who said she has long had a 'one in, one out' policy on books, of which she has many. I do frequently refer to my books, but only about twenty percent of them. Many of the others I have carried around in boxes for decades, dormant and never to be read again, quite a few of them yellowed and dusty and bought second hand in the first place. Why are they still in my life? This is not my usual way of thinking about books, but I am finding it very liberating. More than that, I am sieving out nuggets in the rubble.

A biblical email from Trace in California, too close to the big fires, and now subject to terrible floods. What next? Locusts.

Lorraine home early tonight, with a bag of meat products that she and Beth went halves on. A stir fry this evening.

The Hermit, from the Major Arcana, lofting the lamp of truth.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Anthology and absurdity

Lorraine off to school, and I started work right away too. First time for a while when I have been able to truly focus on my own work, and I have a huge cloud of things to be done. But I decided to simply do them one by one. Wrote to Richard. Then started read through the Telltale Anthology. Looking at the poems Sarah assembled, some poems I thought weak when we discussed them in December, seemed the strongest this time around. A reminder that submitting work is often just about finding the right reader at the right time. In short, luck.

I went for a walk midday, listening to the last of The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien, which has made me laugh out loud several times. It is one of the best novels I have read, and it sits in my mind somewhere between Samuel Beckett and Dante, but with added hilarity, written in a fluent high style and full of absurdities. I clearly remember being first recommended this book when I was 21. It has taken me till now to do so. It is a masterpiece of black comedy.

I walked to the sea, and on the pier, my iPone shut down. When I got home and plugged it in, it had 72% power. This has never happened before. My chief irritation was that my pedometer did not record all the good work I was doing walking.

Both Lorraine and I tired this evening, and we went to bed at half past nine, and I read most of The Chairs, a play by Ionesco, a theatre of the absurd piece, before dropping to sleep.

Below a view of the muted sea colours and overcast sky. The soul having to work hard to sing.


Sunday, January 07, 2018

A cheerful Sunday

Up fairly early (for us) on a Sunday. A keen cold wind today. Popped around to see Anton and Anne, as it was Anne's birthday, a glass of wine there and a good chat. Then into Sainsbury's to shop. I like shopping with Lorraine. A full trolly makes my lizard brain happy. Maybe this is why I look like Jabba the Hut.

Then Lorraine and I sorting things out in our guest rooms, till five thirty, when we popped next door to have a glass of wine with our new neighbours, Philipa and Harvey. We liked them and they have a smiling baby boy called Magnus who, curmudgeon that I am, is utterly sweet. Lorraine, smitten, instantly offered to babysit.

Home again, and I called Mum and Lorraine and I sorted our dinner out. A cheery day.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

At home

A strong domestic focus today. Lorraine and I enjoyably dragging things about in the house today, and packing things away in the big bedroom. Gradually we are establishing order. A good deal of opening boxes and looking at stuff and deciding its fate or where it should live. Surprisingly time consuming.

In the afternoon Carolyn called around, getting set for more travels in Mesoamerica, including taking in Mexico City. She is brave, because she feels trepidation before setting off, but does it anyway.

Friday, January 05, 2018

I know what I like in my wardrobe

Lorraine had a vile night's sleep last night, back into the school routine.  I was lucky enough to sleep in till seven, waking up to find the fairies had left me a cup f tea.  Got up and worked on poems, and then took copy comments then simply worked on the job till it was done.

When Sonia arrived, she said the living room looked much better now we had moved the futon upstairs. I told her that I was throwing things out, and she told me about a writer who had thrown everything out apart from a desk and his computer. He he lost lots of weight too, she said, looking at me meaningfully.

Off for a walk into town this afternoon, where I sold some books and gave others to charity. Enjoying the walk. Home and a bit more tidying and sorting. Spoke to Mum.

Then Lorraine home early, and we drove off to collect the wardrobe. We parked up outside and waited for half an hour for the nice man with the van, who had completely forgotten, but came nevertheless after finishing his dinner. Carried a wardrobe down four flights of stairs with the van man. It is a nice wardrobe, however, and at a good price so it was worth everything. Carried it upstairs at home and the paid the man with the van.

Soon after we got into a taxi, and went to meet Innis and Rosie at the Japanese restaurant at Seven Dials. We were early so repaired to The French Horn opposite, a pub with a drunken, shouty atmosphere, and cheeky pint of Doombar was badly kept.

A nice meal with our pals. Lorraine and I inflicted our Japanese tales on Innis and Rosie. Afterwards we went to the Cow, for a single drink, enjoying chatting to Innis. It was the bar where Lorraine and I hit it off ten and a half years ago, when it was called The Tin Drum. Rosie had to travel north for work the next day, so we went our separate ways.

Home and I fell fast asleep on the sofa watching the excellent Bojack Horseman. Lorraine woke me up and we went to bed.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Enthusiasm from thin air

Both up at six this morning, as it was Lorraine's first day with children in the school. I had a good day, continuing to ease myself back into productivity, writing two of my new short poems before 8am, which I was rather pleased with, then getting on with some work for Pat and the French Bloke till mid afternoon. Had to summon enthusiasm from the January ether somehow, but once I got going it wasn't too bad, helped by a 45 minute walk at lunchtime to blow off the cobwebs.

I cooked for Lorraine and we had a relaxed evening.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018


Tidied my desk this morning, as a prelude to restarting the year. Begun reorganising books in the house. I am going to weed out books I've not looked at in decades to make room. I've decided it is madness to try and cram increasing numbers of books into your house, when you know in your heart you'll never look at many of them again. 

Our chest of drawers delivered early this morning, and taken up to the big bedroom.  Lorraine working at home for a few hours this morning, then left to work at school the day before the children arrive. I took a brief from Pat and the FB on some work for the next few days, and most of the day doing the rather fiddly job. Beth had stayed overnight, zoomed off this morning too. We are all thinking about John as his dad is unwell in hospital.  

I found I was not at all in the mood to do work, although I simply got on with it. I think every year should start with a few weeks of getting in the right mood to begin thinking about working, before having to get down to the vulgarity of actually doing anything. However I managed to find the 'on' switch somehow. Weather mainly execrable but I found time to have a couple of brief walks around the block. Happy to have Lorraine home this evening, and pull in the snail horns and retreat indoors.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Opening wardrobes

Last day before work drags Lorraine and I off in different directions. So we spent it together zooming about in the teeming rain. We were on a mission to look at wardrobes and a chest of drawers. We went to dozens of places, some far out of town. One place attached to a cattery, which was very bizarre. A small raised pond with enormous koi in it, which momentarily transfixed me. Driving over the downs home, through enormous puddles and the hilltops lost in mist.

Went to one new store, which had rather nice furniture. Here we met Dylan's mum Sophie, and had a good chat with her. Young Dylan doing well, and I was very pleased to hear that. Lorraine and I lurking so long in the shop that we were brought coffee.

Later, however, we bought a sturdy and newish chest of drawers from a charity shop, and then drove to someone's house on the edge of town and paid a deposit on a lovely wardrobe we will collect on Friday. Wondering if the wardrobe people were Narnian fauns, but I was disappointed to find they weren't. We were fairly pleased with ourselves.

On our travels we had popped into seeing Beth for a cup of tea. John's dad is in hospital, so he's in London with him, poor lad. So Beth was on her own, so we invited her over for a roast dinner, which felt like the last indulgence of the festive period. We all played scrabble, and drank some beer. Me rather more than the others.

High winds tonight, from Storm Elenor, to spice the ceaseless rain. I like how they have names now.

Below are they shy or just a bit koi?

Monday, January 01, 2018

A domestic bubble

Monday 1st January 2018. Lorraine and I spent the day happily sealed in our domestic bubble. Breakfast in bed, and hauling things around in the house, such as the futon from downstairs to the big bedroom, which suddenly made our living room seem large and airy. All this seemed to take up lots of time, but we felt happy with ourselves when it was done.

Spoke to Mum on FaceTime, and saw some photos Toby had put on Facebook from his trip to Japan. Blue and crisp skies and scenery, as opposed to the overcast skies and steady rain here.

Lorraine coming up with another culinary marvel of a cheesy sauce and pasta. We also played a couple of games of scrabble. In the evening we watched a couple of programmes about the rock group Queen. A happy day, if not terribly eventful, for the first of the year. I am feeling lucky and well disposed to life at the moment.

I also had a Proustian moment. I opened a bottle of Greene King IPA, a beer I can't remember drinking before, and as I inhaled its hoppiness it suddenly took me back to the IPA my grandparents had in Guernsey. They used to keep bottles of IPA and Pony ale under the stairs, and I can't remember if they were Randalls Bobby IPA, or Guernsey Brewery IPA.

As for New Year's resolutions I have none, other than a need to ruthlessly declutter. I'll start with my office. 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Turning the page on 2017

Lorraine and I eased ourselves gently into the new year. I was happy just to be spending quality time with my wife. Calliope seems somewhat improved today too, which is good.

We went into town, in the rain and saw Star Wars The Next Jedi, just after noon. It was a good brainless hokum, with lots of spectacular zooming about in space and on distant planets, and various bits of Jedi malarky with light sabres. Of its kind, an excellent film. And it did manage to borrow a bit emotion too with the bits associated with Carrie Fisher, whose last role this was.

I had an outburst of eccentricity before the show, was in the loo having a strategic pre film wee, and suddenly had a poem idea. Trying to record it on iPhone just outside the gents, muttering some guff about rotten fruit into my phone, gained me at least one funny look. As I was doing this, Lorraine bought teas. Tea the perfect drink for a film starting at 12:30.

This done we emerged into the rain and decided to 5b it back home where Lorraine set about cooking the best biryani I have tasted in my life. Making it was a long process with lots of spice grinding, which Lorraine loves doing. We spent the night sipping champagne and sprawling happily on the sofa. Lorraine in head in a book mode  finished the new Pullman book at 2 am. Texts from Carl, Bob and Anton at midnight.

Few people I know will be sentimental about 2017, Anton in particular had a very difficult year, and I've felt up against it quite often, despite having so much to be grateful for. Being optimistic is harder than usual when the US president is Satanic, and the UK is investing all its political will into self destruction. But hope reigns eternal in the Kenny breast, so here's to a better 2018. But I'm going to keep my light sabre handy.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

A crook Calliope, and a deceptive door

This morning Calliope did not wake me up, nor was she sitting on my bedside table like an owl waiting to pounce on me the moment I showed any sign of waking. She remained curled up and sleepy, and didn't follow me to the kitchen for food in the morning. All abnormal behaviour for her. Lorraine and I went out this afternoon to Lewes. I had half convinced myself that my furry daemon  would be dead when I got home.

In Lewes, Lorraine and I mooched about in antique shops, with half an eye for a wardrobe to put in the big bedroom. Quite enjoy the random multiplicity of objects you find in antique shops, of which Lewes has an embarrassment. Lorraine and I looked quite hard, but found nothing quite right. Flagging we paused in a cafe and then made our way home, the train containing supporters of Lewes FC. In the evening I learned that Lewes play in the Boston League South, the same league as Guernsey FC. Next time Guernsey play there, I must see them.

Mum's birthday today, and we had a chat before suppertime. She and Mas had gone shopping today and had a meal at Nando's that neither were very impressed with. I also had a chat with Janet, who was about to enjoy reading all the papers with her house back to herself and Ken again.

Lorraine and I home again, and another blissfully quiet night in, and ate lots of vegetables. We watched a movie called Gone Girl, which was odd but interesting, as the still resolutely with us Calliope snoozed on my lap as usual. She was somewhat brighter this evening.

Below Lorraine and I passed this trompe l'oeil picture painted on a wooden door in a Sussex flint wall.  A portal into another world. Then two views of the River Ouse, which was living up to its name as it slid through Lewes. There is the Harvey's Brewery, the source of many good beers.