Monday, February 20, 2017

Shadows on the gravel

Up and clear headed to take a business call at 10:00 this morning. Then another day of fog and damp rolling in from the sea. The cloud was a touch higher today, however, so when we were at sea level down in Doolin past O'Connors and the little river that rushes by it, down to the sea we had an inspiring view of the cliffs, with great Atlantic waves breaking against them. Climb up a few dozen metres and we were in the cloud again.

John drove us around lots today, along the coastal road, which is such a weird science fictional place, with the sheets and curves of the limestone rock curving into a wild misty grey sea. Stolid cattle finding scraps to eat here and there, and farmers driving out to see them in jeeps.

Along the coast, past tiny broken stone fishermen's cottages, through some villages and we stopped for a drink in a pub by a little harbour. Then we went off to visit Yeats' Tower, Thoor Ballylee, we were the only people there for some of the time. Yeats wrote about his tower lots, and even named one of his most famous collections after it. Felt quite important for me, who has carried Yeats's words around in my head for 40 years to see it for myself. And it was exactly how I had pictured it (having seen photos and so on over the years).

Nearby was Coole Park, where Yeats's patron Augusta Gregory lived. We had to drive past Kiltartan to get there, mentioned in An Irish Airman Foresees His Death. Coole Park is now a nature reserve, and there is a lovely walled garden, where there was a quote from Yeats suggesting their shadows were still there in the gravel, with an Autograph Tree featuring the carved signatures of Lady Gregory, Yeats, Singe, Jack B Yeats, and many others. The house itself was according to Wikipedia was actively demolished by the state in the 1940s. If true this was a very misguided act in my opinion, for the place was very tied up with the Irish Literary Renaissance among other things. Very evocative was to find stone stairs leading up to what would have been a grand house.

On the way home we stopped at another ruined church, (with a very active graveyard featuring more relatives of John's this time spelled Lahiffe with an e) which John kidded his kids was Rapunzel's tower. The photographs show why.

Felt a bit of a Y.B.Yeats fanboy by the end of it all. Home via some shopping in the county town of Innis, to snatch up my copy of Yeats and read some lines from "Meditations in Time of Civil War" describing Yeats's tower.

A cozy evening indoors by the fire, eating some gorgeously fresh fish we'd bought this morning across the road. Lorraine cooked a mild fish curry and it was delicious.

Below down by the sea in Doolin; zooming at the misty cliffs; a tower emerging from the mist near Doolin; Lorraine and Sue by the seaside with orange sand, black rocks and a fearsome sea. I watched someone picking feathers from a dead seagull at one point. Not sure why they were doing this; a lunar landscape curving down to the almost unseen sea; a view back at typical wind-warped bushes and trees; Yeats's Tower, Thoor Ballylee; the stairs up to the house at Coole;  another broken church with a magnificent tower, with a door only reachable by long ladder. John says it may have been used to store precious things in when people came raiding; some tree moss.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Glimpses through the mist

A mysterious foggy day in County Clare. John and I drove to the nearby town, Ennistimon, to buy breakfast and food for the day. John pointing out an undertakers which also has a bar in it, which was rather marvellous and made me want to visit it. He drove us down narrow country roads with fields woods and a general Tolkeinesque fog on the barrow downs feel to it. There is a local claim that the Lord of The Rings was inspired by the nearby landscape. I'm certain Tolkien would have loved the landscape here. But the dates don't add up. He had already published the Hobbit in the 1930s

Home and a lovely big breakfast, and then John drove us off to explore. We drove to a nearby ruined Church, the landscape is marvellously populated with evocative ruins of old stone houses, enormous stately houses, and churches (added atmosphere with the mist). There is a Lahiff family grave, a photo of that below. Also a Sheela na gig holding herself open invitingly above the ruined church door.

We are in on the edge of a village called Doolin, and near the famous Burren, 'not wood enough to hang a man, nor earth enough to bury him' which is a vast elevated landscape of limestone, which as we drove through it shone slickly with water. John drove us past ancient Wedge Graves and we visited a perfumery, where we watched a short slideshow, showing the amazing variety of flowers that grow on the burden, from arctic species to tropical ones, and there are orchids and all kinds of exotic plants growing there. There are also cattle which loomed out of the mist at us. The whole place, in the mist, is full of magic. Although without the mist apparently it is utterly spellbinding full of long rolling views.

After these wonders, back home for some dinner of roast chicken and apple pie, both Peter Kenny pleasers, before we went off to O'Connors pub again, where John's cousin Noel was playing flute with a ring of other musicians, some of whom left and others sat in. The music was traditional Irish and beautifully played. Noel, who also runs two farms, played beautifully and his interplay with an excellent banjo player was a thing to hear. I lapped up more delicious Guinness while I listened. The bar had quite a few Americans in it, tracing their roots perhaps.

Eventually we sloped home, driven by John who does not drink in the year till after St Patrick's day.

Below, inside the little church; the just discernible Sheela na gig; some carving; the well tended Lahiff stone with John, unlike some of the broken teeth of the oldest graves; a wedge tomb about five thousand years old; a cow looming out of the mist; Sue and Lorraine all wrapped up against the damp and wind on the limestone; the limestone; Noel and his pals playing in the pub, the woman with dark hair sang a beautiful unaccompanied song at one point; a black and white snap of how they make the walls up on the Burren, which Sue particularly loves, with lots of holes to let the wind through. Generally though a tough day for photography with the fog continually coating the lens.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

To Ireland

Up and nipping around the corner to buy breakfast to get the day started. Then a packing frenzy before Lorraine and I drove off to Gatwick. Nice to be back there, though on the Ryanair plane it was not cattle class, more factory farm class. I felt claustrophobic, far from a window, and only the migraine inducing yellow and blue colour scheme to look at. My ears are rubbish, lurching when the plane turns. Poor Lorraine crammed into a middle seat, while I go through the full Woody Allen on the isle seat.  However the price is attractive, and we made it to Dublin safely and in good time.

Met by Sue, now sporting a blond cut, and still slim, and were taken outside to climb into a car with John. Then a long drive through Dublin then across the middle of Ireland to the west coast, chatting as we went. John a mine of information about Ireland's history, and also was taught the way to read Irish car number plates, which include the area they came from.

Then we arrived at Doolin, having left the motorway near Galway, and driven along a narrow twisting road, with signs for the Wild Atlantic Way. It was dark, and at one point John turned off the lights for a second, to prove it, and said that his mother had used to tell them horror stories about Banshees and so on, while driving home to Gort where they had lived.

John dropped us at a pub called O'Connors on Fisher street. A nice pub. I gulped a pint of Irish Guiness down in no time. Lovely. Then had two more. We ordered some fish and chips, and these were really good too, and John returned, meeting his cousin who is a musician as well as being a farmer. A lot of noisy but harmless boys came in and things grew quite lively for a while. We slunk off, tired, and John drove us home.

Their place really nice, and homely and we sat by a real fire and had a nightcap before going off to bed. A dark night and quiet night, reminding me of the Guernsey of my youth.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Evidence of spring

A day of various parts. Did work on the novel, then worked through a list of got-to-dos, including chasing up the door people, who are coming to replace our front door. After I said hello to Sonia, I headed off for a long walk in bright and sunny weather. Walked for two hours, listening to the book about C.S. Lewis as I went. In Preston park, which was part of the walk, saw these crocuses which made me feel happy and spring like, and paused to buy a cup of tea and a blueberry muffin to eat in the cafe. As I was doing this, I was offered yet another job for the days we are going to be in Ireland.

Lorraine home and now on half term. She arrived frazzled, but much improved after being coaxed to the pub for a beer and a bite to eat.

Below evidence of Spring.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Suspiciously like hard work

More walking listening with some fascination to C.S. Lewis - A Life. And more writing, and wishing I could be half the writer Lewis was. Still I'm dragging the MS into shape. Suspiciously like hard work at the moment, but my happiness with the results is forcing me forwards.

Beth off to be Gloria the Hippo. Her show is going really well. Also talking to my lovely French client, wanting to know if I was early next week, however I will be in Eire, so I won't be. Typical. A quick cross channel moan about politics. Val said she has always been an optimistic person, but is struggling to see hope at the moment with a Brexit precipitated crisis in Europe, and Trump. If Le Pen gets elected in France this year, she is going back to Canada. Watching Trump's antics in his press conference today. Monsters are always just a hair away from comedy. In a parallel universe this man is hilarious.

Lorraine has one more day left at school before half term. She is like a runner straining for the tape.  Went to bed tonight and listening to Tabula Rasa by Arvo Part in bed. Rather nice. One should make time for the good things.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Bridges not walls

Getting down to the MS again this morning, again feeling what a boon Scrivener is. A quick chat with Toby via messenger, a conversation with a colleague about tweets, but otherwise working fairly steadily.

A walk in the afternoon off to see Janet and Ken, listening to the C.S. Lewis biography.  

They are hoping to move house in a month or so. Janet had just found out the place they are moving to is in some need of electrical work, but she doesn't begrudge this too much as the house was had at a good price. Ken looked well, and cheery and sitting in his usual chair, much improved from a spell when he was prescribed antibiotics that didn't agree with him, nor proved necessary.

Home and cooked, and spoke to Mum this evening.

Beth home tonight, having done the first real show (which went down excellently) and pausing afterwards to drink some peach schnapps and lemonade with the cast afterwards in the trusty Crown and Anchor. 

On the way to Janet and Ken, some scruffy graffiti with a good heart. The Bridges bit is actually a railway bridge.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Hippo in the Hippodrome

Nose to the grindstone today, apart from an hour's walk to oxygenate and exercise. This blinking manuscript is hard work. But I want it actually to be good, so sticking with it. Off this evening to Eastbourne in the car with Lorraine and John to see Beth in the dress rehearsal of Madagascar where Beth plays an all-singing and dancing hippo, in fact she puts the hippo in the  Eastbourne Royal Hippodrome Theatre. Dress rehearsal seemed to go well, and it was actually a high-energy show that I enjoyed and I am sure the droves of children going to see it this half term will lap up too. Beth excellent as usual, and singing really well.

Afterwards we went for a bite to eat in the Crown and Anchor and a couple of beers. A man sitting with a parrot on his shoulder at the bar. Perfectly acceptable provender there at a decent price too. Drove home, avoiding blocked motorways and dropped Betty and John off in Hove before going gratefully to bed.

Below Betty being Gloria the hip hip hippo. And others.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Yawning, walking and working

Almost no sleep after 2:30 last night for some reason. But lots of writing today and lots of walking too. At the top of the nearest down on the edge of town is an iron age Hollingbury Hillfort.  There doesn't seem to be much information about it. Anyway, much mooching about today listening to  C.S. Lewis - A Life by Alister E. McGrath, which I am quiet enjoying. Otherwise hard at work on the MS.

Lorraine home late tonight, and Beth rehearsing, so I watched Son of Saul on Netflix. Absolutely brilliant, although utterly bleak, film of the experience of someone enslaved as a Sonderkommando in Auschwitz. Very pleased when Lorraine came home.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

In the Naughty Corner

Up slowly, and had some breakfast, before Lorraine and I walked down to the Marwood where we met Sophie and Andros for a coffee and a good deal of talking too.

Just really good fun to be hanging out with them again. Appropriately, we sat in the Naughty Corner. I drank three coffees. Good to hear about how Christof and Electra were doing, and talk to Andros about films and Sophie about life. Looking again at The Shining door they have there complete with a plastic Jack Nicholson face poking through it. Of course Andros worked on The Shining.

Fond farewells, Sophie and Andros heading back off to London, and Lorraine and I went home by bus, and Lorraine worked on school things, and I did bits of my own work, cooked and so on.  Also did some sorting out of clothes, and our shared wardrobe. We threw out lots of my ratty teeshirts.

Saturday, February 11, 2017


A businesslike Saturday.

Off today to Eastbourne to have the Telltale AGM. Was driven over by Sarah, who insisted I put my bag in the boot instead of the back seat in case it went under one of the pedals. I really like Sarah. To Robin's new home, which is absolutely lovely, with huge, high-ceilinged rooms, and an immense garden. Discussed the future of Telltale with Sarah, Robin and Jess. I said I didn't want to continue with it and Robin said neither did she. I have agreed to do some bits this year, and hopefully we will have an anthology at the end of the year. If it continues in some shape or form will not be down to me. Rather mixed feelings about this, but I feel I have to focus.

Drove home cheerily with Sarah, who dropped me at home. A long planned pleasant evening with John and Beth, and a delivery curry which I felt like wolfing down.

Friday, February 10, 2017


Quite excited that Lorraine was actually working from home today. Did a fair amount of work today, and in the afternoon worked on a potential new business opportunity, then went for a walk. Very cold today.

To Hove with Lorraine on the bus in the evening to a Vegan restaurant called Rootcandi where we met Sophie and Andros and ate vegetables. Everyone liked the restaurant, although I have to admit that vegan is not my favourite way of eating, although it is pure in a Jainist way. I offset this with some Singha beer.

Really happy to see Andros so well. Apparently he had an operation last year, that pretty much brought him back to life having been given five days to live. He now can walk faster than Sophie. Amazing. Much to catch up on.  Luckily we see them again in Sunday.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

A slow jaunt to the smoke

To London. Lorraine and I left early, she dropped me at Preston Park. I had left with bags of extra time, but the train was cancelled, the next one slow and delayed. At Victoria the District line so crowded that everyone was kept outside the station. Some days the travel gods are against you and there's nothing you can do about it. After about 25 minutes people, led by a particularly aggressive  woman, began hectoring the young woman on the gate. Then at last we were let in.

Late, I still scraped in just before the big meeting with my chums in Chiswick. A new client, and quite a nice one. An interesting project; a lengthy brainstorm and a working lunch. I managed to shun Maltesers, M&Ms etc. that others were picking at during the morning. Nice to see my Chiswick pals again. And one particularly nice client.

All done by early in the afternoon. A fairly smooth journey. Lorraine home on time having picked up a stomach bug from school. She spent the evening curled up on the sofa, I fed her a few bland things.

Below a cheery queue outside an entrance to Victoria tube station, the queue stretched about fifty metres in each direction. I was near the front. London is hard to love sometimes.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

An unwanted lungful

Unwanted visuals and headache gone today. A bit of a wan post migraine day feeling glum and wanting to be springy and full of life but finding myself feeling old and creaky. However did plenty of work, and spoke to Mum who has had a welcome break from visiting hospitals on her own account and with Mas, and Janet who kindly offered me a chair she won't have any use for.

I also went for a short walk. Passed a lad of about sixteen on the nice middle class streets hereabouts who, when I was about ten yards away from him, lit up his joint. This caused me to breathe an unwanted lungful as I passed. There is nothing furtive about smoking a joint these days as there was when I was a lad. People are literally happy to puff it in your tetchy old face as you walk past. Perhaps he thought he was doing me a favour.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Star spangled eyeballs

A good start today, pressing on really well with the on the long MS. Looking out of my window I could see the windmill on the far horizon and a blue sunny sky. Next time I looked up the house was in the middle of a dense fog, which itself disappeared a bit later. Felt quite tired and underpowered again. Had a coffee to perk up, and an hour later at 1:30, and thinking about going for a short stroll, suddenly I couldn't see my screen properly. I went to the mirror and looked into my own eyes, and it is a sure sign of a migraine that when you can't see your own eyeball that it is a migraine. Soon the eye spangles started and it pretty much wrote off the rest of the day feeling wussy with a hurting head.  After a short sleep, I crawled back to my desk to join a teleconference, but mercifully this was only half an hour and I had to listen and not talk.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Gleams of hope

All yesterday I felt about to go down with a bad cold, tired and achey, and then no cold appears, but the tired and achey persists. Worked steadily through the day however, and took a short walk. I'm trying to focus on the MS at the moment to the exclusion of everything else. Although it is not easy trying to bring the thing into final shape, it is rewarding and I do have gleams of hope about it too.

In the morning Janet called me, rather upset over Ken who has had a bladder infection, and since being put on antibiotics has been very unsteady on his feet, and has fallen over. I spoke to her later and the doctor had called by and a physiotherapist. The doctor had taken him off the antibiotics as he had no infection anyway. Hopefully this will help.

Spoke to Mum at tea time, she was just back from the hospital saying she had self diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but the doctor at the Royal Free Hospital thought it was unlikely. Which was good to know, although she is going back for more tests. Luckily Mum or Mas have no hospital visits left this week.

Cooked supper, a spicy vegetable rice and fish concoction for my lovely wife, and then had an early night.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

An interlude in Ashford

A fast journey to Ashford and we were there in an hour, listening to Desert Island Discs on Radio 4, with rugby referee Nigel Owens, in what turned out to be an inspiring show that had Lorraine and I glistening at the eyes as she drove. It was filled with passionate Welsh tunes, and ended with I am what I am. Before that was a really tense Archers omnibus. The Archers used to concern itself with chutney recipe controversies, to a backdrop of moos in the cowshed. Now its all mothers tearing stolen babies from the arms of psychotic kidnappers.

Then we arrived at Pat and Maureen's for a cup of tea before Lorraine drove us to The Blacksmiths Arms, where we had some good quality soup and roast turkey, a great deal of vegetables, and the no-brainer choice of an excellent lemon meringue pie. Friendly in there, especially to Pat. Home and the luxury of a doze in the armchair. Having mentioned to Pat and Maureen about my desire to wear smarter clothes, and Pat offered me a pick from his ties, and I bagged two patterned beauts. Lorraine and Maureen booking a holiday for Pat and Maureen down in Devon for later in the year. Maureen saying at one point, "I do say what comes out of my mouth sometimes," which I enjoyed.

Home again, armed with ties for me, a mirror for Beth and a small garden bench, which we were able to squeeze in the car. Beth back home late after a long rehearsal for Madagascar, the musical where she stars as a singing hippo.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Mermaid's purses

Lorraine deciding not to do any work this weekend, which was great. We had breakfast then drove off to Lidl in Shoreham, and popped into B and Q to buy some sealant gel for the bathroom, and cat biscuits. Then we went for an hour's walk along the seafront in Hove. The stones from the beach on the walkway again, which often happens. Lorraine collecting empty mermaid's purses to take to school, as dozens of them had been washed up. We stopped at the meeting place for a cup of tea and an exemplary rock cake, looking out to sea. The horizon now dotted with the Rampion Wind Farm, while I am all in favour of sustainable energy, it does make me feel a bit nimbyish about the cluttering of Brighton's traditional view of an unbroken horizon.

Then home, watching final score. I felt tired and achey and slept heavily, and woke up feeling very disoriented. Every time I think I am recovering from this virus I am ambushed again. Match of the Day enjoyable as Chelsea extended their lead at the top of the table by spanking the enjoyably disappointing Arsenal. 

Friday, February 03, 2017


Good work on the novel this morning, then I mooched down to meet Catherine for papal audience in The Bath Arms, ate fish and chips and talked at Catherine till her ears wilted. Catherine with a day off from the University, really good to see her, although work has been hard, she's been off colour with a virus, and she was sad as one of her and Tanya's beloved cats died on Monday. Pet deaths are tough.

One of unappealing characteristics is moaning. Once I have moaned wretchedly for a while, I feel cleansed, happy and optimistic. Weirdly the hearers of this moaning don't always feel the same way. Luckily Catherine is made of robust stuff, and endures a bit of moaning in good spirit. She is a most excellent person to talk to, funny and entertaining and inspiring. Perhaps my subconscious takes her Pope surname to heart, and I come away feeling absolved.

Walked home afterwards in a good deal of rain, and felt suddenly very flat and tired. Spoke to Mum, in a flat and tired way, and then closed my eyes for a bit, and felt rejuvinated.

Soon Lorraine was home, after her difficult but successful week. Off to the Preston Park Tavern where we had a few drinks, and were joined by Dawn and Anton. A cheery evening. Anton full of shopping advice on clothes, although his favourites seem to be Eastern Bloc military surplus. Good to see Dawn too, who declared she wanted to live in Yorkshire in some kind of Wuthering Heights style.  Dawn and I chose a spicy cauliflower, lentil and rice dish there, which was tiny and overpriced. Not doing that again.

Thursday, February 02, 2017


Another good working day, progressing with intensity and focus. Afterwards went for an hour and a half walk late in the afternoon. Finished listening to A Little History of Religion. As someone who is somewhere between being an agnostic and a theist, I found the book to be a dispassionate overview of how religions grew and added to one another's stories. Not a great deal in there that was new to me, but generally it confirmed my prejudices.

Went for a long walk. I'm infuriatingly still low on physical energy, but I plodded along, finding little rewards as I went such as this late afternoon lovely light in Brighton. Energy or none, I still am focused on walking my 10k paces.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Bun struggles

Fox in the garden today. A dog fox I think, which I have seen a few times now. It might explain the skittishness of the cats, and Brian who blatantly sprayed near the back door while I was standing there. He received a few of my opinions.

Beth still not well, but heading gamely off into the world again, to do rehearsals.

Otherwise a quiet and focused day of working on the story. Took myself for a long walk in the afternoon. Inventing a new circuit to the top of the nearest big hill, and through two parks. It does my ten thousand paces in one hit. A bit drizzly but satisfying nevertheless. At the end of it I passed a bakers selling strangely magnetic iced buns, and it took a good deal of willpower to overcome this bun struggle. Minimal lunches, in an effort to lose some weight, may explain it.

I made a pork stew, in a home made chicken stock crammed with a multitude of vegetables for supper today, administered to my lovely wife after going to Pilates tonight.