Monday, December 11, 2017

Cheery day in ice cold London

An unspeakable morning, with icy pouring rain. Much of the country covered in snow. Lorraine off to work, and after I sent a worky couple of emails I packed up my bag and headed off into the deluge. Outside my gate a man passed walking his dog, and said 'nasty weather' to me from under his hat, and he was right.

Walked down to Preston Park. A South African businessman based in Australia started talking to me as we peered out at the rain that had some snow in it, but he soon began to enlarge on foreigners, the dangers of being 'overrun' and the glories of Brexit, I made my excuses and legged off to faux first when the train came.  Up to Paddington, where the rain was slushy. Into the Paddington offices, and dropped off the laptop they had lent me, and received a handshake from now recovered Daniel, and hug from my pal from other agencies, Yas, who was there and just about to go to Sri Lanka today, and from Harriet one of the team I had been away with in Austria. From Paddington, two stops to Baker Street where I found Bob standing outside The Globe pub, in a big waterproof coat and a stern face.

We hurried down Baker street, into Caffe Nero for coffee. Then, next door to somewhere that sold baguettes, bought two of these, and walked and ate in the thick slushy snow. Mooched southwards, crossed Oxford Street and went towards Leicester Square. Near there we stopped at a pub to dry out and warm up a bit, and drink a refreshing beer. But the beer we chose was called Whitstable something or other, and it tasted of petrol. From there sauntered towards Leicester Square. I took a photo of Bob in the street as the precipitation had stopped for a bit, and I said, 'You look fabulous', as I snapped the notoriously hard to capture on film Bob. A young slim black girl walked past, and turned around and said, "Thank you" to me. It was all a bit awkward, but I felt I didn't want tell her that I was talking about Bob and not her, as she seemed so pleased.

Great to chat to Bob all day, on what has become a bit of a traditional pre-Christmas booze, and discuss the many and various things that needed discussing. From there to the Salisbury, which was very cold inside but served beer. We sat near the door, and I could see my breath. I was gaping like a goldfish as the manageress happened to glance at me. Bob and I had a cheeky beer in there, and then went to The National Portrait Gallery, to see Cézanne Portraits.  While an interesting exhibition, neither Bob or I liked the portraits much, and we had great fun finding ways of picking them apart and denouncing them afterwards, so enthusiastically that we got lost walking towards the Seven Stars on Carey Street. Here Bob gave me a bottle of Bruadar, an interesting-looking malt whisky liqueur.

Eventually we hailed a grumpy taxi driver, who took us there. A couple of cheeky beers there, and then we walked to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, but our favourite room was by then full of interlopers so we went downstairs for a pint of porter that tasted of vanilla and chocolate (Bob) or toffee (me). Then we crossed Fleet Street to have a beer in The Punch where the bar staff were drunk, and finally made off to the Bengal Tiger for a fairly decent curry. As we were near Blackfriars, I bade Bob a farewell from there. At Preston Park, I walked up the hill at home I found had done just shy of 20k paces, which is a good haul for the day. Crept coldly into bed and chat to Lorraine before sleep.

Below the deluge snapped this morning walking to the station, the interior of the Salisbury, one of my favourite pubs, and Bob looking fabulous.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Duvets and destruction

A stiff gale rattling the loose tile on the roof last night, and lashings of stormy icy rain... Lorraine and I sensibly stayed in bed till the afternoon, in fact it was virtually a duvet day, nipping out to supply ourselves with breakfast and cups of tea. Once up, Lorraine and I spent the afternoon emptying everything from the kitchen cupboards, and putting everything back again in what Lorraine said was more logical ways.

My wife cooked an exceptionally tasty vegetable stew this evening, which we ate watching the last two episodes of Robot Wars. This show where people build destructive robots to do battle with one another speaks to my inner schoolboy. Seeing bits of metal flying off lovingly constructed robots and heavy machines being tossed into the air is great fun. The young guy who won the competition this season, had been watching Robot Wars all his life, and winning it was his lifetime ambition.

To bed, not dreading the coming day, which was nice.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Man about town

Lorraine is scared of few things in this world, but her hairdresser is one of them. We sprang out of bed, after I'd drip fed Lorraine some tea and made some boiled eggs and marmite toast Lorraine drove us off into town, armed with my Santa suit, to be returned to the folks at Beth's drama school, and two cylinders of CO2 for our fizzy water machine, which I replaced as Lorraine hurried off to Paul her hairdresser. A gorgeous morning, cold and bright. Lorraine phoned me a few minutes later, walking to Paul's knowing she was on time, and full of happiness, which was rather lovely.

I ducked into city books, and found a cafe and sent a few messages and emails, then spoke to Janet and Ken and made off to see them, armed with nutty chocolate brownies, and stamps that I picked up for Janet. Nice chat there with Janet, among other things about being a Critical Friend to businesses and practitioners. As I had woken up in the morning thinking this might be a useful thing for me to think about.

Leaving Janet and Ken, I walked back and sat in the window of Paul's salon as Lorraine had her hair perfected, and minutely sculpted, especially at the back. I was a bit disappointed as Paul's dog, Henry, wasn't in a singing mood. Apparently he sings a good deal. Lorraine then sprung out into the world with lovely hair.

We met Beth for lunch and went into Foodilic which specialises in healthy salads and so on. I fancied a healthy salad. Felt all cheery after seeing Beth. I love my life in Brighton, and being able to pop in and see people, and meet people for lunch and so on. I am very lucky. Contacted Anton, who is in bed with a nasty Man Flu.

Then Lorraine and I mooched about buying a birthday present for John, and then went home. A brief bit of downtime, then we walked down to New England Street, where James was exhibiting some his art. Some of my favourite local artists where there including John Dilnot, who made my box of owls, and Heike Roesel, who showed Lorraine and I how she makes her prints and the etched surface of the plates, which were very beautiful in themselves.

Lots of walking today. Left my phone at home for our second expedition, which meant I didn't get a full count of my walking. Oddly irritated by this, as I would have smashed my 10k paces today.

Walked home with Lorraine and Betty and we ate the roast chicken that had been in the oven, and then Lorraine and Betty spent much of the evening plotting food for Christmas, and making lists and having a thoroughly good time. I sat with them, sipping a little bottle of beer, putting tunes on and it was a happy end to the day. Beth leaving for home at the end of the day.

Below, Lorraine pulling a strangely obedient face while having her coiffure done.

Friday, December 08, 2017

A dangling day

Up early and another day of working at home, dangling in vain all day for feedback for the work I did yesterday. However I simply got on with other things, such as writing a post on my other blog and went for a long walk in the afternoon. A cold, clear day. I was listening to an audiobook of The Third Policeman, and it was making me laugh aloud. It is a brilliantly intelligent and crazy book, and could only have been written in Ireland. I started it many years ago, but didn't get on with it for some reason. I am so pleased I found my way back to it.

A lovely walk, in woods for a bit, then down the roads to Preston Park, where I had a cup of coffee in the cafe, and then walked home in the cold and long winter shadows, even though it was only three PM. Spoke to Sonia, who is going away on holiday again next week. Once I'd done everything, I called Mum for a FaceTime chat. Then I nipped out in the cold and ordered a curry from around the corner. Lorraine arrived home when I was collecting it, and she had poured a beer for me when I got home, and we had a night on the gold sofa. Lorraine falling asleep early, and worn out, and I was much the same. I am ready for a holiday.

Below long shadows in Preston Park...

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Working at home

So up early and after Lorraine and I scarfed some porridge, I began writing copy about an unpleasant inherited medical condition for an app. No travel today, thank goodness. The weather ghastly outside, windy and rain. I thought I'd be done by lunchtime, but it took me till mid afternoon. Broke off for a short walk before it started pouring, and had a couple of coffees. After completing the first draft sent it off to Pat, and then began watching a documentary about Voyager missions. Fell asleep and woke up an hour later, with things to be done, but luckily Pat was going to get back to me tomorrow so my sudden narcolepsy did me no harm.

Jenny, our next door neighbour popped in to say she was moving house next week. I like Jenny, though she is very shy.

Lorraine came home early, and we caught the bus into Hove where we met Betty in the Paris House, after a hard day of elf-work in Churchill Square. Betty doing well as an elf, and has already had to step up as team leader. Apparently they had an excellent Santa today, who knew the names of all the reindeer. I was taking notes.

Then we popped down to the Bottom's Rest for a bite to eat, some chicken wings salad and fries. Lorraine and I then bussed home, or rather bussed to the foot of the hill then walked home. Very unusual to get Lorraine out in the week, and despite her feeling guilty, she really enjoyed herself. We went straight to bed when we got back.

Below, a view out of my rain-streaked study window, and a snap of a Ho Ho Ho from the bus with me reflected in it.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

A day and evening by the Thames

Off to Hampton this morning. A bit of train kerfuffle, trains cancelled and went on autopilot Victoria instead of Clapham, but all was well in the end.

Basically spent the day with several of my old muckers. Went to the French Bloke, Perky and Pat's agency in Hampton by the river. Keith was there too, and I shared a desk with him. Briefed on the job by the FB sitting on a bench in the cold looking at the river. Michel interrupting himself by saying Oh look, a grebe!  

Walked off to buy a pie with Pat and Keith at lunchtime from a shop in Hampton village. A saunter back. In the afternoon the FB strapped his headphones on and began squeaking his motorbike leather clad leg as he began to listen to some unknown tune. I mentioned to the others that it sounded like a teenager's bedroom, and a few of us snickered somewhat as the FB manfully squeaked on.

Everyone left he agency quite early, and Keith gave me a lift to Kew in a nice little MG sports car, we  were laughing like drains driving along. Lynne, from the Paddington agency phoned me, and was saying that people weren't scared enough of her. She is extremely nice woman from the South sea islands. The people I went to Austria with are quite scared of her, and when I asked her why, she said, 'my people ate their people', which made me laugh. Keith and I drove on, talking obsessively about fish for some reason he has developed an obsessional interest in a new aquarium, which he says is a money pit into which he has poured loads of cash.

Dropped off in Kew, close to where I had once lived. Walking towards Kew Bridge I spoke to Mum, who said she had had a brilliant time with Romy in Amsterdam. Really pleased to hear that.

I walked to Kew Bridge and down Strand on the Green to The City Barge, where Matty boy and his Chiswick agency mates were having their Christmas do. I'd only worked five hours for them this year, but was bought beers and fed, which was nice. They had just finished a hotly-contested quiz just before I arrived. Apparently it had featured lines from a poem of mine, and some by Lucy Silver, who is working with Matt now, and is a young promising poet in her twenties. Also Steve said he had used a slide I had presented to them years ago in a presentation today, which had gone down well. I seem to be in the agency somehow, without quite being there, which is lovely. I enjoyed chatting to everyone, particularly Matt, Jo (who remembered dancing wildly with Lorraine at Matt's wedding) and Lucy and Matt's pal Brendan too.

I walked off to Kew Bridge station with Judith, who is Pat's wife (these agencies are very incestuous) and we trained off to Charing Cross together, and I caught a train to Brighton. The thing was jam packed with standing room only. I was bursting for a pee when I got on, and had to travel all the way to Brighton without being able to get to the toilet. At last at the station, and they had closed the sodding Station toilets too. A cross-legged cab home. Very happy to be home. Went to bed and talked talkatively to Lorraine.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

The future now

Not much going on today. Fiddled with some poems first thing, and then chatted to Pat a couple of times about a job, which at the end of the day resulted in me having to go up to London tomorrow, for a day with my pals in Hampton.

Otherwise a slightly limboish day waiting to find out what was happening with work. I walked into town to buy myself a moleskine diary. Not my normal scarlet one, but a sort of darker red with a bit of blue in it. This something of a revolution for me as my last nine years or so have all been the red ones. I half regret this breaking of the pattern, but there is something freeing about it on the other hand. Bizarre how much bandwidth the buying of a diary took up today. Nevertheless I enjoyed putting the first dates into the new year. 2018. What a science fiction year that seems. I think back to being a child and 2000 seeming to be unimaginably futuristic.

Home again, and I cooked a pie, with a filling that Lorraine had previously made. She zoomed in and then went off to pilates.

Below the bipolar bear I snapped on a Brighton wall just off London Road.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Poets altogethery

I'd slept quite well, and woke up feeling that the weight of tiredness is abating a bit. I made Mas and I some tea, I ate some toast. Mason has soup for breakfast these days, but only fancied a banana to go as a side dish with his various pills. Quite a long chat this morning, and I left when one of his carers arrived, who seemed a nice.

I walked to Mill Hill station, and trained slowly down to Preston Park, from where I walked home. On the journey I read again all the poems gathered by Sarah for the anthology. Home, and I made time for a bit of admin, including billing DDB which was nice as I sent them quite a hefty invoice. I have not yet been paid for what I did in October though, so wolf drool is beginning to splash the door.

Off next to Lewes, to meet Sarah and Robin at the entirely sensible venue choice of the Lewes Arms. Really nice to see them both, and discuss the work with them over a slow pint, and how best the poems would fit. We were in the side room, where a woman was decorating, very tastefully, for Christmas. Made me feel happy. After a couple of fascinating hours we were done, and Stephen Bone and Charlotte arrived (referred to as The Gann by Sarah who had summoned her). We all had a great time gossiping and talking about poems. These are some of my favourite and most interesting people that I've met through poetry. Sessions like this make you feel that you're not entirely bizarre in your pursuits and that there are people out there who understand what it is to be troubled by a love of poetry. Eventually Stephen and Charlotte had to go their separate ways, and I wanted to get back home to see Lorraine. Fond farewells. Home clutching a bag of biscuity stars that Robin had made for Christmas.

A train back to Brighton with Sarah. I walked up the hill from London Road Station seeing how the houses are beginning to twinkle with Christmas lights. Got home to sit with Lorraine on the gold sofa and chat about the day, before slinking happily upstairs to bed.

Below, the Lewes Arms. As fine a venue for an assembly of poets as is possible to imagine, and the Lewes War Memorial which particularly caught my eye today as I walked there.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

To Edgware

A late start today, Lorraine and I finding it hard to get out of bed.

Looking at deciding what needs to be done in the bedrooms we have just had painted. But not for long, as I had to start getting ready to travel up to Edgware. Lorraine dropped me off Brighton Station and the journey took a bit under three hours. Arrived at around 5:45 and I phoned for some Chinese food, which Mas and I scarfed happily, then watched a Spiderman movie that was on TV, Mas chatting about life in Hollywood for a while, and how all the actors who played bad guys, such as Ernest Borgnine who we happened to see as he was channel surfing, were friendly when encountered in coffee shops.

To bed, early-ish after speaking to a tired Lorraine, who had been working on school stuff all afternoon.

Below, Blackfriars Station.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Being Santa

Up and off to Bolney today. Once I was up and had a cup of coffee, I felt utterly brain dead and could hardly think for a while. Tiredness coming in waves, like it does with jet lag.

Lorraine's school having its Christmas fair to raise money for the school, so lots of people setting up stands and parents and children zooming about. My part was to be Santa. I arrived early with Lorraine and then lurked in Lorraine's office, before changing into my Santa outfit.

The clothes not too bad, but the beard, which had been bought separately was wild in a nylon way, with a odd rictus for a mouth. I was led by two elves around the school, ringing the school bell ho-ho-ho-ing it up, and then I was led to my grotto, and sat there for a couple of hours chatting to children in the character of Santa. This went remarkably well, and for the most part the children were chatty, one or two were dumbstruck by the large red apparition, but all went well. A couple of ontological debates around the existence of Santa, which I managed to come out well in. I decided to ask children about what they found most magical about Christmas, and received a variety of answers, including: giving to other people, and seeing my relatives, as well as the getting of presents. I advanced the theory to some children that the answer was in fact brussels sprouts, but I had few takers in that. Was photographed severally by parents with their children. I think I had as much, if not more, fun than the children. I have always loved Christmas, and being part of it for dozens of children, in a steady stream for two hours, was a privilege.

After this, Lorraine led everyone in getting the school ship-shape again. Then some of the locals invited us to the pub across the road, and we went there for a quick drink afterwards. People clapping Lorraine as she came in, and I was bought two beers in appreciation of my Santa skills. One person said that I was very professional. It's a job with a future.

Then home, and we went to The Park View pub for a quick drink and a bite to eat. Then home, worn out again and an early night.

Below struggling with the Santa beard in Lorraine's office before being unleashed on the world.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Sofa day

So up quite early, after my lovely had brought me a cup of tea, and did laundry and ironing, and a few bits of admin. I was still shattered and slept in the afternoon on the gold sofa while Sonia was here, after chatting to her. I had no desire to go out this evening. Lorraine working really hard at work, and home late. I cooked and we had restful Friday night in front of the TV, which was exactly what we needed. Spoke briefly to Mum, too.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Homeward and hungover

Woke up on time, as I had remembered to set my alarm. James, who had morphed into a guardian angel last night, had arranged for everyone to have a wakeup call in the morning too. Up and dressed, and downstairs for a large breakfast. I was personally feeling fairly dreadful, having only had a few hours sleep and way too much to drink. These things are a matter of degrees, however, as some of the team had only been back at the hotel for a couple of hours. James went up to Dan's room and physically dragged him into the shower, to get him up. Cars arranged to take us to the airport. Snow on the ground. I was in the need of a good deal of water.

The flight, from my perspective, abominable. Hungover, exhausted, too hot and as a consequence very edgy. Worst moment was going to the toilet, standing there noticing how much weight I had put on in the last few week, and then getting several searing chest pains. I looked into the mirror and thought, this is how it ends. I always knew it would be on a plane. However after a large burp, I was somewhat better. Extremely happy to land. Fond farewells to everyone in the airport, then the long journey home from Heathrow. Tubed to Victoria, then bought a pasty at the station and a cup of tea, which I consumed on the train home. The pasty bringing on another session of stabbing chest pain. A taxi home, where the taxi driver told me off for yawning as he had only just started his shift. Home a bit before five. Thank God.

So happy to see Lorraine and we ordered a delivery Indian meal, and sat on the sofa chatting. Calliope sitting on me constantly since I returned. Then, gloriously, into my own bed, with Lorraine with me and no more work to be done. Last glimpses from the hotel of Vienna, and an industrial area on the way to the airport.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Into Vienna with Top Hat askew

Last day of the Summit meeting today. Downstairs to the breakfast room, scarfed a large breakfast, then hurried to the main room to be do the Voice of God, a good shepherd who advised people when to leave rooms and enter them, and did a few introductions to speakers. I did a fair amount of moving between floors to. As upstairs VOG I was more visible. After I made an announcement, one woman came up to me and said "I don't have any coffee." Sadly my powers to manifest a cup of coffee for her did not match that of the deity. As a team all the things that could have gone wrong did not go wrong, and the day was a success, should your tastes extend to dull, content-free corporate guff.

Huge relief once the event was wrapped, and clients pleased. Some time then spent tidying up the office room we had spent hours in, and then upstairs to freshen up and then assembled in the bar.

Finally then, at around eight, a chance to go out into Vienna. We went to an Italian restaurant, booze was drunk and some not bad food eaten.Then walked through the streets towards St Stephens Cathedral, which looked beautiful. We found a bar, which was full of people smoking, but it was too crammed. Instead we went to a hotel bar which overlooked the Cathedral, and had plenty of drinks there. Dan, who had been the soul of hard work, client pleasing diplomacy, began ordering shots and strawberry daiquiris with some abandon. Things got a bit lively as the drink and the sudden absence of stress after two weeks kicked in. Time to realise too what lovely people I had been working with. I had taken to them all, and they seem to genuinely like me too. An altogethery night. Outside, snow began to fall, lit up in the beams of light around the St Stephens.

Things grew steadily livelier. Maria, Den and Ashley wisely dropped out at this stage. Ash is an amazing powerhouse of a person, who worked like a dog over the last few days leading the team. But when the adrenaline dropped, she had to head home.  I went with the others in a cab to some species of a nightclub, which we entered being stamped on our hands with a spade from the card suits. As the evening wore on they seemed to be playing the same tune free beats endlessly. Met some our nice clients in there too. I danced, naturally, and drank another drink. Luckily at around three, and feeling tired, James, the art director sorted out a cab for me like a guardian angel. Sleepy as it slid through a Vienna still slightly snowing, with the streets slushy. I crept back into the hotel, top hat askew, at 3:30, and fell asleep like a giant redwood.

Below, in the Italian restaurant, my new friends Rimple, Ash, Finchy, Dan, James, Harriet, and Den. For some reason, Maria, who was sitting on my left, didn't make it into the photo. In the bar, Dan gathers some Strawberry Daiquiris, glimpses of the lovely Cathedral, a street scene, the smoky and trendy bar we went into that was too full, and a surprisingly arty snap of the nightclub, which I think was probably The känguru club in Schwechat

Tuesday, November 28, 2017


So today I was the Voice of God, the disembodied voice that booms out over a conference. I was told to get to the conference room, incredibly impressively decked out with projections, machines, wall posters and so on that I had worked on, for seven. I was five minutes late, but Dan, who was producing the whole show, slept through three alarms and so only pitched up some time after 8, when the show started at 8:30. He and Ash had been working till about four, madly enough. This gave me precisely zero time for rehearsal, and left me subject to the ever increasing concerns of clients, of whom there were more than 400 in the room. This all rather stressful.

Me, as Voice of God, telling people to sit down, and then introducing the main speaker and doing a various bits of commentary during the day. Hard at first as I had no headphones, so was interrupted by myself booming off the walls, but it all settled down. I didn't have much time to be nervous. All was fine. There is a downstairs VOG and an upstairs VOG. I am both. The speakers variable. One quite good, the others corporate clones.

Felt very snuffly and hungry every now and then, and seem to have a bit of a cold, which came in waves. Spent the early evening carrying panels and flipchart boards about and helping the team set up rooms. Eventually went down to the bar, where I ordered a solitary beer and was soon joined by the team. I am growing quite fond of this team now, who are extremely hard working.

Spoke to Lorriane in the evening. Only two more hotel nights now before I'm home. I went to bed at 11ish and began typing this. In theory, though this is tempting fate, it should be all downhill from here. And I began to feel that I would survive it fairly unscathed. One more day of playing God.

My view as downstairs VOG. I was sitting next to Dan, who is here standing on the left.

Monday, November 27, 2017

A half hour of freedom

Up early and shown to a table for one, and set off to the buffet to scoop up my breakfast bits. An enraged Austrian man snatching away my orange juice as he had been allocated the same table, and accused me of stealing it. Ridiculous creature. Once he realised that I had as much right to the table as me, he was a bit more apologetic. I suspected he was from the business whose are clients of the agency I am working for, so I treated him politely instead of punching his head, which is what he deserved. Talk about Entitlement.

Lots of clients floating around as the events started today. I hold my own council at this stage. But the likeable agency folks very resilient. This is an immense event, in terms of budget, there was lorry loads of stage kit turning up, film crews, photographers, massive technology and staging, and even a team of three illustrators turned up to immortalise the workshops and the deathless attendees. A solid 12.45 hour day today for me, with a headache all day due to transferred pain from my back. Standing up lunch and a pizza at the end of it.

I was released at 8:45pm, and so took myself for a half an hour walk outside the hotel, the first time I had been outside since Saturday morning. A feeling of freedom was amazing, this was the first time other than being in my room, that I was able to do what I wanted even if it were only for half an hour. It made my head feel better too.

Spoke to my lovely Lorraine when I got home, who I miss a great deal, and typed this. Now just about to climb into bed. Up at six tomorrow, to be the voice of God. Oh God.

Below a side street I walked down for a few yards. A lovely little restaurant bar there. If only there was time, and work didn't overshadow it. A few other glimpses along the street, and into some shop windows.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Sleepless in Vienna

So a long time in bed, but not so much sleep. That infuriating thing when you are overtired, restless, and then eventually furious because you can't sleep. I did sleep eventually, but did not make the best of the opportunity I had.

The day itself not bad. Had breakfast alone this morning at nine, and then went to the office which has been set up in one of the hotel meeting rooms. Did some writing, also some folding of hundreds of place cards, and emptying of hundreds of memory keys out of boxes. Went down where the Summit is now taking shape, and it is visually amazing. Seeing my words and headlines projected on an enormous screen, that wouldn't be out of place at a rock concert, rather good although also making you pray for no typos. Feeling a bit twitchy about having to do the Voice of God stuff too, which adds a touch of stage fright to the proceedings. The event itself is Tuesday and Wednesday, but tomorrow, Monday, will be the day of horror by all accounts. After lunch I had an hour or so of feeling spent. Luckily I was freed to go back to my room early in the evening and have some downtime. Spoke to Mum and Mas briefly, and to Lorriane driving home from Gatwick. A deep and profound desire to be in the car with her going home, but of course there are many rivers to cross before that will happen.

A cheery bite to eat in the bar this evening, a club sandwich, and a bit of a laugh with my colleagues, before slinking off to bed. My colleagues went back to work at eleven PM. Poor sods. Tomorrow is the full on day apparently, so I expect to be working day and night. Vienna is outside the hotel, all grey and overcast and mysterious. Have seen nothing of it.

Saturday, November 25, 2017


Zombied up at seven o'clock in the Hilton Danube waterfront, (six UK time) and packed back the few bits I had unpacked, ironed a shirt and met Den outside smoking a cigarette. The taciturn taxi driver drove us to the Hilton Vienna hotel we are working for 7:30. Den and I talking about Cyprus, where his family are from.

Ash and James had been out on the lash with the client all night. James had just a couple of hours sleep, and made off into Vienna to buy himself some fizzy hangover cure. I was fine, having only had two beers of course. Bloody tired though, with no weekend recharge. Work didn't get started for a couple of hours, a couple of hours I could have happily spent in bed.

Den had another smoke outside, and I wandered across the road from the hotel and took the photo below. It was as far as I got away from the hotel all day.

Still, a good breakfast, and then working on stuff in various business rooms all day. An enormous stage being built in the hotel. Dozens of people working on this event. Turns out not only am I going to working on various bits of writing as and when needed, but I am also going to be The Voice of God at the event itself on Tuesday and Wednesday. I will be the hidden voice who introduces many of the speakers to the 400 strong audience. Oddly high profile, considering I am just here as a humble hack.

A bite of lunch, standing up, then I moved into my room, a protracted farce with me not being able to use my key card on my door which frazzled my nerves somewhat. Sometimes the simplest things can be diabolically complicated.

Afternoon a steady doing of various bits and pieces. Eventually I was released at 7:30p and crept back to my room where I spoke to Lorraine, who has in Glasgow with Sam and Jade and they were having a lovely day. I am missing Lorraine.

Curiously shaky and weak before I went down to join the others, for dinner at eight. Our group ow abetted by three others from London, Harriet (who is from Vienna and is returning home) Katie and Maria. I had a strangely delicious breaded chicken and a large sort of potato salad, and parsley fried to be like Chinese seaweed. Two beers and I was feeling much better.

Best of all is that it is only just gone 10 o'clock local time as I type this, and we're all not meeting till nine tomorrow for breakfast. The prospect of being able to get some decent sleep is unbelievably attractive.

Below this eyeless face standing for my experience of Vienna. Here, but seeing nothing other than the interior of a large hotel computer screens.

Friday, November 24, 2017

To Austria

Lorraine and I running about getting ready this morning, packed bags but heading in opposite directions. She dropped me at Preston Park with Strangeface, my trusty old suitcase with a strange face. She drove to school, did a day's work and flew up to see Sam and Jade in Glasgow. Brief calls and texts today.

I went up to Paddington, and left the office late afternoon with my Paddington colleagues Ash, James and Den, A zoom to Heathrow on the Heathrow Express. As we arrived at the airport, news of some kind of incident in Oxford Street, but it this turned out to be a scare, with nobody hurt.

Twitchy about flying today. But we had a bite to eat in some place called Pilots. I judiciously got outside a pint of Heineken, which helped a bit. A cramped flight, very hot. Retained sanity by listening to the Kermode and Mayo podcast, stretching out a small can of Heineken for half the flight, and neurotically playing patience on my phone.

Plane landed in fog, and clouds, so saw nothing much despite having a window seat. Leaving the airport, you could see your breath and the cold was lovely after sweating on the plane. We drove to the hotel along main roads beyond which nothing much visible. Vienna had strangely quiet streets for a Friday. Into the Hotel bar, where we had some drinks, two more beers for me. Cocktails for the others. Two clients joined us. This helped, as I got to know some of the people I'm working with better.

At midnight, or 1pm local time, and Den and I then got a cab to another Hilton, and kipped for the night. Our rooms were upgraded. So an extensive and roomy room. Showered, dog tired, and crept into bed by 1:30 local time, which is an hour ahead of London time.

Thursday, November 23, 2017


Thursday. Work mild-mannered again, but feeling a tad twitchy. A stroll around the Italian Gardens in Hyde Park at lunch, listening to a Start the Week podcast which discussed Robert Liston a Scottish Surgeon working in London in the 1820s, which made me feel sick. He was 6'2" and burly, apparently very good at sawing off legs, one he completed in 28 seconds. He was so enthusiastic, however, he cut the finger off an assistant, and splashed blood on a member of the audience (for there usually was a crowded audience) who died of fright. The assistant died of sepsis a bit later on, and the person they were operating on died too. It was, it was said, the only operation with 300% mortality. Not the most relaxing thing I've ever listened to. Talk about surgical theatre.

Home at a reasonable rate, but trespassers on the line somewhere plunged the entire network into delay. Walked home from Brighton station, smashing my 10k paces limit with ease. Pat and Maureen at home, there to look after the cats while I'm in Austria, and Lorraine is in Glasgow seeing Sam and Jade over the weekend. Nice to see them both, but little time to chat as Lorraine and I rushing about packing and so on.

And so to bed, Lorraine reading a few more pages of Pullmans The Book of Dust. The last sleep in my bed next to my loving wife for a week.

Below a snap from the Italian Gardens in Hyde Park looking towards The Serpentine.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Bird on a wet wall

Lorraine drove me to the station. Work. I took full advantage of my lunch hour to mooch along the canals. The folks I am working with are mostly decent. Snapping the painted heron on a waterside wall. I've enjoyed walking along the canals very much. There are pockets of beauty all along it, everything from the floating leaves on the dark water, to the reflections of brightly coloured barges.

Some of them are stinky though, when their engines are working. One or two places along there river, there seems to be meeting points where a few bargemen (it's always men) gather some of them drinking from beer cans. When I walk far enough there is a stretch under a flyover, there are two legless armchairs propped against the concrete and barbed wire wall there. They make me wonder who sits there at night.

Left pretty much on time, and trundled home reading the Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich book. It is short, but unrelenting. In the last couple of weeks, I have scribbled a couple of new eight line poems in the style of the others I have been working on.

Lorraine staying late at a Governators meeting tonight. I warmed up some of yesterday's pasta, and supplemented it with fruit. Spoke briefly and tiredly to Mum, and did some bits and pieces of my own in preparation for the Austria trip. Lorraine home late, and we chatted briefly and looked at the work Cass has been doing, before bed.