Saturday, December 31, 2005

New Year's eve. Slept in for hours, and then twinged my back painfully taking a shower. This must be a new tradition as I did almost exactly the same thing at the same time last year.

This put a brake on doing much. Had a laugh sitting around chatting to Mum and Mase. And Mum pursaded me to let her try her healing powers on my back. Eventually I succumbed.

We watched The Ring DVD together which I thought was quite stylish and scary, but I seem to be a bit hardened to horror films these days. The Ring 2 was the first film I'd saw with MJ.

MJ called me on the moment of the new year. She was at Weezer's place after a scary drive there in the snow and sleet.

2005 was a lively year all right!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Awake at 5:30 and MJ , pre-coffee, drove me to JFK airport for seven. She took a lot of the stress out of things by getting me there and keeping me calm before the flight. Horrible to say goodbye. I hate saying goodbye to her.

Flight not too foul. Ended up with a window seat towards the tail, having been moved to accommodate a family. Sat next to two utterly taciturn women. They might as well have been ghosts. Some turbulence but managed to doze for a while. Nothing to watch onboard that I'd not already seen.

We were flying east and I was interested to see the thicken indigo smudge on the horizon, which was darkness coming to meet the plane.

London looked lovely and we spent almost half an hour circling it to get a good view. Running late I got a cab and managed to get home to Mum and Mason's house by 11 pm and so was able to glug a couple of glasses of wine, and eat banana cake with them to celebrate Mum's birthday.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Off to see The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, quite faithful to the book. MJ and the kids really liked it too. Unlike the book, the film opened with German bombers blitzing London, and the children being evacuated.

I have been surprised at the sometimes vitriolic criticism in the UK press about the film because of its Christian overtones. This is an absurd basis for criticism. Is Dante's Divine Comedy usless, because it is overtly Christian? Nonsense.

Told Jack that Mum had been in London during the blitz, which he was interested to hear.

After dropping the children off at their father's, MJ and I enjoyed a Thai meal. Then some shopping, where I bought her and Anne flowers, and a bargain case to replace the one that had fallen apart on the way to Baltimore.

Then I had to pack. Having done this felt quite sad, and spent the remainder of the evening drinking red wine and chatting with MJ.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Busy day getting practical stuff sorted out. Kids squabbling in the car. Had lunch in the incredibly busy restaurant in Walt Whitman mall.

Enjoyable evening -- got MJ to read American poetry to me in her American Lady's voice. Jack sitting nearby playing Runescape on the computer and half listening in. Discussing the greatness of Sylvia Plath and the mysteriously good reputation of Robert Creeley. I was underwhelmed by him once in Leamington Spa when I was a student, in an audience swollen by sycophantic lecturers from my University.

Talking about poetry made us both want to get down to writing again. Also I have never read much of Emily Dickinson, and she read me a couple of her favourites that I really liked, like this one, which is one of her favourites:

There's a certain slant of light
Of winter afternoons
That oppresses, like the heft
Of cathedral tunes.

Heavenly hurt it gives us
We can find no scar,
But internal difference
Where meanings are

None may teach it anything
'Tis the seal, despair, -
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the air.

When it comes, the landscape listens,
Shadows hold their breath;
When it goes, 'tis like the distance
On the look of death.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A beautiful blue sky, and us off into Manhattan. We took the train to Penn Station. The conductor on the train said hello baby to me, by way of asking for my ticket which I rather liked. Disappointingly MJ refused to become jealous.

Walked to a subway station which took us to Central Park Zoo, to look at seals, penguins, polar bears, snakes, tropical birds and so on. Liked the strange juxtapositions... Snow monkeys sitting on a rock surrounded by water, with the big buildings of New York City behind. I like central park. Kids really enjoyed the zoo.

Went to the zoo cafe afterwards, though Jack went on a brief hungerstrike. Then caught a bus down 5th Avenue to the West Village. 5th Avenue beautifully decorated for Christmas, and we glimpsed the big Christmas Tree outside Rockerfeller Center. Then a walk around MJ's old Manhattan haunts till we went to The White Horse, a very pub-like bar, frequented by Dylan Thomas -- and MJ Tenerelli. Here we ate nice burgers, Jack overcoming his hugerstrike with a hotdog, and I gulped down a couple of beers.

Back home and we all had fun playing a four-way computer game Super Smash Brothers Melee, and Mario Party of Seven for at least two hours.

Kate and Jack in the children's zoo in Central Park.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Boxing day. Having no servants to give boxes of food and gifts to MJ and me made our own amusement.

Had a nice feed in the Greek diner... both of us have overdosed on the Hokey Pokey now. I had a Greek salad, which threw in half the Gross National Product of Greece.

We decided to go to the movies, to see a comedy called The Family Stone. Although a bit stupid and very manipulative I think we were both enjoying it, although in some of the touching Christmassy bits, there was some sniffing from the audience. Unfortunately the mother character played by Diane Keaton dies in the movie. This made MJ very sad and glisteny eyed afterwards because she misses her mom. So if you are looking to be cheered by a movie, this may not be the one.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas day for me and MJ with a first cup of coffee at 6:00 am. Soon a bleary-eyed Jack and Kate tore happily into their presents under the Christmas tree. Fun to watch, and as far as I could tell they seemed very content with their Christmas haul.

Called Mum and Mase, and also spoke to Anton and Weezer during the day and Johanna Pie finally got through to MJ.

MJ gave me an excellent book of Neruda poetry and watercolour pictures. While the perceptive Pies gave me an admirable teeshirt decorated with a chick and a magnet .

Very mellow and enjoyable day after the children had been collected by their father. MJ and me had bagels with Mike and Anne, and took the opportunity to go back to bed to catch up on some much needed sleep.

In the afternoon off to Lia's house in nearby East Northport. Driving along with MJ I experienced, for the 400th time, the odd contradiction of how normal it feels for me and MJ to be spending Christmas together, and how odd it is that I find myself in Long Island.

Mum had given MJ a shawl which she wore to great effect and looked lovely.

Lia had cooked an exceptionally nice Christmas dinner, with lasagne, turkey and baked ham, salad, vegetables, mashed potatoes and loads of cake later. Lia's twin daughters Jordan and Marrissa, I'd last seen in the summer, playing charades with Jack and Kate. Then Marrissa lay rigidly on the floor being a speed bump, which is an image that has stuck with me ever since. Lia's mother was also there, having driven in from Queens.

Had a nice long chat with MJ and Lia, drinking wine and listening to old Prince hits. Home and enjoyed watching MJ playing with the celtic tree divination cards that she got for Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Much of the morning spent wrapping presents. Loved the name of one of Jack's: Mount Doom Gift Set.

Then off to Wendys for a quick burger-based feed.

Set off in the afternoon to see Weezer and Troy. Nice drive west into the setting sun till we got into Brooklyn and the traffic dragged. Spoke to Weezer from a traffic jam and worried her by saying we'd got her another cat. Once there we were joined by Kathy Velmar and Keith and their son Mark. Also a neighbour called Rich.

Took the opportunity to re-photo Troy too, against his backdrop of paintings.

Became acquainted with Neptune, Weezer's new dog. Got into a horrid loop where it kept dropping its drooly pig's ear on me, which I would fling away in disgust, only to have it continually returned. Troy put a muzzle on it at one point, which with its glittering sinister eyes made it look like Hannibal Lecter.

Weezer cooked a most excellent beef Wellington with meltingly good beef. We watched Charlie Brown on TV and generally hung out and had fun. Troy and Weezer gave me some bluegrass music which I was particularly pleased about.

Then back to Kings Park, and MJ and me stayed up late, conducting the elf-like business of secreting presents under the tree.

Photos:Troy above, below Neptune, me and MJ, Weezer, MJ and the Mighty Velmar...

Friday, December 23, 2005

Not much to report today. Feeling very happy to be with MJ again, and had good fun sloping about the place. We sloped off to the Walt Whitman Mall, for example, where MJ chose some nice boots in Macy's as a bit of a Christmas present. Kate off with a sore throat today, but she was largely recovered by the time we had collected Jack from school, brandishing a gingerbread house that he'd made at school.

Out locally for pizza slices and ice cream. Was forced to run from the pizza place to the ice cream place as I was challenged to a race by the children. Luckily I won. Being generally delighted with how I am getting on with the children. As far as Kate is concerned I have successfully recovered from the mysterious invisibility I was afflicted with a few visits ago, and she and Jack both chat and play happily with me now.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Getting some practical stuff sorted today -- then more shopping.

Spoke to Toby this morning, who is getting ready to shoot down to the sunshine of Cuba on Saturday. Sounds like it's exactly what's needed for him and Romy.

Since I have been on the plane I have become strangely charged. I have received half a dozen strong electric shocks a day. Returned to Toys R Us. Found myself in a queue containing children and yelping bastard! as I received yet another painful zap from a gameboy. Somewhat embarrassing, especially for MJ who is forced to accompany a delegate from the British Tourettes Association.

Also hunting Tamagotchi for Kate. MJ managed to bag one, despite being told there were none to be had. No idea what they are, but I know one thing: they are elusive.

Collected bairns from school and we made off to Commack Multiplex to see King Kong. We all enjoyed it. I'd never seen anything like the wonderful brontosaurus stampede scene before & the best giant ape versus T. Rex punchup ever. The love that could never happen element was good too, as was the otherworldliness of the landscapes, and the recreation of 1930s New York.

Kids fractious and fighty after the film, were then dropped off at their father's place. MJ and me then enjoyed a sedate Japanese meal before heading home.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Off to a chilly but picturesque Northport. Another day, another diner: ate a hot bowl of porridge, and then lots more knife and forkwork. MJ ordering a steak for breakfast, something I have never seen in the UK.

After this we drifted happily around the Northport shops, including MJ's favourite new age store, where she becomes very happy, sniffing the aromatherapised air and browsing thoughtfully around the divination tools and special stones. Noticed that in the concrete of the pavement nearby someone had written Jesus is God and Jesus is the true Lord, probably to counteract the sinister new age forces nearby.

I'm just loving being with MJ again. The simplest things are great fun. Went to the Stop and Shop supermarket, and enjoyed messing with her Virgo head by forbidding her to push the shopping cart.

Later, collected the bairns, car chock-full of shopping. Jack had a book of disgusting jokes about snot and poop which he happily shared on the drive home. Then more games. Heroscape with Jack, which he quickly won. Then had a game which seemed to consist of me being jumped on by Kate, Genny and, punishingly, by Jack who is surprisingly solid. Then quick stories with Kate and Genny.

Kate off to her friend's for a birthday party. MJ, Jack and me went then to the Chinese restaurant for a big feast.

Have been enjoying Shadow of the Wind which Anton lent me. Reading it when the jetlag leaves me wide eyed at inappropriate times.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Happy today, but zombie tired. Off with my MJ to the Hokey Pokey for a cheeseburger breakfast, lots off coffee and making plans. Then off to toys r us to investigate presents for the bairns.

Then collected the children from school. Home and a couple of hours of playing a video game with Jack. We were lying on the floor piloting Star Wars racer things, and little Genny stood on me and used me as climbing frame until we embarked on various shrieky monster games with Kate and 4 year old Jenny joining in.

More diva wars with Kate being Queen of the Mermaids and Genny being Queen of the Dolphins. It transpired that the Queen of the Mermaids had suspicions about the Queen of the Dolphins, and accused her of stealing gameboys. Falsely as it happened as I found it under a chair.

Decided to eat out at a little Italian place we'd been to before in Comack. Big food, and as far as the kids were concerned it was an excellent choice being near the big pet store. Spent some time there looking at ferrets, rats, spiders etc. Began a detailed, hour-long conversation about fish varieties with Kate. All happily home and watched the Peanuts Christmas special on video, which MJ and me seemed to enjoy more than the kids.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Finally in Long Island with my MJ.

I was woken up in Baltimore, city of crabs, by Mad Dog. I'd been asleep for ten hours. Nice to talk to Bob, and made me feel like I wasn't so far from home. Had been dreaming about my Grandmother for the third time this week. Perhaps she is trying to tell me something. Went downstairs to the bar/breakfast room with 56 (I asked) televisions in it. I was the only guest there to begin with and it was quite surreal having all these giant screens tuned to three different stations.

After my "all American" breakfast, worked in my room getting my ducks in a row, and struggling with housekeeping to get my complimentary tea and coffee for the room. Very odd woman in the hotel giftshop -- astonishingly rude, and trembling with rage when I asked her if they did the pink crab t-shirt in children's sizes.

It was clean but otherwise a fairly badly run hotel, but it was almost opposite the meeting place. Met the Creative Director from California who was chatty and affable. More crab-based snacks: a scoop or two of cheesy crab dip, and a small cup of crab soup then off to present.

Very friendly Catholic charity. Meeting lasted a little over two hours. Good presentation and I didn't embarrass myself, and managed to work in a quotation from Rilke which pleased me if nobody else. One of the half a dozen people I presented to looked like an old friend, which somehow helps. Only one of them was black, despite the fact that most people I met outside were black.

Back to the hotel to collect my bags then a short and taciturn taxi ride through town to Baltimore Penn station. Central Baltimore quite attractive in parts but frankly I was on a mission to get outta Baltimore like I stole somethin'. Just missed the NYC train but there was another in an hour that took us up through Philadelphia and New Jersey to Newark Airport, Newark Penn, and finally to New York Penn in two and a half hours. Why are half their train stations called Penn?

Then the LIRR. The last leg? But no...Standing in the dark in biting cold with my broken cases waiting for a train to go in MJ's general direction at the aptly named Hicksville took me dangerously close to a massive sense of humour failure. I was unable to reach anyone by phone. Being very tired and in transit for 36 hours can do that. Next train terminated at Huntingon which is only a few stops away and I caught a cab from there through streets full of gardens twinkling with Christmas lights and illuminated inflatables.

Taxi driver had no idea where MJ lived, however he did know the Hokey Pokey diner... and I directed him from there. Home at last and almost too tired to speak. Lovely to see MJ and the bairns. MJ also very tired after a gruelling day, having to go to court again this morning.

It was Kate's birthday today, which had been celebrated over the weekend, and I gave her the huge semicircle of art pens Mum and Mase had bought her, which made her very happy.

From what Kate was saying looks like I'll have to reprise duvet monster again tomorrow with her, little Genny and Matthew.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Off we go to the States again. Up to Victoria where I popped into the drop in medical centre to get some more antibiotics -- and blagged some emergency anti hysteria pills for the flight. Absolutely no queue and walked straight into see the doctor.

Then off to Heathrow, arrived in plenty of time. Got a window seat with legroom too near the wing, which was a distinct improvement. Flight not too bad. No drugs or drink needed. Boredom allowed to leak through the usual existential angst. Watched a stupid film about a 40-year old virgin which nevertheless made me laugh. Find that on planes the only thing I can tolerate is comedies -- and nothing with fiery explosions please. Got chatting to the Spanish stewardess who sat opposite me on landing, I told her about the extraordinary circumstances surrounding my trip and she told me about the delights of Madrid.

One of my cases trashed en route.

Baltimore airport seemed to be deserted. Nobody at the single information desk. No taxi to be had. Opted for the Baltimore Light Railway. Rather alarming journey, being the only passenger from the airport and travelling through the arse end of nowhere to get to the city centre. Dark little stations and the train filling up with purposeful-looking urban youth.

Got out of the train dragging my broken luggage. I was lost.

Stopped a cab. Turns out I was about 200 yards away from where I needed to be. The Angelic Nigerian driver drove me there anyway and charged me nothing.

Hotel not too bad. Went downstairs for a crab burger and fries and a brace of beers. Then sleep, merciful sleep.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Sprang from bed at 9:00pm and had breakfast with Mum and Mase. Mase on loquatious form before even sipping his coffee. A parcel arrived from Toby and Romy containing, among other things, balls of wool for Mum to make her patented free-standing socks. Mum and Mase gave me some presents for Jack, Kate and MJ and I had to shoot off back to Brighton.

When I reached Brighton, I spoke to my MJ who was phoning from Weezer's place. We are very excited about seeing each other next week. Meanwhile Neptune, who it transpires is not a New Orleans dog but a rescue dog from Brooklyn, yipped in the background and Weezer talked to it lovingly.

Popped up the road to see Anna and Anton and Baby Klauds. Klauds walking about and looking quite grown up with her hair in bunches. Anna gave me some chocolates for Jack and Kate and Klauds looked momentarily traumatised by this, repeating Peter, nock nock, which means Peter Chocolate.

Home again and faffing about getting ready, and wishing I could fast forward through what will be the 11th flight of the year for me. Listened to the weather forecast for tomorrow. Force 8 gales coming in off the Atlantic. D'oh.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Somewhat slow in the head after the office Christmas party last night. Played myself the brainwashing positive thinking tape on the train, and picked up the passport of a surly-looking criminal at Victoria.

At work raced the clock all day long. Mystifyingly, there was still more fighty stuff. And for comedy value people were disassembling furniture and desks and IT around me and the Gnome as we worked -- for they are moving the creative department yet again. This time we will have an excellent view of the river. Left work at 8pm with what I feel are three excellent scripts and concept boards. I won't feel like I have my trousers around my ankles and a comedy nose as I present on Monday.

Spoke to the French Bloke today, sounding excellent. He said admiringly that Bouncy Max was as hard as nails -- sipping at a little gas and air before popping out the bairn, who is being referred to as Fi, as in Female Infant.

Then to see Mum and Mason. Tube trains snailed frustratingly. Finally made it to Stanmore where Mase was waiting for me at the station. At Mum's had a large glass of red wine and snacked into the Mexican tacos Mase had made. They had been out last night to see Stomp, which is people dancing and playing drums with things like dustbin lids, which they enjoyed.

After much catching up, watched the DVD of War of the Worlds. Go Tripods!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

At lunchtime to the passport office in Victoria, and was duly processed. Hate those official places and felt concerned that if I'd not completed the form properly, then the trip to the US would be in trouble. As I handed my old passport over, I overheard this from the next booth.

Passport man: How did you come to this country?
Applicant: I have been in this country six years.
Passport man: No...HOW? ..... HOW? By airplane? By boat? By lorry?
Applicant: Yes, lorry.

Back to work & more mad slogging culminating in the Gnome and me having a long teleconference with the Creative Director in California who seemed very nice.

Meanwhile the agency was making merry at the Christmas Party. I decided to show my face and make an early exit. Four hours of talking everyone's head off, and having mine talked off (say one thing for agency types, they like to talk) I arrived home in Brighton at about 12:30.

I conceived the idea that fish and chips were to be eaten. There no food to speak of at the party. As I was expertly buying these, the fish and chip guy refused a spoon to a rather simple-minded couple as they'd been "causing trouble". I suggested helpfully that it was a matter of human decency for someone to be given a spoon to stir their coffee with, which caused them all to roar at each other. I left them to it, clutching a bag greasy with aromatic goodness.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Ah. 11:00pm and a glass of wine.

Heroically late to work. Having missed the morning train I went into a passport photobooth. Pumped coins into the swine but 20p pieces arbitrarily didn't count as money and were simply swallowed. Now have four identical tooth-grinding Peter Kenny faces. One of which will grace my passport for ten years. Funny how that happens. My last passport always made me look like a Bulgarian dissident.

Slunk into work to discover that, overnight, the most excellent Gnome had conceived an idea for the Baltimore job. Perhaps at last he is adapting to life on the surface. This took some of the pressure off me as now we have three good ideas. Spent the rest of the day slogging against the clock on scripts and treatments. Breaking off only to e-moan with Kate, and e-mail my MJ.

Random tetchiness in the office today, and this afternoon Mandy flew into a poisonous rage with me about upsetting her forward planning as I forgot to tell her I wouldn't be working on the 28th. She has been having a wretched time lately and I found her crying in the office one night at 7:00pm recently and gave her a hug. And now she hates me. So it goes.

Stayed late at work to have a teleconference with some of the people I will meet on Monday who are based in California. Seems I will meet up with my American agency confreres in a coffee shop in Baltimore to get our ducks in a row. The presentation seems to be to dozens of people, but we should be done and dusted by 3:00pm. This means I could be hopping on the train from Baltimore to NYC fairly rapidly. This is plan A. There are ghastly moves afoot, however, to get me to look at video and stuff over there, which I am passively resisting.

And so to thoughts of bed, and of not being late tomorrow on pain of a death. Tomorrow sees more slogging punctuated by slipping out to get my passport sorted. Then a lengthy teleconference with Americans while the rest of the agency will be starting a huge party.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Sluggish start to the day, almost impossible to drag myself from bed. The train left Brighton in low winter sunlight and headed towards a big bank of dark cloud that made me wonder for a moment if the noxious fumes over Southern England had drifted this far south. A team at work produced a concept using the cloud for one of our clients. With any luck, and if the client buys it, it will be quite a hard hitting press advert in the next day or so.

My working day was conducted in a daze, and thinking about the third world aids crisis, poverty, war etc for the Baltimore visit. This did not prevent me from breaking off in my pampered office to moan weakly but persitently. The Gnome, however, helped me prioritise and I grew more bearable as the day wore on.

Arranged to renew my passport urgently on Thursday. E-moaned to Kate and MJ.

Home, yet another Chinese takeaway. No more for a while. And then popped up the hill to pick up a passport application form from the useful and somewhat recovered Anton, he also lent me The shadow of the wind to read. Then spoke to Toby, who was coincidentally awaiting the appearance of Romy and a large Chinese meal.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Had an appointment at the local hospital for some minor tests today, and so worked from home. Walked back along by the sea, and on a whim enjoyed a pizza and salad buffet for lunch.

Spoke to mum who said that yesterday's big explosion sounded like someone breaking in the back door. She said that Tanya and Robert had been thrown from bed. Also talked to Anna who is a little better, but Anton not.

Messaging MJ who said that Johanna had used the word haruspex, which I'd never heard before. According to the Wikipedia is A haruspex was a sort of Roman augur in who practiced divination by inspecting entrails of sacrificed animals, especially the livers of sacrificed sheep. Baarbaric I call it.

Was sent booking confirmation for my direct flight to Baltimore on Sunday. It will be an adventure. So will trying to get my passport and work sorted out in time. Yikes.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Baby Klauds has given Anton and Anna a spewing virus. They were craving fizzy drinks so I took them up some and let myself into their house. Quite sweet seeing them all in a line in bed, made me think of the "three in the bed, and the little one said, roll over, roll over"... song.

Quiet, gusto-free day today spent contemplating the enormous amount of organising I have to do in the next week. And somewhere along the line I have to come up with some ideas to take to the US or else the deal is off.

Spoke to MJ and Weezer again this morning. They are funny girls.

In Brighton we missed the huge pall of smoke that was visible from space from the explosion at Hemel Hempstead just north of London. Apparently the explosion at some sort of massive oil depot was the largest peacetime explosion in Europe, and was heard over 100 miles away.

Below is an apocalyptic image I just stole from the BBC website. Just noticed that First Matie says in her blog that the London sky today was full of fumes and smoke.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Needed a slow quiet day. And had it. Popped out briefly to buy a cheap microphone for my computer, and passed 20 Santas walking down Queen Street, with some URL or other on their backs. Gallingly I didn't have a camera with me, as it would have made an excellent photo.

Found that I could drop the microphone into Bianca, my white steel stringed semi acoustic guitar, and after downloading some music editing software I happily played with set up, recording bits and pieces for several hours. Found that the software could reverse the sound and this sometimes was really interesting in an old-school Beatles-ish way. Boys toys.

Spoke to MJ and Weezer. Much talk about Neptune which MJ saw for the first time with her extraordinary and powerful eyes. Arf. No Netpune is Weezer's rescue dog from New Orleans. And it is apparently incredibly intelligent so it is probably worrying about something like global warming as it slavers over its pigs ear in the morning.

Anna and Anton wanted to go out for a meal to celebrate Anton's success so I went around to babysit Klauds. Anton floating the idea of calling me Special Needs. Anna explained that unlike her or Anton I don't have a postgraduate qualification.

Watched boxing on the TV while they were out and as the bout finished there was a peeping from Klauds. She was sitting bolt upright in bed crying and looked distinctly short changed to see me but suffered to be cuddled and sung to till her parents returned. It's a nice feeling when she puts her arm around you as well.

Took advantage of the recent change in licensing laws to have a quick Polish beer down in the Tin Drum with Anton before heading home.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Nice day today. Had the morning off supposedly for Xmas shopping. Used this time to sack my plumber. The worst thing about sacking the plumber is that you can only do it once. I wanted to sack him over and over for about half an hour. Anyway now I need another plumber to sort out my wretched plumbing. However at least this is better than being strung along, lied to, and being forced to listen to pipe dreams.

MJ's spy Anton has failed again as I went to Nicki in Chiswick who cut my hairs in the approved manner. And talking of Anton... he called me today to say he had just received notification that he had passed his MA. He was understandably pleased about this and it is a good reward for the literally hours of work he put into it.

Back in the office this afternoon, and had to step in to be pitched to by two lots of graduate employees -- bright young things, and then give them feedback. Amazingly professional and they took the exercise incredibly seriously. All quite diverting, and the winning team was each given a bottle of champers and the losers kissed them and looked brave.

After this diversion had to get on with the rash of pesky work I've been getting lately and was thus late to leave.

Spoke to Mum and Mase. Mum's back is still painfully playing up, which is far from good.

Best news, and a sort of Christmas miracle, is that my tickets to present a to a brand new client in the US have been approved. This means I get a free trip to the States and so will be able to see MJ for Christmas. Me and MJ are very cheery about it. The Gods must be grinning down on us. I will be going to Baltimore in Maryland for the business part. I certainly will have seen a lot of the US this year.

And hurrah! The opportunity to go on more flights! Sweet Lord.

Two excellent jokes:

1) A man goes to a zoo, but is disappointed with the fact that all the cages are empty, except for one small cage in the corner. Walking over to it he discovers a small dog: it was a shitzu.

2) How do you kill a circus? Go for the juggler.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Bouncy Max and the French Bloke and had a baby girl this afternoon, weighing in at 7 lbs 8 oz. The baby was at least two weeks overdue. Spoke to the FB briefly this evening and he was sounding very cheery, saying that Max and the baby were fine.

Work quite quiet today. The Gnome away at a shoot and me fractiously dealing with pesky bits of boring stuff. Felt rather twitchy for some reason but went for a lunch with Trace in the cheap Thai place. She was on excellent form and she nicely reframed things for me.

She had the best definition of stress I'd ever heard: responsibility without control. We had a long talk ranging from the CS Lewis books from a pyschological and postcolonial standpoints, and her time living in Colorado.

Afternoon... more pesky bits. Then went for a swim, happily finding the trunks -- untouched by human hand -- that I'd left there yesterday. Then went on to meet Shaila for a tasty vegetarian meal at the Gate as it was her birthday two days ago. She is off to France shortly with her husband and sons. Nice to see her too. She gave me a christmas newsletter of what the family had been up to over the year.

Then the long ride home to Brighton, reading my Recent Continental Philosophy book and dozing despite the persistent blaring of a silver haired man sitting next to me.

Text from the FB this morning: still at home progressing slowly but steadily. Max still full of pep apparently.

Out of the blue, the possibility of me being flown to the US for a work thing. Trying not to get too excited as yet because there is many a slip twixt cup and lip -- but it could mean a business trip to the US just before xmas.

A rather subdued Creative Department this morning, after yesterday's excesses. The Gnome and me quietly going about our work. Quite happy that I'd left at a reasonable early the night before, otherwise I would have felt as shabby as some of the more enthusiastic creatives appeared to be.

Stole away from work slightly early to go for another swim. Felt very tired beforehand but it perked me up somewhat.

From there walked off to the Thatched House for a feed and drink with Matty boy, Katie, Paul, and Bryony who I'd not seen for ages. Young Bryony is now doing very well working in film production, having once been Kate's art director. The agency forced me to sack Bryony, which was nothing to do with her ability. It was really traumatic, but we went to the pub afterwards and she gave me a hug and it was all mended. I am very happy to say that her career has been extremely successful ever since.

Great to see Katie and Matty boy too. Both looking well and perky in their various ways. Saw pictures of Kate's niece, who sort of looks like her I think. Paul brandishing pictures of his son Andy. Much discussion and thought about the FB and Max.

Paul was also pleased having got a new job too, but became increasingly voluble and emphatic as the evening progressed. All too quickly, after eating piles of food, and a late guest appearance from Taranjit, it was time to head for home. I took this photo of Bryony and Kate on the street after.

Just missed my train home so had to get a late slow one. Home and messaging my MJ till very late.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

First Matie just called to say bouncy Max is in labour now -- she is at least two weeks late.

Otherwise... This afternoon a creative dept xmas meal and drink up. Went to an Indian restaurant on King Street, Hammersmith called Agni which was okay. Crammed into a long thin room upstairs on a long table.

Smitten with tiredness, I closed my eyes for a split second which attracted the attention of half the creatives on the other end of the table who all laughed at me. Bastards.

Went to a couple of pubs afterwards, and drank beers in the approved manner. Lots of chatting with people I don't normally talk to too much. Nick told me of a court case where he was charged under terrorist legislation having sent, as a student, a mailpack to a leading magazine. The concept was that it was a bomb. He was arrested and, traumatisingly, it went to trial. He was also suprisingly interesting talking about Napoleon too.

Escaped fairly early, ate a Chinese takeaway and watched some football on TV then.... Bed.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Monday. Reading an admirably clear chunk of The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir on the train this morning in my modern continental philosophy reader.At work and nothing going on for me and the Gnome but tumbleweed and crows. However had my earphones plugged into my computer listening to the wonderful Pandora, which allows you to create your perfect radio music station. It’s fab.

Ally B wrote to me again today. Her excellent blog is called wordhead, which is about life in Dubai and other musings, and is well worth a visit. Another swim today. Felt virtuous if a little bit bored, but I am nauseatingly fat again. When I got home tonight I went out for a walk for getting on for two hours, as I was feeling restless.

Nice being down by the sea, saw some very distant lightning towards France.

The Gnome called me up when I was down there to say he won’t be in as there has been some more difficult news about his son. It just goes on and on.

Mary Jane sent me this picture today which she’d loved when she visited the Metropolitan Art Museum yesterday. Turns out this was one of the three or four I’d identified in March as blowing me away. It’s called the Weeders by Breton. MJ said she thought it was very mystical, and I agree. She also told me that Weezer has a new dog, rescued from New Orleans, called Neptune.

The Weeders.

Making photos again... Two today... Leaf prints on the Charing Cross road, and the fishpond outside Charing Cross Hospital, where I go for my swims.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Bright and cheery afternoon in Brighton. After speaking to MJ, who was having her morning coffee with her pal Kadabra in snowy Brooklyn, I went out with Anton and Baby Klauds for a few hours. We lurked in the lanes and then walked down to the sea in bright low sunlight.

Baby Klauds in a very grumpy mood, and when she woke up and discovered we were in the Tin Drum at the end of the afternoon, she made her feelings felt and we went back to Anton's place to watch Pingu together for a few minutes. Pingu is a lively gibberish-spouting penguin who seems to transfix Klaudia. After some of this, I left Anton and Klauds to it, and loafed happily at home this evening. Watched a programme on BBC called the Story of God, a sort of comparative religion series of documenties which was absorbing.

Got an email from former colleague and AnotherSun contributor Ali B today in Dubai who stumbled across this blog.

Suddenly able to use my digital camera again. Two down by the sea, and the other of a decidedly stormy Klauds above.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Ambushed by a random gloom today. Used this inertia to do laundry etc. Fortunately gloom was dissipated this evening by Ken's 75 birthday party.

I enjoyed Ken's party. With Ken obviously enjoying having lots of family and friends around him. After a lovely spread of grub, and quite a bit of wine it came to the time to sing Ken Happy birthday. Quite a bit of wine being drunk, and his son had made an excellent cake which was decorated with French Sparklers (which sounded to me like something you'd find in an Anne Summers catalogue).

We sang happy birthday to Ken with the sparklers setting off the fire alarm. Enjoyed chatting to Janet and Ken and their guests. I tuned into a few bizarre conversations going on round and about including Simon, Ken's son in law, breaking a long and rather wine-soaked silence to announce that next year "my age will be the reverse of my wife". His wife is Ken's daughter Rachel. Turns out that next year he will be 73, and his wife will be 37.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Strange night in which I slept lightly, a gale causing lots of unfamiliar noises. Fumbling with my mobile phone which I use as an alarm clock, I managed to accidentally call Anton twice at 7.

Today, was a day of birthdays... Anna, the French Bloke and Reuben. And Ken's birthday party tomorrow. Spoke to the FB who was in a pub in Soho with Max. Emailed Reuben. And saw Anna this evening.

These clusters seem statistically unlikely. Like my September cluster of Anton and Maddog on the 2nd, and Simon and MJ on the 4th.

Reading the work of Karl Jaspers (1883-1969) on the train. Never read any of his philosophy before, but it seemed quite slight (on this skim through) compared to the mighty Heidegger. The excerpt I read this morning was reminding existentialism of the validity of science, which I am sure is very important philosophically etc. but not terribly interesting to me.

Rushed into work in time for a meeting which did not occur. Did work hastily this morning and then again after a couple of hours had very little to do. Went for lunch in the Dove with The Gnome and Mike Ferg, but wasn't really in the mood for it. In the afternoon ended up going for the third swim of the week.

Was told a good joke today... What is the stupidest marine mammal? An imbiseal. Not a joke that works in American, according to MJ.

Home and straight up the road to babysit Baby Klauds. Windy and rainy again. Anton and Anna were out to dinner for Anna's birthday. Luckily, and yet again, Klauds peeped not and I quite enjoyed being a couch potato. Home, and I talked to my delightful MJ for a while, and am now magnetised by the thought of sleep.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

An email from Weezer saying that her nice dog Louie (whose picture has previously featured on this site) had died. Weezer and Troy are naturally very sad about it. And he was much loved by them. I enjoyed seeing him only the other week wearing small socks, which Weezer had made him wear to stop him falling over.

Dozing fitfully on the train, and once at work there were mysteriously sudden & urgent deadlines to meet. So most of the day spent slogging. Turns out most people who went to the flashy Bluebird restaurant last night had upset stomachs except for me.

After work I travelled to Portsmouth for Jane and Christian's leaving for Australia party. Met a few ex-colleagues I'd not spoken to for over five years which was quite fun. Anton then drove us back to Brighton. He finally got closure on his recent musical huffiness by blasting Jean-Jacques Burnell's wretched Euroman Cometh on the CD player of his car as we aqua-planed Brighton-wards in heavy rain. Picked up a bleary looking Baby Klauds from the baby minder then home.

Got in and drank tea and spoke to my beloved till late, a gale howling noisily down my Twitten.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Heidegger again on the train. Finished the Being and Time excerpts. It is all so gapingly profound and impenetrable at the same time. I like the feeling of reading something really big and clever that is forever out of reach for me. I love the language sometimes too... Like this: "Time needs to be explicated primordially as the horizon for the understanding of Being".

Not much work to do today. Went for a swim at lunchtime, which I enjoyed. Called MJ walking back. I am missing her very badly this time.

In the evening went out with work people, including Pat, Andy and the French Bloke, and some pleasant clients to a place called the Bluebird Restaurant on the Kings Road. Quite swanky and the food good. Had lots of wine and chatted. Left at 9:30 and made it home at 11. Slept on the train. Called my baby and then slurred off to bed.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Listened to my brainwashing tape on the train this morning, which I'd not done for a while. Makes me feel very positive.

Must be in some kind of strange cycle, with contact from university friends and so on lately, and a thirst for reading philosophy again. It was The Continental Philosophy Reader this morning.

Found myself reading excerpts from Heidegger's Being and Time. Heidegger has always fascinated me, but makes my head want to explode. It is far easier to read books about Heidegger than read Heidegger himself. But reading it slowly again this morning and again on the way home I found it a mite easier going than I remembered. Being and Time asks an incredibly simple question in a very complicated way: what is the meaning of being. In the introduction he says... "Every inquiry is a kind of seeking... Inquiry, as a kind of seeking, must be guided beforehand by what is sought. So the meaning of Being must already be available to us in some way." He is saying that to be able to ask a question you must already have some idea of the answer, and that we all have "a vague, average understanding of Being"(a phrase that made me think of Rilke's angels for some reason). His project is to make that understanding sharper.

Bumped into Reuben as I stepped from the train, and a quick chat walking through the station. So nice to encounter a friendly face in the multitudes. Told him again how much I like his bag of helicopters site.

Quiet day at work. Phoned MJ, emailed Katie, and Tim Julian. Went for a walk in the sun with the FB this lunchtime and ended up for a short while in the Dove where I had a glass of wine and watched him fork into sausage and mash as we sat near the fire. Max has a lively night last night of what appeared to be contractions but no actual birth yet. She was scrubbing the floors today apparently and told the FB that she was possessed.

Cleverly slunk off for a swim in the middle of the afternoon, and then back to the office for a meeting till six. Home and chatting again to my beloved MJ before what will hopefully be an early night.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Travelled into work from Edgware. Mason up early making coffee and toast for me, which was very nice. Despite this, quite Mondayish by the time I arrived at Hammersmith, but was cheered by a lovely message from MJ at work.

Had to get hacking fairly swiftly, but made time to send that nice Weezer a birthday e-card. Otherwise little happened today other than doing bits of work. Went out for a chilly half-an-hour stroll by the river, calling MJ as I turned back towards the office.

The French bloke sent me this today: “This is a strange poem. I was doing some research and was reminded of a rare event called a "stone baby". It happens when the foetus (usually at a late stage) dies. In rare cases, instead of expelling it, the body converts it to calcium carbonate - in effect limestone. It is almost unknown today in the western world, in fact there are only three hundred reports ever, anywhere. Interesting that this lady chose to use a poem to resolve the loss. I don't know if it is good poetry, but the way she illustrates the way ferocious, maternal, protective instinct took over 30 years too late really moved me.” You can find the Stone Baby poem by Sheila Hamilton here.

Very cold again tonight and my house took ages to heat up after standing cold all weekend. Feeling a bit miserable about missing MJ this evening but was delighted to have yet another contact from my past… Tim Julian who was at Warwick with me, and I’ve not seen for 23 years sent me an email having been in touch with Andy. Excellent!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

A late thanksgiving meal with Mum and Mason. Snapped this photo as an artistic symbol of the deadly menace mankind poses to the turkey.

Mason actually cooked a goose. I can't remember the last time I ate goose, but this one was tasty and a little bit gamey. There were plenty of giblets which went unused, including a long string of neckbones which I had a quick gander at.

Had a nice day relaxing day however, talking to them and to Robert and Tanya, and Diane who turned up later, and was discussing a possible move to Brighton.

Mum's evil back had struck the day before and she was hobbling a bit, but she self-medicated with muscle relaxant pills and gin. Helped her in the final stages of making a pumpkin pie. Loads of food and so on.

In between all the festivities I carried on reading my Robert Frost poems, and spoke to Toby, who was marking books on a Sunday afternoon, which sounds a pain.

Spoke to MJ twice. I am really missing her. She was a bit traumatised, however, to learn that I'd taken the opportunity to show her Popo the clown pictures to Mum and Mase.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Woken by Ken this morning phoning to double check that I will be attending his 75th birthday party next Saturday. Scrambling downstairs to the phone I realised I had overslept due to a traumatised body clock. He sounded in fine form, and was saying their place in Aix was now ready, and that he had been working on the satisfying business of writing a biographical note for an academic translation he has been working on. Looking forward to seeing him next week.

Otherwise feeling sluggish today. Went for a short walk down to the sea via the Pavilion. I was wearing my beany hat which gives me a large and pear-shaped head. I have a wrong face for hats unless they have large brims. Cold here, although in Brighton there is no snowfall as there has been in other parts of the country.

Then off to London to see Mum and Mase. Long journey due to repair work on the tracks. I didn't feel like writing today, however, and the battery on my ipod shuffle ran out so I brooded on things in a Heathcliffian manner. On the Victoria line tube sat next to seven or eight people who had just been to church or some religious studies meeting and were arguing, passionately, about Heaven. One man was saying that heaven was the one thing all people agreed about in the world.

Happy to see Mum and Mase, and tell them about my adventures in the Colonies while gorging on food and wine. Then watched a film called The Road to Perdition with Tom Hanks which I enjoyed despite it being a bit miserable.

Talked to MJ before sleeping. She was feeling Christmassy and thinking about decorating. She also helpfully suggested I wear a Peruvian hat, with strings, to keep warm and emailed me some examples like this one, which is a lonely hat.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Overslept this morning... Cold when I woke up. Off to work, reading more about Robert Frost. Apparently he came to England to cultivate Edward Thomas before the first world war. Thomas is in my opinion the best minor poet in English in the twentieth century. Frost is very enjoyable however.

Otherwise work inoffensive and me feeling a bit dull. Nothing much on. Went to the pub at lunchtime for an hour with Marilyn, Mike, Debs and Mandy. Lurked in the work bar before slinking off to meet Paul who was haunting Hammersmith with a small aquarium. Then headed homeward and slept happily on the train, arriving in Brighton in good enough time to score myself a nice Chinese meal.

Spoke to Mum and I will slip up to Edgware at the weekend. Chatted to Sophie too.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Back to work. Managed to get up on time and so on. Work was okay but jetlag made me feel very disconnected from things. Quite nice to see the Gnome, and had a quick chat with the French Bloke. Apparently Max is due to drop at any moment. She is finally off work but apparently went for a bicycle ride this morning.

Email from First Matie and will hook up with her next week. Spoke to Shaila too, who is back in Blighty. Otherwise not an arduous day, thank God. Cold though!

Home and spoke to MJ who is forking into turkeys in Brooklyn for thanksgiving with Weezer and Troy.

I am a bit braindead but reading Robert Frost on the train. Lots of images in the poems about leaves, which having seen a little of New England is hardly surprising. Enjoying one particularly this morning called A Leaf-Treader. I like the opening...

I have been treading on leaves all day until I am autumn-tired.
God knows all the color and form of leaves I have trodden on and mired.
Perhpas I have put forth too much strength and been too fierce from fear.
I have safely trodden underfoot the leaves of another year.

There is something quiet that I enjoy in his work, which reminds me a bit of Edward Thomas. He's got that understated knack that Yeats has of making things rhyme without the rhyme drawing attention to itself too much.

Got a very nice email from a guy called Simon Guettier who has works as a broadcaster. He stumbled across this blog and has lived in Brighton, and West London, went to Warwick University as well as hailing from Jersey in the Channel Islands (you can't have it all I suppose).

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Landed in thick fog at Heathrow. Amazing how, with no visibility, the pilot can land a 747-400 the size of a skyscraper, so gently. As we touched down it was so foggy that we still seemed to be in cloud.

Lots of tiresome lurking in the airport, decided I needed to do something about my new case which is identical to everyone-else's case. Then Zombied home from Heathrow to Brighton. I don't know what these people have been doing here. It is bloody freezing. Anton told me that it had been down to minus 7 in the last week.

Home and bought some chewy brown bread ate, then slept for a couple of hours on the sofa. Caught up with Mum on the phone and lurked about for a bit.

In the evening went out to the Tin Drum with Anton. Collecting him, had a quick chat with Anna who will be on TV yet again having been interviewed on the train about people using computers in the carriages. Anton on good form and looking unnaturally healthy. He's off to Madrid tomorrow.

Missing MJ. Had a couple of good chats with her. It is unnatural to be parted.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Boo. The day of leaving. Pathetic fallacy kicked in and it was stormy and raining hard. Gloomily looking at the weather map. Storms all along the eastern seaboard boded ill for the flight.

MJ and me however made good use of our last day. Went to the Hokey Pokey again... but this time armed with paper and pens and made mind maps and ate large food and drank coffee and had important, top-level discussions. Then home to make phone calls and so on and make the most of MJ's wonderful company.

Later went back to the Chinese retaurant next to the railway station, for mountains of noodles and ribs. Then I caught the train and headed back to Jamaica station, after saying wretched goodbyes to MJ. Leaving her offends the gods as I have said before.

Made it to the airport fairly easily and early. Lurked about feeling glum and failing to find something in the bookshop. Phoned MJ who had been crying. Went to the bar there and drank a solitary beer before boarding the plane. Amusing dialogue with a woman behind the bar who was Spanish speaking. I asked her what beer she had... One sounded unusual... San Morales. When I got it, it turned out to be Sam Adams. Mixture of her accent and my English ears.

Very happy to hear the pilot say that we were expecting a smooth flight to England. He was a lying bastard however and there was 5 big hours of hellish jolting & lurching turbulence. I was sat in the twitching tail of the jumbo too to make it worse. Decided the only option was to drink heavily but due to the freaking turbulence the Stewardesses were few and far between. Had one glass of wine, and eked it out over two hours. Muttering to myself about how I would never, never, never under any circumstances, ever fly again.

A train to Babylon (calling at Amityville) at Jamaica station. An omen if ever I saw one.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Walt Whitman twice today. Was reading his poems, which suddenly make much more sense to me having seen New England. Found myself really enjoying them. Then later to the Walt Whitman mall with MJ who was on an unsuccessful shoe hunt.

Feeling somewhat sad that it was my last full day. Collected Jack and Kate from school and did some more shopping and ate some pizza. In the evening we rented a film from Blockbusters about mutant ants attacking people, and we all watched this together. Before the film started Jack became a fantastically good monster. He was lurking under the bed and doing zombie eyes and speaking in demonic voices and making everyone scream by trying to drag people into his lair.

Anne and Mike have been very kind and hospitable to me, and I had a nice chat with Mike, who had come to collect Genny before the scary film came on. Genny wasn't very impressed with not being able to watch the movie though.

After the film had a long conversation with Kate who gave me a corner of her favourite snowman blanket. She is a very smart and funny girl, and we are getting on excellently, which I am very pleased about.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

A morning, so there must be a diner. Denny's next to the motel I’m told is something of an American institution. Did it justice by eating a large breakfast, but later was slightly regretful that I didn’t eat a dish on offer called Eggs over My Hammy.

Then into Salem. Went to the Witch Dungeon Museum and The Witch History Museum. In the dungeon museum there was a re-enactment of some of the trial by two actresses on stage, and then we shuffled downstairs into a recreation of the dungeons that the witches were stored in for safekeeping. These dungeons were full of dodgy looking waxworks, but it gave you an idea of scale -- especially the very small cuboardy spaces for witches to be tidied into.

Thence to the Witch History Museum, passing a statue of Elizabeth Montgomery, the actress who played Samantha in ancient TV show Betwitched. Amusing tale of the statue's recent unveiling here. The museum was another enjoyable waxwork tour with much the same story of the bizarre accusations. Popped into some nearby witchy shops and managed to snap MJ in a witch hat too. Salem trades on its Witchy past, with the local police even having witches on their badges.

Then off to a nearby graveyard, which I really enjoyed. The gravestones blade thin and some of them small and toothlike.

From here we did a spot of shopping, where I bought a pair of boots at a bargain price and had some Dunkin' Donuts, which were fairly nasty. Then the long drive back to New York with MJ in the driver's seat. Passed a town called Mystic. We didn't stop but it would be great to have a Mystic teeshirt. Long journey home. New York seeming huge and full snakes of speeding traffic, but I was a bit blurry with jetlag. At night, Manhattan from afar always looks to me like a kind of immense twinkling castle.

Fond farewells with Weezer and Troy in Brooklyn, then back to Lawn G'oiland.

Two small, blade-thin, toothlike gravestones, and the lecture theatre of the dungeon museum.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Off to Salem! Breakfast of home-made waffles with Mike and Anne. Mike then drove us to the care hire place where we got a gold car, he amusingly offered us a crucifix for protection. I enjoyed the drive into Brooklyn, and made me feel like we were in the The French Connection.

Picked up Weezer and Troy who were armed with an interesting assortment of CDs, including some Bluegrass music played by people with eight or twelve fingers per hand. Lots of tunes in the car, and was taught by demonstration how to yee-haw! by my travel companions.

New England beautiful -- I loved all the trees and the wide open spaces, and imagining what life would be like in the small and pretty towns we drove through. "Fall" more advanced here than in Long Island and the whole country seemed to be covered in leaves, and people busily engaged in apparently futile attempts to clear their lawns.

Noticing again for the nth time how many flags there are in the US. Stars and stripes everywhere. Pride and patriotism runs so deeply, and permeates everything. Take the Long Island Rail Road for example. On the side of the carriages there are crossed stars and stripes with the legend Proud to Serve. It is nothing for a car seller for example to have 10 stars and stripes fluttering outside the garage -- even when he is selling not US manufactured cars. As a jaded European it seems almost Orwellian at times, but that probably says more about European history and the dangers of nationalism, than the pride people in the US show in their flag.

The journey took us longer than we expected, we got lost a few times and there was much pouring over maps and so on. But we arrived tired but safely in the cold and dark, checking into a motel and then going into town for a really nice meal and drinks. The old part of Salem atmospheric as we drove around it at night. Back to the motel and much needed sleep.

Driving down streets that should be in films in Brooklyn...

Friday, November 18, 2005

MJ and me into our suits and off to the family court this morning. Sat about for three hours waiting for the case to be called, and eventually it was postponed due to a legal technicality. Very Dantesque, with people discussing their cases with a sleaze of lawyers. Edward Hopper scenes of people sitting alone but preoccupied in the strangely featureless corridors with big squares of bright light from the sun through windows.

MJ tuning into all the misery about the place. Gave her some paper to draw evil clown pictures as a distraction, and we spoke to Johanna and Michael. After discussions with her lawyer we were released from this and drove through the resplendent trees of long Island back to the Hokey Pokey again (the other places being closed) for lunch, and a much needed glass of wine.

Collected the Kate from school and went to the Sweet Shop in Northport. Kate doing her extraordinary "raptor" hiss, which I copied in the car and painfully clicked my jaw. Back to school to collect Jack from his chess class. Enjoyed seeing all the kids playing chess.

Home, and quick reprises of dust bunnies, duvet monster and heroscape.

In the evening MJ and I went off to see a movie called Capote about the life of Truman Capote. Centres around the writing of his book "In Cold Blood". Really well acted and interesting film.

Very cold tonight. Chess club below...

Thursday, November 17, 2005

After the children went off to school, MJ and I went to the nearby Hokey-Pokey diner to talk each others heads off. I like diners. Not a shred of fibre to be found there of course, but made do with immense piles of eggs, bacon, pancakes, sausages and coffee, and I enjoyed the smiling turkey posters for forthcoming Thanksgiving.

A lively discussion with MJ about the diner's name. MJ wrongheadedly debating the fact that the dance is actually The Hokey Cokey. Apparently in the American version they poke their butts in and not merely their left leg and so on. No idea which is the authentic one of course, but just found this which suggests that Hokey Cokey was invented to mock Catholicism.

Then a lovely walk through woods by the coast to burn off some of the breakfast excesses. A fresh morning and Long Island is beautiful in a highly-coloured late autumn. We walked along discussing haiku, and Buddhism and how we were both big and clever.

Afternoon, and an immense bout of playing games with Kate and Genny. First was duvet monster where they leapt about being chased by a snappy-mouthed duvet with a taste for children's toes. Then there was the dust bunny game: me growling at them shuffling about on the floor and allowing them to scream piercingly. In fact five year old Genny screamed so piercingly into my right ear that it rang afterwards for a minute or so.

Finally we told stories. The girls contributed scenes and the plot had to accommodate Genny's demands to be a wild cat or a werewolf. The two little divas definitely had to be in the story too. I mistakenly started the first story with only a single princess. This had to be quickly adapted to two twin sister princesses with different colour eyes but even then there was some suspicion that the other had got the better deal. In the story, the princesses spotted a crocodile in the moat of their castle but nobody believed them till it tried to bite off the king's head. The next story was about two vampire twins who were terrorising the local village.

All in all really good fun, and I have definitely lost my invisibility with Kate.

Also played a game called Heroscape with Jack. Which is a bit like chess with different pieces of things like a T. Rex or robotic cyber beings or special troops all fighting each other. Quite fun too once I got understood it. As each piece is killed off Jack describes the scene in his head of how this eventuality happened.

After the kids went off to see their dad, MJ and I had an enormous Chinese meal and rented Amityville 2. I was sleepy by then but I managed not to scream in front of her. Interestingly Amityville is quite nearby in Long Island.

Two blurry views down at the water from the path. Need use a camera rather than my phone. The lens isn't that great and gets covered in crap and so these are unusable pictures... An impression however.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Hurrah. Made it to America. THE most unspeakable flight. Hours of lurching turbulence. Fortunately the pilot said it may be bumpy before we took off so I took my emergency valium -- sadly this had worn off by the time things had got really bad five hours later. The landing too was horrid. Normally I don't mind landings but the lower we got the more the horizon slid up and down and the plane rocked from side to side. The massive air pocket we hit about thirty seconds before landing where the plane dropped like a stone did nobody any good. A wave of hysterical laughter once we had slammed and then lurched horribly on the runway.

Disembarking, and one of the first things that always hits me about America is its distinctive smell. It's hard to describe; it's sugary and with a hit of cinnamon.

Journey to Kings Park Long Island fairly easy. Travelling around these parts seeming quite familiar these days. Asked directions of a bizarre barking bullfrog-looking woman in the information booth at Jamaica station and soon found myself in the arms of my beloved Mary Jane with the wind whipping her hair about, and all the evils of the journey faded.

Lovely afternoon and evening. Anne, MJ's sister in law is pregnant and so we went flower shopping. MJ naturally had to have flowers too. Was very pleased that Jack and Kate patently happy to see me. Had cleverly armed myself with a bag of toys for them and little Matthew and Genny which didn't hurt.

Had a nice meal with Anne and MJ with wine. Then playing with the kids for a bit, and being slobbered on by the two dogs before I had to crash. Am staying up in Mike and Anne's top floor apartment. Kings Park is very quiet at night, and I drifted off to sleep happily listening to the wind and rain in the trees.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Preparing for my flight to New York. Running about the place. Just back from a fast beer with Anton in The Eddy. Now poking the last bits into my case. Need to be up tomorrow at an unspeakable 4:50am.

Increasingly cheery about my visit! Lurked out at lunchtime to buy a new case and en route took this snap of a full-moon-swollen Thames that was threatening to spill over the bank. Foreground Mark, background The Gnome.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Monday morning. Creative department had been moved again and I wandered about the agency till someone told me where they'd put it. Greeted by a nest of boxes and strewn stuff. Hard for me and The Gnome to focus.

Flew into a rage with an unfortunate suit. Guilt forced me to go out and buy a bunch of freesias for her to say sorry afterwards. She forgave me.

Otherwise nothing much happening. Looking forward massively to seeing MJ! Feeling a tad rubbish physically though. Enjoyed working on a poem, however, rewriting one of the starts I put on here in the spring into something more formed.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Introspective day, very enjoyable but little blogworthy. Working on bits and pieces of poetry and fiddling with other bits of writing.

Feeling somewhat run down, and so welcomed a quiet weekend. Spoke to lovely MJ of course and to Anton.

When on the phone lately or listening to the radio I have got into the habit of doing bitmap doodles. Some of them end up looking quite pretty.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Up at the crack of dawn cleaning the bathroom to prevent the plumber from contracting cholera when putting in the new toilet bowl. However the toilet bowl was delivered with a chip in it, so it is the bucket business till after I return from the states again. D'oh.

Had a tidying frenzy. Threw away lots of things -- ancient payslips and statements from accounts that don't exist any more. Quite therapeutic. Thinking of Alan Sugar's comment that a piece of paper left on a desk represents a decision not made. Am trying to interrogate pieces of paper these days. What are you? Are you the sort of piece of paper that I will ever realistically do anything with? etc. It is a lengthy process.

Happy to lie low today. Bumped briefly into Anna and Anton and some friends of theirs. Anton happy to be back in Blighty. Otherwise spent lots of time talking to MJ and my mum on the phone. Remembering with Mum about my grandmother's penchant for practical jokes. I'd forgotten the story for example of the shop dummy she used to put in the lane to thoughtfully fake a road accident for arriving guests.

Watched junk TV like a zombie tonight, and really enjoyed it. Haven't done that for a long time.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Thinking about Wilfred Owen who was killed the day before the First World War ended on this day in 1918. I wonder how his poetry would have evolved should he have survived.

Started reading The Monk and the Philosopher today on the train, a book Sophie had given me a long time ago but had slipped down the back of the bookcase. Interesting dialogue between a father and a son -- the father a French Philosopher, and his son who became a Buddhist monk who gave up a promising scientific career in research to sit at the feet of Tibetan masters.

Disembarking from the train at Victoria, and a touch in the back and a whiff of sulphur and there was Spooner looking brown and slim and exceedingly well. Slitty-eyed twinkle present and correct.

Dragged myself into work feeling less than lively. However, the agency has won a few pitches lately and there was a cheery feeling about the place. Caught up with the French Bloke at lunch, and saw Max too. She is very close now to full term.

Spoke to lovely MJ a little after lunch, she had been looking at animal graves in America on the internet. Particularly liked Mr Chicken's grave. Mr Chicken was a rooster whose original legs were frozen off, and was given acrylic ones by the vet. It became something of a celebrity, but met a sticky end being mauled by raccoon six months later.

Free drinks in the bar at 4:30 which was an excellent way to start a weekend. Ended up going to the OSP to see Phil singing karaoke. Very nicely as it happened -- and there were some very earnest performers there.

Home and asleep on the train again.

Sitting at the feet of Masters part two... Below is a photo of Sophie and me with Martin Warner, taken at his retirement do the other week. Also a photo I nicked from the BBC of people marking their remembrance in the ruins of bombed out Coventry Cathedral.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Off work again today with writer's gyp. Ventured out to the quack, and a spot of food shopping as there was little to eat. Slept a lot. Chatted to MJ at lunchtime. I will have to drag my sorry butt back to work tomorrow. At least I didn't have a lengthy work phonecalls in my bed today.

Watched a wonderful and traumatising documentary on BBC 2 tonight called The Last Stand. Where a TV crew had unrestricted access the recent pull out of settlers from the Gaza Strip. It was like some Shakespearian tragedy. Militaristic and extremist husband with three guns, and his extremist warrior wife who developed cancer as the stand off developed.

I felt incredibly sorry for the settlers. They were incredibly brave but, to my mind, extremist and misguided. I also felt sorry for the soldiers of the Israeli Army who had to go in and drag the people away, and of course the Palestinians in the occupied territory... In fact for everyone. But ended up feeling most sorry for Datya Itzhaki (pictured with a headscarf after she lost her long hair) and her poor children.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Zombie day. Took the day off work feeling wussy. Got roped into a long telephone conversation while in bed about member get member communications, and had to work through some bits with Mike on the phone. Otherwise slept a lot. Slunk out into Brighton for a few provisions. It was bright and nice.

Day redeemed by talking to my beautiful MJ. We are most cheery that I will be over there soon. MJ sent me a picture of Carhenge in the Nebraska. Makes me want to write a travel book with her called Stonehenges of America.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Not a blogtastic day. Still feeling a little out of sorts but enjoyed a refresher listen to my brainwashing tape this morning.

Work better today and travelled with the Gnome to another agency after hours to presented some concepts which went down quite well.

Straight home tonight and managed to relight the boiler after it had been blown out, which was a boon after the ghastly struggles I had with the boiler in Thornton Avenue.

Booked my tickets and holiday for a week off to visit MJ. Called her this evening, as she was laughing at Anton who was messaging her from NY.

Mineral water tonight thank God. And now, joyously to bed relatively early.

Monday, November 07, 2005

A bit rough and ropy. Sluggish in the brain parts at work, which was a bit frustrating. Had to work hard to be positive today, especially as me and the Gnome had a hideous amount to do. Managed to scrape half an hour to walk by the river which was very enjoyable. Pleasant day, walked along talking to MJ, plotting my next trip to the colonies, as crows and seagulls and geese and ducks and helicopters all made themselves heard.

Saw Maddog in the evening. Very good to see Bob, as ever. Had a nice Chinese meal in Soho, and generally caught up, telling me a lot about Milly his daughter, talking about Buddhism and Meister Eckhart. He also nicely gave me a beautifully-presented box of Japanese bean cakes as a belated birthday present. Very tired by the time I got home, and talked to MJ again for a bit before sloping gratefully off to bed.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Bought a new moleskine notebook today. I am very snobby about them. There's something about having a moleskine notebook which gives your jottings the proper respect. Walked down to the sea and sat in the cafe in the company of my new notebook.

The weather was wild and stormy with a real gale, and stinging rain. The sky a dark blue grey, which touched the sea and shoreline with dark smudges of rain. The sea was almost khaki green and very rough, as you can see from the pictures.

Really enjoyed the drama of it bursting over the groynes. Drank coffee, and watched the big waves roll by the pier for a long time. It felt like being at sea, apart from the fact there was no movement.

Afterwards walked down by the sea looking at the strange flotsam. Saw several mermaid's purses, and storm-broken cuttlefish, and odd clumps of shells which I think were broken off barnacles.

Matty called me and after I walked home and changed clothes I joined him and Taranjit and Craig in the Battle of Trafalgar. They'd had a great time at Lewes, although they looked a little jaded after their exertions.

I was rather surprised to learn that Matty boy had felt like a quick swim on Friday night after I left, and had simply done so in the November sea at 1:00 am. A long chat with these three before they set off to back to London.

I had an enjoyable evening at home. This is one of those weekends that I wish would stretch for several more days. I feel very creative.

Spoke to my darling MJ. Plans are afoot with Weezer for An Interesting Trip when I next visit the New World.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

John the plumber & his taciturn sidekick came at 8:30 in the morning. Turns out that the whole toilet needs replacing due to cracks and antique workings. This leaves me struggling with buckets for another week. Talking to John afterwards I learned that he is a passionate diver, and has even won an award for the most dives made, a previous winner being Jacques Cousteau which necessitated him flying to Las Vegas and giving a speech. He told me about swimming with sharks too, to get good photos of them.

Had a long chat with MJ today. We are missing each other a great deal. We were feeling very cheerful talking about my next visit and she also floated the idea that Matty boy wasn't to blame for my hangover.

I really enjoyed life today. But found there were just not enough hours today to do all the Peter Kenny things I wanted to do. A while ago I started doing some bitmaps with the paint thing on the computer. Now I am doing a bitmap odyssey (a rough first page of which can be seen here). Also played a bit of guitar, worked on my Coventry poem, and generally pottered about.

In the evening walked off to a massive firework display at Sussex County Cricket Ground with Anna, Anton, Baby Klauds, Brian, Christian, Jane and Jon. Thousands there, lots of excitable kids running about on the pitch making it look like a big LS Lowry picture. It began to rain slightly just before the fireworks started but held off for the display. I love fireworks, and the gunpowdery smell in the air. There was a huge long and colourful display with such loud bangs that they made the earth vibrate. Baby Klauds unimpressed with this, and fell asleep.

Back to Anna and Anton's place where we scarfed red hot chili and I discovered a new function on my phone camera. Here is Christian twice and Anna.

Brooding this morning about the badness of Matty. Woke cirque couchant* with what can only be described as a hangover: entirely bad Matty boy's fault.

After another long and hard-working day, met Matty and his accomplices at the Reef bar at Victoria. (Also bumped into fellow hack Jez there, who I'd not seen for some time.) Matt and his amigos were off to Brighton this weekend to enjoy the burning of effigies and the fireworks at Lewes.

I explained to Matty that I wanted an early night and would melt quickly away once in Brighton.

Onto the crowded Brighton train and bad Matty had bought a bag of Magners ciders and a bag of ice and paper cups. I joined Matty and his crew in attending to those uninhibitedly and rather noisily, attracting one or two stony looks as we did so. His accomplices were Taranjit, Jeff and Craig (both American, and both nursing broken hearts. My opening line to Craig was, Hi Craig, how are you and that lovely Chiara getting on? D'oh.) And Bei and her nice Australian boyfriend Greg.

Train party: Matty glancing out into the darkness to plan more bad things. Jeff talking to Taranjit.

Sadly I failed to melt away & unaccountably ended up being loud and noisy in bars. Started off at the Battle of Trafalgar, a spit away from me, then on to The Caxton and ended up in the Heist bar, last visited with MJ. This becomes something of a nightclub later on with some sporadic and unimpressive dancing. As bad Matty commenced buying tequila at midnight I had a sudden insight: that now was an extremely good time to leave, which I did promptly. But clearly, judging by my head this morning, not nearly early enough.

Had not been to a dancey sort of place (other than silly work parties) for quite a while. It must be an age thing, but now I found myself looking at it all with amused detatchment. From this vantage all the little rituals and displays seemed transparent, and who fancied whom, who was available, who wasn't. I left the place very thankful for the fact that I have my MJ, and that my times of standing about trying to look cool, in the din of crap music, is something I will never have to do again. I never met anyone I liked in clubs & half the time you can't hear a word either. Young people. Bah. Ban them.

Phoned my darling MJ in America to convey the piercing brilliance of this thought when I got home. Lucky girl.

While at work I had spoken to Mum and Mase who had been visited, in a Kafkaesque way, by someone from the pensions department and were acting strangely.

Also talked to Paul who has started his temporary employment at Sainsburys. Typically he has thrown himself into it wholeheartedly and seemed to be really enjoying himself. He was even given a spot bonus for knowing the relative performance of the fish (up 19%) and the meat (down 30%) in the store. He said he was also thinking in three-dimensional space. Next week I am going to ask him what this means.

* Coiled snake-like from Keats Lamia. Have been looking for an opportunity for some time to use that.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Me and the Gnome have been hard at work for weeks. My new re-framing approach is working. Before we start any job, I say to the Gnome, "how can we do this quickly and easily", rather than sitting about moaning about it, or expecting it to be a nightmare. This has contributed to us cracking through work at pace, and working better as a team.

Broke off to speak to my beloved MJ. The only place I could talk to her was outside and it was blowing a strong gale. Beginning to plan when we next see each other again which is always an exceedingly cheery conversation.

In the evening went for a meal as an early celebration of Tracey's birthday. We went to The Old Fire Station again. Incredibly noisy that so ended up lipreading those people not sitting next to me. Apart from the FB of course whose voice can be marvellously penetrating. Other attendees were Bouncy Max, Mandy, Chris and his handily named girlfriend Christine. The evening broke up early, and I caught the 9:30 train to Brighton but still managed to fall soundly asleep on the train.

Below... Mandy pulling a face, and Tracey.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Watery day. A deluge this morning as I went to the station. The gutter in Guildford Road like a brook.

Read all of Lamia by Keats today on the train. Got to the line Martin had used: "Philosophy will clip an Angel's wings" in his lecture at the weekend. A hectic, rather hallucinogenic poem, which for some reason I had never read. With some resonance for Mike too...

Philosophy will clip an Angels wings
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
Empty the haunted air and gnomed mine--

The Gnome, blinking in the surface light, and me quickly got ourselves out of the office to work on a rebranding project. Walked in the rain along the river to the Ship where we drank rubbish coffees and mineral waters, ate Thai grub and came up with a few concepts. Slouched back to the office several hours later, a few tiresome conversations and then I was out of the office like a rat up a drainpipe.

An hour's walk by the sea tonight. Lovely and rough, with crashing waves. I went to my favourite groyne and spent ten minutes with the wind in my face, dodging spray and looking at the big muscly waves break on the pebbles below. There were clumps of seafoam, some the size of footballs, being blown up the beach.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Mary Jane in court this morning to negotiate for the children being allowed to leave the US. They meet again in a few weeks. Most of the day's thoughts revolving around this.

Otherwise lurked at home for the John the Plumber this morning.

J the P, peering into the cistern and shaking head, "Nasty!"
Me: "What do you expect... It's a toilet."

Naturally my cistern needs an obscure type of valve, not a bog standard one (arf!), to be specially delivered. So till Saturday there is an unsavoury struggling with buckets.

Into work late. Tired. People kept giving me lots of tedious work to do which was far from optimal.

I am on mini-health kick, however, and the Gnome is copying me. For lunch I drank green tea and ate vine tomatoes, and a little humous, and a few oatcakes and fruits. The Gnome consumed a packet of six pitta breads, a family sized tub of humous and a bag of carrots.

And writing a short poem about Coventry Cathedral.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Little news: Halloween but I was unhaunted.

Quite a quiet day at work, which was welcome. This gave me the opportunity to slip out at lunchtime for an enjoyable swim. In the evening met the old Dell crew Ash, Phil, Arno, Emma, James and Marcella in Soho. Queen Paula missing however through illness. We met in the Crown and Two Chairmen, and then went to the usual curry house. Left early but had another poor journey home.

Reading Lamia this morning which I can't remember reading before. As ever Keats' descriptions resonate... Found myself loving this, which had me imagining reflections in marble:

While yet he spake they had arrived before
A pillar'd porch, with lofty portal door
Where hung a sliver lamp, whose phosphor glow
Reflected in the slabbed steps below,
Mild as a star in water...

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Woke up early and it felt enjoyable and familiar sitting in my room with the window open to the grey and rainy morning, drinking instant coffee and writing yesterday’s entry.

After a large breakfast, Sophie and me went for a walk in the teeming rain and lurked about on the campus. Then back to Scarman to dry off before the taxi to Coventry. Gallingly realised at the station that I had left my ticket in the hotel.

Sophie on the train getting in the Buddhist mood.

Arriving at Euston we went straight to Friends House to join a Rigpa event. Rigpa is a Tibetan word with connotations of the innermost nature of the mind as well as intelligence and awareness.

It was a two day event but we were able to sneak in for the last quarter – with several hours of teaching by Tibetan Buddhist Minguyur Rinpoche who was 29 and had a funny as well as a wise old soul. He spoke in English, with a translator to help with the trickier bits.

Although I am no expert, one of the things I love about Buddhism is the fact that there is room for laughter and the absurd. Minguyur Rinpoche certainly used animals in his examples quite a bit, which I enjoyed.

On entering the hall we were given a handful of rice as an offering. I had no idea what it was for, however. When the master arrived, everyone stood reverentially and once we had sat down again there was some chanting. Suddenly everyone threw their rice in the general direction of the stage. As I went to bed that night I was still discovering the odd grain in my hair.

I was very interested in what he had to say – about using the natural activity of the “mad monkey” mind and its stream of thoughts as itself a way of meditating.

He showed us a rosary-like string of beads. He explained that each one represents a thought going on in a circle forever. He showed us that if you feel and notice each thought as if it were a bead passing through your fingers you create a way of meditating without having to struggle to banish all your own thoughts.

Then Sogyal Rinpoche who is the founder of Rigpa said some words. There was much reverence from the crowd to both teachers.

Teachings went on till 7, and then Sophie and I went for a quick drink to discuss the weekend and the teachings we had heard, before bidding her a fond farewell.

Journey back to Brighton turned into an ordeal, taking me two hours to get home from Victoria. Despite my injection of Buddhism I felt very ratty about during this journey. However, I managed to score a late Chinese meal and chat with MJ before heading for bed.

An excellent weekend however. And really lovely to connect with Sophie after such a long time, and hear so many interesting thoughts.