Thursday, March 30, 2006

Anton got on the same train this morning, and turned up at my door with a cappuccino.

Later, in two bursts of big and cleverness I learned this morning that we had won the pitch I'd led about six weeks ago. Very happy about this. Also spoke to a new friend called Sarah, who reads this blog from time to time and who sent me a note last night, looking forward to a refreshing ale with her next week.

A leaving do tonight. Had a few beers after work and slept all the way home big and cleverness gradually abating.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Gripped by the idea that I should re-read Inferno. Dante's opening lines have always haunted me: Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita/mi ritrovai per una selva oscura/che la diritta via era smarrita. This in my old translation reads: In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost. I love the sound of the phrase una selva oscura and the image of a dark wood often comes to me in times of confusion.

Too restless for the boy Dante on the train however, and instead wasted brainspace doing a crossword.

Work fairly tedious today, with a slow meeting all through lunch. I have a persistent cold and sore throat and a bit of a cough so not on fab form. Curiously, however, swimming seems to make me feel better for a bit, and I had a quick swim late in the afternoon, and then bumped into the FB at leaving time and stopped for a quick drink and a chat as he'd just returned from Boston that morning. Told the FB that I am determined to avoid depression over my breakup with MJ. I am doing what I can to stay positive, and friends are helping immeasurably. Anger, I discover, is a wonderful anesthetic.

Listening to Benjamin Britten (copying Mum) as I type this.

The Thames flooding today, and I snapped this person on the opposite bank cycling through the river.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Awake very early, so had time for a decent breakfast before running for the train. Beautiful day, bright sunshine and strong wind between showers. Noticed blossom and ranks of daffodils from the train.

The Gnome back at work today after a short holiday, and we slunk off to work offsite on concepts and quaff hot chocolate in the Ship pub by the river. Noticing, as we did, how the Thames was busy with preparations for this weekend's annual Oxford and Cambridge boat race.
Later I got a surprise call from Paula who was laughing like a seagull and was clearly on a boat of some description. Turns out she was bouncing along on the river in a lifeboat. (The lifeboat people are one of her clients.) As me and the Gnome left The Ship for a brisk walk before returning to the agency there was Paula strapped into a large lifeboat bouncing on the choppy Thames.

A little later we even bumped into her and another old colleague Nick as they disembarked. Paula bounced up and gave me a big rivery hug.

Swimming after work not much fun today, as the pool was quite crowded with people huffily bumping into each other. After this I briefly met Kate and Bryony who were off to see a play before heading home. Janet called me this evening to invite me around for a large Saturday night feed. Also spoke to Toby began plotting a visit to Ontario.

Also had a note from Joan with a picture of beech trees and dogtooth violets below. Good to learn that there is a positive use for their fangs other than biting defenceless children in Guernsey. And talking of talking dogs visit here for proof...

One great thing about having bad times is that it reminds me just how incredibly lucky I am in the friends department. Had a surprising amount of supportive phone calls, emails and so on today.

Feeling somewhat coldy but a swim made me feel significantly better.

Out in Brighton later with Anton for drinks. He naturally suggested that salvation lay in retail therapy personally just having bought a Tilley hat, which is naturally the best of all walking hats. This now puts his ratio of hiking purchases to actual hikes at something like 15:1.

Had a large pizza, and a free bottle of wine that Anton had a voucher for. The Tipping Point has a name for the Antons of this world. They are "Mavens", people who know everything about shopping and researching things. They are very useful apparently.

Later ended up in a pub called The Pond where china pots hang from the ceiling. We discovered people keening some Irish music in a corner, which was pleasant. Home and a blast of the Arctic Monkeys which Anton lent me -- and then slumped into bed.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

It has been an extremely sad and upsetting last few days, as MJ and me have broken up.

I am going to say no more about it here.

This morning I went for a three hour walk from Burgess Hill into the country and then back to Wivelsfield to catch the train home. It was good to walk, despite the fact everywhere was waterlogged and resembled some WW1 battlefield, like the path below.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Stood up in the train and saw that Reuben had been behind me. Quite fun having two minute chats with Reub every morning walking through Victoria station.

Today was the day of my appraisal at work. In fact, the first appraisal I have been given in five and a half years at the agency. Seems I am officially big and clever at the moment, so all was well. Amusingly there was some political infighting about who was actually going to give me my appraisal -- so it ended up being done by committee.

The French Bloke came by my desk this morning feeling a bit wussy, but then the next time I saw him, the Gaul of Burnley was happily back in default world authority mode. Went for a walk at lunchtime and he went to work on a presentation in a pub.

Had another swim after work, having vowed to swim every working day this week, then slipped down to the Blue Anchor to meet Paul and Matty Boy. Paul describing life working in Sainsbury's to us very thoroughly indeed.

The lovely Taranjit turned up before the call of the seagull grew strong in me but I had a poor journey and didn't get home till 1.00am, spoke briefly to Jack as MJ had fallen asleep watching American Idol, before gladly falling into bed.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Quickly replied to an email from Mrs Pie today addressed to Peter Kennylegs, then off to work feeling no ill effects from yesterday. Bumped into Reuben at Victoria, who thinks he left his Caples Gold award (collected in NYC) in the back of a taxi. How cool is that?

Swam at lunchtime. Work unremarkable. Had a fast glass of wine with the FB in the galley before heading homewards. Did nothing tonight, apart from talk to MJ whose day at the Kiddie Academy had not been quite so taxing, chatted to Jack briefly about barrows too.


Kate sent me a photo of the same tree by the river that I posted on 15th March that she'd taken six months ago...

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Below... A lichen encrusted stone high above Eastbourne, a barrow-like hump -- perhaps the resting place of a long dead chieftain, and looking back into a valley and the church at Jevington, a small village along the way with an unlikely claim to fame.


Up early, drove with Anton (pictured below), Anna and Baby Klauds to the wonderful old village of Alfriston in East Sussex. Anna took the car back and Anton and me commenced walking to Eastbourne along the South Downs way.

The day was utterly beautiful, cold, with some wind on the tops of hills, but a perfect blue sky and lots of sun. Clambered up some steep hills and Anton and me overcame two phobias... I get a horrible exposed agoraphobic feeling every now and again. The conditions that spark this are mostly empty flat fields and standing on the tops of bald hills. It harks back to when I was four or five and was convinced I was going to fall into the sky. Meanwhile Anton takes against sheer drops. Yomping up a path carved into the treeless top of Ditchling Beacon (with the Long Man carved into it) was a ghastly challenge for both of us. Somehow, after cringing by a gate to eat the fortifying sausage sandwiches that Anton had packed for us, we decided to press on and got throught the ghastly bit and ended up having a really nice walk for the next six miles or so till we reached Eastbourne.

Felt really good to be doing something healthy outside, and of course it gave Anton the chance to accessorise, so that he had new: special socks, layers of clothes, maps, a special compass, an anorak, hat, gloves, rucksack, vacuum flasks, special trousers with special map holding pockets and zips so they turn into shorts and socks.

Really good thing to have done, and I can't think of anyone I'd rather be clinging to the side of a sheer drop with. We both felt really pleased with ourselves in the last stretch as we walked down the almost-parkland slope down into Eastbourne.

In Eastbourne, where I phoned my baby and Anton called Anna. We had a fast beer in a dodgy pub there and then headed home on the train to Brighton, glimpsing the Long Man from the train. Paused again at the Battle of Trafalgar, what with Guildford Road being so steep and all, for another pint of Harveys. Anna had been cooking and we had a lovely meal of roast beef, yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes and various vegetables, followed by Anna's signature treacle pudding. Yum. Very English day, what with our pints of bitter and hearty rib-sticking English grub.

Klaudia being the most adorable two year old on the planet. Asking for me to come upstairs as she was going to bed and having to watch her brush her teeth.

Here are a few snaps of the great (well only 8 miles on the South Downs Way) trek...

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Back up to London to meet Mum and Mase. I'd planned to visit the Poetry Library in the Royal Festival Hall, but discovered this vast building to be wrapped in a humongous sheet and the man at the door said it was closed, mate.

So off early to my rendez-vous with Mum and Mase only to bump into them on the platform at Sloane Square tube as they were also early. Rather eccentrically Mum was armed with a large bag of nuts in her handbag which she fed to the three of us during the afternoon. Before embarking on the Affordable Art Fair, we sloped downstairs into the cafe bar in Sloane Square for a quick drink. Mum said she had begun writing down the funny and spooky stories of her life (and leaving out the miserable ones) in a set of memoirs.

Mason was defending MJ by saying bugs in America were worse than here and needed to be exterminated. And these yellow jacket bee things were particularly unspeakable and had bad attitudes. Mum said it had been good for Mason's karma coming to England as he didn't have to exterminate so many insects.

Then a few hours in the Affordable Art Fair -- basically a massive art exhibition with everything priced "affordably" i.e. under £3,000. Visual overload... There was so work stuff there.

As with the recent show I saw in Manhattan I got the occasional wave of impatience with the regurgitation of images I feel like I've seen a thousand times. But there were some standouts for me. For me there were these landscapes by someone called Christopher P. Wood. Wonderful use of colour and strange landscapes that made me think vaguely of a less rugged Max Ernst, and an mystical/aboriginal feel to them too, with the rocks in the pictures being covered with markings as if signalling to sky gods. You can see more of Wood's stuff here. The one below Oasis of Love was, I think, at the show but this image does absolutely no justice to his work.

Also enjoyed seeing four Roger Dean prints, particularly Tales from Topographic Oceans. The fish were brighter and greener than the version that used to decorate my teenage bedroom wall.
Then by bus to Leicester Square where I snapped, in passing, the silhouette of Eros at Piccadilly Circus. We went to a Mexican restaurant in the Square, which was pretty poor but it was good to sit down and eat things that weren't from Mum's handbag. Fond farewells, then sleeping on the train back to Brighton despite it only being 7:30pm.

Above Eros, and below Christopher P. Wood.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Lunch back at the Thai restaurant again with the FB and Tracey. The FB celebrating having lost some weight by forking down significant amounts of Thai grub. He was also most eloquently singing the praises of Max, which is a lovely thing to hear. He is now on treatment for the ticker problem and this is already helping to settle things down, which is great news.

Was interested to hear that the commercial that was made for the charity I flew out to present to in Baltimore in December has completely bombed. They ended up chosing a concept from the US agency. The commercial was sent over to us from the US a couple of days ago, and it was a litany of basic errors. They are seeking help again... perhaps they'll take our advice this time.

MJ's new job challenging again today. She was stuck in the classroom again and not liking the uniform as it makes her look like she works in a fast food place.

Spent a blameless evening at home pottering about, listening to a BBC radio play about prostitues in Liverpool.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Things today... The new time for the court date is now at the end of April, and this time the Judge has requested I be questioned too. This seems fairly logical to me.

Saw a photo this morning of a Robot fish in the London Metro. Found film of it here on the web swimming in a pool in Hiroshima. My (slightly sucky) SF story Coelacanth written a few years ago featured a Kiobot, also invented in Japan. I can see into the future...

Otherwise work fine. The Gnome sniffing next to me all day with a cold. At lunch I went to the Thai restaurant with Al and her husband Mike and Hazel for a quick and tasty lunch. Mike is a nice guy and a restaurateur by trade. Their baby is going to have wonderful food to eat... Al's Chinese food, and Mike's Italian. They are going to move to Australia, a choice dictated partially by the fact there are large Italian and Chinese communities there. Oh... And the sun and the sea.

Home, dozing on the train and reading the Tipping Point, which is fun.

Spoke to MJ tonight, and the first day at work was somewhat chaotic, with loads of staff being off work, and she came back smelling of urine and having had her eye poked. I miss her very much.

Watched a documentary tonight called The Falling Man about the famous photograph of an unknown man falling from one of the Twin Towers. Very upsetting but it was absolutely riveting too. The Channel 4 blurb for it... "The Falling Man is the story of the 'jumpers' of 9/11. It follows the trail of the photographer who nearly lost his life shooting the image; of the citizens who decried it, arguing that it was sensational and exploitative; of the editors who published it and then reluctantly banned it; and the journalist who finally uncovered the falling man's identity."

Talked to MJ about it a little, and it made her upset again over losing her friend Joyce on that day. It still seems strange to me to think that MJ and I were emailing one another on that day -- before anything happened, and then after. As I sat with Craig watching the events unfold at work, I kept thinking of her because she was the only person I knew in New York.

The way the poor man's leg was bent reminded me of the hanged man tarot card -- which for me added to its stunning and horrible force as an image.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Much better today, headache gone, and I set off to London with no problem. The Gnome, who returned today, and me are not too busy right now, which suits me fine while I normalise after my jetlag. A pleasant day.

At lunchtime I waddled over Fulham Palace Road to the pool. I am ruing my usual loss of self control when I am in the US, where I eat like a maniac. There is much repair work to be done.

Spoke to my lovely MJ after my swim and I seem to be in trouble for the Winnie the Pooh picture, she busy readying herself for her new job, working on her freelance article and being a cheeky monkey.

In the evening I went out with an exceedingly cheery Matty Boy for a well-overdue beer and a feed in the Stonemason's. Put the world to rights for some time, before we were joined by the lovely Taranjit, the major factor in his current cheeriness. They are making an extremely sweet couple.

Journey home something of a nightmare and didn't get back till gone 1.00am,

Below the river Thames at sundown, as I walked to see Matty Boy.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Woke at 7.00 after 10 hours sleep with a vile headache and feeling sick. Simply went back to bed again after taking drugs and leaving messages with work folks. Slept for several hours until 1:00pm with my head slightly more bearable. Will probably have explaining to do at work, but there you go.

Later in the afternoon, caught up a bit with the blog, and added in pictures later in the day. Quick foray into Brighton to renew travel card and go to the bank. Bought a new rucksack for £5 which was a bobby bargain.

MJ in a frenzy trying to get organised to start her job tomorrow, and having high speed drives into Brooklyn.

Spoke to Anton who is off to Paris again tomorrow - he is full of plans for our walk at the weekend and is happily accessorising for the new craze - anorak, boots, rucksack, compass, maps, sandwiches, flasks etc. Spoke also to Mum to plan a visit to The Affordable Art Fair on Saturday with her and Mase. Cunningly, I will pop into the Poetry Library beforehand.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Urgh. Straight from Heathrow to work. Noticed on the tube that I still had sand from the North Shore on my boots.

Fantastically tired. Work not too bad fortunately, and did little other than sit in a brainstorm for a couple of hours, where I was able to speak after two cans of diet coke. Good news was that my pal Alice Lee was back after maternity leave. Walked about like a zombie, spoke to the FB briefly but was too tired to make any sense. The Gnome on holiday. Left work early and was delighted to find my house not to be a patch of cinders and all your belongings gone.

Found this in my in basket.... A vacant looking 16 year old Peter Kenny in the Bunch of Grapes on Duke Street, my then-regular haunt. Tess, who I saw last year for the first time since I was 19, sent them to me. She is the girl on my right.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The day of leaving, and the pathetic fallacy of rain as in a Thomas Hardy novel. We drove off to Sunken Meadow and went for a walk anyway, over the rain shiny boardwalk and onto the sand. The wet shells and stones looking extra colourful; the sea grey and misty. Despite the damp we both enjoyed this.

Then off to Elijah Churchill's, a publike local restaurant with a revolutionary theme. I ate some sort of burger with a name like a redcoat or patriot, or turncoat and menaced MJ with onions for comic effect. Home again briefly for coffee before MJ drove me off to JFK. We are quite used to saying goodbye all the time, but it doesn't make it much better.

Was there early so ended up buying The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell and reading it in one of the bars till it was time to get on the plane.

Rather panicky on this journey, cramped into the seat next to another large man. The woman at the window pulled her window flap down immediately and so was unable to see any kind of horizon during the persistent turbulence. Did not get a single minute of sleep.

The plane took ages to take off and there was a man next to me shouting on his mobile phone in Yiddish. People kept glaring at him but he was oblivious. I took an even dimmer view of him turning on his phone shortly before we landed at about 7:15 when he momentarily turned on his phone as we were flying over London, not yet landed. And finally when we were standing still in the aisle waiting to disembark he kept pushing me in the back. It is a long time since I have felt so close to putting someone on the deck.

And welcome to Heathrow.

Below the rainsoaked North shore.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Large breakfast with Weezer of bread and cheese and coffee till she headed back off to Brooklyn to fondle the ears of her beagle.

A beautiful day so we decided to go for a walk. MJ drove us back to Cold Spring harbor and we walked along the green belt trail through woods. Quite uppy and downy but it gave me the opportunity to learn more MJ language. If there is one nasty thing, you say Ew! as you look at it. If there are several nasty things, such as "bugs" a more guttural and profoundly disgusted Ugh! is in order. At one point on the path there were a dozen or so insects through which MJ scurried uphill adding "this is like hell" to the ugh noises.

Enjoyable walk, although last night's party and gormandising probably not the best preparation. I was pleased that my leg held up despite capering injury.

Back home to eat cold chicken and hot ziti. Then off to see Transamerica. This was an excellent film with a marvellous performance by Felicity Huffman as a pre-operative male-to-female transsexual. She takes an unexpected journey when she learns that she fathered a son, now a teenage runaway hustling on the streets of New York. It is sort of a road movie, but more about people finding ways of loving one another despite unpromising circumstances. A strangely feelgood and funny movie.

Back to Northport and we ate some Japanese food and then went gratefully home.

Below Winnie the Pooh.

Friday, March 10, 2006

MJ and I were invited to lunch with Mr and Mrs Porter today, who lived a few doors down from MJ in her childhood home. Now they are matriarch and patriarch of a big clan, with two daughters and a son, who all have families, living in the same street.

MJ is an honorary Porter, her mother having been a friend of Mrs Porter, and also having babysat for Mrs Porter when she was a teenager.

Mrs Porter is a born raconteur and all the family are all very pleasant (there were two daughters, and five grand-daughters there too) talking over each other, and adding-to each other's stories which came thick and fast.

Mrs Porter said that when she dies her idea of heaven would be Brooklyn - and there was much discussion of Brooklyn after the war. Later she owned the only drive-thru Deli on Long Island. The cast of characters that used to go there, such as the guys from the mortuary stopping by for coffee and rolls with dead people in the back of the car, or the murderer, have inspired her to write stories about it. I would like to read them.

She also talked a lot about MJ's mother Vi such as her rage when a nasty neighbour sprayed the nine year old Weezer with a garden hose one November.

Really enjoyed all this, and I was made to feel very welcome -- as well as very full. Exceedingly nice Devilled Eggs.

Then we went home and I cooked chickens and MJ cooked yummy baked ziti for our guests in the evening.

I was sad to say goodbye to the bairns as they were off to their father's for the weekend. Jack was very sweet and told me that he didn't want me to go. I have been getting on with the children excellently on this visit.

Kate however was in a terrible rage. We had left her with her best pal little Christine Porter. While we were gone, something happened and Christine didn't want to play with her. After sobbing in the back of the car when MJ first collected her, by the time she got home she flew into a towering rage, and hid when her father came to collect her, and refused to say goodbye to me.

Met Chris the children's father for the first time.

Evening spent gorging on food with MJ, Weezer, Keith and the mighty Velmar and their son Mark. We invited a few more people but they couldn't come at the last moment so we had a surfeit of grub which on top of the food we had at Mrs Porter's place meant that MJ and me ate 93000 calories today. Very enjoyable night.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Good news! MJ received confirmation of her job at the Kiddy Academy as an assitant director, which makes her both big and clever.

MJ and me went off to Walt Whitman's birthplace today, which is a little sanctuary of poesy across the unprepossessing Route 110 from the Walt Whitman mall. There is a small and tasteful lecture theatre and abundant quotes and photos etc. on the walls. There is also the restored farmhouse where he was born on the 31st May 1819 and lived the first four years of his life there on his father's farm. We sat through a short film about Walt which quoted from many of his fine works, and then were taken around the house on a guided tour. Enjoyable, but not terribly remarkable, but some photogenic bits which I will add here in a few days.

In the evening MJ and me took the LIRR into Manhattan to meet Weezer and Troy June. Very nice to see them too. We met them at the Generations 5 2006 exhibition at the A.I.R. Gallery, which was an exhibition of art by women, where Weezer (Diane June) had one of her pieces. I can honestly say that I thought Weezer's piece was the best one. There was lots of work there, some of it very accomplished, MJ liked a piece made from rust on paper and I quite liked a circular painting of treetops, but Weezer's use of colour is unlike anyone I have seen, and is entirely distinctive.

It was rammed in the A.I.R. gallery, and was hot and ironically airless. After gulping complimentary wine, and me taking a photo of Weezer, we left in search of food randomly ending up conducting the knife and forkwork in quite a nice Persian restaurant.

Then the hour-long journey home, with MJ making with the zeds, and me fighting to keep my eyes open so we didn't miss our station.

Below is Weezer with her painting on her left. The other is a snap in Walt Whitman's birthplace.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Time to do a bit of reading and thinking today. MJ leant me an essay today by Donald Hall, called Poetry: The Unsayable Said. It's always easy to enjoy things that you agree with, and what excites me in poetry is the idea that you are in the business of annexing new territory from silence, and finding words for things that have not yet been expressed.

There was a lovely image in the essay which is as follows:

Friends of ours bought an old house in the country, a warren of small rooms, and
after they furnished it and settled down, they became aware that their floor plan made no sense. Peeling off some wallpaper they found a door that pried open to reveal a tiny room, sealed off and hidden, goodness knows why: they found no corpses nor stolen goods. The unsayable builds a secret room, in the best poems, which shows the excess of feeling over paraphrase. This room is not a Hidden Meaning, to be paraphrased by the intellect; it conceals itself from reasonable explanation. The secret room is something to acknowledge, accept, and honor in a
silence of assent; the secret room is where the unsayable gathers, and it is poetry's uniqueness.


In other news MJ had a job interview this morning, which seemed to go well. When she got back, we went back into Northport for a cheery lunch where I had a Catfish Po'boy, chiefly because of its name. It was essentially a catfish burger and with my amateur ichthyologist head on, the phrase bottom feeder kept popping into my head as I ate it.

Kate off on a playdate this evening and I had a game of chess with Jack. Although I managed to win, he is surprisingly good for a 10 year old.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Quiet day. After the children off to school, MJ and I worked quietly for a few hours. Me struggling with a poem which so far seems a hair away from completion, but refuses to be finished. I think the problem is that I know exactly what I want to do with it, and so am now not surprising myself enough. Meanwhile, MJ busily researching an article and taking calls about jobs.

Gnawing hunger drove us off finally to a local cafe where we had a surprisingly chili-free Mexican bite. Then got some rather fresh air down by Northport's pretty harbour. Found that we were doing some window shopping quite soon. The town down by the harbour really pretty and pleasant.

Off to the school to collect Jack and Kate. Something universal about the way schoolchildren run about getting out of school that takes me back to my junior school in Neasden in North London. I love the way children are creatures of the moment they are in, and how every afternoon they are incredibly happy to see MJ.

Four of us sat in a row on the sofa watching American Idol in the evening.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The note from The Empress of Catan yesterday made me laugh. I can imagine the scene at Deviation Road. Down here on Long Island our marathon Risk game was completed without a tantrum, although it did end in yet another inexplicable victory for Mary Jane. I am not sure I ever got to the end of a Risk game with Toby as he would usually storm off or bang the board over. No wonder I have been psychologically impaired from winning, a handicap exploited by people like Mary Jane. She is far better than Mad Dog, however. As a trained counsellor he will thrash me at pool and then helpfully analyze exactly why I am a loser. I blame Toby.

Kate spent some of her afternoon drawing delicious looking cookies and working with me on their ingredients, which naturally included chocolate but also headless mice. We were aided in this by Link, who is Kate's imaginary (possibly) friend. Later, refusing to eat pasta, Kate had a massive tantrum and built a barricade in her room out of dolls houses to glower behind. Link retired to his resting place on the refrigerator.

MJ and me had a busy morning, went back to the Greek diner where the waitress spilt OJ all over MJ.

Then we answered the prompting of the disturbing genie oil lamp that kept glowing ominously on MJ's dashboard by going to a garage. Then had a marathon session in the Stop and Shop supermarket, struggling for control of the trolley/cart and retired home to read some Emily Dickinson - who I am starting to like a lot, before embarking on the struggle for world domination with Jack.

Beginning to be able to walk quite freely again after capering injury.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

A full day doing enjoyable familyish things. MJ drove us off to Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery and Aquarium today; a popular choice with Kate and, of course, me. Big outdoor pools of trout which thrashed satisfyingly when we threw in handfuls of smelly fish pellets. Particularly interesting for me were the aquariums with unfamiliar fish and salamander species from New York state. Enjoyed strange soft-shelled turtle with a Pinocchio nose too. (Watching it I mean, not eating it.)

Behind the hatchery was a Church next to an icy lake. We walked up to this, Kate with her sneakers on the wrong feet, and there I took some photos. Very pretty scene, with seagulls standing on the ice and Jack communicating with them in seagull language.

Home and we watched the enjoyable Brothers Grimm film. And later we went off to IHOP for dinner and returned to play a marathon game of Risk. After two and a half hours this was nowhere near conclusion but, unlike my memories of playing it with Toby, there were no explosive outbursts.

Below Jack, and the icy lake.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

MJ and me sleeping on an inflatable bed. Had to spring up in a rage in the middle of the night to reinflate it and don more clothes as it was freezing.

Decided to take the kids to the sea to run some energy out of them. Went to Crab Meadow, windy, with snow on the beach and the sea whitecapped and steel coloured despite the blue sky. Commenced capering with the kids, and after about three seconds, and mid-caper, painfully pulled a muscle in my calf. Hobbled back to the car and after a while went to the nearby restaurant MJ and me had eaten last year. A glass of wine, plates of squid and salad went a long way to cheering me up. Ruined any pretentions to health with a slice of cake afterwards. Kate embarked on a piece of chocolate cake that was literally half the size of her head.

Later in the afternoon we went to see Nanny McPhee. I think MJ and me liked it as much or more than the kids. Cast almost entirely English with Derek Jacobi in a bit part. Nicely art directed too.

Home, and some general lurking before jetlag caught up with me and I slunk off to bed early under a warm new duvet. Below Kate (cleverly snapped with her eyes closed) and my shadow in the yard.

Friday, March 03, 2006

MJ called the lawyer's office in preparation for Monday's case this morning. Turns out the legal guardian who has talked to the children is involved in another case, which has overrun. As that case takes precedence over ours, the result is a last-minute adjournment - and no idea yet of the date of trial. Much teeth grinding over this from me and MJ. Another Bleak House moment but we took a decision not to get too furious, or me on brooding on the three and a half thousand mile trip to attend it.

Instead we went down by the harbour in Northport to MJ's favourite new age shop. Here I bought MJ a little necklace with the stylized figure of a woman drawing down the moon.

Then had a good meal and a drink in a local restaurant called Main Street. Actually had a really pleasant afternoon. It was very bright and cheery with the snow reflecting the light from a blue sky. MJ met an old neighbor, who has a job as a traffic attendant, whose wife's wake she attended a week or so ago. He was very upset still, MJ gave him a big hug. Ironically, after our meal we discovered a ticket on her windscreen.

Collected Kate and Jack. Jack took at least an hour to get over the utter dejection of losing a chess match to a first grader. He cheered up later when we played heroscape. Kate having a noisy playdate. Later all slumped tiredly watching TV, including a documentary about the 10 scariest places in the US which we all laughed at.

Below the yard - and house - in snow.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Snow today in Long Island. Lucky to have got here yesterday. Kate off school with a slight fever and a rash, both of which cleared up. MJ had a job interview today, so I kept an eye on Kate and while she played computer games I started a poem till she got bored. Then we progressed to doing drawings together till a snowy MJ returned.

When Jack returned we had an enjoyable snowball fight in the yard. Northport makes me think of the Peanuts cartoons. In snow,the neighbourhood was a white Charlie Brown scene. It made me remember the conversation I had with Weezer in the morning about her new beagle.

Anton sent a text saying he was going to be in NY too next week. Reuben in Manhattan too -- somewhere.

The children off to their father's in the evening and MJ and me slithered through the slush and snow to the local Chinese takeaway. I also bought a bottle of wine wrapped in an anonymous brown paper bag from the liquor store. When it is with the right person, there is nothing better than being indoors, with the snowy cold outside, sipping a glass of wine and having a Chinese feast in front of the TV.

The view from MJ's front door.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Off to the Americas today, a 4:50am start which was a little challenging. Journey good apart from tiresome queues caused by Virgin's computer failing at Heathrow. There appears to be a sinister Peter Kenny on a banned from flying list, as they always have to phone to check that I am not about to blow the plane up. Got talking to a woman next to me in the queue who turned out to be a she-Gnome, a Welsh art director.

Few horrors on the plane. After the doors were locked, the pilot explained it was going to be bumpy, but luckily the journey was largely smooth, and I even managed to doze off once or twice entirely unaided by gin and tonic. I had a window seat and enjoyed peering down at the frozen north: icy seas below Greenland, and the vast tracts of snowy Canada.

Galling queues at JFK. Waited in line at immigration for almost an hour, knowing MJ was about 100 yards away. Finally through, and MJ looking all lovely and businesslike in a little black suit and her hair up fresh from a second job interview. Much fond squeezing then off in the car to Northport and a late lunch of a large Jalapeno burger and a glass of cold beer. As always, had the "of course" feeling again. Being driven down the Jericho Turnpike by MJ seems like the most normal thing in the world. Amazing really that you can start the day in Brighton and spend the latter part of it in Long Island.

The house where MJ and the bairns are living is excellent and surrounded by garden. Arrived there and met Kathleen, who had been keeping an eye on the kids. She has known MJ since third grade and I really liked her.

As we came in I could hear Kate shouting "Peter Kenny's here" and ran up to me. Jack gave me a hug. All well. Produced two large Toblerones and Kate stuck a whole triangle in her mouth with it poking out of her cheeks just like Toblerone's recent ad campaign.

Did a little shopping where after a brief struggle with MJ I got to push the trolley again. Then back home to watch American Idol pop talent show competition before I could keep my eyes open no longer.