Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Slept soundly at the FB's house, and we set off early for work. In fact we set off three times as he had to double back for his bag, and then his pills. I felt hungover and wussy as we galloped off to the tube station to arrive at work offensively early. At least this meant I was able to whimper quietly to myself and bite weakly on a sausage sandwich before anyone else appeared.

Thankfully work slack today but an email came around entitled "Calling all Pikeys" as someone had found a large stash of kitchen equipment in a cupboard which was then given away: scored myself a free cheese grater. This allowed me to walk with it behind my back and approach people saying I've got something great and then wave it at them.

Trying to sell the bunk beds I bought for Jack and Kate, and put a notice on the agency intranet as I can't abide the idea of having to learn ebay.

Was given a DVD of a quirky short film about crazy golf made by a writer at work called Paul. I was an extra in it with Camilla and Emma in January. Cruelly under used, I appear only for a couple of seconds in a suit and handing a cup to the winner of the crazy golf competition.

Happy to have a blameless night on mineral water and tea, and early to bed.

Off into Soho first thing this morning to be at the recording of the voice over for my cats and dogs advert. Into a small cobbled Mews where there was some odd photoshoot going on with scantily clad women in fishnets and men dressed as footballers.

First time I'd seen the advert and I'm really pleased. It conformed exactly to what The Gnome and me had intended and looks fab. The dog actor did a great job at playing "Wilfy" the main character and the location (the FB's stairs) worked perfectly. The voiceover talent was excellently emotive, and we were done in less than an hour.

Then went to work, in time for a long lunchtime swim and a pretty chilled first day. The Gnome is on holiday.

After work had an impromptu beer with the FB, which ended up with us hooking up noisily with Matty and Taranjit in a pub called the Raven (which they'd been ravin' about for ages). As I was standing at the bar a man next to me accidentally knocked over a barstool which caught my already blackened toes. Ouch. However a good time was had by all, and we wandered up to Chiswick High Road to strap on a tasty Vietnamese nosebag.

Home by taxi with the FB to an empty house (and its soon to be famous stairs) as Max is in the South of France with the FB's mum, and signs of her absence are everywhere: like the bizarre mechanical contraption, of unknown purpose, that the boffinish FB is assembling on the kitchen table. He has also been rebuilding his pimpmobile, which now needs an onboard computer to coordinate all the things it can do.

Below the sound engineer, the voice talent off in a sound booth while the dog actor looks down appealingly.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Public holiday here in the UK so set off for a solitary walk. Down to the sea and turned west towards Hove and mooched along the seafront in my new boots. After twenty minutes or so I witnessed a mini whirlwind which lifted a heavy tarpaulin and flung it some fifty feet away, just as rain started to fall heavily. Then my phone rang and Anton and Anna were waving down at me from a flat overlooking the sea. Turns out that David and Stephanie are staying there, in an amusingly nautical apartment, and Anton had happened to see me sloping by.

Was invited up for a cup of tea and a cake. Anton wondering if my new boots were chafing at all. Meanwhile Klaudia busily being adorable and saying Peter very clearly now. And then took a stroll along the seafront with them all. Enjoying chatting to David, before leaving them to their lunch to break off inland inspired by a green sunlit glimpse of the Downs. Walked north threading through the backstreets of Hove and eventually made my way beyond the town onto the big green downs, following a track to Devil's Dyke.

Devil's Dyke is the site of earthworks of an iron age fort, and breathtaking views over the Sussex Weald to the North Downs far away. Also you can see the sea behind you. It is a popular site for hang-gliding and flying kites. There is a folktale of the place too here.

Spent some time watching the big dark clouds moving quickly across the sky, and the patches of sunlight and shadow racing over the Sussex Weald. Thinking about the vanished forest that covered it once. It's not hard to imagine. Very beautiful place, but not easy to capture in photographs...

Caught a bus back from Devil's Dyke which took just 15 minutes to take me home as it stopped handily outside the Brighton Station.

Home and spoke to mum, then rested, read and looked at my fingers as they are blue due to furtive tie dying experiments last night.

Two views. Top, overlooking the Weald, and below the Dyke itself. This was supposedly dug by the devil attempting to dig a channel to the sea to flood the Sussex villages because they were converting to Christianity.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Awoke late with a clear and distinct hangover. Busied myself with a few light domestic chores, and beginning my old university friend Andy's explosive novelised account of his experiences in mine clearance. Find that there are fictionalised versions of his friends in it too... I am wondering if I am the character called Steve who is a poet who writes pornography. If only I'd thought of that.

Texted by Anton who was going to take in some more of the Open House art shows today. After he called around and I went upstairs to get my shoes, he pulled my new walking boots from their bag and discovered to his horror that in my ignorance I had bought the ones he had been coveting, only slightly better.

Spent the afternoon with him and David, his nice father-in-law, snooping about Brighton looking at a variety of artworks, their originators, and their interesting houses. David also keen on painting and he and Anton found a woman whose art was very loose with a wet on wet style, that is exactly the technique Anton wants to master. They both took cards to take lessons with her.

We three adjourned to the Battle of Trafalgar afterwards for some cheeky beers and then I went home to enjoy a chilled and blameless evening.

An amusing van (not a phrase I find myself over-using) parked outside one of the open houses featuring Steptoe and Son TV's loveable rag and bone men from the 60s and 70s.

Once the initial stun of jetlag had worn off, I devoted myself to a frenzy of cleaning as Toby and Romy have inspired me to sort out my house. And I took a decisive step later in the day by buying a wire frame thing to put in a draw so that the knives shall not lie with the forks, as God intended. Also some containers with tea, coffee and sugar written on them -- like Romy has.

Anna, Anton their bairns and David and Stephanie, Anna's mum and dad, came by for a cup of tea. I gave them the baby teeshirts with bears on them I'd bought at Toronto airport for the nippers. Little Oskar has a worrying rash over his body, while Baby Klauds was asleep and grouchy faced when she woke up.

Despite a few routine slurs on my Tilley hat's sexual orientation, Anton grew subdued as he tried it on and muttered something a bit later about getting a new one.

Off shopping in the afternoon. Took my Emily Carr prints in to be framed, bought the house-organising items above, and a new pair of walking boots that hopefully won't give blacken my toes like the old ones.

Quietly sipping tea and reading in the evening when there was a thunderous knock on the door accompanied by a whiff of sulphur and there was the twinkly-eyed Spooner. He invited me to his local pub the Lord Nelson at 10pm. Despite the fact that he doesn't drink he was zooming about, knowing everyone and generally being full of mischief. Spoke to Alison his wife and to his pals, and generally had fun. At the end of the night he was tormenting the bar staff by inching closer to them and saying in a strangled little voice that he wanted to join their gang, or saying that X used to be a male prostitute but now he couldn't be arsed etc. Off later to another boozer, which happened to be a gay pub, which was open late. A few Spooner cronies from the Nelson were there holding one corner of the bar up. Spooner insisting everyone (excluding himself) drink some strange short. I had one and it suddenly became clear that it was a good idea to head home.

Fun night, and good to see Spooner. Home and listened to a few tunes before going to bed late. Below the wonderful flowers in my front garden. I snap them now in case they are cut off as they were last year by a passerby.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Last day in Canada. Did little apart from go for a short walk, read and pack and play with Meaty (left with laser eyes). Toby and Romy home early and Romy cooked a quick feast before they took me to the airport. Spoke to Joan on the phone to say goodbye too. Felt a bit sad to be off, and not looking forward to the flight as usual. However a couple of glasses of wine helped greatly, and the knowledge that Tobs and Romy will be over soon.

Forced them outside their home to take some photos. Neither like being photoed but I like the one below them sitting outside their house. They drove me off to the airport, finishing the feast with chocolates in the car.

The journey was horrid. I was sat in the middle of the middle row. The seats are just too small for me and so I was crushed with my shoulders hunched all journey. Felt extremely miserable and wanting to get off for the first couple of hours. But I gradually made my pact with it. I will never use Air Transat again, however, unless I go club. Last hour and a half very turbulent approaching the British Isles but I was curiously chilled about this.

England murky, foggy and rainy. Has been wet and rainy lately, despite the fact that we are suffering from a drought. Slept for four hours, and will be lying low tonight to gather my energies before world domination efforts recommence.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Meaty yowling outside my door till I got up after a refreshing nine hours sleep. As soon as I was up, however, it totally ignored me. Meanwhile I noticed a cheering text from The Gnome, saying that the first edit of the cats and dogs advert was looking great. This a relief and means that going back to work won't be hideous. Cats and dogs seem to be taking over my life.

Went downtown again, popping into the Art Gallery of Ontario which is being rebuilt. There was a small amount of modern art on display, as well as the Henry Moores. I took in an exhibition of Peter Doig's watercolours which left me marvelling at the gallery's overheated, and entirely unsubstantiated, claims made for the work.

In the gallery shop I picked up a couple of Emily Carr prints, however, which will look nice back home.

Walking around Toronto again in the sun taking one or two photos. Noticing how relaxed people are eating their lunches in the square outside City Hall. Eventually I made my way home for another brief nap.

After Toby got home from school we set off back into town to meet Romy and Gillian, who I'd met last time I was over. We went for a drink outside the flat iron building, where Romy bumped into a friend she'd last seen in Japan. This person paid for our drinks as Romy had got her mum to help her out of a spot of trouble many years ago.

Discovering that my alcohol tolerance is low these days (which I suppose is a good thing) two pints and I felt quite free to share my opinions. Then off to Biff's bistro and wine bar for a slap up feed of steak. Gillian talking about her bizarre dentist poking into her sockets with bamboo. We all had a good laugh, and then a taxi ride home to a pleased Meaty.

Below the CN Tower from the Unversity area, and the mad Ontario design school building

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A burst of laundry and out. A beautiful sunny day today in Toronto. With my Tilley hat to keep off the sun I caught the subway downtown, taking a walk through the pleasant University area. I stopped off at The Village Idiot, a bar around the corner from where Tobs used to live, for a village idiot burger and a beer.

Thus refreshed, I spent the next three and a half hours walking through downtown Toronto rubbernecking in shops and just going where my feet took me. The CN tower makes it incredibly easy to locate yourself in the city, so you never get lost.

And talking of the CN tower... I decided to take myself up the world's tallest building today. The lift, which has a glass side, takes you up in about a minute to the restaurant area. Wandered about for a few minutes looking down at the vertiginous views. However I didn't feel very secure, and was pleased to get down after a while, opting not to join the people dancing about on the glass floor.

After this I caught the subway and spent some time wandering in the big wooded High Park, populated mostly by smart middle-aged women walking their dogs which you could hear baying in the distance.

Home and lurked about reading and playing with Meaty till Toby arrived. The cat greets Toby as if he were a popstar: shrieking and scrabbling its feet on the window until Tobs lets himself in.
Fortunately Romy's work blip is over, so she was able to return home at a reasonable hour and do the decent thing: cook a large stir fry while Tobs and I sat about watching.

All of us cheery: I am unwinding, Romy's ghastly work business is behind her, and Toby's end of school year is now just three weeks away.

Early night again though. Can't get enough sleep... It's great!

Below a view from the CN Tower: Romy works in the big white BMO building.

Monday, May 22, 2006

O soothest sleep! If so it please thee, close, in midst of this thine blog, my willing eyes... Have been stricken with narcolepsy. Feel like sleeping all the time, despite a decent nine hour sleep punctuated with nightmares, and a hour nap in the afternoon, I am ready for an early night.

Bade a very fond farewell to Joan and Dick at the farm as the dogs Nico and Maggie sprinted around us playing at savaging each other's faces. I loved being at the farm, and Joan and Dick are most excellent people. Felt a bit sad as we drove off, wondering if I would ever see Deviation Road again as they have plans to move to be near the sea in Nova Scotia.

The drive home was like being in a car ad where a single car drives through wonderful scenery on the open road. Passed a massive wind farm with dozens of the huge wind turbines ranked across the open landscape like a scene from the war of the worlds.

Romy has a major work deadline this week and so had to return to the office despite this being a Victoria Day, a Canadian national holiday.

Meaty the cat happy to have us home. Toby had brought a big bag of catnip with him from the farm. I have often bragged about being catnip for the ladies but I had never seen anything like this. Tobs gave the cat a single leaf of the stuff, and this was followed by orgiastic writhing for at least 15 minutes with her rubbing herself on it, and licking it and chewing it and so on. It is an amazing drug.

Toby had school books to mark and I abandoned myself to an enjoyable reading and snooze fest. I read the Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf, which was outstandingly good. I have never been able to finish it in other translations, but this made the poem come alive and was tremendously readable. What an astonishing poem Beowulf is revealed to be. I loved all the grappling with dragons and the codes of honour etc. What a debt Tolkien owes to it. Also read a book about the friendship between CS Lewis and Tolkien, which was a dull and worthy effort but a subject matter I was interested in.

Otherwise lurked about with Tobs chatting and drinking tea. Really nice to be able to hang out and have the time for conversation to happen naturally. Then overcome by tiredness and sloped off to bed early. Poor Romy still hard it at the office at 10.

Woke early to see snow falling over the yellow canola fields. I was the first to get up, and surprised the sleepy dogs. Nico, the larger one, nudged me towards the door and when I opened it four or five disgruntled and snowy cats filed in.

As Joan got up, the house sparked into life. Cats and dogs were fed (having failed to brainwash me to comply) and coffee and toast appeared. Dick said that it was very unusual for snow to be falling at this time of year.

Joan drove Romy, Toby and me off to nearby Walter's Falls where we took a short walk in a wood alongside the waterfall and marvelled at the ugliness of the new hotel that had been built overlooking it. My Tilly hat proving effective in keeping icy rain off my face.

Then back to the farm for sandwiches and tea and then to commence another huge game of Settlers of Catan that stretched for hours over two sessions and several tantrums from Toby.

Later Toby and I went for another walk skirting the canola, across the wet fields and back into the forest, all of course without seeing anyone-else. Talking about Ontario being long way from North London or Guernsey as we avoided groundhog holes at the edges of fields and looked at a big turkey vulture stationed in the sky near us.

Reading Tua Forsstrom's poems still. She is magical.

More great food in the evening. Joan roasted pork, potatoes and yams (all of which I ate disgraceful amounts of) and prepared a sinful pudding with chocolate and cake and raspberries and ice cream. Somewhere between this, and some heart to heart conversations with Joan there was a euchre rematch; Toby and me against Joan and Romy. This time we were thrashed soundly and I could imagine my grandfather David's mock disgusted look. This was the first time I'd played euchre since I was at Deviation Road two years ago. It is the acme of card games.

After a little TV where in between episodes of A Touch of Frost, which Joan enjoys, there was a short and tasteful film of a Canadian poet reading a poem. Great that they should be making such things here, shame the poem was obsurantist tosh.

Sloped off early to bed, tired but very relaxed. Below Walter's Falls and low sun catching the trees before sundown.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Slept like a baby then downstairs for coffee and toast, the great outdoors beckoning. Much enjoyable milling about of people, cats and dogs.

Toby and Romy have commissioned some stained glass for their front door from a nearby award-winning business. Joan drove us off to the big converted barn on a ridge. Inside was a showroom and studio combined. Toby and Romy's windows, which they had designed to copy an old English pattern, looked great. Very friendly people and I was fascinated by the hundreds of sheets of various glass they have stored there.

Then into the small town of Markdale where the ideal Tilley hat was waiting for me. Hemp Tilleys (not available in the UK) are naturally more breathable than the cotton one owned by Anton. This one has a wide brim and is worn by people who enjoy wrestling bears in the wilds.

After this we popped into a cafe in a shop where everyone knew Joan. In a burst of knife and forkwork we ate enormous scones, soup and exemplary home made chicken pies. Then along more empty roads to another shop behind someone's house to get Joan a watchstrap. This shop was full of antique clocks, ornaments and the propeller from a WW2 Avro Anson aircraft. The owner was a very chatty woman, and there was a cat to be stroked and a dog to be patted. The pace is so much slower and more civilized out here. It gives people the chance to find out about each other.

Home again and we set off for a walk accompanied by Maggie the Jack Russell and Pinky the cat. Naturally I sported my Tilley. Walked past the donkey-filled barn, down the side of the bright canola fields, across other fields so thick with dandelions that each step felt juicy underneath. Very funny watching Pinky wading through this. The Jack Russell preferred kangaroo jumps to pop up and see where she was. Then into the forest. Joan and Toby were on the lookout for ferns to take back to Toronto and collected several varieties. In the forest were a few rather rain-battered examples of Ontario's provincial flower, the white trillium.

We were walking for an hour and a half, perhaps more, and never left Joan and Dick's land. It is immense by UK standards.

Back indoors we played The Settlers of Catan and drank a couple of bottles of beer. Catan is fun, and I'd never played it before. Romy, known resentfully by her adversaries as "The Sleeper", won easily.

As we played it became very sunny outside and after I went out with my camera for another short walk accompanied by dogs. This was followed by a three way badminton game with Toby and Romy with one of the shuttlecock's lives being cut short by the larger dog Nico however.

Then a big feast, and a game of euchre (played to the correct Guernsey rules) and then I ended a lovely day by watching The Big Lebowski, which was great, with Joan.

Feeling more relaxed by the hour. Below canola fields, and me lurking in the forest.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Into downtown Toronto this morning. A beautiful, sunny morning in which Toronto showed off. It is a good city, lively and it feels very safe. Went to look at city hall again, which is where Toby and Romy were married. Big curving bracket-like towers cupping the huge space between them.

Then met Romy for an early lunch. She took me to the Convocation Hall restaurant in Osgoode Hall which is a historic legal building in the centre of town. An amusing scene getting in. I had my rucksack with me and due to the legal nature of the building we had to be x-rayed before we could enter. I had stowed a deadly pair of nailscissors. These were such a temptation to run amok stabbing everyone that the security guards didn't trust themselves to look after them.

As my sarcasm levels were set to climb rapidly, Romy sensibly intervened and hid them outside and we were allowed to in. I'm pleased we were. It is a lovely building, and I had a really nice time with Romy in the restaurant. Great food and a wonderful setting: the walls lined with important-looking legal catalogues from years gone by, and light slanting through stained glass windows. Romy happy and end-of-termish, as Monday is a public holiday here and she was leaving work early.

Romy went briefly back to work, and I scuttled off to three outdoorsy places to look for the perfect Tilley hat and some new walking boots. (I have four blackened toes due to my old ones not fitting properly). Boots here are incredibly expensive so I will wait to return back to blighty for those, and I have yet to try on a hat which a) fits and b) doesn't make me look gormless. But the search must continue if only to get one that is more authentic than Anton's ersatz export version.

Met Romy again in a cafe in the foot of the enormous BMO building she works in, and we caught the subway to Finch, and then a taxi to get to Toby's school. Toby in his car and then we started the drive to Deviation Road.

There are rules about driving with Toby to Deviation Road. First is that nobody must speak during the difficult bit where the highway out of town becomes like a video game. Toby himself is allowed to briefly denounce other drivers, and Romy becomes RomyNav whose function is to calmly provide clipped and efficient directions. Later as the traffic thins and the land becomes more undulating Toby can unwind by advancing theories such as how giving iPods to children is a form of abuse. By the time we are deep in the country all has returned to normal.

We scuttled into the house as it was raining to a lovely warm welcome from Joan and Dick as well as six cats and two dogs. Soon found ourselves having a welcome drink and a lovely meal featuring their own asparagus.

Dick on good form, talking about the local politics with the Native Americans which I found very interesting. Midway through the meal he received a phonecall from a local turkey owner who said that his prize blue turkey was shortsighted, and could laser correction help? Which was generally thought highly amusing. Joan earlier had photographed a wild turkey which had walked past the window intriguing some of the cats.

The farmhouse at night made me think of Tom Bombadil's house in the Lord of the Rings especially as Dick is so beardy and twinkly-eyed. Surrounded by a lot of trees and fields. From my bedroom window there are no other dwellings to be seen only the bright splash of yellow canola fields and trees.

Feeling rather bleary and jetlagged this evening. But very happy to be back at the farm. It is like no other place I have been.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Iron resolve to do nothing. And by thunder I'd forgotten how good I am at this. The morning's idling interrupted only by the occasional Meaty ambush. Several times she sprang up from under the chair to nip my hand, unable to endure the provocation of my holding a book any longer.

I finished my random airplane read "A year in the merde" which was a bit less merde that I thought it might be. Then back to Tua Forsstrom's poems, and then embarked on reading an NLP book about overcoming fear. I want to reprogram myself to stop being so wretched on planes. Part of the process is to say things like I love planes, and I particularly enjoy it when it's bumpy! till the kind people in white coats come for you.

This developed into a full blown "me, me me" fest. My mental and emotional inbasket is full, and today I began to separate some of the sheep from the goats.

Later I enjoyed a blameless afternoon nap followed by two bowls of Romy's yummy lentil soup. Toby back from work (cue Meaty going ape) and more chatting. Tobs had a good idea for my upcoming poetry course... Why not do the seven deadly sins? He has been teaching poetry a lot recently and is really enjoying it.

When Romy got home she gave me two foolproof maps -- and a plan. Google Map 1 was to find the metro station as tomorrow I am going downtown to meet her for lunch. Then I shall score a Tilley hat using Google Map 2, and then meet her again, go to find Tobs at his school before zooming off into the wilds to see Joan and Dick at Deviation Road.

Then we went for a nice walk through lots of pretty residential streets, through a big park called High Park, past a bar unambiguously called Tipsy McStaggers till we got to a wine bar/restaurant called Fat Cat with Diana Krall music and what Toby thought were posers at the bar. There we had nice grub and wine and plenty more chat.

Then we taxied home and I happily slumped into bed again listening to Meaty rattling about in the hall. I really enjoyed today.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Off to Canada. Frenzied and end-of-tetherish this morning but got to Gatwick in good time sporting the stocking-like flight socks. Wearing these made me picture crash investigators trying to identify the remains of a large transvestite.

I never thought the influence of the Lord of the Rings would extend to aircraft design but it is an inescapable fact that Air Transat plane seats have been designed to accommodate hobbits. By a stroke of wonderful fortune, however, the seat next to me was empty, despite the plane being full.

The crew, however, were efficient and cheery.

Journey fairly turbulent. The woman the other side of the gap was quite chatty, however, which seemed to help. She had been a nurse and like Toby had studied at McGill, and said that Toby had got it made being a PhD high school teacher. Provoked no doubt by the passenger seating she suggested I see the musical of Lord of the Rings while I was in town. We had a lively conversation after I pointed out that musicals are the work of the devil.

Also listened to three Radio 4 podcasts which is curiously calming. If I closed my eyes I was able to picture myself listening at home, rather than bucking and plunging over the Atlantic in a cramped tube of squashed humanity and bendy metal. Managed to doze off for a few minutes and drank no boozes and took no pills during the flight, which is good. I am getting better at this flying business. But it is very small steps.

Got to Toby and Romy's place with ease. A friendly Greek taxi driver manifested himself as I stepped out from airport and he took me there in about 25 minutes.

Let myself in and alarmed Meaty the cat who ran about stiff-legged and saucer-eyed. I think the fact I knew her name freaked her too. Found a comfortable chair in their breakfast room overlooking the garden and read my unchallenging airport book as a massive thunderstorm broke out and hailstones stung and bumped on the windows. Meanwhile Meaty, flinching at the thunder, gradually inched closer to me before deciding to lick my hand and give me a welcoming bite.

Toby arrived and we sat about drinking tea and enjoyably catching up for a couple of hours. Got a guided tour of the house, which is fab. Lots of wood, and art and soothing colours and a real solidity, charm and character about the place. Just lovely. I will put some photos on when I get back to Blighty.

It inspired me to get my act together on my place now I know I am staying in Brighton.

Meaty saw Toby's homecoming as the signal to burst into life; scuttling and leaping, scrabbling up doorframes like spiderman while yowling and vocalising. Toby demonstrated the ball game where you throw a ball up the stairs and Meaty retrieves it like a dog after flinging herself about at impossible speeds. Toby said he has to leave the house sometimes as her demands for attention get too much. I suggested he needed to alpha male it more.

Gave Toby Anton's present of a packet of pork scratchings.

Lovely to see Romy. She has been working hard and hideous hours lately, but she came home at a reasonable time today and set about cooking a slap up feast as Toby and me set about the important business of drinking cans of beer and watching her cook. She made some yummy Japanese dumplingy parcel things called gyoza which she said the Japanese had improved from an original Chinese recipe.

After turning myself into a Japanese dumpling we all went for a short stroll around the neighborhood, which has some lovely houses and feels really safe and nice. Then tiredness hit and we sloped back home and I took myself happily to bed.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Last day at work, largely wasted rewriting pieces of copy. Managed to slip away for a swim in the afternoon to rid myself of pent up grouchiness. Otherwise little to report. The Gnome off on the first day of the dog advert shoot. Very happy to be able to avoid all that standing about and looking at dogs for a day.

Spoke to mum, who had two words to say to me: "flight" and "socks". Spoke to Janet whose birthday it is, and to Bob and to First Matie who called to wish me well.

Surprised and pleased that Sarah has been reading Beer and Trembling, the novel I wrote a long time ago and is enjoying it. Interesting to get her perspective for many reasons, but also as someone who is just finishing a creative writing degree.

Packing and running about ineffectually.

Next blog will be from Canada, eh.

Wonderful going into work realising that there was only two days of it. Listened to Goreki's 3rd Symphony on my iPod. Such a moving piece of music that I found myself in tears as the train passed Battersea Power Station.

At work, the Gnome back after a car crash he had on Friday. He and his son were driven into by a motorbike. Everyone okay, although the normally-placid Gnome was so protective of his son that he was screaming at the rider.

Went for a short and blameless lunchtime stroll with the French Bloke along the river speculating about the function of various bits of twisted metal revealed among the birdprint patterns by the slimy tide.

Afternoon and slipped off to go to the dentist to replace a filling. The dentist, however, began boring as if for a deeply buried gusher. Needed five loads of amalgam to fill the hole. Feel like half my head is composed of filling.

Will I stick to some sort of magnet in the airport when I fly to Toronto on Wednesday?

So numbed by anesthetic that when later called on to artistically flare my nostrils only one would do so.

Back to Brighton after work. The South Downs looking mysterious and shrouded in cloud.

Slipped up to Anna and Anton's place for a tasty asparagus risotto. Held Oskar for a bit. He is appreciably less like Winston Churchill now and very sweet.

Much activity following Trotsky the cat bringing in a big moth while we were eating, which escaped and whirred about noisily in the kitchen. This necessitated Anton and the cat working as a team blatting the poor thing about till Trotsky ended its poor little life with a crunch.

Then off to the Eddy with Anton for a cheeky beer.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Off to meet Sophie and Andros and their nippers Christof and Electra (who I still think has the best name of all people I know). Usual Brighton liveliness. Heard this mad funky drumming and turned the corner and there were twenty silver haired ladies laying down a bangin' chune. Paused to photograph them but they were already melting away, as I did so spotted the orcs walking through the park.

Waiting for Sophie by the pier was quite amused to see a loud protest outside the Seaworld centre. "Stop the seal and otter prison" was their message (repeated ad nauseam) as the aquarium now has seals and otters in it. Torn between thinking it good that they were bothered, and that there were more important things going on in the world. But instead of debating the rights and wrongs of the issue as I waited, I amused myself by thinking it was otter madness, and questioning if their fate had been sealed etc. etc. If weak puns were ever under threat I would be taking to the streets that's for sure.

Andros hates funfairs so sloped off to have a coffee and a read of his paper and Sophie and me took the kids to the fair. It always does my heart good to see Sophie. Proceeded to get some driving practice in by going on the dodgems with the kids. Then went on this thing called Wild River jumping aboard a canoey log thing with Christof and Electra. It was a water splash which was brave (for me) although the kids did it as if it were nothing. One existential moment of uncertainty before the big splash but actually rather fun, although my teeshirt was soaked afterwards.

The watersplash business proved to be a tactical error as they started pleading with me to go on all kinds of horrors. Electra said a piteous "please" about 100 times but I am afraid I didn't succumb. Christof who is 12 went on some utterly bloodcurdling things.

After this met up with Andros and spent a happy few hours chatting and drinking pots of tea and then slipping into Cafe Rouge for a bite. Andros is really good fun, and the kids are excellent. The family were staying in Hove, and Andros took the kids back, and Sophie and I had a slow walk back by the sea talking about families and Buddhism and friendship as a just-past-full salmon pink moon rose behind us over the water.

Christof in the sky, in red.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Train this morning with Anton who is off to Paris by Eurostar to give a presentation, or Mordor as he was calling it. Showing off with his new phone, so that when I got off at Hammersmith I went straight into Orange and got my free upgrade. Phoned Anton to explain that the one I'd chosen was ever-so-slightly cooler and had the edge in terms of functionality. A few hours later got a text "I'm 25k south of Lille and I think I can see Baradur".

Working with the Gnome this morning on internet banners for erection problems again. It is impossible to avoid ribaldry when working on that account.

Then off to lunch with Liz. We'd been planning to do lunch for about 3 months, and we shot down to Riverside Studios and snickered childishly about work and its characters for an hour. Good fun.

Very quiet at work this afternoon. I activated cloaking device and snuck off for a swim. A hot day meant it was quite full. In the pool I bumped into Ros, one of Janet & Ken's pals who is working in the Hospital. Later bumped into a complete stranger quite painfully as I was doing backstroke.

After work had a nice Italian meal on King Street with Matty boy. He was exemplary company as usual.

Train journey home found me busily engaged in transferring numbers into my new phone. I don't think of myself as a gadget boy but I carry my camera, iPod, phone with me everywhere. And there's nothing sad about that, is there?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A dog day today.

Work quiet apart from a long pre-production meeting over lunch for the cats and dogs advert. Turns out part of it will be shot on the stairs of The French Bloke's house. The main dog actor is called Bernie and is one of those curs with long tufts of hairs over its eyes. I can't help but imagine it wearing a smoking jacket lurking in the FB's winnebago (aka the pimpmobile) reading The Stage.

After, this I slipped off for a relaxed and invigorating swim. Can't help but feel exceedingly cheerful today.

After work tubed into town to meet Mad Dog at Doggett's pub. Had a swifty there and then crossed over the river to go to The Punch on Fleet Street and on to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. Generally put the world to rights. Then sloped off to engorge a curry (my second in two days) before sleeping on the slow train to Brighton.

Below. Mad Dog and Doggett's. And Bob in the Cheshire Cheese.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Glance at my magic box of owls before legging to the station. Got on the train next to an empty seat, and thought about how I needed to speak to Reuben. Within 30 seconds he was sitting next to me. Told him I'd manifested him. Had a good chat on the train.

I definitely need new walking boots as four of my toenails are now blackened. Hoping they don't fall off and leave me scuttling around like a softshelled crab.

Felt oddly stressed this morning walking in hard rain. Soon rallied, and had a swim, and snuck off early with the FB for a chat in the Dove, where I later met Sarah. Went for a cheeky curry in old favourite haunt The Light of Nepal on Chiswick High Road before heading home.

Feeling really cheery about the prospect of a holiday in Canada and staying with Toby and Romy and spending time with Dick and Joan out in the Farm on Deviation Road. Looking forward to taking some proper snaps with my new camera.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Up early and off with Anton to the village of Little Beeding; near the source of the Ouse River. It is the first of a series of walks we plan to take along the river till we reach the sea at Seaford.

Today the countryside was stunningly beautiful. Spring is well underway now and everything is green and lush and, despite ominously blue clouds, we were followed by sun. Set off boldly barely looking at the guidebook. Soon we were lost in squelchy bootsucking woodland which meant a long detour from our original route.

Really enjoyed it today, however. Felt very relaxed even when lost or walking through a field of bullocks. Worst moments: for Anton was when a dog put its muddy paw on his craghopper trousers, for me was when Anton asked me for the fifteenth time how I could countenance walking without a Tilley hat.

We ended the walk amid archetypical Englishness in the village of Staplefield. We sat outside a pub called The Victory quaffing a quick pint of Harveys before the taxi came to take us away to the railway station. It was sunny and warm, and nearby was the village green and a cricket pitch. There were vintage cars in the car park, and people were being served with big and beautiful steak and kidney puddings which had little Union flags poking from their tops.

Home this afternoon and did talking. To Toby about flying to Toronto to see him on the 17th. Spoke to Mum who said Swiss Chris and Terri had now gone home. Spoke to Remo who'd been in Italy with his sick father for the last few weeks. Also finally got through to Carl, whose birthday it was yesterday, and who says he is recovering well from his heart attack.

Anton in a variety of poses: wasp chewing at the commencement of the walk; walking through an oilseed rape field; and just before things got ultra muddy.

Busy day. Was noodling about this morning and Anna and Anton came by be-babied and took me into town to drink coffee and watch the Children's parade through Brighton. The theme was foods of the world, so there were hundreds of children and their parents and teachers dressed with, for example, pizza pie hats, or as chips, jam sandwiches, fish or fruit and so on. These were peppered with big floats featuring often more abstract things like giant octopus or huge chefs. Found myself laughing a lot.

Met some of Anton and Anna's baby posse who were all cheery and their children all liking the parade. Klaudia seemed to enjoy it and was passed about to sit on people's shoulders. Oskar did his patented non-peeping perfect baby business. Amazing watching Klaudia's development. When they stopped by at my place she was sulking a bit. After she got some attention she was pulling some trying-not-to-laugh faces. This is quite sophisiticated really.

In the afternoon went out with Janet, Ken and Di (who is down for the weekend) off to some open houses in the Brighton Festival. Went to four of these and in the last one I fell in love with a box of barn owls by an man called John Dilnot.

The piece has seven cut out barn owls mounted on branches as if they were the boughs of a tree and I had to have it as soon as I saw it. Jokingly moaned at Janet who how much this trip had cost me. Absolutely delighted with it however and it is now on my wall adding a square of haunted mystery to my room. I have always liked boxes (my unpublished novel has a major character who is a box maker) .

Afterwards Janet drove us back to her place where we four ate a lovely fisherman's pie and drank wine and talked about many and various subjects such as distressing various materials for artistic effect, anglo-saxon concepts of weaving, and the niceness of pies.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Some more snaps from the parade... Anna, Anton, Klauds and Oskar in the sling. Me and Klauds shortly after she had dribbled in my hair.

Children's parade in Brighton today...

Friday, May 05, 2006

Phew. Another scorcher in London etc. The day saw me full of cheerful and manly vigour but still balking at work.

However, I have been approached to teach a poetry course in the agency, this will be great fun.

Wandered off for a walk by the river with Trace and ended up at the Dove. Enjoyably compared our many notes on life and loves while she smoked fags and drank mineral water in a catlike fashion and I had a beer. Then on the way back we stumbled across a bicker of creatives basking in the sun outside the Blue Anchor. The FB was there too, but due to his vampire medication he was crouching in the shade employing only his powerful voice to be noticed.

Lingered with them for a while, then back to the agency, and a cheeky swim in the afternoon. Quite odd swimming after a few lunchtime drinks. Felt like the man from Atlantis and wanted to be ottering through the water all the time.

Brighton and met up with Mum and Mase who had taken Swiss Chris and Terri down there to look at the Pavilion. Unlike London, Brighton was shrouded in fog and was cold. So they were all a bit cold expecting as they were another scorcher. Mason was having a bit of trouble walking, exacerbated by The Wrong Shoes. Ended up at Ask where I engulfed an Inferno pizza with chili.

I noted that Terri does the Marja-style toasting where you have to look deeply into the eyes of the person you are clinking glasses with. Apparently they do that in Switzerland as well as Finland. Perhaps it is just uncouth English that just gargle it down, barely noticing who is slumped in various stages of stupor around the same table.

Nice to see Chris and Terri. Swiss Chris is an old family friend that I have known since I was a child so it was good to catch up with him. We seem to have many interests in common. He even has the same make of camera as me. They often go for rambles in Switzerland too. Discussing among other things the making of a Guernsey Bean jar as Chris came to Guernsey several times and loves it.

They all popped back to the Twitten briefly. My dwelling like a bomb had hit it. Chris and Terri seemed to like it though.

After they left I lurked about osmotically soaking up two litres of mineral water then sloped off for an early night. Below Swiss Chris and Terri.

Full of the joys of spring today.

Hot glorious day in which I had an iron resolve about one thing: I was going to do sweet FA. Finally able to slope off to the pool for a long swim. Returned to collect the Gnome for lunch. We sat by the river outside The Riverside Studio in the hot sun eating a nice vegetable thali and drinking cold beer as we discussed the extent of our big and cleverness.

Then off to Chiswick to have Nicki cut my hair for the last time before she leaves to have her baby. Told her it was making me feel panicky as she has been cutting my hair for donkey's years. She is going to call me if she takes up her scissors in anger again. Felt quite sad and we kissed each other goodbye.

Then from Chiswick to Kew to see Sarah. Went down near the river for a cheeky beer and then off to Browns to strap on a burger-based nosebag, while conducting animated discussions on a wide range of big and clever things.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

At last the car pitch is behind me. Went fairly well. Spent the latter part of the afternoon locked away (with four other guys from the agency and five from the client) in an airless grey room in Slough talking passionately about cars. The building gave me the dreadful ennui feeling again and the colours of the walls reminded me of when I worked as the world's least efficient Snivel Servant.

Turned up armed with loads of work in portfolios and a five foot cardboard robot. I felt like I was talking in tongues droning on about cars having never driven one.

After pitch we retired to a nearby hotel to snatch a cheeky beer before I undertook the long schlepp home. Tired and braindead. Feeling fat and unfit too as I have only managed one long walk and no other exercise for a week. Will resume swimming tomorrow. In fact I will resume life again tomorrow.

Hoping for a better night's sleep tonight. Plagued by terrible nightmares last night.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Walked into rain and strode by stormy seas this morning with a stormy heart. Walked for 8.5 miles and so wasn't too exhausted when I get home. I am run down at the moment emotionally and physically, and have been overworked too. Looking forward to escaping to Canada and staying with Toby and Romy for a bit.

Nice evening with Anna, Anton and Brian. Little Oskar being a sleeping angel who woke up once and looked at me through the corner of his eyes rather disapprovingly. Baby Klauds full of love and kissing the baby rocking it and singing songs to it. Then kissing the baby and Anna and me and Brian. The little chair that Oskar sleeps in in the centre of the room was ringed with a tribute of toys which Klaudia had left for him.

Infuriatingly Anton is looking distinctly thinner. He was parading about sucking his guts in and smoothing the front of his shirt. He said it was a two pronged attack as he had been baking lots of cakes with Baby Klauds for me to take away. Galling is what it is.

We ate a delivery curry and fell to talking about Anton's cousin Christianne who has been in Australia for ages. She will be in Brighton in the summer and I am looking forward to seeing her again.

Later Brian, Anton and I went off for a cheeky beer in The Eddy followed by an Irish coffee in the Tin Drum.

Below stormy seas, a fishing boat that caught my eye and surfers bobbing about in their wetsuits.