Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Thank God for Matty

Work went to great lengths today to find new and innovative ways to suck. Easily the worst day at work all year. Masses to do, horribly stressed and the day rounded off with the most inept presentation to a client it has ever been my misfortune to participate in. Utterly toe-curling.

Fabulously, however, I had arranged to meet Matty boy in the Blue Anchor. And this put the day back on a civilized footing. Really nice to catch up with him. After a brace of beers we sloped off to somewhere called the Wishing Well, which was certainly economical, but the wine was fine. And the conversation exemplary.

Then home. Sophie called me from a bus having been to a Buddhist thing, and we'll arrange to see each other again soon. The train delayed at Victoria, but I fell into a cheery conversation with a lady, and we talked all the way to Brighton. Home and I fell wearily into bed.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Taking no prisoners

On quite a short fuse today and I noticed that most people I encountered seemed to be in the wrong. Work difficult because of this, but I had a couple of fast and incisive ideas this morning which made the rest of the day tolerable.

Stood in the bank for 40 minutes this lunchtime waiting to be served. People exploding with irritation and berating the staff though not me.

Took my laptop on the train to reassemble my poems and other writing from various sources. Still prone to stabs of rage about this. And on this note, once home, I was unable to find the knife I bought in France a few years ago (and dubbed "Mortel" by Anton) so presume this was also stolen. Spoke briefly to Remo when I got home, and sat about ineffectually trying to organise stuff. Another profoundly Mondayish Monday.

I need a plan.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

I love to singa

YouTube rocks. My all-time favourite cartoon here starring Owl Jolson. Or if you just want the fab last 42 secs here.

A meeting of minds

The clocks fell back today, heralding darkness in the afternoons. Despite this I woke up early, despite feeling wan and feeble after yesterday's walk. I spent an enjoyable day pottering off to the supermarket, chatting with the neighbours, offloading a few books at Oxfam, and so on. Popped up to Anton's place to drop off two bags of chocolates with plastic spiders on them for the bairns. They were having a Halloween party, and the place full of parents and toddlers. Baby Klauds, I noticed, had exceptionally neatly combed hair, while the normally placid Oskar was howling somewhat.

Then off to see Janet, for wide-ranging chats, cups of Earl Grey tea and some nice home made biscuits. She also nicely gave me a ticket to an event she is instrumental in organising called What value, the arts? which is called "A Meeting of Minds event", which sounds good. As usual Janet has made me think about life in a slightly different way, and this is exactly what I need at the moment. Ken is off in Aix, and she is going to join him in a few days.

The other day I received an email from Wally Watkins who is a neighbour of Joan and Dick on Deviation Road out in Ontario. I have never met Wally, but he suggested I should call a friend of his called Michael who lives in Brighton. Apparently they were at university together 54 years ago. Anyway, shortly after returning Janet's place I had a funny conversation with a well-refreshed Michael as we tried to establish how I knew Wally, which of course I don't, and why I'd called him and so on. All good fun.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A breath of fresh air

Not particularly relishing the idea of a cross country walk first thing. But soon cheered up when Anton and me set off: only a few weeks ago I would not have been able to even consider going for a hike.

We decided to do the next section of our Ouse Way walk, and got the train to Haywards Heath, and then a taxi to the Sloop Inn where we'd got to way back in July. From there we plunged into woodland and through fields for the next 6 miles. Not a particularly long walk, but I didn't really feel like overdoing it on my first exercise for some time.

Just great to be outside again. The sky was threatening rain all day but didn't deliver. The Autumn still being largely held at bay by this so-called Indian summer. Loads of pheasants about, and most places very green still. We passed the Bluebell Railway station, where we popped in for a cup of tea. It was their "Wizard Weekend", so the "skeleton" staff were all dressed in witches hats, and there was pleasantly cleavagey sort of Witch who served us our teas. The steam train was waiting to leave as we sat outside and they were testing the spooky ghost-train noises. It looked like a lot of fun for nippers.

Then off into the country again. As we approached a village called Newick and were greeted with the sound of a mighty explosion. The village was preparing for its Bonfire Night tonight. For all kinds of complicated reasons they celebrate Guy Fawkes night on the Sunday before the the 5th of November. (For non UK readers: Guy Fawkes was foiled in his famous plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament and all those in it with gunpowder. He has thoughtfully been burnt in effigy, accompanied by fireworks and bonfires, for the last 400 years or so.)

A short stop in Newick, to eat on a bench on the village green. Anton cutting up his Polish hunters sausage with his french knife and eating his sandwich with home made mayonnaise, and finishing it off with a pastry. Me a bag of fruit and nuts, and a small but tasty ale pie bought from the local baker in Newick.
We carried on for a while walking through fields and down lanes till we walked out onto a road. Soon we found a wonderful little pub called the Laughing Fish in Isfield. We left our muddy boots out in the porch (which apparently was rebuilt during the war after a bunch of over-refreshed Canadian servicemen blew up the first one having been asked to leave) and it was full and very cheery place with a very friendly barmaid. We enjoyed a brace of IPA bitters there before phoning for a cab to Lewes, and the short train ride home.

While we were walking I was called by the Police who said that they had arrested the Eastern European guy who was knocking at my door on Wednesday. He was caught red handed burgling somewhere in Hove and is now in custody. I must admit that this gives me a good sense of closure on the whole thing.

A quiet night in, with handfuls of chestnuts collected today. Below... Back on the paths, Witches at the Bluebell Railway, and Guy Fawkes in Newick...

Uno in the Chancellors

Travelled with Anton up to the smoke this morning. Busy till lunchtime when lots of us went to an old man's pub called the Chancellors, as a writer called Tim was leaving. Somebody had a card game called UNO and 15 of us were dealt in, and the game was played it with great deal of comic and noisy enthusiasm.

The afternoon a blur of hurried work, then off to Shepherds Bush for Tim's leaving do. I'm only just beginning to get to know him, but he is urbane and funny so I'm sorry he's off. Little G, who is going out with another nice writer who works with me called Rob, was there too and I'd not seen her for some time. She has a new job and is mad for Rob so all is well. A lively evening talking to various creatives; made more so as Tim kept disappearing and returning with Champagne.

I eventually escaped, feeling a middle aged bliss at stepping from the shouty, thumpingly noisy pub and climbing into the calm of a black cab to Victoria. Home, eventually, and the guilty pleasure of a Chinese takeaway at midnight.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Nerdy tendencies

Tapping happily at my laptop on the train this morning. And "alighting" at Victoria I bumped into Reuben, and we had one of our fast chats walking up to the tube. He seems to be doing well at his new job and we promised to see each other properly soon.

Interesting and varied day at work, with the Gnome and me having a fairly good digital idea.

A short walk at lunchtime, still unseasonably warm in London, to buy a cheap wallet. I have been using a disintegrating paper envelope since I lost my lucky wallet, which is not a solution with a future. The one I bought today was very cheap, but quite nice... Perhaps I should wait to see if this one could be a lucky one too.

Had to stand up most of the way home on the train, which was a bit tiresome. Then hurried indoors, pausing only to buy Fish and Chips, to nerd around with my computer. I have started the teeth gnashing process of reclaiming my poems and other bits of work from various sources such as my work computer, websites, and so on. But most of it seems to be there. Thank God.

A cheerful, if not particularly eventful, day.

On computers, burglars and First Matie

A new computer today. A shiny silver and white Dell Inspiron. I had to wait in most of the day for it be delivered. I was hoping for a first thing delivery so I could get to work, but it wasn't to be. This, however, turned out very well for me.

In the morning the police called to say that there was no DNA match for my burglar.

I thought no more of this till there was a knock on the door just before 1.00pm. I opened up thinking it was the computer delivery guy but instead there was a tall guy of about 25 with a broad face and a bright orange jacket, who asked me in a heavy east European accent if I had any work.

Not the sort of question you ask in a random residential area. A few seconds after I had said no, and closed the door, I smelled a rat. I walked out into the Twitten only to see that he had legged it -- without knocking on anyone else's door. I felt sure this was the man who burgled me. He was tall, as was the burglar, looked a bit out of it, and was clearly knocking on the door to establish if anyone was in. He wasn't from the UK too, which might also explain why there was no DNA match.

So I quickly called the cops, and about 40 minutes later they phoned back saying they had caught someone not too far away attempting another break in, and that they were fairly sure it was the same bloke. I was then phoned again with a more cautious reading of events by the cops, but it was all quite lively. As I was talking to the police on the phone my computer was delivered too.

In the evening I went up to Victoria to meet First Matie for curry and beers. We started in Thistle Hotel and, via the Bag O Nails, went for a nice Sri Lankan curry. Lovely to see Kate again and we generally put the world to rights. She is one of the best people in the world for having a few beers with, something we hadn't done for several months.

I woke up at midnight in an empty train in Brighton Station, and hurried blearily home to bed.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

On Typewriters and Romy

Locked into the office all day, racing the clock with The Gnome. More stress, more blah-blah to cap off the two day session.

Restless at home. No more Fraziers to watch so I busied myself tidying things and looking forward to getting my paws on a new computer. Not having a computer has forced me to sit about in my new study scratching at pieces of reconstituted wood pulp with coloured sticks. It made me remember when taking a typewriter to Guernsey and tapping away on it upstairs in my grandparent's house made me feel like a real writer.

When I was about 14 I came across a green typewriter that had been left with my mum by her Auntie Kay. One day I decided to have a go on it, and needing something to type I simply made up my first poem. It was slow going because I couldn't type. But seeing my words neatly typed was deeply satisfying. Using a typewriter was a very physical experience. There was the snick of the key hitting the paper, and the bell to let you know you weren't typing into the margin, and the smell of tippex to white out your mistakes, and the slightly dusty oily smell of the typewriter itself, and the fact that you had to put the right amount of pressure on each key or the letter would be faint or too bold. And how one character would always be slightly wonky, or the loop in an e would get full of gunk and appear full up when you typed it.

Romy has arranged for me to be met by one of her Mum's ex-students called Hitomi when I arrive at Tokyo airport. Hopefully Hitomi will shepherd me off to a train station. All quite exciting and a bit scary at the same time. I can't really picture myself on the bullet train to Shizuoka yet.

Although an excellent cook, Romy is doing a cookery course, and recently triumphed in quiche making. She also recommends it as a way of meeting ladies. My inner Romy agrees too. It kills two birds with the same stone. As you are learning how to cook better, you can efficiently wax your moustache in the direction of your fellow students. And, as Mum pointed out, at least you know that you might get a date with someone who can cook.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A proper Monday

Up unnaturally early today, so took advantage of this to leave for work at a freakish hour. Once in London, me and the Gnome sat with pinched faces in a succession of drafty nooks and crannies in Hammersmith having left the agency to work on concepts. There are few places in the building to get a spot of peace and quiet. We ended up drinking coffee in the Blue Anchor, which was sufficiently morgue like place to be able to think in. No sooner had we arrived and had settled in, then the staff turned it a wind tunnel by opening up several doors.

Back to the agency to blah blah to a room full of predominantly Welsh clients in the afternoon. The Gnome glowing and blending in. In contrast, I felt somewhat nervy presenting today. All was fine however, and just after work we spent some time schmoozing the client and talking to two new colleagues. One, called Lana, claims to be related to Vlad the Impaler, which is a caution.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Apples and young Oskar

Sunday morning with Anna and Anton and the bairns to Middle Farm near Lewes where there was an Apple Festival. Teeming rain all morning, soaking the farm and fields. And probably significantly lowering attendance. (Although the core support was there.) Had a good laugh however tasting cider, and buying speciality foods such as smoked cheddar and sloe gin and honey. Of the attractions my favourite was Mouse Town, a small dripping tent filled with a big glass case containing a wonderful streetscene populated by mice. There were mice everywhere looking through miniature windows and doors, lurking in miniature shops and even a boozer too, where no doubt they went to get ratted.

We also met Martin and Sam there too with their young nipper Charlie. I enjoyed going for a walk with Baby Klauds, when she got bored sitting around in the cafe tent, and loved watching her zigzagging happily from puddle to puddle. Dripping but happy we then all drove back to Brighton.

Excellent afternoon and evening with Anton and Anna. Anton cooked a duck with sour cherry which was excellent. The duck was referred to as canard however, as not to disturb Klauds who'd just been feeding them. Employed Anton's record cleaning machine to clean up a few LPs. Lots of sitting about talking with both Anna and Anton listening to tunes. I also fed Oskar who woofed happily into cheese and cauliflower slop, followed by apple slop. He is an exceedingly good natured little thing. Turns out that I am now Oskar's godfather too as well as Klaudia. Me, Brian and Christiane are the godparents to the pair of them, which is nice.

Ended the night with Anton in the Eddy for a some cheeky beers. Had an excellent day all round. Below... Some apples; and Mousetown.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The false rubber tongue of destiny

Not a great deal to report for Friday, other than the glory of it being a Friday. However I seemed to be working flat out all day, which isn't really the idea of Fridays. Still a cheery atmosphere and a possible resolution to the ridiculously painful business of choosing music for the TV advert adaptation. But I heard some rushes and realised that the script which I'd had to adapt wasn't much good. It's so much easier just to do things from scratch, rather than second guess and tinker.

A leaving do tonight for Phil after he'd been at the agency for ten years. Stood in the works bar looking around me and realised that I was now one of the real old hands at the place, which is not necessarily a good thing in an agency. However it was good night and I was sorry to see Phil go. However we'll keep in touch. Big manly hugs after the call of the seagull was heard. Hadn't had an evening in the agency bar for many months, and it was quite fun.

I will treasure my memory of Phil tidying up his desk at 6:00pm with a deadpan expression despite the false and disgusting projecting teeth and long rubber tongue he was wearing. Then he threw the tongue against the window and for a few moments we watched it slide slowly down. It said it all really.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Ali B and onions

Ferociously late into work today due to an inexcusable refusal to get out of bed in time. The Gnome was late too and we coincided outside the office and slunk in guiltily. Insubstantial bits and pieces at work, and we've been searching for some music to go with a TV advert we're adapting. For some reason this has proved fiendishly difficult, and we have sat looking at the same piece of film and listening to different tunes for days now.

I had a really nice evening in The Blue Anchor with Ali B, who returned recently after a three year stint in Dubai. I not seen her for about five years, and it was very interesting hearing her news. I always feel a tad guilty about Alicia as I hired her several years ago and on her first day I told her I'd just resigned. She's doing really well working as an editor. Talked each others heads off for some time.

Arrived in Brighton at 1:30am fired with inexplicable desire for a cheese and raw onion sandwich. And after this unnatural craving was sated, straight to bed.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

For a few moments in The Dove

Ordered a new computer today. Also obtained a copy of my ticket to Japan, which means my post-burglary to do list now is down to a few bits and pieces.

Unseasonably warm again. The trees are all still green. It's crazy. I had a lunchtime mooch with the FB along the river. Heard news of a house that he and Max have got their eye on. We sat outside The Dove looking across the river in the sun and, thoughtfully savouring single glasses of wine, we discussed among other things how great a boozer The Dove is. A low ceilinged room with a crackling fire in the Winter, and a terrace by the river in the Summer makes it perfect in all seasons. For several minutes there by the river, all felt deeply right with the world.

Home, and I finished watching the Wim Wenders documentary of the Buena Vista Social Club which was free with The Observer on Sunday. A gentle and enjoyable film. Touching to see the Cubans wandering about in Manhattan -- and them on top of the Empire State building looking south to the Twin Towers.

Inspired by Cubans I spent an enjoyable hour or so drinking tea and playing guitar which I plugged into my amp (using headphones so as not to alarm the neighbours).

Almost at the end of my book about the Berlin 1945. Fascinating but horrifying too. Interesting to read how, in the last days of Nazi-ruled Berlin, men were seen by their womenfolk. After the patriarchal Nazi era, the beaten and diminished Nazi men were seen as objects of pity and contempt by the women. I never knew about the mass rapes of German women by the Red Army either. The whole thing was horrible, and makes me feel very grateful that I live in such a safer place and time.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Blah-blah and chopsticks

Hundreds of Brighton commuters plunged into despair this morning as the trusty 7:47am train was cancelled. Delayed, creeping journey but fortunately the meeting I had in central London was delayed too. Enjoyed a short taxi ride, my favourite way of seeing London, then a bit of five star blah-blah & back to work for another slightly peskyish day.

The evening, in contrast, was good fun. Met Mum and Mase in the Cafe Apogee off Leicester Square and drank wine. I got lots of presents: some cushions with Mum's designs on them, a big pot, painted by mum too... And some special stones to ward off evil, plus a crystal to hang in the window to create rainbows of light. Mum was remembering her grandparents, who'd lived in Folkstone. She said they had a painting each of their spirit guides, who were two Native Americans, they used to contact in their seances.

Then we wandered off into Soho for some serious chopstick work in the Top of the Town, Gerrard Street in Chinatown, discussing how Mum and Mase have been together for twenty years now. Amazing how time shoots by.

Then back on the Brighton train, and home to bed.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The liquor of the head

Enjoying Guernsey Dishes of 1815, (Edited by J Stevens Cox FSA and published by Guernsey's own The Toucan Press in 1979) which Anna and Anton gave me. The language is wonderful, for example:

REMARKS FOR CALF'S FOOT JELLY BY AUNT GUILLE

2 quarts of water per neat foot with the leather on; 2 feet without the skin are equal to one with the leather on; 2 Calf's feet with the skin are equal to one Neat's foot:-- to clarify the jelly you require the whites and shells of 5 eggs to each quart of water. Stir all the time till it boils.


Sounds disgusting. A neat I think is an old word for a cow. This one is worse:

MOCK TURTLE SOUP. Mrs. BRETT'S RECIPE

Take a calf's head--to be well cleaned and laid in cold water for an hour cleansing it twice after--take out the brains and boil them in a small piece of linen cloth with a few leaves of sage for a quarter of an hour. Boil the head 2 hours, put the liquor into a separate dish and the next day remove the fat--put 1lb of lean beef cut small into a pint of water and boil it till all the gravy is out--mix it with the liquor of the head--strip the meat off the bones and cut the tongue and all up together.

Make forcemeat balls with bread, eggs, nutmeg, pepper and salt with a little flour in the hand to form the balls frying them in a pan with a little butter until they get brown. Add the yolks of 12 eggs boiled hard--putting the whole into the stewpan--adding one teacupful of Ketchup--season with cayenne, common pepper and salt according to taste. Thickening with a little flour before making up.

Mixing things with "the liquor of the head" is plain nasty. Although there are some interesting ingredients being used in Guernsey at that time.

Otherwise little to report. Work somewhat on the tiresome side, and was very pleased to get home in the evening and chill out by eating a slice of my chocolate birthday cake, and reading in my new study.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Flea Markets and Cicada

Beautiful day in Brighton, 20c, and I got busy deadheading and tidying in my front garden. A pleasant woman with a dog stopped to chat, but we were interrupted by a maniac with a battered face trying to cadge money, exit pleasant woman. Bah.

Met Sophie and Andros and bairns by the station and we headed off to the flea market. It is difficult to hear what those tiny critters are selling you sometimes. Anyway, after mooching about here we went back to the sea, and Electra and Christof went on the bungee trampoline thing, and after this we had lunch in the Mock Turtle again. Lots of laughing here, and a really fun time with them. We had an excellent weekend together.

Then off to the cybercafe just up the street from me to discover that the first response from my recent campaign of sending some manuscripts out: an acceptance from a small poetry magazine called Other Poetry. The poem (below) was written in Greece and I had my late friend Tim Gallagher in mind when I was writing it.

Anton and Anna back from Spain, and I lurked with them in the evening. Good laugh chatting and eating Anton's own excellent pasta recipe. They also gave me a pair of reassuringly breast-like Spanish cheeses and a book of old Guernsey recipes.


Cicada

Another Greek island, the gravestones
Dignified with thyme, dried flowers
And framed photos.

The cicadas are everywhere.
Plato, I remember, wrote they were the souls of poets.
Then I spot one

Its vivid wings retracted
Into its cacophonous carapace
Like a squat little Cavafis

Perhaps, a drab little Blake,
Or another who is unnamed
An exoskeletoned visionary

The author of a long-burnt library
Shrilling somewhere on an empty island,
From a cypress tree.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Greeks bearing gifts

Up with the lark and putting up the blinds in my living room with only one short bout of enraged swearing. Remo has discovered that there are big chunks of flint in my walls (the house is 150 years old) which explains why drilling has been a very unpredictable affair. Today the gods of drilling must have been appeased. Now I have blinds are light-proof so that my room will be obscured from the eyes of would-be pilferers as they peer at my windows at night.

Sophie, Andros, Christof and Electra were in town for the weekend, and they are very cheerful company. First we went to the pier and me and Sophie did bumper cars with the kids. Sophie completely exhilarated afterwards. Then I was dragged off to get drenched in the watersplash. I am not over fond of fairground rides, and the children and Sophie seemed to derive quite a bit of enjoyment from the photo of the waterspash log poised at the summit with my face frozen in a rictus grin while the two kids are nochalantly waving at the camera.

Christof going on unspeakable rides again. Then off to the Mock Turtle for restorative cups of tea. We went our separate ways for a bit before meeting up again in Food for Friends. We were sat by the window watching as streams of hen-night women disgorged from stretch limos.

Lovely vegetarian food, of course and I was surprised to find myself the recipient of a large chocolate birthday cake and everyone singing happy birthday. Amazing to see the happiness with which Electra will eat a large plate of spinach.

After much cheery chat, Andros took the sleepy kids back home, and Sophie and me finished the night by drinking a good deal of organic wine and cognac and generally put the world to rights till the restaurant closed. After seeing Soph into a taxi, I walked happily back through the town carrying the remains of chocolate cake and three pots of cyclamen they'd given me as a present.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Friday 13th

This day holds no fears for me. Enjoyable sociable day. Went to the Crabtree at lunch with The Gnome, Trace the FB and others by way of it being Friday, and the day after my birthday and so on. Lingered awhile with the FB and a newish writer named Amy drinking a slow beer or two. Not done that for ages.

Back to the office and made a few amendments to a letter about cats and dogs, and various other minor things before setting off to the Dove to meet Sarah. A fast beer there and then off to the Agni for a tasty bite, before the call of the seagull grew strong in me. Happy to be at home again.

Feeling decidedly more cheery over the last few days. The slings and arrows, and their attendant gloomfest, seem to have abated.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A practical birthday

Recently the agency came up with the idea of giving people their birthday as a day's holiday. Self-evidently a wonderful idea. So today I got busy in the Brighton sunshine doing practical things. For example: I had new tough glass installed and now my home is much safer. Suddenly I feel happy about leaving my home when I go off for a walk.

As the glass fitter went about his business, Remo called in and we had lengthy discussions about my plans for the garden, and other more wide-ranging subjects. An amazing foam used by Italian thieves in Rome, for example, which you simply spray into your victims locks and you are in.

The glass fitter was finished by 1:30. And in this day of practical things, I took the opportunity to visit the quack. Blood tests reveal excellent cholesterol levels, and no diabetes. I am gradually feeling less exhausted too, perhaps at some point I may approach health again. This would be very nice.

Bought things too. New blinds, and a new land line phone with an extension so that I don't have to hurtle dangerously down slidy stairs to reach the phone in time for it to stop.

Nice long chats with my neighbours, some cards and several texts. Talked with Toby and Mum, and Bob and Sarah, and was woken up by the ever-nocturnal Martin at 11:50pm to be wished happy birthday. Although I did nothing special, it was an excellent day.

Windows and windbaggery

Spoke to Anton on the train this morning, he was phoning from Spain to see if I was okay which was nice.

Had a new meeting with a client today. He spent over an hour and a half telling me and Hannah about all his achievements, and then stultifying us with screen after screen of flowcharts which had nothing to do with our discussion. Sometimes working for an agency is painful. Having to hang on this windbag's every assertion as if it was an insight of penetrating brilliance. We were sitting by lots of windows and over his shoulder was stormy lightning so at least I could gaze in his general direction with some sort of interest.

And how naive I was to imagine that you could simply install new windows if you want them. Turns out that because of the bijoux beauty of the Twitten it is (quite rightly) a conservation zone. This means you have to apply to Brighton council in case your choice of window offends the aesthetics of the area -- a process that can take months. So... I am having new tough glass placed into the old windows for the time being.

What offends my aesthetics, of course, is drug crazed maniacs breaking into my house and bleeding everywhere. Or those people who use the wall as a public toilet. If only they had to apply to the council too.

The massive silver lining to all this is that the belt tightening will not have to be anything like as severe. And the new glass will stop pesky opportunist thieves from breaking in again, and I can time the installation of the windows for when things are not so squeaky financially.

All well. Relaxing evening at home, eating fish and chips and revelling in the fact I have no work tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A feast of nougat

A cheery day at work. Even a long meeting this afternoon with (among others) the FB and Max the Mentor, didn't leave me contemplating how the flow of time is relative and can slow down at will.

A good night with Mad Dog too. He is a very good listener, so I was able to satisfyingly moan at him about things until I felt better. Having friends who will tolerate moaning is essential. We had a restrained couple of beers followed by a nice Thai meal. He also nicely gave me a card and pieces of expensive nougat with hazel nuts, many of which did not survive the journey back to Brighton.

Re-reading Prospero's Cell by Lawrence Durrell on the train. Beautifully written in parts, and the opening sentence is wonderful: "Somewhere between Calabria and Corfu the blue really begins." Made me want to head off to Greece again.

Mad Dog (now on the cusp of becoming S.A.D. Dog due to the shorter days) were discussing the use the cricketing phrase "having a good innings" about people when they have lived a long time. Personally I'd prefer "bad light stopped play", so that I could return undefeated to the pavillion with my bat tucked under my arm to a nice cup of tea and a plate of jammy dodgers.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The belt tightens

Beginning to wonder if foot is actually not broken. It has been stabbingly painful and now, mysteriously isn't. All I know is that the replacement Peter Kenny body, bobbing about in its chemical tank in a warehouse somewhere, better be delivered soon.

Spoke to Ali B for the first time in years, she has just returned from Dubai, where she knew Aimee for a while. Going to catch up with her next week. Also spoke to Mad Dog who I am seeing tomorrow.

Lots still left to organise. The burglary kick-started a whole load of unforseen expenditure, and dozens of things to organise. Have set up double glazing people meetings for Thursday. What could be nicer than a day spent talking to salesmen? Also arranging to have my e-ticket for Japan resent, as it is now in the possession of the criminal underworld. An autumn of severe belt-tightening awaits.

When I arrived home I discovered that Remo has worked wonders: there's a new lock on my garden door, he has raised the walls of the garden, and there is a brand new security light. In the evening I sat at my new desk and picked slim volumes of poems down from the new shelves he'd built and read them in a smug Frazierish sort of way.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Something afoot

Woke up at an astonishing 11 o'clock, which is later than I've slept for years. Happily shifting things about most of the day. Damp things from under the stairs, piles of books from one room to another, lugging bookcases and so on. Felt pretty cheerful doing so, however. My study room/spare bedroom is taking shape, and I feel much better about everything now.

But what would the day be without a some minor crisis? A couple of days ago I dropped a can of tomatoes. The rim of the can landed on my foot and hurt a good deal. I forgot about it of course, but now my foot is throbbing, and is painful to walk on. I can only think I may have broken a bone in it.

Quite pleased to have got to the end of this week really.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The sinister head of Thomas Carlyle

Feeling positively cheerful today. Loads to organise still, but feeling at last like I was getting a grip. The best thing was I think I have found the cause of the damp problem.

I walked around to the neighbours behind me and when they let me into their yard, I discovered they have built a rock garden right up to the air brick.

On top of the rock garden was a rock head of Thomas Carlyle The earth had settled in a way around this bust that, when it rained, water simply poured into the wall. With a little bit of clearing away, and the head displaced, I am fairly confident that this will have drastically lessened the problem. They were really nice neighbours too: a retired academic specialising in China, and his pleasant wife.

Some of my cards came through today too, so I am solvent again, which is a relief.

Lots of clearing up to do, and the place looks messier than ever, with damp things being dragged from the cupboards under the stairs, piles of books being sorted out for the new shelves. I even took the plunge and sold a few for a pittance to a second hand bookstore, and took others to Oxfam.

In the evening, I went for supper with Janet and Ken. A lovely evening with them as usual. Janet showed me a monkey she'd made from argyle socks, which I hadn't unexpected. Ken on good form too, criticising the singing of an aria which was playing on the radio. I really like the fact I know someone with strong opinions about Opera, as I know next to nothing about it myself.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A peaceful end

Another week very happy to see the back of. Work amiable and cheery, and had a nice lunch with Trace and The FB in Riverside among the z-list celebs waiting to make some sort of execrable TV show.

Home and saw that the excellent Remo has started to raise the height of my fence. He has a heart of gold. Decided to break my rigorous diet and no booze business, and had a pizza and two glasses of wine and, watching Frazier, felt more cheerful than I have done all week. It makes you reflect on how friends are very supportive. Chatted today to Mad Dog, and Sophie, and got notes including one from Christiane who is in the middle of a whirlwind love affair.


Last bit of blood I discovered was on some books. Fittingly on the spines two books by Sylvia Plath, and it made me wonder if the injured burglar, was actually a tortured poetic soul who may have been called to touch them in passing.


To prevent such musings in future, I am starting to line up some quotes for double glazing. This has already involved talking to excitable double glazing people who must have UPSELL tattooed on their dialling hands. It is a pane, but what can you do?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Book breeding

Feeling lots better about things today. Went in to work, which was very normalising. Lots of people asking about what had gone on and so on. The Gnome and me busy, and pretty cheerful.

Happy to find everything in one piece when I got home. I guess it there will be a moment of uncertainty when I open my front door for a while. Decided that I will definitely replace the windows in my house. They need doing anyway, and once I put in security double glazed windows the house will become pretty Fort Knox like, which will be good.

Today's crisis is dampness. The back wall has become almost sopping wet. There must be something going on in the garden that backs onto it. I need to get a grip on this in the next few days.

Today Remo completed the shelves in my spare room, and a desk area underneath. Great use of space and I spent a happy hour putting books up and getting them in the right order and so on. Something incredibly satisfying about putting the right books next to each other.

The odd rustling noise I have heard lately I have now pinpointed to the sounds of books fornicating. Turns out they have been indiscriminately breeding, which speaks volumes about their morality. Having filled six new shelves with books, the old bookshelves still seem to be full. How can this happen?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Wallet and Grimace

Seven o'clock and awake after a good night's sleep. Asked myself this question: do you know where your wallet is? Four hours of searching, plus revisiting Anton's place (which I am keeping an eye on) and the cybercafe round the corner and I had to reach the conclusion that I had lost it, possibly left yesterday while in a daze of tiredness, in the cybercafe I now type this in.

Searching for hours on end takes you to a desolate place. And actually deciding to cancel your cards comes as some kind of relief. Fortunately nobody seems to have been enjoying a spending spree with them. And I am still able to get money from the bank though if I brandish my passport. I also took myself off to cash converters today to see if my laptop had been converted into readies, but sadly not.

The wallet was my lucky, and originally quite expensive, wallet, I'd had for years. I bought it having been talked into "making money feel welcome" by a nice Indian lady I only met once, shortly after she left the ashram she'd lived in for seven years.

More washing of blood from things today. Noticed today that my shower curtain has got blood on it too making me think of Psycho.

Remo is worth his weight in gold at the moment. A loquacious guardian angel. Not only is he putting in shelves for me, he also replaced the locks, will replace the security light that conveniently gave up the ghost at the weekend and will be working at my place from time to time in the next few days. Two neighbours, Naomi from next door and the lady opposite, also dropped by to gossip and be sympathetic. And nice phone chats with Mum and Mase and Bob and Trace too all helping.

Actually feeling okay now, and fairly relaxed. Simply going to work tomorrow, and not doing the bloody stuff will be nice.

Have three funny, and very early birthday cards left by Anton and Anna for me at their place. Interesting one from Trotsky the cat to "the bloke who feeds me sometimes". A nice "born in the 50s" badged card from the babies, and a card featuring the late Joe Strummer of the Clash. The message, in Anton's hand, indicated that there were no cards featuring Rommel, so I'd have to make do with an English hero. This of course, a complex and insulting reference to the occupation of Guernsey during the second world war, but well meant.

The bloody aftermath

Trying to normalise things. Up after a few hours sleep and got to work cleaning blood from my house. Literally cleaning the blood from the walls. Amazing where it got. Even last thing at night having washed the blood from everywhere I could see, I picked up my book on Berlin 1945 just before I dropped to sleep to find blood on that too.

Thanks to mum, I've discovered that salt is an incredibly effective agent for removing blood from fabric and so on. The sofa covers especially responded well to being soaked in salty water.

Remo happened to have scheduled this week to do my shelves, so he was a solid and reassuring presence. Had my window replaced with toughened glass, by a man with so many cuts on his arms he was joking that he'd been asked if he goes in for self-harming. Remo is full of suggestions about how he can improve the safety of my house and prevent access over the garden wall.

Discovered that my portfolio case had been taken as well as a bottle of wine and some noodles from the fridge. Most gutting was the discovery that he went off with the key to the garden door, so I have had to improvise by locking this with my bike lock. I was quietly pleased to discover on Monday that the bloody burglar had taken a bite from some uncooked but breaded fish that was waiting to be grilled.

Generally tiring day however. Spoke to quite a few people. Mum was excellent, and spoke to Bob too, as well as The Gnome and Pat from work.

Later on, at tea time I'd had a headache for a while but was very disconcerted by a big sickle of flashing light in my eyes that was there if I closed my eyes or not. It being me, I found myself seized by hypochondria, and phoning Mum and then NHS direct and spoke to a nurse who was very kind. The lightshow stopped as suddenly as it had begun however and all was well.

Retreated into the blessed normality of watching a few episodes of Frazier before going to bed with a large hammer handy.

Apart from the intrusions and so on, am very sad about losing all my work on the laptop.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Monday: a bloody nightmare

Dismally wondering, during a tiresome day, if the sore throat I have had for two months now is some kind of record. Returned late from work to discover I had been burgled. The burglar gained access by climbing into my garden over the wall and then smashing a window by my table. This caused him to bleed a lot. Blood was thoughtfully wiped over my gold sofa, my bedding, clothes, walls, in my fridge and so on. Things stolen were few, but the worst was my laptop, containing my writing and photos from the last year and a half, much of it stupidly not backed up. The place was in complete turmoil and everything had been pulled out from wardrobes, cupboards etc. So, I was pleased I devoted so much of my hermit-like weekend to tidying up then.

Things improved somewhat when Sandra, an nice forensics lady came and dipped swabs into blood, and took shoeprints and fingerprints. (Apparently there is an excellent chance of arresting the offender.) And she made me laugh talking about her pub conversations... As in what kind of a day did you have a work? Well I was dealing with a maggoty corpse... etc.

Two police women came at a 11:30 and took a statement. After, I wandered about feeling dazed, opting to sleep on my futon, which fortunately was not bloodstained at 3:ooam.

So endeth a day which sucked quite profoundly.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A tornado

In hermit mode.

A tornado skirted the coast this morning. I went for a walk down by the sea a couple of hours afterwards. I wish I had seen it. For most of my life I have had a recurring dream about tornadoes, though I have never seen one with my own eyes. Despite this, it was a wonderful blustery day with a choppy sea and scudding clouds. I took a few photos.

Then I bought a proper boy's book: Anthony Beevor's Berlin The Downfall 1945, having enjoyed his one on Stalingrad a while ago. Happily read about Nazis and the Red Army for a few hours and also slept lots in the afternoon, squeezing in a couple of Fraziers. Did no writing.

Thundery this evening, and I end this just about to watch Jane Eyre on the BBC.

Brighton seafront 9:40 am.






Eastward Ho!

Spoke to Toby, who reminded me to book my flight to Japan. The method of booking suggested by Tobe was to visualise the efficiency and organisation of Romy in my head, and before I knew it I had scored a ticket on-line. I will be joining Toby, Romy, and Hiroko (the Romster's mum) in Japan for Christmas. Romy has arranged for us to stay in Kyoto, Japan's historic capital, which will be a wonderful experience. Hoping that I will have fully regained my manly vigour by then to accommodate the immense amounts of rubbernecking that Kyoto will demand.

Otherwise I spent what little energy I had on doing practical things, like scrubbing the kitchen floor, and generally cleaning and re-establishing some sort of order at home. Also went to the nearby rug shop, to collect the rug I'd ordered for my bedroom a couple of months ago. It is the colour of a new leaf. I also turned my bed upside down, as it was feeling suspiciously wobbly and screws had dropped out of it, for a major re-screwing and tightening. I don't want another repetition of the bed-collapsing-in-the-dead-of-night-caper again.

Also spoke to Anton who is off to Spain with the family before dawn tomorrow.