Thursday, November 30, 2006

Clockwork of the Gods

Not every day an old hack like me learns a new word... But today I encountered orrery for the first time.

An orrery is a clockwork model of the solar system and is named, my dictionary tells me, after someone called The Earl of Orrery. I have been reading today about The Antikythera Mechanism which is an ancient Greek mystery object, a kind of orrery perhaps, found by a sponge diver in a Roman wreck, and is thought to be some sort of analogue computer able to predict the motion of the stars and planets. Having up to 72 gears in its workings, it is reckoned to be about 1000 years ahead of its time. Found this fascinating today. Surprised wild eyed ufologists haven't got hold of this one... Clockwork of the Gods. But the culture that produced Plato, Aristotle and Homer to name but three, certainly knew its onions.

Anyway, apart from missing my train due to losing my train pass (in my pocket all the time, duh) today was rather nice. And I was like a hot knife through butter when it came to work, and the Gnome and me generally had a bit of a laugh.

Another swim. Seeing again the older, rather tidy red-haired man. who seems to have taken a shine to me. Except that is when I splash his hair. I think he holds his head very erect above the water in case it runs.

Had coffee with Trace in the afternoon, she was telling me about her plans to move to Brook Green which is a nice area, and near work too.

The police called me to say my burglar is now going to Crown Court to be sentenced, although there is no date set for it. The Police are very good about keeping me informed about the progress of all this.

Home on time today, and am now enjoying Nina Simone's Nina Simone and Piano! album in my study, and looking forward to an early night.

Toby just Skyped me from Toronto... Updating me on the Canadian goss. Turns out he's Mad for the Mechanism too, and gave out a photocopied article to some of his school students. It made us both independently think of the alethiometer from Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. We'll see each other in Japan in a matter of weeks.

Below a photo of salvaged pieces of the mechanism, nicked from the BBC. Link above.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Day One

A lovely clear morning. As the train sped over the viaduct and mist threaded picturesquely between the trees, I decided to cheer up. Today, I decided, is as good a day as any other for a fresh start, and to this end I was busy making mindmaps and plans on the train. Trying all the time not to let the nosey person sitting next to me read what I was writing.

Work suddenly a good deal more manageable too. I had time for a swim at lunchtime and enjoyed the virtuous glow it gave me afterwards.

After work I sauntered down to the Blue Anchor after where I waited for Matty boy and First Matie. The pub was unusually busy with a few discerning Fulham supporters eating and drinking before their home game against Arsenal.

Both Matty and Kate on good form. Much top-level gossip and chatting over a few drinks until a man sitting next to us provocatively began to eat. Then we legged it to the Agni for three Royal Thalis and more wide-ranging conversations. This followed by a brief sojourn in The Salutation, where, all too soon, the call of the seagull made itself known to me, and I had to head home.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Bored and peeved

A scrapefest at my old dentist down on Strand on the Green in Chiswick before going into work. Gnashers okay but gums needed help. I found a new shortcut to the dentist today, after living in that area for more than ten years. I took a useless photo of the Russian Orthodox church near the tube station below. It's gold and blue garlic-globe shaped roof looks so exotic in Chiswick's leafy streets.

Got to work, and spent the day peevishly avoiding doing bits of utterly boring financial copy which, despite looming deadlines, I simply cannot force myself to do. After a late meeting I got lassoed into schmoozing a client by the CEO. The chief client is from Toronto and she sounds a lot like Romy.

A landslide on the line meant heading for home actually took more than two and a half hours, so
I got home hideously late. Feeling in a bad mood again all day. I need a good shaking.


Monday, November 27, 2006

A kind of closure

Appalling dreams all night: one in which everything was blurry so that nothing in the dream could be clearly seen. Never had that one before, and frankly I don't want it again. I am very stressed at the moment, and my dreams are reflecting this. The obvious reading of the dream is there are situations in my life that I cannot properly see yet.

Things settled down over a breakfast of tea and buttered crumpets with Mum and Mase. Mase suggested I should write a list, and I began to create an elaborate anxiety mindmap (complete with drawings) on the tube, which I was rather enjoying. But when I reached Baker Street the police called me to confirm that the guy who'd knocked suspiciously on my door a few weeks ago was also my burglar. This made me feel better right away.

The thief was a Polish guy called Christian, as he told me at the time. He was collared 40 minutes later breaking in somewhere else. The DNA matches the gore in my house, and he is pleading guilty on Wednesday. It may be that I get some criminal compensation -- i.e. some cash.

I feel quite sorry for him apart, that is, from wanting to punch his head over the fact that he stole so much of my work. It does help my feelings of closure knowing I contributed to his arrest. He has broken in lots of other places too.

Into the office today. Felt a bit tetchy, but work mercifully quiet for the first time in weeks, allowing me to leave for home on time and listen to Lord of the Rings and play Zuma on the train going home to Brighton like an automaton.

Getting visitors to this blog from a Buddhist forum in a discussion about Sogyal Rinpoche - apparently there was a report in the Guardian that he was sued for $10 million in the United States by a woman who alleges sexual harassment, coercion and abuse back in 1995. This was news to me, but have no idea if the allegation was proved.

I thought he was a very interesting and charismatic man, when I went to the retreat in June 16-18th, and I am much more interested in Buddhism than in personalities. The only dissonant note for me, however, when he appeared to humiliate a female Australian monk who was serving him. She had got some matter of administration wrong. Nobody seemed to bat an eyelid, and I'm still not sure if it was me not understanding the protocol, but it did introduce a worm of doubt.

Being so adored must be quite a challenge. People must project all kinds of things on you (like perhaps the humiliation of a monk).

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thanksgiving

Limp rag-ish this morning, but off to see Mum and Mase. The trains doomed and replaced by buses etc. En route Matty-boy texted me over the finer points of making a Guernsey Bean Jar.

Collected by Mase at Mill Hill and was driven back to be revived by several cups of tea while Mase told me about his daughter in law and grandchildren, and mum told me about her new Czech mates. Mum has been adopted as cult figure by lots of Czech women.

Then, as Mase got busy in the kitchen Di arrived. Mum me and Di drank large gin and tonics in the conservatory scarfing on pistachio nuts. Then Tanya and Robert arrived. Very pleasant afternoon all round with lots of turkey-based knife-and-forkwork and some bizarre conversations between Mase and Tanya with their differing Californian and Filipina perspectives on the definition of confidence tricksters, virgins, Moonies, heaven etc.

Last thing at night, I got a text from Matty saying his bean jar was a triumph: I felt a powerful up-welling of avuncular pride.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Full stop

Worn out, I did absolutely nothing today. Took advantage of three Star Treks in a row on BBC, and slept on my sofa. The Next Generation ones now seem almost more dated than the originals.

Accidentally created a soupy masterpiece from the scraps in the fridge. Lentils, garlic, leek, butternut squash, fresh parsley, sage and rosemary and some lean bacon created an ambrosial blend.

Got a text from the Gnome: "At rugby surrounded by gnomes. Lovely". I looked for him on the TV in Cardiff among the other downcast gnomes as the New Zealand All Blacks thrashed Wales.

Listened to Lord of the Rings audiobook went to bed early and blamelessly.

Friday, November 24, 2006

King Pong

Large Graham and his art director Paul left work today. Will miss Graham's 6'9" frame looming at me from the desk opposite mine. Responsible for the table-tennis craze, (known as Pong Wars in the creative department) their leaving card was an enormous table tennis bat.

Unbelievably I went for yet another drink tonight in the works bar which was very busy tonight. Chatting to Hannah about life as a singleton, and I said goodbye to Paul and Graham and also Mandy who left today. The French Bloke miserable in the office upstairs, having to work late. Phil turned up too.

Home late again. The state of my house making me sigh.

Strangest of all the bits of mess was an enormous composter which I dragged indoors earlier in the week. I ordered a very small one about two months ago, in a rush of green blood to the head. Finally one was delivered this week. It is all wrong and I have no idea what to do with it, as it is the size of a small house. I suppose I could use it to turn my garden into a compost factory and fill the Twitten with an attractive aroma of rotting, worm-riddled vegetation.

It is all too much to contemplate. My brain is fried.

Paul and Large Graham play their final game of "pong".


Thursday, November 23, 2006

ha-ha-ha-HA-ha!

Thanksgiving in the US today, made me remember MJ and her bairns' turkey-eating song, complete with snappy hand movements. I'll have a Thanksgiving at Mum and Mason's place in Edgware this Sunday, which will be fun too, and I am planning to stay the night so I can eat with disgraceful abandon.

A really good day at work. Thank God our pitch concept is finally working. We're pitching for a premium beer, and we filmed a beer tasting in the agency as part of the presentation. I won't be fronting it, which means I can relax this weekend. To celebrate I downloaded the Woody Woodpecker theme tune with its annoying laugh. The Gnome picked up his guitar and soon had turned it into Woody's Blues which sounded oddly brilliant.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

An unexpected Mark

Woke up at 5:30 this morning brooding about this latest pitch. Took the early train into work to get a flying start, and fortunately things have finally fallen into place, and so today was by far the best day this week.

On a Pooterish note. At six had a very cheeky beer with the Gnome (real name Mike) at the work bar. There were two others there: Mike Ferg and Mike O. I looked at them alarmed and said urgently: say nothing secret! Why? one of them said. Because the bar is fully miked! Nobody thought this was funny. And on yet another Pooterish note... I got trapped in a toilet cubicle at work and when I jerked the door open, it somehow viciously rebounded, slamming into the side of my head. Afterwards I read my horoscope, fingering the lump in my scalp, it said I might have an accident caused by frustrated ego energies. Very helpful.

The train home, still gripped by the Lord of the Rings, and playing Zuma on my mobile phone. I got a call from Mark apologising for being late. Turns out we'd got our wires crossed about the date when we were supposed to meet. And it turned out to be tonight, so we met in the Battle of Trafalgar and then wandered down into the Lanes and had a fairly pleasant Thai meal.

He is a great raconteur, and was enjoying stories about him tangling with a particularly springy and aggressive breed of Italian sheep dressed only in a dressing gown and wellies, after they had been vandalising his garden. Or appearing on the front page of the Brighton Argus dressed as a pantomime dame while protesting against a rubbish dump near his village.

We walked back through town to the station in the rain, and I saw him safely into a cab at the station before heading home.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes

Now utterly hooked on listening to The Lord of the Rings on my iPod. And although it pains me to write this: Anton was right. He told me that I'd experience it differently as an audiobook. Very soothing hearing about hobbits meeting elves in the Shire as you fight your way onto the tube at Victoria station.

Groundhog day at the office: a morning meeting to agree our direction which then the Gnome and me worked on all day. Then at 5pm another meeting which revealed a changed strategy which rendered our whole day fruitless. When they said yes this morning, the actually meant no. Also heard that we lost the pitch last Wednesday despite my stunning performance. Bah.

Escaped this, and met Sarah Freems in the Oriole in Sloane Square after work. I enjoyed the people-watching while I waited for her, but we left as soon as she turned up as she doesn't like it there. Instead we sloped off to a pub that Fras knows, where I was phoned by my boss to have yet another discussion about the pitch and what to do next.

A nice Italian meal with Sarah, where I asked her about Fras, and their bairns, and we did a large amount of gossiping about our many and various mutual acquaintances. She also said that Fraser's health problems had changed her, that these days she thought about what good she could bring to everyone she encountered. Although five foot nothing in her stockinged feet, she can be a scary and formidable little thing, so I said I was pleased to hear it.

Then off to Brighton. Fell instantly into conversation as the train left the station with a recently-retired lecturer who had just been to the Velázquez exhibition. We discussed visual art all the way to Brighton. He had several wrong opinions about things, but in general this was some unexpected fun.

Below, the Gnome hard at work in the boardroom. We'd snuck in to spread out some work...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Moanday

Bad mood all day. It started this morning as I stood in a packed and elbowy crowd outside Victoria station listening to the penetrating and unremitting bleep of the alarm for 25 minutes before being allowed into the station. Then at work, I wasted the whole day on a rubbish idea for this new pitch.

Briefly out for a colleague's leaving lunch in the ghastly Puzzle. Ate a chicken burger and looking out at rain falling on Fulham Palace Road. But at least got to catch up with the French Bloke who was sitting next to me.

Most evenings now I turn up at Victoria in time to watch my train depart. This ensures I have the maximum opportunity to wait in the non-space of the station. Today was better, at least I used the time to speak to Sophie. Also my boss at work who called to discuss what we could do about the rubbish idea tomorrow.

Home listening to The Lord of the Rings as an audio book as I played the Zuma on my mobile phone like a maniac. It's really hard to play it on a phone, but that doesn't stop me.

Was accosted as I was entering my front door in the rain by a man wanting money. Safely indoors, I resolved not to give up on the day. So I took myself out again to a pub where I saw a Monday night poetry session advertised. When I arrived at the pub, needless to say, it wasn't on. The barman said it was an occasional thing.

I decided to have a pint anyway. I took it to the corner where I put it on the table and it simply fell over due to the table being made out of reclaimed wood and not at all level.

The whole pint poured over me and some people on the next table. The nice barman gave me another one, and I sat there after he mopped up in my dripping anorak in a puddle of beer amid a crowd of hip young things feeling pretty fed up and solitary.

Home again and finally began to feel better. For tomorrow is another day and, thank God, not a Moanday.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Borat

Took myself off this afternoon to see Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

I was quite prepared to be underwhelmed, but actually found myself loving it. It is very uncomfortable in places too. I'll say one thing for Sacha Baron Cohen - he has guts. He manages to create toe-curling situations which reveal hypocrites, racists, sexists, and anti-Semites in their full glory. This was combined with some out-and-out slapstick. The naked fight he has with his fat producer, which spills out of their hotel room into a function room had me crying with laughter.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A variety of pies


After treating my home like a hotel all week started cleaning up this morning. Amazing how much stuff needs to be done after five days.

Decided to make my missions today small and accomplishable. For example, I decided to make a pie. I've not made one for ages. Off into Brighton to get a rolling pin, and a pie tin. Ages since I made pastry. I made a "layer pie", which Mum used to make for us when we were kids. It's a pie (concentrate now) with onion and whisked eggs layered in with pork luncheon meat -- and is curiously tasty. Put in a few tiny bits of chili too to make the eggs slightly huevos rancheros style. Had some this afternoon and it was surprisingly good. It is one of those pies which is better cold.

In the evening went up to see Anna and Anton. Anna out to a mother and baby market event she'd organised for the charity. We sat about while Anton did things in his kitchen domain, and I spooned more food into Oskar.

Anton making pizza pies (with the right kind of tomatoes). Later Klaudia helped to make the pizza base, throwing the dough about with her little hands with surprising panache. She gradually got covered in clouds of flour and she even had perfect flour footprints on the soles of her feet.

She is a funny thing too. She started a game which involved pointing at each other and saying Yuk! disgustedly. This went on for quite a while and caused her great laughter.

Below a rainbow I glimpsed from my study window this afternoon.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Dead beat and Homer Simpson

Whew, what a gruelling week. Today much better I went for a slow swim at lunch and finished work at 6:30 walked through the busy agency bar and went straight home. A better business than Wednesday when, after having done the pitch, I had a disgusting Homer Simpson moment just outside Brighton. I woke up with my head wedged against the packed train window, drooling copiously on my suit.

Home and felt too tired to do anything constructive tonight.

The CEO came by my desk today to say that the people I'd pitched to on Wednesday were very impressed by me personally, that if they chose us it would be because of me. This is good as it had been billed as an unwinnable pitch before I started on it. So if we do win it, it will make me look big and clever for a couple of days.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Nearly human


Toby sent me this link to the wonderful Marvin Gaye singing The star spangled banner. Oddly affecting. Also was sent the interesting picture below by Amitabh Mitra, which is based on a photo posted here on 1st November. Amitabh says it is a big watercolour, floated in two sheets of glass, and that he is exhibiting later this month in South Africa.

Much more relaxed and cheerful today. Almost like a proper person. The Gnome stern this afternoon and forcing me to focus on the next pitch. Good job too, as I had a stunningly good idea. Enjoyed the rare feeling of a wave of big and cleverness washing over me. Moments like that make all the agency absurdities feel momentarily worthwhile.

Had a swim at lunchtime. Still far from fit at the moment, and I need to sort out a bout of badly bleeding gums. Processing thorny emotional stuff while swimming up and down.

After work off to see a friend, who is now 8 months pregnant. Unfortunately she has recently broken up from her partner of 17 years standing, and the father of the baby. Not much I could say or do, apart from listen.

Selfishly after a couple of hours I became very tired, and eventually had to beat an early exit back to Brighton.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What we cannot speak of we must pass over in silence...

The less said about today's pitch the better. Me and The Gnome were fine but the rest of it was dire. Unforgivably we were even late turning up, and if I was the client this would have lost us the pitch there and then.

The relief when it all stops, however, is immense. A few beers in the agency bar in the evening, and late home again to a Chinese takeaway. Life, however, resumes tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Brain dead in Burger King

A replay of yesterday, except without the reviving five minutes by the river. Left work late, and this evening they provided a taxi to Victoria, which was nice. In the back of the cab I called Janet to apologise for not being able to make it to her conference in Brighton tomorrow.

Had a briefing for yet another new pitch this evening, which was a good hour's break from the pitch I am currently working on. The new one's for a premium beer company, so we had to drink a bottle during the briefing. Then back to slave over dozens of wretched powerpoint slides for hours on end. Rather tangentally, I drew a quick cartoon strip which we've included as part of our presentation.

Things I'd like to do instead of writing: be a cartoonist, make stained glass windows, be a radio phone in host along the lines of Frazier Crane.

A few snatched non-work conversations during the day. Spoke to Mum briefly, as she emailed me to say that she had found her money-making painting style again. Spoke to Trace who is off to the US for a holiday tomorrow, and fleetingly to the French Bloke. Hardly had time to speak to the Gnome apart from anyone else.

Back home on the train, and listening cheerfully again to Diary of a Nobody. Home at 11:30 and am now typing my blog, listening to Blue by Joni Mitchell, and drinking a nice cup of tea. Looking forward to reclaiming some sort of life, after the pitch tomorrow.

Disgusting things I ate tonight... at work crisps and chocolate biscuits. And standing near Burger King in Victoria having just missed my train: vile french fries and an unspeakable peri peri chicken baguette.

And so to bed.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The diary of a nobody

The Gnome and me in something of a slogathon today. Was able to steal only five minutes getting a breath of blustery air down by the river, working on this new wretched pitch which I have to deliver on Wednesday morning. Left work at 9:00pm but just missed my connection at Victoria and so didn't arrive home till 11:00pm.

I have downloaded another audiobook -- the wonderful Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith, which is one of my all time favourites. The main character, Charles Pooter, writes an unintentionally hilarious diary where he notes all kinds of trivialities, and has his dignity continually compromised. The precursor of blogs everywhere, including - soberingly enough - my own. But when you are brain dead on a train, listening to a funny book on your iPod is really nice.

Home at 11 and warmed through a bowl of stew, picking up rogue bits of glass while waiting for it to warm. The last thing I did before I went to bed last night was drop a pint glass of sparkling water, and first thing this morning an unopened jar of runny honey.

Went online and had a really warm and friendly messenger conversation with Mary Jane. A healing end to a draggy day.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A belly of pork

Busy doing nothing this morning. Up in the loft today storing stuff, and later out to the shops buying a little table for my printer to stand on. Generally however I find myself unable to focus on writing or anything productive, and I am feeling a bit twitchy. However this clip has helped a good deal.

Instead this morning I listened to the ancient BBC Radio 4 soap The Archers. It is going through one of its rare lively patches. The characters have such unremarkable lives that when something dramatic happens it is astonishing.

Following this I listened to a long outside broadcast from the ceremony at the cenotaph for Remembrance Sunday. Made me think about the Somme: all those young guys just having to do their duty -- to leave their trenches and WALK a few hundred yards in a hail of machine gun bullets. Appalling. As I type this the radio says four UK soldiers were killed today by a bomb in Basra. I wonder if they knew why they were there?

Anton and Anna invited me for Sunday lunch today. Very good fun as usual. Anton outdid himself, spending hours preparing the wonderful belly of pork he bought yesterday from the correct butcher. Plus lots of organic vegetables, and home-made onion gravy made to Anton's own recipe. After some cheese, there was a final butterscotch sugar-rush of a pudding with custard. Standing up to leave, I put on my Guernsey, and I swear it felt tighter.
This is Oskar. He is a very good boy.



Saturday, November 11, 2006

A mild morning

Up early and Anton and Baby Klauds came around first thing, and I joined them on a long wander through Brighton up into Kemptown as the town was getting ready for the day. Stopped off in a cafe called Little Red Roaster. Enjoyed sitting on the sofa drinking great coffee, with Anton pointing out in admiration the cigarette stained ceiling (no smoking now of course) as Klaudia drank some milk and picked off bits of candy from the top of a small cake.

Really nice walking about town before it was busy, glimpsing the sea from time to time, down the streets that slope from Kemptown to the front. Klaudia pointing at seagulls on rooftops and chuckling.

Lots of people wearing poppies for Armistice Day (mine fell off my Guernsey in about 20 minutes), and we saw one naval man walking along clutching a ceremonial sword.

Then to Anton's new favourite butchers, which specialises in local meat. I bought some chops of Sussex lambs, and Anton a large piece of a Sussex pig. Enjoyed the butcher being passionate about his product, and telling you which village the lambs were from, what interests they had in their brief lives, etc. Good though with all this business about food miles, that this food came from very close by.

Earnest conversations with Anton, as I was in purchasing mode. Talking about TVs and CD players. On his advice I got an excellent and very clear sounding CD player to replace my doomed one. The TV quest proved futile however. I hate talking to sales people.

A blameless, quiet night in.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Pitching again

Was asked to do, at short notice, yet another pitch next week. Tortured poetic soul that I am, I seem to be quite good at pitching for business. Feel like I am making up some lost ground after flaking about being ill in the last few months. Lots of work to do before Wednesday, and I have had to get up to speed with things like carbon footprints, and energy-saving technology. Fortunately the Gnome was on excellent form, while I was somewhat braindead.

Saw Sarah after work today in Kew for a long-overdue visit, and a lively conversation and a spicy pizza. Her career is moving in some fascinating new ways, which annoyingly I can't write about. Then, a tiresome schlep to Brighton, and home at last.

Best thing this week was that Mike Ferg, an art director at work, who has been having chemotherapy for cancer, had another alarm a couple of weeks ago due to mysterious abscesses in his mouth. Loads of tests and scans followed. We had a game of pool this week and he told me that thankfully the results were all clear and he has been told by the medics to go home and have a great Christmas. He is very relieved and cheerful.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Swimming, swilling and stinking

Another swim, and today with a bit more energy. I love the virtuous glow I get afterwards. And it is a great way of earthing the non-specific anxiety which is still plaguing me.

Another way of course is to go out with some of your mates. Newish work chum Hannah had a birthday drinks session today, with lots of work people going. I spent the evening being talked to earnestly by women, which of course I enjoyed tremendously. Two wanted to confide their dark secrets of childhood horrors. The thing is neither of the stories sound that bad to me, but I suppose that's not the point really.

I also met a nice new guy from New York, who said he found the agency culture in London no different to that in NY.

Made the schoolboy error of hanging around too late, and so didn't reach Brighton till 1:30.

Recent tube horror from Wednesday night before I went to see Mad Dog: got on the tube and there was an appalling whiff of somebody with diabolical body odour. In the crush it was impossible to tell where it was coming from.

The tube pulled into a station and quite a few people got out. Those remaining spread out, and I think I must have been in the place where the smelly person was, just as this was registering with me a very richly dressed woman got on. Suddenly she appeared stunned, looked at me accusingly and made a terrible gagging sound. Then she stood with her back to me by the door literally holding her nose. Must be a terrible thing if you really do smell bad.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Velázquez with Bob

Two excellent things today. I went swimming for the first time in months today, albeit slowly and gingerly. Felt a fleeting feeling of well being after which was excellent.

In the evening went off with Mad Dog, (now mid-transformation into SAD Dog due to the lack of light) to the Velázquez exhibition at the National Gallery. This very good fun. There were 46 pictures there, some of which I'd seen before. Found myself very interested in some of the work. He has a trick of making the less "important" people the subjects of the paintings.

Two I liked in particular were kitchen scenes painted around 1618 -- when the artist was about 19. In both pictures are serving hatches which are like frames into another world.

In one you can see Mary and Martha with Christ, and in the other you can see a newly resurrected Christ with two apostles. Compositionally much more important are the people in the kitchen however, and for me this lead to to much enjoyable speculation about why. Bob meanwhile was very taken with the portrait of Pope Innocent X who had the formidable face of a bludgeon.

After this spot of culture we busied ourselves with a couple of beers and quite a nice curry. It was very good to catch up with Bob as usual. Then home at midnight.

Pleased to hear that the Democrats have done well over the pond. Good news for just about everyone on the planet I'd say.

Copped these off the internet. The two fascinating kitchen scenes, and the formidable Pope Innocent.





Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Look no wires!

Sitting happily for the first time in my new study typing on my new computer. All thanks to a wireless hub. Fantastic. I still can’t quite believe how simple it is.

I’d rescued my wireless hub from languishing on a shelf in the post room at work. My name was written in slightly smaller writing, which had foxed even their keenest minds for some days.

Much easier day today, thank God but had a successful enthusiasm bypass. Had two brainstorms today. One about how to influence trend setter beer drinkers to drink the brand we are pitching for. After two hours of this conversation I wanted to scream, which may not be a good sign.

On a nicer note I confirmed my Christmas holiday and began to glance through the Lonely Planet guide to Japan that I bought yesterday at Victoria Station.

My CD player has stopped working. I always get amazed at how equipment can spontaneously break despite being untouched by human hand. It is, however, a miracle that my CD player worked for so long, seeing as how I lurched into the tray a few years ago and the French Bloke, who happened to be drinking wine with me at the time managed to take the whole thing apart and fix it for me using, I seem to remember, only a penknife.

Spoke to Bob today and he has scored tickets to see the Velázquez exhibition tomorrow. Looking forward to that very much. Below another thing my mum made and painted. A bag with cats.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Clockwise

The train thing is getting beyond a joke. Up at a quarter to six this morning to be in good time to meet my colleagues at Euston station. Got on a train at Edgware, which instantly broke down before it had left the station. After a wait, got on another tube train reasoning I still had an hour to do the 30 minute journey in. After a few stops the entire Northern Line ground to a halt. A 30 minute wait at Brent Cross station meant I missed my connection with my three colleagues to go up to Manchester for the pitch. Much frenzy and grinding of teeth on my part.

However Hannah texted me to say that if I caught the next train to Manchester, I could meet them them before our onward train left. I would have four minutes in Manchester Piccadilly to find them. My train was delayed outside Manchester but I just managed to find them and leap onto the connecting train which itself was delayed by two minutes. A surge of relief.

But it wasn't over. We arrived to our destination station, Adlington Cheshire. Having alighted, we discovered we were in the middle of leafy fields. Turns out that we were supposed to be in Adlington Lancashire -- the PA at work had bought us entirely the wrong tickets.

Managed to get a taxi and travelled 45 miles to the right destination arriving half an hour late for our pitch. Did the pitch which went as well as could be reasonably expected. There was one unpredictable new client who might cause us trouble though.

All slightly hysterical afterwards, the pitch team drinking beers and having a bit post mortem on the train down to London -- and continuing in a grotty bar near Euston once back in London. So grotty that you were given a code to unlock the door into the toilets.

The tube with Hannah, then I made it back to Brighton at about 9:30. Wonderful to be home, but wondering what new travel horrors are in store tomorrow.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Blue bowl, green bowl

Up to see Mum and Mase today, after a quiet morning.

I have to be at Euston station at the crack of dawn tomorrow, so took the opportunity to see them and get an easier journey. Sat on the train at Brighton, and of course (with mercury retrograde) I simply had to get off it again as it broke down before it pulled of the station. Eventually reached London and reached Mum's place by tube, disappointingly my claustrophobia returning in the tunnels.

A very fun evening. We drank some strange Czech liquor and scarfed lots of nice Mexican food that Mase cooked. Also took photos of some of mum's work. Below are two pics of painted bowls. They are very nice. I have a third one in my house.

Went to bed early practising horror film screeching, after watching half of Gothika with "Holly" Berry (according to Mase). I had to be up before six the next morning.


Saturday, November 04, 2006

A day stolen from Summer

Trace came down to Brighton today, and we spent the day walking about in the unnaturally perfect day. The sky utterly cloudless and blue, the light bright and perfect.

We went onto the Pier and went on the Ghost Train, which was feeble but funny: banging into small chambers full of screaming plastic monsters and so on. Then another go on the bumper cars, and then on the horses of the merry-go-round. I have been feeling a bit queasy for the last couple of days, and the rides were making me feel like doing a Linda Blair from the Exorcist. Trace also went on a twisting evil thing too, which I declined. Having worked up an appetite this way we went back into town and sat outside (!) for lunch.

Then a long walk down by the sea, Trace eating eating handfuls of fudge and a hot doughnut. I took lots of photos because of the beauty of the light. Eventually, as the sun set beautifully, we went back into town and went to The Mock Turtle for a cream tea, and a piece of Welsh Rabbit.

Trace then back to London, and I spent a quiet night at home drinking tea.






Friday, November 03, 2006

Mercury retrograde

Anton on the morning train, and we had a laugh before joining in the general groaning when more delays were announced. We sat in the unmoving train a few miles outside Croydon as the conductor broadcast a message about being delayed for ten minutes, and the woman next to us began a fairly good humoured rant about how railway minutes were like Irish country miles. I suggested it was bad for the capital, having trainloads of furious commuters disgorged into its very heart.

Mercury retrograde this week which, according to astrologers, means disrupted communications. For me, every journey without exception has been delayed. And my phone at work has an intermittent fault and won't ring, and the wireless router I've ordered has gone AWOL. Maybe it was behind a return of the horrible skewering feeling of missing MJ and the kids. And maybe it is behind all the things that went wrong at work, bungled presentations and so on.

But the intense pressure at least enabled me and the Gnome to end up with some good work. One was a digital port hole through which you can see a boat moving on stylized river waves, with a backdrop of a stylised London scrolling by; a pitch presentation on a Midas theme, and a few new concepts including a very good TV script for the pitch on Monday. Left work at 7:30 and, to disprove the theory, my journey home wasn't delayed.

A blessed relief to be home, and snacking into a bowl of my surprisingly good home-made stew.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A night out with my ex-wife

Another work frenzy today. The Gnome and me under the cosh most of the time. I will have to go off to somewhere near Manchester to do a pitch on Monday. Originally there was talk of catching a Nazgul from Gatwick airport and flying there. But it will now be a hideously early train ride.

Left work at 7:30 however and met Mex, my ex-wife, in the trusty Blue Anchor. We hadn't seen each other for well over a year. We seem to have got to the stage where it's like meeting up with a really good old friend. Had lots of catching up to do, which we did over a couple of drinks followed by a tasty thali in the Agni.

She has another book on the way also about the tube, and is doing well working at Yahoo, where she gets to do things like go to conventions of blogging women and so on. She has also moved back to Kew, not too far from where we used to live. It was really nice to see her.

Slept on the train back home, and woke groggily in Brighton.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Train strain

The morning picked up where yesterday left off. Got the late train which broke down etc. making me ultra late. But work, once I was there, was a bit better. Worked like a dog all day, pausing only to attend a post mortem on yesterday's debacle.

A very nice thing, however, was being contacted by Amitabh Mitra who has started a new magazine called Hudson View and has asked me to send him some poems.

Left work late, and got to the Hammersmith station and found I'd left my wallet in the office. Doubled back and got it, missing my train. The next train home delayed too. Someone had thrown themselves under a train during the day. Horrible.

Suddenly the temperature is now what it should be for this time of year, and it feels very fresh in the morning now. As I type this I can smell the rosemary sage and parsley I have put in a stew I am cooking. Feels like winter is coming at last.

Below a shot this morning: a glimpse of the sea from Brighton Station before I headed off to London.