Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sweet blackberries and a change of heart

Two days of narcolepsy. Then this morning woke up feeling perkier than I have for at least a month. Sloped off to have a kipper for breakfast, which gave my throat a good scratching as it went down, so much so that when I was in private I had to have a proper peer to see if there weren't kipper bones lodged in my throat.

Back to my apartment for a bit of thinking about poetry, finishing the truly brilliant Catching the big fish by David Lynch and then strapped on my walking boots. My ankle is still a bit rubbish but I managed a long, if slowish, walk anyway from the hotel, to Jerbourg and then along the cliffpath to St Peter Port.

I picked some blackberries from the bushes and these were the sweetest blackberries I have ever tasted. Without doubt, the Platonic ideal of blackberries. They gave me a kind of Proustian moment, and they reminded me of the sweet and yummy blackberry jam mum used to make when I was a kid.

I spoke to a few people on my mobile. Sent Kate her now traditional aural postcard from the cliffs, and also spoke Bob and then to Diane who phoned me. I was pleased to hear how positive she was after a recent operation. She told me that beyond fear lay courage, and this was an excellent thing to hear. And chiming in nicely with what I've been reading lately about fear.

The day itself was beautiful. Sunny conditions with a cool breeze and the occasional big white scudding cloud. Castle Cornet looking lovely by the sea, and all the islands and the coast of France clearly visible. As usual I walked through St Martins and wondered what all that ridiculous stuff on the mainland is all about.

Once I'd reached town I went to the Italian cafe by the market where I had a fairly good bowl of bean jar and a pot of tea. On the next table was a very elderly man who was busy taking his pills and hiccuping loudly. He was something of a joker and wandered about at one point with a teatowel over his head, and came over, not entirely welcome, to tell me a rambling, and mostly indecipherable joke about taking Viagra as I was eating my bean jar.

A spot of shopping in town, buying a book about the early history of the Channel Islands, and then back to La Barbarie for a quick snooze. Woke up and self-catered with some cheese and onion sandwiches, and looked at poems for a bit before deciding to take myself out for the night, as my first two nights I simply stayed in, sleeping an enormous amount.

Later I hobbled through the dark lanes under a full moon which, when it emerged from behind the big cloud castles, cast a shadow behind you as you walked. And I popped into the Captains for a couple of bottles of Pony - looking at the sign that is still on one of the doors for the now vanished Patois bar, where I played Euchre with my grandfather once.

Pony ale doesn't taste the same as when I was a younger gentleman - in fact it seems to be a completely different beer now. Realising I had no more money I repaired to the bar at the Barbarie where I fell into conversation with some nice Germans (which made me think of Anton) and an Irish couple. The man had difficulty remembering some things, which apparently is a symptom of having a heart transplant. Why this should be is quite fascinating. I've heard of muscle memory, could it be the heart in some ways actually remembers things?

Then blessed bed again.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

In the end is my beginning

End the same as the beginning of the week. Recovering from migraine.

Opted not to go into work today again. Looked up migraines and discover my migraines are actually called Classic migraines, which is a comfort. Wouldn't want any Johnny-come-lately migraines. Otherwise didn't feel too bad other than washed out today. Except for a strange burst of energy in the morning which meant I did tidied up like a dervish before going back to sleep again for two hours.

Bah to it all. This means I will have to travel into work tomorrow to do one or two essentials before my holiday, and pick up my new glasses in Hammersmith. Grr.

On a good note. Had my Twin Peaks series two delivered today - another feast of weirdness. Then had a chilled night in watching one of my favourite films: Le Goût des Autres with Lorraine, who appeared bearing a tasty vegetable curry.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Fear is the mind killer

A long day locked into a meeting with my new needles in eyes clients. All went very well, and they seem very pleasant. The meeting finished at 5:00pm and we were all due to go out for a meal afterwards. As our clients zoomed off to their hotel to change and meet us later, I bought some drinks in the works bar for our team. I felt very cheerful and relaxed.

Then yet another in my bout of migraines kicked in. It seems to strike when I feel relaxed, which is annoying as it ruins some of the good times at the moment. The FB took me off to get a migraine treatment from the pharmacy. This seemed to work quickly, and the flashing lights were soon banished, but I went straight home again. Horrible journey in a crowded train, having to stand part of the way with a throbbing head.

Ate and then soon went to bed. Slept for a few hours then woke up around midnight feeling sorry for myself. I bought this book ages ago: called Free yourself from fears, by Joseph O'Connor, and started to read through it again. It is based on NLP and at one point it asks to find a metaphor for your fear. On asking myself this question I find that my fear is like a prison because when I am fearful I feel trapped, isolated and alone.

Reading the book gave me a series of ah-ha moments. Reminding me of the fact that there are real fears and unreal fears.

And actually picturing how you see your fear is an interesting thing to do, because it also a way of finding an antidote. If fear is a prison, visualising a key or being able to step out into the world again or being able to talk to people on a phone could be useful. It all made a lot of sense to me in the middle of the night.

Also, interestingly, Joseph O'Connor quotes from Dune about fear - "I will not fear. Fear is the mindkiller. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Click for an excellent pirate story.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A sorry spectacle

Hard to get out of bed this morning. Work, once I got there, was a slog, trying to get everything done before my holiday.

Also I got my eyes checked. I had told the optician about the migraines and the strange light shows I have been getting. The test proceeded as normal, until he started shining the light onto my retina. Suddenly he stopped talking, and began to get rather nervous. He told me there was nothing to worry about but that he needed a second opinion - especially after my migraines. Ten minutes later, another person was shining lights into my eyes. Fortunately she said all was well - but it gave me plenty of time to imagine a catalogue of horrors. Instead I just need stronger glasses. Phew.

Went back to work and, after imagining having my eyes scooped out, everything seemed rather easy.

One toad, several ladies

Crept into work today feeling fragile. But perked up later despite a mountain of work to finish before my holiday.

Out in the evening to the Salisbury, where I met Aimee - who I'd not seen for several years - Lakshmi and Marcella. Aimee is in London (she lives in Dubai) on a course, and she is having a difficult time. Her aunt, who had been ill for a long time, died yesterday. Despite her being sad, we had a cheery night considering. We all met at the Salisbury and then had an adequate curry off the Strand, and an excellent evening of gossip and renewed friendship. A night out with the girls is a fine thing.

Sleeping on the train home, when I wasn't thinking about golden toads that is. For Christiane and I have been corresponding on the matter. I consulted the ever-reliable Dictionary for Dreamers and became interested in the contradiction between the ugly toad and its golden quality. Christiane was looking into native American totem stuff... where toads symbolised "an altered state of consciousness, changing luck, adversity, longevity, courtship via the use of sound".

Home late.

Below a fine Bufo bufo.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Dud Monday

Anxiety dreams about my grandparents and dark grey surging tidal waves. Got at the usual time but migraine still making me feel rough. Took the decision to stay at home. And slept deeply off and on for much of the day. Now that it is evening, watching Gandalf fall into the abyss with the fiery Balrog in my Lord of the Rings video, and thinking about another early night. The migraines seem to be caused by stress and tiredness, and they kick in when I am relaxing. Hoping my upcoming holiday will help all that.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Attacked in the forest

Anton called around at 7:55 and caught the train to Horsham and then walked into St Leonard's forest, home of dragons. Anton happily brandishing his two new walking sticks, which give him lthe look of a man missing a brace of skis. But it did offer double the protection against dogs.

Annoyingly though, after an hour of walking in the fresh and sunny morning I suddenly began to get a migraine. Stupid flashing lights in my eyes, and wussiness. We were about an hour from anywhere. With throbbing head I made it to a golf club house, which allowed me to make a call to get a taxi. Our mobile phones not working. All extremely galling as we had planned a 15 mile walk and it was a beautiful day for it. I felt bad for Anton.

Fortunately we made it back to Brighton very quickly, and then I simply slept for some time on my sofa. Did almost nothing for the rest of the day apart from make some bread and watch the X Factor on TV.

Below webs.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Atonement and the hybrid slinkies

A quick haircut, which was fine, however the barber flashed the mirror to show me the back of my head, which highlighted the area of concern again.

Then spent a really nice and relaxed day with Lorraine, who is most excellent and relaxing company. Had brunch at Billy's which serve big hash breakfasts - where normal English breakfast ingredients were smashed up onto one plate and topped with a fried egg covered in cheese. This was splendid at the time, but the afterwards it felt like I'd eaten a barium meal. Then down the road to buy some hybrid slinkies, which are guitar strings. I think The Hybrid Slinkies has to be the best possible name for a group.

Then to the Festival of Fiery Foods at a school field in Ovingdean. Too full to eat anything we contented ourselves with a couple of non-fiery smoothies, and three half thimbles of wine designed to be drunk with curry. The owner of the company talked us through all three, sadly they were execrable.

Then a walk down by the sea. The day was beautiful with the sky a deep and cloudless blue, and the chalk cliffs white and gleaming. The tide up and people fishing here and there, which I simply enjoyed watching for its own sake. As we walked along we passed a man dancing with his iPod in a flamboyant ballroom style. This causing much chuckling from some of the people thereabouts.
Then we sat on the sea wall and I felt more relaxed than I've felt for ages.

In the evening went off to see Atonement. I really liked the book and the film was okay, but certain things annoyed me about it. Anachronisms being one. In 1935 for example one character looks through a window and sees a flying fortress in England. Hmm. Try late 1942. But there was an artificiality about it and a crapness about the Dunkirk scenes, which undermined the whole thing for me.
Below spotted at the fiery food fair.

Friday, September 14, 2007

National bring your dog to work day

It was. Seriously. Though not many people paid attention. Except...

Vox pop

Bumped into Reuben at Victoria this morning brief micro-chat... Then into work, and then I went straight back out into the street to play the part of an ordinary man in the street. Naturally a stretch, but I give my opinions about a certain product while being filmed in a side street. I hate people with opinions, as friends of this blog will know, but fortunately I had previously scripted these opinions and I delivered them with a fetching spontaneity.

Another swim today, which makes it four in the last four days. Virtue smells like chlorine. Finding it hard to concentrate at work over the last week or so. The fact that I will soon have a couple of weeks chilling in Guernsey seems to have driven me a mad. Left work like a greyhound out of a trap. From the train, the low sun made the Sussex countryside seem lovely and golden and, as the train passed over the viaduct, I looked westwards to see a hot air balloon poised above the horizon near the sun. A lovely thing to see.

Below currently listening to my favourite rapper Common's new CD called Finding Forever. I really like Common. This track, with its ace Nina Simone sample, is certainly buttering my parsnips...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The omen of the golden toad

The lovely Christiane, God daughter of Anton, and living now in Australia, sent me a note today, which said: I was just reading your blog for the first time in a couple of weeks and on reaching the bit about toads in the channel islands, i felt compelled to tell you that i had the strangest dream 2 nights ago which featured you and you had a big golden toad living in a pond under your house.

This is, clearly, a very good omen. Of what I am not sure, but it is a good one.

A pleasant day today. Started the day being filmed with some other chaps from the agency queuing outside a pharmacy on the Fulham Palace Road. Then the business of working itself, which wasn't bad. I made time for a swim for the third day. Feeling whale like. Imagining people pushing me back into the pool when I started to crawl out, rushing about with buckets of water and tarpaulins etc. and looking about anxiously for the rest of the pod.

Had a quick drink after work with some colleagues and then made my way back to Brighton. Zipped into a noisy Eddy to watch the second half of England v Russia in the European cup and drink a couple of beers while England managed a satisfying 3-0 win. As I'd not eaten I found myself a bit drunk, but this soon remedied by some Chinese grub and a profound sleep.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Memories and theories

Nightmares last night after going to bed early but a beautiful morning.

Today reminds me of MJ. Apart from the horror of the events on this day in 2001, which I watched live on TV at my agency with an American friend Craig, it reminds me of how we had swapped emails in the morning before the event - and in the days afterwards. She was terrified, and my heart went out to her. Visiting Ground Zero in 2005 was a very sobering experience. All those poor people dead, including one of MJ's best friends. And a few hours later was the first time I met MJ in person.

Listening now to Saturday by Ian McEwen. The book, which is excellent, is set on the day of 15th February 2003. A day I also remember well as I joined the other two million people marching through London against the warmongering of the west - as a direct consequence of 9/11 of course. Actually marching was a bit of a misnomer, the march was creeping at a snail's pace, and bloody freezing it was too. After a few hours I am afraid I gave up, left the march and zoomed into a cafe for a pee and a hot coffee. What a shambles it all is now.

On this 9/11 everyone talking about the case of the McCanns whose daughter Madeleine is missing. Theories abounding at work, and I've overheard people talking about it all over the place... Including two guys sitting next to me on my homeward train. It is developing into a lurid national obsession. The fact that the couple showed such ability in using the media to create an international campaign to find their missing child seems to be strangely backfiring. In the popular imagination it's as if their ability and organisation signals something more sinister.

That the McCanns were somehow guilty seemed self-evident to the two men on the train for example. They had a couple of mad theories not worth repeating, but I'm seeing parallels with Alias Grace which I just read. This was of course about an famous unresolved case. Also for some reason I keep thinking about Crime and Punishment. How Raskolnikov was perpetually almost giving himself away and overcompensating. All in all a horrible business whichever way you look at it. For the McCanns it must be a living hell.

On a pleasanter note, spoke to Mum this morning shortly before she and Mase left for Budapest. Anton called early to plan another walk on Sunday. Otherwise an unproductive, but mainly painless day at work. I went for a swim again. I am trying to combat the sudden porky surge that has happened over the last few weeks.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Greengage jam and the darkness at the centre of everything

Spending money today. Booked plane tickets to Guernsey, booked into La Barbarie - a process that for some reason required four phone calls - and went into town to buy the splendid stripey armchair I'd seen yesterday. Now, when I have guests, everyone doesn't have to sit in a row like monkeys avoiding evil.

Spoke to Mum who is off to Budapest to get her broken tooth sorted out. Mase is also going to have his gnashers sorted too while they're there - those Budapest dentists are certainly Hungary for business and are cheap and excellent by all accounts.

Also wandered through the food festival again but confined myself to buying two jars of jam: one of greengage and the other of plum.

Watched some interviews with David Lynch in the afternoon. I find the way he thinks really inspiring. Despite the fact that he constantly wriggles the fingers of his right hand in the air when talking, which is very distracting. Later, I watched the first half of Inland Empire (eating greengage jam on toast) that I now have on DVD. Curiously I found the film even more disturbing at home than it had done in the cinema. Laura Dern plunging into thick nightmarish darknesses and stepping into rooms where even more dislocating and frightening things are happening.

I was quite relieved, when Toby called from Canada, to stop watching it. Good to talk to Toby lad - then an early and blameless sleep.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Hosta la vista

An entirely pleasant Friday. Another old colleague left the agency today. Spent the afternoon in a beer garden with lots of the agency drinking a farewell to Phil. Phil has a passion for hostas. His leaving card showed him brandishing a gun and a small shrub, with the line "Hosta la vista baby" on it, which wasn't bad. Phil gulping and looking very emotional during his leaving speech.

The call of the seagull grew strong in me at around 5.00pm. A quick shower after a sobering train-ride, then out for yet another beer and a cheerful but belly-busting duck-based Chinese meal with Lorraine in Preston Street.

Friday, September 07, 2007

A day of grace

Finished Alias Grace today. Interesting book, based on a celebrated murder, and full of interesting ambiguities. Though I still thought it was too long. So much in it about the power relationships between men and women in the 19th century.

Somewhat hung over this morning, but fortuately I had the most relaxed day at work for what seems like months. And in the evening went to the Tin Drum where I met Lorraine and we talked about refugees and then ate some Thai food. Got home and I watched TV for a while sipping tea before boofing happily into bed.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Commuters and a crapaud

Is there anything more British than moaning about commuting? Moaning being a great national pastime, and with millions of people commuting every day it gives us all great scope.

And the worst thing about moaning is you have to do it. For example I had to stand all the way from Brighton to London this morning, and had to get a two more trains before reaching Putney. London of course still paralysed by the tube strike in the morning. My ticket did not open the barrier at Putney, but a man behind me put his ticket in without thinking, so I could surge to freedom, as the barrier snapped behind me barring his exit. I did him a favour, however, because I gave him something extra to moan about. Then a 40 minute walk to reach the office.

The day draggy but I began to feel a bit livelier than I felt for about a week, and could think a bit straighter. A momentary diversion caused at work by about ten girls dressed as Can-can dancers arranging themselves in a circle on the lawn outside the offices to be photographed for some advertising campaign or other. Otherwise, a fairly relaxed working day.

Another leaving do, of a friend called Tasha who is from Jersey. She had the effrontery to call me a donkey once, getting in a last word between sliding tube doors after we'd seen a client. This a traditional insult from Jersey people to Guernsey people. Guernsey people, however, quite rightly will call a Jersey person a crapaud (pronounced crap-o) which means "toad" in Guernsey French. This is because there are toads on Jersey, but not on Guernsey. Incidentally Bufo bufo is the Latin name for the common toad, and if I had a favourite Latin name, this would certainly be it.

Anyway, went to the Bridge restaurant and had some drinks in the evening with Tasha and other work colleagues. Stayed rather longer than anticipated, and arrived late in Brighton where I found myself eating pizza and watching a black and white wartime British movie, bristling with stiff upper lips, well after midnight.

Below dancing girls on the grass. Very odd.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A statue of affection

Sluggish start to the day. Due to an infernal tube strike after getting to London I ended up walking from Putney Station to my offices, which took about 40 minutes. But it was a very beautiful morning. And I felt free and happy walking across Putney Bridge and along the river. I saw some statues I'd never noticed, including the one below, called Affection.

Curiously I had a head full of sludge all day, and every time I opened my mouth something faintly idiotic came out of it. But after presenting some work (which I did badly but got away with it) we went out as a team with our clients for lunch, as one of them was leaving to have a baby. Ate some nice sea bass steamed in a bag with Jersey potatoes. Said one or two more slightly idiotic things while waving my fork about but did no damage.

I have had to postpone my holiday yet again due to work stuff. The people I flew to Basel to discuss sticking needles in people's eyes last week are going to give us the business. This of course makes me rather big and clever. It also means I've had to bump my vacation to meet them again when they come to London. But I am intending to get a week or so in Guernsey at the end of the month. I can't remember feeling that I needed a vacation so much.

Fell asleep listening to Alias Grace again on the train, and home early-ish but feeling a bit of a zombie. Lakshmi and I were supposed to be going out tonight but we had to cancel because of the pesky tube worker's strike - however Aimee is coming over from Dubai in a couple of weeks and the three of us will get together then, which should be great. Haven't laid eyes on Aimee for several years - though we have been friends all along through blogs, and emails and so on. She is rather lively.

Below: affection; Putney Bridge featuring a rather busy bus stop due to the fact all the tubes were doomed, and the view upstream as I crossed the bridge.

Tube hell, taxi purgatory

Wishing the day away. Left work at 7, and there is currently a strike that has closed down much of the tube network. Managed a few stops on the Piccadilly line and then simply got a cab to Victoria, pleased with myself that I am at a "lifestage" when I can simply get a cab if I want one.

This proved to be a bit of a mistake as the driver treated me to some of his xenophobic opinions. I hate people with opinions. One of his opinions about the traffic was: "They let ten million people into this country in the last ten years, and they're dreaming if they don't think they won't all buy cars." A few of these made me feel like slamming his head in the cab door like Vinnie Jones in Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. But, as my pal Paul pointed out to me today, "if you go looking for revenge you better dig two graves".

Home sometime after nine. Listened to this brilliant programme on Radio 4, which was the late George Melly talking about The Night. Top.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Steamy Sunday

Anton and Bob's birthdays today.

Up early and while I was typing in my back yard Anton called and said did I fancy going to the flea market by the station. Wandered about with him and baby Oskar. A chuffing big steamtrain in the station below, which attracted lots of attention as it huffed out of the station. Something almost organic about steamtrains.

Anton in a good mood and parading about generally talking about his "birthday month". After we were done at the market, I wandered through the lanes to buy Anton his present, of a Swedish massage voucher. Then met up with him and Anna and the kids, Brian and Anne and Keith, Anton's folks. We went to the Tin Drum for a good Birthday feed.

I was feeling a bit washed out today. Slight stomach ache and so on making me feel a bit wussy and tired. After a good deal of chatting to Anne and Keith, I went home for a bit of a siesta and a small spot of tending to my roses.

In the evening I returned up the hill to babysit for A&A and Brian who went out for a meal and a drink. Fortunately, tthe babies had peeped not but I ended up watching a DVD of the newish Peep Show series, which is a strange and funny comedy. At the end of the evening Anna came back and I joined the boys for a cheeky beer in the Eddy.

Below a steamy scene at Brighton station the engine is called Tangmere; and Anne and Keith and baby Oskar who can now walk, with a bit of help.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Skelly's not impressed...

Saturday, September 01, 2007

A wooden horse called Terry

A lazy morning, but in the afternoon Sarah and Fras came to town. I met up with them and Anton and Anna to sit outside the Mock Turtle tea room - with the four children. Klaudia,happily chuckling, poured a variety of milk and tea based products on my knees.

Then we all strolled along the seafront chatting, and I did more Godfatherly duties with Klaudia on the merry-go-round, on a wooden horse called Terry. Fun to sail around with Klaudia watching her take in all the lights and the music, and wave to Anna on every circuit.

Fond farewells to Fras and Sarah and I walked home with Anna and Anton and the kids. Quite touched when Klaudia for the first time in her life gave me an unprompted kiss goodbye. Then home, for a much-needed quiet night watching the X factor on TV and drinking sparkling glasses of mineral water with a judicious squeeze of lemon.

A welcome end to the week

Into work and quickly spilled coffee all over myself and my desk. Spent ten minutes washing my shirt in the bathroom. Brain a bit fried: found myself looking at a simple page of copy and being unable to work out what needed to be done. Fortunately things quiet so I was able to get away with it.

Out at lunch for a bite to eat with Alice and others in the Riverside studios, as Lucy was leaving, having got a job offer the day we'd been beaten up by the client last week. Then on the way home, I had a cheeky beer and gossip with my boss before snoozing on the train home listening to Alias Grace, which I am really enjoying now.

In the evening met Lorraine and we went to the pub to see Anton and some of his babyfather chums. The conversation drifted onto piranhas, and somebody said that they weren't as bad as they were painted, which gave me the opportunity to say no... not all were bad, and some of them had the excuse of coming from bad schools. A brilliant quip which fell on deaf ears. Then on with Lorraine for an enjoyable Friday night curry in a restaurant called the Agra before returning home to flake out.

Good news about some old friends Christain and Jane who are now in Australia. After five or so years of trying for a baby they have just had a daughter called Ava a year after moving to Oz. Some theorising about Christian, who is Australian. Apparently his sperm were swimming upside down in the UK.