Friday, April 27, 2007

Cream tea and a big ass turtle

A busy day with Sprinkles. And in Brighton the weather did its best to put on a good English show, running the gamut from grey to rain. However I took Sarah off to The Royal Pavilion and revelled in its orientalist splendour. Sarah quite liking this. We took the telephone guide handsets and drifted about looking at the sumptuous Chinoiserie of the interior. Built by the Prince Regent, later George the IV. The place is crawling with dragons. The bad luck experienced by the Music room are even attributed to too many dragons. It was attacked by an arsonist in the mid 70s, and then just as the repairs were finished in 1987 the famous hurricane dislodged a huge stone globe from the roofing which then came crashing through the newly restored roof, so they had to start again.

Then off to the Mock Turtle for a cheeky cream tea. Sarah liked this immensely, and we enjoyed tucking into their still-warm, freshly-baked scones.

After his refreshment we wandered down to the Sealife centre, apparently the oldest functional Aquarium in the world. This quite fun, although Sprinkles was asking certain fishes if they would like to be stuffed with garlic and onions and so on. There was definitely a sinister food based agenda. But we enjoyed the seahorses, pretty sharks and the turtle. Sarah observed that it was a "big ass" turtle and in the Philippines it would be called lunch. I also enjoyed the underwater tunnel. On the way out there was a booming room showing a slightly sad film of a submarine dive complete with vibrating chairs to give you the illusion of being aboard. Both laughing at this. Having been on two submarines dives I can say it was nothing like that.

Then Sarah's second foray into a boozer. Today I chose at random the Druid's Head, mainly for the name. Very quiet in there, Sprinkles managing another half of Harvey's bitter. It was there we conceived a yearning for Mexican meal. After getting a taxi which broke down en route we found Los Amigos, turned out to be a hybrid Italian/Mexican restaurant, but the food was fine and satisfied our cravings.

Then home after a busy and enjoyable day. Felt slightly preoccupied though as my uber boss at work is going to phone me at some point, and he didn't call. Spoke also to Sophie too, and will see her soon.

Walking back from the sealife centre we strayed onto the pebbles of the beach where I discovered this strange little shell with a figure inked on a chip of shell I found in it. Made me think instantly of Moses, in an uncharacteristically biblical moment.

Below aquarium scenes. And the strange Moses shell I found today.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A fairytale castle

Off today to an English castle. Caught the train from Brighton (train journeys being a bit of a novelty to Sprinkles) and we shunted off westwards through Hove and beyond. Arrived at Arundel with its picture book castle, Sarah really liked straight away. I am really enjoying seeing England through Sprinkles' eyes, as she goes about noticing flowers, and cute little cars, and getting excited about crossing the little stone bridge past the ruins into town.

I missed the castle entrance and walked uphill. This gave us the opportunity however, to rubberneck around Arundel Cathedral of our Lady and St Philip Howard. There were excellent gargoyles and the beautiful stained glass. Sarah took a moment to light some candles, and we sat for a while together in the big tranquil space. The Cathedral is fairly new, being opened in 1868 but built in a much older French Gothic style of 1400.
St. Philip was also the 14th Earl of Arundel and became a Saint as he was imprisoned for his Catholicism (after the defeat of the dastardly Spanish Armada in 1588) and was falsely charged of praying for a Spanish victory.

Then we popped across the road into St Nicholas, the Arundel Parish Church which was rebuilt in about 1380, on the site of an earlier church. And despite the noisy builders talking we enjoyed looking at the old graves and the blossom in the graveyard.

After this we paused briefly for a fortifying lunch at Belinda's 16 Century Tearooms, like proper tourists. Sprinkles ate fish and chips and found that it was good and noble. I had a demonstration glass of beer, and Steak and kidney pudding which was surprisingly nice despite smelling a bit like a school toilet when I first let some steam from it.

Then off into Arundel Castle. Sarah said that the daisies in the lawn reminded her of Disney landscapes. We had good fun squeezing up spiral staircases, and lurking in the dungeon, and quizzing the guides in the gorgeous halls and rooms.
Spent a long time looking down from the battlements of the Keep at the River Arun and the castle grounds below and then the green countryside beyond. It certainly is a lovely place.
We also were able to look into the bedrooms, which are still sometimes occupied by the family. Sarah's favourite room, which I thought was amazing too, was the library. It was all in a warm and opulent red and the books were on two stories in cases. We walked between the leather bound volumes listening to the tick of the clock and thinking how wonderful it would be to spend time reading there.

Then out, and taking photos of ghost clocks of dandelions before wandering happily out of the grounds just before closing time. Then home by train again.
Below gargoyles at the Cathedral, Castle grounds, staircase from the Keep's dungeon, and Sprinkles.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sarah Sprinkles jets in

Up at the crack of dawn to get ready and clean the bathroom. Then off by train to Gatwick. Naturally I went to the wrong terminal first, and had to leg it to the right one. Fortunately for me I wasn't late as Sprinkles was being grilled by immigration and didn't pop out for another half an hour or so.

Finally she toddled through and it was lovely to meet her in person after so many Skype chats. Big hugs and then off to the train, and we were quickly in Brighton. Sarah looking out of the window and loving the buildings and the green of it all was making her think of Wisconsin.

Remarkably unfazed by her journey, Sprinkles didn't seem tired at all, which was good as the poor girl was plunged into all kinds of activities from the get go. We got home and had Bucks Fizz and sat in my yard. Later I cooked us both a big breakfast before we set off to the local park where there was a gathering for Oskar's first birthday.

Forcing Sprinkles up the steep hill by my house was a bit of a challenge after a transatlantic flight. But when we arrived at the park, there were lots of friends. Anna and Anton and thier mates, many of whom I am now on good terms with too including Rick, Sam and Martin and Pam. Nicely for me there were also Stephanie and David, Anna's mum and dad, Anton's mum and dad Anne and Keith, and his uncle John and Sue all of whom I really like and hadn't seen for ages.

The whole thing was very friendly and jolly. Sprinkles showing remarkable poise, chatting and cheerful with everyone. Sarah and I went back to Anton and Anna's place after for a glass of champagne with the family. A big adoration fest of Klaudia and Oskar, who were both being stars.

Left the presents of a big red rocket thing for Oskar, and some handmade gifts Sarah had brought over for the bairns.

Then I took Sprinkles back home and we had an enjoyable and low-key recovery evening chatting and revelling in my big screen TV, while scarfing a Chinese takeaway.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Two weeks' holiday here we come

Last day at work today, and all was well. The ideas that I have been sweating over for the last few days were accepted by the client. The day was tranquil and cheery - and I was able to leave work early, pausing only to goad the Gnome and others about my two weeks off.

Got home at 5:30. Spent the evening getting my ducks in a row for Sprinkles' visit. Amazing how long tidying up can take. And once you scrape the surface how many other areas of chaos are to be found. I need servants.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Memories are made of this

Sometimes the simplest-seeming briefs are the ones that sap your soul. I worked on the train this morning, and after an hour I thought I had cracked it. But got into the agency and the Gnome pointed out that I'd got the product name slightly wrong, which meant I had to start again. Going through a phase of making silly mistakes like this. Perhaps a couple of weeks off showing Sprinkles the delights of England will be the refresher my brain needs.

In the office slogged against the clock till lunchtime with the Gnome and then we went for a pleasant walk upriver into Chiswick, stopping in the Black Lion for a few minutes where we glugged some sparkling mineral water and cranberry juice.

After work, I met First Matie and Matty on the terrace of the Riverside Studios, as it is still unseasonably hot. We ate and had a quick drink, with First Matie and Matty drinking the infamous pink wine. We three, the FB and others all took part in the infamous Summer of Pink Wine which really should be in wikipedia by now. It was a summer full of agency trauma, redundancies, major life crises for most of us, and long hot lost afternoons drinking pink wine in the sun. And, oddly, tremendous amounts of fun too.

Kate told us how her agency has been sad and subdued due to the accidental death of one of her colleagues last weekend. On a happier note she's planning some sort of birthday bash next weekend, although sadly the Gavster will be in Senegal making a film. Matty meanwhile has been having a lively time with the ladies and is poised to move into a place on Strand on the Green which is where I used to live. His will be very close to the Bull's Head which was my local for about eight years and holds many memories.

Left quite early and finished listening to The Time Traveler's Wife on the train. Really enjoyed this book which has faithful love at its core. It has made me think a lot about time while I've been listening to it.

It was also making me think how we can all time travel through involuntary memory (such as famously described in Proust's, À la recherche du temps perdu) those moments when a smell or sensation somehow short circuits your brain and takes you vividly to some time in your past.

And other people are time machines too. Like in a Ray Bradbury story, perhaps Dandelion Wine, where the Grandfather is described as a time machine able to tell you stories which take you to other times. And of course books, film, art and even blogs can do it too you too.

Home and phoned La Sprinkles who was unaccountably shopping again, and seemed very relaxed and happy doing so. After getting off the phone to her, I was going to indulge in a pre-Sprinkles tidying session but instead boofed happily into bed, knowing that when I get home tomorrow there will be loads of cleaning to be done.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Freecycling the recycler

Work a bit of a slog today, but tubed into Soho this evening to meet up with the old Dell crowd. (We all used to work on the Dell account in times gone by, and it was so hideous that it forged long friendships). We met briefly in the crowded Crown and Two, and then we repaired as usual to the Delhi Brasserie to strap on the nosebag. We sat as we usually do in a small mirrored back room. A good evening full of gossip. Paula is now deputy MD of her agency, Marcella has been promoted to account director, and best news of all is that Ash and Phil have got engaged - so there will be a marriage to celebrate in the Dell posse.

Meanwhile James told us about a terrible night in a cinema. He has a phobia about blood and gore. He was watching a movie with his girlfriend, and started to feel wussy when the film got bloody. He went outside to the toilet still feeling horrible and fainted. He came to, having fallen heavily into the tiled wall, in a pool of his own blood. He had broken several teeth and he then had to crawl back into the cinema and retrieve his girlfriend looking like a horror show. He also hates needles and has an immense amount of dental work to be done. I did feel for him.

Home and I called Sprinkles who was driving and after some elementary cross examination revealed that she was shopping again for her trip. I am intrigued by what her suitcase can be made to contain. Her pal Tawny (aka The T-Bird) was laughing naughtily in the background. The ladies were evidently in good spirits.

After this I indulged in a bit of light crime. I snuck out in the dead of night with my huge empty composter, which dragged and boomed like a drum in the Twitten. It was delivered some months ago when I was at work, and it is half the size of my garden. Despite phone calls and so on to have it replaced with what I actually ordered, nothing has happened. I lost patience so left it in the street to be "freecyled" i.e. anyone who wants it can have it for nothing. Leaving huge composters on the street is not strictly legal of course, but it felt fantastic to have that big black monster out of my yard.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Blank for special messages

Before I went to work I was able to sort out how to edit material on the radio MP3 recorder. Turns out Anton and I had not recorded a single word of our Dragon Quest walk. It was blank. Discovering this made me want to boil my own head, or perhaps plunge needles into my own eye sockets. Especially as the only thing on the freaking recorder was Neil's voice patiently explaining how to use it.

The good news, of course, is that we can do it again, and much better the second time as neither of us were loving what we had done the first time. And when Anton and I chatted about it this morning this was the only way of looking at it.

Maybe this was what made me feel a bit tetchy this morning, not helped by sitting in a board meeting which as any fule kno is invariably a tiresome yapfest.

Mood much improved at lunchtime, which was something of a replay of yesterday. Another walk along the river with the French Bloke, and talked about interesting things such as the nature of memory and human behavior as influenced by biology. Also mentioned the freaking recorder business, which the FB seemed to enjoy.

Work fine in the afternoon and left promptly. Home and discovered a card from Sprinkles, full of sprinkles, and pottered about trying to introduce some order at home, and looking at the TV. It is cool.

TV is big and clever

Lovely day again today. Woke up early and got out of bed at 6:30. Managed however to miss my train, and had to catch a slightly later one. As I answered a call from Anton on the train to talk tiresomely about his new phone, and it was then I discovered I was sitting next to Pam and had a nice chat with her. She had work to do, and I returned to listening to the excellent The Time Traveler's Wife. It works fantastically well as an audiobook.

Work fine. Had my lunchtime constitutional with the French Bloke, and we walked along talking authoritatively about wide ranging topics, towards Putney Bridge and back again. Walking in the sun by the river made us both feel very cheerful. Also got a call from Mad Dog as we walked who is doing well after being ill last week.

After work I went straight home, swapping text with Sprinkles on the train, and cooked myself a quick stir fry before managing to find the automatic tuning menu for the digital channels. And biff! Suddenly I had television like I've never had television before, and I scarfed my noodles basking in the 32" wide screen glory of it all. Then had some chats with Sprinkles, who had to leave work early.

Then zipped about doing laundry and tidying things somewhat in preparation for the visit of my Florida correspondent. Anton came around after 10 and worked out how to make the dvd picture the right size too. And now all is well. We watched something strange on freeview but it had Japanese ghosts in it, and Anton doesn't like things with ghosts in so we had to change channel.

However there was a worse cloud. Just before Anton left I found the instructions for operating the sound recorder we used on the walk. I suspect we haven't recorded things properly. I plugged the recorder into my laptop and the MP3 seized up ominously.

After Anton left I watched TV till late, for it is this week's gardening, which was last week's rock and roll. But went to bed feeling slightly doomy about the recording.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Zooming about

Up early and gave into a craving for melted cheese and coffee, then pottered about before speaking to the lovely Sprinkles at five o'clock in the Florida morning. It was raining there, and blazing here in soggy old England.

Then Anna called and said she would come with me to buy a television. I zipped up the hill, and saw Klaudia drifting about in her purple dress (purple is her favourite colour which is why A&A's garden is bedecked with purple flowers) and sparkling pink shoes, and I held baby Oskar for a bit. He is such a tranquil thing.

As we left, Anton called after us asking Anna to check that I had my wallet, and to make sure I hadn't dropped it. It will be some time before Anton gets tired of the losing things business after yesterday's microphone incident.

Anna, a saintly woman, is the best person I know to go shopping with. As I learnt a couple of years ago, after sacking Anton as my personal clothes shopper, Anna proceeds with decisiveness and calm. A quarter of an hour after she drove me to the store I was the proud owner of a new TV. Anna makes things easy and stress free.

Anna dropped me home again with my TV and I had another chat with La Sprinkles and then rushed off to buy a rocket toy for Oskar's birthday, and collect a small aluminum table for my back garden. This quite heavy as I carried it on my shoulder back home. Then began to set up my TV, but had to break off to zoom off again to see Janet and Ken.

Lovely evening. Janet showing me some fabrics she has been working on, inventing new textures, and using her computer in complicated processes. There was faux chenille, and felting and paper with metal in it and so on. She is loving it. Ken on good form too and much more cheery than when I last saw him, and is starting a new writing project about the bloody history of the Cathars. We ate heroically, starting with some nuts, and duck pate and home made bread, and pasta, and salad, and cheese and then fruit salad and squares of cake. All washed down with big glugs of red wine.

Rolled back to the Twitten and then struggled ineffectually and with ill suppressed rage to get the TV working properly. Failed. Then spoke to Sprinkles. That woman must like me a good deal as she says my picture in yesterday's entry was cute.

Yawned happily off to bed.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Dragon Quest begins

Finally after lots of talking and no walking, I strapped on my walking boots this morning and Anton and I headed off by train to Littlehampton, which is a pleasant little town that Anton dislikes. We paused only at Marks and Sparks by the station (a.k.a. my larder) to buy sandwiches, and bottled water, and on the train we had to work out again how to use the sound recorder, as I had left the instructions at home. (At least I had written them down.)

Arriving at Littlehampton we bagan a futile search for a ferry which didn't exist. Finally we ask someone and, had to double back through town. We crossed the river on the footbridge and trudged the half mile or so down to the pebbles of the West Beach, where the Dragon Quest walk officially begans.

We spoke some words into the MP3 recorder and then began the walk to find the origin of the River Arun, as well as try to find the dragon in St Leonard's forest.

Our direction was due north, inland, past Littlehampton and out into the countryside, which is actually a flat flood plain of the river. It was an extremely hot day, with a heat haze by early afternoon it was approaching 25C (mid 70s F) which is bizarre for England in April. We actually put on sunblock before we set off too. The walk itself was fairly uneventful, following the river twisting over the plain with Arundel and its Church and Castle rising on the hill in front of us.

It felt like summer, we saw a red admiral butterfly and several bumble bees, although most of the trees are only budding.

The real action of course was Anton and I talking and recording ourselves. This is a steep learning curve and learning to relax around the recorder is going to be vital. I think we got some fairly good material here and there though. We'll have to see and get some feedback on what we've done.

I get flashes of a kind of agoraphobia which strikes mainly on the tops of bald hills and in the middle of wide and empty flat landscapes. I was quietly dreading this part of the walk which is walking on a raised riverbank surrounded by miles of flat fields. I was okay though for the most part, although had one nasty five minutes.

Was very pleased to get to the end of one such section, when Anton and I paused by the mouth of a disused canal and we decided to record something about this. I had the microphone and a five minute search revealed that I had dropped the dratted thing. We then had to backtrack for about 15 minutes. Fortunately Anton found it. The worst part about this, of course was not the losing of the recorder, is that Anton will not let it lie. It also meant that I had to walk one of the most agoraphobia inducing parts of the entire quest not once, but three times.

The rest of the walk passed on fairly uneventfully. We stopped in at St Andrew's Church, near Ford and this was a gorgeous little church, empty of people. We'd seen it surrounded by a few trees in a sea of bright yellow rape (canola).

Then into Arundel rising above the plain where we slaked our thirst with a beer and An Omen was revealed to us. One of the first places we found as we walking into town was a restaurant called the Millennium Dragon.

Then home, I had a shower and pottered about a bit, and in the evening went to Kemptown and met Rick and Anton and Anna, and we all went off to see a lively young band called Mumm-Ra who I quite liked, even believing they were the future of rock and roll for at least two songs.

Rick is a really nice guy, who A&A met through the fact they all have babies. He has been in bands and so on, so is informative about music which is handy.

I was old enough to be Mumm-Ra's dad. But it was all good fun and enjoyed watching the skinny lead singer strike tortured poses and leap onto the drums and jump about.

Spoke to Sprinkles after the gig, and passed the phone around to talk to Anna and Anton. Then home in a taxi, quick Skype with Sprinkles before she went out with her pals. This time next week she will be in Brighton!

Boofed happily into bed.

Below Anton on the beach and the start of our quest, the gorgeous churchyard of St Andrew's at Ford, me standing outside the portentous Millennium Dragon. The lively young boys in Mumm-Ra.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Cherry blossom and deleted time

A fleeting Japanese moment this morning. Walking through the graveyard on the way to work and seeing the cherry trees plumb with pink blossom. The April page of my Japanese desk calendar given me by Hitomi has the boar sprawled under cherry blossom, with the legend "Cherry blossom viewing. Under the cherry blossoms, all drink and make merry till late in the night". Wondered what would be going on now in Japan with national reports of the cherry blossom line sweeping down the country, and felt really happy remembering how much I had enjoyed my trip there at Christmas.

Although I didn't drink and make merry till late in the night, it was a very cheerful day. Young Dan, who I have always liked, had a leaving meal outside on the terrace at Riverside studios in surprisingly hot sunshine at lunchtime. And it was here I learned was that aviator shades are back in fashion again.

Then back to work for the afternoon before the party continued on the agency terrace in the evening sun. Cleverly left early however rather than risk feeling groggy for the mighty Dragon walk tomorrow.

Because I am reading the Time Traveler's Wife I seem to be having conversations about time at the moment. One interesting chat with Nick a young copywriter, who said that he hated the past. He called it "deleted time", and it was as painful to think about the good times being gone forever, as remembering the bad times. Even family photos of distant Lithuanian relatives who died before he was born make him feel depressed too. Find this all quite odd as I treasure my memories.

Fond farewells to Dan, and to Trace who is off to be fighty with Chinese martial arts trainers in China for two weeks. Then home and fish and chips and fairly early and blamelessly to bed.

Below cherry blossom, and young Dan sporting de rigueur aviator shades.

Friday, April 13, 2007

London parakeets and Sussex dragons

Another incredibly relaxed day at work. Even had a chance to look at my poems in the morning, and then had another hour's walk along the river. Trace came with me again. Walking and talking is very nice with her, but if Trace does have a fault it is in the encouragement and love she gives to every unspeakable dog we encounter.

In the evening up to Anton's place and scarfed some Chinese grub and talked about the Dragon Project and peered a bit at the map. The first leg, which we are doing on Saturday, starts on a fossil beach, goes past prisons, an abandoned canal, two sewage works, the remains of an Augustinian Priory and ends up at the lovely Arundel topped with its beautiful castle. Should make wonderful couple of minutes of radio, and a lovely walk too. Also talked about The Time Traveler's Wife which Anton read before me.

Sloped home, quite tired, and had brief IMage with the lovely Sprinkles before beddy byes. She will be in England in just over a week. We are going to have lots of laughs.

Below whose a pretty boy then? We are. These wild ring neck parakeets really shouldn't be here in England. I shot these photos today by the river Thames. The world's gone mad.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Time travelling

A pleasant day. Really enjoying listening to The Time Traveler's Wife which is a wonderful book by Audrey Niffenegger, it is essentially a love story with a time travel element. This throws up interesting perspectives on the nature of love, attachment, and memory. But it is a real page turner, or would be if I wasn't listening to it on my iPod on the train. Wonder what would happen if you sat on the train and mimed turning pages for an hour?

Only light bits and pieces to do at work again today, and went for a pleasant walk and chat with The Gnome to Putney Bridge. And was even able to think about my own writing off and on during the day.

After work I found myself having a few beers (they have just got in the bad Zywiec beers that I sometimes drink with Anton). I'm very fond of this beer, despite its strength, and always enjoy the picture of the gaily prancing Polish boy on the label and think of Anton who was forced by his dad to wear that garb as a boy.

Fascinating chat with Mike who has spent much of his life in the army and is a fascinating source of information on military history. Time travelled through the history talking about the modern soldier's admiration for Erwin Rommel, to the rubbish Polish boots worn by the Brits in the Falkland war.

After Mike left I was chatting to my Iranian friend B, and getting his perspective on what's happening in his country. He said that he thought that Ahmadinejad needed a bomb on his head. He was also describing life in Iran as a non-Muslim (he belongs to the Bahá'í faith) and told me that we wouldn't be able to have the conversation we were having now over there.

After all this, I sloped home listening to my iPod on the train, before buying a Chinese takeaway and slurring happily to Sprinkles for a bit before bed.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A toe in the water

Off to work feeling untraumatised. Arriving at the office, I found there was little to do, and the Gnome still on holiday. So had two brief chats with Anton about Dragons, talked to Mum. And swapped emails with Aimee who has had lively time of it when her friend fell off a fire escape down three stories and broke lots of bones and bled heavily. She said that she went for a manicure the next day, and the manicurist was complaining about her dirty nails not knowing it was her friend's blood. Also First Matie who is under the cosh as usual, and Sprinkles who was having ideas for TV programmes. Spoke to the French Bloke who has also taken up gardening, with a chainsaw.

Happy to sit at work, watching the red buses cross the river on the green and gold of Hammersmith Bridge every now and again. A lovely warm day and Trace and I had a walk for an hour at lunchtime talking about psychics. Little to do in the afternoon too, so I melted away early. Wonderful to be heading for home again, and I sleepily began to listen to the Audiobook of the Time Traveler's Wife.

Home and watered some plants, ate cold chicken and pickle sandwiches. Watched some football with both Manchester United (putting in a fantastic 7-1 performance against Roma) and the noble Chelsea reaching the semi finals of the European Cup.

Then IM with the lovely Sprinkles before bed 'n' zeds.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Bee busy

A Monday that had no evil in it. A long lie in followed by a full day. Skype with Sprinkles early on before she set off to work. She has her own exceedingly feminine-looking blog, and I have put a link to her site in my friends who blog section.

Worked for several hours on my bits and pieces, and managed to post off a submission of two short stories. Also worked on my poetry collection which is very much taking shape. Also bought two chairs and a table for my back yard in Habitat from a pleasant lady called Jazz.

Home sitting on a chair peering at the roses I had sadistically pruned the other day. They're reacting surprisingly well to the affront. Everything looks messier in my back yard than when I started, which wasn't exactly the point. But none of the things I poked in the ground seems to have died yet.

After eating chicken and rice in the evening, I went for another walk and took the photos belown on the pier. Then home again, and a good chat with Toby who had an excellent time in California visiting his old pal Alex, seeing him for the first time in eight years.
Below fish prizes on the pier, and a tasteful sign.

Tea in the Twitten

Languorous and warm Easter Sunday. Got started writing early, and have rewritten completely a poem which has been unfocused for years. And bingo! It works.

When not talking to Sprinkles for hours today, receiving instruction in rather off colour Tagalog and learning a host of other things, I did gardening. I planted a climbing rose and swept and planted and pulled bits of rubbish in bags from one corner of my yard to the other.

Got talking at length to my neighbours Naomi and Steve. They were also gardening. Steve made us a cup of tea and we had a really neighbourly chat. Their oldest little lad is not yet three, and later as he watched me pull bits from the flowerbed he had a long conversation with me about subjects ranging from Bob the Builder to snails and kangaroos. Amazingly good language from such a small thing.

Then a long and lovely cyberdate with Sprinkles before blessed bed.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

In the Lanes with Lakshmi

The very nice Lakshmi came to visit me in Brighton today. She is a good friend of Aimee in Dubai whose excellent blog you can see in my friends menu. Aimee had a suspicion that we would get on. And we do. Spent a cheerful day mooching about through the the wonders of Brighton, its beaches, pier and lanes. Then strapped on the nosebag in a nice colonial-style restaurant. Lakshmi at one point diving into a bookshop to score some dusty PG Wodehouse books which are as treasures to her.

Later we went to the splendid Mock Turtle for a nice cup of tea and cake. Where I had a tooth-endangering crunchy flapjack. We also found the international sweetshop, where she was able to buy something called Mountain Dew which she coveted from her time in the US, this shop alone she said was reason enough to come back to Brighton. Before her train left we popped into the Battle of Trafalgar and sat on a table next to some smoking transvestites to give her a final flavour of Brighton, before she zoomed back up to the smoke.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The smell of marigold roots

Around noon, I got busy in the garden, pruning things and sweeping up the tiny front bit. It was surprisingly warm work. And later, in the afternoon, I squeezed in the car with Anton and Anna and the bairns and we all went off to a garden centre. Gardening, as mentioned exclusively here yesterday, is the new rock and roll.

Anton getting magnetised instantly by bbq paraphernalia. Meanwhile I went a bit crazy buying several bedding plants a climbing rose, a Christmas cactus, a watering can and so on. Anton and Anna meanwhile were buying only a single colour of flowering plants for their garden. The colour purple was chosen by Klaudia in the morning.

I got home around six, walking plants up the Twitten from Anton's car and singing Klaudia's Shoe Babies song to her through the hatch of the car.

Then I was amazed by marigolds as I popped them out of the potting trays. I didn't know that they have such a herbal, distinct, but hard-to-describe smell, especially from their roots: something like the dry astringency of geraniums but more tangy and fresh. I spent a happy hour putting things in the soil before it started to get dark. And, at the risk of seeming obvious, it was very grounding.

Also had a bit of a breakthrough with my collection this morning. Finally I have a simple device to unify the poems and can finally move on with it. Suddenly the week doesn't feel wasted creatively either.

The day peppered with long chats with the increasingly chilled out Sprinkles, after what was a nightmare week for her. She had to work today, which is Good Friday.

Then, blamelessly, to bed.

Below this just in from my Florida correspondent.

Friday, April 06, 2007

And relax...

Actually remembered how to relax today, and that holidays are big and clevah. After chatting with Sprinkles, I got busy in the garden and found this very therapeutic and completely dissipated my feelings of creative frustration. Gardening is the new rock and roll. I painted the wall of my tiny yard white again, and pruned and trimmed lots of stuff from the back for several hours.

Afterwards I felt like reading. Completing a moderately entertaining book I bought for my flight to Japan called Viking - Odinn's Child by Tim Severin. Then plunged into a short but refreshing snooze.

In the evening had a few cheeky beers with Anton. We went to three nice pubs all within a minute-or-so's walk from where I live. Both of us wondering what Sprinkles will make of Brighton and its boozers. Anton momentarily glum because he won't be able to upgrade his speakers for a while. A few scraps of chats about our radio thing too. Anton has already planned what sort of speciality sausages he will put into his sandwiches for the walk, which is well over a week away.

Then home and a quick IM conversation with Sarah who had had a bleak working day, before boofing happily into bed.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The fascination of what's difficult

My brain will not work. Been sitting expectantly
in front of my computer and watching the tumbleweed and crows in the ideas department of my brain. Instead I want to sleep. This week was supposed to be about world domination, not narcolepsy. Grrr.

Trying with the Ecstasy monologue but all my ideas are useless. Have come to an impasse on
my useless poems. Just need to print off my reworked play about Thor but can't be bothered because it is useless.

Keep thinking
about those lines of Yeats: "The fascination of what's difficult/Has dried the sap out of my veins, and rent/Spontaneous joy and natural content/Out of my heart." Of course Yeats was a gloomy sod sometimes. That's one of the reasons I like his work so much.

The sunshine, of course, supplied by Sprinkles. She sent me a musical card. It sings the "Yummy Yummy Yummy, I've got love in my tummy" song when you open it and lots of Easter themed sprinkles fell out too, as well as two dragonflies.

We managed to talk in the morning before she went off to work which was fun. I moaned about my rubbish health and felt quite cheerful afterwards. Sprinkles had appeared to be running on no sleep at all at the moment, and is going through a very pressurised time at work so I was pleased that she would be getting some flowers today.

Just loving the Thomas Tallis CD I bought. In other news I got out of the house for an hour or so, and had a haircut. It was a beautiful day.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Waiting for the Phoenix

Woke after a succession of nightmares. However these soon dispelled after getting up late and speaking to a sleepy Sprinkles before she set off to work. Worked on Mum's artist statement/CV this morning and then in the afternoon went for a mooch about.

Was thinking about Gwen my grandmother this morning and remembering being sent around the corner in Guernsey to Sampson’s store to buy Du Maurier cigarettes. The box was a design classic.

Stopped in a shop called The classical longplayer and browsed about. My knowledge of this kind of music is sketchy. But I bought a CD of Stravinsky's work, including The Firebird which mum had and I listened to when I was a kid. Also prog rock legends (and my favourite teenage music) Yes used the bit towards the end where it all kicks off, as their intro music. The version I bought is conducted by Simon Rattle who has a name even I recognise. I love the idea of rising like a phoenix at the moment, I want to rise up from being run down and feeling frustrated.

I also bought Spem in Alium by Thomas Tallis. I have been playing this continuously and it is like sitting in cathedral where voices create the architecture. Lovely.

I'd seen somewhere a competition to write a monologue about ecstasy but nothing much was coming to mind. Wandered onto the pier and had a coffee looking a the sea. Then walked went into the museum next to the Pavilion and looked again at one of my favourite paintings, which I was amazed to discover here in Brighton when I moved here. Dod Proctor' s Early Morning.

Spoke to Anton enquiring after the efficacy of the phono stage.

Mooched home again, and ate some of the bean jar I had been preparing. In the evening sloped off for a quick drink with Reuben and Clare in The Great Eastern. Turns out it was Clare’s 37th birthday, although both she and Reuben seem to look unchanged from when I first knew them. Although there is a coffee table book to be made of Reuben hairstyles.

Home and another chat with Sprinkles to top and tail the day.
Below Early Morning by Dod Proctor, and my Grandmother's favourite fags.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A happy Monday

Lovely to sleep in until 8:30 this morning. I am feeling worn out and the prospect of being able to have a week of zzzzzzs in the morning is entirely wonderful. Woke up to some very interesting email from Sprinkles.

Then Anton and I went to the local BBC radio for a chat and to be shown how to use a small MP3 recorder. We met Neil Pringle and Lanie Whiting of BBC breakfast team, and very nice they were too. Neil gave us some good, practical advice on what to record and what to think about when recording. Anton and I will do some recording on the first leg of the Dragon walk two Saturdays from now - and we'll see how it goes. It's all good fun.

Both quite cheerful about this. Went off to a shop and got a cable to connect my iPod to my stereo, and a new phono stage which Anton assured me I needed for the turntable. Also looking at TVs as it would be nice to have one that isn't the size of a matchbox.

Home and Anton kindly set up the equipment before having to go back to work. After I popped down the Twitten as the two little girls who live a few doors down had a little table outside their house and were persuasively selling things ranging from a plastic UFO to freesia bulbs in pots. I bought some of these as they always remind me of Guernsey and walking past glasshouses where the intoxicating and concentrated smell of them was as thick as syrup.

Ended up having a long chat with them and their parents Han and Joy. One of the girls who was about seven I think wrote poetry and had a special book for her poems. I'd never had the opportunity to speak to them before and the whole family were really nice. Joy introduced me to two other neighbours from the other end of the Twitten. I also learned a bit of Twitten lore, that one of the houses had been hit by a bomb in the war and rebuilt.

Home and for some reason decided to do tiresome things, such as pay bills and so on, but I felt good for doing so afterwards. Dropped to sleep on the sofa and woke up feeling moody and tired. Must be the full moon but IM messages with Sarah cheered me up though! She has a habit of doing that.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Marmite and my mates

April fool's day. But thankfully no trickery. My house has become fantastically untidy over the last few weeks, and so spent the morning tidying when not chatting at length to Sprinkles who gets up at five o'clock. This is a) handy for me but b) slightly disturbing as Cabal her dog insists on it. Today we discussed the glories of English food, such as Marmite. Their whole marketing strategy is based on the correct insight that people either love it or hate it. There was this viral film which is rather nasty but quite funny.

In the afternoon Trace came down to Brighton and we had a long slope along down by the seafront. Really hot day and enjoyably Trace had a faux fur coat and hat on among people in teeshirts. In fact when I got home i think I had caught the sun. We stopped off at a seaside cafe where I had an eccles cake and a nice cup of coffee which quickly made me want to hurl, an effect which lasted for some hours. However lots of deep chats with Trace as usual.

Put Trace back on a slow London train, after she'd armed herself with some small Marks and Sparks salads. Then home to talked to Mum who is working on a CV for her new artistic career. This is proving a challenge as she does not like to talk about herself, nor give anything away.

Even more chatting to Sarah Sprinkles, and then I headed up the hill in the evening. Anna out of bed for the first time in days, and Anton celebrated with cooking one of his specialities: a roast belly of pork. Lovely crackling. Slightly annoyingly, however, Anton didn't really eat much of it, so Anna and I filled our own bellies while Anton sat about with an air of quiet superiority. Also discussed our meeting down at the BBC tomorrow.

Home down the hill feeling well fed, to have yet another Sprinkles conversation before boofing happily into bed knowing that there was no work tomorrow. Hurrah!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Alice Russell

Up early, and though not exactly fresh as a daisy, I was full of cheeriness. After walking out early to get fresh bread from the patisserie and a paper, I snacked on kippers and toast, then had an exceedingly pleasant chat with Sprinkles for about three hours. In three weeks we will be laughing over a nice cup of tea instead of the Atlantic.

My groceries from the Internet shopping were delivered but I haven't quite mastered this yet, as I found a carefully wrapped single carrot, and a single banana. After talking to Sarah, I spent much of the afternoon making ineffectual attempts to tidy up.

Anton came by in the evening with tickets to see Brighton's own diva Alice Russell. Anton was always playing Hurry On Now when I first moved to Brighton, and it gradually became the soundtrack to my first few months here.

We met up with Rick in the St James in Kemptown and headed off down to Concorde 2, which is down by the sea, and is an excellent venue: not too big, and good acoustics.

I tremendously enjoyed Alice and her band. Her band (there were six others) were fabulous. I was struck by their sheer ability and creativity. But they came across as being totally down to earth and likeable. Quite jazzy and free and the keyboard player driving some giddying changes. Very funky too. A great night out, and I will definitely see Alice Russell again.

We wandered out into the sea air enthusiastically talking about the gig. And popped into a pub where we bumped into the backing singer and said hello. Then we said walked to yet another pub. En route I forced Sprinkles and Anton to speak on the phone. There seems to be some common ground which is worrying.

Back in the St James, Anton and I explained to Rick about how our arguments are really just truncated versions of longer ones, to which we both know the script. For example Anton can look at me and say something offhand like "but then you don't really like music". This is shorthand for the fact that I don't revere turntables and vinyl, so I am unable to experience music properly (except when I am at Anton's house) which reflects a fundamental flaw in my musical appreciation. The counter to this is to say wearily "but I listen to the music". This stands for Anton's obsession with the formats and paraphernalia prevents him from listening to the music at all, and how one glance at his record collection... etc. etc." It's all quite tiresome really but keeps us amused.

Then bade goodbye to Rick before Anton and I went our separate ways, having scored yet more Chinese grub. A top night out. Quick messages to Sprinkles and then bed.

Below the wonderful Alice Russell at Concorde 2.