Friday, June 29, 2007

An ember in the dark

The Gnome off today, and a day of uneventfully writing copy, and thankful for the fact I actually had a decent night's sleep the previous night.

For lunch I decided to go swimming again for the first time in ages. It was great to be back in the water. And my skin seemed to just about hold up and not go into a major itchathon afterwards. I have become depressingly porcine again, so I reckon itching is marginally better than oinking. Slapping on huge amounts of moisturiser right away helped, although clearly isn't the butchest thing you can do in the changing room.

In the afternoon heard an interesting speech by Dame Mary Marsh, who is the director of the NSPCC - about herself and her work. She has set Gordon Brown (apparently "Gordon" to her) the challenge making violence to children (i.e. smacking) illegal in his first 100 days. Interestingly, she reacted strongly to the suggestion that the UK had more child abuse proportionally than anywhere else, suggesting it may be better reported here.

Listening to the Phaedo now, which contains the death scene of Socrates. If you don't pay too much attention to the arguments that are propounded, there is something very moving about someone being faced by their own death, still clinging to the practice of being a philosopher and encouraging his entourage to keep up the good work: like someone blowing on an ember in a dark night.

Home, laundry, washing up etc. Gradually reasserting control over the material world.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A ghost of Christmas past

A sluggish start. Kitchen full of the stale smell of the half-uneaten chips I had bought in the middle of the night.

More of the same today. Cancelled night out with Katie. Went out to lunch with Trace and some other friends for more dissecting of recent agency events. Trace a bit cheerier than she was. All this put in perspective though, when I heard about a colleague Mike Ferg who, with huge great good humour, positivity and resilience, has been going through chemotherapy for the last year or so. He just had a great holiday and has come back to discover cancer yet again. Just heartbreaking for him.

Wonderful to be heading home early tonight. Listening to the last bits of my Plato audiobook and trying to keep my eyes open on the train. Home to sip mineral water, and drink tea before an early night. A difficult week - with little or no time to reflect on my own much more cheerful news. I feel very lucky and even more determined to make the most of my opportunties.

Meanwhile power shifted today from Tony Blair to Gordon Brown as the new Prime Minister. I think it was because Blair was so promising, that the disappointment about him is so bitter. The only time I saw him in the flesh was a few months after his election. He was in the street out on the South Bank, and we had all been shuffled out of the office to see him when I worked at IBM. He stopped quite close to where I was standing, and preparing for a TV interview. I remember feeling surprised at just how tense and nervous he appeared before the cameras began filming.

Below at around the same time Reuben, First Matie and me worked together at IBM in something called the copy shop. Reuben found this recently, the shots from which we made our our Christmas card as a slightly shambolic three kings.

A sucky day

Got up really early so me and the Gnome could finish off the work we started last night. Working on the train up to London. Unpleasant day at the agency, with some redundancies, including my pal Trace. Went for a conciliatory lunch coffee, and then a drink after work, and ended up being very late home, having yet another horrible homeward journey, this time drunk and hungry. Arrived home at 12:45.

Below Trace.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Julia on the threshold

Work frustrating all day, with an increasingly crushing headache. Discovered at five o'clock that we had been pursuing all the wrong avenues and had to stay late to rework them. Finally left work to meet Bob at his sister Julia Monteiro's opening of her art exhibition at the Waterloo Gallery, near the Old Vic Theatre. Just before leaving heard that Sprinkles had been in a car crash but was fortunately unharmed.

Arrived at the gallery in time to help with the tidying up. I liked Julia's work a lot, and in a Niles and Frazier Crane moment with Bob, decided it had an intriguingly liminal quality: that it was about thresholds. See for yourself with some of the work on Julia Monteiro's site here. Her star is in the ascendant and has more exhibitions coming up. It's great to see.

Nice to see Julia. I'd not seen her for about nine years, since Bob got married, and before she started painting. We lurched into a nearby Italian restaurant and swapped our life stories for the last nine years, but there's only so much you can say in an hour or so.

As we all had trains to catch, rushed off to Waterloo. After saying goodbye to Bob and Julia things started to suck again badly. The trains in chaos, no information in the entire station and all the boards blank. Spent the next two and a quarter hours travelling back and forth seething with rage after someone had committed suicide on the track somewhere. After taking 5 trains, I finally arrived at Brighton at 12:30 and straight to bed.

Bring on my three days a week.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

My poems on You Tube

Had a lovely and relaxed day. Saw Ken and Janet briefly, and they gave me some herbs and a ceramic basin for my yard. Had a chat with Sprinkles, and decided to experiment by making my own You Tube film. Which you can see below.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Time is on my side

So the big news of the week, I can now talk about. I've negotiating a part time contract at my agency, working the equivalent of three days a week - though this is likely to be cut different ways through the month. Despite there being a policy of no part time in the creative department, they made an exception for me, which my bosses were incredibly generous about.

This gives me the opportunity to more than double energy I can put into my various projects - and put my money where my mouth is in terms of my personal creativity. I feel exhilarated. A while ago I imagined what my life would look like if it were successful, and essentially this is it.

I have time, glorious time, to work on my personal projects, but will earn enough to keep the wolf from the door and also keep me grounded too. Floating off in a writerly world of your own isn't always healthy. I know this because I've tried it. There is nothing romantic about having no money, I tried that too. But this way I can have the time I need without constantly worrying about money.

It was a long week, but one that leaves me very happy, and feeling tremendously optimistic about my future. Of course it is a challenge to myself. I will need results. I predict my blog is going to get pretty lively again soon!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Marmosets and mineral water

Getting up was a quite a challenge this morning. Arriving at work I felt compelled to explain that, although - granted - it was hard to believe, a troupe of marmosets had spilled out onto the railway near Crawley, causing train delays. For it is an indisputable fact that the more outlandish your excuse the more likely it is to be believed.

Out to lunch with Trace for a light and tasty Thai bite, and a wide-ranging gossip. The afternoon fairly low key with The Gnome. It ended with some copy comments on the toothbrush pack explaining that I was a useless writer. Funny how you can go from being God's own copywriter, to a useless copywriter in under a day.

Home and a much needed night sipping restoring sparkling mineral water, with a squeeze of lemon, and tapping quietly, between yawns, at my computer.

For those who have not seen it, Sprinkles self portrait on You Tube is here - it's the start of something big over there in Florida.

Apology and the Alphabet

Slightly rushed start to the day due to wild moshing etc. the night before. Managed the usual train.

Oddly gripped by the Apology by Plato, which is Socrates' speech for his own defence shortly before being invited to quaff a beaker of something terminal. Socrates may have been an astounding philosopher, but he on this evidence was poor at psychology and seems intent on goading his judges. He asked for it.

The Gnome and me on a special project today with a religious overtone. Yes folks, as suspected, it seems I may be God's own copywriter.

Had a hour's interlude with the FB at lunch sitting outside the Dove looking downstream at Hammersmith Bridge. All felt well with the world. New baby and Max doing splendidly by all accounts.

More work and then jumped into a people carrier to be taken into town. Saw a helicopter hovering over Leicester Square trailing an enormous Die Hard flag behind to promote the new Die Hard movie opening in town tonight. The flag was many times bigger than the aircraft. Didn't fancy the pilot's job.

Down the Alphabet bar for a colleague, Clare's, leaving do. Nice evening drinking overpriced beer, in the room downstairs. A bit of networking, and catching up with some old friends including Hazel the young brainiac and Dan.

Sadly there was a horrible time aberration. The time between 9:30 and 10:50 passed in about two minutes. This meant I had to catch the slow train and was home at 1.00am, which was exceedingly poor.

Below a photo I nicked from a site rather excellently called Jewtastic of the promotional helicopter. Apparently it had a rehearsal flight over Bushey Cemetery owned by the United Synagog, which didn't go down extraordiarily well with people visiting the graves.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sweating with The Enemy

After a hard day's work, and schlepping home listening to more Plato while moronically playing Zuma on my mobile phone, met up with Anton and Anna in the St James for a cheeky beer. From there we walked down to Concorde 2, where we met Rick, to see a band called The Enemy. It felt like a trip back in time. The group were from Coventry, where I saw the majority of my gigs when I was at Warwick University, and the tape they played before they arrived was of songs from that era.

Despite an electric storm over the sea, it was a sauna inside. The band came on, aged 19 I think, and they are clearly "the next big thing" judging by the enthusiastic moshing about and beer shooting into the air from the kids. Great attitude and confidence. There was a palpable rush of adrenaline which was exhilarating, they were noisy, thrashy, shouty, and assailed you with a wall of sound. The only thing missing was tunes.

Left the gig, smelling of sweat, cigarette smoke and beer, which had been thrown about by enthusiastic kids. Then we grabbed a cab, and I had a cheeky beer with Anna and Anton in the Eddy. Felt quite good to be out and about like this on a school night.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Socrates and sound files

Plato's dialogue Euthyphro on my iPod this morning. Despite it not being well red, and of an inferior sound quality, Plato is always good. The discussion is about piety in which Socrates, as usual, is made to look big and clever.

Work fine today, doing bits and pieces. Got a moment in the afternoon to look at Mum's site where she has begun to put in descriptions of why she painted certain pictures. I think it is a bit of a masterstroke, and an education in itself.

Home and spent hours downloading and listening to the tapes from the dragon walk. Despite the recorder working intermittently there is some decent stuff. Especially the last take at the exhausting end of the walk, where Anton says at one point, and full of feeling, that St Leonards forest was like his personal Mordor.

After doing this for some time, a mad urge overtook me to make bread at 11 o'clock and I ended up, somewhat adorned with flour, scarfing hot buttered baps at midnight. I like making bread, it's something everyone should do at least once.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

TV. It's big and clever

A lovely day in which I felt still felt a bit dodgy gutted and tired. Sloped off to have an exceedingly overdue haircut, and after waving at Anna who was in her car, bumped into Anton and the bairns near his house and I popped in for a glass of water and a chat before returning home to sleep.

Feeling somewhat refreshed in the evening I had a TV fest.

Enjoyed a wonderful documentary about Moctezuma by the novelist DBC Pierre, who had lived in Mexico as a child and teenager. Strange combination of personal history combined with the history of the Spaniards encounter with Moctezuma. Retelling the idea that the astrologers had predicted the return of Quetzalcoatl from the east sporting a beard. When the Spaniards turned up at that exact time it produced a superstitious paralysis in Moctezuma which allowed the Spaniards to prevail. I went to Mexico for three weeks with my ex-wife some time ago, and I recognised several of the places in the documentary including the gloating gardens of Xochilmico. Pierre himself was a fascinating guy too. So far, Mexico is the most magical place I have visited.

Then watch a really interesting film called K-PAX about a man, played by Kevin Spacey, claiming very convincingly to be an alien. He ends up in a being investigated by a psychiatrist who is never quite sure what is the case. It ends enigmatically.

And to bed.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

I love my agency

Had an excellent conversation at lunchtime with my two bosses on the terrace behind the Riverside Studios. We all ate 100% organic beefburgers and fries with salad, seasoned with a sprinkling of rainwater. Conversation very cheering and positive. I can't yet go into details here, but suffice to say that I love my agency big time.

Persistently dubious guts and headache today so was delighted to finish work and head home. Finished the Philip K Dick audiobook on the train and begun to listen to the Dialogues of Plato - all while obsessionally playing Zuma on my mobile phone. Once in Brighton, succumbed to a bag of fish and chips from Sing Li at the end of my Twitten. Lurked contentedly, if queasily, at home in the evening watching TV and having a IM chat with Sprinkles in Florida who is investigating ways of developing a TV career. She'd be great.

The combination of rain and hot sun is making my tiny front garden go ape. Hard pruning has repaid me with an abundance of orange and white roses, and pink, orange and white geraniums plus the last of big white lilies, and cerise and purple fuchsia. Not exactly sophisticated, but a riot of colour.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Happiness is a home toilet

Funny day with brainstorms, and meetings, and finicky changes to copy. Out to lunch with Pat, and the FB and Trace. Had a beer to wet the baby's head, but mostly this overshadowed by an irritating work issue we had to discuss.

Got a note from my old art director Nev who is now in Australia, sending some photos of the aftermath of a giant storm and floods fairly near to Sydney.

After work with several work amigos, including the FB. The evening, quite flatteringly for me, included a lenghty and impromptu poetry reading in the bar of some of my poems done mostly by Robbie, with me reading one too.

This Lyrical interlude, however, was followed by an appalling journey home. A short distance from the office I found that I had exceedingly urgent need to find a toilet. I had to rush into a pub on Fulham Palace Road, and then a barge into a string of increasingly appalling places, then rattling about in the train toilet. Ghastly.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A day in the life

Trying to work on a poem about Magravine Cemetery on the train this morning. But these lines from the old Beatles song, the McCartney bit in A day in the life, kept going around my head instead:

Woke up, fell out of bed,
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup,
And looking up I noticed I was late.
Found my coat and grabbed my hat
Made the bus in seconds flat
Found my way upstairs and had a smoke,and
Somebody spoke and I went into a dream.

I am on the cusp of quite far-reaching decisions, and I find myself going into a dream on my commute and at work. Funny how the jukebox of your mind suddenly accesses a tune every now and then, and plays it as clearly as if you had just heard it a few seconds before.

Work again a bit bitty, working on 6 different things during the day. Slipped out for a 40 minute walk at lunchtime along the river. A mostly quiet afternoon, where me and the Gnome had a chance to chat about music. He played me, and Trace who popped by for a gossip, some early Scott Walker, which I'd not heard before.

Home and listening to my audiobook Martian Time Slip again. I really am enjoying it. Philip K Dick must have been on some interesting pharmaceuticals. The environment isn't particularly realistic (it was published in 1964) and his Mars has canals and humanoid aliens resembling aboriginal Australians and breathable but thin air. It also plays around with non-linear time. And the character's mental aberrations and hallucinations are convincing and make the whole book strange and interesting...

And then the ticket collector asked to see my ticket, and I went into a dream.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Thank heaven for leeetle gurrls

Up early and full of energy.

Received a call this morning from The French Bloke to tell me that he and Bouncy Max had their baby in the small hours this morning. Another little girl of 8lbs 10oz, or the weight of a small turkey as The FB observed cheerily. Max and gurgling baby both sounding perky in the background. This is the FB's and Max's second girl, and The FB's fifth.

Otherwise for me an uneventful day. Wading through an abundance of scrappy bits of work. Teamed up with another Art Director instead of the Gnome, which feels odd but makes a change to get a different kind of input.

I continue to listen to Martian Time Slip. The whole story is aching with paranoia, alienation, and the isolation of the human condition in a way that transcends the SF genre. In short a good read.

Feeling restless today. Incredible how being outside for three days reminds you how dehumanising it is to be continually cooped up in trains and offices. In the evening, after speaking to Bob who had just been visiting a friend in hospital, I strapped on my walking boots and went for a long stomp along the seafront. Great to live by the sea and to be able to crunch about on the pebbles and touch the water. It is an unbelievably grounding thing.

Back to reality

Met Reuben on the early train with his gleaming white Apple laptop. We talked briefly before he had to start work. I listened to the Mark Kermode film review podcast. I got off at Clapham to go to Guildford, a town I'd never been to, where I was to present some work about an electric toothbrush which I didn't do, to a client I'd never met.

Presentation fine, despite arriving with just 30 seconds to spare after catching the stopping train by mistake, and then hailing the slowest cabbie in the world. A woman from another agency kept interrupting my presentation, but the client was nice, and I didn't bristle.

I was then driven into work by a cheerful Aussie suit chatting about sports, and about where he grew up a few hours outside of Sydney.

A reasonable day, feeling feeling stiff and tired - but in a good way. Talking to some of the guys at work who have done a 100km walk over the South Downs in one 18 hour session. Madness. The most appalling of wild horses couldn't force me to do that.

Home listening to my new audiobook which is for me an increasingly rare foray into science fiction: Martian Time Slip by Philip K Dick. Home... and added to the True and Wonderfull site with details of various Dragon related adventures. Then a nice IM session with Sprinkles in Florida before boofing happily to bed.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Home and a fish finger sandwich

Sunday evening and back to real life, and the week yawns out before me. I am feeling a happy exhaustion after three days of walking across the Sussex countryside from Arudel to St Leonards forest. We reckon we walked approaching 40 miles, which is easily the longest I have ever walked on the trot.

Our findings and reports will be uploaded shortly on the True and Wonderfull blog.

We finished the walk at the Dragon in St Leonards forest. We had a couple of beers outside the pub by the road, feeling shattered and slightly sad, until the angelic Anna found us and drove us back to Brighton, Anton squished in the back with his bairns. Anna then kindly dropped me off at the Twitten, with a loaf of fresh bread she'd thoughtfully bought earlier.

Lots of orange roses have bloomed in front of my house in the last three days. Inside, and I lurked around the place in a blur of tiredness, stuffing aromatic clothes into the washer, and trying to prepare for tomorrow's hideous presentation in Guildford at 9:30.

After huge evening meals in the evenings I made do with a fish finger sandwich tonight, and it was curiously glorious.

I haven't slept well for the last few nights. Tonight, god willing I sleep like I've not slept for a long long time.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

True and Wonderfull

Yes folks, The Dragon Quest is getting serious and now needs its own blog...

True and Wonderfull

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A pitch and a post-pitch pint

Up at 5:30, which for me is unspeakable. A quick and bleary shower before bursting out of my house and almost trampling on an indignant gull in the twitten. The 6:09 from Brighton is a ghastly train, full of people sleeping. Reached work at 8:00 and then off in Rick's car to Uxbridge to do a pitch. Finally out of the clients office at noon after a major yapfest about fatal health events. I think we did okay, but the whole process is tiring and stressful and it was good to see the back of it.

The pitch team stopped off at a pub in a picturesque village called Denham, where I stole a moment to snap a photo of the beautiful house that the actor Sir John Mills lived in, according to the blue plaque.

An extremely
nice meal of cottage pie and red cabbage, and a solitary but enjoyable pint of bitter outside in the sunny garden while being nudged hopefully by the pub dog, a black wiry-haired thing. It was a beautiful afternoon and we took a scenic route back to the agency through the green. The sun was pouring through the sunroof and after my post-pitch pint I felt decidedly sleepy.

Rather annoyingly, however, when we reached the office I had lots more to do. Then I spoke to
Anton, who has made his last few purchases for the walk. I have to get mine sorted. Apparently it is going to be very hot judging by some of Anton's selections.

Home to Brighton listening to an audiobook about recent continental philosophy.

Below the Mills house in Denham.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Down with skool

Up early in Edgware. Off to work after tea and toast with Mum and Mase. Re-reading, on the tube, some of strange bits and pieces that Mum had given me. A few old magazines that I was published in (including my first every poetry publication - one okay poem, one terrible one) and so on. Even something showing my weight a month after I was born: 9lbs 13 1/2 oz.

School reports can still be maddening all these years later. The first two years of reports are terrible, and then they improve slowly. Remarks... "Peter's work has deteriorated in spite of warnings. Too much work is 'slapdash'", "written work unsatisfactory" "most disappointing written work" "talks too much" "Peter shows no interest in the lessons and rarely does his work" and above all "Peter could do better". Yep. Written work was certainly my Achilles heel.

Burning them will be fun.

Work... And working on a pitch, so it was a day of stress and slog, but I managed to keep aloof. Then hours of sitting through rehearsals and death by PowerPoint. Interestingly, in the middle of it, was offered three months working in Hamburg. But I declined.

Left work late. Home, and preparing to get up fantastically early to do the pitch tomorrow.

A lazy Sunday afternoon

Woke up at 7. These days I wake up then, regardless of how tired I am. Then worked on my poems for a bit, but eventually found myself doing ironing instead. I bet WB Yeats never found himself ironing instead. Gradulally got myself ready to shoot off up to Edgware to see Mum and Mase. And had a Skype chat with Sprinkles in Florida before doing so.

Off at lunchtime to see Mum and Mase. A warm day, and I walked from Mill Hill to their house.

Then spent a nice afternoon hidden away in their back garden, eating various foods, sipping wine, and chatting to them and Tanya and Robert and Diane. Talking to Tanya about lumpia, the Philipine spring rolls Sprinkles had shown me how to make. Seemed to be unofficial business advisor today, ending up being asked about various aspects of direct marketing. Surely some mistake on a Sunday...

Off to bed, with a full belly and a yawny head.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Under low-flying jumbos

Up unpleasantly early to travel to Heathrow for 9.10pm to present some work with the Gnome to our airline client. One of the client team is a friend of mine, so it was fairly relaxed. Her new boss though was scowling throughout, and I decided she had the profile of a flea. I had to stifle an involuntary snort at this thought until I could share my observation with the Gnome and our two suits, Kathryn and Lisa, as we walked back to Hatton Cross tube station under the thunder of airliners taking off, and the growl of four lanes of traffic. Katheryn saw a sparrow being run over on the road.

The rest of the day, back in the agency, The Gnome and I hid an empty meeting room, and slogged away on concepts for a pitch which I will have to present next Tuesday. The prospect of working through the weekend was becoming very real. Brilliantly, however we managed to conjure up an idea that everyone liked, which meant suddenly we were ahead of the game, and the weekend was saved.

Spoke to Anton who has now booked lodgings for us on the Dragon walk. His enthusiasm and excitement is very catching. Still no news from the radio people. Radio silence in fact.

Worked a bit late and, full of inertia, had a few beers with a bicker of creatives that were lurking in the bar before the call of the seagull grew strong in me. Very tired at the end of the week, but quite cheerful to be home.

The gloom lifts

Cheered up significantly today. Happened in the space of half an hour. The colours returned, and I regained my optimism. Work very busy at the moment so not much time for self-analysis. But I am getting ready to make some changes.

In the evening, I met Bob in the Salisbury in St Martins Lane. Very crowded and some excellent people watching to be had there while I was waiting for him. Enjoyed one immaculately dressed gent who made me think of the Dicken's phrase "a model of deportment" and stood where he could be seen with his sunglasses resting just so on his cap.

After a quick beer there with Bob, we walked through Covent Garden and up, the rain having finally ceased today, eventually finding the fairly good Punjab Restuarant on Neal Street. There are vile curries to be had in the West End, so it was quite a relief to have quite a nice one. Mad Dog on cheerful form, and at one point we tried to call Carl but just had the briefest of chats with him as he was on a motorway. After the meal we walked back through town down to Embankment together. As I had to return home fairly early due to an early client meeting.

Reading Marco Polo on the way home. Employed my Philips Sonicare toothbrush tonight for the first time. Absolutely brilliant. Never have my teeth feel so clean.

Then, very tired, to bed.