Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Fools full of moon

Full moon may have had something to do with an exceedingly snarly atmosphere in the agency this morning, with certain people behaving like children. Tremendously unimpressed by this, but fortunately I kept aloof. Keeping aloof is hard when you want to knock people out but I managed it.

Other than this tetchfest, and too much work, little to report today. Went to the chiropractor, which curiously was the most peaceful interlude of the day. She is an excellent chiropractor, who was brought up on Cyprus. Had a nice chat about skeletons and modern Greek poetry as she sorted me out. And walked back along the river to my agency with a spine as supple as a slow worm.

Returned to the fray, and left work quite late, although feeling fairly cheery. I am now in my traditional position of having responsibility without being given the authority, which needs to be resolved quickly. Home and I had a pizza and watched the last three episodes of Frasier before beginning a new Skelly epic about chiropractors just before bed.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

That's not small, it's my newt

A much needed chilled weekend. Watched the Frasier series 9 DVDs from my sofa. Also playing guitar, and combining these activities with a jazzular riff to accompany the Frasier theme tune.

Otherwise I dealt with a backlog of bills and other drivel sent in envelopes, laundry, cleaning, and all the thousand other natural chores that flesh is heir to, amid the usual flashes of rage about not having servants.

There is a nasty smell of damp under the stairs. This provoked by rain that would have Noah eyeing the skies and reaching for a brace of aardvarks. The damp joins the list of things about which Something Must Be Done: a damp course in due course.

On Saturday I baked a layer pie, which is a pie containing layers of onion and egg and pork of my mother's invention circa 1970. Actually really nice hot or cold. And, having strata of various colours, delights both eye and gullet. It is especially fine cold, and served with hot chips.

Out and about this Sunday afternoon. Spent some time today in a wood near the foot of the South Downs where the sky was holding six paragliders. I enjoyed looking down into a clear stream and seeing lots of small newts progressing carefully over the muddy bottom. Kept making me think of salamanders in fire as a kind of opposite. The Sussex woodland is a bit squelchy at the moment, but moss seems to be thriving. I've never seen such thickly succulent carpeting over old logs and tree trunks. Stupidly I forgot to take my camera.

Chatting to Mum in the afternoon who is looking forward to the delivery of a phat new stereo system thanks to an insurance payout. The last one shuffled off its mortal coil after a lightning strike had damaged a tree next door and sent a spear of wood hurtling over the house.

And in the evening caught up with Toby, who had just returned after he and Romy had been lurking out at Deviation Road for the weekend, the lucky things. Hopefully he will send me some photos soon of what sounds like an amazing trip to Argentina that he took with Romy. Some of his descriptions were quite magical of the things he'd seen down there, like difference of the southern stars.

And so to bed.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Into the Matrix

Had to start work unfeasibly early. Up at 6 and soon rattling up to the Smoke. Worked like a maniac for most of the morning and through lunch, culminating in a presentation, with a nice lady Information Architect called Linh, of a year's content matrix of a rather enormous website. Went well. I wasn't entirely sure what a content matrix was until Linh turned all my scribblings about what should be on the site, into a content matrix. And during the meeting it was all stuff like...If you can see 4.4.2 on the site map, blah blah this relates to x in the content matrix which we see being delivered as an animation. Managed to get through it without having a nosebleed.

My going part time may be delayed. In a swirling of cloaks had a conversation where I was told there may be an interesting alternative presented to me. I will carefully examine the mouth parts of this particular horse, but it is nice to have options.

Max the Mentor's children running about the agency today. Young Ed said to me, "I know you." And I said yes, and that he'd shown me his guinea pigs. He looked at me a bit reproachfully and said "We've got cats now."

Utterly shattered at the end of an exhausting week. Home and walked up the hill to drop a couple of things off before they set off for a couple of weeks in Normandy at Anna's parents lovely place. Lucky things.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Getting my fingers back

Woke up in Matty's place on Strand on the Green, had an enjoyable half an hour before he got up having made myself a cup of tea, playing his guitar. I have had my worst ever bout of rheumatism in my hands in the last week, but this now much better and I have my playing fingers back.

Funny to be walking off with Matt to Gunnersbury station, which was my local tube for many years. Amazing to be in Hammersmith and ready for work in a few minutes, compared to the hideous slog from Brighton. I stopped at Marks and Spencers to buy some fresh underpants, socks, and a shirt and changed into these at the office. Work demanding again today, but managed to slip off for my third swim of the week at lunchtime.

Worked late, then found myself, unaccountably, taking advantage of the agency's monthly free bar and doing lots of worky gossip and networking. Anton and Anna have lent me a new Frasier DVD and watched a couple of episodes before bed. He's my hero.

Replied to an email Trace sent me from Hawaii. She has arrived safely and having a wonderful time, despite dodging monstrous millipedes that can sting like bees.

Below the view from Matty's back garden towards Oliver's Island in the Thames.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Prodigal return

Work hard but interesting at the moment. No time for a swim today. But after work headed off to Chiswick, where I had a splendid evening with Matty and First Matie (sporting a cloak and dagger) in the Bull's Head on Strand on the Green.

This is a fine and noble establishment, and it was my local for at least ten years. Now Matty actually lives next door to it. Nostalgia gripped me at every turn, either that or some of the cheeky beers we gulped. Then we popped across the road to a nice restaurant where I ate a lamb burger, and so did Matt. Kate ate leaves.

There is supposed to be a passage that passes from The Bull's Head under the river to Oliver's Island. So called because Oliver Cromwell was supposed to have dodged down the passage to escape, having been trapped by some bounders who were going to treat him in entirely Cavalier fashion. I remember talking to one of the old landlords a while ago, who said he had searched in vain for the passage. I firmly believe in it.

I stayed at Matt's place overnight, and we sat about listening to tunes till late. He introduced me to Regina Spektor's music, which was rather good. I boofed down happily for the night with the dark river surging by only yards away.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Foul play

About 50% of the country seems to be reading Harry Potter and the deadly shallows at the moment. From the several people in the train all around me this morning. Of the people near me reading a book, 4 out of 5 of them were Pottering. Even the woman at the swimming pool looked up from her Harry Potter to admit one.

Writing an immense and less than magical project about cholesterol at work, thousands of words to be done at double quick time. The three word version being: cholesterol, it's bad. This forcing much slog at work.

Tonight, however, something entirely different I saw Mad Dog after work in Waterloo. We walked about here and there and played some pool in the Doggets pub. We've often done this in the past and it was weird to play a game of pool in a smoke-free environment.

I was thrashed as usual, although Bob should have been disqualified for outrageous gamesmanship in the last game. I made a fantastic break, dropping a ball into the pocket and teeing up several easily-potable balls. But before I could begin to smoothly clear the table he "accidentally" took a shot out of turn. With this foul shot, he'd moved the balls into completely unplayable positions, and I was soon found myself slaughtered yet again. Bah.

Thence to the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese for a gulp or two in the dark bar where we talked about conspiracies and the end of the world as we know it, before leaving to strap on an Indian nosebag.

On the train going home a smallish man next to me fell asleep. I was dozing too but imagine my alarm when he suddenly, and suprisingly powerfully, snuggled into to me. Had to push him off, much to the amusement of the woman across the isle. Once awake the bounder didn't even have the decency to look sheepish.

Below the latest Skelly epic, where he discourses on the subject of Ribs.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Hanging wit my boneys...

Damp in the larder

Marks and Sparks by Brighton station (a.k.a. my larder) got flooded on Friday morning as Brighton caught some of the current deluge. Here is an opportune shot through the window at some of the staff mopping up cheerfully after the shop was closed.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Lakshmi in London

Hobbled from work off to a new and excellent back-cracker, who had me able to perform owl-like head swivels within half an hour. Took the opportunity to quiz her on skeletons while she was at her cracking and stretching work.

After work off into the west end. London looking briefly sunny and fine in the sun, the buses extra red and the sky extra blue. Opposite Charing Cross station I bumped into my old pal Desi B who I'd not seen for about four years. We chatted on the street for about 20 minutes and it was very good to see her. By a strange quirk of fate she is working with Mex my ex-wife. She made me laugh when she explained with some vehemence that the marjority of single men over 30 are gay, whether they knew it or not.

Then to the Salisbury where I met Lakshmi who, over a vodka and orange, discussed the rubbishness of the Pusscat Dolls and Posh Spice and corrected me on an urbane matter of PG Wodehouse scholarship. We then went to strap on the nosebag at a nearby Italian restaurant, where she was very entertaining about her recent trip to Russia. And good to see her as every.

Then back to sunny Brighton. Itching to make a new skelly monologue. Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Oh no, another one...

The order of the PHOENIX!

Don't you just hate it when - having settled in for the hour long train journey, got your earphones in, and your Moleskine notebook open to write about skeletons - you realise you're sat opposite a maniac. There's a special kind of sinking feeling you get when, after an innocent train announcement mentioning Preston Park, Haywards Heath and other stations to Victoria, the maniac barks I'll beat him UP, and later Sombody's got a NOKIA with terrible flashing eyes. Fortunately he left after just one stop, creating a visible slackening of the rigid passengers in the carriage.

After this unpromising start, and tiredness due to my painful back which prevented sleep the night before, the day went well. Lots of presentations which went excellently, with several moments of genuine big and cleverness which compelled people to abate into agreement.

Home in the evening to see the latest Harry Potter extravaganza Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I was collected by Anna and Anton, and we met Martin and Sam at the cinema. The night was spoiled for Anna as the babysitter called her just as we were settling down to say that Oskar had been badly sick. She have to leave us in the cinema, populated almost exclusively by language students. We were sat near the front, bang in the middle of five rows of Chinese students chattering happily about Hawwi Pottah, and making shhh! noises, and kissing noises when HP's love interest came on. Until, that is they were glared at by Sam, who thundered "Excuse me... but will you shut UP!" in a way that seemed curiously familiar.

The Order of the Phoenix, however, was fun and I enjoyed it. Darker and much better than the first one, which is the only other HP film I've seen.

Anton and I paused briefly in The Eddy on the way home for a quick beer, and to be called handsome by the both the flirty gay owner and his flirty young barmaid. This has officially been adopted as our local.

And so to bed.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Dem bones

Mondays. Don't you just love 'em. Got up extra early to go to the dentist, but dismally worming trains meant I was still miles from London when the appointment was due. Got to work late too, grinding teeth, for the two and a half hours of my journey. Once at the office, managed to skid on a piece of cardboard which slid only a matter of four or five inches, but I managed to jerk my back. Now I can't turn my neck and have made an appointment with the back cracker.

When not brooding about spines, and their treachery, I generally enjoyed thinking about skeletons. Planning another skeleton monologue as I like them, and Joan cleverly likes them too.

Home and sated a desire for cheese and onion sandwiches. Must be craving calcium.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Corpse monologue #1

Got a camera that hooks into your computer and it has a program that lets you turn into a skeleton. Too good to resist.

A single marigold

In the night, one of a noisy group of drunken youths in the Twitten appeared, judging by the sudden shouting, to have taken issue with one of my plants. This resulted in him kicking my front door. I was almost asleep but I got up, found my hammer, and went to investigate: nothing, and no harm done. But maddening though. I phoned the police though and felt a bit sheepish halfway through, no there wasn't any damage, no I didn't see them because I was in bed, etc. etc.

Woke up fairly late, and Anton and Oskar called around, Oskar happily punching the keys of my CD player. Anton showed me the map-making site he'd found which will shortly be unleashed on the True and Wonderfull site. Spoke to Sprinkles, and then Mum. Then a massive bout of soundfile work. Put in hours, and made very little progress.

In the evening my pal from work Alice and her husband Mike and their baby Mia came down to Brighton. We went for a fish meal in an Italian restaurant where I had a nice lemon sole. Wonderful people to go eating with, given that Mike had his own excellent Italian restaurant, and Al's parents also in the restaurant business. Mia adorable and utterly fearless, happy to walk off and not look back. Not had a proper catch up with Al for ages, and it was good fun to see them all in Brighton.

Ended the night disreputably in the Eddie. Anton and I had sloped in there for a late drink. The three barmaids were all dancing behind the bar, the DJ had put on my own personal Brighton theme tune Hurry On Now, by Alice Russell, and me and Anton were having a beer. As we remarked on the perfection of this moment one of the staff put a single marigold on the table between us, and smiled kindly. Very romantic place is Brighton.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The door in the wall

Strange post migraine washed out feeling today, but certainly better than last night. Work tolerable. Our IT sluggish today. Andrew, who sits opposite me, was on the phone to the helpdesk as his computer didn't appear to be starting. The IT guy said: Hold on. Let me wave my magic wand. There must be a bit of purgatory, ringed by perpetually crashing servers, for IT smartasses.

Today finished listening to the HG Wells short stories on my iPod. The story called The Door in the Wall still my favourite. It is one of those stories that haunts you, as indeed the central character, an important politician, is haunted by a green door in a wall.

He sees the door in various locations in his life but fails to pass through it again as he did once as a small child. Through it was a magical with fantastic creatures, and playmates, and his dead mother and so on... It is a garden from which he is exiled all his life and it haunts him. What is the garden? Is it death? Or a kind of paradise? At the end of the story we are told the hero has been found dead. It is my favourite of all of the H.G. Wells stories and I read it first when I was about 12 and I will probably never forget it. It is also full of that desire to step through into something else; it is an archetype of transformation.

HG Wells uses the word "incontinent" too often.

My body covered in strange heat bumps. And so to bed.

Smitten by a glittering sickle

Woke up feeling sluggish and with a touch of sweaty man flu but went to work anyway. On the journey there saw a woman standing in the tube train with six big helium-filled heart shaped balloons in red and blue. She was doing the normal tube-face: blanking everyone. I felt like photographing her: the disconnected look, the colourful balloons floating in the drab carriage in the tunnel would have made a great shot.

Day not so draggy as yesterday. However at a little past 5:30 I got a migraine. Started again with the visuals, which came on suddenly: a beautiful sickle shape of prismatic light which at its worst seemed to obscure the sight from one eye. Not liking this much I headed straight home. It stopped as quickly as it began while on the tube. I fell asleep on the train home, and felt a little better later. Another early night after half watching some TV.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Nothing much

Watching again first thing Sprinkles video email from Florida, with the strange English accents that hurt her face. She certianly is an unusual person. Bumped into Reuben at the station and we had a bit of a chat on the train.

Otherwise a bit of a cold and headache today. Work seemed to drag on forever. Not much to report. Listening to HG Wells The Time Machine on my iPod, I like his short stories. Home and watched some TV: the Alastair Campbell diary of the Blair years. Then a lemsip and an early night.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Back in the swim

Another swim at lunchtime, splashing along with the usual suspects, such as the man with the dyed red hair who swims breastroke with his head above water amid the joyless crawlers. To protect my skin from the chlorine I now wear a blue cap, which squeezes your head till your eyes bulge.

Two meetings late in the afternoon. One presenting website concepts to technical people one of whom had flown in from India just for the meeting. Then later, in salesman mode, I spent 40 minutes talking at an unfortunate client till he agreed with me.

On the train finishing my PG Wodehouse audio book Emsworth and Others while playing Zuma. I don't like the stories about Ukridge, but I enjoyed the ones about golf. Despite the fact I agree with Mark Twain that golf is a good walk spoiled. Something about the fact that golf came into each of the stories gave them a good structure. There was always going to be a game and a winner and a loser.

Home, I buckled down for a couple of hours to edit soundfiles of me and Anton trudging about in the country, our boots squeaking through the wet grass. Fun but very time consuming.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Seeking tranquility

Have a new policy: maximum tranquility. I took my laptop on the train this morning with the express purpose of editing soundfiles. I maintained maximum tranquility when I realised I had left my earphones at home, and worked instead at fiddling with my poems.

Work was not too bad. Received an apology for the lamentable briefing fiasco of last week, but now have to fix everything. It is tiresome. There is an absolute Tsunami of work surging towards me, and I can only look on and reach for the waterwings.

Meanwhile, the Gnome in late having ferrying his son (now 21) to the dentist after he had his tooth knocked out randomly by some yobs in the street.

The new policy dictated that I had a swim this lunchtime. Very relaxing, despite being called by work I was towelling myself off afterwards and applying liberal unguents. The Oink factor is still outranking the Itch factor when it comes to swimming: so the swimming must continue. Also badly need a week of purity, and drinking sparkling mineral water and cups of tea.

More thunder this afternoon. Tipped off again by First Matie, my own personal weather station.
Left work promptly figuring I could work on the train. Maintained maximum tranquility when the train broke down on the way home after the carriage filled with the distinct smell of burning rubber.

I am going to incorporate meditation into this week too. Tranquility is priority #1.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Color Purple

In the morning out to breakfast with Anna, Anton, Brian and the bairns for breakfast. We drove off to somewhere called Carats near Shoreham, not far from where loads of celebs live, mystifyingly, behind an industrial estate. The seaside cafe bursting to the seams with folks eating breakfast, so we drove in a two car convoy back to the local park instead. Anna and I contemplating the massive carbon footprint involved in simply scoring some breakfast.

Walking in the afternoon by the sea. Had lunch in the Sanctuary Cafe and then a clear day, sitting down by the sea on a bench in the sun.

In the evening I locked myself into a a darkened room with my DVD of The Color Purple. I don't know what it is about that film, but it makes me sob like a huge girl every time I see it. The ghastly scene when the two sisters are physically torn apart is unendurable. I love the opening sequence with the purple flowers in the fields too. And Whoopi Goldberg was fab in it. But the crying is exhausting.

Friday, July 06, 2007

What is this toad work?

Big presentation to a major client this morning, despite a few hours sleep. A Curate's egg: good in parts. Except for the part that was the result of the last two week's of the Gnome's work. We'd been misbriefed and so we looked quite foolish for a bit - but the digital work I'd been doing went down very well so this helped. I went straight from that to a teleconference with a tetchy client who needed appeasing. Worked through lunch and, shortly after, the silence about my part time work was resolved. They've asked me to postpone it till September to cover for one of the creative directors. Because they are being so nice about letting me work part time in the first place, I readily agreed.

And I will have to abate this gnawing sense of urgency. I suppose two months isn't too bad, but it is going to be stressful and very hard work. But it is also very nice to feel needed.

Trace off today. She was crying a bit. Someone gave her a book of 1,000 places to see before you die - she opened it at random, and it fell open on a place in Hawaii. Much agreement that this was indeed a good omen. At the end of the day, we walked out of the agency together and I kissed her goodbye by Hammersmith station. Her off to Hawaii and me off to Brighton and, thank God, the weekend.

A pussy posse in the dark

At last, a better day at work - although still crushingly busy.

But out of the blue, a breath of fresh air in an email from Joan - including a photo of some of her intrepid cats padding through the gloom, as they accompany Joan on one of her walks in the forested land behind the farm in Ontario. This makes me laugh every time I look at it.

After hours there was a free bar at work tonight, which coincided nicely with Trace leaving, and another friend called Anita too. A nice party downstairs (smoke free which was top). Trace is literally running away to join a circus collective in Hawaii, and flies off on Monday. This is strange, but true. I am going to miss her very much.

Matty boy came by too, and after sipping copious amounts of boozes with agency folks, Matt and I repaired to an Indian restaurant for some knife and forkwork and a chat. This resulted in me creeping home again really late yet again.

Below The fabulous Pinkie, Tommy Bananas and Pinkie's sister, Baxter march through the forest.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

On the care of the pig

Two hours sleep. Just to ensure today would suck a tiny bit more. After hours of middle of the night fretting, eventually I got up and downloaded some stories by PG Wodehouse which I listened to on the iPod on the way to work.

Working with a freelance digital creative called Paul, on a big website. He says he was stillborn in South Africa, and the first heart transplant surgeon Dr Christian Barnard saved his life. If he ever gets around to writing his autobiography, that's not a bad opening.

But feeling disempowered. And very stressed, not least by an ominous silence about my move to part time. Meanwhile The Gnome's son ill and in hospital for precautionary checks - he had a very serious and rare viral condition a couple of years ago that required chemotherapy. So the Gnome obviously a bit concerned.

Got some video today from Sprinkles with herself as an alien, which made me laugh. Anton meanwhile uploading some stuff to the true and wonderfull site in the June archive, and also using Google Earth to find a way of showing our route for the walk.

Left work militantly on time today. Trains as usual not working properly again, and had to stand all the way to Brighton. But listening to "The Crime Wave at Blandings" a short story by Wodehouse -- about Lord Emsworth who generally gets put upon, until people start menacing each other with his Grandson's air gun -- really helped. I found myself identifying with Lord Emsworth who wants nothing more than to be left alone to read his favourite book: Whipple's On the care of the pig.

I know how he feels.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Don't know why there's no sun up in the sky...

Day started irritatingly with me missing my train by literally one second, and then the next London train breaking down in Brighton station. Sometimes I loathe commuting. Work was a pretty dire affair, with lots of directionless slog. I did have a swim at lunchtime which was good and skin not completely rebelling. This helped lower slightly my stress levels which are very high at the moment. Worked late then had a couple of cheeky beers with some work pals Andrew and John, and Paul a freelancer I am working with. Eventually the call of the seagull grew strong in me. Home and a Chinese takeaway.

Below a mad storm today photographed from my office window. It whitened the streets of south London with a thick carpet of hailstones. Lots of thunder and lightning. All quite lively.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Rain, nothing but the wild rain

Up with the lark for another walk in the country, despite the Gnome having phoned me in the middle of the night thinking I was his son whose 21st birthday it was.

Anton wanted to trace a part of an alternative route which we missed out last time. We set off for a station in the mud somewhere and walked for a few hours without stopping in steady rain. Fortunately we passed a shop where I could buy some waterproof overtrousers. Not our best ever walk, our route being blocked by a fenced off bridge, and paths that had been closed. However, there were few people about and there is a grim enjoyment to trudging in the fresh air in an unremitting deluge.

Terrifying moment towards the end of the walk. An enormous and savage Alsatian dog came rushing at us barking and displaying its incisors. Fortunately it made straight for Anton who, being frozen with terror, looked fairly bleak. I pressed on bravely, muttering words of encouragement until the dog bounded off briefly to fetch the two other Alsatians that were baying in the distance. Anton sped across the field as if all the hounds of hell were after him, and once we'd got through a gate, white with shock, he started ungratefully blaming me.

Eventually we called a halt after finding a pub in a village near Horley, as Anton said, with some feeling, that he needed a drink. It was marvellous to briefly escape the rain and drink a couple of beers before getting a taxi to the station.

We went home, and after I showered and had a bit of a snooze Anton then called around again and we had some sort of Japanese food before setting off on a pub crawl in the rain. Tonight was the last night of cigarette smoking in pubs, and we toured about taking in the smoky atmosphere for the last time. I fully support the legislation, and don't smoke, but it does feel like the end of an era somehow. It will be wonderful, however, to go out and not return home reeking.

Saw a good blues duo in the Lion and Lobster, and then off to a club to see some Rockabilly. Anton had been attracted by the prospect of a Croatian Rockabilly combo. The evening didn't start till 11 and we didn't fancy the prospect of staying up till 4 to see them. However we saw one Rockabilly band. No idea what they were called. Quite enjoyed the Rockabilly fans and the performance. There were quite a few quiffs about, and 50s clothes, and - oddly I thought - ladies employing fans to keep cool. The actual music was, obviously, execrable. Marginally better, however, than Psychobilly. Anton inflicted Psychobilly on me once during the entirety of a drive from Manchester to London and I never, ever want to hear it again.

Below the path. More photos of the walk the true and wonderfull site.