Saturday, December 29, 2007

There's only one thing worse than the humbug

Still in the grip of the humbug. I can't remember the last time I felt quite so ill, for so long. Ear ache like being bayoneted in the side of the head, coughing all night, fever, a throat so sore it wakes you up if you swallow, all resulting in an exhausted kind of insomnia. I'm being the least festive guest imaginable for Mum and Mas.

Still, it could be worse.

Actually, it was worse yesterday, after the appalling assassination of Benazir Bhutto. The facebook group I had created called (and this does not seem at all big and clever now) I secretly fancy Benazir Bhutto caused me some anxiety, especially as a rabid Canadian reporter tried to get me to sell my story.

There were concerned email too from some of the group's members so the only thing to do was delete the group. This, thanks to the humbug's ability to scramble thought, I completely bungled - deleting myself as administrator before I'd deleted all group's membership. Cue visions of justly inflamed supporters hunting down me and each of the group's members.

I had to resort to emailing facebook, who fortunately emailed me back within a day, and today I have been able to resolve the matter. For some reason this whole business gave me the horrors.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The humbug strikes

Bloody hell. On Christmas eve, after swapping presents with Lorraine, and Anna and Anton, and the babes, and popping around to Janet and Ken for a festive cup of tea I left for London.

On the train I discovered that the tiredness I was experiencing was not solely the result of an enthusiastic day's drinking with Matty, but was in fact "the humbug" - a virus that times itself perfectly to wipe out Christmas in a blur of fever, exhausting coughing bouts, and the sorest of sore throats. The humbug? Bah to it.

I feel sorry for Mum, as Mas also has the humbug and so she has been surrounded by stereo man flu all Christmas, which must have been unendurable.

Watched some DVDs - Apocalypto, which was a film purporting to be about Mayan history but actually was mainly about the director's disturbed obsession with the pornographic violence. If I had more energy I would rant more about this. I also watched I Robot, which was mindless and undemanding fun.

Being fed lots of vitamin pills by Mas (and narrowly avoiding being given laxatives too). This morning discussed how when he was a marine fighting in the Korean war, if the enemy had only thrown spiders at him, all would have been lost.

Off now for yet another lemsip.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Quaffing Harvey's in fog-shrouded Lewes

Off today to Lewes to meet Matty, and his sister Tash and her boyfriend Dunc, and Graeme who lives near Matt down on Strand on the Green. Leaving Brighton on the short hop to Lewes was quite magical. A couple of minutes from Brighton Station the fog began, and as the train climbed up through the mysterious outline of hills, the sun swathed by fog, visible as a low white disc.

In Lewes laboured up the foggy hill to meet Matty et al in the Lewes Arms, and from there we all went on a pub crawl through half a dozen of the finest pubs in Lewes, with Matty being greeted fondly in many of them. Excellent to be able to walk through this fascinating historical town in seasonally Dickensian fog. Lots of beer was drunk, and by the end of the evening Matty, Graeme and I played some pool and had many many earnest and enjoyable conversations. Finally I was collected by the lovely Lorraine who, like a guardian angel, drove me home.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The burning of the clocks

Most of the day surging up and down on the emotional rollercoaster that is shopping. It is exhausting to dither about between shops, and trying not to get side-tracked. Shopping is NOT my strongpoint, but I cleverly avoided going into a pub instead, and made some steady progress by the end of the day.

Shortly after six I met Anton in the Eddy for a cheeky beer, and then we shot off through town down to the seafront to meet Rick and his bairns for the burning of the clocks. Compared to last year there didn't seem to be so many clocks, but still it was a good thing to watch - culminating in the burning of a Tower of Babel (a good idea) and fireworks. We were standing at the Terrace bar, with a good view of the procession, and handily able to sip a second beer there too.

Then Lorraine arrived, just in time to see the fireworks, as Anton began to slip into hypothermia - then we taxied back to Anton's place for champagne, a tasty pasta carbonara and apple pie with Anna.

Below three snaps from the burning of the clocks.





Thursday, December 20, 2007

Of time and My Little Pony

Wonderful to be able to wake up at 9:00 and know the Christmas season stretched before me. Christmas, and of course, the pre-Christmas scramble to do all the things that each year I promise myself I would do in November.

Spent hours hunting addresses to send some cards off. The e-revolution has killed snail mail. I can text my friends, I can email them, I can facebook them, I can connect telephaticallly with some of them, but do I have their actual addresses?

Then off to get a haircut, as the sheep thing was happening. He didn't make the top so short so the Area of Concern wasn't gleaming through too much. Lorraine came into the barbers and we walked down the hill to the shops.

I went off in search of a purple My Little Pony and found one in Woolworth's. Then went to a couple of other shops. Depressingly quickly, my sensitive artistic temperament was in tatters - so I had to have a beer, and Lorraine joined me before sneaking off to get hypnotised. Post hypnotising we went to an execrable Thai in Seven Dials called the Little Buddha, where the chefs were strangers to coriander, chili, and lemongrass - and turned the food into a ghastly tasteless gloop. An amazing talent.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Gnome, imps, and Clangers,

Back to London this morning, rewriting the last four lines of my magisterial Moth Display poem on the train. I rewrote about 20 versions of the closing lines but yet there is not one that is right yet.

Waves of weirdness abating slightly about being in the agency again, and I enjoyed myself, and very nice to chat to people. Though the suggestion that they have another whip round for me as I left today fell on deaf ears.

It felt very comfortable to have worked with the Gnome for a couple of days; like putting on an old and extremely comfortable cardigan. We went for a fast beer at lunchtime at the dubious OSP pub, and he then left to go to Denmark Street buy guitar accessory Christmas presents for his musical family.

I repaired back to the agency to write about ailments of one sort or another, and chatted intermittently to another freelancer called Diane who was sat opposite me. She was very nice, and it turns out she and her husband live in Brighton, very close to Anton -and my next door neighbour (who moved last week) is one of her best friends, and she'd heard that I was a writer and lived next door - and even knew I had been burgled. Small world.

Declined an offer to go for drinks after work, and zoomed home feeling very cheerful. It really is the end of my working year, and I am booked to work on 2nd of January, so I will be starting the year on a working note too - which is always nice when you are self employed. Listening to the Amulet of Samarkand as an audiobook on Anton's recommendation. And this enjoyable, and well written, although it is in familiar fantasy territory: set in London, with imps, demons, wizards and non-wizards (known as commoners) etc.

Home and a cheeky Chinese meal, talking on my mobile as I picked up my free polystyrene crackers, to a gloomy work-ridden Anton. Lorraine braved the chilly night to drop round some software for me, and we spent a couple of hours listening to my randomiser on my iPod. Some of the music she said was plinky, and there was one she said was weird non-music like the Clangers. Charming.

After Lorraine left, I spoke to Mum who was back from holiday in Madeira, where she spent some time trying to catch lizards. Then, under many layers of blankets and my duvet, cringing onto a hot water bottle, to sleep the untroubled sleep of the righteous.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Boomerang

Off to London to start a two day spell of freelancing in my old agency for two day. For some reason I sprang from bed feeling very dubious very early in the morning. And so by time I arrived in the agency I was already tired.

Boomeranging back, makes you feel like a Shakespearean ghost, with people double-taking at you from time to time. Aren't you dead? But all was well, and the day was spent locked away with The Gnome working on concepts for the needles/eyes work for the client I'd pitched to in Switzerland. Pleased to see The Gnome again, and we did some good work, and ate chocolate biscuits and drank numerous teas.

Then elbowing my way home. I was pleased to get this work, but it makes me wonder how I was able to do it every working day for getting on for 3 years.

A couch potato in the evening, every show seemed to be about food Heston Blumenthal, Gordon Ramsay, are amazing (and completely different) characters. Bluementhal has been written about as a Willy Wonka-ish personality and his approach to food is scientific and deconstructive. While Ramsay is pugnacious and honest. Then as a counterbalance, a documentary about a guy in Runcorn who was 48 stone, and how he slimmed right down over the years - and confronted the reasons to do with a monstrous father why he had gone off the rails.

Then early to bed.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A change of clothes

Woke up on a comfortable mattress on the floor at the FB's house. All up and a nice cheery porridge breakfast. Little Tahlia, who has just turned three rather melting my heart by playing with a cardboard box in which she pretended to get stuck, and saying "help me Mr Kenny". Adorable little thing.

Then, after fond farewells, Matty, Kate and I left, walking off in the frosty morning to Chertsey station. As we did so I felt an immense feeling of wellbeing, life just seems to be full of possibilities at the moment, and I don't feel trapped or hindered by anything. We all got the same train, before Matty left at Kew Bridge, and I got off leaving Kate at Clapham. Then to Brighton.

Nice to be home and change out of the clothes I had slept in for two nights running and have a long shower. Then out for a roast Sunday lunch with Lorraine, and thence to the Eddy to watch Arsenal v Chelsea in the pub. Unfortunately the forces of wrongness prevailed and the unspeakable Arsenal fluked a win over the brave and noble Chelsea. But it felt good to be doing something so frivolous and fun, and pleased to be with Lorraine who is perfectly at home watching football.

Slightly jaded in the evening, and early to bed for me. And, excellently, it was my own bed too. A really enjoyable weekend though. Life is sweet.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

BLISS!!!

Up fairly early, as Electra and her little pal called Bliss, ran in and began watching the Incredibles. Had something of a sore head, which I blamed on the Metaxa. Sophie said that I had drunk lots of French wine too, and yet I was blaming the Greeks. Much tidying up, where my helping involved following Sophie and Andros like a large sheep, and talking to them. Sophie putting on music, including a sorrowful epic about the Greek repatriations from Turkey in the 1920s, which made Elektra pull faces.

Also met a children's book illustrator who is a great friend of Andros who dropped by, and was interested to hear his experiences in light of the project I'm doing with Mum. He had also made a bust of Christof, which was very good. Will be strange for Chirstof to have this representation of himself as a 13 year old when he is 50.

After some time Sophie and her two bairns, plus Bliss, and I went for a walk in the park chatting. The kids went to Bliss's house and Sophie and I repaired to the cafe in the park and drank coffee and ate blueberry muffins. A cold frosty day, and it was all making me feel very Christmassy. I love Sophie. After 29 years of knowing her, she is one of those people who always makes me feel cheerful and stronger every time I see her. There was, as ever, loads to talk about and we had spent hours catching up. Then back to Bliss's house to collect Elektra.

We were invited in by Bliss's parents who were very nice. Very enjoyable too, to hear her dad bellowing BLISS! up the stairs at her. Turns out that Bliss's mother has produced lots of wonderful art, which was on the walls. Her name is Julie Major. To my eyes her work looked organic, like sea urchins, or massive representations of pollen. But she mentioned being inspired by Elizabethan clothing and the body - an unusual mix of plaster and fabric.

Then fond farewells to Sophie and Andros, and off to Strand on the Green to meet Matty and Katie who were in Annie's across from Matty's house with lots of chums steadily quaffing champagne. Then across to the Bull's head to wait for the taxi that was to take us to see the French Bloke and Max. Me a very interesting guy who was a journalist and folk musician.

Then a taxi ride from hell. The driver, barely able to speak English, got completely lost and turned a 25 minute ride into a 90 minute exploration of Surrey. It was only after I had a bit of a tetchfest after an hour of aimless driving, that he reached into the glove compartment to turn on his satnav. Ye Gods.

Then finally arrived at Chertsey meads. And we had an excellent night with Max and the French bloke, eating a damn fine chili, drinking beer and watching the logs in the fire. And having a big laugh, at some rather off colour stuff. Matty and the FB deriving an unfeasible amount of enjoyment from the name of the Liberal Democrats stand-in leader Vince Cable for example.

The weekend turning into a massive antidote to being locked away in my study all week in terms of seeing lots of affectionate friends.

Below, one of Julie Major's pieces. Visit her site.



Friday, December 14, 2007

My big fat Greek Christmas

A slogfest today, had my head down doing my freelance all day in my study struggling to meet a deadline. Have another three days work next week too, however, so this is good. Once done, at 5:30 I set off to Highgate to see Sophie.

For the second year in a row, I went to Sophie's "my big fat Greek Christmas" party, where she manages to collect all kinds of interesting and likable people: I spoke to several writers and journalists, and a dancer who was feeling horribly old at 29 and wondering if her dance career was over. But mostly it was lovely to see Sophie and Andros and Christof and Electra. Young Christof lent me a DVD of the Mighty Boosh to further my comedy education.

There were mountains of food, of course, including an impressive and yummy spanakopita, spinach pie. At some point Sophie also pressed a large glass of Metaxa brandy on me too to complete the experience. Just had a lovely time all night. The only moment that wasn't excellent was sitting down, after pontificating about something or other, on a kitchen chair. This collapsed, legs splaying, and I found myself on the floor on my back looking at the ceiling. A moment that lacked dignity.

After everyone left, and a conversation with the bitter-enders about the middle east with Andros on sparky form, Sophie and I tidied up a bit, and sat chatting till 3.00am, suddenly struck by some ideas for business. Eventually it was definitely time for bed, which for me was a surprisingly comfortable sofa.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Of parsnips and axe murderers

Hmm. I'll have a parsnip with that roast Xmas lentil yet. I sent out my first invoice in my new freelance guise, and it felt good. And I have been working this week too, writing about cholesterol again for the last two days. And tomorrow too. Also I have a little work lined up for next week. More importantly, I think it is beginning to sink in that I will actually be okay, and life as a freelancer could be very big and clever in its own right - as well as giving me time for my own wheezes. It is, so far, a fairly painless transition.

However I have been getting moments of cabin fever - especially as the work I have been doing is of the brain shrivelling variety - not only writing website copy but tweaking its architecture. It requires three dimensional thinking and makes want to turn into Jack Nicholson in The Shining, typing All work and no play makes Peter a dull boy, thousands of times. As a writer this was always the most frightening scene for me: Jack losing his grip on sanity but still being driven to type endlessly.

Fortunately just outside my door is Brighton to escape into (yelling "Here's Johnny") and the sea not far away. Just knowing it is there somehow keeps you more level headed and keep the axes out of sight.

Loving the idea of Christmas this year. It will be the first one in England for three years. Last year I was in Japan, and the year before in Long Island. Both wonderful experiences. Christmas is such a concoction of memories and associations, happy and sad. It is easy to become sentimental for lost childhood too. For me Christmas usually meant my Grandparents' little 16th century granite cottage in Guernsey, which is probably why I still love Christmas to this day.

Below... The manuscript in The Shining.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Golden Compass

Off in the evening with Lorraine to see The Golden Compass, based on Northern Lights, by Philip Pullman. As expected the film completely bottled the religious themes. Good to know that Milton's influence is still subversive. Despite enjoying the gorgeous CGI and top performances by the young Dakota Blue Richards playing Lyra (from Brighton apparently) and Nicole Kidman, and liking the alternative London. But generally felt somewhat short changed: it was all fighting bears, rather than the huge moral complexities of the book, and the severing of children from their souls. It all ended shortly after a bloody good punch up.

Otherwise, being a Monday I did Monday stuff. And I'm pleased to say there are some promising developments on the freelance side.

Also I bought a Christmas tree and decorated it, which was lovely. Something about a tree that takes me back to all kinds of Christmases Past. And made time for a walk in the afternoon, in a fresh and cold wind and the sun coming out in a radiant Decemberish way.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Free as birds to wander where we will

A deluge of wind and rain. Drove around Brighton looking for a parking spot with Lorraine, having to park miles from anywhere, then walked off cheerfully in the rain, to eat a belly-busting mash of hash potatoes, beans, sausage, bacon, mushroom topped with a fried egg and melted cheese at Billies. I'm pleased to say that I left quite a bit of mine. Very nice in a 5,000 calories on a plate sort of way. Then a fond farewell to Lorraine, and I set off to see Anton.

We'd long planned a massive 15 mile walk today, as the bairns were at Anton's mum and Anna was on her coaching course. However, the weather was so unspeakable and as neither of us was feeling on top form physically, that we decided to forgo it.

Anton instead was very busy taking his turntable apart and installing a new and heavier platter with all the anxious concentration of someone performing a heart transplant. Once reassembled we had to roadtest a few records. Anton's face was glowing with Virgoan pleasure, so there must have been quite a difference.

Then off in the rain to the Caxton pub for a few games of pool. Having played well against Mad dog the other night, I was keen to take to green cloth again. Had a very close game with Anton, but Stirling friend that he is, he was compelled to taste the bitter pill of defeat in one of my very few victories.

Then off for a light Chinese snack, followed by a spot of intense record shopping in the Lanes, then back to Anton's to play records. Sadly enough I bought an album of Yes remixes by Virgil Howe (aka "The Verge") which is an interesting curio. Can't help feeling there is a brilliant album to be made along these lines. Then more hanging out listening to records, before Anton and I went our own ways for a bit.

Later in the evening we went in search of live music, found none and ended up having a cheerful beer in the St James discussing among other thing's Anton's aristocratic monocle-sporting Polish grandfather, author of a two books, one of which being a history of Poland.

Then finally, via the Gourmet Burger Kitchen, to the Eddy for a last drink after an excellent day. There is something magnificent about being as free as a bird.

Friday, December 07, 2007

My lance is carefully removed from its packaging

So off to work again in London, and today my career as a freelancer began - a few weeks ahead of schedule. Today I went to Katie's agency not far from where I used to live in Kew. Had to get up early to be on time, and this seemed an affront to nature. And I almost had someone's eye out struggling onto the train with a 12 foot lance.

Actually I felt slightly nervous, but things were quickly okay, and working around Kate seemed like business as usual. And she made me cups of tea, which is always something I enjoy seeing. And we went out for lunch together, and had a cheeky Friday beer after work with some of her pleasant colleagues.

It is a very different mindset freelancing I think. I went in today, determined to do the best work I could, it is a strange feeling though being able to walk away afterwards realising that you have no responsibilities in the agency other than doing a good job as a visiting creative.

It is probable that they will ask me back next week, so all in all it was a good day. Plus my old agency also called me about some work for them too. This is all good news and made me feel very cheerful.

Then zoomed home, to experience some oxtail stew that the nice Lorraine had made as I have never tasted this in my life. Hmm. Oxy. A real winter warmer, very nicely cooked with pearl barley potatoes and other veggies. Not sure about the oxtails though. They may fall into the sparsely-populated Foods that are Wrong group, the chief culprit of which is marzipan, food of Satan.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Don't stand in the hold

Here is the beta version of my new site - more to be added, especially to the portfolio part - it also links into the nightwork, which will be my revamped personal site, with lots more new stuff added. Any feedback welcome. Just as I finished working on this for the day, First Matie called me to ask if I'd do some work with her, so tomorrow will see me zooming up to London for my first official day as a freelancer: nice of Katie to sort me out on that one.

Bob crept off early this morning before I got up. Just before I got out of bed, I had an extremely vivid dream about looking from the back door of a house set on the top of a hill. A short distance away was a man standing in the collapsed and rotting remains of an old boat. Someone on my left was shouting "don’t you know it’s bad luck to stand in the hold?" And in the dream this seemed self-evidently sensible to me too. Then an enormous and beautiful sepia coloured thundercloud gathered flickering with lightning. My brother Toby was suddenly outside talking on a mobile phone, and I shouted for him to come inside because the storm was racing towards us. And then I was awake, remembering everything.

I'm feeling a bit Agent Cooperish about it. I can normally decode my dreams, but this one is interesting.

At six o'clock Lorraine drove from work and took me to the opening party for a shop called Kitchen Station that her pal Wayne has just opened. The business designs, builds and installs kitchens. They looked rather good - I particularly liked the grey granite work surface. Nice party, with a variety of interesting people. In the corner of the shop was a woman in a red dress playing a harp and singing excellently. She should have worn a white dress and had wings.

Then Lorraine drove me home, where I supplemented the finger food with cheese on toast - and failed to get in the early night I promised myself.

Work tomorrow. Yikes!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Pool with Mad Dog

In cyberspace again for much of the day, working on my website. However recharged spirit and soul with a long walk down by the sea. Beautiful blowy afternoon and it is just wonderful to be have the time to be able to stop and stare at the enormous flock of starlings swooping about above the old pier, or the parasurfers speeding over the waves.

In the evening Bob came around to stay overnight. We went out for many games of pool and a few pints in the Caxton. Unbelievably I managed to win four games in a row, against the old Mad Dog which was more than satisfying - I have only managed to fluke one or two games against him, whose misspent youth was spent entirely lurking in pool-playing cider dens. However Bob found some form and we drew level, but we left it at that. It is a little known fact that Mad Dog got this nickname after running about growling alarmingly in a pool room of a pub full of dodgy and violent types with a pool cue clamped between his teeth.

Then a light Thai meal, a discussion on global warming, and a walk home via the beach - Bob loving being near the dark sea.

We also discovered, after all these years, that we both loved the books of Andre Norton as kids. These were SF books I read when I was about 11 and 12, at the time I thought they were suffused with a genuine strangeness and alien feeling especially in Judgement on Janus, Catseye, and Star Man's Son.

Below Mum sent me the first picture in our project. Here is the first sighting of Jake, plus a parasurfer and a peachy cloud.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Two babycinos please

I found myself in a parent and toddler group this morning keeping an eye on young Oskar. Held at St Nicholas's church, the place was swarming with toddlers and under four year olds generally dancing around and singing and playing with toys. Rick and my next door neighbour Steve there too. And apart from young Oskar howling for about 20 seconds, all was well, and he fell asleep in my arms. If you want to talk to ladies, it transpires, having a sleeping baby in your arms is absolutely the way to go.

Then Rick and I went with three babies and two buggies to a cafe. Rick telling me he is getting a band together and that their rehearsals are going well. Anna met us in the cafe, saying that the school she had been checking out with Anton for Klaudia was good. Klaudia ran up and sat on my knee, elegantly drinking her babycino, (Rick's daughter had a soya milk babycino) and entertainingly engulfing and regurgitating entire marshmallows, which made her hands sticky and forced her to wipe them on my trousers.

I had a peppermint tea, which is one of the few things that I can drink that don't make me feel nauseous at the moment. On that note, spoke to Lorraine who is still feeling vile. This evil queasy bug must go. It is draining my energy.

Went back home and worked again. I have set up a work-orientated blog called Peter Kenny: the daywork. In its early days yet, but will link into the other site I have now almost finished.

Heard from Katie in Romania, who is shooting a viral film. Being drafted into the cast too apparently.