Sunday, August 31, 2008

Interrupted by pie and thunder

Thunder woke me, so up early and began straight away working on my poems in the light of yesterday's conversation - and seeing some instant improvements. What is slightly maddening is that several of them are reverting to how they were a while ago. There is a lesson in this, and I hope I am learning it. But thanks to Brendan a short collection of about 22 poems has suddenly revealed itself.

At 10 I went off to LA Fitness and had a swim in the empty pool. I was reminded of the Westworld movie - with the gym being populated by a few unspeaking automata - but maybe that's just Sunday Morning. Something cold about this, but I prefer it to the thrashing about and child dodging of the public pool.

Then a mooch in the damp flea market by the station but, apart from two sweetcorn cobs, nothing took my fancy. So I returned home for a very sensible lunch of brown rice, fish, veggies and a glass of sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon, and was just settling down to listen to the final bit of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell when Anton knocked on my door with a very welcome piece of apple pie from Anna. As everyone knows, apple pies are the best pies so I wolfed it down instantly, slightly undoing all the brown rice work.

Then more work, and at long last finished the JS&MrN which I feel I have been reading forever. A great achievement, but one that cries out for a hard edit. Although I know Anton wanted it to go on longer.

Lorraine called by after dropping her parents off at the station, and we had supper and talked for a few hours, and watched some junk TV. Her new job starts tomorrow, and she left full of optimism about it, which was good to see. And then after watching Chelsea be held to a draw on TV I went blamelessly to bed.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Poetic surgery

Up lateish, and strangely anxious about meeting Brendan Cleary today. What if he thought all my poems were dire?

Spoke to Mum about skeletons, then was picked up by Lorraine who had Maureen and Pat, her parents, with her. Lorraine drove us down to the seaside to have a pleasant chatty lunch in the sun at The Meeting Place cafe. I had a cheese and ham toastie, (but was careful not to go mixin' ma toasties seeing what that does to rabbits). We then wandered down to the pebbles and Pat and Maureen bask in the sun, and were dozing happily. As I had to go, Lorraine walked with me along the seafront, being generally reassuring as I was feeling twitchy again.

I'd sent Brendan my poems after arranging for a poetry surgery through The South. I was trying not to feel too much like I'd done an exam and was going to get the results.

It turned out however to be a very useful process indeed, and I was delighted with our conversation. His comments were very astute and extremely practical. He pinpointed a couple of characteristic tics I have in my work, plus helped identify the sheep from the goats. He saw quite quickly that there were two types of poem in the collection. He very much preferred the more personal work, and with his help there is one strand that is easily separable, and could I think quite quickly form a strong pamphlet.

I had spent some time recently making the "I" in my poems into a "you" - moving from first to third person. His opinion was that the poems would work much better in the first person, we discussed this at some length, and I have been completely persuaded that my first instincts of writing them in the first person were in fact correct.

This was a fantastically useful session for me, and I was very grateful for his help. And he thought several of the poems pretty good, so no anaesthetic needed. A cheery farewell, then home and feeling a bit braindead. Lots to think about and process - but I will definitely come out of this with a tighter, more focused manuscript, and this is priceless for me.

Home to a Greek salad and sparkling water. And a virtuous night in.

Below the sun returned to England at long last. Brighton busier than I can remember seeing it.

Friday, August 29, 2008

An empty pool

So apart from being plucked out of the street to go on radio... Reuben got in touch, and I have a couple of days work at his agency. Kate is there at the moment, and she was able to email me with an accusation of copying. Next week is filling up nicely, what with the interview I am doing on Monday too. Still feeling edgy though, which I don't like.

I joined the gym, which doesn't seem too appalling a place. I went for a forty minute swim in an almost empty pool. This was wonderful, as it allowed me to zone out rather than constantly be negotiating other people in the lanes. Heard a radio feature about pool attendance, which has soared given the Great Britain's Olympic swimming medals. This was linked to an increase in pool rage, with people jostling and arguing in the overcrowded lanes.

Later returned for a one-on-one with a pleasant and suitably Adonis-like personal trainer, but this was cut short as I need a note from my doctor to say it was okay to work on any of the equipment because of my recent blood pressure reading, etc. etc. etc. I returned home under a cloud of hypochondria.

Lorraine popped by for a half an hour. Her day of two birthdays wasn't exactly going to plan as her mum had an unspeakable migraine today, and was sick and confined to bed. Then I went off to meet Anton and his cheerful pal John, who is a headmaster with a penchant for firing questions such as: what is the largest country in Africa? or what is the highest altitude capital in Europe? And so on.

Home and loving this tune by Salif Keita & Cesária Évora - called Yamore that Toby showed me on YouTube. Have downloaded the song from iTunes but the video is beautiful... See it for yourself here:

Radio interlude

Not every day that you are grabbed off the street and bundled into a radio station.

I was mooching off to look at gym clothes -- what do people wear in gyms? -- prior to joining LA Fitness, when a woman who turned out to be Allison Fearns, a presenter at BBC Southern Counties stopped me in the street. In seconds I was in the studio, and then as the strains of Street life by Randy Crawford died away, I was being interviewed live by Allison in her show's "streetlife" spot - where they simply grab someone off the street and interview them.

They told me the interview would be 5-10 minutes but it seemed to go on quite a bit longer. Naturally this was all catnip for me, and I somehow (arf) managed to talk fluently about my life and works, and mentioned my poetry and Skelton Yawngrave too. Talked for what seemed about double the allotted time. Came out of it feeling very pleased with myself, and feeling that it was some sort of sign. They said I must come in again too if things take off.

Now I'm at home, I keep thinking about Frasier Crane.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The looming of cats

Woke at five with a hangover, which was entirely Anton's fault. Got up groggily and blundered on with my Skelton Yawngrave business for several hours and then spoke to Mum. In the afternoon went to the local gym called LA Fitness, and have booked an induction meeting tomorrow.

Home, and I spent much time cleaning my bathroom, as if by cleaning external things I could purify myself.

Grey sunless day. What an appalling country this is. Looked at cats on websites. I am edging closer to getting one, although it seems these days you have to go through all kinds of hoops before you can have a cat. Some cat adoption places come around to your house to make sure you don't have cat fur cushions, or that you've not secretly got three or four pitbull terriers with cat issues. I am thinking I should get a kitten so that it won't always be looking at me accusingly and comparing me to its previous owner.

A quiet evening in reading, and virtuously sipping green tea and sparkling water and mainly eating spinach. Watched Maestro on TV: this is a competition where various celebs learn to become conductors. Surprisingly interesting. Drum and bass hero Goldie is fantastic, as is Sue Perkins. I had to restrain myself from pretending to conduct the music too. A thing that has never happened to me before.

Below some more Greek photos... The water fountain; a double headed eagle outside the church, various doors and windows.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Getting organised

First morning in blighty. Grey all day. How can us Brits live without ever seeing the sun in summer? No wonder so many of us are busy stabbing each other. Slept well though in the cool night, however, but woke unfeasibly early and got up after an hour or so to sift my email backlog. Spent the morning setting up another interview for next monday - and a possible one with Bill Bryson on the horizon, which if it came off would be a fascinating.

I seemed to have a million things to organise today: Ash text nagged me to book my ticket to Eire, and Marcella followed it up with several emails, telling me I needed to bring a suit and so on. Marcella's wedding is on November 1st in her home town of Westport on the gorgeous west coast. I went there a few years ago with several pals to celebrate Marcella's birthday, and Matty boy drove me off to the grave of my hero WB Yeats.

Also researched the local gyms, and have narrowed it down to two. Then internet groceries, two loads of laundry - a couple of business calls and the best part of the day had evaporated. Then Steve Wrigley (my old next door neighbour) invited me to see the Brighton Beach Boys on Monday, and meet Stephen Kalinich again.

Lorraine popped by for a sparkling water in the afternoon. She is busy organising as her son and father share a birthday this Friday - 18th and 75th respectively.

When she went I listened to more of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I am near finishing the thing at last. Despite being a wonderfully impressive book, it has its longeurs and for my money could have done with a much tougher edit. I think it is a marvellous achievement but one that is hard to wholeheartedly love. Just read a review by Michel Faber (who wrote the excellent The Crimson Petal and the White) here, which helped me crystalise why I don't really warm to it. So far, for all my admiration of it, the book has not genuinely moved me.

Out with Anton this evening where we discussed all kinds of stuff including J S & Mr N at length, which he loves. Quite a few drinks and accusing one another of having Norrellite tendencies, followed by a taxi ride to Hove Tandoori. According to Anton, this place has an excellent reputation, and was rather good and a buzzy atmosphere. Enjoyed seeing a man polishing the laughing waiter's sweaty bald head with his napkin. Very Brighton (well Hove). It is well known down here that that Hove is really called "Hove Actually", as in "so, you live in Brighton then? No, Hove Actually."

Then back to our beloved Eddy for a final cheeky.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Home from Crete this afternoon, and feeling really relaxed. A week's escape in the southern Cretan village of Paleochora - a population of about 2000 swollen by visitors in the summer from all parts of Europe and beyond was just what the doctor ordered.

Spent days sitting on the beach in the shadows of the umbrellas, and reading the surprisingly good Watchmen, and listening to audiobooks. The sun was incredibly hot, and the stones and sand were painful to walk on as they were so hot. Broke off from this periodically to swim over the rocks of the eastern pebbly beach.

There was beautiful snorkeling to be had. The shallow sea floor was boulder strewn, at first glance looked like some kind of lunar landscape. But they when you looked it was full of life: old gold coloured anemones with libidinous pink tips waving in the current, and spiky dark stars of sea urchins wedged in between the rocks. And at least a dozen species of fish, gorgeous brightly coloured wrasse, forktailed black damsels, shoals of small fish that I think were small mullet, even an evil-faced eel, and hundreds of plum coloured crabs with duck egg blue markings on their carapaces and cream spots on their long legs, which fed continually on the boulders and, as you approached, glided effortlessly away from harm.

I swum about happily for about two hours a day doing this, and was often accompanied by Lorraine, who taught me to spit onto the glass of my facemask, and I could hear laughing through her snorkel on seeing a hermit crab for example.

Drifting among small shoals of fish and observe their behavior first hand is one of my favourite things of all. I wanted to be a marine biologist when I was a kid. I was put off by the then A level requirements: German, Physics, Mathematics and Chemistry - as well as biology too. I ended up having several aquaria during my life, and an endless fascination. But being able to swim with them in the sea is much, much better.

On land, there was lots of knife and forkwork to be had. I am very partial to simple Greek salads, and food such as spanakopita (spinach and feta pie). Mythos beer is good too, and a very cold one is a fabulous way to wash the salt water away after snorkeling. Ouzo too is a fine thing, and I had two or three of these and a bottle of retsina during my stay. Otherwise a fairly restrained time of it. Breakfasts of thick Greek yogurt, fresh peaches drizzled with Greek honey were delightful.

Last day went on a dolphin spotting voyage, but dolphins there were none. Perhaps they had overheard me denouncing their relaxation CDs, but it was a beautiful journey into the bluest sea I have ever seen, with rugged and mountainous Crete looming behind.

I find this kind of thing absolutely hypnotic, and I can drift off into a poetic reverie easily just by watching the boat pass through the water. The trip finished at sundown, and we returned into a fiery orange sunset.

On returning to Paleochora there was a powercut. Our last night was spent sweating in a blacked out and baking room, but it was well worth it. Typically I got burnt on my last day, with the sun even managing to burn me through a fairly substantial teeshirt.

Flights were fine too, and the journey fairly effortless all told. A really pleasant trip, but also very nice to be back at home.

Below a few early snaps for your delectation: a view of the village from the old fort; a lady setting out her stall in a back street of the village; a poster; a chair on a wall; doves; the chief dolphin lookout who sang to himself under his breath throughout much of the latter part of the journey; approaching Paleochora after sundown - and finally some accidental surrealism: a table with its chairs held in place by what looks like logs.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Off on hols now. Back soon!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Hellboy and the family

Toby and I off today to London. Travelled up to Victoria, which affected by various Sunday travel malarkies included a short walk to Westminster. We all lurked about eating in the afternoon, including snapping on Mason's patented venison soup.

Everyone slightly underpowered but we all rallied to enjoy Hellboy which was on TV, and made me definitely want to see Hellboy II. Del Torro is a fabulous director even when he is doing Hollywoodish stuff like this.

Mum showed us a picture she'd painted, which was the first time that she'd painted anything for some time, which was great to see.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


A busy day today. Went down to the Quadrant pub to attend the Brighton Social Media Cafe. Mex had let me know about this, and she attended too. A diverse and interesting group of people with a pleasingly geeky undercurrent. I met several interesting people, including having a long and interesting chat with a business advisor called Julia, Mex also introduced me to several other people, and stepping in to big me up in the course of introductions. A nice man called Curtis was saying that he wished his ex-wife would be as nice about him. It was all well worth attending, and I learned quite a bit too. And only about 50% of it from Mex.

The cafe will be repeated so I'll pop along again.

Then a delicate Thai meal with Toby and Mex. They'd not seen each other for several years and it was all quite jolly. Mex full of news and ideas, as well as vivid accounts of cat handling, her cat Boli. By coincidence I am in the market for a cat too, and may well score one shortly. Fond farewells to Mex who was off to see Anton and Anna and Ken, and then Toby and I mooched about looking at art and having a coffee.

After regrouping at home, the evening was given over to a curry and beer with Lorraine. We went to the Cricketers for a cheeky pint or two of Harveys first, Toby and Lorraine passionate about various teacherly subjects. Then onto the Indian restaurant, where they now greet me with a handshake, and Lorraine with friendly chats. This may be a sign.

Bumped into a fairly well refreshed Will Leith on the way home, who is an old university pal, and we stopped for a fairly inconclusive chat.

Below in between the constant rain, the gladioli of my front garden are looking nice.

Friday, August 15, 2008


Up early and worked for a few hours on Skelton Yawngrave. And, have finished the first draft bar a few paragraphs. Found myself quite moved when I reached the ending, but whether this was due to the brilliance of the writing, or just simple relief I don't know. It stands at 68.5k but the second version will be longer. I am delighted.

Toby and I then had quite a chilled day. The two Mr Kennys took themselves for a stroll down to the Pavilion gardens in the afternoon to meet Anna and my Godbairns. Anna cheerful and lovely as usual, Klaudia running about the place wearing my hat for a while, and then sitting in it. Young Oskar on the brink of saying loads of things. And he is almost as tall as his sister already.

Some other ladies joined us with kids with painted faces, and Toby looking slightly alarmed as they began to howl. Able to do a good deed today, as Reuben called me looking for someone to help out at his agency, and I reminded him that First Matie was on a break at the moment.

From there up to see Ken, had a couple of generous lots of talk, not to mention glasses of wine, with him. Ken was interested in Toby's experiences as a teacher and in Japan. Ken gave Toby a copy of his Mabley book as we left too.

Home and Lorraine dropped by for a glass of water and then the Tobster and I went off to an Italian restaurant for some light grub.

Home and the Harvest began: a Borg like assimilation of MP3s from Toby's computer. Toby was harvesting my stuff too. My computer is now groaning under the weight of 70s soul and punk classics, Jazz, rock, ambient, and other plain weird stuff that the Tobster has garnered over the years. Went to bed wired and exhilarated.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Up on the roof

Off this morning for another blood test, and got into a mild disagreement with the nurse over an energy generating windmill. She mentioned Glyndebourne and I told her I had interviewed its CEO recently. She thought the planned wind turbine would be an eyesore, and I said that the Christie only had the best environmental interests at heart. She jabbed me in the arm rather smartly after that.

Then home to break my cafetiere, and resume work on the Skelton Yawngrave novel, before Toby emerged from bed. Worked hard in the morning, and Toby went out for a short walk. Unfortunately the weather was unspeakable again, with lots of rain. After a lunch of fried tomatoes on toast, I went for a swim, and found I seemed to suddenly have a great deal more energy. Surged up and down happily. Bought a new cafetiere and then hung about with Toby listening to bits and pieces of music and generally chatting.

As the day wore on the weather finally cheered up. Lorraine invited Toby and myself off to her place for one of her world beating home made curries. We yummed into these, and then we climbed up onto her high roof to look out at Brighton and marvel at the fact it wasn't raining. As Lorraine and Toby chatted I took photos to distract myself from vertigo.

Below a self portrait, and shots from Lorraine's roof.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Toby and the Turtle

Lots of work on Skeletons first thing this morning. Only a few days away now from completing the first draft. Spoke to Mum, and talked about how I have more Achilles heels than a spider, and the rubbishness of art dealers, among other subjects.

Just setting off for a swim when I heard a shout from behind me and there was Toby emerging speedily from the end of my twitten having arrived earlier than expected. So instead of a swim we went for a walk along the seafront and pier. It was incredibly windy and stormy this afternoon. In fact it was the strongest wind I can remember down here. The sea was white, and there was one of those winds you can lean into. We walked along noticing the Union flag in tatters over a seafood shop. Drops of spray and rain stung our faces. There were still people enjoying the pier, and certain rides, which was rather amazing. We hung off it watching very big waves rolling in.

After this exhilaration, we repaired to the Mock Turtle for cream teas à la the Brothers Crane. Had a really good chat out of the wind, and as we snapped into our scones with cream and strawberry jam, we talked about how Romy would have loved it down there. I love the Mock Turtle. We meandered back through town and ended up in the rather splendid Dave's Comics on Sydney Street, as I had been interested in a programme I watched on TV about graphic novels. When I asked for some advice about where to start I was pointed to Watchmen which I have bought and is some kind of classic of the genre apparently.

In the evening Tobs and I ate fish and chip supper, and after then went for a late drink with Anton. This, combined with the cream tea not entirely in line with New PK thinking, but Tobs is only here once in a blue moon. Had fun chatting in the Eddy and then The Battle of Trafalgar. Toby talking about alpha brain waves saving people from forest fires and, to Anton's utter delight, Stowa watches. Needless to say Anton was sporting one.

I busily flaunted my £19 Timex, but to little effect.

Home, and reading Watchmen in bed

Below Toby and the white sea.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Leaves are the new pies

Back to normal today, or at least a simulacrum of normality where my morning coffee is decaf, and lunch is a salad sandwich. In the evening stayed in to watch TV as this is the new going out. Drank sparkling water too, as this is the new beer. Had a swim, with no ill effects. But all in all, I have been feeling curiously calm and chilled, and the hypochondria is abating.

Worked for hours and fruitfully on my Skelton Yawngrave story. In the evening Lorraine called around to check I was still alive: and we were both pleased to discover that I was. To celebrate we ate some Guernsey bean jar and watched a reality show with Drum and Bass hero Goldie and Blur's Alex James, among others, attempting to become conductors.

Unusually I find myself taking a passing interest in the Olympics. Normally the idea of learning who can, for example, throw a stick a bit further than someone else makes me want to put my head in a blender.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Feeling better

To the doctor. Lurking horribly in the waiting room for 40 minutes which provided an excellent backdrop for hypochondria. Looking at pamphlets pinned to the wall with titles like Heart Attack? and Coping with Cancer? Fortunately Lorraine came too, which was well beyond the call of duty, and prevented me from balling into a foetus position and sobbing under the chairs.

Finally in to see the pleasant doctor who took my blood pressure again. Fortunately today's reading was on more of a human scale, but still higher than it ought to be. So before long I was toddling around the corner to score myself a dose of blood pressure pills.

Only another hypochondriac could sympathise with the various horrors I have been through in the last days. Today is the first day in getting a grip on my health and this is to be welcomed.

The dragon faced, I bought Lorraine a coffee and fruit juice (me a decaf and fruit juice) as a token of thanks for her support. After salad sandwiches, the afternoon was spent writing a little, and then conking out for two hours. Must have needed to sleep. Woke up feeling leaden, but rested.

A lovely evening with Paddy, my old schoolfriend who was staying in Brighton overnight. Hadn't seen each other for ages. I am very fond of him, and our friendship goes back to when we were 17. We went to the Agra, and Paddy typically was incredibly enthusiastic and told the owner that he was a connoisseur of Asian food and it was the best curry he had ever eaten. This wholeheartedness cheered the owner, who was in a maudlin mood having broken up with his girlfriend, and prompted him to give us a free drink.

I walked Paddy off at his seafront hotel and sauntered home through town. It was great to see him. And I walked home thinking about tomorrow's new health regimen, and how sweet life was, and about the Skelton Yawngrave plot.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Rock cake and samba

Spent today not self destructing again. The morning mild mannered, and included a conversation with Ken, who I will go up and have tea with shortly.

Lorraine called by in the afternoon, and we went for a long afternoon stroll along the seafront in the strong wind and by the very rough sea, churning greenly underneath big scudding sometimes rainfilled clouds. Saw the aftermath of a pop concert with pop stars McFly, who I failed to recognise, being surrounded for autographs. Had a cup of tea and half a rock cake in a gale at the meeting place cafe. Rock cakes are rather nice, and I hadn't had one since I was a child.

As we ate the rock cake, a the samba band playing a few yards away turned out to be the one Lorraine's pal Dawn plays with. Chatted to Dawn, who I really like and who can often be seen on any parade that needs a bit of samba drumming. For example she was on the pride march the other week. She commented on how chilled we looked. This was pleasing seeing as I was a seething cauldron of hypochondria at that point. Then watched a her samba band and another combine and play. Something really great about watching them drum, against a backdrop of rough sea and a gale force wind.

Then passed by a brass band and watched them. Quite funny to see a mocking gang of skate boarders scoot past them, and then the Brass banders chuckling about the skateboarders. Brighton's tribes are manifold. It's not just people and seagulls.

Mooched about fairly happily near the sea and among all the drifting musics until it was time to eat something. Opted for the tapas place in the lanes, and had a solitary glass of wine which was really enjoyable. This followed by a spot of tranquil gardening, and some good TV. And I went to bed, feeling reasonably happy that I had refrained from sudden death again, which was nice.

Below the wind and changing weather, a combined samba band the orange ones are called Estrondo which means thunder. Dawn belongs to this group but is unfortunately hidden at the back, Brighton and Hove City Brass and a red haired boy. As ever, click to enlarge.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Pollyanna day

My horoscope this morning which talked about a Pollyanna tendency. I had to look this up, as I've not read the Pollyanna by Eleanor H Porter. Turns out Pollyanna was an orphan and an incurable optimist who played "the glad game" which enabled her to see her the best in all situations. I think Pollyanna had the right idea.

As today was given over to hypochondria, gentle pleasures were forefronted so as not to die suddenly. I wandering about in the library with Lorraine, and popped into the Eagle for lunch. I lurked on my gold sofa watching TV and reading the newspaper, and watched Throw Momma from the Train which happened to be on and is a very funny film. Lorraine bravely spent lots of time with me, exhibiting her usual kindness and generally being reassuring.

Wondering what I can do differently to keep my blood pressure down: I love my work, I'm not under excessive financial pressure, I have loads of friends and am very close to my family, I do a a fair amount of exercise, I don't smoke, I've even reordered my life to minimise unnecessary stress.

The only things I can think of is to lose weight, drink slightly less, and meditate more. All the other bits are beyond my control and are presumably down to a genetic predisposition, possibly inherited from my biological father of whom I know next to nothing.

After Lorraine went home I simply had an early night. And for the first time in my life I am looking forward to going to the doctor on Monday. From a Pollyannaish perspective all this is making me realise that if I can get my health on an even keel again, everything else is pretty fine right now.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Through the roof

Started the day by zooming down to the quack's office to have a couple of blood tests. Apprehensively I was expecting to have my blood pressure taken but they didn't. I was apprehensive because I have had a few borderline readings on blood pressure, and sometimes these have been high. I have attributed these mainly to white coat syndrome.

However this afternoon I broke out my own blood pressure monitor which I bought a year ago, and haven't used. On using it, I found to my alarm that my blood pressure was through the roof.

Lorraine came around and did it on herself and then on me again to confirm that this was accurate. The good news is that Lorraine is a very reassuring person to have around at times like this. I ended up calling the doctor for advice, who said that I should discuss getting a prescription for blood pressure pills on Monday.

Obviously as a card carrying hypochondriac this was all a bit disturbing. However have tried to frame it positively, and focus on being something that I can take action on now to prevent hypertension from silently undermining my health.

Before all this vortex of hypochondria, I actually had another great day's work. Have now reached 60k words on the Skelton Yawngrave story and am feeling delighted with it.

Watched some of the opening ceremony of the Chinese Olympics, which was wonderfully art directed and quite fascinating in it being a pivotal moment in terms of China's future world dominance. Makes you wonder what changes will happen this century as influence shifts decisively away from the US.

In the evening, I decided to take my life in my own hands and go with Lorraine for the curry and beer. Luckily I survived it.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Dark Night

An extremely productive and enjoyable day's work, making great strides in the story now and the threads weaving together now the end of the story is in sight. Broke off to go for a swim in the afternoon.

Off this evening with Lorraine to see The Dark Knight, which is the current batman movie, and starring the late Heath Ledger as the Joker. Not sure I particularly enjoyed this dystopian vision. Violent, but stylish and fairly intelligent. It was closer to the original DC comic material than other stuff. But I felt it was a "feel bad" movie, and came out feeling somewhat gloomy, not to mention wanting to pull some Batman style action on the noisy teenagers who talked inanely all the way through it while sitting behind us.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Summer lightning

Wrote happily about skeletons all day, and keeping a low profile. In the evening, after watching a TV programme about Guyana's wildlife, I noticed the sky flashing with distant lightning. So I headed down to the seafront, getting drenched en route, but glorying in the light show. Walking in the stair rod rain I kept stumbling across little sodden colonies of people sheltering in arches and shop doorways. One or two of these groups being foreign students amazed by the ghastliness of the English summer.

The electric storm has been going for a couple of hours as I write with little sign of abating. I love it. Looking up at a few airliners flying in a flashing sky. The view up there must be spectacular - if not a little alarming.

Below fragments of lightning taken from the pier.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Under the new moon

Loads done on my skeleton story, a long awaited brace of cheques for some freelance work, and a good swim. All in all the formula for a splendid day. In the evening I was invited round to Lorraine's house for a splendid curry too.

Then Lorraine and I went off to walk by the sea at around sunset. The tide was low again, revealing that yard or so of pure sand at the edge of the pebbles which we walked in for half an hour. And the sea was surpisingly warm.

I saw the new moon too over the sea. Not seeing the new moon through glass prevents bad luck. My grandmother used to make a ritual of this. I remember her on several occasions in the back garden in Guernsey dancing in circles, while shaking handfuls of silver coins, and bowing to the new moon. I don't remember how many bows this involved: perhaps seven or nine. This unusual behavior was designed to guarantee wealth and health for the next month.

Below the sunset, and the moon over the sea.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Brainwaves, muppets and mince pies

Eye test first thing today. Set off after working for a hour or so. After going to North Road rather than North Street I made it just in time only to discover I had left my wallet at home. However a woman let me in to have my test, which later created a furore of stifled bad temper afterwards, as she shouldn't have done as they've had people running off having had their eyes tested. And they were eyeing me as if I'd do the same, despite me offering to leave my camera as security.

More importantly for me was that my mince pies had not further deteriorated and also my eye health appears to be okay too despite my floaters. I have loads of these dratted things, drifting in lines and curtains over my vision. Infuriating, but nothing to be done about them apparently.

Then back to work on Skeletons. I unravelled a thorny part in the plot today, which allowed me to create a spurt of progress. Much better even than this, however was a chat I had with Anton tonight over a beer about how to market it. After a brainwave, he has given me an approach which could create some real cut through. Brilliant! Not to mention spectacular!

Lorraine popped by for a short while on her bicycle which she has broken out of hiding.

Mex called too, with news of a networking event just down the road from me that she is attending. I think I will too as networking is big and clever.

Surfing TV as I was eating my grub in the early evening I chanced on a five minute comical scene of Richard & Judy interviewing Richard Dawkins about evolution. He has a forthcoming TV series about Charles Darwin, but those two muppets were painfully out of their depth. Judy's first question was so badly put that he misinterpreted her question entirely and answered it with something completely different. Excruciating.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A family Sunday

Nightmares, dreaming that I was grinding my teeth and woke up to discover I was in fact grinding my teeth. Another where I was trying to complete some important form and found I was unable even to write my name. Some snickering and weird stuff in the Twitten woke me up at 3 am too. An early start as I was going to travel up to Edgware today for a family Sunday lunch. I listened to my audiobook of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell - what an achievement that book is - in a carriage full of perky German students, and hungover Pride revellers.

Mas picked me up at Stanmore station and after collecting Mum and Toby we all drove off to Wheathampstead, which is the other side of St Albans - a place that mum lived in during a former life in the time of the Romans.

Here we went to the splendid Golden Elephant restaurant, which is in a very low-beamed old English building. In fact the beams are so low that one of them has black cushioning attached to it to prevent its clientele braining themselves as they shoulder off to the all-you-can-eat style buffet of rather nice Thai food. Some inter-table scowling due to over-competitive hoovering up of food. Or perhaps that was just me. I was also taken by an elephant teapot which appeared when we asked for green tea. Mum trying to stealth photograph Toby.

The rain relented and we all went for a walk after the meal, in a little park which has a river running through it. Mas peering in excitedly at largish fish, and Mum stalking insects to photograph. We then encountered some Shetland ponies and an Explaining Woman, who helpfully explained about things we had not asked her about, while waving her two hiker's sticks. Then a drive home, where all except Toby took a short doze.

Toby later putting on some funny old records, including one by a early seventies band called the Neutrons, Black Hole Star - which neither of us had heard for decades. (Track title sample: Dance of the psychedelic lounge lizards.) We quite enjoyed the toe-curling stoner sleeve notes and illustrations. All tremendously 70s. And we also listening to an extremely obscure album called Africa Speaks America Answers by Guy Warren, which Mum played a lot when we were kids. This sounds absolutely brilliant still. For some reason we had a factory pressing in two discs of it with no cover or listings. It is only thanks to the Internet that I discover what the album looked like or what its track names were.

Mas then cooked some yummy ribs. Then a ghastly photo session with Mas taking photos of Toby Mum and me, looking awkward and unnatural. Mas told me to stop pulling a silly face when I wasn't pulling any kind of a face at all. All in all though a really good day. Not often Mum the Tobster and I are all in the same place at the same time - and as Mase drove me to the station that it really pleased him to see Mum happy because of this.

Then the long journey home, listening to more of J Strange etc. and trying to filter out a protracted argument a man was having with his sister and his girlfriend for their entire journey. The stamina some people have for arguing is unbelievable.

Below the Platonic ideal of a teapot spotted in the Thai restaurant.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Pies and Pride

My larder (aka the station Marks & Spencers) had rearranged itself this weekend. The big deep refrigerator which normally houses cheese and milk and a variety of chilled products was given over to pink champagne. For it was Pride weekend.

At lunchtime Lorraine and I sauntered down to the bottom of Trafalgar Street to see the parade pass by in the rain. I actually found myself quite moved by it: everyone was smiling and it was a very happy occasion. The fact that the Pride march is such a part of Brighton life and so widely supported is a cause for celebration. People since the dawn of time have moaned that things are getting worse. But I think a society where the gay police officers association leads the parade is a much better and saner than it used to be.

Nothing like watching a parade of gaudy colours to get your appetite up, so Lorraine and I went off to eat pie and mash and peas in Pokeno pies. Then after a few cups of tea at home, did a little work in the afternoon.

In the evening went to see Anton and Anna. The children adorable as usual, sliding down the stairs on their bums as we came around. Also in a surfeit of cute, Klaudia and Oskar playing with their tiny just-acquired kittens currently named Pinkie and Lenin.

Anton cooking on his big Australian barbecue - lovely Italian style kebabs that Anna had made. Lots of happy eating and drinking and listening to tunes this evening, before everyone got rather tired. Spent the last hour in the living room where the kittens are billeted, watching at their comedy fighting and being climbed on by them. Then Lorraine off in a taxi home, and me scampering down the hill.

Pride of Brighton

It may have rained on the parade, but today's Pride parade was great fun. Full of joie de vivre and colour. And the fact that the local police force led the parade was cool!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Zaffrani and skellys

Spent Friday back with my skeleton story, which seems easy and much less intense than working on the poems. I have missed thinking about Skelton Yawngrave. The poems and this story come from entirely different sub-personalities, and you'd be hard pressed to say that they were written by the same person.

Arranged for a yearly check up at my doctors next week. As a hypochondriac the prospect of this is appalling. I'd rather eat a cactus. Also arranged for an eye test as I am fretting about my eyes. Sigh. The thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.

In the afternoon broke off for a swim. The pool was stuffed full of people including several larger dugong-like gentlemen like me. However I persisted for half an hour or so, nosing hopefully for seagrasses, and felt fairly good for it.

Brighton exuberant this evening as Lorraine and I walked through the streets, as this is the Pride weekend. For us however, the now traditional Cricketers & curry combo. The Agra restaurant does splendid zaffrani dishes, hot and cooked with saffron, which I find myself increasingly partial to.