Ate my own bodyweight today: a large breakfast in a local pub, then back home for a big Thanksgiving feed cooked by Mase. Tanya and Robert mum and Mason's pals came around too, and we had a fun afternoon despite Tanya talking about boiling frogs in socks in the Philippines. Socks? Yes hessian socks. Then Lorraine started talking about the uses of leeches and maggots in medicine, which put me right off my turkey for several seconds.
Lorraine and I went home, and we were greeted ecstatically by Calliope, who had clearly given me up for dead after staying away last night. And after Lorraine left, the kitten superglued herself to me for the rest of the evening.
Over the kitten's head read Dragon's Dream, the new book by Roger Dean. He famously did the Yes covers I poured over as a teenager, but he has also had fascinating approaches to interior design, and architecture which are still way ahead of their time.
In the seventies Dean had a book called Views, which sold millions, and influenced me immensely... Not so much in terms of what he was painting but it was one of the first artists I could really relate to as a teenager who told you how he went about his craft, and how something drawn could become something fantastical and three dimensional in the real world.
Dragon's Dream is a gorgeous book, and his colour choices are often wonderful. He has followed his natural, futuristic vision and made it pay via album covers, computer games art, stage set design and so on. Dean is trying to get a movie made too, and I hope it comes off.
Below a Roger Dean image.
Friday, November 14, 2008
A different day
Decided to get a grip today. And I am feeling a great deal more positive. Plus I got good feedback from my client on the big job I'm doing, and I am delivering well before my deadlines so everyone's pleased.
Decided to take myself to the gym, and do something even if it was only five minutes.
Sat in the changing room for ten minutes trying every lock combination known to man on my combination lock. Eventually I stumbled on it and was able to lock my keys, phone etc. away. Then I remembered I needed my towel. Mysteriously, the same combination wouldn't work to open it. Another ten minutes trying that combination, and many others, while being given advice by various gentlemen. Eventually I realised you had to turn all the barrels in the same direction before the combination lock registered the code.
Sigh. It's the numbers. Meaningless things.
Managed to do a fair amount in the gym and felt much better for it - although pretty knackered.
Quite a relaxed afternoon, as I stopped working at 3. Then sent off my manuscript for poetry business competition, had a big tidy up and hoover, pushed cat through cat flap x10. She still not getting it, although can push herself through catflap enough to nip my fingers, but then will back through it to miaow piteously outside about not being able to get in.
Talked to Anton who had an out of proportion interest in some game Chelsea played in a minor cup competition during the week.
Lorraine around this evening, and we did the glorious Friday business: a cheeky beer and a curry. Brilliant. Beer is excellent if you don't drink much of it. And Lorraine is a splendidly relaxing person to do the whole Friday thing with.
Feel like a new person today.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale
Vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man
Shakespeare, King John, Act3 scene 4
God I'm bored. Days alone typing wads of copy, and having no energy at all due to stupid prostatitis, antibiotic horse pills etc. I loathe myself when I'm like this. And when I'm not feeling bored, I am feeling frustrated with being so run down that I can't go to the gym. Getting fatter by the hour.
First lot of erection copy sent off this morning. Spent the rest of the day getting my grey matter around the next tranche of ailments.
Spoke on the phone to Lorraine and my mum. Explained in some detail to both how bored I was.
There was an hour when I wasn't bored. I broke off for a walk down to a sea. It was smooth. Then I bought an egg cup. And returned home to talk to my kitten. I installed the new magnetic catflap, which only involved 2-3 bouts of swearing. Calliope hates it.
In the evening prepared an entry for the Poetry Business Competition - for short collections. So I'm entering Twister. For some reason you need to use a pseudonym. Mine was Paul Carey. I once had a dream where there lots of rubbish in the wind and people were saying to one another apprehensively "Paul Carey's coming" and pointing to a distant tramp like figure. On consulting the dictionary for dreamers I decided that Paul Carey was the name of my shadow. It was as good as any other pseudonym.
Still being aquarium installation hotline for Beth which is slightly less boring. She sent me a photo from her phone. It looks nice.
After preparing the manuscript, I tried to download a new audiobook from Audible. The site was achingly slow, and I got too bored to continue.
Went to bed.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
No life for a hypochondriac
Started the day watching this brilliant music video by Grace Jones, which Toby had sent me overnight. Simple but stunning visually. And musically pretty excellent too. As one of the 12 year old commentators said: Grace eats Madonna for breakfast.
Otherwise, left feeling that this is no life for a hypochondriac. Manacled to desk, slogging hour after hour on copy which encourages men to go to the doctor. And touches not only on erection problems but a whole world of other conditions too. These considerations broken only by a solitary call from Beth who was setting up her aquarium.
Emerged blinking into the outside world at 4:30 for some air and some shopping. Cooked a good old fashioned spag bol tonight, with loads of garlic and fresh herbs, and Parmesan. Lorraine came around, after going to her backcracker. I fed her and heard about a day of abominable meetings. We sat on the sofa in a braindead but companionable way, while Calliope flung herself at us from various angles.
Below Calliope hiding in cat flap box.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Men dying like the leaves
Up at 6:30 again thanks to the kitten, then an early start. More erection copy. Only a few more days this before I can get onto glaucoma.
Remembrance day today. Lots of stuff on the radio and TV about the first world war, and the Spanish flu pandemic afterwards which one expert was saying killed 50 million people globally.
Picked up my copy of The lost voices of World War 1 edited by Tim Cross. This had been given me by World War II poet Victor West who was a friend of mine but is now dead. The 11th hour always makes me think of Wilfred Owen's parents getting the dreaded telegram as the bells for armistice rang out in Shrewsbury, or one of my all time favourite poets Edward Thomas, when asked by a friend having enlisted in the Artists rifles at the age of 37 what he was fighting for, picked up a handful of soil and crumbled it between his fingers, saying "literally, for this." All that nobility lost, a generation of poets, for what seems today like the epitome of obscene futility. Edward Thomas, one of the most sensitive nature poets this country has ever produced, was killed by a random shell while fighting over a few yards of mud. Makes me think of Afghanistan right now. What the hell are all those half forgotten British boys from the Thames the Mersey and the Tyne dying out there for?
Victor was a POW in the second world war, and a teacher after it. I knew him for four or five years and had an enormous respect for him and what he had been through. It used to enrage me when people weren't respectful of him when he read his poems. He showed me several chapters of his memoirs and he had a very colourful life as a young communist before the war, and then fighting the Nazis and being captured by them in Crete.
Escaped for a bit of fresh air at lunchtime and bought a kitten collar. Then back home to work for several hours. Then sat on the sofa and woke up a little later with the kitten washing my face with its sandpapery tongue. Up the road to babysit for Anna and Anton as they went to Klaudia's first parent's evening. The teacher gave Klaudia a glowing report, which was nice to hear. Chatted for a while before returning home to drink redbush tea and lie low.
The last word should be Vic's.
The day we sank the 'Bismark'
The day we sank the 'Bismark'
was the 27th May 1941
and on Crete, the last day for us too.
The night before, the Company
numbered a hundred strong;
now we're down to twenty-two
The Major dead, soaking us
who laid him gently down
with bright arterial blood.
Now we can obey
that Verbal Order To Retire
he would not accept.
"It must be in writing!"
He had stormed at the Colonel's runner
who shook, aghast. He'd been lucky
to reach us... Wouldn't try again.
Flung us last, depreciating rag of look...
doubled away to his own lonely death.
So all that morning
till weltering afternoon,
men dying like the leaves
that pattered down,
we had fought on beneath grim olive
under this madman whom we loved
until he died.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Woken by the kitten dancing about my head at 6:30. Why has it decided that 6:30 is the time we get up in our house and not 7:00 is a mystery. Anyway the good news is that I was working by 7:30 with, rather gallingly, Calliope dozing next to my laptop.
Today was a proper Moanday. I felt dull and cooped up. Writing about erection problems next to a window dripping with grey rain. Being paid is of course splendid so I kept thinking about the money. At one point dived out into the spitty rain to go to the back cracker.
Then off to buy rooibos (redbush) tea, which Lorraine introduced me to the other day. It's caffeine free and tastes very nice. And it's claimed it has health benefits including (I just learned) soothing prostatitis. This is good news as I have had prostatitis for several weeks. And am taking antibiotics for it. Prostatitis is rubbish, and makes you feel tired all the time. But far worse than prostatitis, however, is hearing myself constantly moaning about minor ailments.
Spent the evening quietly reading the selected poems of modern Japanese poet Shuntaro Tanikawa while the cat gnawed my hand affectionately. Really interesting work, with exhilarating flights of the imagination, and not a haiku in sight.
Spoke to mum and saw photos of the new and still unnamed white kitten. Apparently it will need to wear sunblock because its ears are so pink. When I called it was in Mum's bad books due to a lack of discipline in the toilet department.
Below Mum and Mason's unnamed cat.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
A blustery day as Lorraine and I walked to her house. I went with her, Beth and Mark, in a special advisory capacity, to buy an aquarium. For it is Beth's birthday later this month.
A different fish shop this time, full of schoals of familiar tetras and guppies. As I gloated over the tanks, I felt the desire to set up an aquarium grow strong in me again. Then to Pet's Corner to buy a magnetic cat flap for Calliope, so that she can dive in unmolested but enraged hordes of chasing moggies will be barred. Also purchased a little gold coloured tag which I had engraved with her name and my phone number. Sadly however the fetching green fish-skeleton collar Beth had spotted was too big for her weasel neck, but she will grow into it.
Lorraine and I went to the Sussex Yeoman (a spit away from my house) for an nice Sunday evening meal. I had roast pork with lots of red cabbage and apple sauce, and as we talked I watched the pub sign for the Battle of Trafalgar (the pub opposite) swinging in the strong wind. Felt a surge of cosy happiness. Once back in my house we loafed on the sofa with Calliope, before Lorraine went home and I settled down to watch Chelsea's win over Blackburn. Even more splendid were highlights of a Manchester Utd defeat by Arsenal, explaining Anton's reticence to talk about the beautiful game last night.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Baghdad in Brighton
The cheque was in the post, which was nice.
Lorraine and I randomly walked into two exhibitions of photography called Why Mister, Why? and Baghdad Calling by Geert Van Kesteren at the Lighthouse in Brighton. Why Mister, Why? was a series of photographs, often stark and frightening of things like religious events that were attacked, or body bags and other traumas of war. Baghdad Calling however was a collection of amateur and professional photographs of life inside Baghdad taken by people who are in exile.
The quality of these were very variable some being taken on mobile phones, or inexpertly framed. Because of this, however, they conveyed the reality of Baghdad life in a moving and unfiltered way. They were presented digitally on a big screen with snatches of recorded interviews being played at the same time and we both found ourselves transfixed by it.
Then, slightly gloomed out, off to the library where we bumped into Dawn writing an essay about women's dance between the wars. And then a general mooch about town. Lorraine popping into Long Tall Sally, a shop which is catnip to her.
First Matie phoned and solved a mystery. When I left the agency a year ago, The French Bloke was given an envelope for me, which he handed to Katie - who found it yesterday. Turns out it was binnable rubbish. Kate however on excellent form, and also surviving a cigarette filled challenge this afternoon without resorting to smoking herself.
Watched a Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall programme, and got gripped by a strange longing to live in the country where I would make my own jams from things pulled out of hedges, and choke my own chickens for the pot. Then we walked up to Anton and Anna's house amid explosions of fireworks, and the clatter of a spent rocket falling on the road.
Nobody makes better pizzas than Anton, with his immaculately prepared authentic ingredients prepared neatly, and a great lump of live pizza base dough stretching the cling film over the top of the bowl. A lovely chatty evening, interspersed with exotic pizza munching and playing with their three cats, and reading articles which Anna had written about coaching and listening to various tunes.
Below two photos by Geert van Kesteren and a shot from Baghdad Calling.
Friday, November 07, 2008
A year today
It has been exactly a year since I began my new life as a freelance writer. My quality of life has soared: I feel in control of my destiny, and above all I have been free to devote time to writing things I find important. The year has gone by in a flash and, happily, I have survived.
Almost all the work I have been given has been through friends. I was having a chat with Anton the other day and saying how important networking was. He said something to the effect that you can network all you like, but what is really important is reputation. And I think that is right.
I have two aims for next year. The first is to add to my stable of clients, and second push on with my own projects and see if I can translate lots of hard work into a successful outcomes.
The fate of discarded concepts
Up early to write about erection problems for my pharmaceutical client. It is a weird PK fact that I have written on this subject extensively, including a thought piece in European Pharmaceutical Executive some years ago. Even in this short time - thanks to Viagra - the taboo which prevented men from talking about this problem is rapidly losing its force.
At some point I decided to pop out for a well overdue haircut. Near the barber's I bumped into Ken not long back from holiday. He seemed very cheery that he has won a new chunk of his transliteration work - "not bad for almost 78!" After my haircut walking past Anna and Anton's house and Anna walked out with Oskar, who was crying loudly due to being denied cake. I walked with them towards Klaudia's school for a bit, with Oskar taking the exact same route that Klaudia does over a particular wall, before I returned home and got back to work.
Phoned Reuben's agency again, after Reub has been chasing them from the inside, and was told they were writing the cheque now and the cheque was as good as in the post. This agency not the worst but it is galling that you always have to chase payments. Rude is what it is.
Then a shower. My shower is fairly primitive and I stand in the bath and it is more of an enthusiastic dribble. Not blogworthy in itself except these days Calliope tends to join me in it, shaking her paws when they get too wet, and looking at me with an kind of fascinated horror.
The mess in my house multiplies thanks to the kitten. Like most creatives when I am working on concepts I use a pad of thin bleed proof paper. When the concept needs to be redrawn or is rubbish I ball it up and lob it into the bin. Calliope then upsets the bin, and makes off with them in her mouth to seed them in various nests along with the shreds of toilet tissue, cat toys, pencils etc. There are at least two behind my fridge which I cannot reach.
Out with Lorraine tonight. We decided to go for a cheery glass of beer in the Cricketers, and a curry at our usual place. Not done this for a while, and it was fun and we were warmly welcomed. Her son Sam has a new girlfriend which is making him very cheery, which is nice to hear. Home early as we were both tired.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Working hard today on stuff for my pharma client. Went out with Anton in the evening to play a game of pool. And it was as if I had been replaced by an alien as I have never played worse. But a nice chat in the Eddy with Anton nevertheless. He was, for some reason, obsessing about superpowers and the rubbishness of those possessed by Spider Man.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
A new start for the US
Floating about feeling smiley today, partially because of US election. It is important to everyone of course, but I was even more interested this year because of knowing the US much better than I did, having been there a lot in recent years.
Lots of work. Up at 7 to finish FB work and send it through before official day started. Then onto my leafy Surrey pharma work. Reading through all that needs to be done (about 100 web pages by the looks of it) and chatting to Jamie who will be my point of contact. Also had chats with Anton, and with Mum. Also a kitten teleconference with their cat (still un-named though Mason has helpfully suggested fuzz-nuts and dip stick) listening to Calliope purring on my shoulder.
Talked to Mas about US election which he has mixed feelings about having identified with McCain. I think John McCain to his immense credit, showed his true colours in the way he took his defeat: with enormous dignity, and a message of unity.
In the evening Lorraine came by and I cooked a chicken, then we watched endless news about Obama, while fireworks rumbled in the distance (for Guy Fawkes night, not an Obama thing). I randomly bought his autobiography Dreams from my father in a US airport several years ago. So I knew about him before he was a contender. His election is inspiring, but it will be tough for him I think with the weight of all that expectation on his shoulders.
But this result re-establishes some moral authority for the US after enduring the most abysmal US administration ever. Above all it is a vindication of the efforts of black people in the US in their struggle for equality and freedom. It is an inspiration to everyone.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
A busy day... Woke at 6:30 with Calliope standing on my face. Then off to the quack's first thing for checkup.
While zooming off to London, spoke to Mex who is still juggling career options, and Bob who is still wondering if moving to Salisbury was a such a good idea after all.
Worked with two art directors, Betsy and Erica who, being American, were exceedingly cheery at the prospect of an Obama victory, as is almost every sentient being on the planet. Erica sporting a top with a stars and stripes on it, and Betsy doing various cheerleader type dances, and even a cartwheel. High spirited ladies both. We all worked fairly late, and then had I a fast and cheeky beer with the FB and Erica in the Distillers before the call of the seagull grew strong in me.
The FB made me laugh describing his Frenchified heating habits to Erica: "I'll eat anything I can beat at chess".
Spoke to Sophie whose mother is in hospital, and who is having a tricky time with her assistant in her business. Also to Lorraine on the way home, before listening to a podcast about Kurt Gödel's incompleteness theorems. All a bit mathematical for me. However they failed to mention that, according to Wikipedia, he starved himself to death in 1978 after his wife was hospitalised. He had convinced himself that someone was trying to poison him so he was only able to eat food that his wife had tasted first.
Calliope was unimpressed by my long absence. When fed, she spurned her own food and persistently, and from many angles, weaseled her face into my plate of singapore noodles. Ignoring her own fresh water, she instead stuck her entire head into the top of a glass of half finished sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon, and emerged sneezing violently, before biffing it onto the floor in disgust.
Was contacted by the BBC today about a post I'd written on my daywork blog. Interesting...
Monday, November 03, 2008
Pharma in the country
No rest for the wicked. Off first thing this morning to a hard to reach location deep in lovely leafy Surrey for a business meeting, to talk about websites and what will be for me a big writing project for a pharmaceutical company. Was picked up in a taxi at Redhill station by a talkative and somewhat sweary Pakistani driver who had just returned from a month at home. I asked him about what things were like there at the moment. He said little about it, but he was extremely anti-US and thought that the new election wouldn't make any difference to its foreign policy. Meanwhile we drove through roads lined dripping with autumn gold. Lovely.
The meeting was fine, and over pretty quickly. Nice folks from the pharma company, and the people from an internet company saying Very Obvious Things Very Seriously. And I said a few Very Obvious Things back, and everyone happy. Equally talkative lady drove me back to the station telling me all about Mexico. She never left her resort though, and ate entirely in the hotel. When I went to Mexico with Mex, Cancun was by far the most ghastly anonymous bit we encountered.
Home early in the afternoon to press on with some admin things and pandering to the kitten. On that note... Talked to Mum who now has a cat too. It's white apparently with a tabbyish tail. Meanwhile Calliope seeming to be fairly chilled and happy, after what was an exciting break for her at Lorraine's house with lots of people to play with, and mingling fearlessly with Brian and Basil, two large cats.
Revelling in a quiet evening and at the prospect of an early bedtime.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Breakfast with Ash and Phil, and later Aimee. Having cleverly avoided drinking myself into oblivion the night before, I actually felt fairly fresh this morning as we ate breakfast overlooking the mountain to the south of Westport that kept losing its head in clouds. I want to go back there one day.
Wanted to pop out for a breath of air. Aimee in lively capering fashion decided to turn into a bit of a scramble around the perimeter of the grounds. She did this clutching a flower, which she called the Ninja daisy, which she used to compel me to follow her.
After this adventure, off to pack and meet up with everyone before we went off to the beach under the cloud shrouded mountain. Was stunningly beautiful, with the sun spotlighting bits every now and then. The sky changes so rapidly everything looks different all the time. Makes me think of W.B. Yeats. The west of Ireland is a magical place.
Then the long trip home. A drive through the countryside to Knock airport, where we ate pies and drank tea, before a ghastly cattle flight. Ryanair is the pits. Slightly turbulent with them persistently trying to sell raffle tickets and other rubbish. Children crying in the rows ahead and aft capped it off. Sat next to Paula who speed read an airport novel, trying to blank out the horror of the journey.
However I'd really enjoyed the weekend, and I was so pleased I'd been able to see Marcella looking so happy. Just that was worth the journey alone. Fond farewells to Aimee, Paula, Ash and Phil at Stanstead.
Then a long journey home, but the trains were kind to me, and I was home a little before 10. Lorraine brought the Calliope back, and a tupperware portion of lamb stew. It was good to be home.
Below Aimee, album cover shot Juliette, Matt, Paula, Ash, Phil, Aimee. Spots of natural Irish beauty.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
Up early feeling rather fragile after the lively night last night. A big full breakfast overlooking the mountains and Westport. A beautiful scene.
Decided that a walk was the best cure, so went for a wander around Westport with Aimee and Ash, who were on a mission to buy tights. We mooched about in the lovely little town, enjoying the little river that runs through it. About twenty people had brought rams into town in small trailers, and there was some ram trading going on, which was interesting to see. Chiefly took the form of folks leaning over trailers earnestly.
Then back to the hotel to get suited and booted. Marcella had sent me a note to remind me to wear a suit at couple of months ago, which was nice of her. A reputation for "creativity" precedes me.
The wedding itself was at St Mary's in town. It was a really nice wedding. Marcella crying with joy when she walked down the aisle with her dad. Everyone very pleased to see her married. As we left the church we all kissed and hugged them. I told Adrian he was a lucky dog, when Marcella joked that she had broken my heart.
Then back to the Knockranny House Hotel for a champagne reception, and lots of good food, and speeches and dancing. Marcella's speech was the best of all. Matt on our table set up a sweepstakes on total speech time, five Euros all in. My guess was ruined by Marcella's dad giving a very short and sincere speech. A nice table with Tim and Brendon from Hove, and Jo and Simon, and Matt and Juliette, Paula, Phil, Ash, Aimee and myself.
Did some dancing. But opted to sit out the Irish dancing song. Once they had spent five minutes organising the lines of four people and explaining how to do it they began. Just then a tiny dervish of a lady on the next table seized me and dragged me to join in. This utterly disrupted the dancing and it transpired my partner was too drunk to talk properly. Nevertheless everyone continued whirling about like mad anyway.
I sloped to bed at 1 with the party leaving many bitter enders dancing happily.
Below Marcella walking up the aisle with her proud dad. In the back of the car afterwards, just about to put on more lippy. More photos shortly.