Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dragon's Dream

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.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

On the buses, on the trains

Received an email this morning saying that one of my poems is going to be in a Guernsey bus, like an island version of poems on the underground. It would be lovely to see it, but unless I invest in a pair of incredibly powerful binoculars, that won't happen till next year.

Cheerfully off with Lorraine to London see Mum and Mase in Edgware. En route, Lorraine left one of her bags on the train, with clothes make up and so on in it. And we didn't realise until we had arrived.

Mum is close to being finished on the chemotherapy. And it will be really great when this happens, but she is doing fine despite being somewhat worn out from all the treatments, and dealing with Salty the kitten. All white except for its tail. It has very pink nose and ears, and lets out an affronted lamb-like bleat when you pick it up. He lives in the lap of luxury, and has many toys and is constantly tempted with dainties, which may explain its round belly.

In the afternoon, I had a nice chat with Mason in a cafe while Lorraine bought replacement makeup and clothes. Mason slipped away to buy her another one bottle of perfume too, which was very kind. Then he drove us back home to have a big Mexican feed and chat about stuff, and we all sat about by the fire watching some old episodes of Frasier.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Orange eye

It is the sign of being a hypochondriac that my NHS doctor actually knows who I am, and is very friendly to me. There was a taciturn trainee mountebank in the room, so my doc went to great lengths to make sure everything was pukka. In passing I mentioned that my eye was sore and I got the full orange eye dye treatment and examination for corneal scratches etc. while I told them about the glaucoma pages I've been writing lately.

Then to the pharmacy with a baleful orange eye. There a senior gentleman was explaining that vegetarians tend to look pasty, and it makes them more susceptible to flu. Back to work on a few pages of the hogsite: a smorgasbord of ailments today from arthritis to ulcerative colitis. Turned on the radio: a programme about ailments in the 17th century. Some days are themed whether you like it or not.

After finishing for the day at 4, I called the Cat with the Hat, who I've not chatted to for some time. He was very cheerful about Obama and inviting me down to his house to eat ducks. Also called The Gnome who is now in consultation after being let go from the agency. Really felt for him, but I think it will be a really good to have a new start, and to bring out his resourcefulness. We'll meet up soon.

Thinking about Alice Russell and wondered what it would be like to write a song for her. I haven't really written a complete song before but one just popped out fully formed. Lorraine said the chords sounded like Radiohead, which wasn't what I was going for. Fun.

Lorraine around this evening and we snuck out to a busy last-pay-day-before-Christmas Battle of Trafalgar for a cheeky beer, or as Lorraine put it, to wash the week away. Then went home to eat pizzas. I added a large sliced chili to mine and proceeded to have lively hiccups for some time.

And so to bed.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A random rhinoceros

Lunchtime went to look at children's books. Imagine my horror after writing a book about a dapper skeleton all year to see a new, prizewinning book about a dapper skeleton detective called Skullduggery Pleasant. Bastards. Bastards. Had a look at it, and it seemed excellent. Fortunately the similarities are superficial, but still galling.

Bought James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl which I read for the first time this evening. Lovely stuff. This on the first page made me laugh out loud.

"Then one day, James's mother and father went to London to do some shopping, and there a terrible thing happened. Both of them suddenly got eaten up (in full daylight, mind you, and on a crowded street) by an enormous angry rhinoceros which had escaped from London Zoo.... Their troubles were all over in a jiffy. They were dead and gone in 35 seconds flat."


And also I bought Michael Rosen's Sad book which, like the Dahl, is illustrated by Quinten Blake, which is quietly wonderful. A book about sadness, with very little text and lots of pictures, inspired by the sadness of losing his son. Just fab. And the end is satisfying, yet unresolved just like sadness itself.

Otherwise did some more hogsite work, and had a fairly chilled day. Had a conversation with The Gnome this evening, as there are going to more redundancies at my old agency and he may be one of them. It is all so stressful and horrid. Made me feel very grateful, that I have nothing to do with that nest of earwigs any more.

Below the cover of Michael Rosen's Sad Book.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A jar of delights

Calliope now consistently wakes me at 7. I find having a kitten stand on your head purring loudly is infinitely preferable to a blaring alarm.

Got a text from Beth saying that Sushi the Siamese fighting fish had expired. I called her briefly feeling vaguely responsible. I have no idea why her fish are dying as in my fishkeeping experience she had done everything right. It brings the child out in Beth who got the tank as a 17th birthday present. Having named all of the fish, she takes each loss hard.

Actually made some good progress today on the hogsite and felt that, it might actually end one day. A glimmer of hope as I rewrote copy about erection problems. Also spoke to nice folks in the FB's agency to ensure I will get paid for that job.

Had a Guernsey bean jar on the go, filling the house with earthy beany warm smells. The comforting aroma must have inspired the kitten too, judging by the way she had to be restrained from climbing into the hot oven when I opened it. She gobbled a sample down and, although this may have been a political move on her part, it made me feel happy. It was one of my better bean jars and I had two bowls of it with white pepper and thick brown bread. A proper winter warmer.

Anton and I due to be out again tonight, but he had to cancel as he felt ill, which I was quite grateful of. Quietly lurking about this evening, and reading The Box of Delights by John Masefield which is a wonderful and Christmassy children's book I often read this time of year. It is not entirely successful as a book and the plotting unusual but the way the magic weaves itself into the story is wonderfully handled, and it is full of Christmas too. If you never read it, you'd be mad not to do so now.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Alice Russell

Slipped free of my website shackles this evening to go out with Anton and Lorraine to see lovely Alice Russell at Brighton Komedia. It was the first night of her new tour, to promote her new album Pot of Gold and she and her great band, featuring writing partner TM Juke, put on a splendid show as usual. Acoustics very different there to when Anton and I last saw her last at the Concorde 2. But an excellent show with several promising new tracks, as well as my favourite Hurry On Home, which always reminds me of moving to Brighton. She also did the best version of Gnarls Barkley's Crazy I've ever heard. Very mixed crowd of old geezers like myself while Lorraine bumped into some of Beth's schoolfriends there. Alice is not really a diva, in the sense that she seems really approachable and likable. Someone shouted out ironically that she should be on X Factor. Which although quite funny, must also have been galling to someone of Alice Russell's ability.

We all really enjoyed the night out, and I felt sorry for Anna who missed it. After Lorraine left, I ended up with Anton having an enjoyable late beer in the Eddy.

In other news. Somewhat troubled by my role as freelance tropical fish consultant, as one of Beth's fish, Larry the neon, croaked, and apparently Sushi the Siamese fighting fish is looking a bit rough round the gills.

Below some blurry shots of Alice last night, and the video fo the immortal Hurry On Home

Monday, November 24, 2008

In need of a cure

Diseases all day. As I write this interminable website, I'm trying to focus on how it will pay for lots of Skelton Yawngrave time, and I should be really positive about it. Popped to the gym later, but all manly vigour was sadly absent.

Cheered by a note from Nev reminding me of an agency Christmas party on a Cowboys and Indians theme. We went as cowboy plumbers with big wigs, tashes and white overalls drinking our Guiness out of Butch and Sundance mugs with spoons in. It was all Nev's idea. And jolly good fun it was too.

Also cheered by calls from Anton and Lorraine. We're all going out to see nice Alice Russell tomorrow night, which will be top.

Too numbed to do anything, I watched House tonight for the first time, and thought it had some excellent dialogue. Curses, even my downtime is about diseases.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Siamese fighting fish

A spot of freelance topical fish consultancy today: the result was that Beth bought a gorgeous scarlet male Siamese fighting fish and three tiny neons for her new aquarium. As well as the fish, Beth also scored an unendorsed plastic SpongeBob SquarePants snail called Gary.

Once these were installed, Lorraine and I finished off painting her bathroom and toilet. And Lorraine drove me home, where I had a quiet night, chatting to Mum Mase and Toby, and thinking about work.

I wrote the following poem some time ago about being trapped by boredom, and the petty cruelties boredom can lead to. Boredom, as I have mentioned before, is an emotion I rarely experience. However the work I have been doing over the last month or so has, uniquely, made me feel trapped in my study.

Siamese fighting fish

bored stupid in my box room,
I taunt the fighter in its tank.

Betta splendens, a scarlet flag
unfurling from Java fern;

a murderous Narcissus
who falls madly for my mirror.

in the window my reflection
gloats over the rain-soaked suburb.

the fish aborts its mission.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A new broom

Today was a Doing Things day. Lorraine had a bathroom and toilet that had been stripped and waiting for paint for some months, so I suggested we simply did it. Off to B&Q where I ended up buying a new broom, while Lorraine bought paint. Then back to her place for a couple of hours of filling holes in walls with polyfilla, sanding painting and so on. I quite enjoyed standing about with cups of splosh, a copy of The Sun rolled up under my arm, and my trousers revealing the top of my posterior in the approved workman style. Also gave me the opportunity for coarse jokes about standing on stools in the toilet as I rollered the top of the walls. All in all a much-needed break from staring at screens and thinking about serious medical conditions. Painting walls is very therapeutic.

Meanwhile Sam was lurking about with his new girlfriend called Ash, and sporting industrial-strength love bites. He seemed very cheery and attentive, which was good to see. I also saw his little tattoo of two feathers on his wrist, which was actually rather cool.

Off in the evening to meet Lorraine's pals Jess and Andrew in an Indian restaurant called the Ashoka in Hove.

Jess works in a school with children with all kinds of special needs. She teaches a class of four kids, who are all in wheelchairs and only one is able to speak. It was inspiring to hear her talk about the school, and the children there, and she has invited me to visit. This is something way outside my experience, and it would be tremendously interesting to meet the children, and learn more about what goes on there. Andrew is an accountant, and I asked him how the recession is hitting from his viewpoint, and he said that however a business is doing it needs an accountant, and that actually most of his clients were still doing well.

Home in a taxi as it was a cold night. As I flagged down the cab, I bumped into Amanda whose cat-themed party Lorraine and I went to the other day and I asked how Anil was, and she told me she didn't know because they weren't together any more. Had to jump into the cab, at this point, but I was sorry to hear that.

Home to an excitable kitten and a warming nip of sloe gin.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hogsites and octopus

Calliope alarm went off at a sensible 7:10 this morning. After I took her feet off my face, I peered out from my window to see the twitten thick with groundhogs. Yep. More slogging on the website for most of the day.

The work, however, is quite interesting. I have learned something about the workings of the eye. Apparently the aqueous humour in your eyeball is produced by a tiny gland called the ciliary body. All is well when the same amount of this fluid is able to drain away, through a little spongy drain called the trabecular meshwork.

But when the drain begins to get blocked, pressure builds up inside your eyeball and this begins to damage the optic nerve, which causes glaucoma. Glaucoma can be treated with daily eyedrops to keep the drains open, which is a good thing. Annoyingly the brain compensates for loss of vision so sometimes you only find out you have it when you have lost up to 40% of your optic nerve function. This is why eye check-ups are vital, and why I'm writing this part of the website.

After work I went to the gym and did what was for me a full-on workout, and I worked up a sweat. I am really pleased to be exercising again, and I do enjoy it. However the other side of the see-saw, my food intake is becoming a bit less disciplined as I am so cooped up doing hogsites (© pk enterprises) that I snack through boredom. I have developed an unhealthy liking for organic dates, which are a sweet as toffees, and probably just as bad for you.

Out late this evening to a Greek restaurant. Lorraine was taking Beth and Mark out for Beth's birthday, and I was invited too. Beth's speech, which I'd helped her with a little the other day, had gone down well, and she was doubly cheery. Lorraine had booked, but the restaurant was almost empty. But we drank some Mythos beer and were cheery over many and various Greek foods. Beth gobbled down an octopus leg, which surprised me.

I was left reflecting that in the UK people rarely suddenly feel a sudden craving for Greek food, as compared to say a curry. It made me wonder if this is a historical or cultural thing. Did peckish Trojans look up from their labours and think: you know what, I could murder a Greek tonight.

Ah well.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Low riders

I broke off at lunchtime from glaucoma, etc. for a nice half-hour massage at the Sundial clinic. These days there is little pain as the stored evils have been banished. She mentioned that, as I also carry tension in my lower back, next time she would release my gluteals. Because, she added, they are big muscles.

I was not sure how to take this, but I nevertheless enjoyed the mental picture of sliding out of her room with relaxed, low rider buns.

Had a conversation with my lovely French client who wants me to do lots more work with her next year in her new agency. I like working with her as she is always 100% professional. This is an arrangement which could guarantee a steady stream of activity next year - with plenty of time to break off and write about skeletons. Touch wood, financially things have looked fairly bright lately, in contrast to the rest of the world it seems. Being freelance at such a time is a good move, as you don't have all your eggs in one basket, and is why First Matie copied me.

I've been missing Skeleton Yawngrave. I did sit ups at home.

Lorraine banished from her house this evening as it is Beth and Mark's two year anniversary, and Mark was romantically cooking her lamb chops and couscous. They are 17 (or Beth will be tomorrow) and they are like a wee married couple. I bought her a card with a dancing hula girl.

I roasted a chicken, and Lorraine and I scarfed it and various veggies, as we watched England beat Germany in Berlin, which was unexpected and rather good. Chelsea and England Captain John Terry scoring the winner too, making amends for an earlier defensive howler.

Lorraine left for home, sniffling with a cold, to be there for Beth's birthday tomorrow. And I retired gratefully to bed only to struggle with Calliope who was persistently trying to sleep on my head. We agreed on a six inch exclusion zone but I ended up headbutting her everytime I turned over in the night. There has to be another way.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Opening envelopes

I have a fairly relaxed attitude to bills and official looking letters at the best of times. When the stars are favourably aligned, and I am bored, I will have a look at them. As I pay most things through standing order this is rarely alarming. However imagine my surprise when I opened a letter informing me that I had over £1000 in Standard Life shares, and have had for some time. Something which was news to me.

Obviously in the two or three weeks the letter had attracted dust and an incisor mark in the corner from Calliope, these shares must have plummeted. But still, a nice surprise. Trying to work out if it's best to keep hold of them till the markets rally or whether to offload them. I know nothing about shares. So any advice is welcome.

Otherwise a quiet day. Went to the gym early in the morning. I'm finding the weights fun and fairly easy. I must step up the cardio work, which is where the real health benefits are to be had, and I find more challenging. Had a brief discussion with Mase about weightlifting, and he passed on some tips given him by Arnold Schwarzenegger who he knew quite well at one point. It's all about the reps apparently.

Back to work, and into copy rage. It is the route to madness to be riled by copy comments, and all copywriters have to learn how to deal with it. But my copy goat was ambushed today by someone overwriting my copy with ungrammatical sentences, containing content which is not only medically wrong, but also illegal. Grrr. Fortunately this is not my client, just someone invited to comment. I have invited them to give me comments to discuss, not to rewrite the thing. I suppose it is nice that I have reached November before a bout of copy rage.

Spent the evening virtuously tidying my study which has become like a bomb site, not helped by the fact the cat continuously knocks over my bin so she can shred the paper inside or drag balled up bits around the house. But this led to a windfall. So virtue does pay.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Eyes. Eyes. Mince pies

Spent the day knee deep in eye diseases, with only the man from Tescos delivery and the cat to distract me. Pleased I had a check up lately, so can keep the details of glaucoma etc. in the realm of theory.

In the evening Lorraine and Beth came around to discuss a speech Beth is making at her old school. Beth seemed to know what she wanted to say anyway, but we had tea and the first mince pies of the year. Beth told me about seeing the Mighty Boosh who were rather good apparently.

While they were here, Calliope worked her cat door unaided for the first time. I had poked her outside to cool off after tearing about the place wildly. She rushed back inside to rub her face on mine, purring happily.

Spoke to mum and mase about Thanksgiving arrangements. Mason's American style Thanksgiving feed always signifies the onset of the festive period for me.

Watching a bizarre film as I type called Underworld Evolution, a preposterous gorefest of werewolves and vampires battling one another, which also seems to have Derek Jacobi in it. Must have been a nice little earner.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Sunday in Brighton

Up surprisingly early today. Went on a reconnaissance mission to a local car boot sale where Anna had made £80 the week before. Not a single thing I wanted there, but nevertheless interesting. Time to eye up things that I might be able to get rid of, as I have a hoarding streak and not much space.

Back to Lorraine's place to feed her cats Brian and Basil, one of whom had registered disapproval by being sick on the carpet. I checked Beth's aquarium. Then we walked down to the sea where dark clouds and patches of sun created dramatic light effects. Stopped at the meeting point for a cup of splosh, and a shared rock cake.

Walking home past the clock tower there was a horrid accident just behind us. The sickening thud of a body going under a bus. We walked back as Lorraine wanted to check (as a former ward sister she may have been able to help) but there was someone there doing the right things. Normally in emergencies I try to help, but this one I'm ashamed to say, made me feel shaken, and wanting to leave as fast as possible. Poor woman was trapped and mercifully unconscious as far as I could see. Quite a bit of blood. Thankfully, as we turned away the emergency services could already be heard approaching.

I then went to the gym again for another light workout and felt mighty fine for it too, while Lorraine did some ghastly work on a Sunday afternoon. I am actually enjoying going to the gym. Although am still amateurish and there are women half my size and twice my age lifting weights twice as heavy as me.

Then off to the Battle of Trafalgar for a good Sunday roast, and pints of Harveys, and all was well with the world. We were looking at all the pubs pictures and paraphernalia. Its large Elvis playing guitar, its pictures of naval battles and cricket players and so on. I wonder if anyone has studied the contents of pubs in Brighton, and made some interpretation about what it says about the soul of the city. Maybe I should do that. It was a lovely end to the weekend. After Lorraine went home, and I spent a dozy quiet Sunday night with Calliope snoozing on me as I watched match of the day.

Below a moment of darkness over the sea.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Mock turtle

Woke up feeling somewhat better today. Down to the patisserie this morning to buy bread. Everyone in the shop clustered around a tiny puppy. These small animals make everyone lose grip of reality, especially me. Was pleased to see they all washed their hands before serving me my chewy brown bread afterwards though. Then Lorraine and I had a slow breakfast of kippers and toast, and read the papers. Calliope, despite pushing her face at the plates, spurned kipper scraps afterwards.

Then as Lorraine went off to shop with Beth, I tidied up my front scrap of garden with the kitten charging about excitably with bits in her mouth, (see previous entry) and drawing coos of admiration from occasional passers-by. Kittens, like babies and puppies, are good icebreakers and should have been on the Titanic.

My roses are still budding and flowering. As I pottered about I felt a deep welling up of joy not to be working on web pages however.

Then off to the Library to join Lorraine for a wander through town passing a lugubrious jazz band in the Pavilion Gardens, before ending up in the Mock Turtle for afternoon tea and a scone. I love that place. It is the epitome of Englishness though it was owned I think by an Italian family, and now by an Oriental one. Bought some tickets to see the wonderful Alice Russell later in the month.

Walking back by the sea towards sundown, watched the river of gulls drifting westwards above the coastline as far as the eye could see. I've noticed this on many occasions, but where are they going? It's as if they are flying towards the dying sun. Today the startlings were out in numbers again too, preparing to settle under the piers.

A restrained evening watching the David Lynch film Wild at Heart. I'd seen it before, not my favourite Lynch film but has all his hallmarks, many of his usual cast favourites, and some great moments.

Below gulls making their way westwards, the edge of a great murmuration of starlings above them.

Calliope... the kitten in the twitten

A nice shot of the mad faced weasel today with a leaf in her mouth.

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
that, living,
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.

Victor West

Monday, November 10, 2008

A moanday

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

Sofa loafing

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

Ninja daisy

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

Marcella's wedding

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.