Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Hermit of the Twitten

In a real routine now, although this hermetic, existence does not a great blog make. Working on the poetry manuscript from eight. First thing is best for thinking. But today by 11:30 I couldn't see the wood for the trees - and felt briefly quite bleak about it. In this mood however I was able to spot that one of the newer poems was never going to work. There was a technical reason for this: it is rubbish. Two factors for successful poetry editing: time and moodswings.

I have been half thinking about getting a cat, but watching the Frasier has cured me of that. There is an episode in the last series where he is dateless, wrapped in a blanket and talking lengthily to a cat called Mr Bottomsly. I don't want to go there.

Spent a few hours working on my Skeleton stuff , which is making me guffaw delightedly as I write.

Heard from an old Warwick buddy, Tim, who has lived in Italy now for donkey's years. Quite good to see a photo of him all bearded and butch, when last we met we were wussy philosophy students, stroking our smooth chins and pondering.

Off for another swim, the Brighton pool is very crowded but I am definitely feeling a bit more lively these days. I completed a half hour swim without feeling like strip of sea wrack aftwards.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The meaning of this happy hour

Reading Paul Klee's diaries again today. I was reading about a trip he made to Tunisia, which was something of a turning point in his artistic career. His diary entry for 16th April 1914 suddenly bursts out into this declaration:

I now abandon work. It penetrates so deeply and so gently into me, I feel it and it gives me confidence in myself without effort. Colour possesses me. I don't have to pursue it. It will possess me always, I know it. That is the meaning of this happy hour: Colour and I are one. I am a painter.

As for me, I haven't abandoned the feeling of working. In fact the business of refashioning so many poems, and writing new ones is some ways the most difficult work I have ever done. I used to be able to draw quite well when I was at school, and every now and again I still have a go. Each time I pick up a pencil again I'm amazed at how rusty I've got.

I'm beginning think you can get rusty at writing poems too, but I am getting back into the zone. Spent an hour or so sifting through very old work, and rejected scraps to see if there was anything interesting or worth saving there. A few gleams, but most of it soberingly dire. I had to write a lot of drivel to get to this point. I'm constantly reminded of Pound's phrase at the moment of having to murder your babies. Or as my old Art Director Nev used to frequently intone as we were working on catalogues: you can't shine shit. Pound was a fantastic editor, slicing off the flab of Eliot's Wasteland, and ridiculing W.B. Yeats's worst excesses when he was working as his private secretary. I never read Pound for pleasure though.

For relief I am also writing about skeletons, which I am saving for the afternoon and evening. But the happiness I feel in being able to simply get on with both projects is fantastic and liberating.

Wandered about deep in thought for an hour or so, in a beautiful afternoon.

This evening off up the hill to babysit Klaudia and Oskar. Anna and Anton off to the pub, but Anton suprised me by returning early. Turns out wires had been crossed and it was a chick's night out, so Anton had to speed through his glass of beer and dissolve away from the several ladies and their bottle of white wine. This was my gain, as we a fun evening with him drinking teas and listening to various tunes, and discussing many and various things.

Spoke to Lorraine who is suffering from a hideous cold, but soldiering on. If she were a man of course, she would have already been bedridden for days.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A dream of Champions

Strange vivid dreams connected to 1966. I was being given some kind of commemorative medal to do with the World Cup Final that in the dream had belonged to Dave my grandfather (who I watched the final with as a six year old). I was very pleased to get them, then I felt a wave of sadness that he was dead and then woke up.

I'm guessing that working on my poems so intensely over the last few days is dredging up all kinds of associations. The work I'm assembling stretches over 25 years. It's like a biography of fragments and symbols. Whatever happens with the collection, it is quite a fascinating, if self-indulgent, process.

I am, however, making immense progress. Also finished the Brenda Maddox book Georgie's Ghosts about Yeats later years, which I really enjoyed. Yeats really was a chump in many ways, and believed all kinds of weird stuff, but if I had to take one poet's work to a desert island it would be his.

A hour or so ambling around town, via the Library and the pier to give my brain a break. Then back to work on my other project till about 10, which is entirely different, and is to do with skeletons and pies.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A spot of tree hugging

A quiet day, with a nice walk in a sunny Stanmer Park with Lorraine, who insisted that she needed to hug some trees. She didn't exactly hug them, but there was some prolonged appreciative squeezing of branches, and much running of hands over bark. She also pointed out the green bits inside snowdrops, which I'd never noticed. Stanmer Park is on the edge of Brighton, but I'd never yet been there.

After wandering about chatting in the trees, and in Lorraine's case to the trees, we drove back to my place, and toddled off to the Sussex Yeoman where we had a lazy and tasty Sunday lunch, and were recognised from having been there on Friday, which was pretty good. Lorraine is an ideal company for a lazy Sunday.

Below are these beavers, bears or badgers?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A parrot called Bottom

Klaudia's 4th birthday party. Up the hill in the afternoon, with presents. Before the party Klaudia and I enjoyed playing with a squawking parrot puppet. Klaudia, when asked by the parrot what its name should be, said Bottom and laughed like a drain, but we eventually we settled on Lily.

Then to a church hall for the part itself. Lots of children beetling about and a bowler hatted entertainer called Mr Pumpkin who had the kids spellbound for an entire hour, before they fell on the food.
I enjoyed watching, apart from somehow being caught up in Mr Pumpkin's evil web and getting a foamy pie in the face. I moaned briefly at Anton as this pie was destined for one of the dads and not a stunt double like myself.

Lorraine, Brian, Anton, Anna and myself went out in the evening for a few cheeky beers in a couple of excellent boozers, and then a pleasant Italian meal. Anton and Anna saying that that the nippers will be baptised in May so Brian and I will become Godfathers then. Just call me Marlon. Lorraine and Brian and myself having a last beer in a crammed Eddy, before gratefully heading home.

Below the lights out moment with the cake. And Brian, Anna and Klaudia opening presents.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Back in the swim

After a few hours working on my poems, off to the swimming pool behind the library. I am still weak after having the flu, and so was fairly beat after 25 minutes, but it was great to swim again. Though it takes a while to get used to a new pool and its ways. This one has unisex changing areas (in cubicles) for example. Rather busier than the last one I used which was pleasingly quiet, as suits a more voluminous gentleman like myself.

Then off to the Lanes to buy presents for Klaudia in the toyshop. Excellent now it is not Christmas, as a gentleman you can go into the toyshop and in your best Hugh Grant manner say that you have a four year old Godchild who likes purple and organising things and er... flick imaginary forelock can you help? I came out with two puppets (a Princess and a multicoloured hairy parrot), a jigsaw and another toy which sticks to the side of the bath and allows the child to add clothes to a flat cut out figures.

Working all afternoon and evening, breaking off for the essential Scrubs and food. Late in the evening I went to meet Lorraine and two of her chums in the Sussex Yeoman, which is one of the pubs within thirty seconds of my front door. Her chums, called Dawn and Josie were really nice, and were all discussing weighty matters such as racism and politics when I arrived, but I soon steered the conversation on to how big and clever I was. Josie is a writer so we had a lot in common.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Imagine

A stormingly good morning's work on my manuscript, after a good night's sleep. I am delighted with the way things are progressing - the poems are now fitting together like pieces in a jigsaw. After this morning, I know what the picture is on the lid, and can see what needs to be done. It is working better than I had hoped.

Off in the afternoon, feeling exceedingly pleased with myself, for a breath of air. A bright and beautiful day, and walked down to the sea as normal. The thousands of pieces of wood are still there, but this being Brighton people are beginning to do things with them, such as make huge words from them, or wigwam, or a wooden phallus. Wandered onto the pier and watched a gull snatching chips from a woman's hand and other pier life.

Sophie was working in Brighton this afternoon. We had a drink in The Saint James pub, and then a cheeky early evening meal in a restaurant called Pomegranate, where they happened to be playing Greek music which put Sophie in an excellent mood, and soon talking to the waitress and so on. We had a great time, steadily mopping up Mediterranean foods. We were both in excellent moods, me due to the fact that I am about to become the greatest living English poet and Sophie because she had just secured a new deal for her PR business.

Put Sophie onto a train and then home, and a nice chat with Lorraine. An excellent day.

Below part of a long sentence that read IMAGINE IF THIS WAS OIL.




Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Moths, beggars kneecaps and pies

Thank God, managed to sleep for hours, despite being woken up by the sound of a lady being noisily pleasured in the twitten at 3:30 am and a neighbour shouting down "People live here!" Bizarre and dreamlike.

Up early to finish off the first draft of my Church n' Charity stuff and after an intense couple of hours was finished.

Escaped off into the outside world and headed to the Booth Museum. Lurked about looking at hundreds of stuffed birds, stuffed bears and dead moths and bits of flint. Made lots of notes and generally fed my imagination with a large tablespoon. For example I learned that flint contains lots of echinocorys, which are fossils of sea urchins. There are many other names and folk legends attached to them, one is that they are called thunderstones, and they are used to ward off lightning. They are also called shepherds knees, beggars kneecaps, and policemen's helmets.

On the way home the idea of a Cornish pasty formed in my head, and, popping into the new pastie place, I was told by a cheery little pasty maiden that today was national pie day. I must have felt an inner calling.

Made some bread, post-pastie, and took some comments on the writing work I'd done earlier, and do some admin bits and sift through old poems to see if I'd forgotten any good old ones. I'm still amazing myself with how many contain bird imagery. Right from the earliest poems I wrote. Still don't really understand why. Birds often represent ideas, thoughts and imagination. So maybe it is that and in my poetry they seem to be portents or messengers too.

Taking a chill pill tonight drinking sparkling mineral water, and enjoying not feeling half dead like yesterday. Lorraine popped around for a bit, and we watched Chelsea get through to the final of the Carling cup. All well.

Below part of the moth display.












Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Moondays

Monday and the moon near full. Spending a couple of days as God's own copywriter, writing some guidelines for a Christian church and charity. Despite this being quite an interesting project, I felt antsy all day. Unshackled myself from my desk and went down to the seafront, feeling vaguely irritable. The beach was still littered with timber, and intermittent signs "Warning - pollution on the beach".

Watching television and writing about skeletons in the evening before, fatally, beginning to read my book about W.B. Yeats. This I did till 4:30am due to moonish insomnia, and coughing. However George's Ghosts is a terrific account of Yeats, and I am learning loads from it, especially the gossip about the numerous ladies in his life. Also about the writing of A Vision. I wrote my university thesis about this in the dark ages. Ah! Fond memories of sitting in the scriptorium scratching away with a swan's feather.

Tuesday, and the moon full. Woke up this morning after a few hours sleep feeling zombified, and got down to the God stuff again, which soaked up the day like blotting paper, and I still haven't finished it. Bah.

Below the moon, and timber on Brighton beach.



Sunday, January 20, 2008

Woodslick


Kate and I off to Billies. Much putting the world to rights over big platefuls of breakfast hash and cups of tea. Kate's life is beginning to settle down a bit lately, and change for the better. Then for a walk along the seafront and the pier looking at the hundreds of pieces of timber from the wreckage of the Ice Prince that were washed ashore. Then we bumped into a friend of Kate's who told us his carpenter mate had been out at the crack of dawn to try to take some of the "woodslick" away, but the police had prevented it.

Then to the Royal Pavilion. Third time for me, but I absolutely love the place. Looking with special interest at the dragons and the various chinoiserie monsters lurking about the place, and noticed moth patterns on the windows of the Music room, feeding many of my current preoccupations and so seeming extremely significant. Kate really liked the Pavilion.

In the afternoon we then went for cups of tea with Reuben and Claire, Claire's sister Debbie, and the three boys. Reuben, Kate and I were very overdue a Copy Shop Reunion - and, after last night, quite nice to have one where nice cups of typhoo tea replaced gin and tonic (aka copy shop lemonades). Reuben and Claire looking exceedingly well, and the boys all adorable. Whenever I think of a good marriage I think of Reuben and Claire, they are such lovely people and so brilliantly suited.

Then it was time for us to leave, and Kate to zoom back up to the smoke. And for me a quiet night in for me watching, rather enjoyably, Aliens and Predators slaughtering one another, and chatting to Lorraine and Sophie, who is threatening a lightning visit to Brighton during the week.

Below some of the woodslick.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A night with the day trippers

Tremendously enjoyable day, which I started rather sluggishly coughing and explaining to Lorraine just how wussy I felt. However there is a new cure in town: alcohol taken liberally with your mates.

The mates in question were Kate, Matty, Craig and his new girlfriend Eva, who had come down from London. Lorraine and I met up with them in the Battle of Trafalgar and then as every last one of them had a camera, we took them down to the seafront where there was a good deal of semi-comical snappage. There was a brisk wind, and so we were soon compelled to find another pub, and we had several drinks in fine Brighton boozers such as The Cricketers, and The Caxton and one or two others. Sensibly we broke off for bags full of fish and chips which we ate with wooden forks in the dark by the sea. This is where Tash, the very nice Matty's very nice sister, and Dunc her boyfriend found us.

In the Cricketers Nick, an old pal of Katie's who I'd met a few times, popped in too, so it was quite a gathering. Eva very nice (I'd only half met her once or twice before) and enjoyed her comical goading of Craig on American politics and history, apparently telling Craig, who is something of a deep political thinker, that there were only two events in American history: the Mayflower and Pearl Harbour. Craig: "What was that country called who put people on the moon? Let me see..." etc. One of the fun things is to get Craig, who has a most excellent voice and comes from Minnesota, to say "Brighton", which comes out as a gravelly BRRRRighton! which I think should be the official pronunciation.

Then, as the day trippers went back to London, and Kate was to stay overnight - Lorraine, Kate and I had a cheeky final beer with Anton in the Eddy before heading home for some much-needed shuteye.

Below I of course had my camera too. A Dr Who moment from Kate and Matty, Lorraine peering through the doughnut, Craig and Eva looking noble and windswept, a sort of bleached album cover shot of Katie and the others peering at cameras.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Have I not seen the loveliest woman born...

Still chipping away at the Bardic coalface. I am making really good progress with the poetry manuscript, although as a blog subject this I know lacks pizazz: got up, had breakfast, sat at my computer and wrote poems for hours. It's not up there with, say, battling the Japanese whaling expedition which requires the slaughter of 1000 cetaceans for, er, scientific reasons. Perhaps the Japanese have had a bellyful of their relaxation tapes. Anyway, back to the poetry... I just can't convey how cheery this all makes me feel.

Off to the Jubilee Library in Brighton, which is still new and spiffy, although it could do with more books in it. I can't remember the last time I joined a library, and enjoyed being signed up by a friendly librarian, and discovering new fangled things like that checking books out is all automated, with touch screen computers and so on. Instantly rewarded by being able to borrow a new biography of WB Yeats called George's Ghosts by Brenda Maddox. I had been fingering this in a bookshop only minutes before. It is good too - in it I learned that Willie did finally bed Maude Gonne who had made his life a misery by rejecting his marriage proposals. He compared her to Helen of Troy and half a dozen other archetypes of female beauty, and called her the loveliest woman born. I felt like cheering.

In the evening Anton called around for a chat as I was enjoying a bowl of Guernsey bean jar. He has been working in London and sat on my sofa gathering the strength to head up the hill as I spooned the goodness down. And then, shortly after Anton had left, Lorraine popped around for a bit, and asked about my poetry manuscript. I told her, and then had to revive her with a refreshing glass of sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon. Later talked to Mum for a bit, who'd been to a disappointing art show, before my thoughts turned to bed.

Below Maude Gonne. Cor!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Making visible, Siamese fighters, and rhubarb

Off today up to the smoke to my old agency, for what proved to be a short and sweet briefing. As usual felt a little odd to walk through the graveyard toward the office. But nice to chat to the Gnome and a few other chums.

Enjoyed the train ride, as it travelled by lots of flooded fields after heavy rain.

Reading Paul Klee's diaries at the moment, and it is inspiring me. One of the things he said I really like, which is in his Credo, and not in the diaries is that "Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible." I'd like to think the best of my poems does this too.

Have been working on a poem about Siamese fighting fish over the last couple of days. Yet again it makes me wonder how I wrote anything without the Internet. Having kept these fish in the past, I was trying to confirm that they flared their gill covers when threatened. But all you have to do is biff onto You Tube and there you have several films of them fighting and displaying. I was remembering placing a mirror next to a tank with a Siamese fighter in it, and watching how it tries to attack its reflection. Writing this has made me want to have an aquarium again.

Apart from this, life has been quiet and enjoyable. Although, unbelievably, my humbug virus is trying to stage a comeback.

Cooked rhubarb yesterday, baked with honey and orange juice. Very simple but very yummy.

Below a male betta splendens, or Siamese fighting fish.




Monday, January 14, 2008

Happy Monday


Got up fairly early and worked on my poetry manuscript all day. Just revelling in the opportunity to do this. I feel that I have won the lottery and can at last focus on what is important to me. In terms of draining long term frustrations, this is superb. It was a good day's work too, with me making lots of progress.

I took a mid afternoon walk, down to the sea, and was rewarded with a spectacular show. The wind was up, and the sea was rough. The sky was putting on a Turner-like parade of light and colour, and a huge charcoal coloured rain filled cloud came over. There was a faint rainbow, and I walked onto the pier as the starlings came down in their thousands in the whipping wind to roost under the boards. All this made me feel strangely elated.

Below some sea scenes. Click them to make them bigger.
















Saturday, January 12, 2008

I have measured out my life with table spoons

Off, once I'd rather blearily got out of bed, to the kitchen supplies shop to score egg cups, measuring spoons, a loaf tin and other essentials. Essentials, that is, for my new craze of cooking. Now that I'm not spending my life on trains. One of my new resolutions is to broaden the range of things I cook, which means being able to measure things accurately, to follow new recipes. I now can be certain that I have spooned a tablespoon, or half teaspoon with scientific accuracy. All making me think of Eliot's line: I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.

Sent an email to Heather Sebire today. She wrote an excellent book called The Archeology and Early History of the Channel Islands, which I bought last time I was in Guernsey. There is a bit in her book about Le Déhus one of the passage graves on the island. When it was first excavated by Lukis he found two bodies, kneeling inside, packed in with mud and limpet shells. I have become fascinated by these two, buried thousands of years before Christ, and I am trying to find out more about it. I am wondering if there is any symbolic association with the limpets - there is something about their tenacity and holding on, which seems to me to be a very interesting thing for a grave.

Spent the afternoon with Anton cleaning some of his and my LPs with his special LP cleaning machine, and then listening to the results. He also had a new mysterious box in his stereo system which has transformed the sound. This sadly wasted on me because of The Ears. We drifted down to the Eddy and watched some football on the TV, the first half of the Anton-supported Man U versus Newcastle. We left at 0-0 at half time, to go for a cheeky curry. Anton then missed 6 Man U goals in the second half, but still managed to crow about it for the rest of the evening.

After eating back to the Eddy for a bit. We met Lorraine there and a couple of other friends of Anton's, called Jules and David who were paramedics. Lorraine and the paramedics had quite a bit to say to each other about hospitals and people with arms hanging off by strings etc. but even listening to Anton glow on about Manchester Utd was better than that.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The FB and the Anglesea

Back to the quack this morning to talk about The Ears. Apparently I just have to wait till they sort themselves out. They are not blocked by wax or anything nasty, they are just swollen inside. I am getting used to it a bit now, and it has its advantages, like muffling the night noises from the Twitten.

Working all morning on various freelance bits, however my week's work was done by lunchtime. I was able to jump on a train and head up to the Smoke. I quite enjoy this ride now that I don't have to do it every day, and it was nice to be back in London for a few hours.

I went to meet the French Bloke in the Anglesea Arms, a fine gastro pub in Hammersmith where the FB, Rick, Hike among others had been forking down his leaving lunch. I tucked into a glass of wine, and got talking to an ex-colleague called Tim who is keen on modern American poetry and went to Warwick University too, albeit 100 years later than me.

We were soon joined by Max and little Tahlia and Zemirah who, being totally cute, had the everyone cooing. Matty boy and Katie, Mike and others also arrived later on and it was very altogethery. The FB on good form I thought, and is talking about finishing his book on marketing for the pharmaceutical sector in the three weeks off he has before starting his new job. I'm looking forward to reading it, particularly when he mentioned that I was in it too. Not quite sure what this means, but I was intruiged. Perhaps I show up in a section about hypochondria.

Unused to drinking, and feeling a bit flaky I left very early, getting a lift with Max as she was driving the babies home very early on. She dropped me off at Hammersmith station, where walking into the station, the leaving early thing backfired as I'd left my phone in the Anglesea, so had a walk back in the rain for it.

Home eventually, tired and slightly drunk, and toting a Chinese takeaway.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The afternoon is less than lyrical

The morning was spent idyllically: working on my poetry and companionably swapping a bit of email with Matty and Kate.

By the afternoon however I was feeling a bit slow in the head. Unfortunately this coincided with Al giving me a complex brief. I had to look at 42 pages of emails, with seven supporting documents to cross reference. After wanting to bang my sluggish head on the table for a couple of hours, I began to piece it all together. Some time later, as I was dealing with a paper jam on my printer, I reverted to a saved version of the file which had none of my work in. So at 5:30pm I managed to erase three and a half hours work in one second. I had to resist the temptation to thrash my laptop and surge bellowing with rage into the Twitten.

After explaining that the work will be a tad late, I slumped dejectedly on my gold sofa, eating the very last of my chocolaty Christmas things and watching Frasier till things felt better. I will have to get up early tomorrow to do it all again. Oh joy.

Received a highly organised PowerPoint presentation of holiday snaps from Romy when she and Toby, Joan and Dick were in Belize. Lovely shot in there of Mayan ruins which I haven't worked out how to steal yet.

I'm still deaf, which is irritating. I need to go back to the quack. But I just returned from a walk down by the sea, which was dark and rough and smelling seaweedy. The sea makes everything seem fine, and it is good to know it is so close.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A poet for a day


In some ways this was a great day. Spent most of it working hard on my poems, and late in the afternoon, was asked to do more freelance days later in the week. I am very lucky at the moment, as work is walking in the door.

But I am intoxicated by the luxury of being able to think about poetry all day. This is different from writing the stuff. I am still working on editing my collection so that the poems are more than the sum of their parts, and this is taking an enormous amount of thought and time - but of the most enjoyable chin-stroking, book consulting sort - which is resulting in me seeing my work very differently. Today I felt as free as a student again, and I can't believe my luck - and this time I won't blow it with horseplay.

Ken called around just before lunch, for a coffee and a writerly chat, telling me more about his Mabley book (mentioned here on the 1st Jan) and other projects he is working on, and dropping around two nice Christmas presents. Ken was telling me that when he was a child growing up in Staffordshire there were only two books in the house: an etymological dictionary, and a song book. Interests that have lasted all his life. Made me wonder what would have happened if one of those books had been different. Would he have been a scientist if one of them was, say, a book of plants.

After he left I baked some bread (to a Ken and Janet recipe) and worked a bit more before taking myself off for a refreshing walk by the sea, trying to filter some of the the sixteen different approaches I have for my poems.

Still a bit tired when I walk, so I was home within the hour. It seems easier in my deafened state to talk on the phone than face to face. Spoke to the Gnome, Anton who is unsuccessfully trying to get me to go on a 30 mile walk this weekend, Anna, and Lorraine who is enjoying her new job.

Anton has lent me Frasier series 10 DVD, and I am currently watching several episodes an evening. It is fantastic, like sliding into a warm and comfortable sofa. Fortunately my new neighbours haven't moved in so the Crane brothers can have their thunderous sway last thing at night.

Below the wind gusting through the yacht masts, you'll have to imagine the sound of chinking.



Monday, January 07, 2008

A little quiet time

My stupid ears have become completely blocked, and I am temporarily quite deaf. I can only hear the radio and TV if they are turned fully up, antibiotics apparently having little effect. It is strange not even being sure how loud to pitch my own voice.

Otherwise little going on today other than a cheeky day's freelance from home. Wrote nine letters. Then off to experience the odd quietness of the supermarket. One of the things I can suddenly hear is the thud that passes up through my body as my foot hits the pavement. And the sound of my breathing.

Unsurprisingly, I spent a quiet night in.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

An interlude in Shoreham


Lorraine came by this morning and drove us off to Shoreham, which is just a bit further west along the coast, the other side of Hove. This is where her new school is, and she wanted to walk around the area to get a feel for it. Actually some really nice bits there, and close to the Adur river.

It occurred to me that being a deputy head teacher is an important job. It was interesting to look at the little school, and walk about the nearby streets and think how much the job is rooted in a community, and a real place, and making a real difference to the lives of children and their parents. It struck me just how physical and practical this is - and far more meaningful than working as a copywriter.

Had a large brunch at a cafe called Teddies. There were two teddies on the street outside the cafe and inside there were several dotted about. A very friendly place. From there to a farmer's market, where I bought a large leek and some Sussex butter.

In the afternoon I read a book about Kafka, easier to read about Kafka than read him. Years ago I have tried to read the Trial, and the Castle but they make me feel so anxious and frustrated that I could not carry on reading them.

Below two glimpses at the Adur on a bright January morning.


Friday, January 04, 2008

Poets, astrologers and mindful sweeping


Dragged my butt to the quack - who was in a cheery mood, told me there was a lot of it about, and gave me antibiotics to cure The Ears, which are painfully bunged up and howling with tinnitus. My brain is working a bit better however. I printed out my poems and shuffled them about, although I am finding it hard to see the wood for the trees.

I also read some Yeats, and Ted Hughes - and quite enjoyed this. As someone who briefly, and not lucratively, cast people's astrological birth charts for a living, I am interested in how astrology has influenced poetry.

W.B. Yeats was of course interested in all things occult. For example on honeymoon he forced his wife Georgie to conduct bouts of automatic writing: to go into trances and channel spirits and write down what they said. Bizarrely, the results were used as source material for a book of occult systems called A Vision. A Vision's systems are essentially quite astrological. There are houses, and a circle and so on, like astrological charts.

What is truly amazing was that these theories formed the foundation for his brilliant later work, for which he justly won the Nobel Prize.

Ted Hughes was also obsessed. The posthumously-published The Birthday Letters is stiff with astrology, and he timed the release of his books to coincide with favourably aspected days. Even a poem about the Queen Mother during his spell as Poet Laureate was astrologically motivated.

Whether Astrology is bunk or not, what is interesting to me is that Yeats and Hughes (and others too) found the wealth of symbolism in the subject to be stimulating and useful to their poetry. The symbolism is very rich. Take the symbol of Pisces, for example. In it two fishes are bound together at the mouth by a single cord. This is sometimes described as the cord of human limitation, and one of its interpretations is that it prevents two halves of the personality from going their own way and the identity being lost. Quite an image.

The symbolism is fascinating, but I am quite ready to admit it is all bunk. However the standard refutations of astrology are infuriating. For example Theodor W Adorno's famous essay called The stars look down to earth, looks at a daily astrological newspaper column and people's credulity in believing in it. Right off the bat it is clear that the person who writes this column Adorno is examining has no knowledge of astrology, and is not an astrologer, which a child can see invalidates the entire argument. Undeterred by this Adorno then goes on to equate the irrational belief in astrology with belief in totalitarian governments. And barking assertions like this: "Indulgence in astrology may provide those who fall for it with a substitute for sexual pleasure of a passive nature."

The essay cleverly proves that the astrology done by a person who is not an astrologer is bunk. This is then taken to imply that astrology is bunk, which a child of six could see simply does not follow.

Don't get me wrong, much of what purports to be astrology is 100% drivel.

But the symbolism, grounded in thousands of years of human tradition, has become a storehouse of archetypes. And this is worth exploring.

Saw an intelligent programme on TV last night called Extreme Pilgrim where a Church of England Vicar called Peter Owen Jones visited Shoalin monks of central China. He didn't seem to have the first idea of Buddhism but it was an engaging and intelligent programme - and once he began to get it a bit, quite moving. When the master showed him how to sweep the floor in a mindful way, this whistled completely over Owen Jones's head. He simply could not understand that this was a form of meditation in itself - by focusing on the job at hand of sweeping he would be emptying his mind and bringing his mind and body into one. But he is clearly a good guy and well worth watching - and, equally clearly, something happened to him when he was high in the mountains which reframed his worldview.

Below William Butler Yeats, to this day still my favourite poet.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

You've got an ambient face

Physical energy lower than a worm's limbo party this morning. And sweating seems to be back judging by my sheets for the last couple of mornings. Ugh. The humbug just keeps on coming.

Yesterday I crept out to get more Lemsip Max (respect to the inventors of those bad boys) from Boots, which allowed me to cast my baleful reddened eyes at the sea, and on other people, and so on which was very refreshing.

Was fortunately also able to reschedule some freelance work to next Monday, by which time, please God, I will be feeling better.

However I have learned that the comedy duo The Mighty Boosh are absolutely wonderful. I have been watching the DVD that Christof, Sophie's son, lent me of their first TV series. Originality, lovely wordplay and unrestrained imagination - not to mention sheer likeability. Just excellent. One of the characters being told he had a "generic", and "ambient" face made me guffaw childishly too. They have been around for some time, butthanks to Christof, I have finally caught up with them.

Also when I was with Mum and Mas I watched the movie 2001, which I'd not seen since childhood. Amazing just how contemporary the movie feels. Much less dated than subsequent star treks etc. Although these people cavorting in monkey suits at the beginning of 2001 are still to be treasured.

Looked at my poems today after some time, and decided that my working title The Ghost Clock is far too passive and dreary.

Listening to LPs belonging to me and my brother that I brought back from Mum's. Including an excellent album called HQ by Roy Harper, which I'd forgotten. Thoughtful, and vitriolic words, and cool tunes. He should have been much more famous than he was.

There is the added benefit of making Anton feel uneasy because I'm now singing the virtues of vinyl.

Below a bitmap doodle while listening to the radio. You have to make your own amusement.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Concerning the rights and duties of the Citizen

Have just been looking at my pal Ken's new book, under his nome de plume of Simon de Vries. His new translation of Concerning the rights and duties of the Citizen by the abbé de Mably is hot off the press. Now a less well known a figure of the French Enlightenment than Rousseau and Voltaire - at the time Mably was just as famed. And Mably, in Ken's view, although less of a literary stylist had greater qualities of insight, tolerance and sober moderation. His ideas have fed the creation of modern democracies - but his contribution has been minimised or almost willfully misunderstood.

I have been browsing through the book this morning, and even for the non-specialist, it seems rather interesting. Ken is very passionate about rescuing Mably's reputation from the scorns of time and, as far as I can tell, has done him a great service.

To thine own self be true

Happy new year! This new year's morning I have just walked out into the corner store in what seems a very sleepy Brighton, subdued in the aftermath of fireworks and partying, not to mention the two men who ran back and forth in the twitten making Native American style whoopings in the night.

However I party pooped, thanks to the flu (aka the humbug). But this was good as I got to talk to Mum and Toby and Lorraine and take happy new year texts from many others.

On the 30th, which was Mum's birthday, I travelled back down to Brighton. I felt a bit sad that I had brought only extra laundry and sore lungs to Mum and Mas for Christmas.

It felt good to glimpse the great outside and to exploit the opportunity to glare balefully at people with my fiery Sauron eyes. Lorraine came around shortly after I arrived, and cooked me a meal, and generally took care of me. As a hypochondraic, I find knowing that she used to be a ward sister a great comfort.

This time last year, watching the sun rise in Japan, I thought that 2007 was going to be significant, and I was right. This year is when the consequences of those choices will start to play out. There is something different about me, I feel stronger in a way I can't put my finger on, but I think I feel truer to myself than I have ever felt.

I have many blessings. And I wish everyone who reads this blog many blessings too, and a wonderful new year.

Below, my favourite dawn image from this time last year.