After a very few drinks with Anton the night before, I had a disproportionately terrible headache first thing this morning. However this soon passed off, thanks to ibuprofen balanced by Japanese green tea. It is important to balance drugs with something virtuous.
Writing my skeleton story all day till 4 - breaking happily through the 30k words mark for the first draft, which is rapid progress indeed. My hero Skelton Yawngrave is the tops. I am having fantasies about a Skelton Yawngrave theme park and myself busy counting vast pots of cash. Leaving all the future royalties to a children's hospital like JM Barrie did with his Peter Pan story for Great Ormond Street seems a good idea. But I am getting ahead of myself... Erm. Maybe I need to finish it first.
Then went for a swim. I'm just not liking this pool in Brighton very much. It is always very splashy and elbowy and crowded. When not being overtaken by people twenty years older than me, I get trapped behind others. It simply does not create the zen-like state of mind that my old pool in Hammersmith did. One thing is nice though, everyone gets a cubicle to change in, so I can rub my walrussy old hide with the necessary unguents without attracting the wrong sort of attention.
Cooking again. Although I have had to stop baking bread as I simply eat it, all of it very quickly. Made tonight a cheeky dahl and rice with a mixed vegetable curry. Very tasty, even if I say it myself, which I do.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
On the up
Celebrated a great morning's work, by taking a two hour walk this afternoon, heading east across the city and clambered uphill till I reached the top of it. It is surprisingly high in the Hanover area, especially near the racecourse. Then ended up at Whitehawk, which I'd never walked through and probably won't bother again.
Sort of reminded me a little of the Chalkhill estate in Wembley, where my old pal Carl lived, which is now mostly pulled down. Lots of the kids that went to my school lived there and it was quite a rough place. I wrote an unsuccessful SF novel in Carl's parents garage in Chalkhill, being bitten by fleas from the rug, and watching the odd flood of dog urine come down the wall, supplied by one of the several puppies from upstairs. Nobody can say I haven't paid my dues.
Whitehawk has an edgy atmosphere about it, although in the sun it looked pleasant enough and there were few people about, apart from a man with a unpleasant dog. I walked past them twice, trying to decide where to walk next. Clearly this was some kind of provocation as he muttered "queer" to his dog. Or it could have been a talking dog, but this is less likely.
Late in the evening went for a drink with Anton in the Eddy, he'd been on an unspeakable teleconference till 10, but we had an enjoyable chat for a couple of hours. Naturally, among many subjects, he was keen to talk about football since Chelsea lost at the weekend.
Below lots of roads drop away like this in the east part of Brighton. Some shoes. The so-called Pepperpot, which was once a water tower, but is currently unused. A skeleton picture in the underpass below the racecourse to Whitehawk. Obviously I am obsessed by skeletons these days but they are a few about if you look. This one has had its eyes gouged out. Some homes in Whitehawk.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
A transitory gloom today - I ran out of steam. And felt fed up, and most of the news was bad, such as hearing about my pal Paula's mum dying. However I was much cheered by Loraine coming around to discuss the right music for children to do alien dances to.
After some thought I suggested Two Pages by 4hero and lent her the CD. It is perfect (for that sort of thing) and the second half of the CD is largely about aliens. It is quite funny reading the sticker on it with lots of people ten years ago from hip organs like Mixmag and so on saying it was the cat's miaow - and 4hero have certainly had their drum and basey spaced out avant garde moments. But having small children do alien dances to it in school surely must be the pinnacle.
Wish I could be a fly on the wall.
Went to a new chiropractor at lunchtime. A man, which is a new one for me. Felt distinctly better after being given a good cracking. Had, as you'd expect, a good conversation about skeletons. Afterwards it occurred to me that people must think I am completely mad sometimes.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Goaded by Spurs
Met up with Sophie and family again this morning. Watched the kids on the bungee trampoline thing on the beach, and then we went again to the Mock Turtle for a light lunch and cups of tea. I have loved having Sophie and her family visit Brighton, and I've had a really cheery weekend with them.
Then off to find a pub where Chelsea's cup final against Tottenham Hotspurs was being shown on a big screen. Found one around the corner from me, where Lorraine and I were able to get a seat. Not a good pub, and full of odd looking people and, Lorraine said, a distinct whiff of urine.
This not as bad as the stink coming from the TV. Chelsea scored first and as I rightfully gave voice to my pleasure it turned out that the pub was a nest of Spurs fans, which explained their homely appearance. Many of them were looking at me with less favour than before. But then, drearily, Chelsea played appallingly and Spurs managed to get a goal, and eventually a winner at the end of extra time. Felt bitter about the forces of wrongness asserting themselves in this way.
Sophie and the family called around just before catching their train, and Christof played me a song he was writing on his guitar. They gave me a copy of A thousand splendid suns, which I am looking forward to reading, and returned to London. Lorraine also returned home. Had a great weekend with all of them.
Sent out my Pamphlet project to a few friends and relatives to get some feedback. Quite pleased with how its going down so far.
A quiet night in, and early to bed,
Saturday, February 23, 2008
A beak where it wasn't wanted
Met Sophie, Andros, and the bairns early this afternoon to lurk on the pier. Following tradition, Andros off for coffee and the rest of us onto the pier for several rides. A cold day.
I went on the dodgems with Sophie and the kids. Sophie zooming around looking curiously traumatised by it. Christof and I went on my favourite Horror Hotel ghost ride, which was excellent, as they have made a few improvements. Enjoyed the cheesy horror tableaux that you trundle past, and was surprised by the bits of cloth that pleasingly trail over your face in the dark. Lorraine went on a ghastly whirling thing with Electra, and even managed to hold up her hands in the approved manner.
After a couple of hours of this sort of thing, and watching the kids on even worse rides, we made off. Far more horrifying than the ghost train was a feathered devotee of Hitchcock pacing along the roofing eyeing us, and just as I pointed out its comical behaviour to kids, we were suddenly surrounded by three or four gulls. I waved my arms about ineffectually, and one of the winged fiends had its beak in Electra's Singapore noodles before you could blink. When she dropped them and ran off to Sophie, her noodles were scarfed hungrily from the floor.
At what evolutionary point did seagulls start waking up in the morning and saying to themselves: you know what, I could fancy a Chinese?
We repaired to the Mock Turtle for tea, and then after a breather of a few hours all went out again in the evening, to the Pomegranate restaurant, where I'd been with Sophie a few weeks ago. Sophie likes it because it is eastern Mediterranean/middle eastern in its cuisine, and they play Greek music there, and generally fawn over her. Much banter with young Christof who has rather warmed to me over the years. I took along my rubber squid, and made it say "they say they serve squid but I'm still hungry," which made me laugh more than Christof. I can drop back into childishness faster than a seagull can snatch a noodle.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Started working on the Pamphlet early in the morning. Worked all day certain of my big and cleverness, till I had a swim in the afternoon. Need to do more swimming as I was getting depressed that I was now so porcine that my clothes no longer fit me. Discovered however, that in fact one of my sweaters had shrunk in the wash, which made me feel slightly better.
Saw Lorraine tonight, and we went off to see a film called Juno, which is one of those films you don't expect much of, but is in fact a little gem. What a great script. It deals with a sixteen year old girl getting pregnant, and offering her baby for adoption. Thank goodness, loads of tired cliches are avoided. For example, the girl's parents are supportive, the girl knows her own mind and is resilient. It really is quite unexpectedly heartwarming.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Full of moon
Awake early in Strand on the Green with my brain a hive of ideas. Dressed, I decided to make an early break back to the seagulls. Coat on, I discovered that I had lost my phone. Galling visions of waiting around for the restaurant to open... Pacing about listening to Matt conducing lengthy ablutions then I popped out to First Matie's place and, mercifully she had it.
Then a lift from Matty to Turnham Green, then home against the tide of commuters, bumping into Reuben at Victoria.
Home and to work. Saw Lorraine briefly in the afternoon, as she is on half term. Otherwise I worked like a madman possessed today till 10:30pm with a new and easily executed idea (codename: The Pamphlet) which is either certifiable or utterly brilliant. Not decided yet.
Was half hoping to see the eclipse of the full moon, but after a week or so of crystal clear nights there was an annoying blanket of cloud cover. I expect astronomers up and down the country were grinding their teeth, and stamping on their reflectors. I liked the mental picture of working feverishly under a blood red moon, but sadly it was not to be. But what I was writing was extremely emotional, so it was quite fitting.
Smirking in the smoke
Up to London, to get my people fix. First stop to see Mum and Mase and collect the two sample spreads Mum has done for the children's book project, codenamed missing. She also showed me four of her paintings newly mounted and framed. They looked splendid. Then the three of us off to Stanmore to have a bite of lunch and a good chat in a pub called the Man in the Moon.
Then back to pick up my portfolio and, sipping a quick cup of tea, I noticed an old cassette of music that mum had compiled which she had labelled Jazz (dismal), which made me smile somewhat,
Then zoomed off to Glamoursmith to meet the French Bloke in the Riverside studios. Waiting for him, I finished a short book by Ivan Ward in the Ideas in Psychoanalysis series called Phobia. Very interesting for someone like myself, who collects phobias like other people do stamps. Funnily enough he described someone walking across Hungerford Bridge feeling phobic, something I myself have done on several occasions.
Interested by a discussion of Hitchcock's The Birds, which is was interesting to read due to my frequent use of them as symbols in my poems.
The French Bloke on very good form, looking really well, and clearly enjoying his new job. We had a cheeky glass of wine, as he had to go back to work and I then headed off to Strand on the Green to meet First Matie in the Bull's Head.
A really nice evening - and saw lots of other pals too: Lisa, Matty boy, Craig and Eva. Later we went across the road to have a nice meal in Annies - which is clearly Matt's second home. Really nice to see Lisa again, and very pleased Kate is now more settled, and has a lovely place to live. I took advantage of Matt's offer of a bed for the night, and boofed down within a stone's throw of the Thames.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
A beautiful day out at Bodiam Castle today with Lorraine. Decided to go there as I am at a point in my skeleton's story where a bit of castle reference would come in handy. L drove (and I navigated skilfully) across winding country lanes. The castle was almost artificially perfect, like a fairytale from a distance.
Spent some time wandering about in the castle, I began to become a bit obsessed with how the bright winter sunlight fell through its windows. L and I wandered about, squeezing up spiral staircases and mooching on the ramparts looking down at the greenish moat and the surrounding fields, with L falling into conversation with children as they squeezing through holes in the walls or waved plastic swords about.
I was reminded of a poem I wrote after visiting Kenilworth Castle, near Warwick University where I was studying. The poem recorded the fantastically profound observation that castles, built to last, fall down - and was published in Other Poetry about 25 years ago.
Stone does not sustain unchanged through time
As the raving of the rooks sustains,
No carved name endures in the red rock
As the green of the rock moss endures.
The jigsaw ruins mate images
To our brief memory, the ruins
Sustain us through these discarded husks
To restoration; the sowing of new grain.
Then to the tea shop for a restoring cup of tea and hot chocolate and for me one of those flapjack badboys. Drove back through country lanes into the setting sun to spend an evening together scarfing pizza and watching TV.
Below a bit of a photofest. Lorraine who is unable to keep a straight face in a photo in the third one, and various other shots, including a few which highlight the golden light washing through some of the windows. As ever click 'em to enlarge.
Friday, February 15, 2008
This is England
Stayed at Lorraine's last night, and was woken by a cat placing its paw on my forearm. Disorientated, I opened my eyes in the middle of a dream, and saw a face about six inches from mine, and in the half-light I mistook it for a small and intense child. This, for some reason, scared the bejasus out of me. I haven't been as alarmed by a cat since Paddy the Ghost Cat pattered into my bedroom.
Did a morning's work as God's own copywriter for the religious charity I'd been doing a bit for through my old agency. Thanks to feline intervention I found I was up exceedingly early so also got quite a bit done on my Skeleton story, have written over 20,000 words of it now, which is er, cracking along.
Another swim, the fourth of the week, left me feeling pretty shattered and still aghast at how fat and out of condition I am.
Rented a movie about skinheads in the 80s called This is England which I thought was a really good, excellently acted, a great script, and top subject matter.
I personally don't remember skins much in the 80s, though I was afraid of them in the 70s where at least in Norf London they were synonymous with far-right nutters the National Front, or kids who wanted to be associated with something hard and dangerous. Sharp clothes though: navy blue Crombie coats, checked Ben Sherman shirts, two tone Tonic trousers and Doc Marten boots.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Getting a grip
Taking care of bidness today, admin stuff, plus I wrote and sent off a speculative piece about the woodslick, with photos. Also sent a package of essays, stories and poems to the guys in Guernsey - plus made some progress on my Skeletons story. Also another swim. Still haven't got my all my pep back post virus, but am managing to do fairly sedate half an hour in the pool with few ill effects, but I am child-scaringly overweight at the moment.
Saw Anton and Martin for a cheeky beer in the evening in a pub called the Robin Hood, sitting at an old Masonic table, judging by the carving and iconography. The Robin Hood apparently gives all its profits to charity, which makes it unusual in itself.
Martin stressed by builders. Anton told us about some great news Anna's had. And later, eyeing the self employed Martin and the freelance me, moaning about how he was the only salary slave around. Anton and I then walked uphill and home, talking about The Stranglers Black and White album, which was Anton's life changing album.
I saw the Stranglers live a couple of times with my pal Paddy: once in the Hope and Anchor, and the other time in the Roundhouse both shortly after they had released No More Heroes. This was still the heyday of punk, and sensitive lad that I was, I was horrified to see a wave of spit from the audience caught in the footlights at the Roundhouse, before Hugh Cornwall explained he was going to beat up the next person who gobbed at him (all rather different to the Yes gig I went to in the same week).
In some obscure and self-conscious punkish fashion statement, I was wearing a pair of transparent industrial visors at the time. But I was glad of them.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Bob and the river
Little deathless prose and poetry produced today, although I had a fruitful chat with a magazine publisher Mex had kindly put me in touch with.
Went into town late this afternoon to meet up with Bob. Had a jolly evening discussing among other things the imagined attractiveness to ladies of the more mature gentlemen (such as ourselves) and - at some length - religion.
During the course of this we went for a walk along the Thames, which was looking particularly beautiful and popped into a Doggets where I played several games of pool with the old Mad dog, poking the butts of our cues into the elbows of disgruntled drinkers.
Then across the river to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, where we sat in the small dark bar near an open fire. This is a fine pub and one of my all time favourites and with its dark wood panels and old paintings a place for confidential lurking. Then to The Temple Bar for a curry before zooming home listening to an audiobook.
Below two views of the river. Looking across at St Paul's, and the South Bank. I quite like the way that the slight blurriness provides a painterly quality.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Football and a dolphin derby
Lazy carefree Sunday with Lorraine, wandered about in Brighton pausing to eat brunch by the sea, as it was a beautifully sunny day. Then onto the pier, which was crowded, where I became briefly transfixed by the Dolphin Derby and took a few photos of it. Particularly liking the bizarre fish hanging down from the roof.
Then back dawdling through the lanes, just mooching about and chatting amiably, and having coffee outside in the sun. Later we went to the Eddy to watch football: Chelsea vs the odious Liverpool. Amazingly Lorraine doesn't mind watching football, which makes her a bit of a geezer bird. As usual when I sit down to watch a Chelsea game the forces of wrongness prevail, and Chelsea were lucky to escape with a dire nil-nil draw. Watching the Dolphin Derby was infinitely more entertaining.
A bite of chinese grub before Lorraine went home, and I spent the evening watching TV and feeling generally exceedingly cheery. Especially when watching Man Utd get beaten by City on Match of the Day.
Below the dolphin derby. Loving the little grey scowly one in the second photo. As ever, click to enlarge.
Friday, February 08, 2008
Being Peter Kenny: 7 great things about it
Was tagged by splendid fellow blogger Lucy WithaY who is sounding V positive these days. Her idea is to create a meme, and write 7 positive things about your life down. So here goes... Actually I could have done about twenty.
- 1 family and friends - my family are also my friends, and many of my friends are like family. There are literally dozens of people I love. To disagree with Sartre, for me hell is not other people - hell is isolation.
- 2 creativity - frankly my creativity makes me big and clever. When not working as a creative for a living (writing junk mail, radio and TV adverts, tee-shirts, posters, websites etc.) I have acted in theatres, in one obscure movie, performed and written poems, prose, plays, taken photos, drawn, painted, played guitar, and blogged. It enriches my life because it makes the world my source material, not something to drift through. Additionally it helps me appreciate other people's art and expression. When you have, for example, painted a bit - it is impossible not to be in awe of truly great art.
- 3 spirituality - over the years I have become increasingly Buddhist in my leanings. Meditation is wonderful and I’d like to do more of it. And going to a Buddhist retreat for a few days was a bit of turning point. Buddhism is cool for many reasons. For a start, there are no fundamentalist Buddhists. Nobody is out to convert you. And they don't force you to suspend your disbelief and accept all kinds of garbled drivel as being the word of God. And on a personal level, it also helps me maintain my sanity as a creative person. I find ideas about not being attached to outcomes, or on focusing on the job at hand, to be extremely helpful.
- 4 ladies - I am catnip to them.
- 5 Brighton - is full of life and spirit, and more arty types than you can shake a stick at. I love living here, and it has the sea which is provides an instant perspective on life. I can get there inside 10 minutes. Not bad, eh?
- 6 Guernsey - my spiritual home. When I go back to the island I am recharged mentally and spiritually. It is a place rich in memories, natural beauty and history and it never fails to inspire me.
- 7 ending well - wherever possible I try to end things well - be they relationships, or jobs or just conversations. Any fool can start something, but ending it well takes art.
This was a nice exercise! If you are reading this, why not have a go?
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Words words and a cheeky cheque
A day built of words. A splendid one too, feeling positive and true to myself. Had an walk first thing in the morning, and enjoyed looking at the sea.
As I did so, I listened to podcast R3 interviews with Martin Amis (discussing why he is picking fights with Islam, and sounding like someone who was once badly bullied) and J.G. Ballard (introduced as, in the interviewer's opinion, the finest contemporary English novelist). This kind of thing always makes me irritable. He is the best person at being the J.G. Ballard, and writes the best J.G. Ballard books imaginable. Why do we always have this urge to turn everything into some kind of vacuous top of the pops list?
Writing the skeleton stuff again. I now have over 10,000 words of the first draft and I think it is already by some stretch the most entertaining thing I have ever done, so I am feeling very positive about this. Oddly, the writing of it is almost effortless. My only constraint in getting it down seems to be how many hours there are in the day, not trying to work out what to write.
Eventually got through a copy of Written magazine from Guernsey - Adam and Dave have done a nice job with it and I'm pleased to have a poem in it (A sparrow at 30,000ft).
A cheque arrived from First Matie's agency, which is always a pleasing thing.
I also caught up with the French Bloke, who has started his new job and sounded full of vim. He said the photo on his pass was the first one in years where he is smiling. I will zoom up to London soon, for a spot of plotting and scheming with him - as well as, no doubt, to go about the business of imbibing a few sharpeners.
Also had lengthy chats with Liz in the endless attempt to synchronise diaries; and with my Mum, who was contemplating absinthe and buying a gun. But that's another story.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
The pig's last oink
A morning full of skeletons. A sluggish head today though, and I got quickly stuck. Popped out instead to get a haircut (and an interesting discussion about life as a barber and er, skeltons) and, after having a more profitable afternoon, decided to leave early for London where I was to meet the Dell Posse.
I arrived very early and enjoyed walking about and relishing London's bustle, having been cooped up bashing away on my keyboard.
Chinatown looked particularly nice, decorated for New Year. I lurked about taking photos for some time. Then I made my way to the Crown and Two Chairmen in Soho where I began to read a newish collection of poetry by Esther Morgan called The Silence Living in Houses while sipping a beer. She quotes Alice Monroe's short story The Office which I've not read: "So a house is not the same for a woman. She is not someone who walks into the house, to make use of it and will walk out again. She is the house; there is no separation possible."
Her choice of quote was particularly good I think, and her poems revolve around that idea, but introduce notions of haunting and ghosts. Will have to look at it a bit more.
Then some of the Dell Posse arrived at the pub: Phil (whose birthday it was) Ash, Arno. From there we had our traditional curry in the usual restaurant. I very much enjoyed the mix of agency gossip and catching up - there seems to be a lot happening. In the last year our curry club has seen a marriage (young James darkhorsing it) an engagement (Phil and Ash) another engagement (Marcella), a baby (Arno) not to mention all the birthdays and job moves. All in all a good antidote to the hermit tendency.
Home feeling very cheery and arriving at Brighton I bumped into a nice fellow writer Diane, who I met when I last did a day in the office at my old agency. Then home to boof down happily, grateful that I didn't have to go to London again tomorrow.
Below getting ready for New Year on the 7th. The new year is the year of the Rat, the Pig's last oink in a window.
Monday, February 04, 2008
Found myself googling snake skeletons and bat faces today for my skeleton story.
Snakes can have hundreds of ribs and more vertibrae than you can shake a stick at. And bats are plain weird. To be able to write for six straight hours uninterrupted about bat faces and skeletons is wonderful - if a little eccentric.
Later I took to baking bread and making a large pie.
Then talked to Louise for the first time in ages, and hearing her baby boy Thomas gurgling in the background. They are both doing well and I will visit them soon.
On a curiously sad note, finally watched the last episode of the final Frasier series. These characters really speak to me, and as someone said in the DVD extras, the show never talked down to its audience. It was consistently intelligent, and often brilliantly written - and always excellently acted. But most of all you invested emotionally in the characters, and I identify increasingly with Frasier himself these days. I often get the feeling of sadness when you finish a book you love. I don't often get that with a TV show, but I do with Frasier.
Below some cool bat faces purloined from other sites for your delectation.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
No country for old men
Off with Lorraine to see No country for old men. A good choice for a dreary Sunday afternoon. It had very good reviews, and of course its title quotes the first line of Sailing to Byzantium by the guv'nor W.B. Yeats, which incidentally is a damn fine poem.
No country for old men is undoubtedly a damn fine film too. The title reflects the fact that violence is killing lots of people in the film, but also the Tommy Lee Jones's Sheriff's increasing sense of not belonging to the world he inhabits.
It is quite gory in parts, but there is something absolutely hypnotic in the way psychopathic hitman Anton Chigurh, (Javier Bardem) never deviates from his course of killing. He is an unstoppable force for death, and violence and his quarry - a man who, happening to stumple over the scene of a massive drug deal gone wrong, takes a bag of cash and makes off with it - is doomed from the start. Tommy Lee Jones who plays the world-weary Sherrif is excellent too, and is full of philosophical resignation. All quite big moral themes going on, but you never feel lectured.
Not a feelgood movie, but there are a few dark laughs in it. Gets my recommendation.