Monday, March 31, 2008

The cat's miaow

Beginning another week freelancing at my old agency. Feeling better adjusted psychologically to it this week. Sloped off at lunch with the French Bloke who is now working for the agency next door. We sat in a quiet Riverside studios eating a delicate thali and shooting the breeze over a glass of wine. He was very enthusiastic about the redesign of his house, and drew his plans in some detail in one of my notebooks. He is also really enjoying his new job, so all is well.

Spoke to Mum for a bit at lunch time too, and got a nice email from Joan which contained the picture, below, of the cats and a dogs of Deviation Road living in perfect harmony. Joan was urging me to get a cat. It would have to be one from a sanctuary that needed re-homing.

In fact, cats have been playing on my mind, especially as I have been writing letters about taking care of abandoned cats in the last few working days. Once things settle down for a bit, I might get one. Especially as I'm working from home a bit more now. It would be a working cat of course. I might give it some of my easier filing jobs, and it could graduate onto tapping out a bit of copy. It would of course follow in the long and noble tradition of copy cats.

In other news I became increasingly concerned that there was something significantly wrong with me. A ring I always wear began to feel incredibly tight and I couldn't take it off. My hand looked normal, but the ring told another story. Only later in the evening did I realise that the ring was on the wrong finger, which explained the tightness. I happened to be talking to Lorraine on the phone at the time, who laughed at me somewhat when I discovered this.

Below a Jack Russell and companion soak up the heat through their pads in Ontario.


Old haunts, new friends

Into London today. As the train drew into Victoria Mum phoned to talk about an operation she is going to have shortly. Difficult to talk in the station with loudspeakers barking information about trains.

Soon after, I met up with Lakshmi who was clutching a book of London walks, and after tubing it, we vaguely followed its directions into Chiswick, which of course is an old haunt of mine. We went to Hogarth House and the Italianate Chiswick House, enjoyed the Hogarth prints. And although I'd been in Chiswick House grounds many times, I'd never actually been inside Chiswick House. I took some photos of weathered statues that had been in the garden and were now inside as Lakshmi and I wandered about with the audio guides pressed to our ears. The statues creeped Lakshmi out a bit, and I thought their corroded faces were rather magnificent and best not encountered in a dark Twitten.

We then walked off to Strand on the Green and met up with Matty, Kate, Graeme and others in Annies, where we drank wine and I ate a shepherds pie and there was quite a bit of conversation. Then home via Clapham. The trains were doomed beyond Haywards Heath but Lorraine picked me up from HH and drove me home, which was uncommonly nice of her.

Below time-maimed faces in Chiswick House.







Sunday, March 30, 2008

In praise of beer

These lines caught my eye in Hogarth House - at the bottom of the Beer Street print - by the Rev James Townley. Bah to the French and their depraved water!

Beer, happy Produce of our Isle
Can sinewy Strength impart,
And wearied with Fatigue and Toil
Can cheer each manly Heart.

Labour and Art upheld by Thee
Successfully advance,
We quaff Thy balmy Juice with Glee
And Water leave to France.

Genius of Health, thy grateful Taste
Rivals the Cup of Jove,
And warms each English generous Breast
With Liberty and Love!


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cat plague

Hitomi is coming to London next week on business, and I got a note today asking me if I will meet her for breakfast. Hitomi is angelic. She met me at Narita airport and guided me through Tokyo into my seat the bullet train. Be good to see her in blighty.

A day spent doing housework - and sleeping. Saw Lorraine briefly this evening, while her parents were at a show.

Mostly though, I was plagued by a feline confidence trickster. It snuck into my house three times, and roamed about as if it owned the place, even scampering up the stairs to check out my bath before I could shoo it out. It managed to climb onto the ledge and peer at me pleadingly while I was in the kitchen. Then it took up residence in my back garden in the rain and mewed outside my door pitifully. After many hours of this, I was completely taken in and was considering giving it some tuna, and calling it Chaplin, because it looked so pathetic, when I heard someone calling a cat, and it promptly melted away.

Below the trickster.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Tea with a smile

Friday took a lot of time coming, and was very welcome when it did. Finished the Bartimaeus Trilogy on the train without further endangering myself.

Bought a cup of tea as I often do from the man who pushes the buffet trolley on the train, I think his name is Howard. He is a shining example of life being what you make it. He is generally cheerful and usually has a fragment of gentle of banter with people he is serving. Today I asked him for a nice cup of tea, and he said they were all nice from his trolley, and then he tried and failed, as he always does, to upsell me to some sort of croissant to go with it. It's something and nothing. But he passes through the train, bringing a smile to dozens of people during the day - I don't suppose he gets paid much for his job, but I think he is spiritually well in credit.

Raining heavily at lunchtime in Glamoursmith, hurried off to buy a small and slimline salmon and cucumber sandwich, manifesting iron will by avoiding the various temptations of doughnuts, biscuits and Friday afternoon Mars bars, which were scattered about the agency. I was invited around to Lorraine's house for supper. My early years as an astrological sage tell me that if a Taurean offers to cook for you, it makes sense to simply accept. She made a mouthwatering chicken curry, and I undid my good work by having second helpings.

After work, I left to go to the Lyric Theatre, where I met a new business contact that Mase put me in touch with, for chats over sparkling mineral water. Sparkling mineral water is the drink of choice I find for business meetings these days. It says sinuously businesslike. It says sparkle. It says clarity. Charming French woman, with some good ideas. She told me however that one of her friends had just started a business importing snails eggs, a bit like caviar apparently. Hmm.

Got a nice note from Andrew Comben, saying he'd seen the interview I'd done of him and was pleased with it, which was nice of him. I've not seen it yet.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A punchable savior


Just before I woke up, I had a nightmare that I was back at my agency full time. I'm having to contend with Groundhog Day feelings about being there. But once I just deal with it for what it is: an excellent bit of freelance, and a chance to see some old friends, it is actually pretty enjoyable.

On the train listening to the final volume of the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud. An Anton recommendation, a good fantasy, with excellent writing - with the last book being by far the best plotted in my opinion. However it almost killed me: run over by a bus outside Victoria station while listening to my headphones. An employee of the bus company was roaring Bus! at me. I was looking at him vaguely to my left wondering why he was shouting, as the bus loomed on my right. Happily I stopped shortly before squashing commenced. I sincerely thanked him, but then he began shaking his head and enlarging on what an idiot I was, and pretty soon I felt like punching my saviour in his head. Life is odd.

Into work, and lots of jobs being piled on mostly of a dull but detailed sort to do with stocks and shares ISAs. At lunch went off for a stroll upstream along the river with The Gnome and called into a pub for a couple of coffees (yes, coffees). Having spent so much time in each other's company over the last three years, it's feels really good to catch up. Being with other art directors, makes you realise the value of working with someone you really know.

Was supposed to be babysitting tonight, but Anton still ill with his bug, which seems not to be shingles. Chilling instead in my crib, watching DVDs of Vic Reeves Big Night Out, which still makes me smirk due to its maniacal wordplay.
Below more stuff from the boneyard shot today. Liking the negatives. Maybe that's what angels really look like.




Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Among angels


Up to London again, went for a wander around at lunchtime, finding myself in the Garage Art Gallery. Despite working 10 minutes away from it in the past, I'd never been into it. This week there was an exhibition by a guy called Sidney Handel who in 2004 and at the age of 81 joined an art class. He was standing in the little gallery, amid the remnants of peanuts and wine of what I assumed to be his first show, and surrounded by colourful pictures. I found this rather heartening.

Hurried off to take some photos in the graveyard, and enjoyed being among the Victorian angels again. Watched the documentary about the making of Wings of Desire on the DVD, where Wim Wenders makes the link between his film and Rilke's poems. Something very poetic about the graveyard, with its leaning headstones and ornate statuary. Some of the figures almost look as if they could blink open their eyes, and turn their heads.

After work over, I went to the pub with Robbie, The Gnome - and Mark, who is flying off to a new life in New Zealand tomorrow. He has a new job to go to, and will be getting a place with his girlfriend. Talk about leaving your old life behind. A lovely chap. Soon lots of others turned up, for a leaving drink which I stayed at for a bit. Nice to catch up with people, but I feel like Banquo's ghost most of the time.

Home and saw Lorraine briefly - who called around with some lasagna meals on wheels, as she was mid-taxi-ing her daughter.

Below a negative shot of an angel.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The grump within

Up unspeakably early to get into London to get an early start at the agency. Grumped onto the train, noting that my recent sense of humour bypass is holding. Falling into old survival patterns: meditation tracks, and then to Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo podcast from BBC radio 5. I always really enjoy their show, and pleased to hear Kermode rating The Orphanage. One I am definitely going to see, although I suspect I will be ululating with horror, and apparently crying like a big girl at the end. Even the trailer gives me chills.

Worked all day through lunch on stuff for financial clients with Bee and Lana, who got engaged at the weekend. I was the soul of amenability despite the grump within. Then shot out like a rabbit from a ferrety warren at five thirty. Listening to an audiobook, and crazily fiddling with the stupid game on my phone. I can't believe how long I lived like this. Experiencing acute and violent heartburn at the moment, not something I get too much. Spoke to Lorraine on the phone about it and she seems to think I may not need an operation, but then she had been doing an NLP class all day.

Fab, however to be home, after zipping up the hill and returning Anton's keys that I inadvertently trousered when I was at Anna and Anton's house yesterday. While today I found a handy little sachet containing a computer screen wipe, which I carefully brought home. This sachet is now in my washing machine spinning at many hundred revolutions a minute, no doubt leaching its many poisons into my clothes and the environment.

Nice chat with Lakshmi tonight, and was forgiven despite having shamefully missed her birthday last week. I will make amends.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Oskar in a skeleton shirt

Low profile day again today, having felt fairly subdued over this holiday for no good reason at all. However, having gone into an excellent chocolate store in Lewes the other day, I went up the hill to visit Anton and Anna and take some little Easter baskets plus some little chocolate animals (green frogs, white mice and brown cats and dogs) to Klaudia and Oskar.

Chatted with Anna lots, as some snow fell outside. Anton not well, however, and lying on the sofa stricken with self-diagnosed shingles. Anna said that she'd looked it up on the Internet and it had advised taking paracetamol and to shut up, which we laughed at, Anton rather less so. They are flying off to Australia next weekend for Christianne's wedding, so it would be much better if it wasn't shingles.

Read a couple of stories to Klaudia, one of which I liked. It was called Selfish Sophie about a girl who wasn't very good at sharing, and was following the rule I've learned recently of not explaining everything in children's books. Sophie after not sharing was isolated from the other boys and girls, but eventually when it started to rain someone shared an umbrella with her, and she began to befriend someone and suddenly she didn't feel so alone. But the text didn't explain why this happened, it was to the conversation afterwards I suppose.

Watched fascinated as Oskar piloting a plastic vehicle of some description around the room completely absorbed and making some sort of an engine noise. Interesting how the children, surrounded by toys off all kinds, appear nevertheless to gravitate towards stereotypical boys or girls toys.



Below young Oskar wearing his cool skeleton shirt. Skeleton stuff is everywhere these days.



Sunday, March 23, 2008

All's well that ends in the Eddy

Grey damp cold weather. Started the day in a grey damp cold mood too, feeling decidedly out of sorts in many ways. Retreated to working on poems but simply breaking them the more effort I put into them. Gave up in disgust. Waiting for the wet weather to abate so that I could paint over the fresh graffiti on my green fence.

Much solidarity in the Twitten, though, chatted to some of my neighbours further along as I was painting it out in the evening. There is now talk of a CCTV camera which may be a deterrent of some sort.

However cheered up progressively as the day went on. Lorraine and I went for a long walk and talk along the seafront, which made me feel much better. Then we had a cheeky late lunch in a tiny and delightful tapas place opposite the Corn Exchange. A beany tapas was absolutely ace. Like Guernsey bean jar but curiously thick and full of garlic, and we had some really nice house red wine. I want to produce the ultimate Guernsey bean jar - but will learn from the dark arts of people from other lands if I have to.

In the evening I went out to meet Anton in the Eddy, for a long chat and a few beers. The place as lively as ever and we had long chats and the usual banter about all kinds of stuff. Top end to the day. Unruly moods eh? As Wordsworth puts it in the Prelude:

"The Poet, gentle creature as he is,
Hath, like the Lover, his unruly times;
His fits when he is neither sick nor well,
Though no distress be near him but his own
Unmanageable thoughts"

Poor dears, poets.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The scene of the great beer war

A short trip to Lewes today with Lorraine. Pretty cold weather, with ice in the air. Wandered about in town, and into a few good bookshops. Ended up having a meal and a couple of good beers in the Lewes Arms which is a splendid pub and cultural hub. In recent years there was lots of news about it when local beer Harveys (brewed in Lewes and quaffed appreciatively by me and a zillion others in Brighton and elsewhere) was no longer served there due to the brewery Greene King's insistance. Read wikipedia on the Lewes Arms controversy and how the power of the locals beat the corporate brewers.

Also L and I laughing at posters: THE SPECTACULAR "ENCIERRO DOS (Los?)ANIMALES PANTAMIMOS" (RUNNING OF THE PANTOMIME ANIMALS) WILL TAKE PLACE AT THE LEWES ARMS ON EASTER SUNDAY AT 3:00PM.

This seems to involve people dressing up in pantomime costumes and charging about throught the town. Read more about that here. Also chatted to Matty, as it seemed rude not to call him as we walked about in his beloved Lewes. He had introduced me to the pub just before Christmas, and it is a favourite haunt of his.

Bought a book from 1906 in one of Lewes fine bookshops - Cupid and Psyche with Photogravures after Gilbert James.

Back to Brighton, and sitting peacefully on the Gold sofa I heard what sounded like a riot. It was in fact lots of football fans chanting, which sounded like a war was going on. Naturally inquisitive I popped my head around the corner of the Twitten to see a Police v football fans stand off in the Railway Bell pub. The air was full of fine sleet so I managed to snap one or two bad shots before diving back home. Never a dull moment eh?

Below Pipe Passage in Lewes, part of Lewes Castle, and a poor shot of police outside a pub.















Thursday, March 20, 2008

Short fuse

Another day in my old agency - speeding about working on scraps of urgent stuff, with two art directors I'd never been partnered with before: Bee and Lana. Feeling slightly out of control with lots to do. Lots of stress about the place - but I managed to maintain a reasonably good equilibrium. Train draggy and late getting home.

Home to rejections for my pamphlet project: one company has restricted its list to books of quotations, and the other already has a publication lined up specifically for Valentine's day. Good to get fast feedback though, and can send them off again as soon as I get a minute.

The evening, however, much better. I met up with new literary pal Alison and went to a short story event in the Komedia appropriately called (considering the day I'd had) Short Fuse. Six stories, and all but one read by the writer. A high standard and a wide variety of material. Enjoying the unusual ideas that popped up, such as reading Homer to your cat. And a brilliant bit of writing about a teenager's sexual encounter with an older man that managed to be transcendentally wonderful. A really good night out. I will try to get on there at some point.

Afterwards went for a beer and a coffee with Alison, and had a wide ranging chats about writers and books, and life in general. A fascinating person. I told her how much I was enjoying reading her book. She told me that she'd done quite a bit of research for it - on attending physics courses and also visiting hospitals with people being treated for sleep disorders.

Home and since I'd not eaten I was sudden gripped by a despicable urge for a late night pizza before I shot off to bed.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Gallivanting at midnight

Dropping to sleep last night, when two students - clearly on something - took to kicking a recycling box along the Twitten (it boomed like a drum) and shouting incredibly loudly and laughing hysterically. After running up and down half a dozen times, and pushing each other into my tiny front garden, into my rosebush, I'd had enough and stalked out hastily dressed in socks and jeans and teeshirt - at which point there was some legging it. My new next door neighbour was out too, bless her. She and her husband haven't moved in properly yet, but asked me rather despairingly if it was always like this. I assured her that it wasn't always like this. The gallivanters had broken out of a party, and she talked to them excellently, and I handed the box back to the host, and explained that I wasn't best pleased either, and the Twitten settled back tutting into its beds.

Off this morning to the smoke, and my old agency again. Nothing much happened, and working with Lana on some dull financial work about ISAs, which is managing to be simultaneously hard and boring. However I will probably be working there for a couple of weeks or so picking up a variety of jobs (one tomorrow about eyeballs), which my bank balance will welcome. Nice to catch up with the Gnome and a few others. Felt tired though today.

While waiting for a briefing I was able to take care of my PK bidness. A long note to Mike the On Track publisher, a meeting arranged for next week with Jeanne, my French Connection. Started reading Alison MacLeod's book The Wave Theory of Angels on the train. Really rather good so far and it starts with a quote from Rilke, which makes it instantly big and clever.

After locking myself out yesterday, today I left work with my dratted iPod on the desk I was using. Will still be there tomorrow? Home, and I'd left my kitchen door unlocked all day. That makes three things now. Enough already.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A bit of a write off

The wrong side of the bed this morning; antsy and couldn't settle.

Tried instead to do practical things, which all seemed to backfire, such as attempting to log onto the website of Writers' & Artists' Yearbook. Access to the site comes free with the yearbook, and you type in the code that comes with the book. This simply crashed, and has done for two days. Sent an email to enquiries at A and C Black (listed in the yearbook) which was bounced. Phoned the company and got nowhere. Useless and annoying wankers.

Gloom snowballed somewhat with inability to work. Ended up going for a walk by the sea, trying to decide on reasons not to leave clothes in a pile. Main reason: the water looked cold. After walking for two hours I felt a bit more cheery though.

Home and spoke to Mike at On Track for some time about Brighton and his plans and schemes. Also confirmed I will be up to the smoke again tomorrow to work with my old agency again.

For some reason had the taste for fish and chips and so dived out into the twitten, to go to the Sing Li chippy. I paused to talk to a neighbour who said she liked the new blue of my front door. Then a nasty moment when I realised I'd locked myself out for the first time in three years, and couldn't get hold of Anna who has a spare set. Visions of standing about in the cold waiting for locksmiths. Fortunately Anna was bathing the bairns and was at home. After legging up the hill I stood briefly over the kids sliding about in the bath till Anna thankfully found my keys and all was well.

Lorraine came around briefly tonight for a chat and a sparkling water, and as she walked in, a strange black and white cat strolled in bold as brass, and lurked behind my sofa. Eventually I shooed it out, but it didn't really want to go. Perhaps it is a reincarnation of Paddy the Ghost Cat.

Below a very low tide today. Noticed on the old pier lost nets like clothes on washing lines.





Monday, March 17, 2008

A sustainable life

Productive Monday. Up early, and did a telephone interview at 10, where I spoke to Brighton's splendidly-named sustainable development guru Thurstan Crockett, about the forthcoming festival and what's going on in Brighton. Pleased to learn that Brighton won Forum for the Future award last year for its sustainability initiatives.

I cleverly (but somewhat tangentially) steered the conversation onto gulls, and explained my theory that there were two tribes in Brighton: The People and The Gulls. He wanted to go on record that gulls were much maligned. Hmm. I thought. Tell that to the one that got its thieving beak into Electra's noodles the other week. As Thurstan had worked as a journalist it made the interview very easy and I'd blasted the article out by noon. Really interesting guy.

Then focused on my Pamphlet project, now called i love you. I have reworked it, completed the proposal and other bits and there was nothing more to do with it other than send it off, after email approaches and one telephone call. Be interesting to see if it get any nibbles. God speed you, you little pamphlet. It is a very mentally clearing thing. Now... onto my other projects. I've got more of 'em than New York.

Heard several times from Mex lately. She is incredibly busy and doing exceedingly well. If you haven't checked out her website lately you should do.

Also got a friendly note from Alison MacLeod, who I'd met at the write club the other day. She's invited me out with her pals next time they meet, which is really nice. I've ordered her book, The Wave Theory of Angels, and her pal Susanna Jones' book The Missing Person's Guide to Love from Amazon.

I had done all this by three thirty, so I zoomed off for a swim feeling quite pleased with myself. Usual sumo-ing about, and biffing into people. It just isn't very relaxed in there.

My old agency bumped my freelance for a day so I have a free day to write tomorrow which is excellent. Off to the Eddy tonight for a cheeky beer and read the Poetry South collection and half watched some desperate slogging football and got chatting to a guy called Colin who worked in construction.

St Patrick's day today. Paddy the Ghost Cat didn't show up, dispelling my theory that the ghost cat appears once a year. Maybe that's a good thing.

Below Sprinkles sent me this from Florida, which made me larf.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A pizza the action

Beavering today writing up the interview I did yesterday, and played at journalism. Mike at On Track also called to ask me to do another interview, which I have set up for Monday morning, and said they were going to use a little speculative piece I'd sent them about the woodslick. My old agency also called offering a couple of weeks work, so all in all a good day from that perspective - but I am tantalizingly close to finishing off a couple of my projects, so I have mixed feelings about taking time out now. But naturally I will do the work to buy myself a bit more writing time.

Spoke to Toby, who is off to Canada first thing tomorrow. Sorry that I only got to see him once, but I am fairly sure we'll see each other again shortly. Also briefly spoke to mum as they were busy gloating over the hits to mum's websites.

Very pleased it was Friday. What I find unreasonable, however, is having worked 5 days this week, how few people are prepared to offer me any sympathy. In the evening I went up the hill with Lorraine and had a pizza fest with Anton and Anna - and none of them were sympathetic, even when I explained that I was more delicate, and so was more easily upset by working.

Anton making lots of pizzas in his genuinely unrivalled way. Delicious. Fun evening eating, drinking a few Polish beers and arguing unreasonably about music. Anton and Lorraine having quite similar - although misguided -tastes in some respects, both enjoying a bit of weedy stuff like Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark. It was time to go when Anna could not keep her eyes open and saying, quite sweetly, that she could just listen.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Write club

Busy day. Up fairly early and working on project pamphlet (now reframing and transforming) then girding my loins to schlep off to London to interview Andrew Comben the new Chief Executive of the Brighton Festival. Having not done an interview for a bit, I thought I'd take my mp3 recorder as a back up. However the dratted thing decided to freeze up when I tested it on the train, which was galling and made me want to stamp on it. Had to rely on good old fashioned scribbling. More about all that in the daywork blog.

Feeling somewhat coldy today, but coffee kept me going. In the evening I took myself off to something called The Write Club (alluding to Fight Club) where people are supposed to have arguments about literature. Instead I ended up having a really good time and chatting with four (count 'em) published novelists and others who were nice too. One woman had published a "chick lit" novel (which sounded rather dark when she read a piece from it) and I forgot her name. Otherwise chatting happily with three others Susanna Jones, William Shaw and Alison McLeod who are collaborating on an online novel called 217 Babel St. I liked all three. I'm beginning to feel I'm starting to get the best from Brighton. Life is sweet.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Meeting Toby in town

Into my old agency to finish working on the pitch. Typically in the middle of a streaming cold which improved as the day wore on. Usual last minute stuff, and I left the Gnome at the end of the day facing hours of seeing things through the studio. Nice to chat to people there, but doubly nice to be able to walk away.

Off then into town to meet Toby, who is in the country for a week. He'd been in Wales seeing chums, and lurking with Mum and Mase. I met him outside the Apogee off Leicester Square. He was wearing a very nice biscuit coloured duffel coat, which I coveted somewhat. It was bought in South America, and has a Paddington Bearish air.

We slid off to The Salisbury pub, and sat in the back room which has mirrored walls, and drank beers, and did lots of talking and general family gossip and discussing things like the nature of love. Then off to a pizza restaurant for a bit of a feed. Great to go see Toby lad, makes me feel sad we can't just do that more often on account of us living thousands of miles apart. But with Toby it always feels like you've just had a chat yesterday.

Fond farewells to Tobs, and then off home. Some problem on the tube meant I missed my Brighton train by seconds. Slow train to Hove and then a cab home.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

This isn't Kansas

Poor sleep last night. Woke up in the middle of the night after dreaming about a tsunami. I often dream about tsunamis, and when I'm not dreaming about those, it's twisters. This can only be explained by having former lives in Krakatoa, and Kansas. And before that I was Cleopatra, but that's another story.

Into work and locked away for most of the day with the Gnome,which almost made me feel as if I'd never left. Slogging on a pitch together, going through the usual gamut of emotions and drinking lots of coffee. A cold starting in the middle of the day, which was annoying and made it hard to think at times but it all turned out okay in the end.

Champing at the bit to get on with all my other bits and pieces. But nice to see some people. Saw Al briefly, who is leaving to have her second baby soon. Home late, and after eating a cheese and onion sandwiches and chatting to Toby on the phone, headed for bed. I will be seeing the Tobster tomorrow after work, which will be excellent.

Below the darkness under London.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Current events

Howling wind and rain last night. People being bullied by a storm down the hill to the station, from where trains crawled at a weather-restricted 50 mph. I was one of them, having to get to my old agency for an early start. Nasty to be squeezing onto the tube again, and once at the agency I sat about for an hour or so waiting to everyone else to arrive. Typical.

Have been drafted in to work on a healthcare pitch. Nice to catch up with people. I hung out with Mark a bit at lunch, looking on his computer at virtual tours of houses with stunning views in New Zealand, where he is moving in a couple of weeks. Bumped into the French Bloke too en passant. But mostly spent the day locked away with The Gnome, who was in good spirits, and I enjoyed my day.

My essay How I stopped being a genius, and poem Thought Daughter were accepted by Written magazine in Guernsey, which makes me feel cheery. Also asked to quote for another writing job today, so all is looking well, and have arranged a time to do my Brighton Festival interview. All good.

Toby in the country and had been seeing his pal Danny in Wales, now at Mum's place after a difficult journey. Will see him on Wednesday, which I am really looking forward to. Also spoke to Mum and Lorraine whose school was closed today, due to a gas leak.

Here's the poem, which is about an imaginary daughter.

Thought Daughter

When you’re in the botanical garden
She takes shape. A child who is always running;
A comet coursing through the magnolias
As petals splinter from their waxing moons.
Laughing, her face squeaks into a balloon
But you recognise her as she runs close
Her feet just brushing the blades of the lawn.

Your helium girl returns to the sun
She ascends through bud-bursting treetops
To somewhere so bright if you stared too long
Your eyes would cataract and cloud away.
Her name’s on the tip of your tongue;
In the jay blue sky with her big balloon
You were mine, you were mine, oh you were mine.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Below a dark sky in Brighton.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

An English afternoon in March

Up this morning to go for a walk with Anton. First time we'd gone for a walk together since October - mainly due to ghastly virus I had over Christmas.

Currently Anton is offensively skinny, due to his so-called Kamikaze diet. For the last week he has not really eaten, and endured headaches and general enervation. He was impeccably prepared for our walk, of course, with the right clothes and equipment.

He had also taken with him about 5000 calories worth of food: slow cooked Boston baked beans, which were contained in a large vacuum flask, a large and delicious pork pie from a specialist pork pie and sausage butcher, and a small snappy container full of a generous helping of Piccalilli sauce. Not to mention a big bag of mixed nuts. I made do with some sandwiches from M&S.

Anton thoughtfully encouraged me to eat some of his pie, as increasing other people's weight around you is an important part of successful slimming.

A really nice four and a half hour walk, quite hilly and walking across fields and through woods and muddy tracks, sometimes in fine misty rain. Primroses, and daffodils out everywhere. Felt great to be out, rather than hunched over my laptop writing endlessly.

Left from Cuckfield and ended up in West Hoathly, in a really nice village pub and restaurant called The Cat Inn, which was across the road from the church. We washed the mud from our boots in puddles outside and walked into a wooden-floored bar, which smelled nicely of woodsmoke from the fire burning in the fireplace. There we were served good pints of Harvey's bitter, while a rugby match played fairly unobtrusively on a small television. Chatting in this cozy pub, warming up and being sat down, I felt a moment of sheer happiness. I couldn't think of anywhere I'd rather be on a March afternoon. Sometimes I love England.

I felt a heart warming surge of delight too when I heard that Manchester Utd, Anton's team, had been knocked out of the FA Cup during our walk. As we drank our pints of Harvey's bitter, Anton had looked up the score on his mobile phone, and on reading the report, had the face of someone receiving a telegram during the first world war. After a decent interval of about thirty seconds or so I began to share some observations about football with him, a subject he seemed reluctant to enlarge on. I carefully explained that the thoughtful and talented Chelsea had only minor opposition to overcome later in the afternoon, before they could reclaim the cup that they won last year.

Anton surprisingly tetchy, refusing for example, to phone for a cab to take us back to a station. We made it home quickly, and we had a final cheeky in the Battle of Trafalgar, where Lorraine met us. I went back to my house to watch Chelsea play the lowly and rudimentary Barnsley. Imagine my horror when Barnsley beat Chelsea, a situation not particularly helped by Lorraine pointing out that Barnsley deserved to win. Later received a text from Anton which I declined to reply to.

This aside, it was a lovely day, which I rounded off by watching one of my all time favourite films: Wings of Desire. One of the most poetic films ever made - and must be influenced by the Duino Elegies by Rilke.

Below Anton sets off into just outside Cuckfield, a glance into a pond, and the Church at West Hoathly.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

Barding it in Brighton

Enjoyable night at a Poetry South event down at the Joogleberry Playhouse. A plentiful and attentive audience and several good poems. Heading the bill was a poet called Stephanie Norgate reading from her new book from Bloodaxe, which - from what I could tell on a first listen - has some really good moments.

There was a short open-mic section and, despite being late, I blagged a spot. I read An Adumbration of the Light Age, for the first time in public, and was pleased with the response it got. Amazed at how nervous I felt beforehand, given that in a former life I have given poetry readings (without exaggeration) about a thousand times.

The poetry was being held above a rather groovy gig in the basement below. This made it a little harder to concentrate for people later on in the bill, especially when the evening was wrapped up by an unaccompanied folk singer, who had to resort to the traditional finger in the ear to keep in key.

Look forward to getting more involved with the group, instead of lurking on the edge like a newbie.

Otherwise fairly cheerful and pressing on with my Skelton Yawngrave book. Aiming for 40 thousand words by the end of the week. The threads of the story are weaving together now and this is making it slightly slower going, like juggling with more skittles than at the start. Still amazingly fluent though.

The door painting has turned onto a nightmare on hinges and makes me want to take an axe to it like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Am I the first to have Door Rage?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A turbulent twitten

Decided to strip and sand my front door and repaint it, as the varnish was peeling and the brown of the wood looks horrid with the blue and white colour scheme of my house. How long can stripping and sanding a door take? Untold hours.

It did give me time to stand in the sun and talk to the neighbours, who were mostly talking about graffiti. The white walls of the Twitten have been targeted every night by the same person, judging by his dire tags. What is heartening is that the denizens of the twitten simply paint it out within hours. Eventually the boy will get tired of it. Made me think of The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell where there is an example of graffiti in the New York subway system. A policy of zero tolerance was adopted for it, and the book argues that this precipitated a change in behaviour, resulting in a significant drop in all crime on the subway.

Tonight there was the detritus from a stolen purse: the twitten looks so idyllic and is such a nice place to live, but it has plenty of dodgy moments.

When not scraping at a door I was writing my Skelton Yawngrave story for several hours, and talking on the phone. Pleasantly surprised to be contacted out of the blue by someone I once worked with, with an offer of future work.

And in the evening Lorraine came by, borrowing a checked shirt so that she could dress up tomorrow as Percy the Park Keeper, as all the teachers and little kids at school will come to school as famous book characters.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Long-Legged Fly

Wrote thousands of words of my Skelton Yawngrave book. Ate homemade chicken soup and leftover apple pie with custard. Ventured into the Twitten with a tin of white paint and painted over last night's nearby graffiti.

A few calls, arranging to interview the MD of the Brighton Festival next week, for On Track magazine. Also a long and charming conversation with a French contact Mas put me in touch with, which should be another income stream. Also some fairly abusive texts from Carl and Mad dog drinking somewhere up North. Carl insisting on comparing me to Stephen Fry for reasons best known to himself.

But mainly it was about sitting quietly thinking and writing and drinking coffee. Put me in mind, rather grandly, of one of my all time favourite poems: W.B. Yeats Long-legged fly. And here it is for your delectation.

That civilisation may not sink,
Its great battle lost,
Quiet the dog, tether the pony
To a distant post;
Our master Caesar is in the tent
Where the maps are spread,
His eyes fixed upon nothing,
A hand under his head.
Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
His mind moves upon silence.

That the topless towers be burnt
And men recall that face,
Move most gently if move you must
In this lonely place.
She thinks, part woman, three parts a child,
That nobody looks; her feet
Practise a tinker shuffle
Picked up on a street.
Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
Her mind moves upon silence.

That girls at puberty may find
The first Adam in their thought,
Shut the door of the Pope's chapel,
Keep those children out.
There on that scaffolding reclines
Michael Angelo.
With no more sound than the mice make
His hand moves to and fro.
Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
His mind moves upon silence.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The colour of Sunday

Up at early and painted my green fence green. This was to cover some numpty tagger's purple addition. Needed a painting anyway, and it felt a virtuous way to start a Sunday.

Finished painting and stepped back to admire my handiwork. Cue old testament style clouds gathering overhead and I paused then to read the tin which said do not use if the weather is wet. Visions of the fence running onto the white wall beneath like green mascara, and passersby and neighbours gathering to point and laugh. Mercifully the rain held off.

Then painted the inside of my front door white. I will paint the outside blue shortly. Long chat with Mum, discussing plans and wheezes on our book project, she had also received the flowers I'd sent her too. Spent the afternoon pottering about listening to the audiobook (a mere two hours) of 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. Likeable stuff, and of course transatlantic dialogue quite resonant for me.

Made time for Bianca my white guitar too, and played for about an hour and a half.

In the evening had Janet around for supper. Ken is in Aix. This gave me an excuse to buy bramley apple pie (the king of pies) and various cheeses, olives, wine and so on. Talking about dancing, and Janet was telling me about the jiving she did as a kid. And the way she talked about old fashioned waltzing almost made me want to have a go at it. Janet also telling me stories of travelling around in the frontierish wilds of British Colombia as a young schools inspector, which she should simply write down. A one-teacher school with children from 5 upwards that she visited was run by a young and enthusiastic actress, who almost solely taught Shakespeare. Funny to think of kids surrounded by bears and snow and forests forging into the world armed only with a good working knowledge of Anthony and Cleopatra.

Walked Janet back home and noticed that someone had freshly scrawled over some of the white walls further down the Twitten. Came home and ate more apple pie, wondering if I should paint the inside of my door green.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Car crimes

Lorraine took me shopping to a hardware store in her car today. We paused first at the garage and added air to tyres, L changed her oil and bought petrol. After scoring paint tins we drove to Brighton Marina to get in the queue for the car wash. It was after being in this queue for about twenty minutes the car remembered it was a diesel car and quickly died. Luckily we were next to a carpark and so it could pushed to safety.

Only one thing for it: eat moules and frites and drink beer, after which L marginally less tetchy when I mentioned she'd murdered Bexy (the name of her car). Then a man came with a Rod Steward circa 1972 haircut and winched up the dead car to the back of his lorry.

We walked back, me carrying my paint tins, along the seafront for half an hour. L punched me in a businesslike manner after I mentioned that there was nothing like a lift to the hardware store. A beautiful sunset though and hundreds of seagulls decorating the sky.

Home, and loafed on my gold sofa for a bit, before we suck out again to score Chinese duck pancakes, and then home again to watch the Bourne Supremacy, which although not my usual bag, was actually rather exciting.

Spoke to the Tobster who is over for a flying week's visit soon, which is excellent.