Thursday, December 31, 2009

End of the noughties

Feel I should put some chin stroking thoughtful stuff in here today, but I've never been one for seeing random calendar events as major landmarks. But the noughties were a lively time for me. I look forward to the new year with a mix of vague apprehension and great excitement.

Spent the day working up my new short story, called Where the beauty is which has turned out well, and clocking in very short at 1.5k.

Celebrated new year's eve with Lorraine. We sloped off to the Agra, our usual curry haunt, for an early curry. The food back on form again, which is good. Ash the chatty owner loves Lorraine and so gave us a free glass of bubbly with our poppadoms. Then we walked back through Brighton, back through knots of lightly-clothed revellers off to the dives of West Street.

We repaired to the Battle of Trafalgar, which was crammed. A band called Flat Stanley, a "trad-jazz-ska-punk-country outfit" parped bizarrely through a diverse repertoire, and were strangely perfect for the occasion. An altogethery atmosphere, and we were soon talking to several people in the pub, including a couple we swapped numbers with at the end of the night.

The bongs of Big Ben resounded through the pub as the science fiction year of 2010 stole across the UK. And, in my local at least, it arrived amid a melee of kissing and handshakes. Happy new year everyone.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mum's birthday

A good sleep in Edgware, only interrupted by the thundering of cats and a nocturnal hiss outside my door.

In the morning Wynford called around to give Mum a birthday present from Glen, Mum's next door neighbour, who died a couple of days ago. He obviously very shaken up by the death of his mother, but he has a strong faith in God which was obviously a comfort to him.

Up early and had a leisurely breakfast with Mum and Mase, then having a turkey lunch. Mum made me listen to the surprisingly good Nigel Kennedy Quartet. I also watched the swoopy bat-based punching epic Batman Begins with Mase. Surprisingly good.

Home late in the afternoon. Rather tiresome journey. Even trying to have an honest wee in the Brighton train proved impossible. Waiting patiently and with increasing urgency outside the only working toilet, an mad old bat begged me to let her go first. Reluctantly, and with little grace, I agreed. However these negotiations were redundant. The man inside simply refused to come out for the remainder of the journey, despite the aforementioned bat repeatedly banging on the door. Eventually I gave up and returned to my seat. This combined with absorbing the bile of The Hell of it All, by Charlie Brooker put me in rather a misanthropic mood. It is a really funny book, but slopping with cartoonish self-loathing.

Gratefully home to another rejection, but this time there was a crumb of comfort. Apparently my writing is fresh and funny, although still not for their list. At least on this occasion I had the sense of a sentient being having scanned my submission. Spoke to Bob and Lorraine. Later watched a moderately good BBC version of The Turning of the Screw, which gave me one or two enjoyable shudders.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ambush

Calliope and Lorraine have been conducting a turf war. The cat, who usually sleeps quietly on the bed, is persistently jumping hard on Lorraine's ribs in the middle of the night, sleeping on her head, and digging its claws into her feet. I have kept out of this, figuring a Darwinian pecking order will eventually emerge.

However, at 4 am I woke up gouting blood. Unaccountably Calliope had sunk one of her claws deep in my lip, and then ripped it out. A feline Pearl Harbour. After filling several tissues with gore I came back into the bedroom and pulled that cat from under the bed and beat it like a ginger stepchild until it zoomed off. This monstrous behaviour utterly appalled Lorraine, who lay awake as if suddenly finding herself in bed with Peter Sutcliffe.

Woke up later with the cat purring on my chest, so I was forgiven by her anyway. Up and quickly out into the rain. I had a few errands to run, and then Lorraine and I met up with Sophie, Andros, Christof and Elektra at Bills for breakfast. Lots of chatting and fun. Christof doing his usual twenty questions routine. I really like Sophie's family. Then fond farewells, and out in the rain to do some last minute shopping, before I travelled up to London to see Mum and Mase, leaving Lorraine to do more housey stuff.

Nice to arrive in Edgware after a longish seeming journey, and sit by the cozy fire, and sip some sloe gin. Mason has a sore throat which is forcing him to whisper like a Mafiosi. I discovered that they were both shocked by the sudden death of their next door neighbour Glen, matriarch of the Welsh family next door a couple of days before. Otherwise they had a busy and fun festive season.

Some swapping of Christmas pressies and feeding. Later we all watched a comedy movie called Love you to death which was apparently a true story of a wife's bungled attempt to murder a philandering husband.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Food for friends

Spent much of the day at Lorraine's house, helping her sort out the sheep from the goats when it came to packing up for her move. Looking at hideous under stairs areas, and her ex-husband's old study and so on. A world of stress for Lorraine who had to interrogate every object as to its future usefulness.

The Greeks in the evening. We met Sophie, Andros, Christof and Electra at Food for Friends, my favourite vegetarian restaurant. I had a great time catching up with Sophie and her lovely family. Christof still lively and chatty as ever, and Electra now suddenly quite grown up. I love talking to her kids, and Andros is a really good guy. And I always come away from seeing Sophie, having now known her for 30 years, feeling that she's almost like a sister.

Below some table photography. Christof, Andros and me, Lorraine Sophie and Electra.



Sunday, December 27, 2009

Crib notes

Off today to deepest Kent to visit Lorraine's folks Pat and Maureen in my capacity as fish consultant. After a nice cup of tea we went off to the local garden centre and fish emporium where I selected various plants and rock and bits of wood. Back home to set it up, and to be rewarded with roast beef, and roast potatoes cooked in goosefat.

I like Maureen and Pat. After the aquarium business, they taught me how to play cribbage. Lorraine and her parents were able to add the scoring permutations in a flash, which made me feel slightly retarded. But I like playing cards, and crib seems a good game.

I have spent countless hours hunched over hands like feet playing Euchre with my grandparents in Guernsey. My grandfather Dave, who Lorraine's dad reminds me of, was rather a good player, and played in a local Euchre league. After playing a hand badly, my Grandmother was frequently warned by Dave that if she'd done that down the club, she'd have left like a cullender. This was an oblique reference to being shot many times. Dave liked to make the Guernsey Euchre league sound like Chicago in the 1930s. Pat also showed me various running medals, including a first prize in a relay for a run in Guernsey in 1951. He was a keen runner and coach of local talent for years.

Home listening to the Tru Thoughts label anthology in Lorraine's car. A cold night, speeding home to Brighton listening to funky tunes under bright stars.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing clever

Up this morning to go shopping with Lorraine, Anna and Brian. Lurking in various shops, and stopping for coffee when it rained. Lorraine bought bags of clothes, and in one shop Brian installed himself in an armchair by the changing rooms and the ladies came out and displayed their clothes for his approval. Brian and I also went into a shop where I could fit into none of the clothes, but where the clotheshorsey Brian was gallingly able to slip into everything straight off the peg and look good in it.

Could this be linked to eating? Another large roast we tonight in day three of festive gorging. This followed by a trip to the Eddy for drinks with Anna, Anton and Brian. Cheery time, with Brian spotting some minor TV star, and as usual trying to buy everyone extra drinks before we left.

Been reading The Hell of it All by Charlie Brooker, which Lorraine got me for Christmas and literally laughing out loud, with the raging verbal violence of his rants for The Guardian. Brilliant.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Santas on surfboards

Merry Christmas! Lorraine and I up and out without pausing for breath or breakfast. A few days into a partial thaw, down to the seaside to see Brighton's annual Christmas Day swimmers. From there I called Mum. There were soon lots of people, and I'd estimate at least a hundred ended up in the water. The surf club paddled around the doughnut groyne dressed as Santas, which was a wonderful surrealistic sight. Then like lemmings, people surged en mass into the water, many in Santa hats. One guy I know vaguely came out of the water and shook my hand, saying that a man of my stature (he said patting my belly) should be in there too. It was 6 degrees.

Anton, Anna, Brian, Anne, Klaudia and Oskar arrived as it was ending, and after an incredibly long queue the adults sat in some winter sun drinking hot chocolates and coffee laced with a generous slug of the brandy Anne had brought with her. A really nice time. Then we wandered slowly home through the lanes carrying the children.

Lorraine and I had Christmas afternoon and evening together, cooking turkey and opening nice presents, and slumping contentedly before the TV after eating as much as humanly possible. All well.

Below swimmers, Santas and surfboards


























Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas eve

Pre-Christmas running about this morning, a brief kick in the teeth with two Skelly rejections, and then... Relax. Lorraine stopped by, then down to the Basketmakers to meet Sam, Beth and Mark. Cheery scene in the pub, and particularly nice for Lorraine as her children are not with her on Christmas day this year.

Then from there home to smarten up a smidge then off up to Anton and Anna's house to collect them and the children, plus Anne and Brian to go off to Church for the children's service. The place packed and the whole thing utterly chaotic. Father Robert barely able to speak due to a terrible throat, the child hordes chattering and weaseling through legs and under pews. One intrepid toddler even ascending the pulpit.

The microphone also kept cutting out on Father Robert, and another newly ordained man, and apparently ex-skinhead, jumped up and using an arm puppet called Scruffy (a talking dog) and another unpleasant homunculus called Gordon told a story whose moral was that Mary and Joseph were poor ordinary people not rich privileged ones. Klaudia who had been sitting on my lap and then Lorraine's explained to Lorraine that the puppets were not real, and that there was someone working them.

Then children prettily mobbing with candles to the altar, a bark through Away in a Manger, and O Little Town of Bethlehem and some unknown calypso carol (which lodged in my brain all night) before we were all released back into the wild. Brian and I reflecting that there is nothing like being in church to you want a drink.

Home to Anton and Anna's house, down the street Klaudia's school is in. The houses form an advent calendar, with numbers and lit scenes in their front windows. After the children off to bed, and we ate a lovely meal which Anne had cooked, and we ate and drank and quite literally made merry till late. A happy float down the hill to bed.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A festive tour of classic pubs

Up to London today. London looking beautiful in the crisp cold and low light. Met Jeanne, my French client for a cheeky in the Victorian splendour of The Salisbury. As we chatted, she sipped a half of Bombadier Bitter in an indesputably French way. From there I walked to Fleet Street to lurk in the pokey dark bar of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese to wait for Bob. It was full of people who had a Christmas lunch and carried on drinking. Including a couple, who sat next to me and were conducting an office affair. They'd not seen each other for a while. He asked, sheepishly, how she had been. She replied with a colourful description of how she had vomited the night before. His face was a picture, and I was trying not to snort with laughter into my stout.

Bob on good form, although by the time I met him I was already rather um, merry. After a steady warm up by the fire in the Cheese we sensibly repaired to a curry house for early vittles. Bob gave me a Tibetan singing bowl, and a copy of Little Dorrit. He demonstrated the singing bowl in the restaurant, slightly alarming the waiters. Then we walked up past St Paul's to The City Pipe. This was another dark den formerly populated by city gents. However this is no longer the original pub and, although still subterranean, it is bland. From here we lurched down to The Blackfriars. And finally to an old haunt the dive bar of the The Cole Hole on the Strand.

Exceedingly well oiled, I lurched onto the Tube making a fond farewell to Bob, before catching the slow train. Home half asleep at 1.00am.

Below a snap in Trafalgar Square, a glance down Whitehall, and the interior of The Salisbury.













Sunday, December 20, 2009

Shopping in Brighton

The streets still slidy, but had the most relaxing and productive day's Christmas shopping I can remember weaving in the lanes, and punctuated with a warming coffee. The shops weren't too busy, which was nice. Down on East Street a new clothes shop has opened, its window display made up of what must have been a hundred old sewing machines. A really amazing display, which I found myself having to photograph.

At the end of the shopping ended up in Borders, which has three days left of its existence. A melancholy scene.

On the way home Lorraine and I had a refreshing pause in The Caxton for a post five hour shopping bout beer. Then home to get changed, and off to Bills restaurant, where we met Lorraine's neighbours Sarah and JD, Patrick and Angie, and the Dawn for a delicious meal in a curiously empty restaurant. Due to frozen streets and it being a Sunday I suppose. I had a fisherman's pie, followed by a gorgeous berry crumble. Friendly bunch of folks, and lots of chatting about a variety of things including the likeable JD's wikipedia entry (he is a well known French rock journalist) which is largely fictitious, even claiming he played for Arsenal.

Treading safely under the new moon on the ice free Twitten pavement.

Below more sewing machines than you can shake a stick at (click to enlarge), and the scene in Borders with three days to go.







Saturday, December 19, 2009

Breaking the ice

Got up late, and the Twitten a death trap of black ice. The road leading down to the station appalling too. Lorraine cooked brunch, and I went outside with a spade and broke up some of the ice outside my house to the end of the Twitten. Went upstairs to my study to continue work o n the short story only for the incessant clanging of a spade outside. I'd woken the Twitten Spirit, so I went out and Hillary and Joy were out there. Joy and I cleared the whole length of the Twitten of ice, which took about 40 minutes. Me spearing and shattering the ice with a garden fork, and Joy shoveling it to the side. Meanwhile Lorraine and Hillary made a safe path across the road down to the station, as yet another casualty was taken to hospital, having to be winched down the hill by the fire service. Amazing how many streets were completely ungritted.

After Lorraine and I had a glass of wine with Joy standing in the Twitten, warm as toast.

Then sliding down the treacherous lanes to The Basketmakers where we met Matt and his parents David and Anne for an entertaining chat. David was born in Canada and was a merchant seaman, and talked lyrically about the aloneness of being in the middle of the ocean. He also said that on one slow voyage across the tropics the whole crew had gone naked for three weeks due to the intense heat.

Good to see Matt, and we squeezed in a few moments talking about our project too. All very exciting.

Then we all slid up the hill to the station, and for Lorraine and I home and warmth.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Snowbound

The city ground to a halt this morning with a couple of inches of the stuff. Buses cancelled and abandoned cars at crazy angles in the streets. Luckily for me, snow does not interrupt me, but as the cat hates it I have to put up with the bored feline sitting on my desk and biting my hands as I type. Gripped by a short story idea, so writing this much of the day, as well as writing Christmas cards.

Made it down as far as the Station postbox. The street my Twitten leads onto is very steep, and after testing it, I returned home armed with a walking pole and grippy boots to make the arduous thirty yard journey. A woman was there searching for her husband's keys he dropped having fallen this morning. People slithering downwards. It is a death trap.
Lorraine, her car abandoned, came to my house this evening after the buses had resumed, and we lurked indoors, eating a hot curry I'd made.
The view from my study this morning.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cheekies with First Matie


Off to the gym this morning for a light session. Otherwise a fairly laid back day not doing too much and, generally cutting myself some slack. I have been inspired by reading the Edith Wharton stories to shape some of the short story ideas that have been lurking around for a while, and began one this afternoon.

Had a lovely evening with First Matie, who'd done a spot of shopping in Brighton, and came by as we went down to The Basketmakers and then The Black Lion for a few beers and a lengthy chat as the snow began to fall, and it was all very seasonal and cheery. Kate left at a reasonable hour, having received dire warnings from station staff about severe weather. She called me safe home in Southease.

Watched TV happily as the snow worked its silent ministry in the Twitten.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fairytale of Brighton

Cold pressing against my study window, and I found myself wearing a scarf indoors as I worked on a project for my lovely French client Jeanne. Always a pleasure to be thinking about France, and wielding aigu and grave accents with abandon. I wish I could speak French beyond a risible level. Maybe I should go to classes in the new year.

Otherwise went up to see Beth and Mark in their college show singing Fairytale of New York, and take part in a narrated piece about a singing donkey by John Rutter, called Brother Heinrich's Christmas. I can't say I was particularly looking forward to it, but actually I really enjoyed myself. There were lots of instrumental pieces played, Jazz, Pop and Classical. Some of the students at BHASVIC are extremely competent instrumentalists, and clearly have been well taught. Something cheering about seeing the young uns so encouraged to use their talents.

After dropping Beth and Mark and two of their pals off in town, Lorriane and I repaired to The Batty (The Battle of Traflagar) for a quietly enjoyable pint. I had a pint of bitter called Red Nose, which on the pump had a Santa with a little flashing red light on his nose. Lorraine was talking about the nature of community, and how you define it, and the ways a school can be a community. I think wanting to belong really helps. For example people in Brighton by and large are proud to live here, and love its arty ways. It's a club people want to join. These days I feel I belong here more than anywere else except Guernsey. And that's rather a nice thought.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lucky stars

Off to the gym for the first time in ages. Significantly more full of energy, and my lurgy seems to have abated. Spent 40 mins gingerly bobbing up and down on the Hulk legs machine and treadmill. Did some incredibly light weights to break myself back into it gently. It is slightly embarrassing doing this when people are literally lifting up to ten times more weight than you.

Otherwise the day spent putting more Skelton manuscripts in more envelopes. It all certainly looks good now, and decorated with the images my mum did for me. Far happier with my covering letter and synopsis now. And the snubnose version of the story gets straight into the action too, and the Skelly response card looks great. I am convinced that it is a good pitch. Although doubtless I will keep tinkering with it. The horses have been led to the water, but will they drink? Reading on a some writer's forum a story about a boss getting multiple responses to a job advert. The boss then chucked half of them away, saying 'I want the successful candidate to have tons of luck'. I have been within touching distance of real writerly success before, notably with Fabers when I was 29, but that vital luck bit has gone AWOL. The only thing you can do is keep trying, and hope that one day before you die, your lucky stars align.

Slightly stir crazy this evening and went out for a walk in the cold town dressed for Christmas, and then had a solitary pint in The Batty talking to Lorraine on my phone. I was also eating twiglets as a break from various species of bubble and squeak I've been eating in the aftermath of Sunday's feast. However while supping and chatting, I did again think how lucky my life is at the moment. Sometimes your luck is right there under your nose and you can't see it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Afterwards

Computer problems all solved. Call from BT who had got its act together. Very happy to just be able to get on again with rewriting my synopsis, updating websites, loading some GB Edwards on the Anthology site, and so on. Decided that Edwards was actually an exile from Guernsey, as he lived most of his life in England, and London.

Also whipped down to the shops to buy a marble track game for Oskar and some Hello Kitty clothes for Klaudia. Happy, chilled and productive. Read another Edith Wharton ghost story called Afterwards. Beautifully written ghost stories, and a bargain three quid Wordsworth edition.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Beefy

Had Anton and Anna and my God bairns over for lunch today. Weirdly, I'd never roast a joint of beef before. It was fairly simple, and very moist and tasty although it wasn't red in the middle like some prefer.

Lorraine was sous-chef and did most of it while I faffed about cleaning the house and so on. She made a marvellous gravy too. We made a cornucopia of vegetables, including my trademark chestnut mushrooms cooked with sage and bacon, and carrots cooked in orange juice, Lorraine made red cabbage with dried fruit, and there were roast potatoes, parsnips, turnips, and garlic, plus Brussels sprouts, asparagus. Then cheeses, followed by an M&S strawberry tart which we all had with vanilla ice cream drizzled with the neighbour-made Maple syrup Joan gave me when we were last in Deviation Road.

Far too much food, obviously, and all four adults groaning afterwards as the Kids watched a show called Horrid Henry on TV. I loved seeing Klaudia and Oskar as usual, and got them to help me feed the fish. They both wanted to sit next to me at the table, which was heart warming, and they seem to have lots to say to me.

A quiet evening spent indoors with Lorraine, contentedly full and happy to watch Match of the Day. Chelsea slipped up this weekend by drawing, but then Manchester United lost so all well. Also watched a dumb but funny movie called Mars Attacks.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas starts (in Arundel)

Morning spent on the line to BT and testing my computers. Broadband not working - although the tests they have done show it should be working, it simply isn't and my computers still cannot download anything beyond email. I gave up fiddling with them after about three hours, almost weeping with frustration having exhausted every possible reason.

Instead Had a lovely afternoon doing Christmassy things. Put up my Christmas tree with Lorraine, and explaining to Calliope that this year it should not be used as a nest or climbing frame. Also went into the Twitten and pruned all my roses quite hard, with Lorriane stern faced when I tried just to shave the bushes. Finished, had hot miso soup and looked at the tree lights with satisfaction.

Then off to Arundel, where tonight they have Arundel by candle light. The beautiful castle was not floodlit, and instead the old streets are illuminated only by the lights of Christmas decorations and the little shops in the narrow roads. It looks very much like a card a Victorian Christmas card, with a little band of musicians playing recorders and tapping on odd drums, and a vintage fire truck gleaming in the square, and lots of stalls selling various eatables, and the pubs looking all cozy, with signs for mulled cider in their windows.

Lorraine and I went to see her friend Martin's art exhibition. This looked out onto one of the main streets and, while supping mulled wine and nibbling mice pies with Martin and Lorraine's other friend Jan, we had a great vantage for the children's procession of Mary and Joseph on a small horse, and shepherds complete with three live sheep on harnesses. Martin's exhibition was of graffiti inspired art, and abstract photography of closeups of graffiti, from places like Greece and Portugal. Martin himself was dressed in bright red, and paintings with layers of stuff, which in one or two examples looked almost George Braque-like.

After this, we wandered about poking in shops, underneath the artificial snow machine poking out of the top of one of the shops. Eventually stopping for a unusually good curry near the bridge, before Lorraine drove us home. By then all my computer horrors had receded into their proper places and all was right with the world.

Below hot chestnuts, the square in Arundel, fake snow machine (one for the Canadians ;-) Martin thorugh the window of the gallery, with Jan and Lorraine in conversation.















Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday fail and a boogie in Bognor

My phone and broadband both decided not to work today. Spent three hours this morning on the line to people and finding old phones to test the lines etc. BT sent a man around in the afternoon, who took over an hour to fix the phone, but not the broadband. Another day largely wasted. This sort of thing makes my blood boil, and at one point I did have to sit down and have a word with myself. Having to unpick an infuriating feeling that I am meeting with blocks and checks at every step, and instead channel my irritation into cleaning up the house.

Broke off to do shopping, and buy more envelopes, a large joint (of beef) herbs etc.

In the evening off with Lorraine to her work Christmas party in Bognor. A big drive away, so no boozing for Lorriane. Mercifully this ban did not apply to me, as it was a subdued affair in a hotel room, lit by bright cold lights and enlivened by Fawlty Towers service. It was a rather sober well behaved affair, with lots of the county's senior educational folks forking at grey Brussels and drinking lightly. Except for one, who had found a water pistol in his Christmas cracker and, aiming at the pleasant woman sitting next to me, missed and squirted me full in the side of the head.

Later there was also a disco run by two taciturn youths who played utterly inappropriate music for their audience, until told off in a teacherly manner. They then resentfully put on the execrable I'm in the mood for dancing by The Nolans, which astonishingly got the party started. They then managed skillfully to avoid good tunes thereafter. Having attended to several rum and cokes, and despite having a ropey knee at the moment, I eventually got my, um, freak on dancing with the lovely Lorraine until the call of the Brighton seagull grew too much for her.

As we left a large fox loped over the lawn of the hotel.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Emails from Mars

Feeling wussy again today after dreaming about death. Did dreary things: bought 100 envelopes, tidied my study for two hours, paid and filed bills, chased outstanding payments, and discovered a small cheque. Spent the evening trying to teach myself how to use Corel Draw. Slow progress.

Thank god for email... Heard from Katie who has been writing her own things, which I am pleased to learn. Also Jane from a damp Guernsey. She has bought a Lumix camera like mine, and now is trying to work out how to use it. She sent a timely Swine Flu children's poem. An excerpt:

My brother’s caught the swine flu,
he’s looking rather pale,
he’s lying in bed grunting
and he’s grown a curly tail.

But he’s making funny noises now,
his temperature is high,
he’s gone all red and blotchy
and I’m worried he might die.

His forehead’s hot and sweaty
he’s got bristles on his chin
and every time he wheezes
he makes an awful din...

Below I got an email from Nev who attached this photo of Manly Beach in Australia, when the red dust from the outback turned up one morning. I remember people saying that it made the place look like Mars. They were right. And a picture of mine about a red bird I scanned in today.

Monday, December 07, 2009

A muted harp

Calliope, bored with being rained on, came inside and bit my feet until I woke up. When I did, I found that for the first time in days I could think straight.

I had stayed up late last night, surfing, and in so doing discovered that a long-lost friend, a singer songwriter called Patrick Mayo, had died of a freak accident falling down some stairs about ten years ago. Obviously I've not seen him for years, but he was a lovely gentle soul, and had some great tunes with a strong Irish element. He had a high nasal voice, but had a splendid footstomping song called When will it end. And an adaptation of a poem by Thomas Moore which I think was The Harp That Once Through Tara's Halls. The first lines are rather apt:


The harp that once through Tara's halls
The soul of music shed,
Now hangs as mute on Tara's walls,
As if that soul were fled


As well as playing guitar lots at The Troubadour, which was a haunt of my twenties and early thirties, full of mad poets and musicians, he also ran a desert island discs show for hospital radio. He had me on as a guest twice, which shows how thin on the ground decent guests must have been. The first time I took it quite seriously, the second time I turned up about two minutes before we were due to start, so we played random music and invented stories to go with it.

Anyhow today simply got on with business. Writing my new letter to agents, and running it past First Matie. Also listened to the pilot radio show Mark and Mindy had made. It seemed very professional to me, and my short Skelton story came out fine too. Inevitably they are still waiting for a response.

Lorraine back at her house, and doing work emails and tidying her place and wondering why she is feeling feverish again.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Marginally more alive

Still achey and under the weather. Forcing me to miss out on at least two social events. Lorraine who was much worse than me, improving slightly, which is good news.

Got a package of business cards and postcards through from moo.com, the postcards will be used to push Skelton Yawngrave and have the Skelly pic below on them. It's a really good place as its cheap, and you can use the images of your choice.

Matt emailed me a soundfile of the theme for This Concert will fall in love with you, it was done with a music writing program, but the quality shone through, capturing the uncertainty and romaticism of the concept. Really exciting. I met up with him briefly this afternoon. Found him sitting at the bar of the Basketmakers writing music on a piece of paper.

Spent the evening flaked out on the sofa with Lorraine.

Below the Skelton postcard, painting done by Mum.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Stewing

Drearily fluish today. Dragged my butt off to the pharmacist and to the Library to collect the Bartok String Quartets which had already appeared, and quick food shopping. Feeling zombie-like by midday, so not a tremendously productive day. Lorraine is much iller than me. She taxied around this evening, coughing like a docker, and we slugged companionably on the sofa.

I fed her a slow cooked a beef stew, crammed with rosemary, thyme and sage, parsnips, potatoes, carrots, turnip, pearl barley, lentils, garlic, onion and dried Chinese mushrooms and a tin of tomatoes and some beef stock. This turned out to be the best stew I had ever made. I think the key thing was to roll the beef in flour and seal it first by frying it. I also caramelised the onions beforehand. This all academic as Lorraine of course could taste nothing.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Sweaty on the sofa

Astonishingly, another good day's writing. Wrote an entire poem this morning. Only time will tell if it is any good or not. Visited Lorraine at lunchtime and made her some soup and tea and so on which she consumed sweatily on the sofa. She had a really high fever last night, but was a bit brighter today. When Beth and Mark returned at two and I mooched back home. However I was feeling rather hot and achey today, and ended up sleeping through the afternoon.

Received a book of songs, and the text of a play from Renee today. I seem to have her collected works now. I feel very flattered, but I wish my French was better.

Spoke to Anton who curiously wanted to talk about football again, as Chelsea had slipped up in some nondescript competition last night. Also spoke to Shaila who said that Chris had though I was interesting. Was a couch potato all night.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Anna's birthday

Woke up feeling rough this morning. Aching and tired. However I had another excellent morning's writing. I seem to be on a roll.

Off in the afternoon to buy a smell-based present for Anna, and browse in Borders which is in receivership and closing down. There is something disturbing about a bookshop closing down, especially one that actually sells proper books, and not just ghost written crap about celebs. I joined the vultures flapping about the place, most books were 20% off, but I came away empty-beaked.

A day of birthdays today. Anna, Reuben and the French Bloke. Texted happy birthday to the other two, and went out with Anton and Anna this evening to The Sussex Yeomen, a mere 30 seconds walk from my door, which was uncharacteristically crammed with the dregs of an office party that had started there at lunch time. Hadn't been out with Anna for ages, and it was great to catch up. Smell-based present went down well. Anton and I had some moules in a wonderful liquor, with a hint of chili. Anna felt suddenly ill at 10 however, and the evening was drawn to a swift end.

Sadly Lorraine had a bad flu today, and so didn't come out. Was rather worried about her. She is not a hypochondraic like me, so felt very sorry for her.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Unblocked

Today I had the most productive day of writing poems I can remember. Writing new poems about Guernsey for my project with Richard. I'm very happy about it. Some days writing is effortless, and you wonder why every day can't be like this. You have to go through the static unproductive days sometimes, to get to the good stuff.

To the library to take back the Bartok CD I'd borrowed. I had got it home and was missing two discs. The librarian, knew his Bartok, and said it for him it was all late Beethoven and Bartok. I am becoming aware of a classical music fraternity. Maybe one day maybe I'll roll up one of my trouser legs and I will be accepted in to it.

Went to the gym, and did some more light exercise, but not feeling too good, and sweating heavily.

Spoke to Toby this evening, hearing lots of Canadian news.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Stir crazy

Worked monastically for about twelve hours today, and apart from ordering some postcards with a picture of Skelton Yawngrave on them, achieved nothing.

Some days are like this, and by the end of it you end up hating everything you have ever written. This gloom magnified by the steady rain. This also means Calliope was hanging about being fractious and creating trouble.

By the evening, even I was feeling stir crazy. Sloped off for a solitary beer in the Battle of Trafalgar to read a book of poems called Perched on Nothing's Branch, by Attila József. An early suicide. A couple of his last works full of train imagery, which was the way he offed himself. Nice.

Mystery fish death. Sat on my gold sofa at lunch, and noticed one of my gold rosy barbs suddenly acting as if it were being attacked, and within minutes it was being grazed on by one of its former tankmates as it lay dying. I dispatched it sadly. Until moments before, it had seemed perfectly healthy, and the water quality good, and other denizens of the tank in robust health.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

In rainbows

At Mum and Mason's house. Drank lots of coffee and had pancakes and maple syrup while chatting for several hours. Raining heavily most of the time but with occasional sunlight, which sent rainbows into Mum and Mason's back room through the piece of cut crystal they have hanging in the window. Mason telling Lorraine all about his family, and Lorraine showing them photos of the house she's going to move into.

Back to Brighton through heavy rain showers. From the motorway, the countryside seemed decorated with rainbows, and Lorraine was also driving into rainbows that seemed to touch the car, caused by the spray on the motorway as people driving at 80mph surfed along under the signs reading SLOW DOWN! 50. Got out of the car, and walked past a small child being shown a complete rainbow over Brighton by its parents.

Battle of Trafalgar for roast lunch, before retiring home to slug on the sofa and watch some Sunday evening TV as the rain fell. Watched Chelsea comfortably beat Arsenal on Match of the Day to retain their top of the division status. All right with the world.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Of gin and vitamins

Up early this morning, Sam called around and we drove off to Lorraine's house to pick up Beth and Mark and then she drove us to Basingstoke. Sustained munching of Harribo sweets, and leg numbing of the young 'uns squeezed in the back. They were all off to a family party, while I was dropped off at Basingstoke station -which I associate with some of my grimmer days at IBM -and was shortly collected by Shaila.

Shaila's home was already decorated with two Christmas trees. Soon, however, Shaila was letting me try lots of things she has foraged from the nearby fields. So, with an excellent home rolled sushi lunch, we had a nip of sloe gin. (Shaila has a degree in biochemistry so explained her decision to make this gin was medical, as it is good against colds.) Also a lovely elderberry cordial, honey with rosehips, and a pinch of nettle seeds. Later we ambled into local fields where she has been working with the local wildlife trust sowing meadow wildflowers. The weather turning very cold as we did so, and the rain beginning.

I also had a long chat with her 17 year old son Chris too, a very bright and interesting boy. He has an interview at Magdalen College soon and he wants to be a writer.

Interestingly he is a fan of tabloid troubling Pete Doherty. I don't know too much about him other than I think he conforms to the yawnsome, self-destructive stereotype of 'troubled genius'. A while ago Chris made his way to Doherty's house and was invited in and befriended, and they have met several times. Chris showed me a painting done by Doherty, spattered with his own blood, which Doherty told him to give to his mother. Instead of admiring someone from afar, Chris simply and directly went to talk to him, which I think shows an unusual level of self-possession, and it does Doherty great credit to be so engaged with and encouraging to his fans.

After these conversations Lorraine came to pick me up, buzzing as I was with gin and vitamins. Then off to Mum and Mason's in torrential rain. Arrived safely to conduct some serious knife and forkwork: a turkey thanksgiving dinner. They'd also invited Ben and Poppy and Robert and Tanya too, and I had fun chatting despite forking down far too much food. Conversations ranging from Robert talking about the financial meltdown in Dubai, to Strictly Come Dancing which Poppy adores.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Cheek

A good day today. Managed to get quite a bit of work done, and my brain reasonably focused, and feeling more energetic and more healthy than I have done for a few weeks. Got a manuscript together for a poetry competition. Also reading some more poems from Richard. Fantastic stuff.

Toby sent me a link to the new song by the splendid School Food Punishment. Intense Japanse rock with prog undertones and a babelicious singer. You can't go wrong.

In the evening up the road to hang out with Anton, and address a couple of cans of Żywiec that needed drinking. I told him about my new craze for Classical Music (which I have been listening to remorselessly). He put on some Borodin, which I didn't know. Anton likes Russian music, which, as naturally as night follows day, led to Euroman Cometh by JJ Burnel, which wasn't the same thing at all. A song called Crabs, about crabs rather lowered the tone.

Below a photo Kate took of me in Guernsey. Captioned cheekily in facebook "An ancient monument. Oh, and Peter Kenny!" Bah. Phoned her to remonstrate.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Doggets with Bob

Woke up wrong headed today. Everything seems impossible to achieve. Despite this I have sent Matthew the updated version of the words for our concert today, and went to the gym for a really mild mannered workout.

Pushed off up to London this afternoon to meet Bob. I was early and lurked in the Royal Festival Hall looking out at the river and the pretty lights, and the Millennium Wheel. Increasingly feeling like a tourist these days in London, despite having worked for a couple of years in the IBM building almost next door.


Met Bob in the Auberge at Waterloo. He looking sprightly and we had a few beers, there in the Mulberry Bush, and Doggets which Mad Dog is inextricably drawn to. We didn't play pool but sat on stools watching a young couple playing as we discussed wide-ranging, profound issues. The boyfriend had those fashionable trousers that hang off the bum, and when he leant across the table to take a shot, we got a view of genuinely unpleasant hairiness, which put me off my beer for a bit.

Crossed the bridge looking back at Sea Containers House, and the South Bank, with the trees lit up with little blue lights and the dark sweep of the river towards the Festival Hall, and The Houses of Parliament. London can be a magnificent city sometimes.

Bob and I then walked down Fleet Street and found our usual subterranean curry house for a curry. Bob always asks for the hottest curry, and then demands extra chili with a manic intensity. For some reason this means I often get a much hotter curry than usual too, as I am tarred with the same brush.

Home on the late train, tired, listening to the Silmarillion. It is written in such a lofty way, and crammed with lineage and millions of invented names and races and so on, it all gets a bit much.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A noteable grave


Really bad night's sleep, struggling for focus during the day.
One of my tangents, is that because of knowing Matthew, and writing the words for his piece, I am trying to learn more about music. I can play guitar after a fashion, but would not describe myself as a musician. And classical music (and I am vaguely aware that this is not really the right term for it) is an area in which my knowledge is patchy. Been reading Introducing Music by Otto Karolyi, which has been sitting on my shelf for about ten years. It starts on a rather Biblical note:
In the beginning, we may suppose, there was silence. There was a silence because there was no motion, and therefore no vibration could move the air - a phenomenon of fundamental importance in producing sound. The creation of the world, however it came about, must have been accompanied by motion - and therefore sound.
Later I was listening to the brooding Shostakovich string quartet #8 played by the Kronos Quartet. I rather liked it, and in reading about the piece I learned that he signed his work with a musical motif. I really like the idea of a signature encoded in the music. Apparently Bach did the same thing. You learn something every day.

Below a signature in music on Shostakovich's grave.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Storming

Up fairly early, and had a great morning's session reworking the monologues for the Concert. This proving a lot easier than I had anticipated, which is great news. Feeling less exhausted than of late.

My mood changed somewhat when my emailed MS and carefully crafted letter etc. I sent to an agent last thing on Friday was summarily rejected by 12:15 today. Peeving, but decisive.

I became convinced I could hear the sea from my study window today. Took myself down there this lunchtime, and the sea and wind were exhilaratingly fierce. I was literally almost blown off my feet at one point. The sea whiter than I have seen it. It all helped to put passing peeves about manuscripts in perspective. Walked on the pier and the waves looked huge and occasionally peaking not far underfoot.

Home to hot soup. Not so focused this afternoon. And I broke off to watch Shaun the Sheep for ten minutes, on the recommendation of Lorraine's dad.

Below stormy seas - towards the marina, with waves breaking hard against it. The old pier, and the white sea. Click 'em to make them bigger. Rather pleased with the bottom one.





Sunday, November 22, 2009

Wind and my lucky stars

A fierce wind rattling the sash windows in Lorraine's bedroom woke me up early. Fell asleep again, and had a dream about a huge spider. I woke with an appalled start when Brian, Lorraine's dribbling silver tabby, had placed his spidery face in my hand as I slept. Foul weather today, but at least not the flooding that they are having in the North. Up early (for a Sunday) and off with Lorraine and her parents to have another look at the house she is buying. I really like the place. Pat and Maureen, once they'd got over the uniqueness of the property (a converted church hall, and one time nunnery), liked it too. It's current owner is a photographer and healer, so the house smells nice, and is dotted with interesting objet trouvé and the obligatory large Buddha.

After this, we repaired to the nearby Rotunda Cafe in Preston Park for teas and substantial breakfast while the wind and rain held sway outside, and small children ran in circles making high pitched screeching noises.

A quiet afternoon with Lorraine. Freeview crashed this evening so the TV didn't work (and not just for me). Luckily Lorraine and I can read, so all was not lost. Lorraine then back home, and now I am listening to the wind in the Twitten as I write this, and eager to get on with my writing next week, and thanking my lucky stars that I have the opportunity to do so.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Beth's 18th

A mooch in the lanes with Lorraine where I bought Beth a (hopefully) tasteful silver bangle for her 18th. Then Lorraine collected the marshmallow and chocolate cake from Choccywoccydoodah to deliver to the restaurant. That shop is always crowded and their window is always full of mindbogglingly innovative things made out of chocolate. Their Halloween display for example was spectacular, full of chocolate skulls. After this was done, Lorraine and I had a cup of tea outside in the damp park, listening to a jazz trio.

Met Matt in Starbucks to talk about This concert will fall in love with you. I am very excited about this project, and am going to customise my original concept so that it perfectly fits in a concert setting. I am going to do the writing for it this next week, and Matt is going to start composing. Really enjoying the whole thing.

Home, and a powernap before going out again to celebrate Beth's 18th (which was actually yesterday). Had a drink in an incredibly full The Basketmakers, spotting Matt and John there, before going off to La Strada. Attendees for Beth's meal were Mark, Sam, Lorraine, Pat and Maureen (Lorraine's folks) Mark's family: brother David, his parents Glenda and Richard, and Phyllis, Glenda's mother. The La Strada staff were pleasant, and the food pretty good. Lots of chatting.

I find myself very fond of Beth these days, and was pleased she seemed to be having a nice enough time (despite yesterday's late and lively birthday night). Beth liked the cake and presents. Then off to have a final beer in The Pond (pretty much the only place that we could all fit into) before the younger ones were left to it. Lorraine and I and Pat and Maureen went back to Lorraine's house all having quite a laugh in the cab talking about darts, which Maureen is fierce for.

Below Beth gets her cake. With Mark and Maureen and a random waiter who seems to be mopping wine from Pat's shirt in the background.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Not getting out enough

Finally got Skelton Yawngrave off to a new agent today. Have created what I call a snub-nosed version of the text which explodes into the action like a snub nosed bullet into a brain. Writing the covering letter and re-writing the synopsis a is lengthy and anxious procedure, like a job application. Feels good to have done it, and each time I go through this I think the package is getting stronger.

Otherwise a nice note from Catriona in Guernsey who is liking the slow but steady progress on the Anthology of Guernsey site. Also Richard has been on the radio talking about it too. Meanwhile, in between feeling groggy, I have been writing new poems, which is a very good feeling. My murder my babies mood has actually been very productive. The week's tally is that I have started a new poem, finished another new poem, and fixed three old poems to the point that I like them again. For me this is speedy work indeed. It helps enormously to know that there is an actual point to it: my Guernsey Double publication with Richard next year.

Been dropping eye drops into one of Calliope's eyes which is often sore. She is remarkably tolerant of this, and although she goes rigid she suffers it, and we are friends afterwards.

Realised that through not feeling well, and having lots of stuff to get on with I have seen nobody since Tuesday bar the staff at the larder (aka Marks and Spencers). So it was good to see Lorraine come by early this evening. It is Beth's 18th birthday and she was having fun with her mates tonight. Lorraine had been putting up bunting, and balloons and so on.

Went to the pub and had a chat. Still feeling rather shattered, but it did me the world of good to get out. Lorraine and First Matie texting each other while I was in the pub.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Murdering your babies

Ezra Pound said that you have to learn to murder your babies, i.e. be ruthless with your own work. I have had nagging doubts about the first chapter of Skelton Yawngrave, and today I simply lopped it off. Now the reader is plunged straight into the story with no preamble and I think this works better. The babies squeaked in protest when I stabbed them though. Also I have pinpointed my next targets to send SY to.

Have also been brutal with some of my poems, pruning dead wood to reveal some good things below. I have managed to fix several half done poems in the last few days which for me is speedy work. Am making the most of this mood.

I seem to have a mild flu -but luckily as I am working from home, this is not really affecting my productivity.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Duvet day

Woke late, feeling shattered and coughing sporadically. However after some work in the morning, I was lucky enough to be able to spend the afternoon and evening reading The Book of Ebenezer Le Page on my sofa under a blanket, in between bouts of narcolepsy. It's about twenty years since I read the finest novel written about Guernsey by a Guernseyman called G.B.Edwards, who it seems spent the majority of his life in exile from the island.

Otherwise chatted on the phone to Sophie, and briefly to Electra who wanted me to persuade Sophie that facebook was okay. Also called by Matthew who said the percussionists were booked for our concert. Lorraine called too, very tired. I hope she hasn't got the strange tired lurgy I have today.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dunkin' the doughnut

Yippee. A really good session this morning, making big strides in getting my stuff together for my project with Richard. Also wrote to Edward Chaney who is (among other things) the literary executor of GB Edwards, and pushed on with the Anthology site.

Received some photos of my late friend Tim Gallagher this morning. I'd been contacted by Mo, who was a friend of Tim's and had found my piece on the net about him.

Broke off for a walk. Took myself down to the wild sea. Even at noon the sun was still quite low, and the waves were so big they cast shadows as they came in. Lovely to stand in the gale and blow the cobwebs away. Back home and pressed on with at last being able to add a bit more to the Anthology website. All making me feel less frustrated.

Very tired this evening.

Below the doughnut getting a dunking, and a couple of views from the pier.



Sunday, November 15, 2009

Another man's flowers

Felt groggy this morning. But enjoyed breakfast in the Nia cafe with Lorraine and her parents Pat and Maureen, who returned from a trip to Ireland last night.

Trying not to get tetchy with the poor service and the cold coffee. However we had fun, and I enjoyed a slow mooch through the Laines with them afterwards looking randomly in giftshops, newagey shops, and furniture shops. I like Lorraine's parents, and enjoyed explaining to Maureen that I had left London because the police were after me. They have just bought an aquarium after looking at mine when they were house-sitting for me, so I think my days as a fish consultant are not done.

When Lorraine's Mum and Dad had gone, I spent the afternoon enjoying Richard's poems. Every poem he writes, ends well, and there is a wonderful mix of feelings in them. And it has the added bonus of taking me back to Guernsey in my imagination. Lovely.

Lorraine had lots of work to do this afternoon, and she pushed on with it. I fed her chicken sandwiches, until it was time to watch the new episode of Dr Who, which was busy and chaotic.

After Lorraine left, Calliope, charging after a fly, managed to smash the pot of my 20 year old jade plant.

And so to bed.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Busy doing nothing

Stormy morning. Lorraine drove me and Calliope, who yowled throatily from the moment we stepped out into the gale fiercely blowing down the Twitten, to Top Cats. I don't know if it is the plug-in tranquilising cat pheromones they have, but once there she was happy to be injected, have a pill pushed down her gullet. Once back in the car the yowling restarted and continued until we were home again.

Lorraine and Beth shopping for Beth's birthday present, and returned to my place soaked by the storm.

Feeling very run down, I confined my activities to having a sleep in the afternoon, going food shopping, and cooking. Sat on my gold sofa watching Four weddings and a Funeral, while experiencing an annoying mix of tiredness and restless gloom.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The dead horse of the week

Up to London for another bout of neuropathic pain concepting. Talking to Lorraine before I got to the office, who gave me a pep talk as I was still self-indulgently gloomy. Although the surveyor cancelled this morning, a replacement was found and at last Lorraine's house buyer had a survey done. Perhaps things are going to move for her now.

Sean and I settled into the now familiar banter, as we gave the now necrotizing horse a good flogging. Was longing to be home all day, and felt decidedly jaded. Was offered some work over the weekend, which I declined. A manly hug from Sean as I left.

Anton persuaded me to download The Silmarillion which I was listening to on the train today, which I have not read for about thirty years. It's a bit mad and obsessional. But interesting too.

Nice to be home. It was very tidy, as I had used my computer rage yesterday to tidy up, defrost the fridge etc. When Lorraine came, we went out to find Matt and Wayne. We found them in the Basketmakers, and I had a fun evening talking to Matt and Lorraine. I have learned something new about myself from Matt recently. I am apparently a classic bear as I am a larger gentleman with a beard. And there is a pub he knows which is full of bears who mingle freely with otters, younger skinnier men with beards.

We three lurched back to the Tavern to meet Wayne, and Linda before floating home to eat cheese on toast. A really fun evening, and a great antidote to the petty frustrations of the week.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dell sucks

After waiting for Windows 7 from Dell for three weeks, I received a delivery today. I had reloaded all my old software earlier this week, and got the guys in India to help me install the drivers, which the initial guy had left unloaded. Dell's website had informed me the software wouldn't be delivered till the end of the month. But here it was. In a large box. Opened the box to find a smallish DVD sized case inside. This contained nothing other than a bit of smug copy and a key number. Puzzled by this, and the fact the instructions made no sense I called Dell again. Turns out they'd sent me the wrong thing entirely. An upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 7 ultimate. I had wasted the best part of yet another day on bloody computer stuff. Unbelievable.

Many apologies from the Dell folks in India, and I am getting a refund, and will make do with what I have now, seeing as at last I have a working desktop again. And hopefully drawing a line under three weeks of computer disruption.

Felt very depressed this evening at how little I have achieved this week. But I cheered myself up with the thought that, as I have a working computer I could at least make some progress tomorrow. Cue the agency phoning to ask me up to London for another bout of neuropathic pain.

Below: the sheer absurdity of Dell packaging. All this contained was a key number, and so I just had to photograph it. The keen-eyed will spot that Calliope had already crawled in the box.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Imaginary iron

A day in London. On the train I was gripped by the idea that I had left my iron on, and ended up having to ask Anton to go around to my house to check. I wasn't. Some kind of subconscious desire to return home manifesting itself probably. Still, it allowed Anton to reclaim his turntable which, much to his disgust, I hardly use.

At my old agency got to work Sean again for a last day of neuropathic pain. The new creative director said his client had told him that it was the best creative presentation they'd ever seen, this as much to do with his presentation as the work probably, but at least a nice bit of feedback.

The day spent squeezing blood from the stone of the same brief. We seem to set each other off somewhat, laughing hysterically as we trudged on with the same brief. I took a short walk at lunch along the misty river at lunchtime. Spent the day coming up with really complicated ideas, and in the end did two really simple ones.

Towards the end of the day, Matt called me saying that he has now booked St Michaels and All Angels church for three days next May. There is a deadline now, which is rather focusing.

Listening to Chuck Palahniuk's Haunted again on the way home. More gross-out stuff. I find his psychology quite poor, but you are so overwhelmed by bodily detail that you can mistake this for character. Still quite fascinating though, and well worth a look.

Home to a note from a delivery company who failed to deliver something today. I can only think it is the Dell software. Having checked online with them the day before yesterday when it said the 26th, I wouldn't be surprised. May have to redo all the things I'd done yesterday now.



Below two snaps of the misty brown Thames.



Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cool for cats

Discovered today by tracking my Dell order that the Windows 7 upgrade is not due until 26 November. Several tiresome conversations with folks in India, now have restored my computer to limp on with Vista, but will be able to work, which is a boon. However in reinstalling iTunes every single one has duplicated, meaning I have to erase about 3000 tunes from it. Good grief.

Was called by the neuropathic pain people, and I've agreed to go to London tomorrow to help out on another concept. This rather breaks up my week, but at least it means a smidge more cash, which is always welcome.

Spoke to Phil today, all well with Ash and the new baby.

Have Lorraine's keyboard in my living room at the moment. Spent fifteen minutes or so noodling around on it, to stop myself from smashing up the computer. At one point Calliope, who had been watching attentively, briskly walked onto it, changed the setting with a swipe of her paw to a sort of organ sound and played a few bars of some free jazz on it. I swear that cat is more intelligent than the average moggie.

Monday, November 09, 2009

A curious coincidence

Cooler today. Donned the socks that Joan knitted. Transpires that Calliope keenly attracted to them and had my toe bitten quite hard at one point.

Also keenly feeling the fact my desktop computer is still not working. If the last Dell estimate of delivery is to be believed, I should have the software midweek. The jobs which are making me feel most anxious because they are not done, such as the anthology of Guernsey stuff, and starting phase two of the Skelton Yawngrave campaign, require me to have that computer.

Got a text to say that Phil and Ash, of my old agency Dell posse, have had a little girl today. An eight pounder, which is excellent news for them.

Otherwise, I worked on three poems and generally made them worse. Sat in Starbucks for a change of scene and tinkered over a large skinny latte. I read Richard's poems for the book, and some of them are wonderful. It is strange that when I read his work there are things in it that I have half thought of writing about but have failed to do so. To see them successfully achieved is strangely comforting.

Phoned late afternoon by John Hamilton of EQ Studios, who was put in touch with me by Wynford. He is toying with putting poems to music, and so I sent him a few to see if they'd butter his parsnips. Seemed like a nice guy. Naturally I told him at some length about the project that Matt and I are doing. Strange how putting my words to music has never happened before, and now there are two people interested in doing so. A curious coincidence.

Lorraine came here at 10:30, as all the beds are being used at her house. She also returned my jams, which was good news. She and First Matie are meeting up after work tomorrow to discuss a pick axe.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Lorraine saves the day

Coffee and toast and a long chat with Mum and Mase this morning. Made sure I had scored several jams before we left, as Mum's jams are rather splendid. Lorraine and Mum conferring about jam making and looking at old cook books.

Then off to Brighton again, to meet Lorraine's mum and dad who were staying with Lorraine before flying off to Ireland to visit Lorraine's excellently named brother Kenny Peter. When we were driving along, I was struck suddenly by something that I'd never thought before: that the motorway was actually quite a beautiful thing. We were driving on a four lane motorway, and the cars were all travelling at the same speed, almost in formation. Not sure why it struck me as beautiful, but it did.

Anyway, Lorraine parked the car at the road at the end of my Twitten and I popped in to feed Calliope and drop some bits off. Emerging from my house after a couple of minutes I saw a rather disturbing scene. Lorraine was between two cars, one of which had collided into another, and she was supporting a man trapped between the vehicles. Later it became clearer what had happened: the handbrake had come off in a big car that the man had parked on the hill. This had rolled back and trapped his legs.

Lorraine, who had been waiting for me, ran out and helped his support his weight, and also held him and talked to him. He was in a good deal of pain and slipping in and out of consciousness. As the services turned up the firemen eventually freed him, and he was conscious when taken away. Much later Lorraine called the hospital and found that he was okay, and spoke to his wife who she had comforted lots too. I stood about feeling slightly useless, but also full of admiration for Lorraine. People very nice. The family of the man were invited into a house opposite, and the guy from the local cafe came out with a tray of teas for everyone, and offering help. The Battle of Trafalgar emptied out with blokes coming to move the car, but were told not to.

After, Lorraine was rather shaken but okay. One of the policemen said she had been a brick, and the firemen were very impressed with her too. Her old ward sister training kicked in, but it is different going into work expecting to deal with crises, rather than having one just thrust upon her. Lorraine is a splendid person.

We met her parents Pat and Maureen in the Basketmakers some time later for Sunday lunch and for Lorraine a much needed glass of shandy. I thanked Maureen for organising my airing cupboard when she and Pat were housesitting for me. Organisation is an excellent thing.

By happy accident that Matt was in there too, with a friend John, and we all sat on a table and had a really nice roast. The Basketmakers is rapidly becoming one of my favourite Brighton Pubs. Eventually Lorraine and Pat and Maureen left, and I hung about with Matt and John, discussing our project and also, at some length, death. I really like Matt which is handy in a collaborator.

Home to chat to Lorraine by phone, and delight in Chelsea beating Manchester United on match of the day. But shortly before I went to bed, I realised with horror that Lorraine had used all the drama of the day to steal the jars of jam Mum had given me.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Mick Ginty's wedding to Lucy

Very tired today, but after I scored a much needed haircut up to London in Lorraine's car to stay with Mum and Mase. Or, slightly more accurately, to treat their place like a hotel.

Was phoned by Wynford, who lives next door to Mum and Mase, before we left saying someone from a recording studio would be getting in touch to record some of my poems. Not sure what this completely out of the blue business is all about, but it seems quite interesting.

After a pitstop, up to Hatfield House where Mick Ginty was having his wedding reception. An amazing place, and I'd never been inside it. In our banquet room were huge tapestries hanging from the walls, and centuries old portraits, where everyone was depicted with disproportionately small heads.

Mick and his bride Lucy, who I'd never met, but who seemed very pleasant and attractive, were naturally having a lovely time. It did my heart good to see Mick at such an excellent moment. He and Lucy disappeared and re-emerged sporting some interesting clothes, Mick in a fetching red hat decorated with feathers. His new father in law, garbed temporarily in Elizabethan clothes, supplied a brief discourse about the history of the building, how Elizabeth I was there sitting under a tree when she learned that she would become Queen. The father in law misspoke at this point and actually said "shitting under a tree". Cue stifled snickering.

Mick and Lucy did the obligatory first dance. Then a young but very versatile covers band got going, after which Mick and Lucy seemed to do a good deal of dancing. Lorraine and I got talking to several people, including one ex colleague called Paul, who is now successfully selling mortgages.

Melted away into the night, with big drops of cold rain ending what had been a lovely sunny day. Home to Mum and Mase, who fed us a large Mason special sandwiches before we slid off to bed.

Below poor photos... But they give you an idea. Mick and Lucy, the hall, and the famous speech.



Friday, November 06, 2009

No place like it

Home today: sadly the place looked like a bomb had hit it. Oh the constantly depressing absence of servants.

Calliope thoughtfully woke me at 6:30, so had an early start, tidying up, laundry, shopping, paying bills (prompted a text from Southern Water on my mobile phone about taking further action) paying my glamorous accountant etc. Calliope content having been given frozen prawns, which seems to be the only food she actually likes.

Met Klaudia and Oskar's Godmother Anna while zooming about. Anton says that makes her my Godwife but surely this is wrong. Her little daughter India looks really cute. Anna's mum had been taken ill last week, but seems to be recovering excellently, and she was going home to Bristol see her tonight. Anna said that after she heard the news she stuttered for four days.

Bought a new kettle. My expensive kettle simply stopped working. But at least it didn't suffer the same fate as its electric predecessor: being melted on the hob by the Tobster. Caught up with correspondence and tinkered ineffectually with poems. Richard sent me some really useful feedback on my latest offering, however. The afternoon, a blessed hour's nap on my gold sofa, with Calliope making happy feet as she slept on top of me.

Got feedback from the agency about the work Sean and I had done. Apparently it went down so well with the client, that they won't need me there next week to do amends on it. Talk about being too skilled for your own good. However very happy about having a PK week, as there are a million things that need doing.

To the Battle of Trafalgar this evening, where Lorraine and I put the world to rights over beers and peanuts. The large pub dog sitting with its chin on my thigh for some time, which would have had Anton spilling his beer. Home to cheese on toast, and snoozing on the sofa.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Held responsible

Up to London. Popped in to see my glamorous accountant and hand over things I'd signed. Then into the agency. A long and slightly trying day. But all well when I left at sevenish, the first neuropathic pain work coming to a raging climax today. Interestingly, Richard the visualiser was using a Tablet PC, allowing him to draw directly onto the screen of his computer. Really cool, and makes amending the image really fast, without having to start again like traditional visualisers. Slunk off leaving the ever suffering art director (in this case Sean) to see the work through.

Feeling tired on the train home, half looking out at the occasional firework bursting in the sky while listening to Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk. It is a series of linked short stories, in a style the author calls Transgressive Fiction. The opening story, Guts, which I mentioned the other day is without exaggeration, and by some way, the single most disgusting thing I have ever read. Apparently people faint when he does public readings of it.

Got this email from Carl today, its subject was "I hold you responsible".

I have been very disturbed to find that my own dear sweet daughter has secretly been indulging in a dangerous pastime. Not drugs, not alcohol, not cigarettes. Far worse - writing poems!

So far she has only written 3 (that I have seen) but who knows where this habit could lead. I have been racking my brains where she could have been exposed to people who do this sort of thing. And then I thought of YOU.

If my daughter continues with this habit I will hold you responsible. I have shown her some of your work as a warning to where this could lead but it seems only to encourage her.

Incidentally she has read Skelton Yawngrave and she said it was really funny and easy to read. I really hope you get it published.

Hoping to get some pigs in with you soon. Your OCP* Carl

*Old China Plate

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Untaxing

Up to London for another day on neuropathic pain. Refreshingly, the new creative director reframes things interestingly, and stretches the creative work. Sean and I have been asked to work Thursday too, and then have a long weekend off before a few days next week.

After work I met Mark Hill and Robbie in the Blue Anchor for a few swifties. The place redesigned from when I used to go there. But done quite tastefully. Heard about Mark's tour of Europe, which he is hoping to get a book out of, and discussed ways to get agents. Robbie on good form too, telling us about his new Swedish girlfriend. Made off fairly quickly, and bumped randomly into Paul on a platform at Victoria, returning from visiting his son.

Home to my accounts sent by my glamorous accountant, and a calculation of the tax I need to pay. Luckily, it turns out I have saved quite a bit more that I owe. This means my financial cushion is suddenly a lot plumper that I'd thought. Went to bed feeling lucky, and more secure than of late.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Train time

Back in the train limbo. Working on poems going up to London, looking afresh at my old Guernsey work for the project I am doing with Richard next year. Fortunately there are several improvements that leap out at me right away. The stuff I've done about Guernsey is surprisingly coherent over the years.

Into the agency and working with Sean again, getting blood from a stone on the neuropathic pain brief. Nothing much to report, although we had a few laughs as we struggled with it.

The train home, obsessionally playing the brick breaker game on my mobile phone, and listening to a disgusting audio book by Chuck Palahniuk called Haunted. First story featured a boy masturbating underwater, having his small intestines sucked out by the pool pump. I have rarely felt so revolted by anything. I can't decided if it was depraved or brilliant.

Monday, November 02, 2009

A singing school

Up to the smoke yet again, after bribing Calliope with prawns. Absurd, but I feel quite guilty about leaving her alone during the days.

A long mondayish Monday. However still managed to have something of a laugh with Sean, while we worked on the interminable neuropathic pain. After work I bumped into Craig on the street on the way back to the station. He had Eva with him, and they were waiting for Matty boy.

I however was unable to stop, as I had to shoot home as I was due to meet my other friend Matt the composer. Went to where he was rehearsing his choir, who were learning Handel's Messiah. Sitting there listening to them made me feel Christmassy, and as if I were in an episode of Inspector Morse.

They were rehearsing in a room next to St Michael's church in Brighton, where we are thinking of staging This concert will fall in love with you. There is an area in the church which will be perfect, and room for 100 seats. Chatting to Matt about all the possibilities of the venue, which seem many and various. Tried to picture myself in there doing the biz, listening to Matt's music. The vision not clear yet.

Home at 10 chatting to Lorraine on my mobile phone, and then had to do some work before slouching into bed past midnight.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

This concert will fall in love with you

I wrote a strange pamphlet during a full moon a year and a half ago, called This book will fall in love with you. I sent this along with some other poems to Matthew Pollard (a good friend of Lorraine's) who is a composer and conductor. Turns out he wants to set some of this to music, and give it a few performance in the Brighton Fringe Festival next spring. We met in The Basketmakers this evening to discuss the project, and after an hour or so were joined by Lorraine. I'm very excited by the prospect of performing again, and this time with wonderful new music.

These conversations conducted amid Halloween revelries. This being Brighton, at least a third of the people you saw wandering about on the street or in the pub were dressed as ashen faced zombies, mummies, or had weapons protruding from skulls, or there were those who were just liberally splashed with fake blood. Only one person really caught my attention, before it was dark even. He was walking along down the street looking quiet normal except for his eyes, which vertical slits for pupils.

Being rather excited by our new project Matt and I and Lorraine had a couple more drinks, then dropped into the Brighton Tavern (again crawling with the undead). Bumped into Linda, who had put me in touch with the local publisher, Paul, who I hope to meet soon.

Earlier, I had been up the hill to Anton and Anna's house. Chatted with Anna who I hadn't seen for ages, and with Klaudia who showed me the witchy hat she was going to wear. Oskar sat on my lap, seized my nose, and asked me why it was so big.

Anton then drove, Oskar and I north to Balcome for a short walk in the country. It really was idyllic. Bright weather, with a hint of mist, and the colours of Autumn in full flush. We walked across a field down into boggy places crossed by a plank walkway, which Oskar enjoyed. Anton full of pride seeing his son, still only three and a half, striding off into the country with his walking stick and Tomas the Tank Engine rucksack. The bells of a church were being rung, and for at least half an hour the peals rolled down the hill past the oaks and the yew trees to us.

After Oskar got tired, we went for a quick drink in the Half Moon at Balcome, clearly a local pub for local people. Anton drove us home, out of the late sunshine, to the Brighton side of the downs which were cloudy and damp.

Below Klaudia, Oskar in the wild and with Anton.