Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Back on the treadmill

A quietly productive day working on Skelton Yawngrave. Also uploading photos. There are many more to come.

Also thinking about Guernsey literature, as while I was over there I talked to Catriona about my idea of an anthology of Guernsey literature. She asked me to send her a fuller proposal when she returns from an Australian holiday. As you would imagine, I am excited by this prospect - and have been giving it much brain time.

Yet another poetry rejection today - continuing my worst ever run in UK magazines.

Off to the gym this morning. Loping on the treadmill dreaming of gorse yellow cliffs. It's just not the same.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Home to sad news

Talked to Anton this afternoon who had some very sad news about Keith his stepdad who died yesterday. Keith was a very generous man and kind man, who latterly got immense pleasure from his relationship with Oskar and Klaudia. I feel really sad for Anne, Anton's Mum, and sent her a card this afternoon. To send a card after such a momentous and life changing event seems paltry, but I guess the thought's the thing.

Up at 5:30am, and due to the clocks springing forward this seemed even earlier. Stole away from La Barbarie and all too quickly was watching Guernsey slide behind the 7.00am plane's starboard wing while Lorraine dozed.

Home to a pleased, although slightly bitey, Calliope. And Sam sleeping, as only teenagers can, till mid afternoon. He stayed till the evening playing World of Warcraft before Lorraine came to take him and his technology. He'd done a good job, and the house was in good shape, and the cat clearly likes him.

Meanwhile I generally zoomed about doing immense amounts of laundry, and shopping and so on. Seemed odd to be indoors so much, and kept popping out. Spoke to Bob while on my travels. Life in Salisbury is settling down well I think.

Despite missing Guernsey, felt good to be sitting on my gold sofa tonight, with Calliope's face on my shoulder, while eating a slice or two of Gache.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Last word

Last day in Guernsey. Raining mistily. Went for a not too demanding walk, finding lanes I have never walked down, behind Fermain. In the evening a last walk to Icart before eating in La Barbarie. Became embroiled after supper in the bar in a conversation about how much various guests knew Guernsey after some had been showing off about going there since '91. I won, of course, though I felt ridiculous afterwards.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Free as a bird

Another day of happy wanderings. After a rather sleepless night, where I lay awake full of plots and schemes. I wrote a poem in my head about La Gran'mère, but could only remember one line of it this morning. And that was a very poor one.

However was compelled to visit La Gran'mère again. Then took Lorraine to the wishing pool, and generally mooched about in the lanes heading off to Jerbourg, where we we climbed up the Doyle column and there were superb views of the islands – and the French coast clearly visible too.

Had lunch at the Auberge at Jerbourg. And easily the best food of my time there. I had a skate main course, followed by half of an incredible honey parfait pudding. It had honeycomb, and caramelised fig, and icecream and drizzles of berry jus and green jelly that popped and exploded in your mouth. It was playful and delightful.

Slowly walked home along the cliff path. It was a stunning afternoon, with bright sun. Took lots of photos that did no justice to the views. In the evening off to the captains for a light supper. Starry sky with the new moon a slither underneath the dark disk of the rest of the moon. As we walked home through the dark lanes, I thoughtfully told Lorraine the story of La Biche the hideous ghost goat who lives nearby.

Below Petit Port at low tide, the wishing well reflecting sky, the bunker and tree that used to be in my old school playground in St Martins, dog and lion rocks against the silver sea, La Gran'mère and another cliff view.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Feet in the sea

Lorraine like a happy kid on the cliffs, photographing wild flowers and looking appreciatively at uncurling fern fronds and blackthorn flowers and such like.

We walked down to Moulin Huet bay. Lorraine insisting on taking her boots off, so I followed suit and paddled in the sea. Quite astonishingly cold – a raw burning kind of freeze. But it was amazingly invigorating. Lorraine found herself a rock to sit on, surrounded by rock pools and zoned out listening to the sea. I found myself another stone and meditated for ten minutes or so, my bare feet on the sand, and the waves and gulls filling me, and the sun warming my face.

We were the only people on the beach and it was good to be there. When I used to meditate regularly, I often envisaged myself sitting in Moulin Huet, so it was very good to actually sit there and do it in reality.

Off and on in the last few days I have had a mental spring clean. I discover that lots of the decisions I've taken lately are coming from the fearful, apprehensive side of my nature. My plan of action is clear now, and it is to return to the positive and finish the Skelton Yawngrave book over the next month or so. Now I am clear about what I am doing, I suddenly feel much lighter and more optimistic. Guernsey has worked its magic yet again.

In the evening went into St Peter Port and wound up having a curry at a restaurant called Sitar. An air of stifled frenzy about the staff, and while we waited for food Lorraine we observed the lilac walls, and orange and lime green drapes, and gold columns and exposed brick walls, and exposed granite walls, and purple candle holders ascending the stairs. Everything was fighting, which added to the air of exhaustion. The food, when it arrived, was average. But a curry on a Friday night is inevitably a cracking idea.

Taxi home, and talking to the driver about the Muratti Vase cup, which is the inter-island football cup, which, except for in 1920 when Alderney memorably won, is inevitably played out between Guernsey and Jersey. There is usually an atmosphere of some animosity, with taunts of Crapaud and Donkey being swapped. Random fact: Alderney's worst defeat came in 1994 when they were beaten 18-0 by Jersey in the semi final.

Below feet in the sea, Lorraine on the cliffs,a view from Icart Point, a cliff head,a butterfly and the cliff path goes through some blackthorn - imagine all the sloes at the end of the year.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lorraine arrives

A solitary kipper and Guardian breakfast. Raining off and on all day so I grabbed a bus and headed off to Candie Gardens to look at the Guernsey museum and art gallery. Surprised to learn that there was a currency here called Guernsey Doubles, which peristed into the 60s. I think I read there were eight doubles to the penny.

In Candie Gardens itself, there is a fine statue of Victor Hugo, battling the wind as he faces Herm and, of course, France. Hugo was exiled on Guernsey and is the most famous writer ever to live here. Les Travailleurs de la mer, Toilers of the Sea, is the only book of his which is set on Guernsey though. A jolly fine read, especially the best battle with a giant octopus scene in world literature.

Back to the Library for some more browsing on local writers. I found a limited edition book by Renée Monamy, called Guernsey, mon île... which had some good poems, but as far as I could tell, with my atrocious French, was poorly served by her translator. She wrote these in the early 1980s I think.

Got the bus back to the hotel, and found myself looking at my own poem. Finally I'd found it on bus 41. Covertly I watched a woman sitting opposite the poster reading it, but she seemed to look away with a disgusted grimace once she'd finished. I decided not to take this to heart.

After a little writing (I am at last feeling like writing again) in the hotel I walked to the airport where I met Lorraine. She sped through with just hand luggage and we were back in the hotel in no time, as the cab driver had a Euchre night to go to. Lovely to see Lorraine, who wanted to take a quick walk, so we sloped off to a very windy Icârt point as it was growing dark, which she loved. Lots of big rabbits in the fields poking their heads at her in welcome.

Then back to the hotel for a drink and a three course meal. Again a caveat to the puddings rule – as you will instinctively know before I remind you – bread and butter pudding is one of the three allowable puddings. But in La Barbarie they make it with delectable Guernsey Gâche instead of bread, with spectacular genre busting results.

Text from The French Bloke today. He and Max have just had a baby boy. Given his record of fathering five girls, this was big news. Everyone well.

Below Victor Hugo's large octopus, the statue in Candie Gardens, and - eureka - my poem in the bus.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

National poet of Guernsey isn't me, shocker

Mum back to England today. We'd had a really good time together, and some sensational weather too, which she seems to have taken with her. After waving mum off at the hotel, I zoomed off into town, to spend time lurking in the library's local books section.

Got down some books in French and Guernésiais by George Métivier (1790–1881). I will go back tomorrow to learn more, but he is described in the introduction of the ancient volume I was reading as "le pöete national de Guernsey", obviously a sweeping statement made well before I was born.

Fresh from enjoying a poem that started "Salut, nos cher cousins, honorables crapauds!" about Jerseymen. I went off to meet Catriona Stares, for an excellent meal at Hojos in St Peter Port, and an even better chat. We pooled lots of ideas, and Catriona seems really switched on and generally encouraging of arts in the island. I really liked her.

She also told me that Richard seriously cracked his ribs after our lively night, which I felt rather bad about.

Full of risotto and coffee I walked back from town, along the cliffpath to Fermain and then on the roads to nip back to the hotel. Apart from a quick walk a little later I enjoyed a quiet night in working on an exciting proposal, and watching some TV about Brian Clough. What an entertaining man he was, and how dull he makes football pundits seem now.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Moulin Huet

Mum's last day in Guernsey, so in the morning we went down to Moulin Huet. Popped into the pottery place there, and had a chat with the potter and told him I'd found one of his pieces in a charity shop in Brighton. I bought a Klee-like square piece of pottery, with no observable function, to take home with me.

Then down to the incomparably beautiful Moulin Huet bay. The tide was low and it was nice to get my hands on limpets, and pop bladderwrack and peer into rockpools in search of gobies, which the locals call cabou. The first fish I ever caught was a cabou on a groundline from the white rock.

Betty had told me that my poem was on a Guernsey bus whose registration number ends with 40. Happening to be in town this afternoon, I sighted it at the terminal bursting onto the full bus with a flourish, bellowing my poem! But it wasn't, and instead was one of Richard's. Mum had similarly burst on behind me also brandishing a camera. Slunk off feeling silly.

This evening Betty came for a final drink with my Mum, said to me that it could have been the bus that ended in 14.

Below looking towards Jerbourg in Moulin Huet bay, the lighthouse at St Peter Port, and the bottom of the cliff in Moulin Huet.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Grave matters

This morning Mum had arranged to see a relative called Roy in La Criox Guerin, a nearby cafe. I had opted out of this encounter as the conversation was mainly about the deaths, and how a distant cousin of mine had just had a double amputation.

Had an email from Jane detailing her and Richard's end of the famous poetry evening. Apparently Richard bruised his ribs falling into bed, a fact which makes me feel curiously comforted.

As a preparation for her meeting I went with Mum to the graveyard. Here we looked at several graves of family members, including a fresh one for Sadie, my grandfather's sister-in-law. I'd not seen Sadie for some time, but she had been kind to me as a child. Especially when my Grandmother had been summoned to England one year when I was 12 as her sister had died suddenly. My grandfather refused to cook, so I was promoted to chef and cooked for him and Toby. Sadie came around once or twice to see if I was coping, and offer advice on the finer points of cooking of potatoes.

I want my ashes to be tipped off Icart point when the time comes.

Mum and I ended up having yet another walk, this time threading behind St Martin's parish church through the back lanes to town. I again found lanes I'd never been down. Once in town, at the bus station, I kept a keen eye out for the bus with my poem in it, which Betty had spotted the other day.

In the evening went out to La Bella Luce for a nice meal. Really good duck starter served with chives and mango, and black bream main course. The puddings were not up to the same standard however. Mum and I were talking about my Grandmother and the war, and about Norah who had been in London with my mother and grandmother during the war, and were in an air raid shelter when the shop my grandmother ran was bombed.

Mum insisted on another walk to Icart point in the dark. I love walking in the dark as a rule, and it was great to hear the wind seething like the sea through the pines, and then stand (carefully) at the edge of the cliff and look out to sea towards the Crapaud's isle.

Once in a blue moon I wonder what Jersey is like. For while I have lived in Guernsey and have visited Guernsey more than 100 times, I have never set foot on Jersey apart from half an hour on its airport when I was a kid.

But Mum went there for one day once and didn't like it, so that's good enough for me.

Email from Kate Shaw asking me to go to events before interviewing Pete Posthlethwaite this Wednesday. Typical.

Spoke to Lorraine late, as she had been out to listen to a night of music written by Leonard Cohen and others in which she fell asleep. Sam is catsitting Calliope well, and he has trained her not to wake him up before 9am, which is splendid.

Below a Guernsey lobster on the board outside The Captains, and some falling down glasshouses round the corner from La rue des Grons on Saints Road, which were full of Guernsey tomatoes and weird gourds when I was a nipper.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Time travelling

An atrocious hangover this morning. Woke up at 7 feeling very poor indeed. Had a slow breakfast, concentrating on not choking on my food. Mum's cure was to walk for three hours or so. We headed up to the airport, and then back through all kinds of Ruette Tranquilles, waterlanes, paths and roads back. Many were new to me, despite having roamed this corner of the island all my life.

Passed our old house on the way back to the hotel. Time has blunted the painfulness of seeing it out of the family. But everything that has been done to the house has made it uglier, such as putting tarmac over the front gardens, and erecting a small wall made of breeze blocks, which is a shame. It looks diminished and run down, and no longer like the 16th Century cottage that has loomed so large in my life.

In the evening around the corner to have a late Sunday lunch with Betty and her mum Mavis, who will be 90 next year, and is still bright as a button although these days “me and stairs we don't get on eh”. She mentioned her late husband would have been 101 if he was alive today. I remember him fairly well, and playing a hand or two of euchre with him in the old Patois bar of the Captains with my grandfather.

I enjoyed hearing Mavis talk. She is a keen knitter but does not do it on Sundays, having been told off for doing so by her mother some 80 years ago. On Mavis's wall is a photo of her parents on their wedding day, 102 years ago. Time travelling. Mavis told us how she did not drink, since getting drunk once with her husband and some Germans during the war.

We sat around a real fire, and Betty's new hearing dog Penny, who is a black spanielly mongrel sits so close to the flames that she almost cooks herself, occasionally bolting out to the corridor to pant and cool off before returning to warm up again. Like some kind of canine sauna.

Back to the hotel to call Lorraine, and have an early night.

Below a house above Petit Bôt.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Night of the poets

A long day's walking today with mum, who is scrambling about with gusto. After a kipper breakfast, out into the beautiful morning to visit La Gran'mère du Chimquière which is only polite. She was looking as fresh and lovely as her four and a half thousand years allow. She is without a doubt my favourite statue-menhir and is to be treated with respect.

Also had a nose in St Martin's Parish church, which has mixed memories for me, having only attended it twice, for the funerals of my Grandparents. Then returning to more pagan ways we walked a roundabout route to the wishing well, where we made wishes by drawing a circle anticlockwise three times on the water.

Then the serious business of walking, and we went to Jerbourg and threaded along the cliffpaths into St Peter Port. The sea was as flat as I've ever seen it, and the day was beautifully warm and it was hot going. At one point among all the general loveliness we saw a rat, which I stood a foot away from and it was completely unconcerned as if had never learned to be scared of us humans.
After we walked for about five hours, I ate a bizarre doughnut and Scotch egg lunch at about 3pm. Then spoke to Lorraine, and I am looking forward to her joining me over here shortly.

In the evening had a great evening with the Guernsey based poets Richard Fleming and Jane Mosse. Richard came to collect us at La Barbarie and drive us to the north of the Island. With three poets in the room there was a fair amount of drinking to be done, and we lived up to it. Jane had cooked a lovely meal, including a spectacular walnut and coffee creamy and meringuey pudding, which had me reconsidering my whole hierarchy of allowable puddings. Later Jane read some of the poems she has written on the theme of Guernsey legends, for a project she's working on with a local artist. And jolly fine they were too.

Richard is a lovely man, and I've admired his writing for a long time since I saw it featured in the Guernsey Attic Press, and I sent off for his pamphlet. And it was great to get to know him better. The time flew by in a blur of wine and talk about religions, life in Northern Ireland (where Richard was from originally) poetry, relationships and much more. Mum also enjoyed herself a great deal too, and surprised everyone by quoting the best part of a Shakespeare sonnet.

A taxi home after fond farewells. The taxi driver had coincidentally contributed to The Guernsey Attic Press, which had published a few articles and poetry by me. The evening left me feeling more connected with Guernsey than I have done for a while. A great night out and lovely to get to know Richard and Jane better.

Below Mum and La Gran'mère Fermain bay, and a shot from the cliff path between Jerbourg and Fermain.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Sunburnt and stargazing

Down the lanes to Moulin Huet this morning, and took the cliffpath off to Jerbourg. I had brought my watercolours with me, and we stopped at a bench which overlooks Moulin Huet bay. It's a magnificent view, with craggy granite cliffs, and the paths there are lined with thick vegetation. It was a hot sunny day, and the horizon looking out to sea was a hazy blur. While Mum sketched the headland, I inexpertly daubed a picture of some rocks in the water. To look at something for twenty minutes or so, is like some kind of meditation in itself.

Renoir did a few paintings lower down of Moulin Huet on the beach, which is where I learned to swim as a kid.

Then on to Jerbourg, where we stopped by the kiosk and drank tea and water, and talked to the owner about the demise of the Idle Rocks hotel, whose burnt remains are still visible.

Mum then zoomed off to town, and ambled back to the hotel. I'm taking lots of photos, which I'll upload on my return. Noticed when I got home that my face had really caught the sun.

In the evening back to the Captains again, for a fish based meal and a refreshing beer with Betty. Betty who is deaf, is the Island's leading champion of hearing dogs. She has a newish hearing dog called Penny, and her old one Boo is living in happy retirement with her and her mum Mavis.

After we'd walked Betty home, I got my wee computer, and went out to examine the stars. With the stellarium program mum and I were able to identify the Auriga constellation which looks like a house with a roof, and nearby Castor and Pollux in the Gemini constellation, and pinpoint bright Saturn. It was rather nippy standing about after a bit, but I could get addicted to this stargazing business.

Below views from Moulin Huet to Jerbourg.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The cliffs again

Checking my emails this morning on my crotchtop computer, have received an invite from Richard Fleming for Saturday night of wine food and poetry. Also had a smidgen of work to do for my pharmaceutical client which I was able to polish off in a couple of minutes.

After a gargantuan breakfast where mum was at the coffee like some crack fiend, we set off into Town, where I bought some local interest books, including Pixies and Faeries on Guernsey. A pamphlet I am sure Anton will be keen to borrow on my return.

Apparently, long ago Guernsey was an invaded by an army of foreign fairies from across the water and a distant land we now call England.

Mum and I then climbed up the steep flights of stairs that lead up to the top of St Peter Port. We passed my grandfather's little school, and I tried to picture him as a kid heading into the playground through the doorway marked Garcons. Also wandered into a catholic church, Notre Dame du Rosaire which was rather boatlike, having a nautical wheel at the pulpit, and a gorgeous splash of stained glass window light falling on the altar cloth.

After these exertions,a bowl of beanjar in the cafe on the Market Square before busing back to the hotel. The buses are displaying their poems, but I've not seen mine yet.

In the afternoon another walk along the cliffs. An absolutely gorgeous day. I can't upload photos due to the nature of my crotchtop, but it was fantastic to walk around in the bright low sun, with the cliffs covered in wild flowers and the sea calm and breeze ruffled.There was a slight mistiness still, which made the distance look milky. We paused from time to time to take photos, once near a bench just above Saints which is dedicated to my great aunt Dolly.

A spot of crotchtopping this evening. Beth sent me her interview of me today, which was rather nice. And Catriona wrote to me too about meeting up while I'm over here too to chat about Guernsey arts. All good.

In the evening off to the Captains with Betty, an old friend of the family who lives around the corner, and caught up with all her news. While Mum and Betty were talking I occasionally turned my attention to a bottle or two of pony ale, which was one of my favorite tipples as a whippersnapper. It's not the same taste any more, but was fine.

Home by torchlight under crowds of stars.

Below blackthorn on the cliffs, the altar cloth at Notre Dame du Rosaire being splashed with light from a stained glass window.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The yellow cliffs

Met mum at Gatwick, and once we were through the indignities of security, we repaired to a bar for a bracing gin and tonic. We only noticed our flight some time later when the screen was saying final boarding.

The flight dreamlike, in a prop aircraft flying through haze. Then before we landed, it flew straight and level, quite low over the misty sea. Somewhat galled that we had booked seats 2a and 2b only to be bumped back to row 19 due to some bogus claim about balancing the aircraft (which was barely half full). I will get a refund.

Arrived at La Barbarie in the afternoon. This now has wi fi access in the bar, which is a splendid combination. Once out of the taxi, the parish was very quiet, with the sound of foghorns distinct all afternoon.

Soon we were out and walked on the cliffs from Icart point to Saints, and then around a few lanes inland. The sun low and warm above the misty cloud and the cliffs were yellowing with the first gorse.

In the evening I drank rather too much by way of celebration, and we had a slap up feast in the Barbarie's restaurant. Hard to think, looking at Mum on the cliffs, that she fought off cancer last year.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A cockentrice

Running about getting ready for my holiday. Sam who is house sitting came by with Lorraine tonight and I briefed him on cat business over the fish and chips they'd brought with them. I suspect he thinks Calliope is a cat.

I will miss Lorraine. We were diverted by the TV as Heston Blumenthal was cooking a Tudor-inspired cockentrice. Fascinating TV. Like the craziness of creating a creating a Frankenstein animal filled with a medley of meats. I'm turning into a Blumenthal fan.

Otherwise spent the day tidying, hoovering, laundry and so on in between admin and emails, while experiencing another periodic wave of resentment about the absence of servants. Late at night, when I was in bed reading Bombers 1939-1945 by Kenneth Munsun, I noticed Calliope had stealthily unpacked four pairs of socks from my open case.

Next stop Guernsey.
Below Bluementhal's cockentrice.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Cat in the doghouse

Cat induced sleep deprivation is getting beyond a joke. Even if I boot Calliope from the bedroom, she unflaggingly scratches at the door like a demented poltergeist until I get up, even if this is two hours later. How a kitten can have this monomaniac intensity? Almost as testing is the fact that once she is absolutely satisfied I am unalterably awake, she nips off for a short nap.

After a bit of admin, gardening in the Spring sun this morning, much to the delight of the cat who spent an hour and a half rushing me from all points of the compass. Hard frost may have done in my little tree, and possibly my arum lilies, but time will tell. Otherwise good to see daffodils.

Was late for Steve the Chiropractor, and had a decent cracking. Apparently tension in my shoulders is creeping back, and my lower spine popped like a 21 gun salute, but I slinked home with a spine like a young grass snake, which was nice.

Later I enjoyed speaking to Diane, who told me about her red nose caper.

In the evening up to road to see Anton. Anna is staying with Anton's Mum as Keith is still in hospital. The bairns upstairs and asleep when I got there. Anton has his hands full, and is missing Anna and is worried about Keith.

Anton had cooked us a mighty fine keema curry. We scarfed this and listened to a variety of tunes. Was good to hear John Lennon's song Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! from Sgt. Pepper. In my mind this is the theme tune to the the Ray Bradbury novel Something wicked this way comes. I love the woozy unreality of it, and that its inspiration was an old poster Lennon saw in a antique shop.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A sleeper in the woods

A beautiful spring day today. Lorraine drove us to Woods Mill, a nearby piece of wet woodland that is used as a nature trail for school kids in Sussex. Great to be out and about. The sun very warm.

At one point I just sat on a bench with Lorraine and we did the sound meditation, which always works very well for me. What you do is simply listen to the nearest noise and then the ones further away until you are at your aural horizon. If you are sitting among singing birds this an added pleasure. It is a very fast way to take your consciousness away from yourself and gets you centred quickly.

I've been yearning for the spring this year. And there was evidence of it everywhere today: daffodils, primroses, late snowdrops, and a few shy wood anemones. Also catkins on trees. We stumbled across a pair of mating toads too, and peered into the twitching ponds. I love this kind of thing, and so does Lorraine.

There are also ruins there, which are unmarked and are just lying about picturesquely. Perhaps they are from some Victorian folly. I couldn't find any information about them, but they are still quite magical.

Then off to the Batty (aka the Battle of Trafalgar) to get a late but decent roast pork Sunday lunch. Lorraine repaired home shortly after this. Later I spoke to Anton as Keith his step dad has not been well and had a major operation last Wednesday - it has been a measured success, but he is still in intensive care. Anton is at home with the kids, as Anna is supportively staying with Anton's Mum.

Watched Match of the Day tonight. A classic: Chelsea regally dismiss Manchester City, while Manchester United are drubbed by Liverpool. Then happily off to bed.

Below the rather Tolkienesque and regal sleeper in the woods; the last of the snowdrops, a catkin, two amorous toads, and some reflections.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Gran Torino and shopping for smalls

Off this evening to see Gran Torino with Clint Eastwood. This was a very watchable movie, with Eastwood putting in a fine performance as a curmudgeonly widower, who is drawn into the affairs of his Chinese next door neighbours, and goes around kicking a fair measure of butt. An interestingly troubled religious undercurrent to it too - perhaps a tad overdone in the final shootout.

Also popped into an art gallery where there was the work of a Japanese artist who was replicating early Klimt, but with a highly lacquered finish and the introduction of bits of mother of pearl. Lovely stuff.

Otherwise the day had been spent shopping with Lorraine. Lorraine bought a wet top, and I mainly scored (relatively) smalls and teeshirts. Brighton bursting back into life today. Lots of music on the streets again, including my favourite stilt-sporting buskers The Top Bananas, as well as the tightrope walking fiddler I have featured previously in this blog. Seemed like my holiday has started already. Especially when we mooched down by the sea for a glass of beer.

A sensation only improved by glimpsing into a TV in a shop and hearing that Manchester Utd were being spanked in the premiership.

Below a highly strung fiddle player, and a drink on the beach.

Friday, March 13, 2009

All well in the world

Off to the Doctor's first thing this morning. For the first time in my life I can honestly say that I have a good relationship with my GP, which lessens all my other neuroses such as white coat syndrome. Today he had two students sitting in during my consultation and my blood pressure was taken twice, and fortunately was normal. He confirmed ECG readings were fine and dandy, and I left feeling rather cheerful. And the doctor saying my holiday was perfectly timed. In the afternoon I slept for almost three hours.

After this I felt brimming with optimism and cheeriness. Simple things like going into Sainsbury's seemed happy. It was red nose day, and so many of the staff were wearing tutus, including the men, which was at least colourful. And I fell into a nice conversation with a blue haired girl behind the counter at the pharmacy. Apparently it comes off in her sleep. I pictured her waking up with her pale emo face looking even paler with blue tinged skin and sheets.

A noticable difference between Brighton and London is that people down here actually talk to you as a human when you are shopping - so the person at check out for example will give you his theories about a certain movie for example.

In the evening Lorraine came by, and we trotted off to the Battle of Trafalgar a few yards away from my house, for a cheery beer and a weekly download, and then scored some light Chinese grub feeling that all's well in the world.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A different beat

Off to work as normal this morning, thinking happily how this is the penultimate day's travel for some time. Just before I arrived at the agency I experienced some rather spectacular palpitations.

I called Lorraine who was very reassuring. I then decided to walk into the agency and sit quietly in reception to gather myself. In so doing I bumped into Betsy who was concerned for me and very supportive. After a while the receptionist decided err on the side of caution, and call an ambulance as I was looking a bit wussy.

Soon I trotted outside and was seen by two delightful ambulance paramedics called Pat and Nat from the Charing Cross hospital. By then the palpitations were over, and they ran an ECG, which was absolutely fine. After some other checks, they released me back into the wild, recommending I take it easy for a couple of days. Had quite a few laughs with them, and I requested a Brazilian when they were shaving my chest hair. One said she was famous for talking too much which is why there was an oxygen cylinder there to replenish the air. Very reassuring, professional and nice.

So after talking to Betsy, I simply went home, feeling a bit foolish. My body letting me know it needed to start its holiday two days earlier. Slightly peeved to have travelled all the way to the agency, simply to turn around again having earned nothing. Spoke to Katie and Betsy later, who are going to be working together next week, and Lorraine called to monitor me.

Return home early to a delighted cat, and had a deep sleep this afternoon. Lorraine came around this evening, and we watched Red Riding on TV. Which was grim but interesting. Despite being tired I had been palpitation free for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Not much

Eagerly seized up my iPod on the delayed train this morning and discovered that the wire of one of the earplugs had been quietly bitten through during the night by the cat.

Full moon tetchiness today. Had a lively argument with Betsy at work about the best way to represent the sun in one of our concepts, and then had a good laugh about it afterwards. The afternoon was not without its longueurs and I am longing now for my forthcoming break. I have thought quite enough about surgical site infections and multiple sclerosis.

Spoke to The Cat with the Hat. Pleased to hear had received the all clear after a recent cancer op.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Going lopo

Woke up with a bellow this morning as Calliope had used her seizing my foot with claws and fangs wake up technique. Not a great start as I could hardly stand up as the tendons in my foot were so painful due to some hardly noticeable at the time twist at the weekend. The appalling Orc foot had returned. I bought some species of gel during the day, and applied it and by the end of it I was loping fluently through the crowds at Victoria station.

Work okay, Betsy away so I simply got my head down and got on with it. Worked with the likable Keith in the afternoon for a couple of hours who told me a few diving stories. Like swimming into a down current, and being sucked alarmingly into the deep.

Home and listening to how to meditate guidance from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying on the way home, which sent me to sleep. Home and there was the important matter of watching Chelsea playing Juventus in the Champions League. Calliope showed general impatience at this, and I suspect she is not a Chelsea fan.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Diane and the crane

Curiously shattered after a flurry of well being last week. En route listened to Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo's movie podcast, and Kermode's unfavourable review of Watchmen. Then more Buddhism. In work talking to Betsy lots during the day including decidedly off-brief heart to heart about life the universe and everything. Also spoke to First Matie briefly who is in Tenerife. 

Diane had called during the day to say that her study overlooks a crane, and that she had written a love poem to its driver. She decided to perform it to him on Red Nose Day. Apparently the building company has got into the whole thing and it has take off somewhat. She has been dared to wear purple stilettos while reciting the poem in the crane's cabin.  

Feeling exhausted, I arrived home to a bouncing cat, and an early bed. 

Sunday, March 08, 2009

A lurk in Lewes

Off to Lewes this afternoon for a general mooch about with Lorraine. It's only about ten minutes away by train. Nice to get out of Brighton, and wandered through Southover Grange Gardens looking at daffodils and other spring flowers. Also went to a gallery which featured local artists and craftspeople. There was an exhibition of some extraordinarily good embroideries by Sally Verrall (who happened to at the till) and Wendy Dolan. Some colours and textural effects. Who knew I liked embroidery?

Sally Verrall said that she went out into the country and did watercolours first and then returned home to do the work, which could take at least a week for a picture. Lorraine and I walked up to the top of the hill, and did some bookshopping in the French man's bookshop, where I bought two pocket guides to WW2 aircraft (sad I know) and then as the the rain began to pour, sensibly headed for the Lewes Arms for a fine roast lunch with about ten species of vegetables, and a pint of Harveys bitter.

Below some shots from Southover Grange Gardens in Lewes. Madrigal singers, two faces of Janus, a gargoyle, lichen and doves.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Blindsided by The Hi-Sides.

A chilled day. Cat perfecting a new waking technique, which is simply to lean heavily on your head rather than stand on it. First day for ages in which I had not had to work, apart from preparing a couple of invoices, which is simply cheery. Had a bit of hangover this morning. I am a terribly lightweight drinker these days.

Off this evening with Anton and Lorraine to see The Hi-Sides at The Hope. This is the band formed by Rick and Jon who I met a few years ago through Anton, plus a bassist called Pete. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but they were hugely enjoyable and seemed to mean business. Lots of good songs written by Rick, and the on-stage chemistry between them was great. Jon thundering away at the drums radiating sheer pleasure. They were at the foot of the bill because they have only just started but well worth checking out. See the The Hi-Sides myspace site. I find it really inspiring when people I know get up and turn it on. Brilliant stuff.

Other bands were on too. Brassneck, who Lorraine said reminded her of The Beautiful South with a violin, also well worth seeing. These followed by a band called Gentleman Starkey who I didn't see enough of to form an opinion, although the singer's voice rather good and I enjoyed their general air of aloofness. Although probably not in a way they would have liked.

We met Sally and Jon there too, who I'd known from my IBM days. They were on a weekend away from the kids. Sally and Lorraine chatting their heads close together in the noise, like they were in some kind of dimples competition. After a while we cleared off to The Eddy which was utterly thronging much to our suprise. A splendid night out.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Mind maps and a mouse Chernobyl

Downloaded an abridged version of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and listened to it on the train. John Cleese reading it, as well as Sogyal Rinpoche the author, and others. I noticed John Cleese at the three day retreat I attended with Sophie, which was led by Sogyal Rinpoche himself. Listening to it is surprisingly cheering, and like a burst of sanity as you scrabble ratlike from the train platforms at Victoria down into the tunnels of the tube.

Arriving at London I picked up a free Metro which had a false front and back page covered in stories about Watchmen. The movie is out shortly in the UK. I read the graphic novel last year while I was in Greece, and found Alan Moore's story intriguing. The advertising for the movie covering the Metro (usually only worth reading for the excellent translated Norwegian cartoon strip Nemi ) was very well done though, and true to the style of the original graphic novel. Interestingly Moore's name was not to be seen as he has asked it to be removed. Not a good sign as he did the same with the disappointing V for Vendetta, which was also based on one of his excellent stories.

Maybe it was a sunny Friday morning, but I had a bit of a spring in my step today walking to work. Even though I have been working hard this week I actually feel better than I have done for months. My prostatitis has cleared up, and even better I no longer have to eat antibiotics every day for months. Also a heavy cold is on its way out, and I have a break to look forward to.

The day went interestingly. A few days ago I attended a meeting where I did a quick mind map on a whiteboard, and sorted things into four columns. Mystifyingly, for a couple of the suits, this was a bit of a windtunnel moment. Hair streaming behind them, they professed to be impressed with this mind map and the four pieces of paper blu-tacked to the wall. People began to have opinions about it, and not all of them favourable. I had a tiresome discussion for almost an hour today explaining why I did this mind map, as it did not fit into the way things are normally done despite the fact that its contents were of interest. It is hard to be a peacock among penguins. Fortunately Betsy is a peacock too, so all is well.

Had a cheerful late lunch with Betsy, Anna and Keith in the OSP. Late afternoon was enlivened by someone using the toaster in the office kitchen. After a short burst of excitable screeching, a smell that caught the back of the throat made itself known: a toasted mouse Chernobyl. Urgh. The poor thing had crawled into the toaster. I don't know if it was burnt alive or was dead already. I hope the latter.

Home and the noble traditions of Friday night. Home. Pat Calliope's head, rumple ears etc. Tidy up detritus from busy week. Wash self, wait for Lorraine, kiss Lorraine, rumple ears etc. speed down to the Cricketers download the week and drink a brace of beers. Then on to our curry restaurant where we were shown to our table with poppadoms and beer already there. Splendid.

Thank God for Friday.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

A shower at last

Another soul sapping journey up to London. It was cold last night, and this did something to a rail which resulted in chaos for thousands of commuters south of London. Arrived at work a mere three hours and fifteen minutes after I set off. It really is astonishing how vile Southern Railways has been lately. I am looking forward to stopping the commute again soon.

Once at work however, I had a reasonable day. Betsy as usual making me laugh. She was teasing me about the state of the desk I am using, and she help up some A4 and, showing it to me, said 'this is more than one piece of paper' to teach me that paper can be tidied into a block. The agency staff went for a meeting towards the end of the day and I as a freebooting freelancer was able to melt away early, capering with delight all the way to the tube. And the low orange sun still in the sky as the train crossed the Thames.

Fish and chips from Sing Li, and a quick laser session with the cat (it's like cat crack) before Alf the philosophical plumber appeared, and installed my new shower. Every move Alf made was watched carefully by Calliope, which allowed me to work on a short piece of copy for Jeanne, my nice French client. A quick chat with Lorraine before shower and bed.

Feeling all work and no play-ish. Reading The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying on the train for a while. It makes you think so much, however, that you can only read a few pages at a go.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

No rest for the wicked

London again. Walking out through the gates of the graveyard, near where the kids smoke their weed, I was beset by such a strong smell of earth it stopped me in my tracks. A concrete post had just been pulled out of the earth, bringing with it a rich, wonderful smelling soil with it. A Proustian moment, taking me back to times when I have smelled freshly dug earth.

Work was fairly tiresome but still okay. Had lunch with Betsy in Plum. She is the best thing about this spot of agency freelance. A person to add to your collection. Also saw Matty boy for a bit. He is just about to set off to Antarctica with his father, for a manly and bonding holiday. I left work promptly as I had more referencing work for my nice pharma client to do. Also rebooked Mum's flight ticket, which I had misbooked the day before.

Meanwhile Lorraine had brought around one of her gorgeous chicken curries and cooked some rice, and we had a nice supper watching the wonderful Wallace and Gromit 's Curse of the were rabbit story on TV. Wonderful to relax and chat before Lorraine left to collect Beth and I resumed work and was done by about midnight.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Back to the Buddha

I have booked a holiday to Guernsey, where I can spiritually and physically recharge - and will be zooming off in a couple of weeks. Mum will come with me for part of the holiday too. Her first break since finishing chemotherapy. Lorraine will also come for a few days later on. I'll also take my laptop and work on my Skelton Yawngrave story while I'm there too. Among other things I need to reboot exercise and meditation.

Lorraine's son Sam will cat sit, which is handy. Although he may have his hands full. Calliope was in trying mode today: waking me up hideously early, scratching for half an hour at the door until let in again, falling into the bath, attacking my feet while I am half asleep. While I was out she festooned the stairs with lengths of shredded toilet roll from the bathroom, and complained bitterly about her gourmet food.

At work Betsy taught me two new words today; fauxhawk, which is a haircut a bit like a Mohican (aka a Mohawk in the US). And "de- friending" for falling out with someone. She and I went to Plum for lunch again.

To never smile is a very strange thing, and there is an positive masterclass in not smiling going on in there. They are from East Europe I think, and it may be a cultural thing that I don't understand.

Reading again The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche. Chapters about the acceptance of death (for example In the mirror of death) certainly make for a bracing read on the train. Buddhism is the only code of belief that makes any sense to me these days, and this is a wonderful book.

Monday, March 02, 2009

A drop of sunshine

Sunny Monday. After a poor night, was woken at five thirty by the cat writhing around my head like an atrocious weasel.

Once up and about, I felt curiously relaxed. Perhaps it was because Betsy placed a huge smiley face on the wall in front of me today, and had invited people to add things to it. I added a kiss curl (which was "improved" by Betsy) and eyes. Also worked with Anna, a nice kiwi designer who has just won a freelancer of the year award. Surgical site infections again today in between conversations about cannibalism.

At lunch I popping out to buy some hummus and cat food. I walked through the ghastly Frank Banfield Park. This, however, had some crocuses, which my eyes greedily sucked at as I hurried past the knots of schoolkids in headscarves tucking into fast food. All of us drawn out by the yellow face in the sky.

A long and funny email from Trace today, recalling her recent adventures: "But to cut a potentially long story short, I then worked as a chef at a Osho Leela (mad religious centre involving cathartic shouting) where worked under amazing chefs to create splendid foods for people doing shouty meditation retreats... then became housekeeper and general lackey to ... a clairvoyant (Madame Sosostris, with a wicked pack of tarot) who lives in deepest Somerset."

This is where she remains. It all seems too good not to visit her at some point.

Home and beginning to plot an short break to Guernsey. Yippee!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

I live in a box of paints...

As the incomparable Joni Mitchell sang. Well I did today for an hour or so. A bean jar and a little painting this Sunday on the theme of Jacob's ladder. I found it incredibly therapeutic. I blame looking at all those Paul Klee books the other weekend.

Lorraine doing unspeakable work, and when she finished we took a walk by the grey sea, and onto the pier. I was fascinated, as usual by the Dolphin Derby and took a couple of snaps. I love the scowling fish looking down on people.

Heard an obituary of the formidable Nancy Tait on BBC Radio 4, who has died aged 89. I worked for her for several months in a pokey office in Cuffley for her charity in support of people who had died of industrial diseases. More in my daywork blog about that.

Below a colour sketch for Jacob's ladder, the Dolphin Derby under starter's orders, and a lucky winner.