Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mute button

More work on newsletters today. Then, to make sure I would be paid, sent the dozen or so meticulous and tiresome emails needed to get my hours on their system. Helping freelancers get paid is never a priority.

After work I hobbled off briskly enough for a much-needed haircut, as it was becoming lobetastic. When they cut it short and spray it with water you can see my scalp these days. Got the paunchy barber who has to be one up. So when he asked me if I was going on holiday, and I said yes to Canada, he looked momentarily panicked. Mosquitoes, he said plucking inspiration from the air. Yes they have them, I said. When I get bitten I swell up, last time I was in Spain... etc. He also gave me his opinions on the Gay Pride march this weekend, which were of the I have loads of gay mates but... variety. They need to invent mute buttons for hairdressers. The symbol on the button would be of a pair of giant scissors poised around the neck of the hairdresser.

Began reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society late at night. Will be sternly judging its Guernsey credentials. It has sold in bucketloads. It is a brilliant wheeze as it seems to be about a book group during the occupation. Naturally the novel has been seized enthusiastically by book groups around the world.

Lorraine told me today that a thieving seagull is walking into her house and gobbling cat food, watched by cats frozen in horror. Meanwhile in other cat news, I remonstrated with Calliope today for a wire biting offence, and she went straight to the bathroom and savaged the toilet roll to get me back. Needing the last word like a barber.

Carol Ann Duffy

Has in my mind already proved herself the best Poet Laureate in living memory. Here's Last Post. Although the idea of rewinding time is a fairly commonplace one now (so commonplace that even I used it a few years ago) this poem does the trick. Carol Ann Duffy: she's great.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A spell in the cinema

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince tonight with Lorraine, Sam and Beth. Used the Orange Wednesday business, where you text film to a number on your mobile phone and get a twofer deal. I enjoyed the film, its mise en scène, settings and general bits of magic. Plot all over the place however, and relies on you having read it, to work out its significance.

Having not read this book, I was left rather untouched by 'the unhappy event' (as Kermode and Mayo call it) at the end. Also bits such as where the Weasley's house is set on fire were not given time to sink in emotionally. The house is on fire, they stare at it bleakly for one or two seconds, and that's it: never referred to again. Still, it was great escapism. My admiration for JKR undiminished.

Lorraine and Beth enjoyed it, and Sam thought that only two things happened, and it took two and a half hours to get there. Lorraine gave me a lift home, only after I gave her the BSG DVDs. Otherwise, another day of arthritis copy. And I'm still hobbling, and many other joints aching too. I am generally in poor shape, but in a better frame of mind.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cheered up

Less histrionic today. Decided to stop moaning. And good things started happening right away:

  • A lovely note from First Matie who was very nice about Skelton Yawngrave

  • Got a small cheque from my big pharma client, paying the last of what they owe me for the vast website of many ailments

  • A hot knife through butter day on the arthritis campaign. The end is in sight

  • Plus I can now hobble at near walking speed. Took advantage of this to go to post office, supermarket and the Patisserie, where I was flirted with.

In the evening even had some energy to make some tweaks to Skelton Yawngrave based on the feedback I've had so far from Romy, Joan, Katie, Lorraine and Anton. Some instant improvements. It's so great when you can use other people's eyes to spot the bits that don't quite work. Saves loads of time.

Also shaved beard off as old testament prophet is not great on me.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Waking in the morning drenched in sweat and as enervated as a Johnny Keats in Rome reaching for his last kleenex. How thoughtful of the freaking Gods to ensure that while skewered by various undiagnosed gyps, and at the end of my spiritual, physical and mental tether, I have to spend seven or eight hours a day researching and writing about chronic, agonising medical conditions.

A brief escape like the liquid song of a nightingale in a forest, a dryad among the trees, came when I was able to write about gardening with arthritis, and implements with long handles. But this passed. Outside the shades of Dante and Virgil wandered down the Twitten discussing my punishment, but I do not know the sin I am paying for.

Unmanacled, I can only slump and watch Frasier DVDs. Those Crane boys stand between me and the abyss. Spoke to Mum and Lorraine and Bob. Lorraine had her head magnetically resonated at hospital this morning, but seemed cheerful.

Below Dante and Virgil sightseeing in Purgatorio.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hidden Zimmers

Slightly better today. And with a little help from Lorraine, several drugs and a few episodes of Frasier managed to perk up somewhat. Today's big challenge was to walk down to Sainsbury's. Hobbling gives you a different perspective on the world. Uneven pavements are to be eyed with distrust and, in the supermarket, trolleys with wheels are a boon as they double as covert Zimmer Frames. If nothing else, this episode has increased my empathy for older folks.

In the evening off by taxi to Cath's house to celebrate her 40th birthday. Enjoyable dinner party. Much moreish food with a Moorish twist, pleasant guests too, including Cath's twin younger brothers, one of whom had spent the morning exhaustingly swinging through treetops on a Go Ape! session with many children. I spent the evening well behaved, eating lentils and having one or two quiet wines, and plenty of water.

Lorraine told a hospital story which included a sister called Di Bleak. Struck by the fabulousness of this name, or a variant such as Di Bleakly may find it's way into the next Skelton Yawngrave adventure.

Below a nice note from Joan with news of two additions, Stella and Clementine McBritches # 9, to bring the cat population of Deviation Road up to seven, which is a decent number of cats. The two dogs Maggie and Nico rub along just fine with the cats. I'm looking forward to rubbing along with them all, and the donkeys, in a few weeks.

Friday, July 24, 2009

More moaning than you can shake a stick at

Friday night. Despite rattling with painkillers, my head is thumping. Lorraine is at her house with her girly mates. Time, therefore, for a moan.

Traditionally Summer is the season for things to be obnoxious, so a week of summer suck was overdue. So to the quack this morning. Shambled with my hiking stick, being given a wide berth in the street. Took me three times as long to walk there as usual. Turns out the ankle business which has kept me skewered by increasingly insufferable pain for the last three days and nights may be gout. Separated at birth: me and sodding Henry VIII.

It is so painful that it keeps me awake, and also too painful to sit on a normal chair. And if the gout business didn't suck enough, my blood pressure was a bit high again. The nice locum has organised a shed load of tests for me next week. If I freakishly manage to live that long.

Back home to discover the client thinks my copy (designed to reassure people about a new treatment) is too warm. So spent some hours today making my work colder and more hostile.

One oasis of pleasantness however. Janet popped around with some flowers: aromatic sweet peas. It was lovely to see her albeit briefly.

My blue Siamese Fighter died in mysterious circumstances yesterday. Looked at it before bedtime, a beautiful and malevolent blue flag in robust health, and the next morning dead as a doornail, with its fins thoughtfully eaten off by its compadres, who say nothing despite questioning. Perhaps it was killed by its reflection.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


What happened? Two weeks ago I was in robust health, going to the gym three times a week. Today I wake in pain due to the return of the mysterious orc foot, which has seized-up my ankle to makes walking slow and painful. Loped only as far as Boots to by some gel to free up my incredibly ulcerated mouth enough to eat. I am an utter wreck. I hate it.

However made some good progress on the rheumatoid arthritis writing during the day. After I finished this I simply hobbled the few yards to the Battle of Trafalgar where I met First Matie and her pal Nick. We three had a nice chat, sitting in the garden in the spotting rain for an hour before Kate returned to the smoke. Nick is an interesting guy, a singer songwriter by nature, who was telling us about the frustratingly laid back approach of certain young Brighton musicians. Turns out Nick is a Cylon-loving BSG head too.

Unable to face standing around in my kitchen, I loped to the Chinese takeaway and spent the evening trembling till I got my Battlestar Galactica fix. Easily the best made for TV SF epic ever.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mustn't grumble (coz it hurts)

Slowly driving myself insane writing about arthritis. Meanwhile on a Pooterish note I had a sore gum, and so slooshed some Oraldene to sort it out. Instead, my mouth suddenly grew dry and prunelike after just three slooshes. I now have (with no exaggeration) at least 12 mouth ulcers, and can hardly speak.

When Lorraine popped in to retrieve her phone charger. I had to press my forehead on her instead of kissing her. She told me she has trafficked Skelton Yawngrave to a child named Harriet, so I am greatly looking forward to getting her feedback. Soon I will make the changes (my feedback from Romy and Joan has pointed to the same issue that needs fixing) and onto the next stage. Lorraine also said she needs to stop watching Battlestar Galactica last thing at night because it is giving her nightmares.

Mum told me she and Mason have coughs and are unwell in a swine-like way. As for me, while somewhat recovered, I'm bored (a rare thing for me) and extremely run down. Roll on my holiday!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Message in a bottle

Arthritis work again today. Paused only to go to the Orange shop to replace the charger for my phone. Calliope had chewed through the last one - 17 and a half quid that weasel cost me. Felt brighter this morning than I had for a long time, obviously this tempting fate as the throat began to re-emerge as the day wore on.

Attendant readers will remember that when in Guernsey a couple of trips ago I found a book of poems published in the 80s by a French poet called Renee Monamy which I rather liked. There was an address in the back of the book, and I wrote to her at it. It seemed to me like a message in a bottle. Well, I got a note from Renee last night, who had found me on the Internet. She did not get my card, however. Instead she stumbled across her name in this blog. The Internet is an amazing thing.

A long and enjoyable chat this afternoon with Karen, who I worked with a little in my old IBM days, who was put in touch with me by Brian as she needs a writer. But jut nice to talk too.

Busy loving the song below called Rabbit Heart (Raise it up) by Florence + The Machine. Takes a while to tune into, but I love the line her vocals take through the song.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Minnie the Poocher

To Westhill Hall, which is a little community hall tucked away behind some flats about five minutes walk away. My neighbour Mark Bassey was doing a gig organised by his dog-adoring partner Hilary in aid of Canine Partners. It was a pleasant night sipping from warm tins of beer watching Mark, and an excellent pianist, drummer and bassist combo on a little curtained stage. Little stages always remind me of David Lynch these days, and the jazz and dogs comination was rather Twin Peaks.

Mark was a very likable stage presence. And in his last trombone solo, one of the dogs joined in and they had a brief, but memorable duet. And the dogs even had their own raffle with things like pull toy prizes.

Lorraine and I sat with Gary and Alex, two denizens of the Twitten. Gary talking enthusiastically to me on the way home about British Jazz in the 50s and 60s, and was rather impressed when I said Mum had worked in Ronnie Scott's as a stripling. He wasn't much one for rock, although he mentioned his nephew was Steve Harley who, with his band Cockney Rebel, were incredibly famous for a while in the 70s.

Reading a leaflet called Discover more about Canine Partners was fun too. For some reason thinking about dogs with human traits always makes me laugh, which is why talking dog jokes are the best jokes of all. Lorraine started reading out this bit:

"Some of the tasks a trained canine partner can carry out include:

  • Opening, loading and unloading a washing machine
  • Retrieving items such as keys or crutches
  • Picking items off supermarket shelves
  • Handing over a purse at the checkout
  • Assisting with dressing and undressing in private
  • Response procedures in case of an emergency."

I know I'm weird but I liked this a lot. These dogs should be more widely available.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A little bit of a swine

Still sluggish. Beginning to wonder if I have had "the swine" in a mild way over the last week or so. Certainly the bouts of coughing, temperature, sore throat, headache and exhaustion seem to fit the bill. But then I am a fantastic hypochondriac. Lots of people I know have had similar symptoms - including Toby, Mum and Lorraine. I reckon this bug is rampaging through the country now, and the official reporting of it is lagging way behind. If it is the swine flu, then this is good fortune to get it in such a mild way.

I'm feeling a little brighter, enough to phone my client (who had a "terrible cold") to explain that I'd not made as much progress on the rheumatoid arthritis work as I would have hoped for.

Lorraine and I went for our usual Friday night curry. The amount of fawning Lorraine gets in there is unbelievable. Not only does she hugged and kissed, she get served special baltis, and we were introduced to the owner Ash's girlfriend and his mother too. It is really nice not to be anonymous. I feel really at home in this City these days, and a lot of that is thanks to Lorraine.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pasties for lunch

Listening to Philip Pullman on the radio this morning railing against the new requirement for authors visiting schools to be vetted, so as to prove their safety to work with children. "Why should I pay £64 to a government agency to give me a little certificate to say I'm not a paedophile. Children are abused in the home, not in classes of 30 or groups of 200 in the assembly hall with teachers looking on." He has a point.

On with the rheumatoid arthritis copy today. Toby packing this morning. Anton popped around at lunchtime to see the Tobster before he went, and we three ate Cornish pasties. Anton had brought with him the version of Skelton Yawngrave he'd printed out in duplex and bound with string. Having started to read it, he got me to sign his "first edition" saying that it would be worth a fortune one day. I certainly hope so.

Toby off to the airport, and I returned to the RA work. He called some hours later after his plane was delayed by three and a half hours. Having heard no more, I guess he made it, flying high above the thunder and heavy rain afflicting Brighton tonight.

A funny note from Richard this morning, describing the launch of Poems on the Buses, which was a farcical affair involving the police and much reparking of cars before they could begin. A great success by the end however.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The manacles slacken

Still feeling sluggish, but soon working on the rheumatoid arthritis copy till lunchtime, when there was a surprise manifestation of Bob, who'd been working in Brighton. He popped into have a quick lunchtime cuppa, and rave about unspeakable work politics. He said with some feeling that he'd much rather be writing about rheumatoid arthritis, which was probably a good thing to hear.

The Tobster appeared mid afternoon, staying overnight before flying home tomorrow.

After I'd slipped out of the copy irons, Toby and I hung out chatting till Lorraine came around and we three walked into Brighton for a cheeky farewell beer in a pub called The Victory, and then went for assorted tapas in Casa Don Carlos discussing a trip to Canada. We lurched home to watch an episode of BSG and sip purifying sparkling mineral water with a squeeze of lemon.

Must find out why there are so many pubs relating to Nelson in Brighton. There is the Battle of Trafalgar, which is my nearest pub, about 40 yards away. Then down Trafalgar Street is the Lord Nelson Inn, and of course The Victory we drank in last night.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Doing it on purrpose

Blearily waking to a sinister item on Radio 4 about how cats exploit humans by purring based on some research led by Dr Karen McComb at the nearby University of Sussex. Calliope was at that very moment purring impatiently in my face. Apparently when there is just one person and one cat living together the emotional blackmail is more intense.

Manacled to my desk reading about rheumatoid arthritis and related ailments, my task is to humanise this into thirty something newsletter pages on the subject. I suppose moving from writing about the Skelton Yawngrave to writing about RA is not a big step. Spoke to Mum this evening who has now read Skelton and she liked it, which was pleasing. Lorraine has arranged for an actual tame child to read it next week.

Heard from Catriona in Guernsey this morning, who has sent out a note of introduction to some Guernsey worthies. The BBC there says it will do an interview with me next time I wash up on the Gem of the Sea, which will be nice. Catriona is a star.

Dratted energy vampire bug still means that I have only enough energy to do my work, and then collapse to watch Battlestar Galactica.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Scene of the crime

Someone clattering down the Twitten, and from a few streets away someone-else shouting for help at 2:30am. I opened my window but could see nothing. I thought I was going to vomit, at which point Calliope hastily left the room, but eventually I drifted back to sleep. When I left home this morning, there was a patch of blood on the white wall opposite my house.

Having felt rough and slightly feverish yesterday, a little better today. Travelled up to the smoke and a briefing at the dark place which is my old agency. Wore my mithril shirt and my pockets bulged with trinkets against the evil eye. Took a briefing about rheumatoid arthritis, and was told to get cracking. All well.

Had a cheeky half hour with Matty at lunch time, who was on find form and looking well and handsome. Also spoke to First Matie on the phone. Saw lots of familiar faces in the agency, and had quick chats with a dozen people. But more than happy to be working from home on it.

Back to Brighton and trying to trace my camera, visiting places I went to on Saturday, and phoning the theatre. No luck. Curses. Popped into Sainsburys and then home to a happy cat running up the Twitten to me. Spoke to Lorraine who was complainging about not being able to sleep last night. But she toook some Battlestar Galactica DVDs with her and was watching them in bed on a portable player till 3 am.

A note from Romy today, saying she had enjoyed Skelton, and had some excellent and useful comments. I am delighted.

And so to bed.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A short cut to sausages

Up early to go for a walk in the country with Anton. Up to his house and then down to get a bus, talking about a new audiobook, the Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer. I took Anton's advice and downloaded it this week, and am very pleased with it. A great concept, which instantly makes you wonder why it has not been done before. We alighted slightly beyond the village of Pheasant's Green, and walked along the road, past a gaggle of complaining white geese.

Once we had walked with trepidation past the warning clay shoot in progress signs, the route was straight and easy as it had been an old railway line. Paused for lunch on a bench which someone had donated to look out on his beloved countryside. Annoyingly, my sore throat was making it a bit of a chore, so we stopped after a couple of hours. Towards the end, we walked through a herd of cattle, Anton helpfully mentioned that someone had been trampled to death in such circumstances only recently and then used me as a human shield. When he noticed one of them was a bullock and one of the cows started flicking her back foot, however, he rapidly seized the vanguard.

Safely arrived in the little town of Henfield, where we noticed Alan Woodward's prize winning sausage and butchers shop, here I bought some pork, garlic and chili sausages. These, it transpired, were truly delicious. Then we had a restorative pint of Harveys and got the bus back to Brighton.

A couple more cheeky beers with Anton in Trafalgar Street, where we saw in the Great Eastern a man with a big beard and a dress. Just not a great look.

Home to snooze on my sofa. Then in the evening off in the rain to Lewes to see Randolph's play Only Free Men at Lewes Theatre Club. Definitely an interesting play, with a wonderful part for a suspected terrorist. The actor did a great job in this role, and there was much turning of the moral tables during the interrogation that made up the action of the play.

Randolph pleased with the performances, and we had a drink with him afterwards in the little bar, and spoke to a few others. Some am dram preening going on, which is always fun to watch. But an interesting play, and Randolph clearly a fine writer.

Would show some nice photos at this point, however I appear to have lost my beloved camera.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Making the connection

Woke with a stinking headache, for the night before I had been out with Bob. Being a fullish moon, it was perhaps inevitable that the Mad Dog should stalk into the Twitten. Discussed many pressing issues such as Bob's spiritual quest, economic glooms, and the ways of Carl Watson. As ever, some time was given to the notion that we were not going to drink too much.

After gulping a groggy cup of tea, he set off. My new computer refused to connect to the Internet, so after two long conversations, and being forced to reassemble my computer downstairs, it was fixed. It was a little after noon. Then a more welcome interruption, as Randolph stopped by, dropping off my tickets for the play.

Then my work with my old agency was confirmed for next week. Annoyingly they are going to tax my fee at source, which adds to my accountancy complexities. But still, I am happy to have the work, perfectly timed, and I will be working with Al who is an old (and cheeky) friend. Best of all, I can do most of it at home.

Finally was working on the Skelton Yawngrave site this afternoon. It will be good - it will have sound file of the book being read, a sales pitch by a skeleton, and sample chapters and synopsis. Plus I have cropped one of Mum's pictures of Skelton, and it looks great.

In the evening tired and delicate. Lorraine came around and we slipped off to get some Chinese food and have a (restrained) beer in the pub next door. The nice lady in the Chinese restaurant bringing our food to us in the pub. It is because Lorraine had been nice to her, she creates a climate sometimes in which people suddenly get really nice. It is interesting to watch.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Virtual roses

I have bought and today I started assembling it. Was invited to an event in Guernsey next week, as another of my poems has been chosen to go on the bus. I can't really attend. However there will be a poster of my poem, which I wouldn't mind having.

Lovely note from Joan with some virtual congratulatory roses, and not just any roses they were Lilian Austen Roses. She's sent some useful feedback on Skelton. Romy said she has just started it, and it is making her laugh. Meanwhile Lorraine has given me back her copy, which has been "marked". She is positive about it too. Needless to say, I am relieved that people are liking it. You can lose perspective after so long, and start to imagine pelting down the Twitten with an axe.

Gym again today.

Lorraine came by this evening, and I cooked a chicken and then I made her watch Battlestar Galactica. Luckily Lorraine is one of those rare ladies with a genuine enthusiasm for Science Fiction, but then again she also really likes maths.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Nothing but the wild rain

Randolph called. His play Only Free Men is going well in Lewes. He said the stress was raised as the understudy for the main female role has had to step in with a week to go. He told me he is now beginning to believe he may not have a heart attack, which is good news. The understudy was rather alarmed at the prospect, but has done well. I will see the play on Saturday. The action concerns two intelligence officers questioning a British Doctor suspected of terrorist involvement.

Three bouts of thunder in Brighton, accompanied by persistent torrential rain. In the Twitten I drew up the ramparts. The weather forced Calliope indoors to grumpily sleep with her head on the corner of my keyboard, while I began last year's accounts. Luckily for me these are fairly simple: you simply get a payment at the end of the job. The outgoings, of course, are more complicated. Thank God for spreadsheets.

Funny chat with Al today. I will be doing some ailment based work with her next week, this is timely and means that a holiday to Canada is now a probability. Another TV zombie night: The Wire and Battlestar Galactica, which is a tense and paranoid SF epic. Far better than any recent Star Trek series.

Monday, July 06, 2009


Woken by South London gangsters pelting down the Twitten with police in pursuit, wheezing directions into their walkie talkies at 4:30am. What a way to earn a living.

Wasted lots of time faffing about. Did a mindmap of things which helped a bit. Went to the gym for a session of the Hulk legs machine, and uphill loping on the treadmill. I am enjoying it, and look forward to going to the gym. My God, what is happening to me?

Lorraine has almost finished Skelton Yawngrave and is providing lots of good feedback. She's a gem. A cheery interlude this afternoon, when Anna came around for a cup of tea and to show Klaudia and Oskar my fish. Oskar particularly fancying my gold sucking loach, and pressing his nose against the glass.

Zombied out this evening watching DVDs of Battlestar Galactica. This is the series made in 2004, and frak me it's good.

Having chewed through my phone recharger wire, necessitating a wire wiggling nightmare just to half recharge my phone, Calliope has now taken to savaging computer cables too while I am working. Infuriating weasel.

Below I bumped into Lorraine Bowen at the gym, she sent out a link to her tribute to Michael Jackson, which I urge you to watch.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Song of the farmers

Unspleeping in the airnest, so up early to work before everyone got up. Salty the cat biting me as I typed. After breakfast we all watched the end of the Seven Samurai. At the end of the film, having lost four of their number in the battle, the Samurai wander off as the ungrateful farmers sing lustily while planting rice. "Another defeat," says one grimly. Splendidly miserablist.

Nice to hang out with everyone in sunny Edgware. Later Toby took the train with me as far as St Pancras (aka St Pancreas by almost everyone), then I listened to an In Our Time podcast about of early Islam and the schism between Shia and Sunny on the way back to Brighton. The history of religion is just a filthy power struggle.

A dapper Nick Cave in the same carriage. Resisted the temptation to intrude on his personal space, just as he - somehow - managed to resist the temptation to intrude on mine.

Much needed sleep on my gold sofa despite Calliope persistently kneading me. Then I walked to Lorraine's house for supper. She is genuinely liking Skelton Yawngrave which is a great relief, sat watching some companionable telly with her and Sam and Beth.

Returned home to Battlestar Galactica, borrowed from Mas. Lots of explosions and fighty aliens. Love it.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Samurai and Scooby snacks

Up with the sparrows, and after making Lorraine a nice cup of tea, felt really odd not to be writing the novel. Nice note from Joan, who has agreed to look at Skelton, and she sent a picture of an imperious looking Lucky Jim. Also wrote to Catriona who told me she was celebrating her 60th birthday this weekend. She is very glamourous. 60 is the new 40 I think. I'm sure that opinion will be even firmer when it's my turn.

Lorraine cooked us some yummy bacon and egg sandwiches, then I rushed off to the station and caught my train to London by the skin of my teeth. A complicated journey due to track works. The tube was hot and sweaty, only enlivened by a pair of glamorous transvestites, one with an enormous pink beehive in the carriage. It was a Gay Pride march today in London.

Mas picked me up at Mill Hill. As we arrived at home, local man who has some sort of mental disability, who has frequent conversations with Mas about cars, wandered over and obsessively fingered Mason's windscreen. He often knocks on the door and is very persistent in wanting to talk about cars. Once inside, we all spent the afternoon chatting, drinking tea and eating a variety of scoobie snacks. Mum showed me her guitar, one of south Korea's finest, bought for a mere twenty of the Queen's pounds in a charity shop.

Also cheered by a text from Lorraine who has begun to read Skelton Yawngrave. She really likes it! And as someone who is working in education says it is age appropriate for ten year olds etc. Whew! The first feedback in over a year is positive.

Heroically Toby fixed Mum's computer too, which was a good thing. In the evening after supper we all settled down to watch the original Seven Samurai in glorious black and white. And excellent (if shouty) it was too.

Felt very tired tonight, and grateful to settle down into the airnest (airbed + pillows).

Friday, July 03, 2009

Push! Push!

The last lap. Pleased I only had a restrained night with Anton, up early and worked on the novel till 5:07pm. One last push and the first showable draft of the novel was done. A huge – if solitary - moment like a cat giving birth in a wardrobe.

Now there is the ghastly business of asking friends and relatives to read it. This is even more ghastly for the victims, however. For there is the possibility that the thing I have been working on for about 16months is terrible. What can they possibly say? Absolutely anything, is the answer, for I long ago understood that what I make and who I am are different things.

During the day Sam had called around as on Fridays you are allowed to take a new person in to the gym for a free session. He threw himself into the running machine, and hulk legs machine next to me with great gusto. And it was my third time this week, so I was fairly pleased with myself. Sam is a good runner, and afterwards he thought that he would only end up running, so he might as well save himself the money.

In the evening, met Lorraine in the Tin Drum for a quick drink, with Lorraine who had cunningly printed the book off. Then to Zizzi's by decadent cab, as I had a taste for a Diavola pizza with loads of chillies. It was so hot that I had to eat the edges of Lorraine's pizza as gulping my beer only made it worse. I was talking about my book a great deal. Lorraine is a very patient woman.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


So close to finishing Skelton Yawngrave draft. But still finding dead wood. Pruning is a good (if hackneyed) metaphor for editing. It can seem brutal at the time, but after a damn good edit you end up with a text that is denser, shapelier, and flowers better. Reading that Sol Stein book On Writing, has changed my life.

Broke off to go to the gym. Feels good. Have been using the heart rate monitor on the treadmill to ensure I am in the optimum zone for my cardio work. The formula is 220 minus your age. So if you are a gentleman of 49 this equals 171. This is your absolute maximum 100% heart rate. Ideally to burn fat and get fit without dying, I have learned you need to exercise between 65%-80% of that, so for me anything something roughly around 125-135 bpm is optimal. As you can tell, this gym business is still a novelty.

Called Anton and had a welcome cold lager and long chat with him in the Eddy tonight. We'd not done that for a while. A cold beer on a hot night is a splendid thing.

Went to bed and then, as an amorous couple decided that my tiny front garden was an ideal place for getting jiggy, got up again. Simply turning on a light and opening a window sent them sauntering off without any discernible embarrassment. I am the anti-cupid.

Then there was welcome thunder, and much rain. Calliope hiding under my bed when it started.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


Fourth draft of Skelton Yawngrave done today. Just one last read through, and a couple of last tweaks over the next day or so, then I can stop and farm it out to anybody I can bribe to read it for feedback. Thank God. It has been a slog. But hopefully a worthwhile one. Only time will tell.

It's a psychological thing, but the story has left me feeling completely emptied out. Now I need to get back out into the world, having slogged for months on this thing.

After work down to the sea and along the seafront to Hove walking into the low sun. There was so much smoke from miniature barbecues along the beach that it created a misty haze, in which silhouettes of people looked magical. But curses! No camera. A rendezvous with Lorraine for a short walk, and to blare at her on the pebbles by the sea at high tide. Then she dropped me back home. Feeling headachey and brain dead.

Heard from Carl today and Mindy again, and spoke to Mum. Otherwise quiet. Went to the gym again yesterday, it has been refurbished with a gleaming new row of Hulk legs machines. I shall return tomorrow.

Calliope in my bad books, having chewed through my phone recharger wire. I can only power my phone if I hold the wire at a precise angle.

Below randomly went onto friends reunited today. Someone had uploaded a terrible quality shot of my class at Braintcroft School in Neasden north London in the 60s. I am back row extreme left hand side. Shame about the quality.