Saturday, January 31, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

After a nice kipper breakfast, Lorraine and I drove off to Maidenhead Aquatics to buy some aquarium gravel. Lots of intriguing new stock in, and I noticed a nice tankful of traditional red wagtail platys with nice erect fins, we scored a pair for Beth not mentioning that we had been gulping distant cousins for breakfast.

Also managed to atone for my bad Godfathering, with some Barbie based products. Not been in Toys R Us since I was in the US, and it was much easier than pre-Christmas. I bought Klaudia a Barbie winged horse, and stable accessory set, having consulted Anna by phone. And Lorraine bought her some Barbie dressing up shoes. Nosebleed inducing cheery music. Lorraine and I were also looking for Sylvanian Families (some species of mouse-based toy) but these must have been very popular and were completely sold out. Bumped into one of Lorraine's neighbours called Steve who was hunting a sled with his daughter, to enjoy the snow we're supposedly about to have.

Lorraine gave me some speakers for my new computer, and they rock. My new computer rocks. Lorraine rocks. All is well. My new office is complete.

Attempted to repair the light outside my house. I've never understood how electrical things can simply stop. I mean what is there to go wrong? I changed the bulb, what more can it possibly want? Swearing vigorously, which sometimes works, did no good either.

In the evening we saw the refreshingly good Slumdog Millionaire. It's a movie with everything in it: gangsterish violence, Dickensian social realism, escapism, a strong plot device and deft touches of comedy and tragedy. All filmed in a fascinatingly varied Mumbai. Everything in it works brilliantly. The cinema was packed too, which was good to see.

Back out into the cold past people queueing for the local club in miniskirts and shirts sleeves. I was wearing two fleeces and and my Berghaus, and Lorraine was similarly wrapped up and sporting her red hat. I was quite pleased not to be 20 anymore.

Friday, January 30, 2009

And finally

Managed to do some great work on my Skelton Yawngrave book this afternoon. Really happy that I have streamlined the opening few pages now. And so nice to type using a proper keyboard.

In the evening walked up to Lorraine's house where I had supper with her and Beth and Mark. Really enjoyed this. Mark is a very nice young man and I really like his confidence and warmth. I am getting on well with Beth these days too, which is a nice thing.

Lorraine and I snuck off for a fast beer in the Dyke Tavern near where she lives. It looks rubbish from the outside, but I wanted to check. Turns out first impressions were justified. It is the most unfriendly seeming pub I've been into in Brighton by a country mile. Made me think of boozers Carl and I used to drink in around Wembley when we were young. Lorraine pointed out that the beer was badly kept too. Back to Lorraine's place pronto having scored twiglets and a few cans of Friday beer for a TV fest.

Instant karma pt2

Followed by another hour on the phone to a similarly pleasant gentleman in India to get BT email to work.

Instant karma

After rather crowing last entry have spent the last hour on the phone to a helpful if long suffering gent in India on the Dell helpline. Bah. All well now though.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Widescreen

At last my new desktop with a big screen has been delivered. It is fantastic. I can type without the orc hunch. Twenty one and a half inches of widescreen wonder. I love it. And a proper keyboard and mouse too. Having only used laptops for the last several years, it's wonderful. And full of geeky new functions to explore. No need for the outside world at all then. Just my study, redbush tea, my face basking happily in the electric glow. Calliope, meanwhile exhausted herself in an ecstasy of boxes - which all needed biting.

I'm feeling a little more lively today. Lorraine now has the same heavy legged bug that I have. She'll have to fight her way to work tomorrow. I am so incredibly lucky to be master of my own workflow at times like this. Instead I was able to finish The Reader and work at an unstressed pace.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The listener

Still feeling somewhat drained and rubbish. Listened to the unabridged audiobook of The Reader by Bernhard Schlink. The character Hannah loves to be read to, and so it was apt. I really like the book, just as I did the film. Schlink is a professor for public law and the philosophy of law, and sometimes works as a judge. And his expertise informs this fascinating work about post war Germany and its moral dilemmas, which among other things is also is a story of doomed love.

Otherwise a rather wasted day. Bug making me feel tetchy, and lacking motivation. Spoke to Anton who phoned to crow intolerably about Manchester United again. And to Bob who phoned to talk about Carl's visit. And finalised with On Track arrangements for an interview next week, and emailed Betsy.

Lorraine came by again tonight, for cups of tea before collecting Beth after she had seen a musical in London. On that tremulous note I have decided to see Sweeney Todd, starring young Beth and Mark. I might take a hipflask.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Midgets

Saw a perky Carl off to the station to begin his long journey back to Runcorn. It had been great to see him despite all the hospital stuff. Returning home I realised I had a temperature. Decide to postpone my trip to London tomorrow, made a few calls, then drifted in and out of feverish dreams all afternoon. A vivid David Lynch style dream where I witnessed a tiny car overtaking a mini, only to crash into some traffic lights. I was first on the scene, and found the tiny car to be full of repulsive midgets.

Betsy called and we may do some more work next week, which will be fun. She sent me a poem and a picture she'd done. Both rather good. Spoke to the folks at On Track. I may have an interview with a well known actor comedian in the pipeline, a refreshing change from sustainability gurus. Lorraine called by briefly this evening and we ate some companionable Chinese grub together. Then I sloped off early to bed.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Carl released back into the wild


Looking at the Skeletons stuff this morning, and doing some pieces of admin. Spoke to Anton to be reminded that I had forgotten Klaudia's birthday. D'oh. What kind of a Godfather am I?

In the afternoon, after a sustaining cup of miso soup off to the hospital. Carl in much better spirits, and looking well and with his pain managed. The antibiotics seem to have done their job, and the nurses inexplicably had metamorphosed into being nice nurses. After several hours of us larking about and generally talking about old times, he was given the all clear to clear off. We got a bus home, and Bob called while we were in it. Spent a cheery evening listening to music and drinking red bush tea and decaffinated coffee (Carl is a notorious insomniac) before a wave of tiredness hit me fairly early, and I headed for bed leaving Carl to do logic puzzles and read the Vic Reeves "Me Moir" book.

While at the hospital I was called by the The Cat with the Hat who was sounding surprisingly chipper after his operation last week - and heard from Marja too, who I'll meet for a catch up soon too.

Just before doing so I logged onto my computer to read that The Sick Day had not been chosen for the local Brighton production. Somewhat disappointed with this. Now I am devoting much more of my time to writing, I've coincidentally experienced the longest series of consecutive rejections since I was in my early twenties. Sod's law in a nutshell.

Below Carl shortly before being released back into the wild.



Sunday, January 25, 2009

Hospital time

Deep sleep, only woken by the persistent kitten at 8:30. Lorraine and I got up eventually, after the kitten had been banished, to consume fried tomatoes on toast, and listen to the iPod randomiser while she did strange sewing of wollen squares for a baby blanket.

Then I went off to the hopital again on the bus, in the teeming rain. Carl wasn't in his old bed, so I embarked on a Kafkaesque journey through various corridors, and going up to the wrong floors and so on. Eventually I arrived at what I was convinced was Carl's new ward, where they claimed to have no record of him. He has previous on discharging himself, so it did cross my mind that he had absconded. Eventually someone found him for me. In a small room with no window or picture.

Brighton has a thousand painters in it, so amazing to see so many dull walls without ornamentation in the hospital. Carl bored, but unable to concentrate enough to read. Hospital time passes so slowly - what seems like hours turns out only to be ten minutes. He is being given antibiotics at the moment, to bring down the infection in the gall bladder, and various pain killers. However we had a long chat for several hours, which was good, regardless of the circumstances. Eventually Carl's eyes kept closing when I spoke (even though I was saying deeply fascinating things) so I pushed off.

Excellent male nurse called Peter there who seemed to have the special power of not getting Carl's goat.

Walked home for half an hour in the drizzle. But it was quite nice to blow the hospital cobwebs off. Not exactly the weekend I'd expected. But it was good to see Carl today, despite everything, and have a chat with Jayne his wife this evening.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Galling of Carl

Was woken from my sleep by the sound of Carl tossing and turning in the next room. Calliope was in there repeatedly standing on Carl's head too which didn't help. At 4pm I could hear Carl groaning, and asked him if he was alright.

Turns out he wasn't alright at all. He was in excruciating agony - and having pains in his stomach and chest. Got up and called the ambulance right away, struggling into my trousers as I talked to the emergency call handler. He was asking me if he was still breathing and so on. Carl was able to talk but was looking ashen, and very poor. The paramedics arrived fairly quickly and shortly after we went off to the ambulance at the end of the Twitten. Carl in absolute agony. There were lots of questions, and after he was jabbed with a rather agricultural needle in the arm was given some morphine. Fairly quickly, once they'd hooked him up, much to our relief it became clear that he wasn't having another heart attack. Carl much steadier and braver than I would have been I think.

Off to A&E in the ambulance after he had been dosed up with morphine. Arrived there about 4:20ish to the sound of a screaming woman, and Carl was pushed into a bay where he was seen by nurses and doctors, and he slipped in and out of a morphine induced sleep.

I went out at one point and was given a glass of water, otherwise was left sitting there with nothing do for the next four hours or so. Staring in a dazed half-asleep way at the curtain with strange patterns of atoms in it, listening to the various A&E conversations around me. A&E certainly is a lively place even at 5am. Eventually it occurred to me to ask where a vending machine was to be found, and at about 8am had the nicest cup of plastic tea I can remember.

Then Carl was sent off to the Clinical Decision Unit, where he spent the rest of the day. Initially they'd placed him on a chair and he was almost falling off it. Everyone assumed that Carl and I were gay, an impression only supported by me having to persuad the CDU nurse to give my "friend" a bed.

I went home for a nap and to regroup at about 10:30 in the morning. Fell into a deep sleep before Calliope woke me up ten minutes later by standing on my face, and I couldn't get back to sleep again. Lorraine came by in the afternoon and we drove back to the hospital. In the interim, Carl had developed a feud with the rather unsmiling nurse in the ward, and was busy being rude to her. The fact is he was still in severe pain, and being constantly asked things like "how would you rate your pain on a scale of 1-10" was badly getting on his nerves. However we still managed to have a good chat and Carl was laughing a lot, despite it being agonising. And it was top to have Lorraine there, and she and Carl got on very well. Lorraine struts about a bit in hospitals having been a ward sister and this is very reassuring.

Anyway, by the end of the day it had become clear a gallstone, lodged in the neck of an infected gall bladder had caused the trouble. Once it was clear Carl would be spending the night in the hospital, Lorraine and I drove home, via her place, and we had fish and chips. Then I had a long phone chat with Carl's wife Jayne, who was sounding fairly cheery considering. And found myself falling asleep on the sofa and was sent to bed by Lorriane.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Carl arrives

A big day today. Carl coming down from Runcorn to stay. I'd not seen him for about six years, which is an inexcusably long time. Spent the day doing a bit of business admin, and making some last changes to my play and to the submission form. Will find out next week what they think. In my mind it is no more than a lottery ticket, but you've got to be in it to win it as they say. But I'm not building my hopes up too high.

Rushing about this morning getting everything done. Walked down the long bit of my Twitten to get a pastie for lunch, and was inexplicably tripped. Between my feet was Calliope who'd followed me for 100 yards, and was looking at me purring. A man came out of his house, and I looked like the worst kind of monster, berating and shooing home a little cat.

Met Carl at the station, and it was great to see him. I'd not seen Carl, whose been one of my best friends since I was 15, for six years but it was as if we'd only seen each other last week. He was looking surprisingly well, which he attributed to having dyed his hair. Home for a cup of tea, before a great night out. I took Carl to wealth of Brighton boozers including the Eddy and the Basketmakers, and The Cricketers. We talked all night, but still only grazing the surface of all the news. Two main bits from Carl - about his new and thriving business, and that he had a heart attack about three years ago. He was with a client and drove them home while beginning the MI, before catching a cab to the hospital. He was back working on his business two weeks later. Apparently it was only a mild one but I still felt like boxing his ears at the thought of him dropping off his client.

He set up his business not long after being made redundant a few years ago. It provides in-home care to people with disabilities and the elderly. They have won a local authority contract which pretty much guarantees the firm's continuation for the next few years. He's rightfully very proud of his achievement, and the firm employs about 30 people.

We popped into my favourite curry house, for this was not a night to break with tradition. Got my usual warm welcome from the owner which impressed Carl. Then we got a taxi back to the Eddy for a final glass of beer, and lurked at home chatting till about one before heading for bed.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Chap Hop, Poets, and MCs

A brisk walk back from Lorraine's first thing. And in between dealing with my exceptionally fighty kitten, I finished the play. You have to fill in forms afterwards too, to send off with your submission. Form filling, as any fule no is not my strong point. But have done my best, and managed to complete it by 6:00pm.

In the evening off to see Poets vs MCs, a yearly "battle" at the Komedia. Was amazed to see a big queue stretching out into the street for the event.Great to see, and inside there was a wonderful buzzy atmosphere.

I loved the warm-up act. Someone called Mr B playing Chap Hop in which his Edwardian posh voice, accompanying himself with banjo and hip hop tapes. Particularly enjoyed Timmy a song about being in prep school with Tim Westwood (a white Vicar's son turned leading hip hop DJ, who hosts the laughable UK version of the Pimp my Ride show). According to his My Space page he is "on a one-man mission to introduce Hip-Hop to the Queen's English, Mr. B is delighted to present Chap-Hop. Having spent the best part of a decade bringing some manners back to popular culture, this dopest of fellows will entertain and amuse you with his ingenious stylings."

Lively stuff from both MCs and Poets - with the crowd roaring its support. Didn't particularly come away with any poetic revelations, but a good night out by any standards. I was more interested by the MCs - as this was newer to me. Some of them very young, ballsy and entertaining. I couldn't help but be amused by their special Hip Hop voices adopted when they were "spitting" (rapping), but fair play to them.

Below: Chap Hop - Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer's Straight out of Surrey.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Off the streets

Up early as I am close to finishing The Sick Day. It has turned out quite neatly. Broadly it's about the death of a hypochondriac interspersed with spoof of real adverts for imaginary medical conditions such as slower digestive transit from the activa ads. And at the end it is revealed that the whole play has been an advert for death, which is being re-branded to be more positive and uplifting, with a new name: Better Forever! But I'm hoping the play works on a few levels. Oh well. It's kept me off the streets.

In the afternoon: a bold move. I sold some of my books to a second hand store. I have finite space and many hundreds of books: loads of them I've not read for twenty years. I took some big volumes of poetry by poets I don't like. Felt a bit weird, as selling your books is a short step away from book burning and joining the Nazi party. The ones I couldn't sell I gave to Oxfam. But I'm loving the extra room, and that my poetry collection is not now two deep on some shelves. It also allows you to find the stuff you do like all over again. After I went for a walk passing a closed down Woolworths, which looked melancholy so I took some shots of it.

Walked off to see Lorraine in the evening, at her house. We ate some Christmas pudding and custard, which was top as I only had one helping of it over the festive period. Jolly good it was too. Took with me my new micro laptop (or crotchtop as Beth later called it) computer which I showed off somewhat. It is wee but extremely portable. Then we watched the emotional elephant documentary series with Lorraine and Beth, as the wind began to moan in the fireplace. It's good to be indoors sometimes, slugging on a sofa.

Below the last of Woolworths on the unlovely London Road.





Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barak Obama

Barak Obama's ascendancy to president brought more than one tear to my eye this afternoon. The US has taken one massive step towards reclaiming its moral authority, and repairing the damage done to its image in the world. Of course being the first black president makes Obama's presidency even more poignant and I guess lots of people in the US are pinching themselves and asking if this this really happening. The yes we can, has become to yes we have. For many it must already seem absurd that the election of black person was considered impossible. With even a few hours hindsight, the river of history that was crossed today, can at last be seen for what it is: an illusion; a little ditch. Of course a black man can be president.

Seeing the abject Bush - and the noxious band he had gathered about him - slinking off to the dustbin of history seemed to me like the end of a bewitchment. Like some kind of Narnia, the US was today released from a spell; from being a place where it is always Winter and never Spring. The ice is breaking: science, education, diplomacy, morality can now all thaw. And the long work of undoing the Bush administration's calamitous reign across the globe begins - with a wake up call that Obama delivered with eloquence, realism and pride. If the world's good wishes could uplift that process, then Obama will soar.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Blue Monday

The most miserable day of the year according to psychologists. As I rushed to get ready, the cat knocked over several things in my bathroom and then fell into the (thankfully just flushed) toilet. I felt cheery enough, although of course a rainy grey Monday morning in January, aboard a creepingly delayed train to Victoria didn't exactly get the pulses racing. Surgical site infections with Betsy and Hannah today was fine, however, and I like everyone I've met at that agency so far.

Watched the share prices of banks plummeting today. My understanding of these things not great, but it contributes to a sense of instability and unease. Obama is inaugurated tomorrow, which seems to be a really hopeful thing.

Curses! My desktop order has been thwarted. NatWest stopped my credit card payment to Dell as a precaution, as it was an Internet deal. So I have to reorder the bloody thing. Fairly fuming over this. Ordering a Dell computer isn't such a strange transaction is it? And instead of phoning you to check that this is something you've actually ordered, they nix the transaction. However my side order of one of those wee 8" screen handheld jobbies did go through - which means my precious laptop won't have to be taken from its nest any more, and I can be wired with bells on my toes wherever I go.

Home journey catching up on podcasts. Heard a talk Bill Drummond (of KLF and burning £1m in notes fame) gave on the future of music. According to him the iPod does away with ever having to buy music again. And apparently the world wide record industry is imploding. But this is "great news for forward thinking music makers working in the next few years. Music is now in the process of being liberated from the shackles of the recorded music genre... (forward thinking music makers) will want to make music that's about time, place and occasion... Music to have meaning beyond something to fill in the background while people get on with the drudgery of life." This was simply an unsupported assertion. But an interesting talk. How many musicians set out to produce music to fill-in the background though? Beyond the Ambients that is. Very few I'd say.

Very happy to be back home tonight, feeling lucky that I have the luxury of working on stuff I want to work on for the rest of the week.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Unwebbing

Sunday promenade along the seafront in fresh air. The sun occasionally picked out the bright pinks and oranges and reds and greens and blues of the beach hut doors. Or it dramatised a patch of the pebbly beach, or made the wave foam shine. Lighting is everything.

Event though I still don't regard it as proper sea (which is Channel Island sea) the flat uninterrupted line of the Brighton horizon is a lovely contrast to the busy city, and the remains of the burnt pier only seems to make the space bigger and emptier. Stepping along the seafront allows your spirit to inhale.

It was hard not to feel uplifted watching the seagulls in the face-numbing wind. Made me think of my Grandmother saying that the wind blows the cobwebs away. Stopped by a groyne and scrunched onto the beach to shelter from the wind, smelling the sea which Lorraine said reminded her of childhood, and we watched a boy dancing in an out of the waves in his boots and coat, totally absorbed in what he was doing. We did this for a surprisingly long time, before walking back to find a little restaurant called the Coach House, where we had a Sunday roast and a berry crumble and custard, and everyone warmed by a big open fire.

Home to beautifully shot BBC TV documentary about Kenyan elephants and their complex emotional lives, after which Lorraine migrated home. I was left to interrogate Calliope, who had presented me with second glove, which exactly matches the one she brought in the other day. On questioning, she insisted she found it indoors:
Me: (waving white fluffy glove). Where did you get this from?
Calliope: Me 'ouwse!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Morning brainwave

Up fairly early in a beautiful sunny morning, after a waking brainwave about The Sick Day. Made more progress in an hour or so this morning, than in the whole of Friday.

Read a horoscope somewhere for Librans saying it would be a brilliant year for artistic breakthroughs, which would be splendidly timed.

Got an email from Maria Rivans, the collage artist. I am on her early mailing list now and intend to buy some of her work after I've got over the shock of ordering a new computer.

Then made Lorraine and I an enormous mass of mushrooms cooked in butter and sage, tomatoes, toast, eggs, bacon and beans. Lorraine off to the back crackers, then I worked for a little more, and chatted to Anton who had called to discuss our next walk, and mention Manchester United severally.

After four years I replacing the dodgy light switch in the bathroom; thanks to Lorraine's supervision (which included a call to her ex-electrician dad). Later plunged into the Laines and bought stuff like bok choy, tofu and organic dates (compensating for the morning's excesses). Dates are my new weakness.

Feeling lethargic by late afternoon, so I had a quiet evening in listening to the wind and then the rain. Lorraine and Cath had been having a long girly chat in the Battle of Trafalgar, and I joined them later. I like Cath, who I'd last seen with her archeologist friend. Then Lorraine and I walked the 20 yards home to watch Match of the Day, and see Chelsea return to winning ways.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Slug day

Slugged down to my gold sofa, where I lay like a vast invertebrate doing a little website work for the pharma company, and writing more of The Sick Day. Later, and still without moving I threw caution to the wind, and bought a new desktop computer from Dell.

Lorraine called round in the evening and coaxed me into the outside world. In this vast strange place we had a cheeky drink in the Cricketers before going to our usual curry house. Then home, through the smatterings of frighteningly young drunks, to dormant slug mode.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Old friends in the new Blue Anchor

Bumped into Paula at Victoria this morning, off to see a client with Juliette. Nice to get a big hug in the middle of the rat race, and it got the day off to a nice start. I was in London for another day with Betsy working on the wound infections. We work really well together, and she has that nice American open friendliness. We had a nice lunch of panninis and fruit smoothies in a nearby cafe. Interesting brainstorming session this afternoon with Betsy and a very good young Australian designer called Simon. I'll be going in for another day next week, which is fun.

After work to the Blue Anchor for a drink with Matty boy and the French Bloke. Betsy also popped by for a glass of water, before going off to a singing lesson. The Blue Anchor has been redesigned and changed since I was last there and, unusually, they have done quite a nice job with it, which has resulted in it getting busier. Matt and the FB both contagiously positive about the new year. Matty doing well in his new role, as is the FB, who is now Group MD of an agency. He appeared in motorbike clothes and exuding general cheer. To have the genuinely creative French Bloke as an MD must be a breath of fresh air to an agency: for example he was telling us about an article he wrote about how the Internet is an extension of the nervous system.

I spoke to Max on the phone before he left: she is expecting their new baby in April. Then the FB left, Matt and I had a last cheeky beer where he mounted his bicycle and I mounted Shanks' pony and we drove off into the night. Great to see them both again.

Back to Brighton for 11, and a late supper of cold chicken and chips.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cat burglars and playwrights

Calliope presented me with a woman's white wool glove this morning as I was working on the The Sick Day. Later I noticed her with a pair of my socks in her mouth, followed by the snick of the catflap. Calliope returned some time later, empty mouthed. I searched in vain for a sock nest in my yard and suspect her of trading socks for gloves in some cat cartel.

The morning was spent happily writing, and in the afternoon I met a new friend Randolph for coffee. He is an American playwright - and it was fascinating to talk to him for two and a half hours over a single americano. Nice to discuss writerly matters, and hear about his plays. Randolph's wife writes academic books, and said "what shall I do now then, wait to die?" after getting a rejection this week. This made me laugh. Randolph's play Only Free Men was on at the Brighton's Komedia last year, and will be on in Lewes this year. He told me he is also working on a new play about alcoholism.

Heard from the Cat with the Hat today, chiding me for not getting in touch with him, and wondering if I wanted to do another interview about sustainability matters again, and I agreed. Sounding very upbeat about an operation next week. He is also very upbeat about Obama, which as a black American he finds particularly pleasing.

Lurked cheerfully indoors this evening with Lorraine and a roast chicken, gave Lorraine gin, and watched Chelsea rightfully overcome shrimpy Southend in the FA Cup.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Rejection made easy

Feeling non-specifically coldy and run down, which happened to be handy as I am working on The Sick Day the short play competition entry I am writing about the death of a hypochondriac. Hypochondria, I'm beginning to think, is a good metaphor for the loss of confidence being experienced in the financial markets around the world too. Institutions are losing confidence in their continued existence, in the way a hypochondriac begins to believe that he or she is holding onto life by their fingernails.

Went to the gym for half an hour or so of lumbering on the treadmill and pulling and pushing heavy things. They should wire all of these weight machines up to generate power. Returned home to receive a rejection from a poetry magazine. I'm very philosophical about rejections these days. It is essential if you are to prevent yourself from peering at editors through telescopic sites from a city rooftop. You have to separate what you make, from who you are.

J-P Sartre in Being and Nothingness talks about this, which he calls "bad faith". His example is of a miserable waiter, who is miserable precisely because he is sees himself as a waiter, not as someone who has chosen for a few hours to work as a waiter. Any criticism of his waiter's skills then becomes a direct criticism of him personally, not of something he happens to have chosen to do for a few hours on a particular rainy Tuesday. When you start to live in bad faith you become the job - because you have forgotten the choices you have made.

Anyhow, after a short but refreshing siesta, and a large cup of coffee, back on the play. Working is the best cure for rejection. And soon I was feeling positive again - a change magnified by a nice call from a very positive French Bloke. Balance is restored.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sorry son, change of plan

Up fairly early, and working on The Sick Day, I only have this week and next week to complete the first draft, so I'm just going hell for leather for it.

For various reasons it made me read the bit in Genesis about Abraham being prepared to sacrifice Isaac as a test of his obedience to God. This strange story is the starting point for Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling, which I once sped read, and have almost no recollection of. Kierkegaard often has good titles. I am going to read it again this week, simply because I can. I always felt sorry for Isaac in the Bible, being told that God would provide an animal for the sacrifice, and then at the last moment his dad Abraham saying, "Er. Sorry son, change of plan". And then "Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son". Luckily an angel appears, but it must have been a nasty moment for the lad.

When not thinking about hypochondria and black comedy and the Book of Genesis I went to the chiropractors, and was cracked in a way that made me suddenly stand upright like a proper homo sapiens. A wee bit of businessy stuff today, including emailing my glamorous accountant, and talking to The Gnome about pdfs. Also heard from Anton who, unsurprisingly, wanted to harp on about football. And Lorraine in the evening sounding tired.

Otherwise demonstrated complete incompetence on the DIY front. Assembled my impulse bought shelves easily enough, but they were too large for the space I'd earmarked them for. I decided to put them elsewhere but the walls of my house are 150 years old, and after drilling through some powdery plaster I hit flint. I now have two or three nasty holes in my wall, and no shelves up. Bah. And I chumpishly put in a wood drill the first time, which snapped. Sigh.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

DIY

Practical Sunday. Helped Lorraine take a manky carpet to the recycling plant, God knows what her last lodger had been doing on it. And we wandered about a couple of DIY stores, where there was a good sale on and I bought some shelves, light shades, a cushion, and an autumnal coloured candle because it matched my living room. This may be the first time I have bought a decorative candle for myself, and finding myself excited in Homebase is new too. Lorraine also on a spending spree, and bought two nice kitchen stools at a knock down price and we came away very pleased with ourselves.

Then to Brighton Marina where Lorraine and I had a surprisingly nice Italian meal in Zizzi's while her car was being cleaned. No drama, as this time Lorraine had not put the wrong petrol in the car so there was no sudden car death in the car wash queue. This time, however, Lorraine had to leave the restaurant half way through her main course to pay for the wash. I was anxiously approached by the waitress who asked if everything was okay. I should have said no through clenched teeth, and ordered a large bottle of wine and a single glass for drama. But I didn't.

Home in the late afternoon. Assembled shelves, changed light shades, and watched the contrary Calliope suddenly eating like a horse. Looking forward to next week.

The only sour note of the day... A dismal rudderless Chelsea were beaten 3-0 away to Manchester United. I knew this was going to happen, as lately they have drastically lost form. Chelsea's amiable manager Big Phil Scolari doesn't seem to be able to fix it. "I suspect this text will fall on deaf ears...." received from the Man U loving Anton shortly after the final whistle. It did. I watched Match of the Day tonight, but cleverly only switched on after they showed the Chelsea match.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cats, forests and tittles

Lorraine drove us to the vet with three disgruntled, and vocal cats for various check ups. The vet now thinks Calliope is two weeks younger than first thought. She still teething, which has made her glands swell up, and put her off her food, which is what had concerned me. The waiting room is infused with relaxing cat pheromones, so Calliope swanked about investigating the waiting room and store room, while Lorraine's cats were given jabs. The receptionist/veterinary nurse is very friendly, and locked the front door so she could safely explore. She returned slightly cobwebbed from under a large fridge, and I was told that if she wanted employment as a duster, she could come again.

In the afternoon drove north to St Leonard's forest with Anton. The temperature was a couple of degrees colder than in Brighton, and the trees and fields were rimed with frost as soon as we had got through the downs. Parked at The Dragon in St Leonard's Forest (where we had ended our Dragon Walk) and then set off through the sparkling, Christmas card woods. Walked for two hours, and it was beautiful and invigorating. The only bad bit was the dogs which were adding an extra spring to Anton's step every now and then. After a while the dogs and people thinned out and we walked with nobody else in sight, apart from a party of four men and boys with shotguns and rosy cheeks.

Home and a defrosting shower. Earlier in the day I had turned the dial on the fat flap to prevent her going out (on instructions from the vet who wanted me to check her poos). Just before I left there was a wild scrabbling, and then a slam. Calliope had jumped repeatedly on the dial, till it had slid back to the open position. She is smarter than several people I know.

In the evening back up towards the forest, when Lorraine drove me and her pal Tracey from Wales to join some of her ex-colleagues in a village hall crammed with tables full of quiz night people. It was all highly-organised - with a vegetarian balti served half way. It was fun, and an interesting way to meet people, and to fill your mind with useless junk. Did you know, for example, that the dot on the letter i is called a tittle? No? Neither did I.

Below Anton and the Christmas card paths, menacing hounds not pictured.










Friday, January 09, 2009

The rain rains in its own time

So up early feeling very cheerful today. Lorraine zoomed off to the station having had a sleepover. Got an email from Catriona in Guernsey with a pdf of my Guernsey bus poem, which I might have printed up full size as a poster. Satisfying to see this thing I wrote when I was about 22, more than half a lifetime ago, being given an airing. I've always liked this little poem for the simplicity of its language, and that it is about returning to a specific place I love. And of course seeing your name in print is something I can never tire of.

Something from the I Ching that has always resonated with me, I don't have the exact words to hand, but it is: "the clouds are all here, but the rain rains in its own time." This can mean the time you create something isn't necessarily the same time as it will be appreciated.

Working on the play competition entry. Given that I've been working on illnesses for the last three months, I decided to write a black comedy about hypochondria, called The Sick Day, as a metaphor for the loss of confidence currently sweeping the world. The good thing is that it has to be finished in the next couple of weeks. I like deadlines, and you never know your luck.

Also was contacted by Jamie from the website with a last minute request for a wee bit of copy, and heard from Matty who I'll see again next week.

Spent the afternoon giving the place a bit of an early spring clean. Actually which was very therapeutic. Then went to Sainsbury's and bought a few bottles of beer, and had one on my gold sofa in my clean house at the end of the week, and still felt very happy. Then Lorraine came around and we scarfed the bean jar I had been cooking all day. Then I inflicted ipod party shuffle (aka completely random) on Lorraine - even a Jazz track that I was told wasn't even music - as we reviewed the week.

Below A return, click to enlarge.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Getting it right

Up with a song on my lips. It is worth doing a couple of days travelling into London to remind me of the glories of working from home. Danced past sullen commuters streaming into the station, to do a spot of food shopping before work.

The last of the big website today - a few hours or so of referencing my case studies on a smorgasbord of morbidities, and making up ages for the ailing people I'd invented. I managed to do this from the comfort of my sofa and without foam leaking from my mouth, and only getting up twenty times to teach Calliope to use the newly magnetic cat flap. Finishing website stuff (although never say never etc.) was great, like the last Groundhog Day when everything goes right.

In the evening, assembled a base for my aquarium. Now to decide where to situate the tank; for of course once you set it up, you have to keep it there. Then a big tidy up. Amazing how two days of being out of the house from 7am till 10pm can reduce order to despicable chaos.

Contacted by Betsy who wants be back for a day next week, which is nice. And Randolph a playwright I met at Janet's house, who I'll have coffee with next week.

Lorraine came by this evening. She is having a tough week at work, but a little nip of sloe gin, having her feet savaged by the kitten, and watching an episode of Frasier all seemed to help. She mentioned that Beth has a college project to interview someone, and she's chosen me, which is a nice surprise.

Best of all I can now look forward to a bit of Peter Kenny time, to bash out the entry for the local play writing competition, and complete my Skelton Yawngrave novel. Yippee! Life is sweet.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Bookended by socks

Noticed when I woke up that Calliope had overnight removed all the balled sock pairs from my sock draw and carried them to my bed, which was handy. If I can train her to bring me just one pair this could be useful.

Out into a smattering of snowflakes in the twitten, and up to London for another day with Betsy on the surgical wound business. Lots more bumping into old friends, including Al who was very huggy and pleased to see me, which was nice.

Matty boy was there too, having just started a big strategy role in Betsy's agency. After work I went to the bar and chatted with Benny the barman who gave me free crisps and, as an Iranian exile, explained how Hammas have shit for brains. I was joined by Matty and Betsy who I introduced to one another, and we had a quick drink. Matty enjoying his new start I think, and he will do exceptionally well in what seems like a pleasant little agency. Got the tube with Betsy, and discovered we had both flirted with Marxism in our youths. Rather suprised me in a 29 year old American. Then arrived at Brighton at 10, chatting to an overworked Lorraine on my phone as I did so.

Felt very happy to be home, and knowing that I will be working from home tomorrow. Boofed down on my gold sofa with some Chinese takeaway only to discover I was sitting on a small nest of socks.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Howdy ho London

To London today. The train draggingly slow through the snow-dusted fields to Victoria. I caught up on various podcasts, and yawned a good deal as I had accidentally gone to bed late, and an intruding black cat caused alarms in the night. Calliope, with me following, chased the larger intruder out, the same one she was biffing in the yard recently. I means I will have to put the magnet on Calliope's collar and use the magnetic catflap to exclude intruders.

Working today in Hammersmith with Betsy for a specialist healthcare agency. Betsy is an American art director, with a good visual imagination - and we make each other laugh despite working on concepts for a healthcare product that helps to prevent surgical site infections, or SSIs as they are known in the trade. In the afternoon we were joined by Hannah a medical expert writer, who thoughtfully showed us photographs of inflamed surgical site wounds. Betsy was jetlagged, and I was a bit braindead, so it was hard work - despite competing impressions of Mr Hankey, the Christmas Poo - the talking stool from South Park.

Bumped into lots of folks from my old agency, which is in the same building. Rick had seen me quoted on the BBC site, which was a bit cool.

After work I walked to The Dove in Hammersmith, a favourite old haunt by the chilly river. There I met The Gnome, and we sat gossiping near the open fire. He's being very positive about his new start, but his keep fit regime was stopped in its tracks by a broken toe, gained while going about the hazardous business of bringing his wife a cup of tea.

Then home to pile blankets and kitten on the bed, and make a hot water bottle.

Below Mr Hankey the Christmas Poo.


Monday, January 05, 2009

The last bauble in the bag

Today was the big Monday of the year. I however woke to a coverlet of snow in the Twitten and a purring kitten, and feeling lucky and privileged to be working from home. Not having to struggle off to London on the train is ace. Later I got a text from Beth who was thinking of Calliope's first experience of snow. The kitten herself, however, was generally disdainful of it.

Slid off to the quack first thing. Then back home to write nine more case studies on unpleasant ailments - I learned more about Ulcerative Colitis than I ever wanted to know. Wonderfully, however, the website folks have paid my invoice: Calliope and me will eat for some months! And fortunately not each other.

I had a dream a few days ago about a person called Barcelona Katz. I am usually good at understanding my own dreams, but Barcelona Katz has got me stumped. Unless it is yet another blinking cat reference.

After this off to the gym at 6:30, which was unbelievably crowded with people I found detestable. I only stayed for 25 minutes - a bit of a waste of time, but better than nothing I suppose.

Home, and put away the Christmas tree, with some protests and fighting by the kitten. Talked to Lorraine. She said that Cath had told her that Hywel the Viking archaeologist had liked me, because I'd been interested in his work and asked him about it. Seems such a little thing really.

As I put the last cat-tormented bauble in the bag. I reflected that it had been a really good Christmas. The winter awaits.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Into the frosty fields

Scarfed a fast bowl of porridge, then strapped myself into my walking boots. Anton called for me, and we went by train to Hassocks station, spotting rust-coloured foxes against the frosty fields as the train passed. From Hassocks we walked south and then east along lanes and across fields following the line of the Downs for our first, if rather gentle, walk of the new year.

It was a cold day for Sussex: puddles and little ponds and streams were glassy with ice, and the horses in the fields were wearing coats. Anton and I were warm enough as long as we kept moving: ambling along the route of an old Roman road and chatting about lots of random things from the Beatles to the Romans to bean based recipes as we went.

After a couple of hours we reached a little village called Streat, which had an idyllic churchyard, with eccentric gravestones splotched with lichen. A splendid place to stop for a feed, looking out from the church across the weald to the line of Downs. Anton had packed his Boston baked beans (with extra chili) and corn muffins and some gingery Parkin cake afterwards. All of which he had made. The beans were in vacuum flasks and really hot and lovely to eat in the cold churchyard.

After we set off again, both with cold hands which took a mile or so to warm up again. Then a little further until we reached a village called East Chiltington, where we called a halt in a pub restaurant called The Jolly Sportsman where we thawed by the open fire and had a beer, before calling a taxi to Lewes, where it would not have been impertinent not to have stopped for another beer in the Lewes Arms.

Below a few snaps en route. As ever, click 'em to enlarge 'em. I particularly like what looked like a family of gravestones in Streat churchyard. In that picture you can just make out the bench we sat on, with our backs to an old tomb.







Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Reader


Saw The Reader tonight with Lorraine. Easily the best film I've seen for ages. Absolutely top in every way: brilliantly acted, and a complex moral problem at its heart. I can't recommend it highly enough. It's ages since I walked out of a cinema and felt I had seen a proper grown up movie. If Kate Winslet doesn't get an Oscar for her performance there is no justice.




Friday, January 02, 2009

Progtastic

A quiet day working. Wrote nine case studies for the hogsite, and then fiddled about working on an idea for a local Brighton play competition, which was fun.

However highlight of the day for me was watching BBC4 Prog Rock Britannia which was a well overdue reappraisal of this genre. Great to see legends like Bill Bruford and Steve Howe. And listen to some fascinating stuff that I'd never heard before. Who knew that Soft Machine sounded like outtakes from Bitches Brew?

In my teens I particularly liked Yes and King Crimson. This, plus the fact that Mum listened to jazz and classical music rather ruined me for straight ahead rock music or for most stuff with a predictable 4/4 beat and chords.

Progressive music was killed by punk. I liked punk too, its energy was amazing, but musically I can't listen to it with anything other than a faint nostalgia. Even at the time my favourite new groups were the elegant Television (from New York) and The Stranglers (who were a bit like The Doors with a growling bass). And both of these were actually very musical. I actually saw live gigs by The Stranglers and Yes in the same week in 77 and had a great time at both.

What I loved about prog pioneers was their mission to serve up something that you'd never heard before. Play Close to the Edge by Yes or Red by King Crimson- and even to this day you will be taken into a unique sonic environment, where delights and wonders far outweigh the overblown indulgences.

And you don't get that sort of thing on X Factor. (Add in your own grouchy old guy stuff here at will...)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Free from desire

The new year sees me feeling pleasingly Buddhist about things. I'm not fixated on outcomes - the idea that you'll only be happy if x happens. My fervent hope is that I can just continue what I've been doing for another year. My resolutions are few: simply to focus on the work at hand, and to be the best Peter Kenny I can be.

After travelling back from London, I was still Lemsipping and snuffling. I decided to at least go, with Lorraine, to Battle of Trafalgar. This is, after all, is but a spit away. There I bumped into two of my neighbours, Mark and Hilary. I've never properly spoken to them before, but it turns out they are both extremely nice. Mark is an accomplished trombonist I've often heard rehearsing, and Hilary a teacher, who often teaches music. We all seemed to have quite a bit to say to one another. Time slipped past and the new year stole upon us over a pint of Harvey's bitter. And nothing wrong with that.

New Year's day was spent mooching about Brighton with Lorraine: a walk into town; stumbling over some Morris dancers, a bracing amble along the seafront where we ate some suprisingly tasty traditional kippers in a roll. And then on to do some shopping. I bought new cutlery and plates, which were both on sale in Debenhams.Until now my cutlery has been eclectic: ie none of it matched. Home to a roast chicken and the gold sofa. And a warm feeling of being able to look forward in hope to this year.

Below some stick-splintering gambolling about by Morris dancers.