Monday, June 29, 2009

New and old stagers

A hot night and a hotter day. Up at seven to get cracking on Skelton Yawngrave again. Toby sleeping off his jetlag upstairs. Worked for four hours or so and then hung out with Toby for a bit of tea drinking and chatting over lunch. Then he trundled down the Twitten and up to the smoke to see Mum and Mas.

I spent the rest of the day working, apart from a dead to the world doze for an hour. Got an email from Jason at Guernsey museums who tells me that there was a Dr Who novelisation set on Guernsey. Amazing.

In the evening walked off to BHASVIC to meet Lorraine to see Beth and Mark in a college drama presentation: a collection of monologues and excerpts from plays from Sophocles to Jean-Claude Van Itallie. Beth and Mark were by far the best boy and girl. Both outstanding. Some of the kids are merely walking about saying lines, whereas Beth and Mark and two or three others can genuinely act, and the gulf is enormous. Sheep and goats. And Lorraine quietly proud beside me.

In my limited experience, there are two types of interesting actors, those who can metamorphose into other people before your eyes, and those who can be themselves in a relaxed and fascinating way. Of actors I've worked with, Mindy was one of the chameleon types, and Tim Gallagher one of the latter. Watching the work, made me think of them.

So imagine my surprise when I returned home to find a very welcome email from Mindy my old collaborator in things theatrical -- and the first time I had heard from her in about nine years. She has a whole new child called Lola, and her son Oz, who I last saw when he was a toddler, is now at senior school. It was great to hear from her.

Watched my new favourite show The Wire again before bed. Just gets better and better.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Taking Toby to pubs

A roll of suitcase wheels and a knock on the door at 5:40am heralded the welcome appearance of Toby on my doorstep. After mumbled hellos, I gave him a glass of sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon, and two rounds of toast and he went to bed. And so did I.

The Tobster climbed from bed several hours later and Lorraine and I revivified him with tea, and the cat had sat on him, and two of my Corydoras Julii (little leopard catfish) mated, dancing in the water vertically together in beautiful way, by way of welcome.

Later we went for a late Sunday lunch at the Eagle. For what people need when they come to England is booze. This incidentally another place where Lorraine is also well known and given kisses and hugs on arrival from the friendly manager Caz. Strapped on the nosebag for a traditional roast beef lunch, and enjoyed a couple of decent pints of English bitter and generally caught up. Toby seems well, cheery and relaxed, which is good to see.

Lorraine went home in the afternoon, and Toby and I went to the Cricketers for a pint of Harveys and to observe a spot of exhibition drinking from a birthday party of friendly gentlemen, before slipping across the road to Zizzi for a pizza and to discuss lofty noble things.

Home again to restlessly surf through Glastonbury coverage for some decent music. Settled on a spot of Blur before an early night.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

No flukes

Up early to work on Skelton Yawngrave. Grinding out the last lap out. Lorraine got up much later and cooked us breakfast.

In the afternoon, a long walk over to the other side of Brighton to a dubious little fish shop to buy some some gill fluke treatment. The owner was sitting in his doorway, and the windows blackened (to prevent algae in the tanks I guess) and he seemed quite reluctant to actually let us enter. One of my angel fish may have brought this condition, common in our finny friends, into my aquarium. Lorraine and I ambled up through Kemptown and after the piscine deal was done, along to the seafront to walk back. Gorgeous day, and the beaches thronging. After ambling about for some time, the notion of a very cold lager became irresistible.

We went to the Hop Poles to assuage this, rather decadently. Talking to the barmaid who had exotic tattoos. And as night follows day, the notion of a curry began to clarify and harden in our minds. We called Beth and Mark, and had an early evening curry with them in our usual place. And as usual much fawning over Lorraine, who got a specially cooked meal, which was not offered to me. Complained bitterly afterwards to Lorraine that I am no better than arm candy when in this restaurant. The two young things went off on a babysitting assignment, and Lorraine and I returned home with our top hats on askew, to snooze on my sofa, watching bits of the Wimbledon bonk-bonk-fest and Glastonbury music festival.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Terror in the Twitten

Friday, and have made decent progress on the book this week. The 4th draft will be finished in a few more working days now. Writerly emails to and from Richard and Randolph lately, which is nice. Randolph's play is also coming to Brighton, so I am going to see it here on its last day. He is feeling relieved as the lead actress is finally learning her lines with a few days to spare.

Now that the novel is almost done, I need to earn a bit of cash. And almost miraculously my pal Alice suddenly wants me to write several newsletters about injections for my old agency. This I can do from home. I seem to be living a charmed life.

Yesterday I was typing with my window open and heard what can only be described as Calliope screaming. She bolted in all puffed up and terrified, and proceeded to hide for the next two hours under the sofa, and would only come out with much coaxing. I have never seen her like that. There is something out there that terrified her.

She was reluctant to go out today, which meant that she lay curled around my computer keyboard all morning. Trouble is her butt is exactly where my mouse work gets done, so a lot of the time she is thrashing her tail and giving me warning nips as I write. She refuses to budge until I throw her off. I never realised cats could be so stubborn.

After work was done, and I spent some time playing guitar. After I finished I heard a hot sounding band warming up this evening in the Grand Central pub. I met Lorraine in the Batty, and we wandered to this other pub to watch the band, and have a few drinks. Playing some funky stuff, including a Michael Jackson cover to mark his death today. Although this pub is a few yards from my door, I rarely go to it. It had a bizarre mix of people. Including a middle aged Beryl Cook type family, who were dancing about with some abandon.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The politics of angels

Bought the unspeakable Daily Mail this morning, to check a small press ad I'd written in it about Brittany. Some monkey had broken the headline overnight, however, by adding an unneccesary word. Only a small job, but as a writer it galls.

Still feeling very sluggish and enervated but slogging steadily to the end of Skelton Yawngrave, and my mind buzzing with how to approach the Guernsey project. My brooding only broken by a crocodile of children walking past in the Twitten, and as I glanced out of my study window I saw Klaudia was one of them. Made me feel sentimental to see my Goddaughter walk past apparently so carefree, along with lots of other five-year-olds holding hands.

Lorraine told me today that she has asked some teachers and children to read Skelton which is fab. She is a great boon.

Popped up the road to Anna and Anton's house to see Christian and Jane, and meet their new baby Ava who has an endearingly imperious expression, and is the spit of the big Aussie bear. Quite funny to hear Oskar, covered in chicken pox scabs bless him, calling Ava "baby Ava". There is a hierarchy of babies. They are doing well in Australia, having moved there three years ago. Caught up quickly over a few beers, before I left the two families to their night.

Some may say that I'm not getting out enough at the moment, but I've noticed my Siamese fighter and my angel fish are harbouring resentments. First, the previously timid angels began to harry the fighter, following him around the tank. Now the fighter is standing its water, flaring his gills and intimidating the angels, especially when he can get them singly. It is all threat and bluster with no physical fighting, but nevertheless is fascinating to watch.

Only torn away by The Wire which is every bit as good as its hype.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mark's off

A note this morning from Mark Hill who is off on a jaunt across Europe. He has started a project called "The Grey-haired Gap Year, In which your correspondent sets out in his mid-forties to do the backpacking trip he never quite managed in his twenties." Anyhoo Canadian Mark is off to explore the dark continent of Europe and hopefully get a book out of it too. I will link to his site from my blog.

My day was fine, sorting out a few prosaic tasks and then getting down to Skelton Yawngrave again. Not quite recovered from mystery wussiness of the weekend but definitely improving. Brain still sluggish. Ate a surfeit of fish fingers as I had to defrost the fridge.

Watched the first episode of the third series of The Wire. Never seen this show before, and I can see what all the fuss has been about. It is brilliantly done. I always seem to pick up on TV shows late. If this is what Baltimore is like, makes me feel even more retrospectively grateful for the angelic Nigerian cab driver who rescued me there once, lost and clutching a ruptured suitcase on a dark winter's night. I hope Mark finds a similar Samaritan if he needs one.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A midsummer night's dream

A foul night in the Twitten. The alley was full of crazy drunks between 2 and 4 in the morning, so I lay awake feeling galled. At last the noise abated and, as I was finally drifting to sleep, Calliope appeared in the bedroom with a live mouse. This she released and it sped under my bed, with my feline in hot pursuit. Lorraine carefully staying in bed, I danced about naked, until I found a yellow rubber glove in the bathroom and managed to seize the poor half dead thing. The mouse had a hot body, which made me feel sick. And at 4:30am I could think of nothing else to do other than hurl it from my window. It landed with a tiny thud. Now I have a mouse on my conscience.

Didn't get out of bed until 1.00pm today, which is unheard of. However sleep has fixed the general wussiness I have been experiencing for the last couple of days. Tested the water of my aquarium using my water testing kit. Lorraine and I then walked back to her place, from where she drove me to the fish shop. Here I bought some fish, a gorgeous blue betta splendens (Siamese fighter), a golden sucking loach and three little corydoras julii catfish.

On the way back from this shop, Sam called to say that water was dripping from Lorraine's kitchen ceiling. After investigation and bucket placing, this wasn't too catastrophic fortunately. Back to my place for the fish, and then out to the Sussex Yeoman for what he barmaid said was the best roast in Brighton. But then she would.

In the evening off to the other side of town and to someone's leafy hillside garden on the Ditchling Road. Lorraine's pal Helen is in a group called Indigo Eye who were wonderful. How Brighton to be sitting in a back garden listening to chilled fusion music with a devotional undercurrent watching the sun set on Midsummer's day. A tremendously thoughtful and skilled band of musicians who sent everyone off to a happier place. Came home feeling cleansed, uplifted and relaxed.

Once home I spoke to Romy and Toby who were both on fine form, before heading for bed.

Below Indigo Eye.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Got up groggily in La Barbarie and packed, breakfasted and then went for a short walk taking a few last snaps. Wonderful fresh morning, and Guernsey looking its best. Pleasant cabbie back to the airport, then before long the familiar sadness of seeing Guernsey, Herm and Sark slipping away. Flew a little to the west of Alderney, with the long beaches of the French coast clearly visible.

It had been lovely to be back in my spiritual home, despite having to work and feeling a bit under the weather.

Text from Beth on arrival in Gatwick saying that Calliope and the fish were fed. Arriving home, I was pleased to discover that she and Mark had left my place in better shape than they found it.

Calliope bursting with love and it was at least half an hour before she bit me reproachfully. Angel fish still looking happy in the tank.

After some shopping, I settled down to work. Except then I realised that I'd left my only pair of glasses on the train. Back to the station and, to my delighted amazement, my specs were promptly handed back.

Logged back onto my computer only to discover that my iTunes folder had freakishly corrupted when I last used it. I found rescue software to download your collection from your iPod. This, despite being free software, kept demanding to be paid. I idiotically pressed the wrong button, which then wiped 3000 tunes and all my playlists at a stroke. I do have back ups for most of it. Fabulously galling.

At 5:30 I stopped before I eradicated something else, and simply sat on my sofa, finished Appointment with Venus, which was enjoyable enough, despite an alarming reference at one point to seeing "a coon show" in London.

Lorraine came around this evening, and I sat about being a bit braindead with her on my gold sofa, before she took Beth's case away, and I went to bed accompanied by a snoozing cat.

Below a few last morning snaps.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tome raider

Up early and enjoyed a full Guernsey breakfast in the Barbarie, while reading Appointment With Venus. Then some cyber faffing before I caught the bus into town. Went straight to Creaseys and Boots on the High Street to ask about leg camouflage creams for Mum. Some raised eyebrows, and people asking penetratingly what I would use them for. Abandoning this transvestite mission, I set about my day's work.

After nosing in bookshops, my first step was to spend a couple of hours in the Priaulx Library where I met Amanda Bennett, the Chief Librarian. She was interested in the Anthology project, and took some time to show me an extensive collection of books, all of which have some tenuous connection to Guernsey. She told me a few things right away I didn't know, such as PG Wodehouse went to school here, and that Samuel Coleridge-Taylor the composer had performed on the island. And that Edmund Keane the nineteenth century Shakespearean was pelted with vegetables in St Peter Port. Spent a happy couple of hours with my nose in dusty tomes. A venerable place, busy with people tracking down old stories from the Guernsey Press, and tracing their ancestors.

Then to the Guernsey Museum, which is a matter of a few yards away. Here I met Guernsey's switched on Museums Director Jason Monaghan. Interesting chat with him. He also gave me a signed copy of a self-published book written under his nom de plume Jason Foss called Islands that never were. After a brief look at The Three Garnsey Women Martyred by the Papists {Anno 1556} I made my way back to St Martins.

In the hotel, I spent some time cursing my computer, and doing some work for Jeanne my lovely French client. Also sent Toby a note to wish him well for his birthday. He will be in Blighty soon, and hopefully staying with me, which will be smart.

In the evening caught the bus back into town, and had a drink in The Ship and Crown still reading Appointment with Venus. Something really nice about it being a pocket sized hardback (it was printed in 1951).

Slipping around the corner to meet Richard and Jane in Christies. Here we had a good meal and gossiped about poetry, literature, and Guernsey looking over the harbour towards Herm. It was good to see my new friends. This time there were no rib in juries as we were comparatively restrained, especially as Jane is recovering from an op last week. Then Richard drove me back to the hotel and, after fond farewells, I repaired to my room to sip tea and watch a romantic comedy called Prime.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Two views of Sark

Up early this morning and managed intermittently to wirelessly connect my laptop to the hotel’s network. Then mooching about the Parish, putting flowers on my grandparent's grave, and walking some of my favourite paths.

Had a splendid meeting with Catriona this afternoon, who helped me sort out the next steps for the Anthology, and also to understand what was needed and not provided in the meeting yesterday. Soon I felt decidedly back on track with the project, and Catriona has given me a tremendously useful list of contacts.

My approach is to clarify the concept, and find out what content there is, and only then make assessments about format. This I’m discovering is an agency way of thinking, rather than an arts organisation way of thinking. They are more pragmatic and focused on the object they are supporting, and how much it will cost. I need to get the project rolling, and create some media interest on the island and beyond. First step is to build an website, which I will do in a two of weeks, after I’ve finished Skelton Yawngrave.

Meeting was at Catriona’s house which has big grey gates that swing open mysteriously as you approach them, and we drank a cup of tea and discussed important cultural matters in her kitchen, overlooking her garden which has a magnificent view of Sark framed by a tall tree.

Felt decidedly back on track after this meeting and had an enjoyable evening. Popped into Les Douvres for a Thai curry, and slid into the Captains for another bottle of Pony. Spent the rest of the evening reading Appointment with Venus, a novel written shortly after the war by Jerrard Tickell set on an imaginary Channel Island called Armorel, clearly based on Sark. It’s a wartime adventure with a band of Islanders going back to the island to rescue a cow. And it is not a comedy. An interesting period piece—and quite interesting to see how badly it was edited. It was a movie too, filmed on Sark.

Chatted to Lorraine this evening as I walked in the lanes, and heard that Beth and Mark are happy cat sitting at my house. Calliope woke them up at five apparently.

Below spent the morning walking about in St Martins, A waterlane below the wishing well, the path above Moulin Huet, and fixating on the plants—particularly St Peter Port Daisies—which sprout from granite walls this morning.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Knitting a Ferrari

Up early and off to Gatwick. Fairly trouble free journey. The Auringy two-engined prop lane bouncing slowly through great castles of cumulus clouds. Felt very happy to be back on the island, an immediate cheerful feeling. Auringy much better than Flybe.

Went for a short walk to Icart point, pausing to eat a ham and mustard sandwich and slurp a cup of tea. The owner of the cafe an unusual gentleman, who once told me he had mercury poisoning.

"Success," he said, sliding my ham sandwich over the counter towards me, "is knitting your own Ferrari".

I mooched happily around the cliffs for a bit, which were bee-loud and bursting with flowers. Slightly cloudy, so that parts of the cliffs were suddenly brilliantly spotlit.

Returned to the hotel and prepared to meet the Guernsey Arts Commission to the new performing arts centre. I was early, which gave me plenty of time to hang about drinking an execrable cup of tea from a vending machine. Met Catriona and sorted out the technology to do the presentation. Turns out I could have simply brought my memory key rather than lugging huge laptop from Brighton.

I liked the chairman Tony straight away, and the commissioners seemed favourably disposed to my idea. But perhaps inevitably the meeting was inconclusive. They need hard and fast costings, before they can commit to even considering backing me, and while I was busy presenting the case for the most important publication in the island's history, and how it can create its own marketing impetus which will benefit the island for generations to come, they were asking how many pages the book would it have, which was a little frustrating.

I was very happy with my presentation though, despite the fact that one of the commissioners was asleep before my bit even started.

Released back into the wild, I wandered back towards town, and caught a cab. After dropping off the laptop I made my way to the Captains for a couple of fortifying bottles of pony, and a bite to eat. Mulling over my next steps.

Early to bed.

Below, snapped from the cliffs this afternoon. Bottom a cup of tea at Icart.

Island bound

Off to Guernsey in twenty minutes to present my Anthology idea to the Guernsey Arts Commissioners, and have a couple of days on the island. Updates to follow shortly (God willing as the sky is thundery). Bah, bring on the Gin and Tonic.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Who knows where the time goes

Argh. The final line edit of Skelton Yawngrave will take several more weeks at this rate. The trouble is it can't be rushed. Am pleased with the results though. The pace is faster.

Took myself to the gym just concentrating on cardio stuff today as my back is going through another bad phase. Still managed to work up quite a manly sweat. Returned to the gym again after ten minutes to retrieve phone and keys I left on a treadmill. Otherwise there was a smidge of business to do. I have been practicing talking for next Monday, as I want to be Brylcreem slick when I'm in Guernsey. Another drugs website may be on the horizon, which may pay some doubloons.

Spoke to Bob who is coming to stay on Thursday, and Paul whose son is now reading splendidly even though he is still in nursery. Lorraine, who was yawning after a tough day, and got an email update from Kate on the farm she is starting at home. Otherwise-in the best possible way-a tumbleweed and crows day.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Belated birthday celebrations, cat protests and fascists

Calliope mental this morning I suspect made tetchy by being unable to get to the fish. Biting my feet without provocation as I got out of bed, and then springing about savaging Lorraine's socks for at least ten minutes. When I got downstairs the fish food had been removed from a shelf, bitten open and emptied into the killing field rug.

Despite many cat nose prints on their glass, the four angels slightly less timid and looking pearlescent in the natural light.

Did no work today, instead food shopped, bought Janet a belated birthday present, and helpfully offered you-don't-want-to-do-it-like-that suggestions to Lorraine who was having to do some weekend work.

Also attended another meeting of Twitten denizens. These are quite cheery affairs, and my neighbours are a likeable lot. All gathering in a knot in the sun, and then drifting into Chris's house, which has a long room lined with chairs, which is becoming our civic centre. No major issues, which was nice. Talk of establishing a Neighbourhood watch scheme, which as Hilary pointed out we already have without the stickers.

Home then tidying and getting ready for Janet and Ken, who came around at six and stayed till almost eleven. We all had a great time, and it did my heart good to see them. Both on cheery form, Janet sporting a bag of her own design with a bark-like pattern. Quantities of wine drunk, and Roquefort gorged, as well as roast chicken, salads and new potatoes, and fresh strawberries and cherries.

After Lorraine and Janet and Ken left, I cleared up and then watched the sobering results of the European Elections on TV. Shamefully, the racist fascist party The British National Party won two seats and centre right and far right winning seats across Europe on a record low poll of 41 percent. Labour's vote falling apart. Gordon Brown will be lucky to last the week.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Leopard angels

Up at seven, and wrote a lot of my Guernsey presentation, which made me feel rather big and clever. Slept a good deal on the gold sofa this afternoon, having worked like a dog all week.

Lorraine drove me to buy four fishes for my new aquarium. I spotted some leopard angels, which have a delicate lacy pattern. Very pretty they are too. Having introduced them to my new heavily planted tank, they hid out of sight, only making a few cat tormented forays into open water. But it felt very good to be setting up an aquarium again. I've kept fish off and on since I was ten or eleven and I have always felt that there is something almost spiritual about them. Angel fish move in such a stately restful way.

Calliope, meanwhile, was infurated by them, snapping her teeth at them, and pawing the glass.

Lorraine and I had a slugfest, she cooked and I did nothing and felt a good deal better for it.

Below Calliope and an angel.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The dulcet tones of Microsoft Anna

Downloaded a handy tool today which reads out text in the voice of Microsoft Anna. This is perfect as the robot voice can read out Skelton Yawngrave in a completely dead and uninflected way, which is a perfect editing tool. Sol Stein recommends having your manuscript read out by the worst reader you can find, so you actually hear the words for what they are. I am making better progress, but not as fast as I'd like. Working like a dog trying to get the thing finished.

Voted in the European elections on the way to the gym. A vast sheet of options with the repellent BNP top of the list. Considered boycotting the whole thing. British politics an absolute shambles at the moment. Labour busy imploding all day, there is now open rebellion and Brown looks rightly doomed. Even the Guardian is calling for him to quit. A Tory government is looming. God help us.

Otherwise received a box of aquatic plants which are now in my aquarium, and looking rather nice too. Popped up the road to babysit Klaudia again. She is spotty but cheerful despite the chicken pox. Anton and I chatting about The Inbetweeners, which is wonderful.

Spoke to Randolph. His play is now in rehearsal, but the fact that the actors haven't learned their lines is making him twitchy.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A place where everyone's the same

Much better day's work today. Worked well. The teethgrindingly annoying passage was effortlessly reworked in an hour.

Calliope alternating between sleeping on my desk, resting her head on my keyboard (and occasionally contributing random punctuation) and bouts of demented miaowing as she chases flies about the house that she has smuggled inside in her mouth. I had the window half open in my study and she flung herself at it after a fly and I had to catch her as she scrabbled mid-air like the Coyote in Road Runner. Once caught, the flies are taken to my rug downstairs, which is a kind of insect killing field. Socks often find themselves there too, stolen from my sock draw to receive a savaging.

Anna texted me to say that Klaudia has chicken pox.

Up to the smoke this afternoon to meet Lakshmi and Aimee in Baron's Court. Aimee says she may be moving back to Blighty next year, which is a good thing. We met in a pub theatre, where Aimee's uncle was in a play upstairs. Met Aimee's mum and two cousins they are a cheery clan of many members. Strange to be in a pub where the people have the same faces. Spoke to her cousin Sophie, who sings sometimes with PK personal favourite Alice Russell.

As Aimee's clan watched the play, Lakshmi and I drank steadily, discussing many and various subjects, and then slipped off to have an expensive but rather tasty Indian meal at the Bombay Brasserie. Eventually the call of the seagull was heard and I made it back to Victoria for the late train. A long time since I've been woken up at 1.00pm in a carriage at Brighton station.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Head banging

Received confirmation today of my meeting in Guernsey about the anthology. Now to get the presentation in shape. Very excited about all this.

Otherwise, up to briefly babysit a poorly Klaudia this morning, while Anton took Oskar to nursery. Later to the gym where I had quite a good and sweaty workout. I feel lots fitter but am still fat. Persisting is the only thing I guess.

A walk this evening down by the sea taking a few snaps. Stopped in the Cricketers and had a pint, and scribbled a mindmap and felt much better, having spent hours banging my head against a brick wall of two pages that after protracted hours of work were considerably worse than when I started. Some days you just have to admit defeat.

Instead I watched the second season of The Inbetweeners DVDs which Anton lent me this morning. Love it.

Below some seafront photos in twilight.