Monday, August 31, 2009

Home

Rather splendid to wake up at home at 1 pm, and realise that the journey back from Chicago was behind me. Forced myself, and Lorraine after strong coffee, to get up. A beautiful day in Brighton - considerably warmer than Chicago - and Lorraine and I went for a brief walk down to the shops before she went home, as we'd both crashed out at my place, being right next to the station.

Have loads of entries to catch up on, and some excellent photos to upload, so will be doing that asap.

Calliope bit and scratched me quite badly when I got back home, and it was only when I turned on my computer and sat in my study did everything click for her, and she sat on my shoulder nuzzling my face full of purring. She is a creature of passions.

Fish all present and correct. Lorraine's folks, and Beth and Mark had done a great job of looking after my beasts and house. In fact, Maureen Lorraine's mum had organised my airing cupboard. Amazing stuff, items all sorted and in neat piles. Found things in there I had not seen for two years.

Have messages from my old agency, so it seems that I will be working tomorrow too, which is good. Pottered about doing laundry, tidying up the place, and gripped with odd urges: suddenly descaling the kettle could no longer wait, nor could cleaning my bit of carpet upstairs.

Blearily organising photos etc. which I will gradually upload over the next day or so. Much correspondence to catch up on. Received a warmly signed poetry book by Renee Monamy.

Need to sleep now. Everything seems a bit too complicated.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bucking and plunging

Up early in the splendid Ritz Carlton to pack in a frenzy. Outside, the sky blue and the Chicago skyscrapers glittering. Checked out, and met Toby and Romy in the luxurious lobby for a sad goodbye.

Then off in a yellow taxi to O'Hare airport. The friendly driver asking us where we were from. When we said England, he repeated the word as if he'd never heard of it. O'Hare not my favourite airport, and the United Airlines check in a shambles, but the flight to Toronto fine, despite rude cabin crew and inter-passenger bickering. Last time I was there on a business trip, I had to argue for 45 minutes before I was let onto the plane, as they had lost my booking.

At Toronto a beer and some small grub, before catching the Thomas Cook flight to England. Something rather nice about being called mate by the steward, and the cabin crew almost stereotypically gay, and the Irish head stewardess making the whole plane laugh as she talked to us over the PA.

The flight was fast and we arrived before dawn. Disappointingly, I had a crisis mid-Atlantic. In a period of quite bad turbulence I found myself very panicked. A tranquiliser, a gin, a long listen to my meditation tapes, not to mention reassurance from Lorraine saw me quell the existential horror.

Delighted to land, and to safely collect Pinkie and Strangeface our cases (so called as one is pink and the other has a strange face). From the train, the Sussex countryside looking green and pleasant in the first light.

Arrived feeling oddly buzzy in a sleepy Bank Holiday Brighton at 7:20am. Trundled cases into the Twitten. Home at last.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Obama cut

Off with Toby and Romy to meet Gillian and Anna who was a local guide. We went out towards where Obama's old area was, and passed his house guarded by police cars. It is next door to a Synagogue.

We also saw Hyde Park, including a lovely Japanese garden. Past universities and so on. Paused at Robie House by Frank Lloyd Wright. And we took the tour, while Anna took a break. It does seem to have a discernible Japanese influence. Fascinating place, although I can't say I particularly warmed to it, for reasons that I find hard to pinpoint. I would love to see the exquisite Falling Water one day however.

After much more walking we stopped off at Obama's barbers. We popped our heads in where various people were getting their hair cut as you would expect. You could get an Obama cut for, I think, $23. Behind perspex was the actual chair, and I dutifully snapped this for lovers of kitch everywhere.

Back to the hotel to collect Lorraine who had been shopping and chilling in the park, to go for another meal. I had a large burger and fries and cold beer. Good think I don't live here for good.

All off this evening to Simone, Nori and Maria's house. Caught the L train there. Felt quite big and clever doing this. Got off in a lively area and walked around the corner where there was a big concert hall to their apartment.

As well as the residents, Gillian's sister Helen was also there, who I had met once before several years ago. Also a friend of Maria's called Paul. Entertainment provided by a chihuahua dog, which was so catlike I found myself warming to it. Nori and Simone were cooking steaks on the balcony barbecue, and we sat outside. Felt like I had beamed down into a film set, looking down at the sidestreet, and hearing the band Nine Inch Nails rumbling in the concert theatre, the Aragon Ballroom, which was literally next door.

Very warm hospitality and a delicious spread of food, with steaks and prawns and rice and dhal, enough to feed a cast of thousands. Maria telling us about going to China next week to work on a project for an English company to do with renewable energy. She has an 18 month contract, and she has no family connections. I suggested she start a blog.

After a lovely evening we decided to get a cab home. Unfortunately the theatre letting out its contingent of Nine Inch Nail fans, the L was blocked, all taxis taken. Meanwhile I managed to duck inside the bar, encouraged by Gillian, where Al Capone was said to have drunk. The doorman was charging for entry but in the confusion I slipped in and out unnoticed. An unremarkable place.

Paul drove us back to the hotel. Telling us about his life in Florida, and the disruption in the aftermath of hurricanes.

Below Anna our guide outside Roby House, Toby and Gillian at lunch, an abandoned car that needed photographing, the Obama Chair, and a painting in Hyde Park Hair salon.










Friday, August 28, 2009

Nighthawks

I got up early this morning, and went to a cafe to do a spot of writing while Lorraine snoozed. I began to feel very odd and anxious as the morning wore on and we four made our way through the busy streets of Chicago this morning. However it transpired that I was really dehydrated, and several pints of water later I felt what passes for normal again.

Up the "Mag Mile" and here and there. Eventually, after pausing for yet more food, off to the Chicago Art Institute. Spent many happy hours goggling at so many amazing artworks I'd only seen in books. I only realised after an hour or so that people were happily snapping away with their cameras at the art pieces. So I joined in capturing images by personal PK favourites such as Klee, Ernst and Leger. Also some amazing Van Goughs there, including his wonderful self portrait. Looked at the American art too, with Nighthawks by Edward Hopper being the most famous, and also my favourite.

There was also a seriously good exhibition of Japanese screen painting called Beyond Golden Clouds. Wonderful images, including two with trees tied with poems.

In the evening off to a nearby Pizza restaurant, as I had convinced myself that pizza was the thing to eat in Chicago. Queued up for some time, but it was well worth it. Lovely pizza and more cold beer. A buzzy place crammed with Chicagoans enjoying their Friday night.

From here by taxi off to the Congress theatre to see Romy and Toby favourites The Babasonicos from Argentina. We met Gillian, Simone and Nori there too. Very Latin American audience, and English was quickly dispensed with in favour of Spanish. Two DJs playing rather interminably, and sending Lorraine to sleep, before the los Babas began their set. Romy very happy and fighting to the front in a fan girl way.

Quite enjoyed the Babasonicos, and their set got much stronger towards the end. Sound somewhat muddy though, and the theatre more than half empty. Toby told me that they play stadiums in Argentina. Nori drove us all home in their big boat sized car. Back at the hotel Lorraine, who was feeling a little under the weather and I gratefully slumped into our large bed on the twentieth floor, while Chicago twinkled on beneath us.

Below clouds obscuring the tops of buildings, the pizza restaurant, Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, and the cheery Babasonicos.



Thursday, August 27, 2009

Chicago by air and river

To Island Airport by cab. Porter Airlines very nice and professional, but it was a prop plane which chugged through the cloud a lot of the time, which I didn't particularly like.

Chicago grey and rainy when we arrived at Midtown airport. Toby given his traditional hard time at US customs, having to field annoying questions like: 'so, they teach English in Canada, do they?'

To the Ritz Carlton by cab. The clump of enormous buildings downtown seeming a bit disappointing from afar, until you got amongst them. Passed Navy Pier and the W hotel, which is the only part of Chicago I knew from my business trip several years ago. Pulled up at the Ritz Carlton, and was warmly greeted. Swanky and cool hotel. Lorraine and I have a wonderful room on the 20th floor.

After a half an hour crash out, Toby, Lorraine and I made our way up the Majestic Mile, grabbing a sandwich before making for the new Millennium Park park.

Two stunning and monumental works of public art there. The Crown Fountain, Designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa and made of fifty foot glass towers. A reinvention of fountains. Stunning stuff, and using the faces of people from Chicago. Then an Anish Kapoor piece called Cloud Gate, which was fabulous, and completely made up for me being underwhelmed by his work in Brighton earlier this year.

After this, the wonderful Romy had booked us onto an architectural river boat tour. Toured this amazing vertical city, the birthplace of skyscrapers.

Back to the hotel. Lorraine and I met Toby in the bar and we drank some mohitos, which were a new drink on me. Then off to a noisy tapas place to meet up with Romy, Gillian, Gillian's cousin Simone and her housemates Nori and Maria. We all ate gargantuan amounts of Spanish food, and drank sangria. I felt rather well oiled by the time we returned to the hotel.

In between all this meditating on the unnaturalness of these skyscrapers. It seems to me to be a triumph of trust in human ingenuity over common sense, that people are willing to live 50 stories in the air.
Below a scene from the boat trip, me Lorraine and Toby reflected in the Kapoor, inside Cloud Gate, and the amazing Crown Fountain.


















Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Meaty returns

Woke to hearing Romy saying hello to Meaty. And Toby saying that it should not be let out again. This was a big relief to everyone as there had been a spate of missing black cats in the neighbourhood, and I was not alone in picturing a lone black cat despoiling psycho adding to his sinister tally.

A lurking about day today. Off again to the Creamer cafe, and then to Cool hand of a girl for lunch. A cool name for a cafe, that Toby said was from a Camus novel. Also popped into a local shop to meet a pal of Toby's and ducked in and out of various architectural reclamation shops. Toby found an old doorknocker with Guernsey written on it, which be bought for a song.

In the evening off to meet Romy at the bottom of the BMO tower and go for some grub. Off to the Lee Garden in Spadina Avenue. (Spadina will undoubtedly be a female character in the next Skelton Yawngrave adventure.) Delicous food here, and the place always crammed.

High Park had four llamas, a yak and a wallaby roaming about in it last night, having been set from by pranksters.

Below some Toronto streetscenes.












Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Maid of the Mist, and a lost meatball

Toby and Romy feeling horrible today as Meaty has disappeared, in a completely uncharacteristic manner. Much breakfasttime wandering about the neighbourhood in a futile search for the anxious faced little thing.

Lorraine and I however left to visit Niagara Falls. Went downtown to central Toronto and caught a coach. We somehow got on an earlier than scheduled one, which stopped near Niagara Falls casino. Strangely vulgar town, with a ferris wheel and odd towers looking down at the two parts of the falls, the smaller US side, and the horseshoe Canadian side.


However the falls themselves are wonderful, and the views amazing. Great peoplewatching to be had too. Had a fastfoody lunch, and then decided to go on one of the Maid of the Mist boats. Soon we were putting on our thin blue waterproof, and herding onto the boat. It was genuinely exciting to be to close to the falls' thunder, and to enter the mist and coast among rainbows.


Niagara coach station is a cab ride from the centre, sleepy ride home, then in Toronto the TTC back to Junction. Toby joined us at a bar near where he lives called the Troubadour. Drank beer briefly, but with immense enjoyment. Toby had a wretched day putting missing posters up. Romy very upset too, and back at work too to make things worse.
Nevertheless, Toby, Lorraine and I went to the excellent Curry Twist in the Juction. A reminder of what curry can taste like when it has fresh ingredients and is cooked with enthusiasm. Talked eccentrically to the waitress about being a sumo.

Home past posters of Meaty. Another bit of a search before returning home. Romy upset. An early night.

Below , a rather wet Lorraine, tourists on the US side of the falls, one of the Maids of the Mist shot from above, people on the boat, and the Canadian falls. As ever, click the pics to enlarge.






































More Niagara



Monday, August 24, 2009

A spot of shopping

Back in Toronto. It seems Lorraine has actually found a buyer for her house, and has put in an offer on the funky place which has been accepted. Amazing, how you can buy and sell property from afar. Off to Creamer Cafe, the Tobster's local cafe haunt for cups of coffee. Like an office this morning, with people all busy at their laptops, and plugging in without a second thought. Good to hang out with Toby doing nothing in particular. Romy back at work till Thursday, standing in for her boss.

Off down town this lunchtime. Walking past City Hall where Toby and Romy were married, and into the vast Mall of the Eaton Centre. Nice public art of a big flock of geese on strings. To prevent a shopping nosebleed, Toby wandered off and left us to it. Supervised by Lorraine, I ended up buying a species of hoodie and gym pants.

After meeting up again with Toby, I had a clear and distinct need for beer. My wish was granted in an upmarket sort of burger joint called Baton Rouge. The tasteless and supremely cold beer was surprisingly delicious, and the burger and fries action brick-like.

In the evening walked off through High Park with bats twisting in the dusk air, and off to a restaurant called Fat Cat where I'd been with Toby and Romy three years ago. The area is really up and coming, and there was now a plethora of restaurants and bars. Tonight sat in the garden of the Black Cat wine bar, and drank beer and tea and ate eating light and delicate food. Taxi home. Toby and I sitting chatting for a bit, with Meaty resting her head on Toby.

Below the Eaton Centre.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Farewell to Joan and Dick

Very sad to leave Deviation Road. I got up early again to sit chatting with Joan and Dick. Joan makes everything seem like a home from home, and it is surprisingly difficult to leave. Joan gave Lorraine and I some of their neighbour's maple syrup and two pairs of beautiful and toasty socks that Joan had hand knitted. I can picture myself on my gold sofa, with my cat, and my feet resplendent in these socks. I shall think of Deviation Road.

Before we left, a trip to see the abandoned kittens with Romy and Joan, which had visibly improved in just a few days. Also we walked into the barn, which is storing some hay, and is currently the happy home of a cat called Lucky Jim. Huge and fascinating space. Joan talking about the stacking of bales that she and Romy did when Romy was a teenager. Romy said the air was full of dust and it was really hot work.

Then some sad goodbyes, and Toby drove us back to Toronto. Arriving home to a happy Meatball cat, and we all had a doze.Both Lorraine and I now much more relaxed than before, and I can think of going home now without shrieking with horror.

In the evening off to meet Momoyo, who is a long term friend of Hiroko. Toby drove us to a Korean restaurant where we had a sort of table barbecue with lots of meat, and cold Japanese beer. All very nice, and Momoyo charming too, and much to my surprise gave Lorraine and I some cured salmon as a present before zooming off in a sporty white car.

Below Romy and the rescue cats, inside the Barn, and Dick and Joan (and Nico's butt).



Saturday, August 22, 2009

A hand like a foot

The bellowing of a bull at dawn from several fields away. And leaving Lorraine dozing happily in bed, a quick cup of coffee and then I was taken for an early morning walk by the dogs Maggie and Nico. They led me into the forest, bounding around and looking impatiently over their shoulders while I stopped to snap photos. Maggie springing tiggerishly in the long grass and the edges of fields planted with fodder crops alfalfa and timothy.

A very still and quiet morning. Later Lorraine and I snuck out to try to snap shots of hummingbirds, and could hear Dick talking indoors. All day, when I was indoors, I was conscious of the house being surrounded by a great quietness.

Lorraine really inspired by Joan's craft work. Showing me with great approval Joan's funky hats that she sells for a good price in a local hairdresser.

When Ethan came around, the afternoon was given over to gaming. For they are fanatics on Deviation Road. We played a game called Stone Age and I was astonished at Lorraine, who within minutes she had learned its mystifying complexities, and by the end of the afternoon was playing as fanatically as Joan or Romy (who is in these circumstances usually referred to by Toby as "The sleeper"). In fact Lorraine won both games.

We paused for another triumphant meal, with steaks masterfully barbecued by Ethan. I ate far too much again. Then fond farewells to Ethan and in the evening we played a spirited six-handed game of euchre to Guernsey rules. (For there is another wrong headed sort of euchre played here too to deviation rules). Joan however rather short changed by playing with Toby and I, old euchre hands, and losing. Twice. As my grandfather would have said, I had a hand like a foot. all night long.

And so to bed.

Below following Nico into the forest, the dialogue of trees and clouds, wildflowers, a hummingbird and a frog.


























Friday, August 21, 2009

Listening to the wind, looking at the stars

Dawn and looking at the window frame at the foot of the bed change colour from pink through yellow to white as the sun rose. I got up early and spent some time talking to Dick and Joan over toast and coffee.

Lorraine's house deals moving swiftly, and it seems she has found a buyer for her house, and the offer on her new house has also been accepted. Still very stressful doing all this remotely.

Out in the clinic Joan and Dick are keeping a rescued cat and its kittens. These animals are all in bad shape, and Dick, a retired vet, is treating them. He took Lorraine and I there to help. Lorraine holding the kittens, and Dick dropping pills into their mouths and rubbing their throats gently with his big hands. I stood by a door, and made sure that no kitten got treated twice.

A quick go in the hammock, looking up into the tree, with Baxter the cat on my chest, and Nico the dog sitting below.

Then a walk through the fields and into the forest beyond. The fields and hedges filled with goldenrod, Queen Anne's lace, and purple napweed. Dick like a tour guide this morning. Stopping to tell us the ages of his three donkeys. Then into the forest, pointed out sugar maples, black cherry, or how the ash grows by the side of a field. With Dick's tilly hat, beard, and big stick, plus his voice that can be heard across fields, and his patient healing of everything from donkeys to tiny kittens it's hard not to think of him as a Tom Bombadil character.

Later I had the opportunity for a spot of meditation, listening to the wind is passing through the trees like a tide. Interrupted by a thrum of a hummingbird, and after a while, Nico the big golden dog, sighing bored at my feet.

Late afternoon Toby and Dick set off to meet Romy, and Joan drove Lorraine and I off to Creemore, meeting Ethan en route to form a convoy at the Maxwell Meats crossroads. Joan and Lorraine chatting in the front seats. Everyone seems to like Lorraine very much, which I am very pleased about. I was in the back, rubbernecking at the big land with its wide open fields, thick wooded hills, and huge sky tumbled with clouds.

We all met at a nice French restaurant in a very pretty town of Creemore, literally across the road from the small Creemore brewery. Only in Lewes have I drunk a beer with a smaller carbon footprint. A really nice family meal. Romy straight from work, and everyone laughing and cheery. Good French food. I had moules and chicken. Nice service too, the waitress bending confidentially to ask if I needed another beer. Beside me Ethan had snails and a steak. Ethan is such a brilliant meat chef, that serving him with a steak must be like showing a weekend watercolour to Picasso.

Home was almost an hour's drive across country. At one point Joan had to break hard to miss some small deer scampering across the road. Arriving safely and the rain clouds were gone, and the stars were out, and I while everyone headed into the farm, I walked into the darkness to gaze up into the great swathe of the milky way.

I love this place.

Below a walk in the woods, view from the hammock with Baxter on my belly, and one of Dick and Joan's sunflowers.




Thursday, August 20, 2009

Into the wild boonies

Set off for Deviation Road this morning with Lorraine and Toby. Much discussing of a house offer Lorraine has received. Amazing how you can negotiate a house sale from across the world these days. Toby driving us out of the suburbs of Toronto, one called the Vales of Castlemore, a vast, soulless housing development with no discernible infrastructure to serve it other than roads.

Lovely to escape into the gentle rolling hills and the vast landscapes of South Ontario. After stopping for some excellent Italian pastries, we stopped for lunch at Susan's cafe in the tiny town of Markdale. We have been here before and Joan is well known there.A bit like going back in time, and here I consumed two excellent pies. A chicken pie and a blueberry pie. Susan came to speak to us, and we admired her prizewinning hooking picture on the wall. Fell into conversations with two old timers there. Ingrid who was originally German and had been in Ontario for a little short of fifty years. She is an accountant and met her husband within weeks of arrival. She now collects teddy bears and has over 400. "I like naked bears," she said, "so I can make clothes for them." There was a snowy bearded man who told us we were a long way from home, and wanted to talk about Scotland.

Off for the final leg of the journey, after buying some booze at the LTBO, which is the government regulated liquor store. Then through a tiny town called Walter's Falls and turned onto Deviation Road. A very warm welcome from Joan and Dick and Ethan. Wonderful to see them. Not to mention the two dogs Nico and Maggie and the many cats, including Stella and Clemantine the kittens.

Joan and Dick's house is unlike anywhere I have ever been, and they are so welcoming and hospitable that it is impossible not to feel at home right away. Deviation road is so called because it deviates from the grid of compass points that the other roads were made to. There are a few other properties on it, but the nearest one is a large field and some trees away. Just the sheer space around you is difficult for a city dweller to take in at first.

We all had a drink and as we did so there was a violent thunderstorm, and a huge deluge. Later it emerged that this was a storm full of twisters, and nearby towns were damaged, and one person was killed. It is a different thing to experience a storm in the middle of an English town to being in a house among flat fields and forest. Maggie the dog was hiding under a blanket on the couch next to us.When Ethan went home later on, his power wasn't working and roofs were missing in nearby towns.

Soon the weather changed and the sun came out and everything looked fresh and the blue bruised sky retreated. A turkey vulture patrolled the field, and later Lorraine was delighted to see a hummingbird. Chatted with Ethan as he barbecued massive pork chops in one of the sheds. Sat down to a delightful meal. Not only was the meat simply the best pork I have ever tasted in my life, but all the fresh beans and potatoes had been fresh pulled from the land. Joan is a sensational pie maker too.

Felt a little jetlagged still, and sank happily into bed with Lorraine at night hearing only wind in the hushed land around us.

Below the view from Joan and Dick's house showing the colour of the passing storm.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The black squirrel of happiness

Blearily sipping tea, as Romy hurried off to work. I looked at a squirrel in the back yard, its blackness betraying the fact I was in the new world. Mason's birthday tomorrow, and the card I sent him with a Salty-alike being harangued for having no bollocks went down well.

Typically there is action on Lorraine's house. Much thinking and discussion about this. But it is good news.

Toby took Lorraine and I off to Creamer cafe, a local Toby haunt near his house. I had an agent cooper moment, supping their damn fine coffee. He treated us to a show and tell on his crotchtop computer of their amazing trip to Argentina.

A relaxed bus and metro trip to the centre of town, around the corner from where Toby had lived. Into the AGO, the Art Gallery of Ontario, which has been substantially rebuilt since I was here three years ago.Now it has a beautiful curving glass front designed by Frank Gehry. I have photos and will upload them later. Toby took us for lunch in a swanky new restaurant attached to the gallery called Frank.

Then we dived into the art. I am particularly interested in Canadian artists, like the group of seven and the amazing Emily Carr. This trip I was particularly taken with the work of Lawren Harris, especially a piece called Beaver Swamp. Canadian art seems to me to be full of the aloneness of the viewer looking almost uncomprehendingly into a landscape that dwarfs them. The response is to simplify forms, and it is full of huge blocks of cloud and forests and mountains.
Many other delights there including a briefcase of wooden fishes, and an amazing collection of work by Guiseppe Penone who carves logs so that they have saplings emerging from them, or he wraps venerable old logs in leather.

Home for a snooze, and Romy came home from work, and she rustled up some lovely Thai food still in her suit. Much chatting and sampling of wine from an Argentinian vineyard where cacti grow among the vines. It is very good to be with Toby and Romy.

Below Beaver Swamp by Lawren Harris. Seeing it for real was an amazing experience. The light in the sky glows. It is a stunningly good painting. Lorraine in Frank, two shots outside the gallery, and Meatball, the world's most anxious looking cat.











Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hurtling into the sky

Rushing about all morning, getting the house straight for Lorraine's parents who are coming to take care of my beasts. Lorraine and I finally off to Gatwick in enough time for a pre-flight gin and tonic. Flight on time too, and although there was tad too much buck and plunge for my tastes the fight was not entirely hellish. Clouds all the way to Canada, sometimes even at 35,000 feet. Two more gins and listening to my audiobook about medieval England. No fish was safe from the table in those days, they even ate minnows and classified beavers as fish. As we followed the sun around the globe, Lorraine showed me how to do sudoku.

Arrived in a warm and sticky Toronto at 7.00pm local time. A interminable wait for luggage spent staring at poster with a huge chunk of steak on it. Once through there was the very welcome sight of Toby waiting to collect us. We arrived home shortly afterwards with only minor alarms over lost car park tickets to detain us.

The angelic Romy had sparkling mineral water with a squeeze of lemon on hand, followed by more gin and tonic. She'd prepared a delicious meal of salmon and pasta salad. Lorraine and I unable to think or speak by then, so to bed, pausing only to rumple the head of the sweet but anxious-faced Meatball cat.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Faffing


Faffing about, taking care of last minute bits, including a smidge of hepatitis work. This of course reminds me... Q: What's the most dangerous insect in the world? A: The hepatitis bee.

Luckily for Calliope and my fishy friends, Lorraine's parents Pat and Maureen are going to be staying in the twitten while I am gone. This very kind, and I hope they enjoy a pied-à-terre in the centre of Brighton. Their imminent arrival however has necessitated a general scrubbing of things today to conceal the debased nature of my housecleaning. It also forced me to stash crack pipe, snuff movies, side arms etc. in case they get some funny ideas about me.

Calliope standing forlornly in my case as I pack it.

Walking improving all the time. Depressingly, though, I have undone all the good gym work while sprawling on my gold sofa like Jabba the Hut in the last few weeks.

Spoke to Toby and Mum, and Romy sent me a note to say it is 39C in Toronto with pictures of meatball experiencing its first heatwave. God willing, I shall be rumpling Meaty's head tomorrow. My whole family is now mad for cats, and it is Romy's fault.

Quite annoyed with Lorraine as it transpires that she doesn't particularly like flying. I patiently explained there is only room for one neurotic in this relationship, and that's me.

Below Calliope's Canadian cousin, Meatball.




Sunday, August 16, 2009

Snap happy

Managed to lurk in bed most of the morning. Once I'd got up, it was a beautiful day, and I had a camera! Yippee. Walked to the other side of town with Lorraine to see Beth at work on the till in Morrisons sporting her Need any help? Just ask me! badge. Very cheery she seemed too.

Wandered back snapping things.

Below a button shop, two of my angel fish, a picture of reflection, Pavilion Gardens.

















Saturday, August 15, 2009

A night on the town

Walking around town fairly fluently today. Wearing my walking boots is a good idea as it shores up the rubbish ankle.

I bought a camera, ending the extensive period of mourning for my Lumix LX1 probably left on a bus: a splendid camera which always worked fabulously however I abused it. Now I have a Lumix DMC-TZ7 which is a sort of niece or nephew of the LX1. Naturally I have no idea what all the letters and numbers mean, but it is a very nice camera and even simpler to use than my old one. Then off to various shops, including Long Tall Sally where Lorraine is drawn like a bee to a bloom.

Bumped into Spooner and Ali and their delightful bairns. All looking well after a burst of sun in Greece. Spooner positively glowing with health.

Similarly Anton and Anna looking brown and very chilled after their weeks of camping in Dorset when we met them for Brian's birthday drink tonight. We all had a few drinks in the Caxton and ended up having a curry in our usual place. Lorraine and I had bought Brian a pair of wind up racing rats, so that he doesn't completely forget what he's missing between jobs.

Good to catch up. Anton telling me that Klaudia and Oskar particularly liking a tank collection. They also met a famous chef, and Anton has twisted his ankle in a bizarre clambering over a fence in the middle of the night accident.

I am mainly drinking gin and tonic these days (known as a Copy Shop lemonade, when Reuben First Matie and I first worked together). The only disadvantage is that it doesn't seem to make me drunk.

Then the usual fawning on Lorraine in the restaurant, and Brian given a free drink. Then a taxi home, after a splendid night.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The bleak abates

Splendid. The end of work for a while. Spoke to my pal Al, and to Sally, the woman I've been dealing with lately. Sally was a breath of fresh air, being efficient and easy to deal with. Sent a note to her boss to explain this. Did you know that a third of the world's population has had or has now got Hepatitis B? Another healthcare fact I wish I'd never learned.

Beginning now to feel properly holidayish, and my bleakness gradually abating.

Ken dropped by this morning to leave some information on Toronto and Chicago that Janet found for me. Ken is so disgusted with politicians, 'fifty years of wankers' that he is plotting visiting the mother of parliaments with a barrel of gunpowder. Symbolic gunpowder and not real gunpowder I imagine, although I'm not totally convinced. I hope I'm as militant as Ken when I'm 78.

Lorraine called around this evening. We ended up sauntering (if you can saunter with a limp) into El Mexicano. This claims to be the only authentic Mexican in Brighton, and offers solid but bland grub. Lorraine said that the chef doesn't taste the food as it was under seasoned. Little chili action too. Despite these reservations it was all quite tasty. I had a margarita, source of salty, limey goodness and we had a nice enough time discussing nothing in particular.

After wandering past buskers and through the lively thronging Friday night town. Brighton is a great place to be. Met Beth and Mark in the street,Beth sporting a big owl teeshirt, and looking grown up after getting her first wages from her part time supermarket job.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Dreaming about serial killers

Contacting agents today. Plus lurking in children's book departments in Waterstones and Borders checking up on what's hot on the high street. Al called while I was looking through them, to do an emergency afternoon's work writing headlines for a multinational campaign about hepatitis A and B, which I was happy to do. Writing headlines you know are going to be translated means that any idiom or playfulness has to be vetoed as it can't be translated. And given that these were for a pharmaceutical company they have to be rather plonking too, and are legally vetted to within an inch of their lives.

Feeling begloomed, exhausted and overwhelmed with frustration. Nothing I have done seems worth a hill of beans at times like this. The feeling snowballs during the day, and the only thing I can face doing in the evening is to rest my ankle and watch Dexter. The series is fascinating, and you are absolutely on the side of this lovable serial killer, and you don't want him to be caught. Even dreamed about it the other night.

I need to start meditating again. And boy do I need a holiday. Exceedingly luckily, however, I am just about to have one, which is rather splendid.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Skelton's got a page

Another Peter Kenny day. Much of the morning eaten by a visit to the quack, who was very busy and stressed. An hour's wait.

The afternoon spent doing this www.skeltonyawngrave.com.

In the evening went with Lorraine as she looked at a really funky house in a converted warehouse. Amazing place, owned by a photographer with new agey interests. Lovely arched gothic windows, and a mezzanine floor. Beautifully decorated and a very peaceful atmosphere.

Felt ennervated and depressed by the end of the day. After Lorraine fed me with salady goodness, returned home to watch Dexter and take an early night.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Peter Kenny day

Agency awaiting feedback on all my writing today, so yippee! I had a Peter Kenny day instead. Building my Skelton Yawngrave site still. Have done the video, and am sound editing a 15 minute read excerpt. Editing sound files takes forever. But it is so great to have a break from thinking about arthritis and marketing implementation guides, to be doing the real stuff again.

A note from Mindy today, who is back at home eating chocolate biscuits and feeling okay, which was great to hear. Hearing from Lorraine who is rushing about on house selling business. Her holiday so far has been completely arduous.

Mooched briefly to the shops today, bought some prawns which I shared with a grateful Calliope. Still hobbled, I rented Dexter series two in the evening, and watched a few episodes of that. It's wonderful stuff. I love its dark threads of humour. I can't remember the last time I watched so much TV as the last couple of months.

Monday, August 10, 2009

No model of deportment

Lorraine having stayed overnight zoomed home. She is on holiday now so is dealing with plumbers, estate agents, looking at houses etc. I meanwhile simply got down to work writing the Implementation Guide for all the Arthritis stuff I've been working on. It is all beginning to take shape, which is good.

My poor client had a computer meltdown this afternoon, and this enabled me to do some of my own things slightly earlier. Refining my skeleton video pitching Skelton Yawngrave. The idea is people click onto the micro site page I am building then they have the option of having a skeleton tell them about my story. My first take was way too long, as I'm aiming for a 30 seconds "elevator pitch". I also need to record a short audio-book style excerpt (which is an idea of Anton's) to download from the site. All this necessitates a rather mad and piercing voice characterisations.

Long email from Richard in Guernsey discussing our top secret remora fish poetry project (i.e. a project that hangs off of another one). Nice chat with mum too. And a note from Joan.

My walking is still ropey, and climbing stairs an Igor style shuffle. Making me think of myself as the opposite to Mr Turveydrop in Bleak House, who of course is a model of Deportment.

Finished The Guernsey Literary and Potato zzzzzz. That's a few hours I'll never get back again. And so blamelessly to bed.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

A thieving seagull and the life of Brian

Long overnight snooze at Lorraine's house. Woke up feeling a little more refreshed than I have done. Had breakfast downstairs in her kitchen. The back door opened and continually menaced by Eric the seagull, who managed to stab his thieving yellow beak a few times into Basil and Brian's catfood.

Been reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, as it is required reading for my Guernsey project. This is a book which has topped the New York Times chart. It is an epistolary novel, i.e. in letters, which makes it easy to read in short chunks. It's easy to read and pleasant enough, although the plot unfolds in a very predictable way. The smart London voices are handled well, and sound authentic for the time.

It features a book group (a masterstroke, in terms of selling it) supposedly on Guernsey during the occupation, and I found it unconvincing. From a Guernsey perspective the island is not described with any reality, none of the Guernsey characters writes or talks with a shred of local authenticity. It weaves in some of the nasties happening on the continent in a similarly unconvincing way. For example there is much made of the girls in the prison camp being maltreated when they had their period... And there was I thinking that starved women, literally being worked to death don't generally find themselves able to menstruate.

Anyhow otherwise had a pleasant Sunday. Changed the water in my fish tank, made some time to work on the anthology of Guernsey project and continued to make a few tweaks to Skelton Yawngrave. Chapter 13 which was a bit long is now Chapter 13.a Unlucky for some, 13.b The ungrateful weasels, and 13c. The heartbreak of Spooney. Breaking the chapter was a great idea of Joan's, and Lorraine suggested it be broken into a, b and c, which is completely in keeping with the footnotes, and the tone of the book.

The Tobster called this afternoon sounding rather relaxed and happy.

In the evening went out for an Italian meal with Lorraine and Brian, who are getting along famously. Good fun. Brian called for us, and we walked to the long end of the Twitten, and there was a heartbreaking cry from Calliope who had followed us, making me feel guilty, despite the fact that weasel had been irritably gnawing my hand before we left.

We took Brian to the Brighton Tavern (after eating indifferent Italian food at Carluccio's), and discussed his possible move here. This everyone is very much for.

And so to bed.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Friday feeling

End of a long week. Busy rewriting a campaign implementation guide all day, which is a photo finish between complexity and tedium. Still, I am very pleased to be working and this is helping to pay for my trip to the New World. The people I am dealing with in the agency very pleasant too.

Managing to walk a little better now.

Also have been putting together my site for the anthology of Guernsey. It is in a pre-beta state, but for an early squint go here. Using some of my many Guernsey photos for the site - the initial selections will be added soon, and I hope to go live with it in September, to coincide with a scoot over there, and maybe a radio interview.

Received an amazing essay by an old university pal Michael Stone Richards, who is now Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, Critical Theory at a University in Detriot. The essay is about Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, a writer and artist of whom I was completely ignorant until now. MSR has a huge brain, and so I must read some of her work.

In the evening hobbled up the road to see Ken and Janet with Lorraine. Beardy kisses from Ken. We have a lovely meal and a long chat. I scored a bottle of gin before I went so I could sip gin and tonic, rather than risk wine or beer. Both on fine form, and Janet having been particularly productive producing artwork made of fabric, and a collage after a day's course with Maria Rivans, who I have praised many times in this blog, and an original sits, Frasier Crane style, by my desk.

Home to an earlyish bed.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

An inconvenience

Able to hobble with a lot more fluency this afternoon. An entirely drug free day. Excited by emails from Romy who has sorted out in exemplary style an itinerary for the visit to the New World. Otherwise wrote digital copy about arthritis and osteoporosis, which was less exciting.

A little after five thirty I met First Matie in Marks and Sparks. Back to my place for cups of tea. She had just been down for a casting interview for a random TV show. We left for the Sussex Yeoman just around the corner to strap on the nosebag, phoning Lorraine before I left.

On leaving Kate and I were surprised to find a gentleman of the road sitting with his back against my front door, all the better to urinate into his trousers. He was tremendously polite, however, which was disorienting. I was tremendously polite too, and Katie and I climbed over him into the Twitten. I returned a short while later, and applied a judicious bucket of water to the spot where he had been.

In the Yeoman I phoned Brian, who is cat sitting for Anton and Anna and who arrived quickly after. Lorraine arrived after a hectic day sorting house stuff out and working. We four had a cheery meal, three of us eating a highly be-vegetabled version of bangers and mash. I had a couple of gins before we all went our separate ways. Calliope ran up to me fetchingly as I was saying goodbye to Kate at the end of my Twitten. Home to watch more of the somewhat disturbing Dexter before welcome bed.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The road less goaded

Much better day today. Unable to walk, however, but at least the diabolical skewering has passed. But climbing my few stairs currently takes 30 seconds. I was able, however, to catch up on the work I was supposed to have done yesterday. Writing about osteoporosis as well as arthritis. It is a lucky and wonderful thing that I make a living as a hack writer. At least I can do it while unable to walk.

Had time to work on the Guernsey anthology website, and make a few tweaks to Skelton Yawngrave, which I shall be releasing into the wild soon. Waves of excitement and trepidation when I think of this.

Decided to go to Chicago as well as Canada with the Tobster and Romy when I'm on holiday. Have only been there on business before. Hoping I will be able to walk when I get there.

Had a nice chat with Mike my old art director, who was working in London. Will meet up with him soon. Lorraine came around this evening with a sparkling mineral water and her showy walking abilities.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Nocturne

Ankle pain so skewering that I managed just one hour's sleep. Lay awake all night with my window open, listening to people swearing in the Twitten. At 3am the mad bellowing of drunken homeless people coming from by the station, cacophonous seagulls, the soft roar of the steet cleaning vehicle passing up Queens Road, a woman coughing and retching at the end of the alley, decorative birdsong and cats fighting and, eventually, the first footfalls of commuters heading to the station. A disturbing nocturne.

Got up at 6:30 in too much pain to sleep, so worked for a while. Got Mindy up, who was sleeping on the gold sofa. Realised I could hardly walk again. Cup of tea with Mindy, who then left. Felt sad to see her go off to a frankly horrid week.

I used my hiking stick to make it to the doctors. Still not sure what's up, although the best bet is gout, triggered by a viral infection. Obviously had to walk on excruciating ankle to get to the doctors and pharmacist. Home and with leg hurting like a bastard, set up laptop and worked downstairs feeling groggy with pain and sleeplessness.

After work, couch potatoed and watched Dexter and Frasier. Talk about a contrast. Spoke to Mum and Lorraine. Got an email from Jane in Guernsey who has done well in a recent poetry competition.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

A Sunday Minday

Lorraine seized with the desire to get on with things this morning. cooking breakfast and reorganising my spice rack, before going home. I spent the afternoon in hot knife through butter mode, getting completely up to date on my arthritis stuff.

Mindy drove down from Leamington late this afternoon. We'd not seen each other for about nine years, in fact from before I started this blog. Mindy and I go way back and, among many other wheezes and schemes, have dabbled in theatre together. She is at a crossroads in her life, not least that she has to have a mastectomy next week. Despite having lots of serious stuff to talk about, we also had several belly laughs. Funny how many friends you can just pick up with as if no time had passed at all. We walked through town down to the seaside, and then after a beer in the Cricketers, had a nice vegetarian meal, appropriately, in Food for Friends.

Limped home from there, my ankle beginning to hurt again. Chatted a bit before Mindy started falling asleep. A really nice (and productive day).

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Pride Parade

More rain on the Pride parade this year. As ever a jolly event, which unites much of Brighton in sheer exuberant fun. Borrowed Lorraine's camera to take these snaps. Missing my lost camera really badly.