Thursday, December 31, 2009

End of the noughties

Feel I should put some chin stroking thoughtful stuff in here today, but I've never been one for seeing random calendar events as major landmarks. But the noughties were a lively time for me. I look forward to the new year with a mix of vague apprehension and great excitement.

Spent the day working up my new short story, called Where the beauty is which has turned out well, and clocking in very short at 1.5k.

Celebrated new year's eve with Lorraine. We sloped off to the Agra, our usual curry haunt, for an early curry. The food back on form again, which is good. Ash the chatty owner loves Lorraine and so gave us a free glass of bubbly with our poppadoms. Then we walked back through Brighton, back through knots of lightly-clothed revellers off to the dives of West Street.

We repaired to the Battle of Trafalgar, which was crammed. A band called Flat Stanley, a "trad-jazz-ska-punk-country outfit" parped bizarrely through a diverse repertoire, and were strangely perfect for the occasion. An altogethery atmosphere, and we were soon talking to several people in the pub, including a couple we swapped numbers with at the end of the night.

The bongs of Big Ben resounded through the pub as the science fiction year of 2010 stole across the UK. And, in my local at least, it arrived amid a melee of kissing and handshakes. Happy new year everyone.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mum's birthday

A good sleep in Edgware, only interrupted by the thundering of cats and a nocturnal hiss outside my door.

In the morning Wynford called around to give Mum a birthday present from Glen, Mum's next door neighbour, who died a couple of days ago. He obviously very shaken up by the death of his mother, but he has a strong faith in God which was obviously a comfort to him.

Up early and had a leisurely breakfast with Mum and Mase, then having a turkey lunch. Mum made me listen to the surprisingly good Nigel Kennedy Quartet. I also watched the swoopy bat-based punching epic Batman Begins with Mase. Surprisingly good.

Home late in the afternoon. Rather tiresome journey. Even trying to have an honest wee in the Brighton train proved impossible. Waiting patiently and with increasing urgency outside the only working toilet, an mad old bat begged me to let her go first. Reluctantly, and with little grace, I agreed. However these negotiations were redundant. The man inside simply refused to come out for the remainder of the journey, despite the aforementioned bat repeatedly banging on the door. Eventually I gave up and returned to my seat. This combined with absorbing the bile of The Hell of it All, by Charlie Brooker put me in rather a misanthropic mood. It is a really funny book, but slopping with cartoonish self-loathing.

Gratefully home to another rejection, but this time there was a crumb of comfort. Apparently my writing is fresh and funny, although still not for their list. At least on this occasion I had the sense of a sentient being having scanned my submission. Spoke to Bob and Lorraine. Later watched a moderately good BBC version of The Turning of the Screw, which gave me one or two enjoyable shudders.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ambush

Calliope and Lorraine have been conducting a turf war. The cat, who usually sleeps quietly on the bed, is persistently jumping hard on Lorraine's ribs in the middle of the night, sleeping on her head, and digging its claws into her feet. I have kept out of this, figuring a Darwinian pecking order will eventually emerge.

However, at 4 am I woke up gouting blood. Unaccountably Calliope had sunk one of her claws deep in my lip, and then ripped it out. A feline Pearl Harbour. After filling several tissues with gore I came back into the bedroom and pulled that cat from under the bed and beat it like a ginger stepchild until it zoomed off. This monstrous behaviour utterly appalled Lorraine, who lay awake as if suddenly finding herself in bed with Peter Sutcliffe.

Woke up later with the cat purring on my chest, so I was forgiven by her anyway. Up and quickly out into the rain. I had a few errands to run, and then Lorraine and I met up with Sophie, Andros, Christof and Elektra at Bills for breakfast. Lots of chatting and fun. Christof doing his usual twenty questions routine. I really like Sophie's family. Then fond farewells, and out in the rain to do some last minute shopping, before I travelled up to London to see Mum and Mase, leaving Lorraine to do more housey stuff.

Nice to arrive in Edgware after a longish seeming journey, and sit by the cozy fire, and sip some sloe gin. Mason has a sore throat which is forcing him to whisper like a Mafiosi. I discovered that they were both shocked by the sudden death of their next door neighbour Glen, matriarch of the Welsh family next door a couple of days before. Otherwise they had a busy and fun festive season.

Some swapping of Christmas pressies and feeding. Later we all watched a comedy movie called Love you to death which was apparently a true story of a wife's bungled attempt to murder a philandering husband.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Food for friends

Spent much of the day at Lorraine's house, helping her sort out the sheep from the goats when it came to packing up for her move. Looking at hideous under stairs areas, and her ex-husband's old study and so on. A world of stress for Lorraine who had to interrogate every object as to its future usefulness.

The Greeks in the evening. We met Sophie, Andros, Christof and Electra at Food for Friends, my favourite vegetarian restaurant. I had a great time catching up with Sophie and her lovely family. Christof still lively and chatty as ever, and Electra now suddenly quite grown up. I love talking to her kids, and Andros is a really good guy. And I always come away from seeing Sophie, having now known her for 30 years, feeling that she's almost like a sister.

Below some table photography. Christof, Andros and me, Lorraine Sophie and Electra.



Sunday, December 27, 2009

Crib notes

Off today to deepest Kent to visit Lorraine's folks Pat and Maureen in my capacity as fish consultant. After a nice cup of tea we went off to the local garden centre and fish emporium where I selected various plants and rock and bits of wood. Back home to set it up, and to be rewarded with roast beef, and roast potatoes cooked in goosefat.

I like Maureen and Pat. After the aquarium business, they taught me how to play cribbage. Lorraine and her parents were able to add the scoring permutations in a flash, which made me feel slightly retarded. But I like playing cards, and crib seems a good game.

I have spent countless hours hunched over hands like feet playing Euchre with my grandparents in Guernsey. My grandfather Dave, who Lorraine's dad reminds me of, was rather a good player, and played in a local Euchre league. After playing a hand badly, my Grandmother was frequently warned by Dave that if she'd done that down the club, she'd have left like a cullender. This was an oblique reference to being shot many times. Dave liked to make the Guernsey Euchre league sound like Chicago in the 1930s. Pat also showed me various running medals, including a first prize in a relay for a run in Guernsey in 1951. He was a keen runner and coach of local talent for years.

Home listening to the Tru Thoughts label anthology in Lorraine's car. A cold night, speeding home to Brighton listening to funky tunes under bright stars.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing clever

Up this morning to go shopping with Lorraine, Anna and Brian. Lurking in various shops, and stopping for coffee when it rained. Lorraine bought bags of clothes, and in one shop Brian installed himself in an armchair by the changing rooms and the ladies came out and displayed their clothes for his approval. Brian and I also went into a shop where I could fit into none of the clothes, but where the clotheshorsey Brian was gallingly able to slip into everything straight off the peg and look good in it.

Could this be linked to eating? Another large roast we tonight in day three of festive gorging. This followed by a trip to the Eddy for drinks with Anna, Anton and Brian. Cheery time, with Brian spotting some minor TV star, and as usual trying to buy everyone extra drinks before we left.

Been reading The Hell of it All by Charlie Brooker, which Lorraine got me for Christmas and literally laughing out loud, with the raging verbal violence of his rants for The Guardian. Brilliant.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Santas on surfboards

Merry Christmas! Lorraine and I up and out without pausing for breath or breakfast. A few days into a partial thaw, down to the seaside to see Brighton's annual Christmas Day swimmers. From there I called Mum. There were soon lots of people, and I'd estimate at least a hundred ended up in the water. The surf club paddled around the doughnut groyne dressed as Santas, which was a wonderful surrealistic sight. Then like lemmings, people surged en mass into the water, many in Santa hats. One guy I know vaguely came out of the water and shook my hand, saying that a man of my stature (he said patting my belly) should be in there too. It was 6 degrees.

Anton, Anna, Brian, Anne, Klaudia and Oskar arrived as it was ending, and after an incredibly long queue the adults sat in some winter sun drinking hot chocolates and coffee laced with a generous slug of the brandy Anne had brought with her. A really nice time. Then we wandered slowly home through the lanes carrying the children.

Lorraine and I had Christmas afternoon and evening together, cooking turkey and opening nice presents, and slumping contentedly before the TV after eating as much as humanly possible. All well.

Below swimmers, Santas and surfboards


























Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas eve

Pre-Christmas running about this morning, a brief kick in the teeth with two Skelly rejections, and then... Relax. Lorraine stopped by, then down to the Basketmakers to meet Sam, Beth and Mark. Cheery scene in the pub, and particularly nice for Lorraine as her children are not with her on Christmas day this year.

Then from there home to smarten up a smidge then off up to Anton and Anna's house to collect them and the children, plus Anne and Brian to go off to Church for the children's service. The place packed and the whole thing utterly chaotic. Father Robert barely able to speak due to a terrible throat, the child hordes chattering and weaseling through legs and under pews. One intrepid toddler even ascending the pulpit.

The microphone also kept cutting out on Father Robert, and another newly ordained man, and apparently ex-skinhead, jumped up and using an arm puppet called Scruffy (a talking dog) and another unpleasant homunculus called Gordon told a story whose moral was that Mary and Joseph were poor ordinary people not rich privileged ones. Klaudia who had been sitting on my lap and then Lorraine's explained to Lorraine that the puppets were not real, and that there was someone working them.

Then children prettily mobbing with candles to the altar, a bark through Away in a Manger, and O Little Town of Bethlehem and some unknown calypso carol (which lodged in my brain all night) before we were all released back into the wild. Brian and I reflecting that there is nothing like being in church to you want a drink.

Home to Anton and Anna's house, down the street Klaudia's school is in. The houses form an advent calendar, with numbers and lit scenes in their front windows. After the children off to bed, and we ate a lovely meal which Anne had cooked, and we ate and drank and quite literally made merry till late. A happy float down the hill to bed.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A festive tour of classic pubs

Up to London today. London looking beautiful in the crisp cold and low light. Met Jeanne, my French client for a cheeky in the Victorian splendour of The Salisbury. As we chatted, she sipped a half of Bombadier Bitter in an indesputably French way. From there I walked to Fleet Street to lurk in the pokey dark bar of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese to wait for Bob. It was full of people who had a Christmas lunch and carried on drinking. Including a couple, who sat next to me and were conducting an office affair. They'd not seen each other for a while. He asked, sheepishly, how she had been. She replied with a colourful description of how she had vomited the night before. His face was a picture, and I was trying not to snort with laughter into my stout.

Bob on good form, although by the time I met him I was already rather um, merry. After a steady warm up by the fire in the Cheese we sensibly repaired to a curry house for early vittles. Bob gave me a Tibetan singing bowl, and a copy of Little Dorrit. He demonstrated the singing bowl in the restaurant, slightly alarming the waiters. Then we walked up past St Paul's to The City Pipe. This was another dark den formerly populated by city gents. However this is no longer the original pub and, although still subterranean, it is bland. From here we lurched down to The Blackfriars. And finally to an old haunt the dive bar of the The Cole Hole on the Strand.

Exceedingly well oiled, I lurched onto the Tube making a fond farewell to Bob, before catching the slow train. Home half asleep at 1.00am.

Below a snap in Trafalgar Square, a glance down Whitehall, and the interior of The Salisbury.













Sunday, December 20, 2009

Shopping in Brighton

The streets still slidy, but had the most relaxing and productive day's Christmas shopping I can remember weaving in the lanes, and punctuated with a warming coffee. The shops weren't too busy, which was nice. Down on East Street a new clothes shop has opened, its window display made up of what must have been a hundred old sewing machines. A really amazing display, which I found myself having to photograph.

At the end of the shopping ended up in Borders, which has three days left of its existence. A melancholy scene.

On the way home Lorraine and I had a refreshing pause in The Caxton for a post five hour shopping bout beer. Then home to get changed, and off to Bills restaurant, where we met Lorraine's neighbours Sarah and JD, Patrick and Angie, and the Dawn for a delicious meal in a curiously empty restaurant. Due to frozen streets and it being a Sunday I suppose. I had a fisherman's pie, followed by a gorgeous berry crumble. Friendly bunch of folks, and lots of chatting about a variety of things including the likeable JD's wikipedia entry (he is a well known French rock journalist) which is largely fictitious, even claiming he played for Arsenal.

Treading safely under the new moon on the ice free Twitten pavement.

Below more sewing machines than you can shake a stick at (click to enlarge), and the scene in Borders with three days to go.







Saturday, December 19, 2009

Breaking the ice

Got up late, and the Twitten a death trap of black ice. The road leading down to the station appalling too. Lorraine cooked brunch, and I went outside with a spade and broke up some of the ice outside my house to the end of the Twitten. Went upstairs to my study to continue work o n the short story only for the incessant clanging of a spade outside. I'd woken the Twitten Spirit, so I went out and Hillary and Joy were out there. Joy and I cleared the whole length of the Twitten of ice, which took about 40 minutes. Me spearing and shattering the ice with a garden fork, and Joy shoveling it to the side. Meanwhile Lorraine and Hillary made a safe path across the road down to the station, as yet another casualty was taken to hospital, having to be winched down the hill by the fire service. Amazing how many streets were completely ungritted.

After Lorraine and I had a glass of wine with Joy standing in the Twitten, warm as toast.

Then sliding down the treacherous lanes to The Basketmakers where we met Matt and his parents David and Anne for an entertaining chat. David was born in Canada and was a merchant seaman, and talked lyrically about the aloneness of being in the middle of the ocean. He also said that on one slow voyage across the tropics the whole crew had gone naked for three weeks due to the intense heat.

Good to see Matt, and we squeezed in a few moments talking about our project too. All very exciting.

Then we all slid up the hill to the station, and for Lorraine and I home and warmth.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Snowbound

The city ground to a halt this morning with a couple of inches of the stuff. Buses cancelled and abandoned cars at crazy angles in the streets. Luckily for me, snow does not interrupt me, but as the cat hates it I have to put up with the bored feline sitting on my desk and biting my hands as I type. Gripped by a short story idea, so writing this much of the day, as well as writing Christmas cards.

Made it down as far as the Station postbox. The street my Twitten leads onto is very steep, and after testing it, I returned home armed with a walking pole and grippy boots to make the arduous thirty yard journey. A woman was there searching for her husband's keys he dropped having fallen this morning. People slithering downwards. It is a death trap.
Lorraine, her car abandoned, came to my house this evening after the buses had resumed, and we lurked indoors, eating a hot curry I'd made.
The view from my study this morning.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cheekies with First Matie


Off to the gym this morning for a light session. Otherwise a fairly laid back day not doing too much and, generally cutting myself some slack. I have been inspired by reading the Edith Wharton stories to shape some of the short story ideas that have been lurking around for a while, and began one this afternoon.

Had a lovely evening with First Matie, who'd done a spot of shopping in Brighton, and came by as we went down to The Basketmakers and then The Black Lion for a few beers and a lengthy chat as the snow began to fall, and it was all very seasonal and cheery. Kate left at a reasonable hour, having received dire warnings from station staff about severe weather. She called me safe home in Southease.

Watched TV happily as the snow worked its silent ministry in the Twitten.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fairytale of Brighton

Cold pressing against my study window, and I found myself wearing a scarf indoors as I worked on a project for my lovely French client Jeanne. Always a pleasure to be thinking about France, and wielding aigu and grave accents with abandon. I wish I could speak French beyond a risible level. Maybe I should go to classes in the new year.

Otherwise went up to see Beth and Mark in their college show singing Fairytale of New York, and take part in a narrated piece about a singing donkey by John Rutter, called Brother Heinrich's Christmas. I can't say I was particularly looking forward to it, but actually I really enjoyed myself. There were lots of instrumental pieces played, Jazz, Pop and Classical. Some of the students at BHASVIC are extremely competent instrumentalists, and clearly have been well taught. Something cheering about seeing the young uns so encouraged to use their talents.

After dropping Beth and Mark and two of their pals off in town, Lorriane and I repaired to The Batty (The Battle of Traflagar) for a quietly enjoyable pint. I had a pint of bitter called Red Nose, which on the pump had a Santa with a little flashing red light on his nose. Lorraine was talking about the nature of community, and how you define it, and the ways a school can be a community. I think wanting to belong really helps. For example people in Brighton by and large are proud to live here, and love its arty ways. It's a club people want to join. These days I feel I belong here more than anywere else except Guernsey. And that's rather a nice thought.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lucky stars

Off to the gym for the first time in ages. Significantly more full of energy, and my lurgy seems to have abated. Spent 40 mins gingerly bobbing up and down on the Hulk legs machine and treadmill. Did some incredibly light weights to break myself back into it gently. It is slightly embarrassing doing this when people are literally lifting up to ten times more weight than you.

Otherwise the day spent putting more Skelton manuscripts in more envelopes. It all certainly looks good now, and decorated with the images my mum did for me. Far happier with my covering letter and synopsis now. And the snubnose version of the story gets straight into the action too, and the Skelly response card looks great. I am convinced that it is a good pitch. Although doubtless I will keep tinkering with it. The horses have been led to the water, but will they drink? Reading on a some writer's forum a story about a boss getting multiple responses to a job advert. The boss then chucked half of them away, saying 'I want the successful candidate to have tons of luck'. I have been within touching distance of real writerly success before, notably with Fabers when I was 29, but that vital luck bit has gone AWOL. The only thing you can do is keep trying, and hope that one day before you die, your lucky stars align.

Slightly stir crazy this evening and went out for a walk in the cold town dressed for Christmas, and then had a solitary pint in The Batty talking to Lorraine on my phone. I was also eating twiglets as a break from various species of bubble and squeak I've been eating in the aftermath of Sunday's feast. However while supping and chatting, I did again think how lucky my life is at the moment. Sometimes your luck is right there under your nose and you can't see it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Afterwards

Computer problems all solved. Call from BT who had got its act together. Very happy to just be able to get on again with rewriting my synopsis, updating websites, loading some GB Edwards on the Anthology site, and so on. Decided that Edwards was actually an exile from Guernsey, as he lived most of his life in England, and London.

Also whipped down to the shops to buy a marble track game for Oskar and some Hello Kitty clothes for Klaudia. Happy, chilled and productive. Read another Edith Wharton ghost story called Afterwards. Beautifully written ghost stories, and a bargain three quid Wordsworth edition.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Beefy

Had Anton and Anna and my God bairns over for lunch today. Weirdly, I'd never roast a joint of beef before. It was fairly simple, and very moist and tasty although it wasn't red in the middle like some prefer.

Lorraine was sous-chef and did most of it while I faffed about cleaning the house and so on. She made a marvellous gravy too. We made a cornucopia of vegetables, including my trademark chestnut mushrooms cooked with sage and bacon, and carrots cooked in orange juice, Lorraine made red cabbage with dried fruit, and there were roast potatoes, parsnips, turnips, and garlic, plus Brussels sprouts, asparagus. Then cheeses, followed by an M&S strawberry tart which we all had with vanilla ice cream drizzled with the neighbour-made Maple syrup Joan gave me when we were last in Deviation Road.

Far too much food, obviously, and all four adults groaning afterwards as the Kids watched a show called Horrid Henry on TV. I loved seeing Klaudia and Oskar as usual, and got them to help me feed the fish. They both wanted to sit next to me at the table, which was heart warming, and they seem to have lots to say to me.

A quiet evening spent indoors with Lorraine, contentedly full and happy to watch Match of the Day. Chelsea slipped up this weekend by drawing, but then Manchester United lost so all well. Also watched a dumb but funny movie called Mars Attacks.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas starts (in Arundel)

Morning spent on the line to BT and testing my computers. Broadband not working - although the tests they have done show it should be working, it simply isn't and my computers still cannot download anything beyond email. I gave up fiddling with them after about three hours, almost weeping with frustration having exhausted every possible reason.

Instead Had a lovely afternoon doing Christmassy things. Put up my Christmas tree with Lorraine, and explaining to Calliope that this year it should not be used as a nest or climbing frame. Also went into the Twitten and pruned all my roses quite hard, with Lorriane stern faced when I tried just to shave the bushes. Finished, had hot miso soup and looked at the tree lights with satisfaction.

Then off to Arundel, where tonight they have Arundel by candle light. The beautiful castle was not floodlit, and instead the old streets are illuminated only by the lights of Christmas decorations and the little shops in the narrow roads. It looks very much like a card a Victorian Christmas card, with a little band of musicians playing recorders and tapping on odd drums, and a vintage fire truck gleaming in the square, and lots of stalls selling various eatables, and the pubs looking all cozy, with signs for mulled cider in their windows.

Lorraine and I went to see her friend Martin's art exhibition. This looked out onto one of the main streets and, while supping mulled wine and nibbling mice pies with Martin and Lorraine's other friend Jan, we had a great vantage for the children's procession of Mary and Joseph on a small horse, and shepherds complete with three live sheep on harnesses. Martin's exhibition was of graffiti inspired art, and abstract photography of closeups of graffiti, from places like Greece and Portugal. Martin himself was dressed in bright red, and paintings with layers of stuff, which in one or two examples looked almost George Braque-like.

After this, we wandered about poking in shops, underneath the artificial snow machine poking out of the top of one of the shops. Eventually stopping for a unusually good curry near the bridge, before Lorraine drove us home. By then all my computer horrors had receded into their proper places and all was right with the world.

Below hot chestnuts, the square in Arundel, fake snow machine (one for the Canadians ;-) Martin thorugh the window of the gallery, with Jan and Lorraine in conversation.















Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday fail and a boogie in Bognor

My phone and broadband both decided not to work today. Spent three hours this morning on the line to people and finding old phones to test the lines etc. BT sent a man around in the afternoon, who took over an hour to fix the phone, but not the broadband. Another day largely wasted. This sort of thing makes my blood boil, and at one point I did have to sit down and have a word with myself. Having to unpick an infuriating feeling that I am meeting with blocks and checks at every step, and instead channel my irritation into cleaning up the house.

Broke off to do shopping, and buy more envelopes, a large joint (of beef) herbs etc.

In the evening off with Lorraine to her work Christmas party in Bognor. A big drive away, so no boozing for Lorriane. Mercifully this ban did not apply to me, as it was a subdued affair in a hotel room, lit by bright cold lights and enlivened by Fawlty Towers service. It was a rather sober well behaved affair, with lots of the county's senior educational folks forking at grey Brussels and drinking lightly. Except for one, who had found a water pistol in his Christmas cracker and, aiming at the pleasant woman sitting next to me, missed and squirted me full in the side of the head.

Later there was also a disco run by two taciturn youths who played utterly inappropriate music for their audience, until told off in a teacherly manner. They then resentfully put on the execrable I'm in the mood for dancing by The Nolans, which astonishingly got the party started. They then managed skillfully to avoid good tunes thereafter. Having attended to several rum and cokes, and despite having a ropey knee at the moment, I eventually got my, um, freak on dancing with the lovely Lorraine until the call of the Brighton seagull grew too much for her.

As we left a large fox loped over the lawn of the hotel.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Emails from Mars

Feeling wussy again today after dreaming about death. Did dreary things: bought 100 envelopes, tidied my study for two hours, paid and filed bills, chased outstanding payments, and discovered a small cheque. Spent the evening trying to teach myself how to use Corel Draw. Slow progress.

Thank god for email... Heard from Katie who has been writing her own things, which I am pleased to learn. Also Jane from a damp Guernsey. She has bought a Lumix camera like mine, and now is trying to work out how to use it. She sent a timely Swine Flu children's poem. An excerpt:

My brother’s caught the swine flu,
he’s looking rather pale,
he’s lying in bed grunting
and he’s grown a curly tail.

But he’s making funny noises now,
his temperature is high,
he’s gone all red and blotchy
and I’m worried he might die.

His forehead’s hot and sweaty
he’s got bristles on his chin
and every time he wheezes
he makes an awful din...

Below I got an email from Nev who attached this photo of Manly Beach in Australia, when the red dust from the outback turned up one morning. I remember people saying that it made the place look like Mars. They were right. And a picture of mine about a red bird I scanned in today.

Monday, December 07, 2009

A muted harp

Calliope, bored with being rained on, came inside and bit my feet until I woke up. When I did, I found that for the first time in days I could think straight.

I had stayed up late last night, surfing, and in so doing discovered that a long-lost friend, a singer songwriter called Patrick Mayo, had died of a freak accident falling down some stairs about ten years ago. Obviously I've not seen him for years, but he was a lovely gentle soul, and had some great tunes with a strong Irish element. He had a high nasal voice, but had a splendid footstomping song called When will it end. And an adaptation of a poem by Thomas Moore which I think was The Harp That Once Through Tara's Halls. The first lines are rather apt:


The harp that once through Tara's halls
The soul of music shed,
Now hangs as mute on Tara's walls,
As if that soul were fled


As well as playing guitar lots at The Troubadour, which was a haunt of my twenties and early thirties, full of mad poets and musicians, he also ran a desert island discs show for hospital radio. He had me on as a guest twice, which shows how thin on the ground decent guests must have been. The first time I took it quite seriously, the second time I turned up about two minutes before we were due to start, so we played random music and invented stories to go with it.

Anyhow today simply got on with business. Writing my new letter to agents, and running it past First Matie. Also listened to the pilot radio show Mark and Mindy had made. It seemed very professional to me, and my short Skelton story came out fine too. Inevitably they are still waiting for a response.

Lorraine back at her house, and doing work emails and tidying her place and wondering why she is feeling feverish again.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Marginally more alive

Still achey and under the weather. Forcing me to miss out on at least two social events. Lorraine who was much worse than me, improving slightly, which is good news.

Got a package of business cards and postcards through from moo.com, the postcards will be used to push Skelton Yawngrave and have the Skelly pic below on them. It's a really good place as its cheap, and you can use the images of your choice.

Matt emailed me a soundfile of the theme for This Concert will fall in love with you, it was done with a music writing program, but the quality shone through, capturing the uncertainty and romaticism of the concept. Really exciting. I met up with him briefly this afternoon. Found him sitting at the bar of the Basketmakers writing music on a piece of paper.

Spent the evening flaked out on the sofa with Lorraine.

Below the Skelton postcard, painting done by Mum.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Stewing

Drearily fluish today. Dragged my butt off to the pharmacist and to the Library to collect the Bartok String Quartets which had already appeared, and quick food shopping. Feeling zombie-like by midday, so not a tremendously productive day. Lorraine is much iller than me. She taxied around this evening, coughing like a docker, and we slugged companionably on the sofa.

I fed her a slow cooked a beef stew, crammed with rosemary, thyme and sage, parsnips, potatoes, carrots, turnip, pearl barley, lentils, garlic, onion and dried Chinese mushrooms and a tin of tomatoes and some beef stock. This turned out to be the best stew I had ever made. I think the key thing was to roll the beef in flour and seal it first by frying it. I also caramelised the onions beforehand. This all academic as Lorraine of course could taste nothing.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Sweaty on the sofa

Astonishingly, another good day's writing. Wrote an entire poem this morning. Only time will tell if it is any good or not. Visited Lorraine at lunchtime and made her some soup and tea and so on which she consumed sweatily on the sofa. She had a really high fever last night, but was a bit brighter today. When Beth and Mark returned at two and I mooched back home. However I was feeling rather hot and achey today, and ended up sleeping through the afternoon.

Received a book of songs, and the text of a play from Renee today. I seem to have her collected works now. I feel very flattered, but I wish my French was better.

Spoke to Anton who curiously wanted to talk about football again, as Chelsea had slipped up in some nondescript competition last night. Also spoke to Shaila who said that Chris had though I was interesting. Was a couch potato all night.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Anna's birthday

Woke up feeling rough this morning. Aching and tired. However I had another excellent morning's writing. I seem to be on a roll.

Off in the afternoon to buy a smell-based present for Anna, and browse in Borders which is in receivership and closing down. There is something disturbing about a bookshop closing down, especially one that actually sells proper books, and not just ghost written crap about celebs. I joined the vultures flapping about the place, most books were 20% off, but I came away empty-beaked.

A day of birthdays today. Anna, Reuben and the French Bloke. Texted happy birthday to the other two, and went out with Anton and Anna this evening to The Sussex Yeomen, a mere 30 seconds walk from my door, which was uncharacteristically crammed with the dregs of an office party that had started there at lunch time. Hadn't been out with Anna for ages, and it was great to catch up. Smell-based present went down well. Anton and I had some moules in a wonderful liquor, with a hint of chili. Anna felt suddenly ill at 10 however, and the evening was drawn to a swift end.

Sadly Lorraine had a bad flu today, and so didn't come out. Was rather worried about her. She is not a hypochondraic like me, so felt very sorry for her.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Unblocked

Today I had the most productive day of writing poems I can remember. Writing new poems about Guernsey for my project with Richard. I'm very happy about it. Some days writing is effortless, and you wonder why every day can't be like this. You have to go through the static unproductive days sometimes, to get to the good stuff.

To the library to take back the Bartok CD I'd borrowed. I had got it home and was missing two discs. The librarian, knew his Bartok, and said it for him it was all late Beethoven and Bartok. I am becoming aware of a classical music fraternity. Maybe one day maybe I'll roll up one of my trouser legs and I will be accepted in to it.

Went to the gym, and did some more light exercise, but not feeling too good, and sweating heavily.

Spoke to Toby this evening, hearing lots of Canadian news.