Sunday, October 31, 2010

Calm and Carmen

An extra hour's sleep with the clock falling back. Up slowly to sift through photos from yesterday and watch again my DVD of the Flamenco version of Carmen. Such a great film featuring fierce flamenco dancing and a sexy as anything Carmen in Laura Del Sol.

Then shops and back to Lorraine's house for Sunday roast with Betty and Mark. Nice hanging about the new kitchen island as Lorraine cooked. Mark now not touring local old folks' homes for a while, and he and Betty were running through a home movie they made of themselves preparing a meal a la the Come Dine With Me TV programme. They are so funny and natural in front of the camera. I am eyeing them keenly at the moment, with an idea about a play. But I have more projects that Brooklyn, so wondering how I can fit everything in, and still earn some money.

All forked down a nice roast and homemade fruity ice cream, and there was some playing of the Wii in a supermario brothers game, which I'd not played before. Then slouched off home and prepare for the week. I am determined to make the new week productive.

Below Carmen gets fighty.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Owl day, white night

Off to Lewes Garden centre this morning with Lorraine and a hangover to meet First Matie, as Katie had spotted during the week that there would be owls there. I am rather fond of owls. Met First Matie in the carpark and wandered inside the garden centre to find several people with owls, with reinforcements sitting on stumps. I approached a gentleman with a large Indian eagle owl. Before I knew it, I was sporting a leather glove and a large fierce looking owl with captivating orange eyes, and a tufted head. The owner made me touch the owls talons and the pads on its feet, and then the thickness of the glove. An enthusiastic gentleman, he explained that the owl could go through that leather as if it were butter, and could crush cat's heads. After a few minutes I handed it back with a certain relief.

Lorraine, Kate and I all looked at owls and stroked them. Barn owls are particularly downy and lovely to the touch, but have no natural oils in their feathers, so when it rains they get bedraggled. A much needed cup of tea, and fond farewell's to Katie and then into Lewes for a nose about. Lorraine and I lurking in flea market, where I spotted an old German map of four islands including "Garnesay and Jarsay" however as the asking price was exorbitant, avoided it. Lorraine enjoying poking about looking at things, and particularly going into an old fabric and button shop.

An extraordinary evening. Brightonls new White Night Festival was on featuring art and events of all kinds free in the City. There were thousands milling about, and what was especially cool was that a fair proportion of ordinary Brighton folk were doused in fake blood, make-up and dressed as Zombies, Draculas and other denizens of the night. I vowed this time next year I will be doing the same. I fancy a high-foreheaded Frankenstein monster outfit.

We went to see Antigravity, a collaboration between two of Lorraine's ex-neighbours JD (who was helping Dawn to break in last weekend) and the sculptor Steve Geliot. Essentially it was a giant sphere with a rim around it which made it look like a flying saucer. This was hoisted into the blustery night air above the City College car park and images were projected into it from above. Lots of classy slightly bleepy tunes were played by the sound system as an accompaniment. We spoke to JD briefly afterwards who confirmed they had been struggling with the wind. But still rather a magical sight.

Then we walked through the lanes pausing here and there to listen to street musicians, and pop into a gallery which had an installation called Ladybird, which was a cartoon of a lady pleasuring herself with a dildo to the accompaniment of a cartoon tweeting bird. After a couple of minutes of this, and in a reprehensible way, I said "nice tits" to Lorraine as we left the room.

Then to the Pavilion, which was open to the hordes free, and we wandered through the gorgeous interior. In the music room there was some sort of electronic music, and in the sumptuous banqueting hall were Indigo Eye, featuring Lorraine's pal Helen sitting on a rug playing their slightly trippy Indian music --which was entirely appropriate in such an orientalist environment, to the hundreds of visitors as they filed by looking at the be-dragoned and chandeliered splendor.

From there to stand in New Road looking up at a balcony where a variety of singers emerged at a window to sing. Fantastic voices, particularly struck by a woman singing music from Opera, and best of all was someone styling themselves as Le Gateau Chocolat, a large black man dressed as a cloud who sang in a fabulous baritone, his best song a version of Creep by Radiohead. An absolute vision who went down brilliantly with the crowd. This is right by one of Brighton's main streets and he was waving to people in passing buses and so on. Just a fabulous Brighton experience.

Eventually Lorraine and I pushed off home, having had rather a lively day, to the comfort of the gold sofa and Match of the Day. All good.

Below a Barn Owl, Lorraine and First Matie with owls. A glimpse into a flea market office, the flea market and a Skelton Yawngrave shop in Lewes.

Below: Antigravity, the fabulous Le Gateau Chocolat, plus a gorgeous-voiced opera singer whose name I did not catch.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Overlooked by Lucy

Up early to finish the haemophilia website, then off to the quack following their letter summons. As a hypochondriac the less time brooding about what could be wrong, the better. This meant I had to see the scary doctor as opposed to usual one. Pleased to discover there was nothing much to worry about. Meanwhile Mum had gone to the hospital to discuss her post operative pain with her surgeon, and they have just upped the strength of her painkillers, which is not entirely satisfactory.

Slipped out to the gym for a brief go on the hulk legs machine. But had to break off to attend to some business matters, and line up another spot of work for next week.

Then went with Matt this afternoon to check out the Marlborough pub theatre for the doppelganger project. The young theatre manager is in Matt's choir, and seemed keen for us to try out the mini-opera there. I looked even more fondly on Matt than usual, as he is my passport to success when it comes to knowing people in Brighton. It is a proper little pub theatre: tatty but atmospheric. It also has a ghost called Lucy. Wayne did a paiting of it once, so that you could see through all of the walls into the rooms, which included Lucy too.

We repaired to the Basketmakers to discuss the project further, and talk about artistic directions and other high falutin' stuff till Lorraine and Betty arrived, and we fell into conversation with Tom another regular. Betty off to see Mark, who has finally finished his run of performing in old people's homes. Lorraine and I then pushed off to eat a very ordinary curry and were home at an early hour, but I promptly fell asleep on the sofa.

Below there were two guys rehearsing when we looked at the theatre, and I took a quick snap to record what the stage was like.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Woken by Calliope biting my arm, as I had overslept. If I croaked suddenly my cat would happily snack on me. I was greatful however, as I was having a dream about some sort of growth coming out of my side like a disgusting cross between white tripe and a sea anemone. This thing was so repellent that it coloured my morning.

At lunchtime a letter from the doctor's saying they needed to see me after a recent blood test, which naturally led to hypochondriac speculations. Good job I was writing a website about haemophilia to take my mind off medical matters.

After five I went for a walk down to the sea and enjoyed watching the starlings swooping about in their synchronised flocks before roosting under the pier. Good to get some fresh air, but even this couldn't lift my mood.

Below Calliope a couple of days ago, her face lit by a sunbeam. She frequently sits on my desk like this while I work.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fudging it

Up at Lorraine's house and after making her a cup of tea shuffled home to do some copy for a press ad. This done the day was my lobster to work creatively. Annoyingly I have been struggling for progress this week. So have agreed to do a couple of days work from home writing some non-creative website copy.

Looking through my Penguin version of Timaeus and Critias by Plato as it contains the first mention of Atlantis in literature. I thought it was just a passing reference, but there is a surprising amount of material about it. I'm not particularly interested in the madcap theories about Atlantis, but Plato seems to have used it symbolically, although added lots of detail, so I'll take my steer from the great Greek.

Dawn's birthday today, and I popped out in the evening to the Basketmakers, where I met Dawn, Lorraine, Beth and, for the first time, Dawn's daughter Ellie who after a gap year has just started college. Some present giving to Dawn. I got her a box of fudge, from the aromatic fudge shop in the lanes, and guiltily got an extra two pieces for free. The first mouthful was fantastic, buttery sweetness with a hint of salt, but two pieces and you are on a sugar rush.

Dawn and Lorraine's daughters do them both credit. Ellie off with her mates after a bit, and Lorraine and Beth back home. I walked Dawn to the bus stop and then loped back to the Twitten. Here I was greeted by a strangely melancholy sight. Someone had a day or so ago sprayed some big and ugly tag on one of the white walls, which this morning had quickly been painted over. The rain simply washed the white paint onto the pavement, and the graffiti emerged again. I will sort it out tomorrow if nobody else does.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Badly drawn boy

Steady rain, and a better day working on my projects and some stuff for my French clients. The Atlantis poems beginning to adhere to one another, and may in fact be one large poem. Also found a new tonal approach for the Echoes story which feels much better.

Matt came by at teatime and we went to see if we could have a look at the Nightingale theatre, just around the corner from me, where we may possibly stage the as yet unwritten Doppelganger piece. But we couldn't get into the theatre as it turns out the pub below and the theatre have nothing to do with one another.

Call from Catriona in Guernsey about next May's Guernsey Literary Festival. I am being flown over, which makes me feel big and clever, and will be doing Skeleton based work with children on the morning of Friday the 13th, which is rather good, and then two or three poetry readings with Richard.

In other news Salty returned home at 4.00am after a couple of days away with a large hunger on him. Mum and Mas much relieved. Mum still experiencing post-operative pain though and is seeing a specialist on Friday.

My new French client Alexandra has sorted out my backlog of unpaid billing, and today I was finally able to invoice them. A large relief, but also rather peeving.

In the evening off to see Lorraine and eat a nice roast meal with her and Betty and Betty's friend Kaleigh. Then off to see Badly Drawn Boy with Lorraine, who was performing in the Duke of York picture house just down the road.

Boy was this a strange night. Damon Gough, aka Badly Drawn Boy, who has a genius for pop melody and whose fantastic album Hour of the Bewliderbeast remains a firm favourite was having a spectacularly bad night, full of self loathing. He started late, announced he was drunk, stopped playing three tracks halfway, and walked off stage once, and gave vent to rants about the press, and about how he feels like walking away from it all, and how at 41 he doesn't need all this shit anymore... etc.

As a lesson in how to alienate your audience this was spot on, and several diehard fans went away feeling short changed and vaguely affronted. Those who remained gave him a standing ovation as he shambled off for the second or third time. Between all this, there was some lovely new material, and he is in great voice and playing beautifully.

Below Badly Drawn Boy... having a bad day at the office.

Monday, October 25, 2010

All starts and no finishes

I'd earmarked today as a day for my own projects. I have lost momentum lately and lack clarity and focus. Nevertheless I progressed my Atlantis poems a little, and looked at the long short story called Echoes set in Guernsey. The Atlantis poems are intended to follow on from The Boy Who Fell Upwards. However simply could not build momentum, a hundred ideas started, none followed through. Argh.

Lorraine called with a bit of urgent work on her form from hell, which is thankfully now dispatched. Spoke to Mum whose cat Salty has worryingly gone AWOL.

Went to the gym, at noon. In the evening read more of The Maimed and then watched most of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, widely acclaimed as the best Zombie movie of all time. Annoyingly I was too tired to watch all of it, but it may have to be a DVD purchase. One of the characters says: "When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the Earth".

I am increasingly attracted to Zombies.

Below just another day in the mall.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Brownie points

Finished the flatpack construction today. Actually rather satisfying to see a kitchen island standing complete on its wheeled feet, and knowing you have had a hand in it. The Croatian gentlemen took 1-2 hours to assemble it in the instruction leaflet, it took Lorraine and I over four hours, and this without any significant mistakes.

Caught up on the abominably-watchable X-Factor, then back to my place to work on the final two questions in Lorraine's scary form. It is now almost complete thanks be to God. The form from hell taught me about what Lorraine does every day as an educational adviser, and the activities she describes add enormous value to how the educational resources of the county are deployed. All of this work of course under the shadow of the Government cuts.

I earned about 900 brownie points this weekend from Lorraine, but at the end I had a persistent twitch in my left eye. Also in between trying to break into doors, assembling flatpacks, questions on education and beers with popstars, have been having several ah-ha! moments. One of these happened in the gents in the Basketmakers when I suddenly saw music slotted into an area of philosophy that has interested me for years. A long time since something like that has happened.

Also, and this partly a consequence of writing a book about my childhood, I suddenly see my childhood differently. It is difficult to explain, but it is as if some kind of a bolt has shifted in a locked room.

Spent the evening gnawing on a chicken. With my recession head on, whole chickens are a great bargain. They make several meals and lately I have been improving the stock I make afterwards by collecting the run off in the roasting tin and putting it in the fridge. I then remove the fat and use the dark jelly below to enrich the stock. It's the first step to becoming a fatter, but less mockney, Jamie Oliver.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Lorraine and I off to visit Dawn this morning in Lorraine's old street. Dawn is about to embark on a PhD about the meaning of life in postwar Britain, and to help finance this she is making space for a lodger, and so was giving Lorraine a table.

As we managed the table's thick glass top down the stairs into a camper van Dawn had borrowed, and the door slammed locking us all out. Cue several essays at burglary, and involving various neighbours including JD, the French rock journalist who I have met several times, who tore himself away from being filmed in his house by a documentary TV crew, to spend half an hour attempting in a borderline obsessive way to force the lock with credit cards. Eventually Lorraine borrowed a long ladder from the people who had bought her old house, and the sparrowy Dawn shinned up this and disappeared into a firstfloor window.

Once safely back at Lorraine's house with the table, Lorraine forced me to help her assemble a flatpack kitchen island from Habitat. It was made in Croatia, and had a picture of two Croatian men and a clock suggesting it take between one to two hours for them to assemble it. After two and a half hours, and halfway through, we went to the pub as the urge to plunge allen keys into my eyesockets had grown insistent.

Met John and Matt in The Basketmakers Arms. Matt shooting of to conduct a choir in the park for an hour. Lorraine and John then involved in a deep conversation, so I found myself chatting to the bloke having a beer on the next table. It emerged after about an hour that he was Kirk Brandon, lead singer in Spear of Destiny, talking about London, and relationships and stuff. I rather liked him. Lorraine and I then had a curry before sloping home.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Maimed

Up early to get on with some French work, working out how to Anglicise a campaign which was full of French puns, jeu de mot and references into English. Something of an impossible task, but sent my best effort for this off at midday.

Knee a bit on the puffy side and am hobbly, but enjoyed myself in the gym for half an hour or so.

Afternoon and evening spent looking blankly at poems, flying over the Channel in a ME 109, and reading The Maimed by Hermann Ungar. Published in 1923. It is as others have pointed out a perfect companion to Die neue Sachlichkeit painters such as Otto Dix and George Grosz. An exhibition of Neue Sachlichkeit I saw in my teens made a lasting impression on me then. The Maimed is repulsively gripping. A post first world war society and its hero Pultz subject to an obsessive compulsive behaviour, an abused childhood, poverty, a fear of women and children, a sexual revulsion, and a cast of other characters who as physically and emotionally crippled.

Below Cardplayers by Otto Dix... Something of atmosphere of The Maimed.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Full moon and foxes

Woken up at an early hour by a crashing about and strange yelps in my front patch of garden. Calliope looking alarmed on the end of my bed. Leapt up as someone had recently kicked at some trellising. Imagine my surprise when I saw two urban* foxes on my doorstep. I lent out of my window clapping, and one made off through the, now clearly fox-made, hole in the trellising. I think the filthy beasts had the effrontery to be breeding too. On my doorstep.

Needled three times this morning in an attempt to get blood. Nurse apologetic but kept on jabbin'. Luckily despite being a hysteric and a hypochondriac I seem to be okay about having blood taken.

Then home working on my new poems for a bit before shooting off up to the smoke on a double mission. First off to the South Bank to drop of a brace of Guernsey Doubles into the National Poetry Library, and spend a couple of hours reading through the latest poetry magazines. Curiously heartened by the idea-free, emotionless, rhythm and tin-eared fare on offer. Decided that the poems Richard and I put together were nothing to be ashamed of, if not vastly superior. On this positive note, I melted away, calling Richard to let him know my findings. Nice to know that I have, at long last, a book to nestle in the National poetry collection's shelves.

Texting with Klaudia today, after Anna had texted me. Sweet thing she is.

Then after walking across the new Hungerford footbridge, which is much improved on the old one which wobbled every time a train passed next to you, for another night with the French. Tonight there was Alex, who I am liking a lot, Justine, Katharina who is German, Delphine, and a man called Eric. We were joined by a pleasant English lady from a printers, and two digital folk. One of whom, a Chinese man called Alex from Hong Kong was very interesting about China. He thinks that there will be a great deal of social unrest when the growth stalls, as it inevitably will do.

The printing lady and digital folk left, and the rest of us were taken out to a French style restaurant called Côte by Eric. Very average food, rubbery moules etc., but good company: some laughing about the English woman who dumped a cat in a bin, and then an appalling story, inevitably from Alexandra, about a French woman who had a total of seven babies, but who did not know what to do with them so put them in a freezer.

Home then listening to my iPod under a full moon.

* I am fairly sure they were urban as one was listening to Tinie Tempah on its earphones.

Below two London snaps a little after 5:30pm. The Thames, a study of greys with St Paul's Cathedral on the left. The entrance to Embankment Station. A chilly feel for this time of year.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Glad to speak to Mum today as she was discharged from hosiptal, and pleased to be back home but understandably nervous the pain might return.

I had a good morning working on my poetry. I have found a slightly different voice but do not trust it yet. Richard told me that he was writing again too in a new way. Publication has a purgative effect.

Lunchtime spent watching the new Chancellor of the Exchequor deliver the Coalition Government's decision on where the axe should fall in British public spending, tax rises, loss of benefits etc. They raised the retirement age to 66 too. I can't help thinking of Osborne as Osborne the Odious. Depressing to see him and new Prime Minister Cameron, both of whom have inherited millions without lifting a finger, introducing swinging cuts on ordinary working folk. It was ever thus. New Labour leader Miliband at PMQs earlier depressingly out of his depth. I find much to loathe in the political class.

A cool sunny day in Brighton today. I had a walk around town in the afternoon sporting shades in the bright low sun. Betsy called about work-related matters. She says she has been kidnapped by her boyfriend's parents and is in 'Wilt-shire' somewhere.

Evening and Lorraine came by and we completed another question in her evil form in an hour or so. Texted by Carl tonight, as he was having a drink with Bob up in Liverpool. Would have been great fun to have been there with them.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Celan in Neasden

Mason has said mum is okay, and may be released tomorrow.

Otherwise I had a better day today, making some poetic progress this morning. Listened to aprogramme on Radio 4 about the poet Paul Celan. I learned that he visited his Aunt in the in Mapesbury Road not far from Kilburn station in London. A small Peter Kenny lived in nearby Neasden in the late 60s, and I love the idea that the greatest poet of the 20th century might have walked down my street.

Listening today to Debussy's La cathédrale engloutie (The Sunken Cathedral)which, along with Appolinaire's poem Ocean de terre is forming a sort of mood board for the poems I am trying to write. The Dubussy piece has gorgeous chords, suggesting submerged church bells.

Went to the gym again, knee twinging but is so far holding up. Feeling good about it. The virtue of this offset by meeting Matt in the pub later on to discuss our doppelgänger mini-opera project. We ended up talking to a man called Roger, who Matt knows, and whose spotty tie I rather liked. To my surprise he simply took it off and, despite my protests, gave it to me.

Below Paul Celan.

Mum in hospital again

Just sitting down gleefully to get on with some of my own writing when Mas called up to say that Mum was in hospital again. Put off my stroke by this. In the evening I spoke to him and he said they were hoping she would be home again in a day or so. I hope so. If not I will shoot back up to London to visit her.

After spending hours staring at the screen, or reworking a story in a way that made it far worse, I went to the gym. Nice to be back there as paunch evil currently outranks knee evil.

Then had a haircut and returned to faffed about ineffectually, diverted only by a card through the door from the police about an incident in the Twitten a couple of Saturday nights ago, when I had been snoozing happily in Lorraine's house. The Twitten is a magnet for ne'erdoewells. As I walked out to the postbox this afternoon, there was a woman a few yards away waiting to score. On returning I saw the dealer and the woman walking away briskly. They might as well be painted in dayglo.

A Guernsey Double is now listed on the Guernsey Society site. Meanwhile Matt has been rehearsing our piece Found with the Rainbow Chorus, he texted: 'They liked Found. Was described as a slow burner and a grower'. Cheered by this.

In the evening Lorraine came around and we did another section of her evil form. After she left I watched the final episode of the wonderful and disgusting Inbetweeners, then had a chat with Toby till late.

Late, and wishing Mum wasn't in hospital again. And so to bed.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bad form

Working with Lorraine for four hours on her headteacher application form. Not for nothing does Lorraine call it the scary monster form. Each question requires a mini-essay, and apparently this form is the most difficult part of the process of application. The completion instructions alone make your eyes bleed. If anything, Lorraine has too much evidence of her mad teachin' skillz.

I always get enraged by the vacuity or inflexibility of the questions in forms. In a previous life I worked for an ill-starred year as a civil servant, and most of the work consisted in selecting the right form, and then filling it in. When I arrived, working on Widow's pension, the staff were so overworked, two of the section were absent having had nervous breakdowns. Meanwhile the head of the section spent his days reading the paper in his office. I was excellent at talking to grieving widows, but useless at filling in forms and I and Her Majesty's Civil Service parted company on exceedingly poor terms, with me sending a three page account of life in the section to the regional controller.

Betty came around in the afternoon and went to sleep on the sofa and we all hung out watching dinosaurs on TV and eating the roast chicken I made. Beth brought me a pair of slippers for my birthday, as the last pair she had bought me had been worn to shreds.

First Matie called with news of an owl day at a garden centre where you can get close and personal with owls. I think I will go, especially as Katie told me it would be a hoot.

A long overdue tea-sipping night.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


To the Basketmakers to meet Katie and Puffin the dog. Soon we were joined by Lorraine, Matt and Sam. The pub was busy, but it was great to meet up and have several beers and sustained chats. Katie looking for a new lurcher-friendly place to live, and is going to stay in the country. Matt just returned from Hull, where he was sitting up at night with his mum who has just had a knee replacement operation.

Puffin meanwhile has the makings of a good pub dog: an essential development, and once Katie had put her jumper down on the floor for her, Puffin settled fairly happily under the table. It is fascinating to stroke her flanks and feel her xylophone ribs. As a lurcher she is such a lean running machine, there is not a scrap of fat on her.

I drank rather enthusiastically and lurched home for some fish and chips. Later, as Lorraine blissfully snoozed, I watched a DVD by mighty prog rock legends Yes that Anton had given me the other night. All well.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Worked till 1:30 and then sent off my completed books to the accountant. This caused me to caper about the house with a song on my lips. Then I started to tidy the house, which was beginning to attract concerned social workers. Also had gossips with Richard and Jenny in Guernsey.

Having selected the FW-190 I wasted the remainder of the afternoon in the skies over occupied Europe and shooting allied warplanes down on my Combat Flight Simulator 3 game. This enabled by the joystick Lorraine had bought me for my birthday. Later when Anton came around he had a go on it too. It was touching to witness a craze kindling in his eyes. He gave me some birthday presents and cards, I love seeing Klaudia's writing.

We sloped off to have a couple of drinks while Anton talked excitedly about Combat Flight Simulator. The first pub we went to was staging a beer festival, which meant there were half a dozen middle aged blokes lurching about in it swigging beer from kegs, one of them knocking over three or four glasses as we entered. Sat down and drank a little beer and felt a great wave of nausea come over me. Perhaps it was the featured beer. Luckily this slowly abated in the next half an hour and didn't ruin the evening.

We ended up in the Eddy as usual. Anton, however, had work to go to tomorrow. So I finished my beer slowly chatting to the barman who I had first met during a pub punch up. He is massively into skateboarding, and owns a skateboard outlet. Sadly he told me that these days kids skateboard just for fun, and with no knowledge of its culture and history like his generation of skateboarders. He told me about the tensions between skateboarders and rollerbladers, and the annoyance of children on scooters. Skateboarding techniques have evolved so that stunts his generation thought impossible are now routinely done by children. A classic fings ain't what they used to be conversation... But with skateboards. I love Brighton.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

à Londres

Up to the smoke this morning to visit my lovely French clients as Jeanne is leaving.

Jeanne's replacement is Alexandra, a half French and half Russian woman. A rather extraordinary lunch with Alex and two frighteningly on the ball young women interns, Justine and Katerina (who is German). We were soon joined by Jeanne. We had wide-ranging and bizarre conversations, and I discovered that Alex is very funny, possessing strong opinions about the uselessness of jellyfish, the suicide rate in Normandy, and the tenets of Toltec civilisation. She crackles with an unpredictable energy when not gasping at cigarettes in an authentically French way.

We had just settled down in Cafe Rouge and poured some wine when Justine, who was sitting opposite, knocked her glass of red over my best shirt. Apart from this, however, great fun and the promise of further involvement with the French ladies. Jeanne unable to discuss the details of her future, and was naturally slightly preoccupied. But she is such an entrepreneurial person she will come up trumps.

Some hours later began my journey home enjoying the splendid earphones Lorraine had bought me. A cold today so slept on the train home.

Had to go into the Larder, and of course was served by the man I had the altercation with the other night. Some sheepishness.

Rallied to pop along to the pub at 9:30 to meet Fingers Capra and Richard Gibson, and other of Glen's chums. Enjoyable chats.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


A cheerful birthday, with lots of texts, phonecalls, facebook messages, and even a few cards.

Went off for a haircut, but the barbers was closed for refurbishment. Otherwise, after a spot of nice writing in the morning, spent the afternoon poring over my my books again. This involves filing away all my bills, receipts, and noting them down on spreadsheets. The only way to get through them is to focus in an obsessional Jack Nicholson in The Shining way. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

In the evening went out with Lorraine who arrived with presents. Then off to scarf down some Japanese food at Murasaki's. We enjoyed glugs of warm sake, and getting into a splashy mess in our shared bowl failing to control long slithering udon noodles with chopsticks and spoons. All good fun.

Monday, October 11, 2010

By the book

To the quack this morning, who is going to organise an MRI scan for my knee. Burst in trying to take off my trousers to show him my knee, but he wanted some background before that questionable delight.

Sainsbury's next, feeling flashes of happiness. The afternoon catching up with my books to get everything ready for my accountant. There is something curiously satisfying about filling in all the columns and knowing exactly what's what.

Below St Bartholomew's Church just down the hill from where I live, picked out in the morning sun. Arrested by the green of the glass with the blue of the sky.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A spell in the trees

Lots of things have become clear to me in the last 48 hours. For example, exactly what needs to be done to Skelton Yawngrave to drastically improve it. Also an idea for a newspaper piece, and a general prioritisation of tasks. Jotted down these ideas quickly before going with Lorraine for a drive in the country.

A beautiful cloudless Sunday. We were going of to Borde Hill, but ended up stopping by the side of a road near Balcombe and simply taking a walk. I soon realised I had been here before with Oskar and Anton, on Oskar's first walk. Old trees including some splendid old oaks in a damp wood. Squished through there to the Half Moon pub for a quick drink. As when I went there with Anton, a distinctly unsmiling lack of welcome, but it was nice to sit outside.

Then back through the wood to the car, loving the low sun slanting through the trees like thin spotlights in the dark wood. Home and nothing remarkable happened, except that I went to my Marks and Sparks larder and some chump serving there was so abrupt when I went to pay that I ended up storming off without goods or having paid. Now I have to feel sheepish going back to my nearest shop as I inevitably will have to.

Below colours reflected in a pond.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Rugby knees

Up at a decadent 11.00am. Belated muesli, then Lorraine and I shot off for spot of shopping in Brighton. This included speaking to a toweringly fit Gordie podiatrist called Tim about feet and knees. He told me to take my knee to the doctor, and that it is a typical ex-rugby player's knee. I nodded gravely as if to indicate that I had just, with great reluctance, retired from an international career, rather than just having scuffed about for my school team decades ago.

Some hours later I returned home empty handed having tried on 800 sensible v-necked jumpers which all seem to be cut too short in the body. It would seem I have a vermiform back.

In the evening off to Cathy's place for a dinner party. She had invited her friend Colin, who Lorraine had already told me was very like my pal Carl. Something about him was very Carl-like, he was funny in a Watsonish way, and he had similar mannerisms and so on. Colin however was a physics teacher, and we found we had lots of the same opinions on things like socialism and the evil that is fruit tea. A good chatty night all round.

The lovely Cath looked nice with her new shorter hair, had cooked a great meal of roast pork, potatoes and beetroots and Spanish dishes of herby caramelised onions and a kind of chilli and tomato salsa. She had got some sparkling wine to celebrate my birthday too, which was sweet of her. Lorraine had brought along a PK-favourite bread and butter pudding too so I felt full and well vittled. Lorraine started a streaming cold but simply soldiered on. That woman knows nothing about how to behave when you are ill.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Chilli Pickled

Woke up to Calliope purring an inch away from my face at 6:45am. Decided to get up and get on with the French work to do. Bolstered by a note from Justine my client, which began Peter, Peter, Peter … You are THE guy who it is definitely pleasant to work with ! Her English usage is unfailingly charming.

Worked hard all day, and had finished everything at four. Still feeling really buoyant after my walk on the cliffs. It has made an immense difference to how I feel about everything. Felt like the world was my lobster, and it was Friday and that meant seeing folks.

Met Matt in the Basketmakers for a cheeky. He'd had a sucky week. He and Wayne are moving out of the flat, as it is unbelievably damp. Matt's computer died, and he had to pay a PC doctor £200 to salvage his music files from it. Then I went to the Batty where I met Anton and Anna, Lorraine and Beth. Really lovely evening, Beth going off after a while to see Mark, and the rest of us went to Chilli Pickle Bistro, a gourmet Indian restaurant for what may have been the best Indian meal I have tasted, to celebrate my birthday which is next week.

Great food, and really pleased we went there with Anna and Anton. The meat was cooked absolutely perfectly, and everything we ordered was utterly delicious. The exotic fizzy pink gin I ordered was made with rosewater and lots of nice things, but ended up tasting like a liquid potpourri. Utterly fabulous place though, and well worth the steepish bill.

Lorraine and I walked home full and slightly elephant's trunk again. Oh well...

Thursday, October 07, 2010

On air with one engine

Hung-over this morning. Up and an early breakfast, and gradually got my act together, after a harassing text from Jenny wrote a fast poem to be performed on her show at noon. Having done these and then packed, off to Icârt for a breath of air, chatting to Richard on my mobile in the little windswept lanes. A stunningly beautiful breezy morning, and Icârt looking heavenly.

But little time for stopping and staring. Caught a bus into town and slunk into Le Petit Cafe, for another dose of good coffee. Then a cab to the BBC where I sat in reception with the lovely Joan Ozanne. We were soon joined by Richard and Lyndon Queripel. Shuffled into the studio at noon, which was full of sausage rolls and doughnuts brought by the previous guest. A bit of rather crap banter from me, then reading the slightly ghastly poem I'd misguidedly penned this morning, and then I read another person's poem and cleared off. You can hear us here from 2:36.

Then slunk out to be taken to the airport by John, Jenny's husband. I liked John and was interested to hear about his written projects, and we may meet up when I next return.

Cup of splosh in the airport, Jenny calling to say goodbye, and compare notes on the programme. A sense of foreboding came over me as I boarded the plane. This not helped by a disabled girl making shrieks and groans in the row behind me, and the fact that one of the engines did not work. An engineer climbed aboard and after about 40 minutes the pilot announced that the engine seemed to be okay now and we'd take off. Seemed was not a word I was particularly enjoying in this context but luckily had a window seat by the offending engine so I could neurotically check it. Outrageously the stewardesses missed giving me a complimentary drink too, and my seat wouldn't sit upright. I was very happy to land again.

Back to Brighton. All good. The house nice and tidy after Beth cat sat Calliope. Spoke to Mum and Mas and Lorraine.

Below from Icârt Point this morning, and a snap in the studio. Holding the camera above my head and so completely missed Joan Ozanne. L to R Lyndon, Richard and Jenny.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

A perfect day for Vogon poetry

Woke to a perfect day. This is my favourite time of year, and today, a sunny October day in Guernsey was a perfect temperature for walking for four hours. (My knee hurty and slightly swollen, but holding up). First I took myself to the graveyard to put some flowers on my Grandparent's grave. After buying some yellow carnations I discovered that the bowl in the gravestone, made out of some sort of metal, had rusted so that the bottom dropped of as I picked it up. Spent some time in the graveyard. I like graveyards, not in a ghoulish way, but they are so peaceful. I shared out some of the flowers to others I knew who are buried there.

I walked down to Moulin Huet and took the cliff path. It is difficult to describe just how beautiful this was. The cliffs are reddish in patches where the bracken is turning, and the sea its usual turquoise and Prussian blue, with cloud shadows passing over, a warm sun and a cooling breeze. And as I walked my fingers became purple, because I'd been plundering so many sweet rain washed blackberries as I walked. Stopped at Jerbourg, and identified the islands for some tourists and had a cup of tea looking out to sea. Shortly after, as I was walking back along the Jerbourg Road, a man clearly from Birmingham asked me in French where the Auberge restaurant was. Without thinking I replied in French too. Perhaps he thinks people in Guernsey still speak French.

Back to the hotel eating couscous and Guernsey vine tomatoes, past children in the playground of my old school, back to La Barbarie. Then a bus into town to meet Richard in Le Petit Cafe run by several authentically rude Frenchmen. This of course rather enjoyable, and Richard and I shot the breeze in there for an hour or so. After reflecting on our own big and cleverness, we'd enlarged on the loathsomeness of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. Richard roundly denouncing an audiobook version he'd begun, where of course nobody had thought to employ an actual Guernsey accent. Richard said they were speaking like something out of Thomas Hardy. I clearly remember suggesting a fatwa against the misbegotten book and its perpetrators.

Once Richard left, the two retired women on the next table told me they'd flown all the way from Australia to visit Guernsey on the strength of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. This made me feel as if I had been caught punching kittens. Naturally I also plugged A Guernsey Double, and told them some of the delights they should visit.

I stayed put in the Petit Cafe and was joined by Jenny, fresh from a day at the Radio Guernsey coalface. We drank large glasses of Chardonnay and quickly got down to some no-holds-barred gossip. Much of it so good, that it sadly can't be put in this blog. After a few glasses of wine, her husband John, who is a writer who works as a taxi driver picked us up, and dropped me off at Les Douvres where there was a poetry night.

Due to lack of food it became clear to me I was drunk, but this only increased my desire to read several poems, as did Richard and Jane who I met there. Lots of the usuals. I experienced what must be one of the single worst poems I have ever heard. This was read through a reverb mic so that it sounded like a slightly adenoidal voice of God. So toe curling that you are left with Catherine Wheels in your socks. Worse than Vogon poetry from the Hitchhiker's Guide.

Jane off to Alderney early, so once the poetry had abated, there were fond farewells to Richard and Jane. I slunk back to La Barbarie where I spoke to Jenny, who suggested I write a poem and come and perform it tomorrow lunchtime on the BBC before flying home. Jenny is an insistent sort of person, so I agreed. Then went to the bar and sensibly had a couple more drinks before hitting the sack.

Below views of Petit Port and Moulin Huet Bay.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Back to Guernsey

Rushing about in the rain, with black bags of rubbish to the skip, and trying not to get cross with a random mad woman who told me that Calliope, who was waiting for me to return, wasn't happy and should be indoors.

Flight to Guernsey was bumpy, the plane sandwiched between layers of cloud. Guernsey overcast and rainy when we arrived. I for one was grateful to touch down, despite the beautiful views of a grey and brooding Herm and Sark as we flew in.

Met by Richard at the airport and we quickly repaired to the Farmhouse in his van with Rufus and Holly the dogs, for our now traditional fish and chips. As we were sipping our drinks and embarking on our gossipathon, Richard was called by a woman from Lexicon, one of the bookshops in St Peter Port having sold out of A Guernsey Double, and wanting more stock. This rather pleasing. Lovely chat with Richard along with the knife and forkwork.

Pleased too that he understood my need for a bit of solitary cliff walking and brooding. He dropped me off at La Barbarie, and I was given an excellent room. Unpacked and sat on the sofa with a sigh of satisfaction. Two seconds my French clients phoned with some urgent work.

I walked to Icârt Point. I usually come here first when I am in Guernsey. Today the sky was overcast and the sea steely blue, and the cliffs sombre, but as usual the effect is achingly beautiful. From there I walked the paths down to Saints Bay and then around the headland to Moulin Huet, sucking in lungfuls of the earthy Autumn air.

Then, after taking an hour to do the urgent French work back at the hotel, off to the Captains where I toyed with a plateful of greasy lasagna, and quaffed half a Rocquette Guernsey cider. Overtired, I felt curiously twitchy and unable to relax. Forced myself to listen to relaxation tapes till I eventually slept.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Back in the magic cafe

Up and working on some long-postponed admin this morning. Also talking to a new lovely French client, and sorting out some bits for my Guernsey trip. Took myself for a walk today down by the sea and along the pier, amazed by the novelty of it not raining. And taking some snaps for the sake of it. Very still and the sea calm, a spot of sun here and there, but inland brooding clouds.

On the way home, stopped at my magic cafe and worked on a new poem for a while, one of a sequence I am writing about Atlantis. They are coming with deceptive ease.

In the evening crashed a girl's night out and went to The Duke of York's Picture House in Brighton to see Made in Dagenham with Lorraine, Jan, Dawn and Dawn's cousin Hannah. It was a cheerful film, and made you feel proud to be a woman. Back to Lorraine's house to eat the pork joint she was cooking, but as she left for the cinema, she had forgotten to put the meat in the oven. Instead we had an emergency takeway.

Home late, and Calliope looking at me distrustfully. She can tell I am off tomorrow.

Below a mirror ball on the pier, dogems, a beach scene, and cranes.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Breakfast and the box

Anna, Anton and the bairns called around this morning, the children racing to my skull and crossbones pirate box of sweeties as usual. This makes me think of Gwen my Grandmother, whose house was full of secret compartments and hideyholes from which treats would be drawn from time to time. Many of these treats hidden treats made their way into the house having accidentally fallen into my Grandfather's pockets when he worked in a warehouse, so was a good reason not to flaunt them.

All off to breakfast in a new restaurant in Church Street. A certain art deco elegance, but the service was snailish. Nice to chat to Anna and Anton, and see my Godchildren. Anton delighted with his new role at work. The only thorn in his side is the difficult target his part of the business has to reach. Ironically this was a target he set last year while in a previous role. Anna, however feeling a little frustrated by a lack of time to push on with her projects. Oskar in his first term at school is only doing half days, but this will change in January. While at the restaurant he locked himself in a toilet cubical but this didn't turn into a drama thankfully. Klaudia doing word puzzles and very keen on reading. Anton said she read an entire book to him the other day.

Then we all walked to the sparsely stocked city library where I borrowed a book about corpses called Stiff. While there, however, Lorraine played chess with Klaudia who is rather good apparently having learned on Anton and Anna's iPhones.

Another lazy afternoon. As it was raining steadily Lorraine and I watched endless junk TV: X-Factor and Come Dine With Me and read the paper. I still have no appetite for work, nor have I any get up and go. However part of my brain has been refining the new story I am working on, as new ideas keep popping into my head about them.

Lorraine apprehensive about next week when the future of her service (or what will remain of it after the government cuts) is to be announced. And Betty has agreed to look after Calliope when I am away, so all good.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Howling in the rain

Rainy day. Spent the morning with Lorraine, who then got started on an interminable form to become a head teacher. After consoling, I left her to it and went home and tackled a backlog of laundry, oven cleaning and other matters which had slipped by the wayside. Also busied myself with another afternoon snooze. Knee less swollen today, which is good. I hope I am slowly clawing back towards feeling healthy again.

In the evening Lorraine and I went out with Wayne and Matt. Not before Calliope had chased us down the Twitten howling her disapproval in the rain. It tugs my heartstrings when she does that appallingly bereft yowling. Met the boys in The Cricketers, which was being its usual venue for middle aged folk to behave badly. Arrived with wet trousers due to the rain, and a woman on the next table promptly knocked a glass of beer over me too.

Then had a curry. (Seem to be living on the things at the moment. I love it.) We'd intended to go to the restaurant where Lorraine is fawned on, but this has finally gone out of business. Feel sorry for Ash who ran it. He was excellent facing the public, but it was always Fawlty Towersish in the kitchen. Rain pouring steadily outside the restaurant. Wayne observed that checks are back again. There was a group of men on some kind of Stag night, all of them sporting checked shirts. Glad I am no slave to fashion. Then off to The Eddy for an quiet drink and a gossip before Lorraine and I sloped home.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Sleep sponge

Woke up at 5 o'clock thanks to that foul MSG. Got up and worked for an hour, cleverly fed Calliope and on returning to bed was rewarded with an untroubled sleep in till ten. Also slept in the afternoon for over an hour. I am a sleep sponge.

Bumped Doctor's appointment to Monday: but my knee is swollen and hurting, other joints aching and I feel ancient. I want to plop into one of those science fiction tanks full of a greenish gel and be attached to a bioengineered umbilicus. A few weeks later your broken body is pulled out of the gloop, and you find yourself renewed and improbably muscular. Then you are sent off to battle a race of huge warlike insects, and end up having your face injected by some disgusting ovipositor from the insect's body. Some hours later your comrades salvage your half-dead remains and you are returned to the gloop, but not before eggs have been scooped out in the nick of time from your head. Maybe the gel tank isn't the answer.

Erm... Back in Brighton it rained steadily most of the day. Unable to countenance work of any kind, tried poems, prose, admin, business... All to no avail. Like a raindrop on a furry leaf, it all slid off. Spoke to Mum, and pleased to hear that Mason back from his Brussels adventures. When he arrived for his meeting there were 150,000 protesters marching outside the station, which made finding his contacts a bit tricky.

In the evening umbrellaed down to Lorraine and we got a takeaway from around the corner, waiting for it we had a drink and a chat with half a dozen bald men doing the same, all very good spirited. Then back to Lorraine to watch an beakly-enjoyable episode of Wallander about refugee and drug smuggling while tucking into hot curry.