Friday, December 31, 2010

A piper at the gates of the year

I went about my various chores, and then sloped down to Lorraine's house for some lemony herby pasta thing, which was slimming and delicious. Chatted to Mark and Beth who have found a person to play the corpse in Wrong in March. Despite feeling sluggish and achy, I decided to head out and damn the torpedoes.

Out with Sam and Lorraine to the restaurant Wayne manages. A lovely space inside and is where we are going to stage This concert will fall in love with you again in February. Wayne zooming about hospitably, but Matt ill this evening. We sat for a while with Wayne's family, but it was a little awkward and hard to talk over the music. Then Wayne flagged a taxi and we three repaired to the Basketmakers, where people were singing, dancing and full of cheer. We happened to be on a table next to a kilted Scotsman who soon unleashed his bagpipes to enormous acclaim. I love the wild sound of bagpipes but this being England, one or two weren't so keen and there was some muttering about octopuses, and one slightly inebriated gentleman popped his finger over the drone. But in general there was much applause, and the Landlord brought him over an exceedingly large Scotch afterwards which he took to like a duck to water.

The hour came round at last. On the table next to us a taciturn man pulled his cardigan over his head as the bongs of Big Ben rang out through the pub speakers. Otherwise a happy moment, with much kissing of Lorraine and shaking of Sam's hand, not to mention some counting of my blessings, as the pipes stirred again for Auld Lang Syne and 2010 retreated into the west.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Beach huts

The queasey bug continues, so apart from a walk by the sea, I spent the day reading, dozing and watching Frasiers. A happy but almost entirely uneventful day. Reading Kenneth Rexroth's idiosyncratic translations from the Chinese, and Odysseas Elytis. And, strangely, fantasising about having an office.

Below an overcast and comparatively mild day by the sea. Rows of beach huts.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Nice and Queasy

L and I have a queasy bug. This is a fantastic way to reduce calories, however, as we only ate dry toast and a bowl of rice. Spent the day nauseously dozing and watching TV, and counting my lucky stars that I had nothing horrid to do. Otherwise I received a surprise package from Joan containing a copy of How Marketing ate Culture for me, and some pink fluffy fingerless gloves for Lorraine, which Calliope attacked immediately with a special viciousness.

An item on the news about the 70th anniversary of what was called The second great fire of London, where the East End went up in flames after the attentions of the Luftwaffe. Miraculously St Paul's Cathedral remained standing as an icon of the indomitable spirit of the British Empire etc. etc. As the flames raged my grandmother was enduring a long and painful labour. And my mother, whose birthday it is tomorrow, was born with jaundice and had to be swung through the legs of the doctor to encourage her first breath while all around London burned. Nothing like a dramatic entrance.

Below St Paul's.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Gecko in a handbag

Up doing a few chores this morning before working on Skelton Yawgrave. Called Ben, who is cat-sitting Mum and Mason's cat Salty, who is apparently in rude health and bringing rodent friends into the house like a feline Fred West. Heard from Joan and Mum in Costa Rica. The intrepid adventurers have now reached the Pacific coast. Joan told me that my mother was "enjoying all the wildlife she can get her hands on. If she comes back with a gecko in her bag don't be surprised." Later heard from Mum that she had been snorkelling. All this a far cry from her hospitalisation just a couple of months ago.

Maureen and Pat who came to my house for a cup of tea before leaving for Kent. A quiet afternoon, with Lorraine doing an embroidery and me wasting time trying to fix a computer problem caused by my iTunes.

In the evening off to Wayne and Matt's new flat, where we met John and Matt's folks Dave and Anne. Anne displaying her knee, which has recently been replaced and is healing well. Matt and Wayne having subdued music wars while we were eating some lovely grub. Matt playing some unusual records, including one by the Swingle Singers with the Modern Jazz Quartet. Matt has also had another prophetic dream about the opera, and we will meet shortly to discuss.
Lorraine especially full of beans and naughtiness tonight and giggling lots with Wayne. I like Wayne who I am getting to know better lately.
Lorraine and I walked home in a mild misty drizzle. And went to bed ridiculously late after watching a couple of Frasier episodes.

Below a photo from Joan of Mum searching for crabs in Costa Rica.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Spartan horizon

Discussing various schemes with Lorraine. Trying to use this holiday hiatus to plot the year ahead. On a non work related note I have set myself a target of losing 20kg in 2011, and I will start this on January 4th with the onset of a completely teetotal month. Feel quite keen to revert to a vegetarian diet too. January is the Monday of the year so I think it's best to cram it full of Spartan stuff.

Then off to buy food for Calliope. Sainsbury's a ghost town, and the staff looking bleak. It's so lucky not to be working at something horrid between Christmas and New Year. Instead I worked on poetry for a while before shooting off to meet First Matie and her old pal Nick Moran in a Brighton pub. I last saw Nick in January as he was leaving Brighton for Bristol. Nick, whose birthday it was today, seems to be taking to Bristol like a duck to water and already has got a band together, and a viola playing member of this called Rupert met us briefly in the pub. Kate had brought Puffin, the calamity attracting dog, which is now sporting stitches having had a growth cut from its leg. Kate again thankful for pet insurance. A restrained drink.

The streets now ice free and mobbed with shoppers taking advantage of the sales. I tried to do the same, and went to a few shops, but lost the will to live fairly fast. Due to the increase in VAT tax starting in January, and the general atmosphere of cutback induced gloom, there seems to be an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it feel to the Sales frenzy.

A quiet night in, watching Frasier and junk TV keeping out of trouble.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

One for his knob

Home to feed Calliope who, after greeting me with relief for five minutes, exploded into a flurry of bad behavior including her signature shredding the toilet roll, forbidden ferreting inside the airing cupboard and sitting at my desk to bite into my sleeves and shake her head in the vicious way reserved for the slaughter of small rodents. It is hard not to see this as anything other than simple recrimination at my absence.

Otherwise as my computer is behaving sluggishly, I spent hours running diagnostics, virus checks, checkdisk, defragging, freeing memory, backing things up up etc. all to no avail. Then I filed bills etc. and noticed how almost everything utility is going up next year. Then I took some some time to brood on the futility of life as an unknown writer.

Much improved by returning to Lorraine's house at tea time, eating cold turkey with pickles (including Pat's favourite, pickled walnuts) and bubble and squeak. Cleared the table to play several hands of crib, a game Pat taught me to play a year or so ago. It involves a good deal of counting to fifteen, and if you have a jack the same suit as the card turned over you get an extra point, called one for his knob. Pat and Lorraine revelling in metal arithmetic of it all. While it takes all my brain to tell when things add up to fifteen. Then the fluffy brain blanket of TV before bed.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Christmas day. Slightly fitful sleep at Lorraine's house, with squares of bright moonlight falling onto the walls through the velux windows. Up to a slice of toast or two with Lorraine and Pat and Maureen. Still felt incredibly full after last night's meal at Anton and Anna's house.

Lorraine made a hasty mackerel pate, and got the turkey in the oven. Then, via a slightly forlorn Calliope, folded Sam into the car and drove off to see Beth at Mark's family. The Gandey family kind and welcoming as usual. Slightly embarrassingly, however, we had forgotten the presents we'd bought for them. Nevertheless Richard plied me with nice cold Guinness for second breakfast. Good to see Mark looking less peaky than when I last saw him suffering from food poisoning.

Then back to Lorraine's house, general running about getting things ready. Pausing to open presents. I got a boxed set of Frasier DVDs, a smart fleece, wine glasses from Lorraine, a fascinating new Encyclopedia of Brighton from Anna and Anton, a 'P' scrabble mug from Oskar and Klaudia, and a DVD of The Inbetweeners, who I find really funny, from Beth.

Janet and Ken arrived, and we spent some leisurely time picking at finger food watching Lorraine finish off the cooking, and chatting. Lovely to see them, and Christmas Dinner was all that could be hoped for, and the bronze turkey particularly succulent. All groaning happily at the end of it.

A general slump on the sofa to watch a Wallace and Gromit DVD before Christmas pudding. Strange how Wallace and Gromit seems to be the perfect Christmas Day viewing. Janet and Ken had brought along some lovely cheese which none of us could face eating as we were so full. Janet and Ken getting on well with Pat and Maureen. Maureen inspired by Janet's bag that she made from fabric and applique of her own devising.

Later I found it difficult to go to sleep, and I lay in bed planning to lose 20kg. And reflecting how happy I had been to spend Christmas Day with Lorraine. Despite her having a heavy cold she did everything she could to make the day go well. She is the best of women.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

Legging about this morning, and a bit of final wrapping this afternoon which I enjoyed, despite the best attentions of Calliope who kept rushing at the wrapping paper.

Off to St. Nicholas Church a Crib Service, which is a shortened service primarily designed for children. Oskar has one of the many gyps doing the rounds and stayed at home with Brian. Went to Church with Anna, Anton and Klaudia. Anne, Anton's mum was there too, and at the Church we met Lorraine and Maureen and Pat. A nice enough service, with a game of pass the parcel incorporated into a telling of the Christmas Story, with layers of wrapping paper being torn off to reveal different aspects of Jesus. Klaudia caught the ball at one point and went to the front to tear off another layer. She also carried one of the wooden figures and placed it in the Nativity scene, plus carried a candle to the front looking as cute as anything.

I absolutely love the symbolism of the Nativity story, and St Nicholas seems to me to be a lovely place with good people, and I really enjoy attending at Christmas Eve.

Then all back to Anton and Anna's house. Anton carrying Klaudia on his back while she wore the hat she had stolen from my head. Bitingly cold tonight. And great to get back into the warm for a lovely evening and great company. Wonderful pulled pork and Mexican flavours from a meal prepared by Anna and Anton, who were typically hospitable and kind.

Moved by Anne who told me about her return to Mexico with Keith's ashes. She and Keith lived there, and Anne scattered his ashes in the area of sea they used to look at from their dining table. Apparently the Priest was late for the ceremony, and arrived on the boat Anne and her friends were on by jet ski. She was invited back to the house she had lived in, and sat at the same table and looked out at the same view. One of the friends wanted to spare a few of the ashes from the waves, and took them back to their own family crypt, where Keith's name is now added proudly, and slightly incongruously, to a list of Mexican names. The whole business made Anne feel she had come full circle, that happily felt rather healing.

Keith and Anne had invited me several times to their own Christmas Eve meals, which were always great fun and characterised by Keith's generosity.

Below various kinds of cute. Calliope qua Santa's little helper, Before the service, Klaudia and Fr. Robert, and blurry snaps of Klaudia carrying a candle.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Started the day with a bacon and egg sandwich, then was collected by Lorraine and Beth for big shop in Sainsbury's as there were boozes, snacks and Christmas grub to be bought. Later we found ourselves up on the garden centre near the racecourse, this is high above town, and you could see the fields and downs still covered in snow. From there you can see how much Brighton is sheltered by the Downs, especially today when bitter north wind was blowing.

A small party run by Lorraine and Dawn was great fun. Lorraine's folks Pat and Maureen arrived today for Christmas. I like tormenting Maureen, who still refuses to believe I had spell at Wormwood Scrubbs before coming to Brighton. Matt and Wayne came with John. Matt absurdly describing me as an attention seeker, and then proceeding to talk the hind legs all available donkeys. Nice to see Wayne who I'd not seen in a while. Jan and Helen and Gareth, and a nice man who used to live opposite Lorraine whose name I'm afraid I forget. Sam turned up looking suave, and Beth and Mark arrived after Mark had finished work. Much snacking on finger foods, and general gossiping. All very Christmassy.

On my Crackberry during the party I received emails from Mum and Joan in Costa Rica. I am pleased to hear from Joan that "Margaret seems to be unfazed by the height and who knows may allow herself to be strapped into a harness and zipped through the clouds. I shall record events from a firm position on the ground". Margaret being of course my mum.

Below three photos from Joan, showing Romy and Dick, the intrepid faces of Mum, Romy and Toby and the swaying bridges that the travellers have scampered over. 'Yikes' is all I can say.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A box of delights

Once Lorraine had returned from the hairdresser with new hairs, and I had done some scraps of work, we had a cup of miso soup to allay heavy colds before plunging into the shopping melee of Brighton. A cold not unpleasantly wraps you up in a kind of cotton wool and we floated about town's heaving masses adriotly dodging a pelt of seagull guano and the persistence of sales folk. Managed to identify a Lorraine present which is a relief.

Lorraine out tonight to see Handel's Messiah. And I delighted in a quiet evening on the gold sofa with Calliope snoozing a few inches away, while reading A Box of Delights by John Masefield in between snuffling and hacking. This is my favourite Christmas book of all - as it is very mysterious and you can sense Masefield loving the freedom of writing for children. Later Lorraine just called to say she had been congratulated by Dawn on her ability to sneeze quietly during the concert. Having typed these meagre thoughts I shall drift downstairs to sneak a thimble's worth of sloe gin and snaffle a mince pie before bedtime.

Thinking of my family holidaying in Costa Rica. I wonder what Christmas is like there?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Burning of the Clocks

The longest night, and so it was The Burning of the Clocks. A very pagan-seeming ritual, but only begun in 1993. A big parade of the clocks and bands of samba drummers, people wearing spooky faces, and on stilts etc. through town culminating in music and pyrotechnics and stunning fireworks on the beach below Madeira Drive. Thousands of people come to watch it, and it is yet another reason I love Brighton so much. Lorraine and I went with Dawn and Cath to watch the parade, and then the fireworks while we sipped hot mulled wine opportunely scored from a stall on the street. When it was all over we repaired to warm ourselves in the Basketmakers where I consumed an enjoyable few beers, and basked in the attentions of three ladies.

Otherwise a rich and bubbling cold, which I share with half the people in the UK. Taking care of business this morning, invoicing and some last bits of admin before I shut up shop for the year. Long conversation with Alexandra on the phone discussing future business, while walking around the shops with Lorraine in the afternoon. We bumped into a friend called Guy, who I don't know well but always like when we meet, and he made us laugh talking about the perfect cardigan he'd seen which cost £210, but added ruefully, 'Champagne tastes, and a beer budget'.

Below photos of the parade. All these clocks end up being burned in a huge bonfire. Italic

Monday, December 20, 2010

Through the snowy squares

A bad night's sleep, and the alarm going off far too early. Rows of cancellations and delays on the Station's information board. Eventually a train to Victoria arrived and I was able to travel in without being incredibly late. Every person in the train coughing and sneezing, but nice looking out at the white world from the train, and then later walking through the chiaroscuro of snowy London squares. However I was too late and cold to take any photos.

A victim of my own speed, I managed to crack the concept I'd been brought in to work on (with a nice Swede called Sven) almost instantly. I am happy to trade a day's pay for not having to commute to London through the snow just before Christmas. After work walked down to Covent Garden, to meet the French clients for a glass of champagne in their small office, as Katharina who I have been dealing with over the last few months is returning to Germany. Alexandra good value as ever, discussing business opportunities next year with me among more outrageous talk. I like her. Also chatted to Delphine and Virginie, the young intern who is replacing Katharina. Everyone smoking in an authentically French way, apart from me of course.

Home slightly before 10, and repaired to the gold sofa, having felt cold and coldy on the train home. A blessing.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday stuff

Invited up to London to do a couple of days work, which I have perhaps foolishly accepted. Later in the day also contacted by my French clients about some work soon too. Strange when the business stuff happens on Sunday after a quiet week.

Lorraine and I to her place this afternoon where I briefly rolled up my sleeves for manwork. I fixed her toilet cistern after tampering with ball cocks and employing a shaved cork to exemplary effect. Also surveyed the baby guppies. Then read Kenneth Rexroth's translations of Tu Fu (aka Du Fu) which I am finding wonderful.

Out with Anton this evening. Called around at his house where he had been cleaning records and played me a couple of tracks by the The 5th Dimension. An enjoyable evening with Anton sliding out over the ice for a couple of beers and pausing to eat some ribs. A nice night. Anton talking about wanting an immense valve amplifier among other things.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dickensian day

I felt very Christmassy and happy all day. Lorraine and I woke up to snow, then hailstones snicking the windows before remaining in unmelted icy piles. This followed by rain and a clear freezing day and perfect for mooching about in the North Laine area. Seemed Brighton was the only place in the UK not under snowed under. Mum and Mase were so lucky their flight left the day it did.

Lorraine, Beth and I wandered about buying a few more bits of presents, and stopping for a hobbit's second breakfast in Capers Cafe, where Beth had done recent show. Soon found ourselves sitting next to Brighton's first Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas and her family. An enjoyable bout of shopping and hanging out, before I broke away to drop into the maelstrom of Sainsbury's for some food shopping.

In the evening off to see The Rainbow Chorus perform their Christmas show, as well as an entertaining production they'd devised called A Dickens of a Christmas, loosely based on A Christmas Carol. This threaded together the cuts with a Scrooge-like, homophobic minister. Fortunately, its under-rehearsed nature managed only to add to the enjoyment as proper Christmas fare. Matt radiating confidence and personality, and Glen 'Fingers' Capra as ever accompanying effortlessly. Had a quick chat with choir members after, plus Matt and Fingers but left them bickering about carrying the electric piano to the pub. Matt unfairly tetchy when I started singing Ebony and Ivory to them. Home to the warm through the icy streets.

Annoyingly my camera had run out of battery, so no photos.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The uselessness of letters

Some snow this morning. Struggling with words today. With both a long poem Atlantis and on my substantial edit of Skelton Yawngrave intermittently through the day, both at a stage where careful thought is needed and in the case of Skelton Yawngrave this is slightly nerve-racking. The text is coming out the other end of this process is far cleaner and the plot is much faster.

Calliope is bored by bad weather and is indoors more and constantly bringing her catnip mouse and rubber ball into my study and thundering about with them, or jumping up at my keyboard to rub her chops on my face at critical moments. The only respite was a violent screeching fight with another cat. Amazing to see her rocket to the top of a wall and beat the intruder like a ginger stepchild. She smugly returned from her battle completely unharmed. I've never seen a scratch on her.

Otherwise I finished listening to Dark Matter by Michelle Paver (which I would heartily recommend), while baking a pie of my own devising and arranging to see my French clients next week. Evening with Lorraine, and we skipped across the icy road to the Battle of Trafalgar where I found it was good to be among humans once we had found a seat in the hubbub. Lorraine all smiles as she has little work to do in the next two weeks.

Found this poem today in one of my books. It is lovely if rather dismal. I sent it to Richard. I have started typing individual poems I find like this into a file. I have no idea why I haven't done this before. There is something different in reading a poem in a book. Retyping it somehow gets you into the poem in a slightly different way.


Tumult, weeping, many new ghosts
Heartbroken, aging, alone, I sing
To myself. Ragged mist settles
In the spreading dusk. Snow skurries
In the coiling wind. The wineglass
Is spilled. The bottle is empty.
The fire has gone out in the stove.
Everywhere men speak in whispers.
I brood on the uselessness of letters.

Tu Fu (713-770)
tr. Kenneth Rexroth

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Amazing how many beer bottles seven music loving gents can gargle through of an evening. Staring at them reinforced the urgent request from the liver and kidney dept. to focus on tea and mineral water. Self-restraint is a beautiful thing.

Actually I felt as if I were on holiday today. I finalised bookings for Guernsey Literary Festival, and otherwise left the outside world to its own devices, which were mainly of the steady rain turning to snow variety. Chatted to Anton as there is a tense meeting between Manchester United and Chelsea this weekend which we will watch together. And to Mum and Mas who tomorrow set off on the first leg of their journey to Costa Rica. There in the sunshine they are going to meet up Joan and Dick, and Toby and Romy.

Have almost finished listening to the audiobook of the creepy Dark Matter by Michelle Paver, which is something of a tour de force as a good old-fashioned ghost story. I have been listening to it alone, which as the creepy stuff happens to the main character who is completely alone in an arctic wilderness, makes for quite a spooky listen as the mercury plunges outside.

Out this evening to meet Lorraine and Beth in the Churchill Square mall for a spot of Christmas shopping, and eat a restrained indian take away while watching a dire US FBI caper called Without a Trace involving Santas and gunplay before mooching home.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Music and MRI

Hungover (which I blame on Bob). In the afternoon off to get an MRI scan of my knee. Twenty minutes with my knee in a clamp looking up at the word SEIMENS while having soft rock played through the ear defenders. Afterwards the radiologist showed me his images. Odd to see your own bone, cartilage, muscle, blood vessels and so on. We are meat machines.

Home and tidied up the place in preparation for Music Club. The first rule of Music Club is you do not talk about Music Club. But this time I'll make an exception. A well-attended inaugural night, with Anton, Fingers, Richard, Steve, Dipak and Matt who arrived late and in his cups after a meeting. Some wonderful eclectic choices from people passionate about their music - all kinds of extraordinary sounds amid enthusiastic drinking of speciality beers. Richard also sang two more of his excellent Shakespeare sonnets. The evening generally considered a success and will be repeated at someone-else's place.

Calliope, who loves men, decided to co-host the evening and spent much of it lapping up attention. Although she pointedly didn't help me tidy up the beer bottles afterwards.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

In the Cittie

Another night full of vivid dreams, and then up craving for a damn fine cup of Joe, once this and toast needs sated burned the Armenian flute music on Mum's laptop to take home, and Mum and I travelled into town on separate missions, saying goodbye at Baker Street.

I went off to Tavistock Square and had a lunchtime beer with Pat and Karam. A good gossip and lots of laughs. Pat going into a school next year too, to talk about advertising to 16 year olds. Then a pleasant couple of hours wandering about in London free as a bird, pausing for a bite to eat and a browse in Foyles bookshop before making my way to meet Mick Ginty in Ye Old Mitre pub dating back to 1546. Satisfying to sit there in a busy, wood panelled room near and a portrait of Henry VIII and a real fire. One of those timeless London moments. Mick talking about the arrival of The Gintini, his and Lucy's baby due in about six weeks.

Bob arrived and after an overlap, Mick left. Bob and I then proceeded on an extensive tour of historic London boozers including The Cittie of Yorke and ending up at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, which is like stepping inside a Victorian Christmas card. From there to a curry house where the old Mad Dog made the schoolboy error of complaining about the last meal he'd eaten there, before we were served. Forked into a rather nice curry but I for one all too alive to unseen reprisals taken in the kitchen.

The evening ended and I caught a taxi to Victoria, and then snoozed most of the way home on a late train to Brighton. Not done that in a while.

Below a snap of the interior of The Cittie of Yorke.

Monday, December 13, 2010

London calling

After a much-needed haircut, up on the train to the smoke today leaving Calliope scowling unhappily at a battery-powered automatic feeder. First task was to drink a festive beer or two with Keith, from the Glamoursmith agency I sometimes work with. Really nice chat in The Distiller's pub. He was telling me about his twin girls who, at three, are already giving him unsolicited advice on clothes, including referring to his smart new beanie as "the funny hat". Also learned that a concept we'd worked on together had been the foundation for a successful campaign.

Then on to Edgware to hang with Mum and Mase, who are girding their loins to fly off to Costa Rica to meet Toby, Romy, Joan and Dick. They are stopping off in Houston first and meeting an old pal of Mason's who is driving 1000 miles to be there.

In the evening to the local Harvester where I ate a satisfying combo platter of ribs and chicken parts. Mas and Mum talking about bizarre people they have encountered including one guy who, when in a cafe with them, drooled in strings from the corners of his mouth when imagining the money he might make from a business deal. Mum also talking fondly about recently visiting the Harvester with old family friend Swiss Chris and watching a traditional English brawl in the car park outside.

Home and listening to a spot of bleak Armenian flute music with Mum before an early bedtime and reading Toujours Cricklewood? a collection of pieces by Alan Coren I found on their bookshelves. Coren had a lovely gentle humour, and Cricklewood I know well having had a girlfriend with especially terrifying parents there when I was a yoof.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Over the farm gate

Unbelievable passage of dreams all night long. I can't remember the last time I woke up with what seemed like six full length dream movies in my head. Some of them involved being in Australia and New Zealand (places I have never been), others involved flying in biplanes and hot air balloons, in another I was walking on the edge of a tropical sea.

Once awake, and finding myself in Brighton, planned Christmas dinner this morning with Lorraine and Beth discussing various things that can be baked. We three off for a drive in the country stopping off at a farm not far from Chanctonbury Ring to order a free range Bronze turkey. Then to a vintners to buy some wines and beers for forthcoming parties and Christmas itself. Then to shops to buy decorations for Lorraine's house.

An afternoon pottering about, watching TV and offering a quantity of helpful advice to Lorraine as she put things up, and hung the tree with Beth. Then home quietly to sort myself out for the week, write some poetry, watch the last 15 minutes of X Factor, watch Match of the Day (Chelsea draw again, bah!) and have a long chat with the Tobster in Canada. He told me about Rob Ford the new mayor of Toronto, and his interview with CBC, which he conducted while coaching a football team. Just astonishing...

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Shopping today and into a few toy stores to look for presents for Oskar and Klaudia. Luckily I had Lorraine with me who was able to step in before I re-enacted The Shining in the aisles of a toyshop after walking around the shop 12 times seeking a Jolly Octopus.

There are some shops at this time of year I find almost impossible, I am always in the way of the sparrowy folk who can actually flit about in them. I did manage to aquire a nice reading lamp in Habitat, but shops full of women's trinkets and baubels such as Accessorize simply do not enough space for a men to enter them without barging into carousels of cheap earrings and silk effect scarves.

A couple of hours of this, and home for a cup of tea and to discuss, at some length, with Lorraine the best way of assembling floor standing angle-poised reading lights. She will persist in reading the instructions.

Then off to our usual curry house, which we'd not been to for a while. Sat next to a couple rowing sotto voce. I couldn't help noticing, however, the woman even had provocative hair. Mercifully they took their bickering away and we settled in for a pleasant night, not to mention a free calendar of nondescript country which may or may not have been India.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Shake a tailfeather

Pressing on with Skelton Yawngrave today with all the energy of a limp rag. I have, however, a good feeling about the changes I am making. Island Ink arrived from Guernsey, which had my short interview, the text of which can be found in my daywork blog.

After work off to meet Matt for a quick catch up in the Basketmakers. Plenty to discuss as usual. He is pressing on with the doppelganger music, and we are definitely staging This concert will fall in love with you again around Valentine's day. We'd be mad not to.

Then I was collected by Lorraine and we went to Capers Cafe where Beth and Mark, plus their pals Kayleigh and Amy were putting on a show of Motown songs. The audience was family and friends - Mark's family, Richard and Glenda, and Mark's brother David were of course the first to be up dancing. Cath and Dawn were also there, and we had a snack and some wine and the whole thing turned out to be a very good laugh. They all sang well, but Beth's gift for comedy shines through. Beth and Mark will be doing my play Wrong soon, which requires a strong female comedy lead, and I am hoping this will be right up her street.

Vigorous dancing during Shake your tailfeather. While they all sang...

Do the twist
Do the fly
Do the swim
And do the bird
Well do the duck
Aaah, and do the monkey
Hey hey, watusi
And a what about the food
Do the mashed potato
What about the boogaloo
Oh, the bony marony
Come on let's do the twist etc.

All rather lively.

Thursday, December 09, 2010


Some French work first thing, then struggling with major decisions on Skelton Yawngrave, deciding that the story must be told in the third person, rather than by Skelton. Converting it from first to doesn't seem to be too tricky, and I worked steadily through two chapters and it seems to be working. This decision throws one or two babies out with the bathwater, but also allows new ones to bob up. The new version seems darker and more dramatic.

A noisy student protest starting at the station. I saw a small group of students, all looking rather small and young. Oppressive atmosphere crackling with tension, ramped up by the disproportionate police presence. The students are protesting about having University fees trebled, among other things, and have got a good case. At the weekend some were supergluing themselves to the windows of TopShop and Vodaphone - allegedly owned by tax-avoiding plutocrats.

Meanwhile up in London interesting to observe the speed with which this new government has created the conditions for rioting. Mounted police charging into crowds. And in some bizarre comedy of errors, the protesters chanced upon Prince Charles and Camilla's car on the way to the theatre attacking it with paint and breaking a window.

Meanwhile in my comfortable bubble, a nice chat with Lorraine and her pals Lorraine and Sue in the Yeoman.

Below this is a fantastic photo. A Romanov moment. Then less good ones taken by me of the kids in Brighton - I say kids advisedly. Look at the size of the wee ones at the front.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Shakespeare by stealth

Very happy to hear Mum's recent tests are all clear again. Chatted to her and Mason. Pleased to say that I am getting over my man cold, and got on with stuff, including phoning David at the Marlborough Theatre to discuss Wrong.

In the evening, by coincidence, off to the bard downstairs at the Marlborough to see Richard Gibson and his pal Dipak play four of the Shakespeare's sonnets he has put to music. Richard has a policy of not mentioning that his lyricist is the Bard for reasons best known to himself. But they were well played and rather good. However in the pub environment they were essentially just background music, which was a shame. As soon as he was done Richard wanted to leave, so we abandoned Dipak and popped into the Evening Star after walking across town for a chat about it all. Interesting.

Below Richard (left) and Dipak at their stealthy business.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Plan B

Plan A was going to go up to London to schmooze and see pals, but I biffed this as I was feeling ropey. Instead, once I'd cleared the regurgitated cat biscuits from my study chair, worked on restructuring Skelton Yawngrave. The child character Grace is now the conduit through which you encounter all the others. It is the obvious way to do it, of course, and I was resisting it for this reason. But I find the story feels far more rooted this way.

Co-incidentally I got a note from Catriona about the three sessions I will be running for children in the Guernsey Literary festival on Friday 13th May, which is focusing my mind somewhat. Also a note from Matt getting the ball rolling on a new performance of This Concert will fall in love with you, on the day before Valentine's Day.

Otherwise listening to Dark Matter by Michelle Paver. This is a truly gripping story, subtly disconcerting, and a properly constructed ghost story set in the Arctic. Lovely stuff.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Knee business

X-rayed this morning. Had to roll up one trouser leg like a mason and stand in front of a metal plate. The x-ray machine made three musical notes while it was at its business. Then to another room to have my knee examined by a doctor and a trainee doctor. This lead to expert knee waggling interspersed with inexpert knee waggling, and a good deal of poking and flexing. Next step is an MRI scan, and perhaps an arthroscopy. Was told it is likely I will need a knee replacement when I am older. I have seen the future and the future is Borg.

Walked home by the sea, the street still frosty but the day bright blue. Home and working a little on the Skelton Yawngrave stuff. Coughing and washed out this afternoon. Watched the last episode of The Trip. I find it hard to say why I liked this so much. I like comedy when it is mixed with sadness, and stuff like the below just has to be largely improvised.

Below a scene from The Trip.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Christmas commences

Awake most of the night. Got up and read for a couple of hours before returning to bed. Was reading Richard's poems in A Guernsey Double again, they give me pleasure every time I do so. Received our third Amazon Purchase Order of the week this evening. Slowly but surely the book is selling beyond Guernsey.

In the morning worked for an hour on my new Atlantis poem, while Lorraine snoozed the snooze of the virtuous. Then I ambled about reassembling my artificial Christmas tree with multicoloured lights and cat-enticing tinsel and baubles. Calliope squirming into boxes and leaping at the tree with wild-eyed delight.

Sometimes my eyes greedily suck at a certain colour. When I worked at IBM at South Bank I craved the bright red in an abstract painting in the beige carpeted concrete stairwell. I would have to stop some days and drink in its redness, despite not liking the picture much. Now I'm hooked on the blue Christmas lights in North Street in Brighton, and the two or three electric blue lights on my Christmas tree. They have a touch of violet too, which seems to hint at the mystical. Late at night I was looking at the tree in my darkened room, and felt my Christmas spirit stealthily begin.

In the afternoon while still light, and before the penguins, polar bears etc. reclaimed the streets, Lorraine and I conducted a hard pruning of my roses, which proved the epitome of a restful Sunday activity.

Saturday, December 04, 2010


Snow melted away and replaced by steady rain. After a late breakfast, off to the gym and feeling rather virtuous as I lumbered about. Spent a little time working on the Atlantis poem in the afternoon, after talking to Richard and remembering I was a poet. Otherwise disinclined to do much.

Then to The Basketmakers (to undo the morning's virtue) and a haven of good cheer in the rainy drear, with Matt, Lorraine, Sam, Beth and Mark. Matt has begun work on the doppelganger piece, and would have simply stormed home to continue it if it were not for the boozy comfort of the pub. He has been rethinking the instrumentation, and is now toying with a sextet - flute, clarinet, percussion, violin, viola and cello, plus the singers. Sam on good form, reading H.P. Lovecraft amid his studies. An altogethery feel, and randomly roping in strangers to talk to us.

Home. Wrong-headedly devoured chocolate coins, then bed. But not before watching Chelsea play wretchedly again on Match of the Day.

This is the video banned by YouTube....

Matt Whistler's Merry Christmas 2010 Southover Street Brighton from Convict Films on Vimeo.

And this is his latest release. The man is a genius, and quite a good warts and all view of Brighton in the snow too....

Surfin' Bird Christmas No.1 2010 starring Matt Whistler from Convict Films on Vimeo.

Friday, December 03, 2010


A very enjoyable day, but not one in which much work happened. Trekked late from Lorraine's house to my own, and started work at a reprehensible 9:20. Glad I'd taken my hiking pole with a jabby end, as the streets are treacherously icy, climbing up hills coated with thick ice not a happy experience for generously proportioned gentleman with a high centre of gravity.

A long and enjoyable chat on the theme of island madness with Richard this morning, then after several displacements, off at lunchtime to walk gingerly up to see Janet and Ken, to drop off some milk (as they'd sensibly avoided the icy streets) and their copy of A Guernsey Double, and Ken gave me a copy of his new translation Letters to Madame The Marchioness of P * * * * on Opera. (Attributed to the Abbe Gabriel Bonnnot de Mably 1709 - 1785). We also had a nice cup of tea, where I was shown a portrait of Rossi, their ginger cat.

Then home. Mum called me just after I stepped into the door, having promised to go outside and break ice with neighbours. While talking to her, Calliope trotted proudly downstairs with a freshly caught dead sparrow in her savage maw. Further investigation revealed a gory, feather-bestrewn crime scene under my desk. Lovely.

Then some time shattering the ice in the Twitten with a garden fork (strangely therapeutic) while chatting with my neighbour Hilary.

Matt came by to collect the latest version of the words for the Opera, and seemed to be straining at the leash to get on with it. But he had time for a tea and a chat, and was over-nice to Calliope who was in disgrace.

Then off for some shopping with Lorraine this afternoon for Anna's birthday. Still bitterly cold. Out again to meet Anna, Anton and Brian, Sam and Martin in Pub du Vin, which was nice but pricey. And off to Warung Tujuh in Pool Valley an excellent little Indonesian restaurant for a cheerful chat. While we were eating a strong sea wind sprung up and brought with it much milder air and a surprisingly rapid thaw. A skid free stroll home.

Thursday, December 02, 2010


Snow had worked its silent ministry overnight, and was over six inches thick. Lorraine returned home and I chatted to my neighbour Alex, happily trapped at home by the closure of train routes. Gatwick airport has been for the last couple of days. The Downs, which separate Brighton from the rest of the country have protected us from the worst of the weather, with people snowed into their homes just a few miles inland.

Calliope pussyfooting around in the snow as I chatted to Alex, but mostly she is reluctant to venture into the cold. Bored, she is constantly treading on my keyboard, or trying to stand on desk with her front paws on my shoulder or leaping from the windowsill onto my back and biting me in unprovoked ways, howling disconsolately when I ignore her and generally making work an uphill struggle. I am compelled to regularly take her downstairs and play football with an artificial mouse to expend some of her energy.

Otherwise a disorganised morning's work and then, feeling antsy, set about a two hour bout of housework followed by the baking of a large pie.

Resumed work only to hear a good deal of pounding on my front door, which on opening revealed Klaudia and Oskar, who zoomed in straight for the pirate box, unburdening themselves of handfuls of snow on the floor. Once outside again my Godbairns and I threw quantities of snow at each other while I chatted to Anna and Anton. They were off for a family meal to celebrate Anna's birthday (along with Reuben and the French bloke today too). Grown ups go out to party tomorrow.

Trekked off to Lorraine's house this evening, which she had catnipped with a home made curry. The streets thick with treacherous ice and I sensibly took a walking pole with me. Mark and Betty full of all-purpose singing and cavorting. We all settled down to watch a movie starring Jim Carey and Ewan McGregor called I love you Philip Morris. Normally Carey does my bean in (a technical critical phrase) but I rather liked him in this gay romance.

Below the scene on opening my door this morning.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Songs and snowfall

A little more snow this morning, and fine one flake at a time snow fell most of the day. I sealed myself indoors working again on Skelton Yawngrave and other bits and pieces.

In the evening yomped across town to Kemptown to St Mary's church for the World Aids Day concert, where I met Lorraine. Vast high roofed church I'd not been in before, which was surprisingly warm inside. It featured The Brighton Gay Men's Chorus, Hullabaloo, which Lorraine used to sing with and was chatting to lots of its members, and Rainbow Chorus, which is Matt's choir. Also was a lovely soprano called Red Gray, accompanied by Fingers Capra plus Qukulele a lively singing and ukulele band.

Fascinating to see the different styles of the conductors, and choirs. Kirsty has a lovely and highly expressive way of leading her choir. The young conductor of the Gay Men's Chorus very fluid in his movements and a twinkling personality, and Matt, talking to the audience in an assured manner, was clearly the maestro.

Extra frisson added for me of course as the Rainbow Chorus were singing Found for the first time. Nice to see my name in the programme. The Rainbows were on fine form and stormed through their early numbers, but still are not entirely comfortable with the middle section of our piece. Matt's music is as ever really beautiful, and when it came together it was stunning, and I felt proud of my part in the piece. It is a funny business as I said the other day, sitting alone in your study and stringing together some words, and then some time later having them sung by many voices to a well attended audience.

The event of course made me think of Tim and Rosa my friends lost to Aids in the 90s, and the event was to benefit The Sussex Beacon, where Tim stayed sometimes towards the end of his life.

Out of the Church to discover it had been snowing enthusiastically. One or two cars sliding around, but as Lorraine and I walked down St James's Street there were outbreaks of snowballing and fun. At one point a man on a retro bicycle went past wearing a top hat and everything suddenly felt very Victorian. Lorraine and I then walked through town, with people skidding about delightedly, and improvising slides on the hilly roads. Eventually arrived at the Evening Star and met Fingers and Richard Gibson and a nice man called Steve for a late beer and intensive chatting, before going home to a naughty late night nip of sloe gin.

Below Matt and the Raibow Chorus just about to start a song, Red Gray, Fingers with Red Gray, Brighton Street scenes and the end of my Twitten.