Saturday, March 31, 2012

Shots and stags

Up early and drinking some excellent coffee before we were joined by Matt Hindley and Tom Larowe, also from Minnesota like Craig, and cabbed off to The West London Shooting school where we met Graeme and Matty boy. The club house made me feel I was in a PG Wodehouse story, with lots of gun toting coves dressed in country garb, and a taxidermists dream of dead animal heads and game birds adorning the place. The day started in earnest with sensible bacon rolls and coffee, before we went out to shoot.

Alone among us, I had never shot a weapon before in my life so was not expecting much from the experience. We were split into two groups of three - I was with Craig and Tom and were taken to various stands from where clay pigeons were frizbeed into the air. We were all given caps and eye protectors as bits of the clays were showering down from the sky all around, plus earplugs. Interestingly, in the smallish shooting grounds a pheasant, kestrel, geese and so on mooched about happily seeming happy that they were completely safe. Odd.

I surprised myself by shooting my first clay and did reasonably well thereafter. After we had shot from the five different stands all of us reconvened, and were split into groups of two. Each pair was assailed by clay pigeons (which the most Wodehousian instructor referred to as Germans) and we were scored on how many we could hit in this melee. Matt Hindly was my partner (and the best shot of the day) and we were the best pair. I had, completely unexpectedly, enjoyed blasting bits of clay from the air. Who would have thought it?

From there a light lunch back at the club, before we went, via Matt Hunt's house (where I said hello to his astonishingly ugly cat called Gremlin), to a Hammam in a London hotel. Here we were joined by Robbie Rae, who observed that only Matty boy could arrange a stag party where we pay to each other naked. I sumoed about amongst the more slender gentleman into the Hammam, which was about 45C and full of steam. Sweat poured off you within seconds of entering. After a good bit of this and splashing yourself with cold water and exfoliating with towel mittens containing olive oil soap, we were then given half hour massages (entirely properly) by three young ladies, who advised us to drink lots of water afterwards.

Then on to champagne, where we were joined by Simon Casson, Matt Hindley's cousin, and eventually a taxi to The Guinea Grill, and joined by David, who lives near Matty Boy, for a few more drinks and a steak-based meal. I had a steak and mushroom pie.
Lots of really nice conversation. Really good to see Graeme again, whom rather mortifyingly, I spilled wind over. He gave me a good tip on the phenomenon of choking in sports, and changing your inner voice which is being critical and feeding you negative messages. You have to try to pinpoint where the voice seems to speak from in your brain, change its sex and relocate it. Talking to Graeme too about shooting, a matter he knows about.

Eventually the night broke up and Craig, Tom, Robbie and I taxied home. Tom and I staying with Craig.

Actually the day was excellent fun, and all the protagonists got on very well, and many praises were rightfully sung to the excellence of Craig.

Mel still up when we arrived home, and so to bed. I don't like stag dos as a rule, but really enjoyed this one. A splendid bunch of gents.

Below inside the Wodehousian world of West London Shooting School. Me getting ready to blast stuff. Craig talking to our instructor, as smoke curls out of his barrels. Simon, who on the way from the hotel, paused to play Stormy Weather nonchalantly on a grand piano.





Friday, March 30, 2012

Staying with Mel and Craig

A poor start to the day. I was feeling tetchy and self pitying, and didn't go to the gym which helps to banish such feelings. Luckily Lorraine was working at home in the afternoon so I could share this with her.

Up to London in the afternoon and to Hammersmith to meet up with Craig and Mel in the Brook Green Hotel, a pleasant pub with grub served on slates that, when I knew it, was a rough and univiting dive. Really nice time chatting with Craig, and getting to know Mel better. She is a lovely woman, and an American like Craig. We ate at the Brook Green too, and enjoyed perhaps one or two too many drinks. But left the pub far more cheerfully than I had arrived.

They had invited me to stay overnight as there would be an early start to Craig's stag day tomorrow. To bed at Craigs in their really nice flat. Great little garden too. It gave me the opportunity to learn more of the inside skinny on how Mel and Craig found each other, as they've asked me to do a poem at their wedding, which will be next month in Alnwick Castle up in Northumberland, which will be a visual and historic treat, as well as a wedding. Bargain!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Newts and noises

A timely chat with Mike my former art director, whose grown up approach soon had me feeling grounded and less twitchy about my freelance work. Otherwise the usual: to the gym for the third day in a row (I don't seem to be much thinner, but I feel far more springy) listening to my new audio book Solar, by Ian McEwen which is typically crisp and funny. Some of my own work this afternoon.

Also spoke to Craig who I am going to stay with tomorrow night and Saturday, as part of Craig's Stag weekend.

Lorraine and I sauntered in Preston Park which was as busy as a Summer's night. Looking into the little circular pond by the cafe which was alive with newts. I took a fancy to a tiny one, and couldn't help thinking of it as my newt. Elsewhere even the curl of barbecue smoke, people playing tennis and football, and children running about. We sauntered enjoyably, with Lorraine admiring colourless flowers. A really nice interlude. Then back to cook a prawn based repast.

I am beginning to realise that the effort required to block out the noise, which starts at 8:00am, from the cranes, drills, things that saw bricks in half etc. that drags on interminably as the viaduct behind our house is repaired, has actually been badly harming my concentration. Under normal circumstances the Old Church Hall is pleasantly quiet apart from the occasional train, and the brawling of cats. I'm beginning to wonder if some of my malaise is simply having to struggle to hear myself think sometimes.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hateful limbo

Inability to concentrate on my own work, combined with no sign of freelance work has put me in a hateful limbo. Still I plod along, sending out more CDs, emails, phonecalls etc. A thousand communications that tumble into an unanswering void.

Thank God for the gym, which is a good conduit for my frustration. Finished The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse while trundling on the cross trainer etc. A loner haunted by grief arrives in a strange town, grappling with an uncertain reality. As you'd expect from Mosse, there was nicely-researched Cathar history, but I found the overall effect more wistful than frightening, the book's pace too langorous to build tension.

Cheered too, by a nice letter from Richard in Guernsey. He is readying another book to spring on the world.

After a spot of shopping with Lorraine, and cooking us a stirfry, I met Anton for a late beer and a lengthy chat.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Bears

Clocks forward this weekend so this morning seemed bleakly early. Had to be at Anton's place to babysit Klaudia and Oskar first thing before taking them to school. They were good as gold, watching TV shows, an updated Scooby Doo, which was rather more frightening and a tad less predictable than the original, plus a show called Tracey Beaker that they seemed to like, and an animation called Charlie and Lola which was simple but visually innovative. Oskar earnestly explaining the action and plots to me, the sweetheart.

Once the bairns delivered to school, Klaudia and I not treading on cracks because of bears, and then Klaudia deliberately treading on cracks because of bears, I went back home via Sainsburys.

Motivation-free morning but I gradually picked up speed as the day progressed. My mood far more positive than it has been for several months. Could it be simply to do with the returning sun? Lorraine out late, on a post-work soup supper with colleagues. I ate spaghetti and watched a few Fraziers in between working on poetry in the evening.

Floor littered with jigsaw pieces after Calliope out of devilment pulled Lorraine's jigsaw mat from the table.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Some of the big draws of Chester

Woke up feeling unfairly fresh considering the previous night out with Carl. Carl, Jayne and Ellie came to the hotel for breakfast, which Carl kindly bought me. It was another amazingly beautiful day, so we decided to go to the nearby City of Chester, which dates from Roman times, and not too far away from Runcorn. A beautiful place it was too. We trundled around a few shops and I snapped away happily. Then to another pub, for a glass of cold lemonade before another stop as Carl and Jayne needed some food shopping, which allowed me to sneak off and take a photo of Helsby Hill, which from certain angles looks like a face.

Eventually Carl dropped me back at the station. Fond farewells to him, Jayne and Ellie, and promises not to make it such a long gap next time.

The train journey home was fine, after I had turfed out an irritable woman who was using my reserved seat as a place to rest her case. Listening to The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse again, which I am enjoying.

Happy to meet up with Lorraine at Victoria as I had missed her a lot considering it was only for just over 24 hours since we'd been apart. Had to stand up a good deal of the way from Victoria to Brighton. Eventually we found separate seats, I sat opposite a little girl probably only three or four whose language was unfamiliar, but whose staring competitions with me kept me occupied until we arrived home.

Lorraine and I had a slightly guilty curry. She had really enjoyed seeing Sam up in Leeds, and I had a wonderful weekend too.

Below part of the city wall, an angel outside the cathedral, outside the cathedral, the Clock Tower on the Eastgate, carvings on an old building, a Chester street scene towards Eastgate, and Helsby Hill's profile. Apparently there was an iron age fort up there too as the hill impressively dominates the flat land looking out to the Mersey.








Saturday, March 24, 2012

A night out with Carl

A day more like June than March. Lorraine and I off to Brighton station, travelling to Victoria together. I then made my way to Euston to visit Carl in Runcorn, and Lorraine went to Leeds to see Sam. A stress free journey, listening to Kate Mosse's The Winter Ghosts on my iPod. Carl waiting for me at Runcorn station and it was heartwarming to see him again after two and a half years. He was looking well and cheerful. And he drove me off to the Premier Inn and then returned with Jayne and Ellie once I'd unpacked and got myself sorted in a clean and reasonably pleasant room.

Then off towards Frodsham and the Lady Hayes craft centre. Jayne went happily into a craft shop, and Carl, Ellie and I zoomed about in the patented Watson short attention span tour of other attractions. One was a shop selling aromatic and expensive candles owned by Bob Carolgees of Spit the Dog fame. The famous owner was there, but we weren't moved to speak to him. There was a microbrewery there, and Carl and I went in and had a thimble of beer, and Carl bought me three bottles to take home.

Then we all went to a Harvester for a big feed of chicken and salad. Nice to chat to Jayne and Ellie, who at 14 is now officially a teenager, but seems a very pleasant one. She's very like Carl in lots of ways, including her humour, and loves drawing especially portraits. She showed me a few on her phone, and they were very good. Jayne working for the Department of Education, and like other of my acquaintance, had faint praise for Michael Gove.

We all went shopping in an new shopping area called Cheshire Oaks, which was very American seeming to me, but pleasant enough. Then Carl and I then dropped off by Jayne in Frodsham village on the Edge of Runcorn where we had many beers in a variety of pubs.

Drinking up here a completely different thing to in Brighton. The Runcorn women, for example, tend to dress up like wannabe WAGS, with thick makeup and a kind of fake-tanned glamour just to go to the pub. Carl explained that they tended to see the same people most nights, which may have been why even I felt like a vulnerable prey species in one called The Bear's Paw.

Carl and I catching up on a thousand pieces of news, and it was a lovely time. Eventually we got a cab into The Old Town, what the locals call the old central part of Runcorn. Here we met Carl's pal John who is a really decent guy who has been bringing up his two children single-handed. Into another pub, The Royal, Carl said I should keep my mouth shut, due to my exotic Southern poshness. It proved to be a lively place with a dozen screens featuring a boxing match. This presumably as a precursor to the scuffles that John assured me regularly break out in the pub. It was somewhat lairy. And it had a karaoke man bellowing in corner. We left for a more sedate place, a pub confusingly called The Wine Bar.

A shared bag of chips followed and then home by cab. A lively night in the North, and very different from beers in Brighton. A few beers with Carl had been a long time coming, but it was well worth it.

Below John and Carl in a lively boozer.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A happy day

Up early and some notes I made recently condensed into a what seems to be a storming poem, even if I say so myself. Which I do. Then to the gym. Obviously I'm still an enormously fat bloke, but slightly less so. Listening to podcasts about books as I go about my sweaty business.

Then home in time to prepare for a teleconference with First Matie, Julian and Mate from the agency, and spent the afternoon and evening sorting out nine versions of some copy to be translated into Polish. Lorraine out working late, and after my work was done, I simply put on a DVD and sank happily into a Frazier fest sipping a sophisticated glass of whisky and diet coke until Lorraine came home.

Lorraine is on the cusp of securing a new job as she is being seconded to work as a deputy head for a school for a few terms. This gives her the current in-school experience that she is missing to enable her to step confidently into headship in a year or so. All good, and she is excited.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Moments of limbo

Not much happening, although I have been writing my own stuff in scraps first thing. But limboish moments bring out my inner astrologer, which is not a good thing as living your life by the stars is buffoonish. But I can't help noticing that Mercury the planet of communications, Mars and Saturn are all in retrograde motion. For astrologers this points to miscommunication and the undoing of deals and agreements, which chimes with what's going on now.

Still, Lorraine had some excellent job news. And in the evening Dawn came around armed with chocolate cake, and Lorraine cooked a lovely curry and we all sat about very happily shooting the breeze. Dawn living with a friend at the moment, before buying a new place. She is experiencing the anticlimax of having sold her old place, moved everything out but not yet moving in somewhere new. More limbo. I am very fond of Dawn and Lorraine loves her.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring

Feeling energised and positive this morning. It is the first day of spring, the sun has moved into Aries and all is good. It is the real new year and I am a pagan at heart.

Writing a new poem this morning, but still no definite freelance work on the horizon. The person who offered me a long booking from next month has stopped answering my email or texts, so it goes. I went to the gym. In fact this is the third day in a row that I have been to the gym. It is good, although a bit boring. I am now using it to listen to book review podcasts.

I cooked for Lorraine who arrived home late from a school governors meeting, and then pushed off to meet Anton in the Shakey's Head. A cheery evening generally, although Anton ended it with persistent hiccups. I went home and popped into the The Hydrant for half an hour as there was a free live band playing in there. They were fairly appalling, but fun nevertheless.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Why be happy when you could be normal?

Despite my best efforts, not much happening today. Found myself unable to write, and business avenues seem temporarily blocked. Instead I went to the gym, then voraciously read Jeanette Winterson's Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?.

I can't remember when I last consumed a book so quickly. It is a mainly a memoir about her childhood, dominated by the religious and depressive monster, referred to as Mrs Winterson, who adopted her. At one time Mrs Winterson made a bonfire of books that Jeanette had hidden under her bed. It also sketches the circumstances that lead to the publication of her first and largely autobiographical book Oranges are not the only fruit in her mid twenties. It then fast-forwards to a breakdown she had in recent years and her sucessful attempt to find her real mother, and a kind of peace made with the memory of Mrs Winterson.

The book resonanted with me, just because her experiences where a little similar to my own, but far more dramatic. Jeanette Winterson and I are almost the same age and one of her mother's favourite punishments would be to lock her out so she would spend the night on the doorstep. Some of my earliest memories are of being locked into the back garden by my paternal grandmother, and of sitting by a door that would never open. She talks about this quite a bit, and it is something that I have been trying unsuccessfully to write about.

Although obviously not adopted like Winterson, I have not seen my real father since I was five and am subject to fleeting curiosities about him and my other relatives. Additionally my stepfather Gerald recently contacted me directly for the first time in 30 years, so I am working out about what I feel about this, and the book was somehow helpful in thinking about this too.

I like this particular quote from the book very much:

"Creativity is on the side of health - it isn't the thing that drives us mad; it is the capacity in us that tries to save us from madness."

I couldn't agree more.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

To score at last

Lorraine and I off to the gym this morning. Felt sluggish to start with but then worked out for a long time. Lorraine did swimming, cross training and rowing machine too. I did weights of various types, a long rowing session and half an hour on the cross trainer.

Home and Lorraine cooked a delicious chicken and broccoli dish for Betty and I and the three of us went to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, just round the corner in the Duke of York's picture house. Betty paid for Lorraine as a Mothers Day present. A nice movie, quite feelgood, and the odd sad moment to stop it being sickly. A round of applause at the end from the packed cinema.

Home and chatted to Mum, and began reading Jeanette Winterson's Why be happy when you could be normal? which I am really enjoying.

Betty back to university this afternoon, looking brave crutches and bags strapped to her back.

In other news Fernando Torres, the Chelsea centre forward whose inability to score since October 19th has fascinated and appalled me, suddenly got two goals today. Chelsea's new caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo has done a revolutionary thing. He simply spoke to every single player in one-to-one meetings. Since this innovation, Chelsea has won the last four games in a row.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Kate gets on her bike

Insomnia. Eventually I went downstairs and reread Black Venus, a short story by Angela Carter about Baudelaire's mistress. Carter was an amazing writer, but there are things about the story which under normal circumstances may have put me off. The first few pages are vague, there are references to Eve and a floaty unfocused poeticism. But the indulgence of the language makes sense when it becomes clear that the story is about the woman who was to become Baudelaire's muse. The virtues of patience as a reader are more easy to come by in the morning.

Eventually dozing at around six, as Calliope watched me like a hawk a foot away from my face. Sluggish morning. Lorraine returned from shopping and driving Beth with a Zumba for Wii game, and proceeded to do Calypso dancing in front of the TV. I did some too, while Lorraine laughed at me.

Then off to meet First Matie who had come to Brighton for a nice beer in the Basketmakers, and we sauntered off to Oki Nami for a Japanese grub. Kate telling us about her new adventure: cycling for hundreds of miles in Kenya in November. She is starting to get fit now too, buy building up her core strength and is planning to cycle like a mad thing in preparation.

Fond farewells to Kate in the teeming rain, Lorraine and I popped into The Eagle, across the road from the Basketmakers, where Irish Tom had been running his Tomfoolery evening for Paddy's Day. Lots of cheery Irish folk and sympathisers drinking Guinness and having fun. It was rude not to have a final Guinness with them too before Lorraine and I sloped home.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cathead business

Bad night's sleep, but up early and working on the new Matt collaboration pieces, then off to the gym for a lively workout before home and rather undoing all the good work with the egg and bacon sandwiches I made for myself and the crutch-waving Betty.

Sent off more albums, including Jenny at BBC Guernsey, and Mario Petrucci who I am going for coffee with next month. I am slowly beginning to consider my current phase as a beneficial re-vamp of my business, which should create firmer foundations for the next few years.

The afternoon, however, on cathead business as Janet is repeating her Open House this year. I went to see Janet and Ken, and enjoyed cups of Lady Gray tea and flapjacks and other fancies while discussing the correct manner to display Mum's papier mache catheads (which I'd brought round) as well as drifting into politics, David Hockney, Neanderthals and so on. Ken mentioned a new Chinese story about The Red Deer People who may be a newly discovered species of human, who ate lots of venison.

Discussion came around to the evil black cat, and Ken returned with a fierce pump action water pistol, which he lent me. I greatly enjoyed his account of hanging out of a window to squirt seagulls with it. Unfortunately The Old Church Hall does not allow much in the way of sniper vantage spots.

Once Lorraine had returned from work, Lorraine, Betty and I had a curry in the Shahi tonight. Betty quite speedy on her crutches when she gets going. Suddenly very tired this evening and took myself off to bed while Lorraine and Beth watched Zorro, which was unexpectedly Welsh flavoured.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hello sunshine

Another potentially long running freelance opportunity showed itself today, which was good news and I followed it up with enthusiasm. Otherwise sent out a few more albums and worked on the new Matt piece. This started really well, but is beginning to collapse under the weight of its contradictions, so I have had to deconstruct everything I have written so far.

Out and about in the sunshine, and I spent an enjoyable hour in the Marwood for a change of scene chinstroking and changed about three lines. Into my new barbers but today's barber was heavy-handed and my hair is only just passable.

Betty at home for most of the day on the gold sofa watching TV with her leg up. Nice to chat to her and bring her cups of tea.

Below everyone creeping out into the sunshine. Lunchtime in the Pavilion Gardens.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I am a neanderthal

Got a job offer but unfortunately it was in Marlowe, and would mean a six hour train round trip. The good news is that it means the package I've put together works in stirring up some interest. Sent CDs to a couple of newspapers, sent stuff to local agency, sent stuff to London agencies and so on. Feeling coldy today.

Betty home this evening in time to share a delicious fish pie that Lorraine had cooked. She is on crutches after damaging her knee, although details of what has happened to it, are still thin on the ground but seems to be ligament or cartilage damage.

Got reading about Neanderthals. Early humans fascinate me these days. Turns out that people originating in Europe and Asia have 2.5% Neanderthal DNA, as there was interbreeding. When the original Homo Sapiens were shuffling out of Africa it seems they bumped into Neanderthals in what's now the middle east. They seemed to have mixed with them genetically and then spread out to populate the world. Modern African populations don't have Neanderthal DNA.

What I didn't know was that they have recently found the tip of a toe (or little finger) in western Siberia called Denisovian Man. This is a third group of humans who appeared to have existed as the same time as Neanderthals and us. Turns out that analysis of current DNA compared to Denisovian Man shows that Melanesians and Aboriginals have traces of a DNA match with Denisovians. This means that current humans also mixed with Denisovian Man.

There is speculation that Denisovian man and Neanderthals might have mixed too. The genetic history of mankind is less simple than we thought. Read this New Scientist article here for more about the new discovery.

Much buoyed by Chelsea performing regally in the European Cup, trailing after the first leg 1-3 against Napoli, they performed magnificently to win 4-1 at Stamford Bridge tonight, and so winning 5-4 on aggregate. Chelsea have had all kinds of problems this season, including sacking their newly signed hotshot manager after a string of losses. Texted Anton afterwards but he seemed muted in his celebrations. It is inexplicable how a football team doing well can make you feel happy really, but it does.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bob in Brighton

Feeling quite cheery today, taking care of business and beginning to think laterally, approaching a magazine with a wheeze, billing the AIDS Alliance, writing covering letters about the CD, and sending off a volley of email.

Meet Bob in The Cricketers, as he was staying at the Thistle Hotel having delivered some training in Lewes. He was on good form, and we had a really good night with lots to talk about over a curry and a few beers, topped off with a thimble of vodka in the Scandinavian Bar. This tasted vaguely of Famel cough mixture and smoky bacon.

From there we went to the front to stare at the sea. The horizon was a foggy lineless black. We looked down nostalgically at the bright young things heading for one of the nightclubs and then we walked together as far as Preston Circus, before Bob loped off under the gibbous moon. Jolly good to see him.

Monday, March 12, 2012

In conjunction

Up at seven and was editing an paper by the AIDS Alliance about AIDS transmission from mothers to children in Uganda. A sobering read, but the paper was on how to people in remoter areas to work side by side with the health authorities. Men are a problem as they seem less easy to convince that aids is real.

Lorraine also working at home today on the next desk. But noisy when she has to talk to people, as what she was saying was often more compelling that the stuff I was reading. In fairness it was quite well written, but I have noticed that academics generally think that writing in 100 word sentences is a badge of honour. More infernal work being undertaken on the viaduct behind us made me reach for the earplugs.

After the editing was done, I went out into the gorgeous sunshine back to the incredibly tiny local agency, again missing the MD. I left a card.

Heard from Betty who seems to have done something to the cartilage of her knee, and is on crutches.

Lorraine and I went to the gym this evening. Lorraine is trying to start a routine, and I want to support her. I have never seen it busier, and Lorraine, who being Lorraine is already talking to the people who work there, said they had never seen it busier too. I did quite a big workout, and felt good for it. Lorraine did rowing, and cross training and a swim.

Then home via Sainsburys listening to the distant fog horns. The sky was clear near home, after we'd shopped, and the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus in the west was plain to see. Thinking of their astrological associations of luck and love.

Home to a quorn and vegetable stir fry and feeling virtuous as we watched an Italian cop show.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Cats and Battle Axes

Loaded Mum's pictures into the car and drove off to Edgware to see Mum and Mase with my iPod playing on random. Lorraine had the power of veto, however, and quite a few tunes were put to the sword.

By the time we reached Edgware it was a beautiful sunny day. After saying hello, all back into Lorriane's car and we drove out to The Battle Axes just outside Elstree where we were served by a duty manager who was the living embodiment of the pub's name. Four Sunday roasts hit the spot however and we had fun.

Was texted by Jenny at BBC Guernsey, who hadn't received the copy of Clameur I had sent her. Where do they go?

After we went off to Battlers Green Farm which had been converted to contain giftshops, a butchers and an arts and crafts bit where people were busy making silver things. Mum bought Lorraine a brooch there for her forthcoming birthday in April. We had tea there too, in a cafe called The Bull Pen. Enjoyed watching a Japanese couple munch their way through a cake stand's worth of cakes and fancies, in what seemed a very dutiful way and with little evident enjoyment.

Also looking at a large aviary containing a peacock, chickens, and some yellowish birds that sang in a beautifully liquid way.

Home and the business of looking at Mum's paintings and trying to attach values to them. Much groaning and horror at this process. Thank God for Lorraine who was being helpful and sensible as usual. Loaded up with different paintings ready for Mum's Open Houses show, flatcats (see below), and cat heads.

Fond farewells to Mum and Mase before zooming home listening to Kermode and Mayo enjoyably bickering about Films on my podcast.

Below Mum's new invention: Flatcats! They sit above people's door frames.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Dawn in transit, and a touch of spice

Up fairly early this morning, and mooched off to Dawn's flat in Compton Road where Lorraine and I, Cath, Mark, Sarah, and her lovely little daughter Evelyn helped Dawn and Ellie (her daughter at college in London) move out. Much carrying of boxes etc. out of the house like a line of ants. Sarah and JD from a few doors down brought us cups of tea when we were loading the van, and Dawn produced fruitcake which was rather marvellous.

Then down to the storage depot, with a change of personnel L & I plus Dawn, Ellie and Dawn's two sisters loading everything into a storage cubicle.

A beautiful day, and after we were done, Lorraine and I walked through the park, passing a convention of pug owners. Home and a little quiet time. Cath came around later to show us the results of a clothes spending spree.

In the evening off to The Basketmakers to meet Matt and Wayne and chat to them and a few other BM regulars such as Irish Tom and Rich who is just about to leave to live in London.

Wayne happy because he entered a competition to paint a picture of Mel C (formerly Sporty Spice from the Spice Girls). Bizarrely, this turned into a composition, and inspired him with a new way of working. Wayne's prize was to meet Mel C, and he gave her a copy of Clameur. I enjoyed a brief vision of the Spice Girls and David Beckham listening attentively to the album.

Good chats with Matt too, who was being very supportive and encouraging about my writing. We left quite early, as Lorraine was sneezing and needing her bed. Home in time for football. Chelsea won again today. All well.

Below Dawn in Transit, and Ellie and Dawn.



Friday, March 09, 2012

The reception of dogs

Another good day today. First thing in the morning, I worked fruitfully on the new Pollard & Kenny project for an hour. Then I got down to business, making calls, sending my presentation to a few agencies, emailing certain contacts and even taking the opportunity to introduce myself to two local agencies.

This quite amusing, one contained three people looking startled that anyone should just walk in the door and talk to them about business. The second's website contained touchy feely stuff about dropping in for a cup of tea and a chat, but the reality was a walk across a car park, a door with a buzzer that opened onto a small but not terribly friendly dog barring your way. The canine negotiated, I reached the reception where I was met by a not terribly friendly male receptionist.

In the afternoon I even found myself in The Basketmakers for twenty minutes, popping in for a single beer and to write some lists.

Was called up to do some editing work on Monday for Aids Alliance, which will be interesting.

Early in the evening, Lorraine and I popped into the Shahi for a feed, and to return home to revel on the gold sofa.

Below London Road is crying out for a photo project, as it seems a conduit for everything comfortable society would want to avoid. Today I saw protesters scuffling with police outside an HSBC bank, sadly I only got a shot of the standing around aftermath. Then this maimed but eyecatching display in the PDSA (a pets charity) shop. As I took it a worker in the shop ran out and said 'we'll be charging for that soon'.


Thursday, March 08, 2012

Here comes the sun

And today I felt positively cheerful. I worked this morning, then went in the bright warm sun to the gym for a long workout. From there I met Dipak in the Marwood for some strong coffee. Dipak reminding me of the virtues of meditation. On the way home I left two copies of Clameur at the library, which were gratefully received. People like free stuff.

Later in the day I listened to a Melyvn Bragg radio discussion about Lyrical Ballads, by Wordsworth and Coleridge. Nothing to write home about, but it did force me to re-read Tintern Abbey. Funny how my tastes have broadened. In my hotheaded youth what I saw as Wordsworth's windbaggery literally made me feel sick. Now I find I really enjoy the pacing of his more reflective work and see unnoticed depths. When I first tried to read Dickens as a child I found it crushingly depressing. Now I think Dickens is a world treasure and full of comedy. Perhaps I should read The Trial, which on my two previous attempts communicated its angst and bewildered frustration so well, that I just couldn't read beyond half way.

A nice evening, I cooked and we chatted nicely after watching the now-obligatory The Big Bang Theory, which we both like a great deal.

Much news about solar flares, apparently the Earth was buffeted by them today, and there was talk about seeing the Northern Lights in the north of Britain. Lorraine and I will have to go in search of these at some point, as Lorraine is fascinated by them. I like them, but I also want to see a tornado (from a safe distance).

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Black dog

At my desk all day. Good work first thing on the new project with Matt, and then, finally, completed my pdf portfolio, which was great. Then I was ambushed by sudden depression. This made the afternoon tricky, as launching self promotion efforts when feeling that everything you've ever done is worthless is hard.

Luckily Lorraine helped me snap out of it this evening. She seems to understand that all it takes for me to feel better is express all the negative rubbish, and after expressing it, the boil is lanced. By bedtime I was feeling quite cheery again.

Full moon pouring through the velux windows. Cheap water pistol proving futile against the black cat. Seriously considering Adrian's suggestion of rigging up a Heath Robinson style cat persecutor.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

A tramp

Woke up this morning dreaming about my friend Tim, who died of AIDS in 1994. I was half-aware in the dream that he was dead, and I was joking with him that he should look a lot worse. He told me I look like a tramp, and I woke up feeling vaguely insulted. What did the dream Tim mean by it? I kept asking myself in an Agent Cooperish way.

Amazing stored detail, and I was able to clearly see his face all day as if I'd seen him only yesterday. I am sure this was triggered by looking at my old MS the story of which had featured him.

Worked more on the new Pollard & Kenny project. Then felt rather paralysed by gloom for I ache, and my stomach is uncomfortable. I hate March almost as much as I hate January and I want to be curled up in a nest of leaves somewhere. But Spring usually seems me return to form. A long chat with Mum helped greatly however, and after this I had a productive and enjoyable afternoon.

Lorraine much improved today, and took herself back to work. In a revolutionary act, turned the TV off again and Lorraine talked instead as I pottered about and cleaned Betty's fish tank. We did watch Chelsea on TV winning a football game at last. Lorraine and I discussing the plight of Fernando Torres, the fabulously talented Spanish centreforward, bought by Chelsea for £50 million pounds, who has managed not to score at all for last 22 games. Chelsea persistently play him, and each game you get to see a young man who has lost all confidence labour fruitlessly. Despite this, the Chelsea fans were baying encouragement at him. It is painfully compelling.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Escapist impulses

Unable to sleep and my head full of disproportionate middle of the night worries plus murderous visualisations of trapping and culling the black cat which had been attacking the cat flap at 1am. Lorraine sick but improving today and wanly watched daytime TV on the gold sofa. But she kept down some bland baked potatoey business I cooked and seemed a lot better in the evening. I was productive and did some good work on the new Pollard & Kenny project, also finalised my pdf portfolio and identifying targets to send CD to, to the accompaniment of drills and engines snarling in the background as they repair the viaduct.

Generally I am lacking in buoyancy and confidence, feelings it would profit me to snap out of.

In the evening listened to various pieces of classical music hoping for moments of transportation. These days I feel I am better able to spot ropey or wonderful moments in a recording. I used to hear Classical music as something uniformly above me. Cem reminded me the other day that there is no such thing as a definitive performance. This is more noticeable in classical music where the person who wrote the music usually has nothing to do with its subsequent performances and recordings (especially true of they are, um, dead).

Was looking at a copy of Beer and Trembling the novel-length manuscript I wrote in the 90s. Quite curious to dip back into a world where few people had mobile phones for example. There are things about it that are glaringly bad, but there were some bits that seem pretty good too. If there was world enough and time I would revisit it.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Rainy Sunday

Slept like a log, and only got up due to the infernal pestering of the cats. Betty sleeping on the gold sofa. Poor Lorraine very ill today with a winter vomiting bug. Eventually she was able to sip water with ice cubes, then a cup of miso soup.

Raining hard all day. But after seeing the reservoir yesterday I say bring it on.

I met Matt in The Signalman just up the road to collect a consignment of materials to send out the CD and have a catch up about our things. We did our business quickly as I wanted to get back to Lorraine, and Wayne was cooking for Matt. Felt motivated by seeing the maestro though.

Lorraine sleeping or suffering stomach cramps and nausea all day. All watched something called the 'Got to dance' finals, won by people doing that Irish skippety dancing. Found myself curiously absorbed by it. I like dance, and one or two of the street dance crews were exciting. Once this watched, Betty off back to college, and there was nothing to do other than watch footie (Chelsea have sacked their struggling manager following a defeat on Saturday to lowly West Bromwich Albion).

To bed but then up after a while, finding myself stalking about outside full of murderous thoughts at 1 o'clock for the black cat had been battering the cat flap like a devil.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

The open road

Lorraine and I up early and taking the cats, wretched in their baskets, off to Top Cats for booster jabs and a once over. Basil and Brian crammed into basket looking cowed and alarmed once in the car, Calliope complaining continually. The Vet helped us see that their bad behaviour (Brian spraying and Basil pooing on carpets) are due to the evil black cat, the bully of the neighbourhood, and we were advised to get a water pistol. That brazen black fiend is costing us a fortune. Calliope Kenny also got some new eye stuff as her eyes are sore again, and Brian got some species of cat calmers to go in his grub.

Back for breakfast with Betty and after a few household bits, I dusted off my walking boots, rucksack and so on and met Anton at the station and we trained off to Balcombe and did a circular ten mile walk. It had been pouring with rain in the morning, but was sunny and pleasant for us. I was feeling underpowered and labouring up the hills after a springy-heeled Anton who with his A-Plan diet has lost about two stone in the last two months. Felt great to be out in the open again, walking with Anton down quiet country lanes and across fields.

I am fairly sure we spotted a pair of Red Kites too, majestic in the sky above some sheep and dwarfing the rooks that harried them.

Our route took us under the Ardingly Viaduct. I train across this every time I go to London and it is magnificent, and as Anton pointed out it doesn’t detract at all from what is an area officially designated as one of outstanding natural beauty. We pushed on to Ardingly Reservoir. Despite what seems to me to be quite a bit of rain lately we are in for a drought this year in South East England. The reservoir’s emptiness was plain to see, and the ground underfoot was very dry for March.

After our route had returned us to Balcombe, we popped into its pub to wet our whistles with a pint of Harveys. Anton had brought his iPad and we played a game of Risk on it. Then we made off to the station having to run for the train.

Home to a nice hot shower. Lorraine and Betty had been out and about in Brighton all afternoon, and we had to rouse our resolve to go off to Cuckmere village (not too far from where I'd been walking earlier) where a dozen or so of us had a tasty Thai Meal in the back room of the White Hart pub to celebrate Jess’s birthday. I sat between a nice couple: Dave works on flight simulation games and Clare teaches children with special needs.

Home and not needing to be rocked to sleep at all.

Below the joy of the open road, raucous rooks around a copse, the viaduct striping the land with shadows, a random noble horse and the alarmingly empty Ardingly Reservoir.





Friday, March 02, 2012

Friday fun

Feeling disinclined to work today, but pressed on with my various bits, including writing some templates for covering letters for the CD. Slugged then off to the gym and did some sweaty workout stuff, and felt much improved for it. Lorraine working at home this afternoon, but I was a bit of a shirker, falling deliciously asleep late in the afternoon.

An enjoyable evening to celebrate Lorraine's National Professional Qualification for Headship success. Dawn and Cath came around and we drank some sparkling wine Dawn had bought, and then made off into town, to meet up with Betty who was coming home and Rosie. We went to a restaurant called Englishes and had some more bubbly and oysters. I had one, but am not really a big lover of oysters. Lorraine in her element, and very happy surrounded by her friends and Beth and me too.

We then all snuck off to the basketmakers for a more general chats. Lovely to see Beth again and hear her news. It's very lucky that we get on so well. Dawny also just about to move house, and the sale has finally gone through. We shall be helping next week. Beth, Lorraine and I all bad on the way home, as an oyster and a few olives doesn't constitute a meal. Beth and I brazenly into Ace Pizzas, and Lorraine shockingly buying herself a kebab.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Through history to Tavistock

Up to London again today. Finished listening to History of Modern Britain on the train today. Marr's account finishes in 2007. Interesting to hear an overview of the last 70 years in six hours. Like a googlemap where you zoom from your street up into space.

Otherwise a perfectly pleasant day up on Tavistock Square. The square itself full of springlike activity. Blossom on a tree, and daffodils. Had an enjoyably cheeky lunch with Katie in a local pub and discussed high-minded things like love. Brief chats too with Matty boy and The French Bloke and Keith before zooming home.

A much needed quiet evening on the sofa massaging Lorraine's feet.

Was sent this link by the digital guy Andrew at the agency about bears near Banff as an example of what these newfangled websites can do these days. Worth checking out here. I have been to Banff and gone for short walks in the Rockies. An unforgettable experience.