Sunday, September 30, 2012

Looper ticks the boxes

Much of the day given over to fish business, prompted by an aquarium fail during the week. Draining and moving one tank, having caught the fish, put them in bags and floated them in the other tank, washing gravel for the new tank (which in itself took over an hour) planting, treating the water to remove harmful chemicals, seed in helpful bacteria, plant promoting chemicals, and ph adjustments, reintroducing fish and so on.

L and I off to a late showing of 'Looper' at the Duke of York's picture house. An entertaining time travel yarn, which we, sat in the balcony with a drink, definitely enjoyed. Ticked the shooting with guns/fighty box, the SciFi box, the creepy kid box, tough sexy women box, the existential we're all trapped in life box, and the child is father of the man box. Good fun.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The attractions of a Black Hole

Off to Lorraine's friend Carolyn who was hosting a coffee morning and art sale on behalf of Macmillan. Looked at her pictures, she is very good at detailed botanical work. There were a dozen or so ladies who'd worked in the upper echelons of Education or who still did, talking a good deal in the kitchen. I repaired into the garden after buying a cup of tea and a bit of blueberry cake and basked in the sun beside a little garden pond. Soon joined by two men with whom I happily discussed football, gardens and fishing until it was time to melt away again, with Lorraine having bought a picture of snowdrops.

Lorraine and I then then drove off to a Sussex Nature Conservation area, Burton Mill pond, and the Burton and Chingford ponds. Had an hour and a half walk through woods, and past swanned and dragonflyed ponds. Also walking past somewhere called The Black Hole, and walked on a plank walk above the peaty black water and dense vegetation. It is connected with ancient ironworks which used to fill this area. Sussex is very leafy and green these days but in the middle ages was quite industrial. Anton and I went on our dragon hunt walking along the Arun river to St Leonard's forest some years ago. There are theories that the dragon idea came about because simple minded folk would walk into the forest, see gouts of fire through the trees and hear hissing and so on, and leg it thinking they'd encountered a dragon and not a forge.

Trees just beginning to turn, and we walked past chestnut trees laden with nuts.

Then to the aquarium shop, to buy a new aquarium to replace Beth's one, whose filter and lights have packed up. Picked up an entire new tank at a bargain price. Home and a bit of a regroup before plunging out to the Brighton Tavern to celebrate Wayne's birthday. Matt, Jonathan, John and Linda were there too. Wayne already well refreshed when Lorraine and I arrived. Good to see to see Wayne and Matt as usual. A cheery time in the Tavern. I can't think of a time when I don't have a cheery time in the Tavern. Toby called too, on my phone, and this was a welcome surprise. Stood outside chatting to him, in the Laines. Lorraine and I declined Wayne's requests to go on clubbing, as we were both quite bushed.

And so, floating home happily.

Below Burton Mill; the view opposite Burton Mill (particularly enjoying the reflected clouds); chestnut tree (proof, if any were needed, that you only get new chestnuts on this blog); a random shaft of light in the woods; a walkway into The Black Hole; and on the edge of the edge of The Black Hole.

Friday, September 28, 2012


Another early start. Arrived at Farringdon at 8:30, pausing to buy a bacon sandwich from 'Tasty Cafe', which Toby would have liked, as tasty is my brother's highest accolade for food, modified in Japan for oishii, which means the same.

A cheery Friday atmosphere pervading the office, full of colourful East End characters, who among their obvious talents at layout and design, swear vividly and often.  Two of them were talking about John Terry, the Chelsea football captain, who is in disgrace this week for racially abusing another professional during an ill-tempered game. One of them related a heartfelt story about how Terry phoned a dying fan, a friend of a friend, who had a young family. Terry spoke to him for two hours and was nothing but kind. The designer ended his story by saying 'of course, he's still a f*****g c**t though'.

Fairly joyously released back into the wild, artfully dodging down Passing Alley towards the station. A couple of months of being back in the rat race has honed my survival skills. For example, there is lots of competition for seats in the first carriage, for many it is about being able to get out first when we finally reach Brighton station. For me it is about securing a nicer chair. For in the dire First Capital Connect trains, only the first carriage has nice seats with arms. My technique is simple. I board the second carriage and walk through the connecting doors. As everyone bottlenecks in the doors of the first carriage I am already sitting coolly in a good seat. Commuting does this sort of thing to your mind, making you otherise and loathe fellow commuters.

Home to my Lorraine. We went out for a couple of beers and then a tasty curry. All well with the world.

Below my last short walk this lunchtime: a wall on the side of a house in Sans Walk, which seems to say that this wall is everything that Middlesex owns. Also an iPhone snap of a TV in the office, with a politician's head partially blotting out the 'Liberal Democrat Image' sign.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A rainbow

Up just after six and off to work early. Reuben zooming past me on his bike close to the station. A busy day, with a truncated lunchtime walk. I left at work at six, and was rewarded by seeing an amazing complete rainbow arch from the train, utterly beautiful in the low sun. Carriage full of people, but I and the woman sitting opposite me, who saw me looking, were the only ones who appeared to notice it in my part of the train. The world is full of wonders if only we had eyes for them.

Tomorrow is Friday. All is well.

Below Lorraine out, so I was able to watch a manly documentary about the brilliant but maverick Canadian WW2 fighter Pilot, George Beurling (known as the Falcon of Malta) . He died after the war, when his transport plane mysteriously exploded before landing.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Passing Alley

Off in torrential rain this morning. Pleasant enough ride to work once the train had slid from under the brooding black cloud over Brighton and the downs. My new tea flask has transformed my journey, splashing a little comfort into a cup after half an hour or so... Such are the straws I clutch at. Work okay, but this is not an especially friendly office. An interesting area however, and I took myself off for a rainy half hour walk at lunchtime.

Listening to a Start the Week programme with Salman Rushdie being interviewed by Andrew Marr on the way home. Found myself warming to Rushdie in a way I'd not done before. Walked home from the station in stair-rod rain. I left my umbrella in the office in London. Despite being happy to be earning, I have been longing for Friday since Monday morning.

Home to some lovely food Lorraine had cooked. All well.

Below St John's Gate (I know nothing about this, and must investigate); Passing Alley a most Jack the Ripperish rat run; the gaudy almost Indian colours in Smithfield Market, a small garden in Smithfield with its statue and worn, be-lioned plinth. This part of London is full of such stuff.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A door into lunchtime

Up to London again. Full of a nonspecific foreboding on the train, but nothing bad happened. After eating a lovely lunch prepared by Lorraine, I took myself off for a half hour lunchtime walk feeling full of the beginning of my own mellow Autumn. I wandered through interesting London backstreets through Clerkenwell towards Exmouth Market. Little scraps of green dotted with people stealing moments from the day's work in the intermittent sunshine.

Back to the agency to work on letters from a bank. I may actually write one that will be sent to me, seeing as the client is my bank. Working with an art director called Andy, who is a nice enough guy.

Home remarkably easily. A relaxed evening, watching the Great British Bake Off with Lorraine and craving doughnuts before an early night.

Below a few snaps from the day, from my phone so not so great.  A doorway into a disappeared school, making me think of the HG Wells story and of stepping through into another reality. The Exmouth Arms, a fine looking tiled pub that gleamed beetle green in the sun, random people at lunchtime. I love this time of the year.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Showbiz friends

Richard reading from his new book on Jenny Kendall-Tobias's show on BBC Guernsey. Richard's bit starts at 3:08:50. Naturally, well worth a listen and of course there is great chemistry with the Jenny. Meanwhile the other half of Guernsey's most famous couple, they lovely Jane, is 'being' Camilla again. Have a look at Scandalous.

For me, a decidedly non-showbiz grey and rainy Monday. This week I am writing for a financial client, and am based in Farringdon. I'm sitting opposite Barney, an old colleague. Homeward journey delayed because of a fire scare closing Farringdon station. Despite this, home at a reasonable time, for supper with Lorraine, and now to bed.

A smidge of travel chaos.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

EBC's demise

Someone ringing the doorbell repeatedly at 4.00am this morning, instead of our party-loving neighbours. This aside, our nights are much improved with no more clattering 5 am catfights through the catflap. For the evil black cat, who stared at us insolently through the window, evaded water pistol jets and was unafraid to take on humans too, has gone.

Our neighbour Mark told us EBC had adopted a local house, and moved in with another mild mannered black cat. However EBC's bullying got so bad that its new owners contacted the RSPCA, where a chip was discovered, and it was returned to its original owners after four years, ending Brian's daily battles. Both our cats have noticeably relaxed.

Lorraine and I had a large breakfast, watching a documentary about Peter Gabriel from the comfort of the gold sofa. Lorraine has a bad cold,  and I had a sore throat and felt wan, perhaps rather exhausted after doing the Bangram style canter so much the day before. A lovely roast dinner, before sloping in an early fashion to bed.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Max and the French Bloke get wed

Blearily out of bed and Lorraine drove us off to Weybridge to see Max and the French Bloke (aka Michel) get married.

Max had finally relented and allowed the marriage to happen, although having had three children together meant that they were obviously somewhat involved. Arrived early, with Lorraine sipping tea from the flask to soothe her throat once we'd arrived. Bumped into Pat and Judith his wife there, and soon the place filled up with lots of guests, and a host of angelic children in wedding attire. Good to see the old French Bloke, who is generally unfazed by anything, looking nervous. The ceremony passed off well, with a lovely registrar. I found myself fighting off the tears as is usual at events like this.

 A photography session in the registry office gardens, before we all drove back to Max and Michel's house, where the garden had been transformed with a canopy and seating. Lots to drink and eat, and a massive party ensued. Lots of friends there of course, including Matty boy who made an excellent best man speech, First Matie, Tasha and Steve, Isy, the lovely Eva who was over from Munich, and other old agency pals I'd not seen in years, plus folks from the Tavistock Square agency. There were all the boys from the barge too, plus partners. I enjoyed lots of chats with people, especially with The FB's mother Yvette, who was dressed with great chic, and was quite a character.

The house is in Chertsey Meads just by the Thames, and we all walked to the riverside and released lanterns just after sundown. Rather poetic views of the lanterns drifting up over the river and away.

There was an excellent band, and a DJ and lots of dancing. I lustily exhibited the Gangnam style dance (see yesterday's entry) for people's edification. In fact danced like a maniac as is customary. All in all a wonderful, and memorable day.

Lorraine drove us home, and we were back before midnight too. All good.

Below Max and Michel, Max and the French Bloke surrounded by the FB's six children, and one grandchild, plus niece. Plus Max's pal Judith on her left. Lanterns, which were followed by one humongous firework.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Released back into the wild

Another mild mannered journey in and was on time again. Last day in Tavistock Square, and of sitting next to First Matie. Sloped off to a local cafe with Nicola at lunchtime, and got myself some strangely chewy but pleasant lasagna and salad to take away. While we were waiting, and Nicola was smoking a fag, she pointed out the plaque across the way in Woburn Walk, which I'd walked through loads of times, saying that W.B. Yeats had lived there. It was near a sign for a place called Wot The Dickens, which seemed appropriate.

I was released back into the wild at six and hoofed it in the pouring rain to the station, and back to Brighton. Feeling a bit coldy and sore throated all day. Home and found Lorraine and Beth both fast asleep on the gold sofa. Lorraine with a cold and Beth with a cough. When these two sleeping beauties roused, we shuffled off for a restoring curry at The Shahi.

Below the Yeats plaque in Woburn walk. Also this Korean song by an artist called Psy is becoming a global phenomenon, and its hilarious horse dance is all the rage in several countries. If you're not already doing the dance you should check out the video.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Blue Notes

Vile night. Woke at two o'clock and had no sleep till shortly before I was due to get up. Not helped by Calliope continually purring into my face, and making odd crunching noises on the carpet on what turned out to be a grizzly wood pigeon's wing.

To work, and because I felt so tired I did a relaxation/meditation tape on the train. Afterwards felt repaired in body and soul, and rather cheery, thinking about all the creative projects I have ready to unleash, now that the running sore of not having enough money is being rapidly rectified.  On that note, I was offered another week's work next week, at a place I've not worked at before in Farringdon. Once those invoices start being paid, the Kenny coffers will be spilling with doubloons. I am lucky to be able to earn money quickly.

After work, zoomed back to Brighton, where Lorraine met me at the station, and we sped in the car off to Hove to the Blue Note, where we met Matt. An interesting night organised by Claudius. The Shakespeare Trio, temporarily a Quartet tonight, with the addition of Theseus on percussion and played a ballsy set. Really liked Normanton Street too, who were billed as soul/jazz poets and were raw but full of the seeds of something splendid. Lele Bizzoca, a Jazz guitarist who, with bits of digital trickery, made his guitar sound like an ensemble, with it even making flute noises.

I was feeling slightly dubious about performing in the company of all these musicians, but I was relieved that my reading went down surprisingly well with an attentive audience, I even sold a book. Good to see Steve Cartwright too, who like me has been really busy of late.

Home late, eating chicken and chips, before bed.

Below Normanton Street, me, and The Shakespeare Trio (this evening a quartet with Theseus on percussion. Shakespeare eluding the camera of course).

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fiction and gossip

Incredibly crawling late train this morning. The Brighton to St Pancras First Capital Connect service is truly dire, and their timetables are works of risible fiction. I find this all very stressful.

Once at work, a pleasant enough day. Off at lunchtime with Matt to a local pub and we discussed my (advertising focused) New Idea, plus Jungian archetypes and other wide ranging subjects over a glass of wine and a bit of fish-based snap. 

After work, I found myself in an extraordinary local dive called The County with Steve and Pat, (who have their own unsavoury name for it). Like stepping back into the 1970s, with strange decorations and lots of little tables with chairs. I had to change my chair for the gentleman who had been sitting in it before me was evidently rather aromatic. An hour or so given over to gossiping about former colleagues and their mad ways. Interspersed with older people shouting at each other.  Home, and a late chat with Lorraine before heading for bed, with a strangely raging stomach that felt like I had swallowed a brick.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The comfort of strudels

Woke up at 5:30 both Lorraine and I up early, wrong footing the cats, and I caught the early train full of grey faced sleepy heads. I felt much more cheery and made it early to Tavistock Square.  I sauntered off with Kate in the lunchtime sun to look at dresses for the French Bloke and Max's wedding this weekend.  For Kate, not me, obviously. I don't look great in a dress. Although I did once wear a fetching dogs tooth two piece and a red wig while working for IBM in a once only appearance as a female impersonator.

A modicum of lung disease work this afternoon.  Listening to Titus Groan on the way home, but it is heavy going. Peake writes like a poet, so much of the joy is in the description. This invites rereading. As an audiobook you plough through, and I keep thinking I must go back to look at certain passages. Another distraction is that I have become addicted to a game called Stick Cricket on my phone, which I played so obsessionally that my eyes hurt.

The Shard looks like a tower in Mordor.

Home, and watching The Great British Bake Off with Lorraine. Both finding Strudel bake off action curiously compelling. Watching people bake is curiously comforting. Then I faffed ineffectually with one of the aquariums whose filter has ceased to work before an earlyish night.

Below stick cricket.

Monday, September 17, 2012


A Mondayish Monday. Long train delays on the way to work. Luckily I had a new vacuum flask with me, so was able to enjoy a cup of tea during the journey. At St Pancras I left the train without my jacket, which I only realised some hours later. I was also late for work. Brain functioned poorly for most of the day, and I felt tetchy and fed up.

Passed the Shard on the way home. A beautiful, savage structure. Reached home at 8:45am. One of the fish had died. Chatted to Lorraine, who makes life better. Tomorrow is another day.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Banging a tin drum

The bliss of not getting up again this morning. The cats have other ideas, and do their best to rouse us. When I got up, I uploaded Richard's book and worked, while Lorraine simply worked. Then to Sainsburys which is curiously fun with Lorraine. Failing, however, to get myself sorted out for my reading on Thursday. Time is running out and I have a horrible feeling I am about to make more of an arse of myself than is customary.

Much needed snooze in the afternoon. Sainsburys, and a lovely roast supper with Lorraine. Then off to The Tin Drum for their Sunday evening happy hour, to bang on with Anton for an hour or so. He had a good time on a short break in Portugal with the children. Saw various photographs that Klaudia had taken of dolphins and alligators.

Then downhill to Preston Circus, and happily to bed.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A happy Saturday

Slept like a log, and woke at eight. Beautiful day, and thank God for the weekend. Still, nowhere near enough time to sort out everything that has been left on ice for the last few weeks. Up early and billing and some admin. Lorraine and I headed into town, Lorraine picking up a conker from the big tree on the road,  before we headed into town for a much-needed haircut, put my suit into dry cleaning before next weekend's wedding, pharmacy etc. Lorraine and I also took the opportunity to pop into The Basketmakers for a couple of hours where we met Matt, with Rosie and Dawn putting in guest appearances too. Great to be back in the Basketmakers with friends.

Matt about complete a choral piece I supplied the words for, based around the phrases used in shop windows, either called Season, New Season or Everything Must Go. 

I bought a CD, for the first time in ages. Rispah, by The Invisible. Fell into conversation with the woman serving me in Resident Records and discussed how they should be the best known rock band in the country, their first eponymous album a few years ago was stunningly good and Rispah does not disappoint.

Wonderful textures and murmury layers on an album mainly about grief, and named after the singer/guitarist Dave Okumu's late mother.

Lorraine and I then for much needed quiet night in. As recommended by my barber, Lorraine and I enjoyed the start of a new series called Lilyhammer, which transplants a New York mafioso on a witness protection scheme to snowy Norway, with rich results.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Strange Journey

Reading my copy of Strange Journey on the train this morning. This the new book by Richard, which has turned out very well. Nice black and white jacket, with himself as a child on the front cover, and on the reverse as he is now. The poems excellent too and I will write more fully about the poetry on my notebook blog. Even the poetry-phobic First Matie, who I'm now sitting next to in the agency, found herself engaged. I will be uploading information on how to get your hands on a copy shortly, and you would be mad not to. Richard did a launch reading today and texted me to say that it had gone well. Wish I'd been in Guernsey to see it.

Up to work again. Last week's lively weekend away had blurred the last two weeks together into one megaweek, and I am running on empty. Almost as tired as the folks in the agency who had worked on a pitch till midnight the day before. A pleasant enough day, however, finished off by the French Bloke quaffing some bubbly with the agency, as he is on leave before his marriage next weekend.

Home at last, and happy to be there. Rather brain dead on my arrival, but Lorraine and I sloped off to the Shahi for a tired but happy meal before returning to slump on the gold sofa. Seems like ages since we had time to chat. 

Feeling cheery, as the Kenny coffers, lately home to tumbleweed, crows and a keening wind, will soon benefit from an influx of doubloons. The freelance work I have been doing since returning from Samos has been consistent. I have more work next week too. Feel as if malign log-jamming stars have shifted.  

Below Strange Journey fore and aft.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pizza print

This morning made it to London fine, but Victoria tube station closed due to crowding. However happily discovered a new bus route that was a boon. Learned that my poems are going to be on the buses again in Guernsey, and in the Airport and so on. Cheering news. More lung disease at work, but had a good laugh sitting next to First Matie, who got me via facebook to get her a cup of tea.

In the evening to the Salisbury where I met Aimee for a cheeky few beers. When you can get a seat in the Salisbury, it is one of my favourite pubs. Lots of news to share, and always nice to see the spirited Aimee. She is like a breath of fresh air. And good to hear that she has dragged a new boyfriend through the catflap, who seems to be very nice and is much liked by her family too.

Just missed a train at Victoria, so rather late getting home. Bought an Ace Pizza and ate it on the bed chatting to Lorraine. After a few slices, I managed to drop face down on the floor, leaving a pizza print on the carpet. Galling.

Felt like I had a brick in my stomach as I drifted to sleep. When will this weekend come....

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Interlude with Bob

Tiresome train delays. I'd had such easy, although long, journeys, lately that I'd forgotten the ghastliness when trains go wrong, and the way from Brighton to London is doomed. Ended up getting in a cab, with a very cheery cabbie, who made me suddenly feel a lot better about everything.  Work perfectly fine, working on a brochure to do with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and being photographed holding an Einstein mask. Felt rather tired though, I am not so good at bouncing back from lively weekends any more.

In the evening mooched across to Goodge Street where I met Bob, to tardily celebrate his birthday.  Long and wide-ranging discussions in a couple of pubs, and Pizza Express, where Bob managed to obtain a pizza twice the size of mine for almost the same money. I can talk to Bob about things I can only tell Bob, or perhaps more accurately, only Bob would be interested in. Talking about dreams and archetypes, and the nature of the imagination, among more general gossip.  Home at 11:20 to a sleepy Lorraine and the slightly heart-sinking realisation that it is only Wednesday.

Below me with an Einstein head, and two shots of Milly, Bob's daughter, he sent me from his phone.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Back to Tavistock

Off to London where I am working with my chums in Tavistock Square. Early train allowed me to stroll through London, which I always enjoy.

Brief chat to Pat and Matty boy this morning, and was able to see with my own eyes that the FB was still alive, which was reassuring. Lunchtime stroll with Nicola, and a pleasant day. Left early (for me) and decided to brave the wee Victoria tube line at six. My God, talk about about claustrophobic. Having steadfastly avoided these ghastly tubes during rush hour, after three stops I was literally shaking by the time I reached Victoria station.

Home and preparing salads and healthy stuff for supper.

Below a snap Matty thoughtfully sent of the French Bloke in a dress. Also the poster below was sent me by Claudius. The date is soon, so I had better get my thinking cap on about what to perform without looking a complete doofus.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Goodbye to Acton

Zombied off to North Acton this morning, after sleeping the sleep of the dead last night. Luckily an untaxing morning. Took myself one last time to Kitty's to take away one of their pad thai, today sitting next to two policemen as I waited for my food to be ready. The afternoon became steadily more busy, and ended with a now-traditional frenzied requirement to write several radio adverts in an hour.

Met an old colleague Chris who'd come for a late meeting. He said he still used something I'd written about starting sentences with conjunctions like 'and' and 'but' and how it is okay, and he gives it to his junior suits.

Fond farewell to the North Actonites, but in truth couldn't get home fast enough. All I wanted to do is chill out with Lorraine on my gold sofa. Mightily looking forward to the weekend.

Below in the central line.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

A dream of English beauty

Slept a big 4.5 hours, and woke sans crushing hangover feeling somewhat better. Shipmates astir after sixish, all brighter and better than yesterday after our slightly more subdued night. I walked out and took photographs of the misted predawn fields and canals, shoes soaking in the wet grass. We were soon underway again. Murray and Dion making a big breakfast, as we commenced another idyllic sunny day. I sat in the prow passing through a dream of English beauty and chatting to my shipmates. Barging is a beautiful way to see the country, and the enforced slowness, brought about by going through locks, and the sedateness of the engine, has the potential to be wonderfully restful.

A prehistoric looking heron burst up from the vegetation early in the day and we passed swans and cygnets,ducks and ducklings, and smaller birds disappearing into the reeded banks. Glimpses of fish in the murky water, and they made little rings as they broke surface on the still water. Reflections made it a photographer's paradise, but the one shot got away from me; a floating bunch of flowers making me think of a sinking Ophelia.

Passing people moored up in the middle of nowhere in the sunshine, and tranquility (until we went past them rowdily) looked enviably relaxed. People on barges, with one or two exceptions, were very cheerful, calling out greetings and cheery remarks as our barges passed.

Nigel had asked for his wife Sally to pick him up midday, and as we stopped for lunch, mooring in vegetation which we crossed, piratically enough with a gangplank, to disembark. Pat and I had a final beer with everyone, and made off with Nigel and Sally and their two little daughters.

Sally drove us to Bicester North station, where we trained non-stop to Marylebone, and parting company with Pat, I made my way down to Brighton. Really happy to be home with Lorraine. After a long, much-needed shower, nice cups of tea, and a delicous homecooked meal, I basked on the gold sofa, with Lorraine and Calliope, before heading to bed at 8:30 unable to keep my eyes open.

Below many more to come. This is a few minutes before dawn.  Simon just visible on the Barge moored somewhere close to the middle of nowhere; sunrise; green canal.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

What became of the drunken sailors

Woke a couple of hours later utterly freezing. I'd failed to locate any bedding and so draped myself with a towel and fell back into an uneasy frozen sleep. People up offensively early, which at least prevented me from developing frostbite. Nigel spontaneously began cooking everyone breakfast. Meanwhile the French Bloke, who had barely slept, and certainly still drunk as a lord, efficiently sparked up the engine and we were underway, pootling along at less than walking pace along the incredibly beautiful canal. Gangs of us springing off to tie up the barge, open the locks and so that the barge could rise up through the lock of green and slimy brickwork to the sun. Progressed steadily through the morning.

Many recommenced drinking as early as 8am. I was faintly appalled by this superhuman capacity. For I was  exhausted and shabbily hungover. We stopped in a picturesque village and made our way to its pub for lunch. An incredibly rude woman staff member started hostilities with us before we'd even been served our first round. Had to wait ages for food, and Murray simply wrote down everyone's order and somehow speeded things up. I was still unable to drink, though many continued enthusiastically. After lunch I discovered it was possible to feel far worse than I had done before, and I forlornly phoned Lorraine. Much of my afternoon was spent asking God for a helicopter to airlift me home for humanitarian reasons. I did manage a doze though, which improved how I felt. Most of us crashed out at one time or other, although Matt, manfully refreshed, steered us fairly expertly most of the afternoon, and barged through locks. Ahab-like attempted to turn the 72 foot barge around at a 60 foot turning point.

Finally we reached a point where we could  legitimately turn around and head back. The aim was to stop near a pub, but we ran out of light, and despite proceeding with torches for some time ended up mooring in what my iPhone map revealed, was in fact some miles from the middle of nowhere. Protracted debate about whether it was necessary to head out into the dark countryside in the hope of happening on a pub. Eventually reason took hold, and realising we were on a barge full of boozes we simply continued drinking. I managed a gin and tonic before bedtime. Many were by now walking wounded and several went to bed early. Michel looking particularly shattered.

I sat on the prow sipping the aforementioned gin, with some hardies like Matt, Pat, Nigel and Dion, in what was a cold fine drenching mist, and when we shone our torches upwards, the beams were as visible as Star Wars light sabres. Despite the mist the stars were clear, and we watched the moon rise over the horizon. I repaired to bed then, and had the luxury of being almost sober, and having a duvet which kept me perfectly warm too.  

I fell asleep listening to the snores of my shipmates. And apart from the wild unnerving roaring of what I hoped were bullocks in a nearby field, all was hushed and tranquil.

Below many, many more snaps to come. L to R Pat, The French Bloke, Matty boy, Steve and Dion. The pinking of evening; Dion; The French Bloke; Nigel, Pat and Matty; Simon, Nigel and Murray.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Boarding the Barge

To Acton with an overnight bag. A typical end-of-week agency day, with staff frazzled and the client  demanding the manifestation of unicorns.When this abated, off to Paddington (which was bearable) where I had arranged to meet Pat. Waited in a station bar, near the one-armed-bandit machines and watched a man like a grubby bee settling on the colourful machines, and pumping in fistfuls of pound coins.

Met up with Pat, and boarded an Oxford train, we had to stand for much of the journey, which was delayed on the track. A good laugh though, and enjoyed the tins of beer I'd sensibly bought. Arrived in Oxford and shared a pizza in a bus shelter before catching a taxi to a canal-side pub, The Boat Inn, in Thrupp.  Here we found Michel. Matt, Steve (Matt's brother in law), Dion and Murray who I'd met before, and Nigel and Simon who I hadn't. All Gentlemen already well refreshed by the time we arrived.

Nine strong we boarded the 72 foot barge moored outside the pub, and had an on-board party. An enormously enjoyable night of boisterous fun, including an outbreak of jovial arm wrestling, with Michel successfully taking on all comers.

Eventually I cast myself onto my sleeping ledge fore in the barge, (far more generous space than the others had wedged into bunks) and fell drunkenly asleep. Pat at some point did the same across the gangway from me. Michel and Dion staying up till five in the morning, until, at last, the barge under a twinkling night sky, was resonant with the snores of men.

Thursday, September 06, 2012


Training up through the morning mists to London again. Another sunny day spent in the umbra of an office. Off at lunchtime to Kitty's again for a takeaway tray of Thai niceness. Listening to Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan, as an audiobook. Such an original and brilliant writer, unlike anyone else in English. Interesting too because he lived in Sark, and I have briefly met his three children at the Guernsey literary festival last year.

Home rather frayed, despite a comparatively smooth journey. Lucky to have some food waiting for me. Beth back with Laura, whose unmistakably eyelashed car was parked outside. Packed and got myself as humanly ready as possible for Michel's stag do this weekend. Lorraine and I both tired; an early night.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Sunshine and windsurfing

If you want to know if people are mad or not, simply have a look at their gardens. The next door neighbour to Mum and Mas has replaced the lawn with gravel, has a pair of concrete dogs which he waters sometimes, and recently proudly showed Mas some nasty looking plastic flowers, tucked out of sight of his own back widows. After gazing blearily these garden atrocities from the bedroom window, I hoofed downstairs to have a fast breakfast. Made off with five jars of bramble jelly and wild plum jam too.

A beautiful sunny day. Mas gave me a lift to Stanmore, where I spoke to Lorraine on the phone before tubing to work. Into the tube found myself standing next to a nicely presented woman who reeked astonishingly of garlic. Work again perfectly manageable, writing lots of bitty things. I slunk off to Kitty's Cafe in the industrial park to buy some lunch. Waiting to take away my Pad Thai I sat next to two men, an American and a South African, who were discussing cicadas.

One of my colleagues constantly playing music by Rodriguez, who is an American musician of sixties and seventies vintage, who achieved little or nothing in the US. He did however become massive in South Africa. A film has just been released about this, and he is suddenly getting loads of belated attention in the US. A remarkable and heartening story.

Speedily home. Lorraine appeared shortly after with a sun-burned face, having spent the afternoon surfboarding, motorboating and kayaking. She was salty, and glowing after a really fun day. It was too late to cook, so we slunk off to The Shahi and had an enjoyable meal. Betty phoning while we were talking and cheekily laughing with Laura at the idea of Lorraine on a surfboard.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Sunbeam Road

Lorraine up at five to get ready for her conference, me up to London. A busy morning's work, but manageable. A walk around at lunchtime, venturing down Sunbeam Road, a pavementless road into an unlovely industrial estate. Hoping to take some bleak urban photos, but, living up to its name, it was so cheerfully sunny that this was somewhat defeated. Instead I lurked happily in the graveyard for a 15 minutes, looking at all the crazily leaning graves, and listening to a Mark Kermode film review podcast.

Another strangely tranquil afternoon. I again bused through Harlesden and Willesden and caught the tube up to Mum and Mas. A nice evening chatting. Mason talking a bit about his war experiences in Korea as a sniper. Asked him if he had any post traumatic stress. He said that he was so young he thought it was like playing a video game. Mum meanwhile is doing some kind of art by the square inch deal with a gallery owner in the Philippines. She is going to be a star of the orient.

A couple of glasses of wine had me zonked out. An early night.

Below Sunbeam Road, looking actually not to bad in the sun, and another cemetery snap.