Sunday, March 31, 2013

Lazy day

Another lazy morning. I wrote a blog post about astrology in bed. Lorraine read the sample of the business book and liked it. The weather still miserably cold and the great outdoors uninviting. Listening to Classical music on Classic FM's annual top of the pops for Classical music. Working on the editing and reworking of the Defenders of Guernsey too.

In the afternoon we drove to the seafront for a bracing walk, the cafes a bit melancholy when they should be buzzing at this time of year. The pebble beach and grey sea of Brighton and Hove untroubled by hoards of tourists and it feels like the Spring will never start. I read it was officially the coldest March since 1962. The UK weather has been wretched for a year now.

Home and L and I watched The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The three films of the Narnia books have been far less successful than Peter Jackson's Tolkien efforts, a heavy handedness about the symbolism and a lack of flow generally.  Then L and I sneaked off to the Shahi, which was unusually empty, for a cheeky curry and then sloped home. I watched a bit of a zombie movie called 28 weeks later which, with its sprinting zombies, was just a bit too scary.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Dans la maison

Another slow start to the day. Lorraine who has been nursing a cough in much need of recuperation, although still gripped by urge to work herself to the bone, which I talked her out of after we dragged a few objects around, and a stock take of the paint in the house.  In the fine non settling individual snowflakes I walked off to see Janet and Ken for a cheery cup of tea and a chat. Heartening to see Ken a good deal better than of late, and having been walking about quite a bit. He has a nasty cough though, which is gradually improving.

In the evening Lorraine and I took ourselves to The Duke of York to see In the House an enjoyable French movie about a boy writing stories about a family he is insinuating himself into. We sat up in the balcony on a sofa, enjoying a tale of how the boy's stories were read by his teacher who considers them promising, and gets drawn into the web, eventually losing his job. It is unclear how true the stories the boy is telling are, and where the line between fiction and reality is drawn. Enjoyably French fare, and refreshingly intelligent and quite funny in parts, especially the parts featuring Kristin Scott Thomas, playing the school teacher's wife in elegant French mode, running an art gallery purveying sexual imagery, and art made from blow up dolls and so on.

The teacher, played by Fabrice Luchini, disconcerted in his wife's art gallery. In the House (Dans la maison) very well worth seeing.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Welcome visitors

A morning spent entirely in bed, apart from when I briefly put some clothes on and walked around the corner to Arkwrights to buy some bread. L & I had toast and tea in bed, dozed, and chatted and read papers and played with cats.

Then into Brighton to meet Matt, Craig and Mel, who were drinking a bottle of prosecco in the Brighton Tavern. Good to see Craig and Mel, we seemed in excellent spirits. Craig talking about a new and exciting job he was interviewing for, nice to meet Mel again who I really like.  Craig has one of those voices, with his Minnesota accent, that I could listen to for a long time. He should be on the radio.

Off to the Sussex Yeoman for lunch, where we met Katie. Unfortunately Kate visibly upset having just spoken on the phone to Graeme who had told her he has cancer. The others knew having seen him a few days before.  Lorraine and I hadn't known either, so naturally this news very unwelcome and something of a sombre toast to Graeme and a speedy recovery.

Despite this, we had an excellent time, with everyone lapping up lots of wine, apart from me who stuck to beer. And the food enjoyed by everyone.  I ate three courses, and had no need for food for the rest of the day. Good to see these friends and hear how everyone was getting on. Lorraine really enjoyed chatting to everyone too, and was rather giggly as she and I walked home afterwards, pausing only to buy some chocolate.

Still blinking cold and wintery, so not the best weather for a Brighton trip. But L and I really enjoyed the day, and hanging out with folks. Not had a boozy afternoon for a good long while. A quiet night with Lorraine out for the count on the sofa. I enjoyed an excellent documentary about Nile Rodgers, founding member of Chic and famed guitarist and producer and all round good egg.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Skooby do

Off to the smoke listening to a podcast about Anton Chekov. I think I saw The Seagull once, but that must have been decades ago. At lunchtime I snuck off to Skoob books and bought a secondhand book containing Chekov's five best-known plays as it is time to get better acquainted. I like it down there. I like squeezing past my book loving brethren beneath toppling towers of dusty books. I hate the idea of bookshops dying and being replaced by Amazon's soulless cyber monopoly.

A busy but fairly cheerful day at work. Late escaping due to typical last minute agency faffing, and needing to rework copy and sit with Andrea the designer to complete a job to a tight deadline.

Free at last... But prevented from getting to the platform at St Pancras as there were no trains south due to a Biblical sounding trespass incident at Cricklewood. Gallingly arrived on the platform in time to watch a cheery Brighton train zooming south. The train I eventually caught stopped at every conceivable station. Tetchily settled into reading The Periodic Table by Primo Levi, which is an interestingly constructed memoir.

Stopped off to get a takeaway on the way home and had a pint while waiting for it. Arrived home at 9:30 to happy cats, with Lorraine arriving minutes later from an end of term shindig, both basking at the prospect of time over the long weekend.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Browsing with First Matie

Up to the smoke this morning continuing my week's work at Tavistock Square, working with Jules an art director I'd not worked with before. All fine however, and the sort of easy rapport you get with someone who also knows what they are doing. We got down very quickly to some personal sharing and found we had quite a bit in common. Working creatively is a good way to get to know someone quickly, because the whole business of being required to coming up with ideas with a complete stranger is quite exposing, like acting in a way.

Off with First Matie at lunchtime to a nearby Waterstones who had a half price sale of hundreds of second hand and remaindered books. I came away with a good quality hardback copy of Primo Levi's The Periodic Table for £3.50 which I was well pleased with. Nice to walk with Kate through the elegant squares, and browsing in bookshops at lunchtime. Kate bought three books, which she put into her little Waterstones bag.

Afternoon fine too. Very pleased that I wasn't too tired today, having felt pretty washed out earlier in the week. Home a little late after the trains delayed but reading the Levi and listening to a podcast about ice ages. Lorraine already home, and had baked potatoes and salmon. She also had a big book signed by every pupil at the school she had been seconded to, some sweet messages and some funny self-portraits by the kids. Tomorrow is her last day there and she is feeling a little sad about it. She took the staff in hot cross buns today, and tomorrow will take in some vacuum flasks for the teachers as a parting gift.

Monday, March 25, 2013

A bit of a Hullabaloo

Up to London this morning, enjoying my flask of tea on the train. Like childbirth, it's easy to forget about the horror of commuting until you do it again.  I thought as the train stopped on the track for 15 minutes this morning just by Elephant and Castle this morning. Slightly late, and sluggish and tired all day. Nice to see some of the folks in Tavistock Square again. Very cold still, and crept out at lunchtime to buy a sandwich before scurrying back.

In the evening straight off the train to see 'Now that's what I call a hullabaloo!' in Gloucester Road Baptist Church. Anton arrived moments before me and we sat together on a pew. A short but enjoyable concert, with a varied programme taking in Bulgarian traditional music, Dido's Lament, tunes by George Michael and Elbow, to Nana was a Suffragette by Jules Gibb, and the musical director Kirsty's setting of The Road Less Travelled by Robert Frost. I enjoyed watching Lorraine putting her heart and soul into her singing, and looking exceedingly sweet while doing so. Anton also found the show surprisingly enjoyable. I like Hullabaloo.

Lorraine, Anton and I went for a fast drink and a deep chat in the nearby Laines Brewery, before we zoomed home, L and I pausing to buy some chips before we got in.

Below a poor iPhone snaps of the choir. The one at the bottom shows Lorraine, in the middle of the snap with her mouth like an O singing like an angel.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sensible Saturday

In need of a quiet day. Up early, however, to make cups of tea and film rain on windows. Film is my new craze, but it has to be black and white.

After a leisurely breakfast, into Brighton with Lorraine to buy some sensible brown shoes for me, and new specs for her. The streets covered with salty grit, anticipating non-existent snowfall. Other parts of the country are knee deep in the stuff still.

I like buying shoes. for they are a must-have remorse free purchase. Bought a pair from Clarks, whose shoes, when I was a scuff toed lad, where what responsible parents bought their children. Popped into the Apple shop to get new earphones as mine were on the blink. The Apple brainwashing is so good that I felt really impressed by being able to buy some earphones and walk out within five minutes.

Home late afternoon, and abandoned myself to decadent idleness. Watched an excellent BBC documentary about ancient Egypt, and fiddled about with my rainy bits of film.

Above all, though, getting some feedback has left me positive about my various projects and the Kenny brain is whirring and scheming about everything.

Lorraine out again in her marathon week of socialising, for her pal Jess's hen night, which involved a nice meal and a good deal of karaoke she crept talkatively into bed at 2AM.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Afternoon with the Pontiff

An enjoyable day. Good morning reworking of Defenders of Guernsey for a forthcoming kindle edition. I am feeling a renewed writerly joy in interrogating each sentence. Pleased to be around at lunchtime as Mark next door had locked himself out, with little Finlay upstairs.

Two weeks freelance in London confirmed, Typical as Lorraine starts her holiday in a week.

Off for a papal audience this afternoon with Catherine Pope, we met in Délice, had a coffee and a glass of wine and talked about writing and publishing for about three hours. She is a fascinating person to talk to and I learned lots too.  She is the the managing director of Victorian Secrets, an independent publisher dedicated to producing books by or about Victorians. Some very interesting work on her list. I had asked her to look at the sample of my business book, and she was also very encouraging about this. The consensus of those I have asked about this project is that I am not mad, which gives me the reassurance I needed to keep going with it.

Home to Lorraine who I'd not seen much of this week, and  Lyn and Malcom came around to go out for a curry. Malcom much buoyed by having his first cartoon accepted by Private Eye which is in the current issue. Lyn very bubbly and cheerful. The Shahi unusually full so we all went for a drink first at Circus Circus, before returning to strap on the nosebag.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Under The Shard

Up and re-editing Defenders of Guernsey, and a few hours of writing and admin before zooming off to London. Many communications on the train, including being offered a couple of weeks freelance, and a tweet from Jane, who is coming to stay in a couple of weeks, saying 'Just watched video. Change of plan. Will stay in B&B' after seeing my sinister little film Janus. Also spoke to Betty who was having busy day with a showcase and an audition in town.

South Bank to the Poetry Library and various bookshops, the temperature dropping and feeling like I have the beginnings of a cold. Then went to London Bridge station, under the massive Shard spearing up to the sky, and made my way to Borough Market, where I eventually found a restaurant called Roast to meet Aimee. A place with swanky pretensions, a lounge pianist and singer and stiff prices. Sat near the piano, looking out of the window at the closed for the evening market. Had a lovely meeting with her, discussing the business book. She really likes the concept and gave me a useful perspective on its content -- and how this can be used as we drank gin and tonics with slices of grapefruit in them and picked at few items from the bar snacks menu. Then there was a good deal of gossip.

Took some photos of The Shard, which looks amazing close up at night, the top of the building lit up brightly, with Aimee laughing at me for being a tourist. My camera dial was on the wrong setting so none of them worked. Gah. An unhappy month or so working for Architects' Journal in the distant past has left at least one legacy.

Home by direct train from London Bridge. Fish finger sandwich at home and a chat with Lorraine, out again in her busy week. A date for my pre-operation assessment in a couple of weeks, which is excellent news.  Gold sofa, then bed.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Broke off from working to watch the Chancellor's Budget speech and the leader of the Opposition's reply. The paucity of the public purse matched only by the intellectual bankruptcy of politicians. No ideas from anywhere a general nothing to be done but grin and bare it from Osborne, and childish finger pointing from Miliband.

Off early evening to sit with Klaudia and Oskar while Anton and Anna went to parents evening. Nice time with the Godbairns, who always seem to want to climb over me, despite them being quite large now. Klaudia has a new method of tormenting Oskar, which is to try to pin him down and kiss him. Also we had a good deal of fun talking to Siri on my iPhone, Klaudia getting it to say 'lollipops', which it replayed as 'lolliparps', to general amusement.

Then I met Claudius and walked with him to the Old Market in Hove, to a very well run (by Roy Hutchins) poetry evening called iOpen. Really enjoyed the evening, and there was some interesting work, including a longish poem from an older poet about a supermarket employee sexually interfering with a shopping trolley. Claudius has just started writing poems and read a work in progress informed by his Buddhist practise. We bumped into Pemma there, who I'd not seen for a few months, and has now moved to Lewes. She sat with us and read a good poem. I read two of mine which went down well, the audience very attentive, much better than bellowing in noisy pubs.

Then we stopped into the Evening Star and met Richard and Glen, and had a good chat with them. Good to see Glen, who I'd not seen for a while, and have a last cheeky with Richard discussing music and philosophy, and lapping at real ales. Home, skillfully avoiding an Ace pizza, instead having a Ryvita fest when I got home not having eaten. Lorraine already in bed, after her leaving do from the school she's been seconded to, and squeaking when I put my cold hands on her.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Home movie night

Phoned by Janet to say Ken's operation had been brought forward to this afternoon. So I didn't see him. Spoke to Mum who had an excellent time walking eating and laughing with Romy in Paris. So great that they got the chance to meet as the Romster was on a business trip there.

The world turns. A walk this afternoon in the still-wintery sun. I can feel the Spring coming both in the world, and in my life and it is a lovely feeling. Walked to the walled garden, a woman breastfeeding a little baby in the sun, and the sun gathering in corners of soil immanent with life.

In the evening, as Lorraine was out, made a small sinister, home movie called Janus. Probably due to watching the highly disturbing Inland Empire again.

Below a still from Janus. Click through to watch it on You Tube.

Monday, March 18, 2013


Couldn't help noticing Mercury has just stopped going retrograde and is now progressing. Pure coincidence, of course, that I received the months overdue letter from the tax office notifying me of a repayment. A cheeky grand and very welcome - and not just because I won't have to keep asking my accountant to chase the effing thing every two weeks.

I slunk back to the gym, and managed half an hour's creaky trundling on the cross trainer. While I have a long way to go to get back to anything like fit, it made me cheerful (and tired). Met Claudius in the changing room and had a chat with him about poetry to the bemusement of the narcissists and sweaty jocks about us.

Talked to Janet, and will visit Ken tomorrow as he is bored before his op on Thursday.

The excerpt of the business book I have sent to several friends already has had some very useful and thought provoking feedback. In this hiatus, reworking and expanding Defenders of Guernsey  and removing one or two glaring errors. Very useful to have read some of it to the little group of girls in Lorraine's school the other week. They were transfixed by the first chapter, and then I realised that the second chapter, which I did not read, was too abrupt a plot jolt to be entirely satisfactory.

After zooming home and eating our 'plated dinners', i.e. second helpings of yesterday's roast and veggies, Lorraine out this evening getting ready for the Hullabaloo concert next week. Not feeling like reading, I watched my DVD of  David Lynch's disturbing Inland Empire and managed to creep myself out with it. Like all Lynch films, the dream logic makes more sense when you have seen the film more than once.

Below Grace Zabriskie, one of Lynch's regulars, being wonderfully weird in Inland Empire. The kind of mad expression I sported on receiving my payment from Inland Revenue.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

First Matie visits the newts

A quiet morning with Lorraine planning the year ahead, and tidying up the bomb-hit house: for First Matie was coming to visit. Wonderful to be able to share with her the highlife of Brighton - a rain-soaked traffic jam after picking her up, and then making her walk in the mud and rain of the bepuddled park, and taking her to the little walled garden, which was closed. However we did all enjoy looking at hundreds newts creeping about in murky pond. You have to make your own entertainment.

Luckily Lorraine cooked us a mountain of veggies and a pork joint, and we had a glass of wine and forked down roast, crunching on crackling and, after a decent pause, custard and apple crumble. Proper English fare and lots to recommend it. Many of discussions to be had, as it had been a long time since I'd seen Kate, and it makes me pleased that Lorraine and First Matie get on so well too.

I walked Katie off to Brighton station, for fond farewells. I then hurried off to the Unitarian Church to see Matt conduct some work by John Cage. Annoyingly as I checked the details on my phone in the street, I discovered that the concert had been the night before. Chumpishly called Matt to apologise for my non attendance, then squelched home in more icy rain to the comfort of the gold sofa.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Rain and stories

Foul weather. Two things from Amazon The End of the Party, by Andrew Rawnsley, which is an account of the Labour government from Tony Blair's re-election in 2001 to the end of the Brown government. Also Laura Mvula's first album, just released. On the album, she sounds like the middle ground between Nina Simone and a sedate Bjork. I'd not heard of Laura Mvula until a week or so ago, but she is splendid.

Lorraine and I up and about. Drove up to the racecourse where there is a garden centre and tropical fish place. After a big Sainsbury's shop, Bought some plants and fish food, and I spent the afternoon happily pottering about with buckets, cleaning the tanks and planting. Lorraine off rehearsing with Hullabaloo. I also finished Arthur Schnitzler's Dream Story. Very dreamlike it was too, and Freudian. I finished it in bed this morning, and then told the whole story to Lorraine.

In the evening off to meet Anton to talk about books and hear how he is painting the Airfix kits Oskar makes overnight, and leaving them at the end of his bed. We then met up with Lorraine and Rosie who had eaten supper earlier with Beth before she went back to Kingston. Rosie, who was bushed, left. Shortly after we three skipped out of the friendly little Earth and Stars pub  into the icy stair rod rain.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Giving it time

I reached a point where I had a finished enough chunk of the business book, which I am going to send to a few trusties in marketing for finger in the air opinions. I am no longer sure if the whole thing is the pursuit of an energetic wild goose in rude health, or if I would be better off typing a second Gadsby.  In the afternoon revisiting some of the children's fiction I've been working on. Time is a marvellous editor and I saw at once a major and significant improvement.

Spoke to Mum and Mas, a streaming cold not helping the recovery from an operation. Mum on a Euorostar to Paris on Sunday to meet Romy who is in there on business. Email from Janet saying Ken is in hospital to prepare for his operation next week.

Betty home again, and the three of us stole off in the rain to the Shahi, aka the dining room, to lap up some cold lager, and hot curry. What could be nicer?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Two Figures

Up early and feeling better than I have done this week, although in a tetchy mood. Took myself out and about in town. Worked in a cafe for three hours. Across the road is a large plastic shark head, of which there are a couple in Brighton. Looking up from my laptop to sip my large Earl Grey teas, amused at one point to see two women taking photos of themselves with their heads wedged in the shark jaws.

Having put in a couple of hours on the business book early morning, I started a new poem in the cafe. I am trying to be less self-censoring in what I write and give my subconscious freer reign. A slightly wilder and less restrained streak is coming to the fore. The poem sparked off by two words in the André Breton book I was reading the other day.

Happy to be walking about with some energy after a poor start to the week. Visited the Brighton Gallery again, and closely looked at the Léger Two Figures (1929) they have there. I particularly liked Leger when I was doing my art A level in my teens. I loved the balance between representation and abstraction.

Having a free gallery that you can just wander into gives you the luxury of popping in for 15 minutes and looking hard at a single piece if you want to.

However I managed to lose £20 while out, not a life changing amount but still annoying. This not helped by buying a loaf from the Real Patisserie which later I found had such a massive air bubble that the first half dozen slices were mere crusts.

Lorraine bushed by her day, with a chesty cough, poor thing sleeping on the sofa while I watched a bit of football, and facebooked tonight. The weekend, however, is going to be lively.

Below a not particularly good photograph of Léger's Two Figures (1929). I wondered about the breasts. I think we are looking at two women, and the taller figure has what appears to be a breast placed centrally, and the taller woman's hand is on the other woman's breast. It's almost as if we are looking at two halves of the same woman. The faces are very similar, with an idealised, taller, statue-like and necklaced half above a clothed, smaller, flesh-toned other half. I am not sure what the blue and white area is in the back. Not my favourite Léger but definitely worth scrutiny.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Binge reading

Feeling somewhat brighter this morning. Lorraine working from home much of the day too. Eyes aching, I slunk off at lunchtime for a walk in the park. The pond full of spawn of some sort like bunches of small grapes. Still tatters of snow about, but the sense of Spring waiting impatiently in the wings.

A text from Matt to say he had gone to the concert, and it had actually happened, and that Clameur had a good performance which was well received. Slightly kicking myself for not going now, but so it goes.

Worked in a focused way on the business book, and made some major improvements this morning. Did some billing, which is always good too. I need to send some samples out soon, to get some feedback. I have a horror of wasting what little energy and time I have on a wild goose chase.

In the early evening finished Nadja by Andre Breton. I am short of patience, and I am sure I did not give the book the attention it deserves as it is very French, prone to drawn out sentences, such as this example chosen at random:

I intend to mention, in the margin of my narrative I have yet to relate, only the most decisive episodes of my life as I can conceive it apart from its organic plan, and only insofar as it is at the mercy of chance--the merest as well as the greatest--temporarily escaping my control, admitting me to an almost forbidden world of sudden parallels, petrifying coincidences, and reflexes peculiar to each individual, of harmonies struck through as though on the piano, flashes of light that would make you see, really see, if only they were not so much quicker than all the rest. 

I may try a second, much slower reading. It's good to get to the bottom of antipathies, and some of my favourite poetry has annoyed me at first. Meanwhile I have picked up another short book, Dream Story, by Arthur Schnitzler, and am well into this now. Apparently the film Eyes wide shut, which I have not seen, was based on it. I am binge reading.

A new pope elected today. I find my loathing of the Church quite boundless at present. The idea that an organisation whose long tradition of raping children and then lying about it  is coming to light all around the world, allows those self same criminals to elect what is supposedly a shining moral light to the world's Christian population, almost too sickening to think about. I wonder what Christ would make of the Vatican.

Below Minotaured about in the walled garden for a bit. I love that place.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dawn of the unread

Wintry morning, and Sussex hit quite badly by a bit of snow, closing schools and leaving people stranded overnight on the motorway into Brighton from London. This did mean that Lorraine could work from home, choosing to do an endless report on a school which took her all day.

I finished, putting in several more hours, the pesky freelance job, made difficult by a mushy brain brought on by a extremely bad night's sleep. Good, professional client called David. This helps immensely. A bit of simple politeness and a willingness to listen on both sides can help get great results.

Out to a meeting nearby this afternoon, and the snowy streets starting to thaw. Walked up the hill following a group of boys scooping snow off cars and menacing each other with it. One appraised me with a handful of snow, but sensibly thought the better of it.

I had to nix the journey to Chichester to see Clameur performed. Tiredness, and reinvigorated prostatitis meant the prospect enduring the train disruption and shivering miserably on platforms did not appeal, especially as Matt, who was also dubious, told me there were questions about the conductor and choir arriving. Evidence, if any were needed, that the Kenny fame repellent remains in robust working order. However, if it happened, the performance will be recorded.

Started to read Nadja a short book by Andre Breton the famous Surrealist. Not the easiest of reads, but after a tedious and clumsy first third (doubtless fine PhD fodder), it has clicked into gear and become a fascinating depiction of an enigmatic relationship.

This follows my policy of reading all the novels I own but have not got around to reading. Happily there is quite a backlog. I don't Smeagol my read novels as I do with my poetry collection, so my novel collection has a high proportion of the unread. Loving my reading at the moment. It is keeping me sane and cheery.

Otherwise a nice enough day. Like having Lorraine at home, and being able to grab some lunch together and chat while working.

Below, a local Internet meme going the rounds this morning and icicles in our tiny back yard.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Snow and sieges

Snowing.  Luckily I had nowhere to travel, and was working by eight at my desk. Stayed manacled there till noon, completing the pesky but interesting freelance job before sending it into cyberspace. Finding concentration a bit hard as prostatitis taking advantage of the lull in antibiotics. After three hopeful days of feeling better than I had done for some time, the old enemy is at the gates again. Trying not to be downcast about this, and am hoping the diagnostic operation is not too many months away.

Afternoon more relaxed. Lorraine working at home in the afternoon, after long cross county drives were cancelled.

This in from Richard in Guernsey, which was on the news this morning, for its unprecedented snow: 'looking out into the garden where the palms and tree branches are practically horizontal because of the on-shore wind howling in from the bay, which is only about two hundred metres away from us. There's sleety snow coming in and the bird feeders and water bowl have ice on them. The blue-tits are clinging to the swaying feeders like Hillary to Mount Everest...The schools are all closed, no planes are flying and sailings have been cancelled so we're effectively cut-off until it all settles down.'

Wrote back saying I wished I was stranded in Guernsey.

I finished A Woman in Berlin yesterday. A part of the WW2 story that was unknown to me, what was it like to be a woman in Berlin as the Russians invaded. Although there was lots of rape and privation, it was also interesting how quickly the rebuilding started, hearing how the water, electricity and gas were back on line within the month in the writer's top floor apartment, despite the fact all the glass was shattered and the roof torn off by artillery and bombing and they were all half starving. Interesting too the scornful, exhausted humour of the book's tone, and its clear eyed refusal to be sentimental or self-pitying. Interesting to see how it compares to Saramago's Blindness, the story of an imagined catastrophe. Both memorable reads.

Battened down the hatches in the evening as Lorraine's choir was cancelled, as was her afternoon meeting.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Cold Sunday

Up early and working on some freelance, which is proving peskily difficult to complete. Lorraine also working on job applications, which made her feel miserable.

Eventually we stopped doing this and made off to Hove for a walk for an hour in the cold by the dour-looking sea. More bad weather is on its way. We enjoyed our walk and talk however, and stopped off to buy lots of food on the way home. Home, and Lorraine doing lots of work, when she wasn't practicing her singing and chatting to Dawn. Lorraine cooked rhubarb crumble today, and showed me how to make the crumble part. It was delicious, and just the thing for a winter's day.

Spoke to Mum to wish her a happy mother's day. She has a busy week this week, which may include a trip to Paris. Mason off for a small operation. Never a dull moment, eh?

A wonderful new singer has emerged into the world of pop music. Her name is Laura Mvula, from Birmingham. I have listened to a few of her tracks and am really blown away. People are comparing her to Nina Simone. This song, called Green Garden, is curiously magical and transports me to somewhere lovely in my mind.

Forgot to say that on 12th March, i.e. Tuesday, Matt and I are attending a performance of Clameur at Chichester University in the Chapel of the Ascension as part of a new music festival which starts at 7:30.

Below a dour sea, and a cold seafront. Brrr.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Feline business and human tetris

Cat business this morning. Lorraine and I off to Top Cats with Brian and Calliope in the cat carrier. Calliope very vocal in the car as usual, and even got Brian joining in. It's a mark of how well these cats get on that they can be squeezed together with no fur flying. Curious how the cats become entirely calm once they are at the vets, perhaps because the walls have absorbed years of pheromones. A new vet this time, who I think was German or Austrian, pronounced Calliope and Brian in good health, weight and so on. Brian overseeing Calliope's examination from a the top of a work surface. Apparently Calliope is a very calm cat, and her heart rate was bang on what it was supposed to be, despite being out of her normal place. He said Calliope had great teeth too, which I attested to having been endlessly bitten by them.

Then after restorative cups of tea, Lorraine and I off to the Twitten to collect two of my heavy wooden chairs and table. We met one of the new tenants, a pleasant young woman rejoicing in the name of Calandre. Noticed, nostalgically, daffodils out in its wee front patch of garden. A bit of a tetris job, squeezing into the car with the furniture, and as Lorraine drove us home, I had a chair wedged upside down on my lap.

Lorraine then off to sing with Hullabaloo in the afternoon, and I read more of my A Woman in Berlin, a harrowing book. Later I had received an emergency call from Betty in the Batty where I was due to meet her and Lorraine. She had ordered a beer but her card did not work. Lorraine already there by the time I arrived.

I nipped over to the Sussex Yeoman to secure us a table for an early supper as Beth had to go back to Kingston. I ate one of their incomparable home made burgers, which I'd not eaten for a year or so. Lengthy discussions about Beth's acting career among other things. Lorraine and I had a quiet night indoors after these excitements. Lorraine shattered, and has a bit of a cough. Betty seeing a drunk man accidentally exposing himself on the train. He offered her a drink, but was declined.

Friday, March 08, 2013

A beardy hug

In an excellent mood, off to the quack, who is a lovely man and with a medical student who he quizzed with testing questions. Off the antibiotics for the time being, thank God. Some new pills which the pharmacist, who seems to like me, took me into a little room to discuss.

Then, as my hair had passed its clown-like tipping point, to the barbers. Anton says there are two patterns in  male baldness, 'the rockabilly', a cooler sort of frontal balding favoured by him and,  less cool, 'the benedictine' which my area of concern is steadily turning into. Came out with a sleek head, and pointed it in the direction of Janet and Ken's house.

Delighted to see Ken on his feet to greet me with a beardy hug when I arrived. He was full of praise for Janet, and mentally sharp, and he in far better shape than I had expected, and they are tinkering with his meds to get things right, and was on the receiving end from his doctor about actually taking them. Ken is being visited every day a Mauritian nurse, which gives him the opportunity to speak to her in French. Half an hour chatting with them, before I went home to start work again, pausing only to buy a pot of live yogurt packed with friendly bacteria, who greeted me warmly enough before I engulfed them in an attempt to repair the damage of months of antibiotics.

My new French client paid me speedily for the pitch I worked on, restoring my faith in humanity somewhat.  It transpired the difficult-to-contact client was at a funeral too, which explained everything. Have been listening to A Woman in Berlin as an audio book. It is a woman's account of the Russian invasion at the end of the WW2, grim but fascinating. Heard about it on Radio 4's A good read.

Lorraine working from home for a bit this afternoon. When she returned, we went off for an early curry and putting the week to rights. Returned by 8.00 and she slumped to sleep, exhausted on the sofa. Betty home briefly this evening, before going to work tomorrow in Brighton. Her performance mid-week had rightly gone down very well and she was feeling proud of herself.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

A cicada in the light of day

Just noticed that this is the 3,002nd post on this blog. Writing it has become part of life - and curiously good for my sanity.

Best news of the day was that I got an email from Janet saying Ken is safely returned home, which is excellent.

A a slightly trying (Mercury retrograde?) element to the rest of the day, which was earmarked for freelance work, but the day-long unavailability of my client to talk through the new brief meant I could not finish the job. I spoke to Seana, my glamorous accountant, asking her to chase the tax office once again. She emailed me saying the money owed me should now be on its way, and was delayed because they were waiting for one of my payments to clear. I said I'd actually paid this in at the end of December, i.e. several weeks early. This earliness seems to have created the problem. Unbelievable. On a better note, had a poem Cicada accepted for The Frogmore Papers, a poetry magazine based in Lewes, a welcome acceptance after some recent wrong-headed rejections. Cicada was 'published' once before in Other Poetry, but the fates slid in with a nasty late tackle, and Other Poetry mangled the poem, misprinting the title, losing a line etc. They said they would print it correctly, which never happened. So hopefully this tiny poem will see the light of day later this year.

The new tenants in the Twitten have settled in, and I got my first rent, which was welcome. Despite being told they wanted the table and chairs, they do not, so will have to collect them this weekend, thus negating the point of having a managed service.

Sonya informed me that both toilets were blocked. Once she left I had the pavement up outside the house and, cursing the Gods of Brighton's terrible drainage, did some semi-professional poo poking to solve the problem, although one of our two toilets is still draining with a degree of unwilling. Having finished this Augean task and washed my hands OCD-style, I found one of the cats had left me some warm sick.

Out this evening, went to watch the Dipak-less Shakespeare Hiptet (or Heptet depending on who you ask) chatted with Steve Cartwright, who it was good to see. The venue was the one pub near the Twitten I rarely went into, The Duke of Norfolk, and it was crowded with nowhere to sit. Anton came in, and as we needed to speak, we repaired to the Sussex Yeoman, and had such a long and deep talk in there that we missed Richard's gig altogether, an apt end to the day.

Sloped home to a sleepy Lorraine in bed.

Jane Harlem shakes it

Meanwhile the rest of the globe seems to be busy with the Harlem Shaking meme. Jane, never one to be outdone, is doing it here in her Camilla persona below.


Wednesday, March 06, 2013


Walked up to the hospital, this time on my own account. The future holds a general anaesthetic and a couple of rather intrusive procedures aiming to pin down what's up and how to best treat my prostatitis. I welcome this as life at the moment is short of joie de vivre.

Remembered Spooner's facebook description of the hospital as Gormenghastly, which made me smile as I trudged up the hill. Efficient visit though, saw the doctor, thoughtfully left them some urine and was out within 25 minutes.

Home and took it easy this afternoon. Did start work on a new branding brief, and cooked a chilli. The addition of cumin and a bit of nutmeg seem to be a good thing. Lorraine late, but pleased to be home, then had the task of finding clothes for her go to school as a book character. She selected something vaguely African.

Finished Blindness. An unpleasant, compulsive read, in the vein of Golding's Lord of the Flies, or John Wyndham novels. Hungry for books lately.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013


A Spring like day, and a certain amount of cheery capering with cats this morning, when I completed the first two sevenths of the business book. A stern tightening it up read through and edit to come, and I will have a strong sendable sample of the content.

Off in the evening up to Kingston by train to see Beth in a sketch show called Blondage written by one of Beth's friends Chloe Penycate, and featuring Chloe, Beth and her pal Olivia.  The one-off performance was Chloe's third year dissertation piece. The show went down extremely well with its full house, although there were a few in-jokes the show could have instantly transferred to a little pub theatre with no problem. Beth is turning into an outstanding comedy performer  -- she has made giant strides since we did Betty the Spacegirl together. Less self-conscious, she just goes for it now, and the result is exhilarating. The other girls were excellent too, and Chloe had written some lovely stuff -- lots around social media which went down well, but some moments of inspiration. A much, much better evening than I was expecting.

As we made our way back to the car, we crossed over a little concrete bridge and looked down on a tributary or canal leading off the nearby Thames and we noticed a bat swirling in the air above the water, a little downstream was a heron, who caught a fat little fish as we looked. An omen of fortune.

Long journey home in the car, Lorraine very tired, pausing to buy some emergency chips, with a diversion from the motorway that added half an hour to the journey. Home, and straight to bed.

Monday, March 04, 2013

The sunbathers of Spring

Mercury is retrograde, which astrologers claim sends communications awry. Astrology may be bunk, but it mirrors the scrambled and patchy communications arriving at the PK outpost, waiting for Godot-like briefs and emails to be answered. Nevertheless a great day's work on the business book. I will soon have a large enough sample to go fishing with it.

A warmish blue-skied day, so went out for an hour at lunchtime gulping the fresh air. Paid a cheque into my bank, and then strayed onto the pier. A dozen people on deck chairs; a mother basking with her eyes firmly closed, absorbing the sun on her face while being tormented by her bored son, and others eyed by seagulls as they dozed to the cheesy music drifting from the speakers. Admittedly the sun-baskers were wearing coats, but nevertheless an omen of better things. Seen from the pier, the pebbles on the beach now in two colours, the dark sea-wetted edge, and the sun dried beach several tones lighter.

Walking home along London Road, Brighton's conduit of all that's miserable, is a different story. Several empty shops, among the low end stores, one of whose windows had been hammered through to try to force an entry, another property occupied by squatters with banners draped in the windows asking not to be criminalised. Street alcoholics drinking from cans, clots of the homeless and addicted, a girl of 18 or 19 emerging from an alley in tears, and her pimp standing in the shadows toying nonchalantly with his phone. All human life is here, and it isn't a pretty.

Spoke to Janet, who says Ken is now in a different ward and there is talk of releasing him. He'd be a good deal happier at home I think. Apparently Janet told me he doesn't remember much of the last week or so, and she said he should keep it that way. A quick chat with Mum too. Meanwhile Lorraine back from a cheerless Monday, and had work to do in the evening. I cooked us noodles and read more of Blindness by Saramago.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Reading, listening

Lorraine coughing nastily, so another low profile day.  I horrified myself by reading a good chunk of Blindness by Saramago. It is a horribly compelling story about a mystery, highly-contagious outbreak of blindness. The infected are confined to an old asylum building and shot if they attempt to escape, or the guards panic.

Also listening to lots of music, including Arvo Pärt's Te Deum. A major discovery is Stravinsky's ballet music called Les Noces, which depicts a wild voiced Russian wedding and which in its highly percussive, and almost chanting open-throated style, I find completely unexpected and exhilarating. Really enjoying my journeys into classical music these days.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Getting out of a Jam

Met Maureen and Pat for lunch in The Signalman today, the quilt that Lorraine has been making for Beth over the last 18 months returned after Maureen had done some splendid work on it. Beth will have a quilt that her mother and grandmother both worked on; a treasure. The Signalman, noisy with a tables blokes wetting their whistles before heading off to the Brighton game (which they were destined to win 4-0 against Huddersfield). We all had rather good fish and chips with mushy peas and thick slices of brown bread. Hearty fare, and the chips especially good. Conversation with the barman who found out what type of potato the chef specifies, a particular kind of maris piper was the answer.

Home in the afternoon, for some sofa time, while with Lorraine's help was able to get through to Orange to find out what to do about some cyber bastards called called Jamster who were steadily charging me £1.50 for each unwanted text they sent me. The solution is to text 'stop all' to the number texts come from. Orange helpful but only after half a dozen attempts and listening to muzak for 15 minutes. Grrr.

Lorraine coughing and under the weather much of the day. Betty home briefly after working in Brighton for the day for her old drama school, before L drove Betty, and Maureen and Pat back to the station.  I started reading Blindness by Jose Saramago, which is not the best book for a hypochondriac, but interesting nevertheless. The Portuguese writer promoted a brief email swap with Mark Hill, who is in Portugal and finishing a book, which he has an agent and publisher for, which is fab news for him. I mentioned Pessoa, whose house I had visited once in Lisbon.

An email from Janet, saying Ken is making progress this evening.

Friday, March 01, 2013


Back on the book this morning, and in the afternoon doing some billing. The client with whom I had a lively difference of opinion was surprisingly pleasant and accommodating. Got only as far as the shops in my encounters with the outside world.

Spoke briefly to Mas, home safely from Dubai. I'm sure there's a lengthy tale in there, yet to emerge.

Finished Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata, and immediately wanted to read it again, but more slowly. One of those books where what it doesn't say is as important as what it does. I love it when a piece of art makes me think of its countershape.

Lorraine home late after a gruelling week, which was rounded off by a curry and quiz night with teachers from the school.  Beth back she is working tomorrow in Brighton. She went straight out to meet Laura.

Feeling a degree of tranquility this evening.