Friday, May 31, 2013

Bay of tranquility

A leisurely start to a day bathed in beautiful sunlight. Breakfast, and eventually we sauntered down to Moulin Huet and as it was high tide we sat at the bench above the bay and looked out at the water whitening at the rocks for some time. Flowers everywhere, and only knowing the names of half of them. It is like end of winter in Narnia, and everything magically blossoming.

The tea room with its stunning view of the bay was open, and we had sandwiches and tea there for lunch. Then back down to the bay to watch the tide falling and simply soak up the tranquility for a few hours, perching on rocks and watching small boys fishing from the rocks, and dogs plunging after a tennis ball into the waves.

Sat there for a while doing the meditation of listening to all the noises first near then far: children playing and crunching the stones, the waves on the rocky shore, and the strange gulping noise the waves make under the big rock, then the sea moving across the whole bay and the breeze on the cliffs. Opening your eyes at first the brightness almost bleaches the colour from everything. I love this place.

Back to La Barbarie, where we had a cheeky cold beer before a doze. Then at seven Richard appeared in the van and drove us up to the Vale. An excellent evening with Jane and Richard, enjoying the splendours of their summer house, and Jane's excellent cooking. Richard and Jane touchingly happy for us, and we drank some bubbly to celebrate. Richard in a non-writing phase, and says that his next book will be a book of silence, with blank pages. The glooms of poets are dark. As Wordsworth says: 'The Poet, gentle creature as he is, / Hath, like the Lover, his unruly times; / His fits when he is neither sick nor well, / Though no distress be near him but his own / Unmanageable thoughts.'

Cab drive the length of the island, and before we went to bed at around midnight. Same cab driver as last time who tried to sell us a children's book. Once at the hotel, we walked out into the shadows in the lane and admired the innumerable stars before heading for bed.

Below some flowery snaps, and in Moulin Huet bay at high tide.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Squinting at sparklers

Rainy overcast day did not dampen our cheeriness. A full Guernsey breakfast at La Barbarie before having a restful morning reading and chatting. Off to town in the afternoon, much surprised when I asked if it were still £1 as it had been in October, only to be told it was £2 for visitors now by its dour driver from Yorkshire. However all put to right by seeing Richard's poem Sunset at Cobo featured on board.

Into St Peter Port and on with the business of the day: buying Lorraine an engagement ring. Busy telling each other that if nothing was found here, then we could buy something in Brighton. Much squinting at sparklers and window shopping until a promising shop was found. A fortifying cup of tea and baked potato later, we plunged in and soon emerged with a sparkler (to be re-sized) but is inset so that it is flat on top, but you have the effect of looking into the depths of the diamond. Lorraine very happy all round, which makes me heart warmed.

Home for a siesta, and then to The Captains for supper. Saddened to be told they no longer serve Pony Ale with the bar manager claiming it is no longer brewed. Nevertheless we had a couple of throat-soothing beers, some pub grub, and wandered happily home along the bat-flitting lanes.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I suggest marriage

Up early and packing in a flap, before cabbing to Brighton station. A Flybe jet to Guernsey and only 40 minutes in duration. L and I had taken the sensible precaution of a gin and tonic in the Flying Horse in Gatwick so the flight was fine.

Arrived at the Barbarie in no time, the taxi driver totally taciturn. After a warm welcome and soup and sandwiches in the bar, we made off to Icart Point. By now the day had become utterly beautiful. Because of the long cold winter delaying blooming, now the sun has arrived the cliffs were jostling with colourful wild flowers. This is what my heaven looks like.

Lorraine and I sat on a bench looking west towards Petit Port. Lorraine crying as she loves the place so much. It was then because I can't imagine life without Lorraine I suggested we get married. Lorraine agreed, swayed by the powerful logic of the idea. As we were looking out to sea, feeling rather pleased with ourselves and distinctly romantic, three Germans with monstrous cameras appeared, stood immediately in front of us and proceeded to take photos of one another. Lorraine had the giggles. On retiring, one of them waved at the view and said 'enjoy!' Momentarily galling, but we both laughed and the three Germans are written into our story.

Both of us very happy.  I had surprised Lorraine and luckily it seemed to made her rather pleased.   Getting married seems entirely the right thing to do, and I had planned to ask her at Icart Point some months ago. In fact if I could press a button and already be married, I would do it. Except that I feel some species of large party is called for.

Then a walk around the sunny, flower-crowded cliffs till we were above Saints Bay, and then back to Icart where we had a slice of gâche each and a cup of tea. The owner gave us the benefit of his non-stop opinions for some time before we settled into the tearoom gardens, which due to the mad hatterishness of the its mercury poisoned owner makes me think of Alice in Wonderland, particularly with its profusion of weird echium pininana trees lending it an unreal air.

Back to the Barbarie, where we had a few drinks, some fizz with our knife and forkwork, and  discussed our plans excitably and at great length.

Below the flowering cliffs, and Lorraine and I at the scene.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Rain hosing from the sky, luckily I was working from home and reading about postmodern irony and hyperreality. Hyperreality is the inability of the consciousness to distinguish reality from a simulation of reality, and it's all the rage.

Lorraine luckily working from home today, although had to slip out a couple of times. I contented myself with chasing a payment, signing non-disclosure agreements (about which I say nothing) and pencilling in a couple of weeks freelance work after I return.

A cheery mood enveloping The Old Church Hall today. Lorraine and I are off to Guernsey tomorrow, thanks be to heaven.  Maureen and Pat cat sitting for the few days we are away. Can't wait to arrive in good cheer.

Next post from the Gem of the Sea.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Old friends

To Staines today, with Betty on board as she was returning to Kingston. Chatting about her course and the 'nativity' play I'd like to do this year before Christmas. Beth is doing the Blondage show in Camden this summer, which is really exciting for her.

After dropping Beth off at Stains station, Lorraine and I arrived at Anne's lovely house near the river, where I had spent several Christmas Eves. It was like old times, hanging out with Anne, Anton and Brian - and great to see Anton's Uncle John and Sue, who I'd not seen for far too long. John just the same, and just a warm lovely man.

Oskar and Klaudia there too, and I spent a good deal of time playing with them. Especially Klaudia who set up an assault course which Anne, Brian, Lorraine, Anton and I had to negotiate. I came last, according to Klaudia, for persistent cheating. Again feeling grateful to have my Godchildren in my life. I always have fun with them. Klaudia shared some of her music with me too, the girl group Little Mix and a peppy little pop singer called Titch, who I'd never heard of.

Anton cooked some excellent barbecued steaks and I drank wine and limoncello and chatted a good deal. Rather in need of rejuvenating sparkling water by the time Lorraine and I arrived home, with what proved a very easy drive. A really nice day.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Stampedes and Symphonic Wind

Bumped into Adrian this morning, telling me about struggles to get the council to remove graffiti from brickwork, blasting it off himself, before the Green run council agreed too late to remove it. Told him I saw press coverage of Brighton's ruling Green party with a 'Wilting Greens' headline.

Betty at home but snoozing through the day. L and I went into town to watch The London Gay Symphonic Wind orchestra in a free event in the Dome. Called en route by Matt who told us to come to the Brighton Tavern first. This was thronging with cowboys and squaws and so on.  Matt had entered The Tavern Stampede, see photos below, this involved half a dozen or so folks pelting down the street to return in coffee bean sacks, asking for a cowboy blow job cocktail, and some business of changing shirts. All rather hilarious.

Thence to the dome with Matt and John, now sporting a white stick, to hear the London Gay Symphonic Winds. Rather good actually, playing everything from Elgar's Nimrod to Lady Gaga's Poker Face. After this cultural interlude, L and I repaired back to the Tavern with John, Matt and Matt's old pal Naomi one of the wind players, who was very nice. L and I sauntered home in the sun, and had a peaceful evening.

Below pictures of the cowboy stampede. Even in Brighton not something you see every day. Matt on the right hand side on the top three photos.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The pepper of bluebells

Up early and with a strong feeling that everything was right with the world. This mood lasted till we got downstairs and I discovered another appointment from the hospital in a couple of weeks, which sparked unpleasant speculation.

L and I drove off to our bluebell woods and soon Lorraine had helped me get things in perspective. The bluebells were gorgeous, although slightly going over. They were a full month late this year, but the air was full of the delicious peppery smell that the bluebells emit.

From the woods we drove into the village of Ditchling, and followed their open houses art trail. Various stuff there, including hand made furniture,  glass garden sculpture, paintings, photography and more. L and I bought a little print by Rosemary Pavey, who gave us elderflower cordial as we entered her studio. It is of a few white cows in a field by Chanctonbury Hill and to me looks like an illustration from a telling a legend.

One of the open houses was owned by the highly illustrious Herbie Flowers, the world famous bass player, who was there in person and being very chatty. He showed us his music room, and chatted while being busy sharing his tadpoles from his garden ponds with his neighbours.

Then stopped for a cup of tea and some gigantic scones at a local cafe, enjoying the novelty of sitting outside in intermittent sun.

A much needed quiet night in tonight.

Below into bluebell woods, glass garden sculpture on the Ditchling art trail by Miranda Ellis, Rosemary Pavey's chocolate box studio and some random Ditchling tulips that caught my fancy.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Artful shirts with Mum

Another poor night's sleep which at least meant that I was able to wake Lorraine up when she was having a nightmare that Beth's ex-boyfriend Mark had turned into a cannibal.

Mum up rested and bright as a button. In contrast I felt somewhat jaded. A quorn sausage sandwich helped a good deal however. The weather hideously cold and rainy. Took mum to visit St Bartholomew's church which she liked, then into the North Laine and into a second hand bookshop, where I found a book on Imagination by Mary Warnock, and into Snooper's Paradise. We thought this is a kind of museum of household bric-a-brac. Then to the Giggling Squid, forking down some lovely thai food in a leisurely way.

We popped into see The Blue Route by Finnish artist Kaarina Kaikkonen, which was actually extremely impressive and strangely sea-like for a huge sculpture made from shirts. This made sense of the fact that the clock tower had been clothed in shirts for the last few weeks.

Then into a bead shop, then dropped in for chats and tea with Ken and Janet, and Huss too. Had tea and a good chat there.  Then home and defrosting for some time. Before walking Mum to the station. Sorry to see her go, and we'd had lots of fun, and the opportunity to do lots of talking.

This done I made off to The Shakespeare's Head where I met Lorraine, Dawn and Rosie and Anton. Several drinks and plates of sausage and mash, and several boozes. A fun evening,  and Beth and Laura arrived late in the evening too.

Below the Kaarina Kaikkonen wrapped up town clock, looking rather bedraggled in the cold rain, the rather beautiful Blue Route, a doll in Snooper's Paradise, and some shoes Mum was wanting in a shop window.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Kippers and cider with Mum

A poor night's sleep. Scooting about this morning doing some work before accosting Mum at Brighton station. Straight to the sea, which we found to be greenish with a bruised banks of cloud raining in the distance.

 Mum drawn right away to the kippers in a roll at Jack and Linda Mills place on the seafront. Lovely people and Jack was wearing a Guernsey jumper and so we chatted about this and he came outside to chat with us as we ate outside. He told us about fishing here just after the war, and how the sea was full of fish because of how the sea had been mined to defend it.

Then a cold walk around the pier, the flags stiff in the breeze. A good deal of talking to be done, which we did as we walked around the pier watching the skeletons etc. loom out of their smoking windows at the top of the horror hotel ride. Then inland to The Mock Turtle for tea and cake. Enjoying all the willow pattern plates on the wall, and the tables on the sides groaning with cakes.

Next to the Museum to float about looking at art and paintings, including the new Jeff Koons exhibition. Koons' work leaves me stone cold at best, although there is a kind of fun to be had looking at work you despise -- although I liked his large mirrors. More tea in the Museum cafe, as we were suffering post kipper dehydration.

Lorraine on a starving day and working with governors, so came to meet us at The Signalman where Mum and I had applied ourselves to the Cider festival they were running, and drinking various ciders that tasted of blackberries, and ginger, and the kinds of cider that has a long taste reminiscent of the dead things that get thrown in the barrel to aid fermentation. A fair amount of drink was taken and it was a lively evening.

We ordered some food, which turned out not to be so good, and mum having explained that it was the worst burger she had ever tasted we were awarded a full refund, and treated in an exemplary way by the manager, who also got us some free drink too. Which seemed exactly what we needed. Lorraine arrived eventually and shepherd us back home slightly worse for wear. The food in the Signalman is generally excellent, and I was very happy with the professional way it had been dealt with.

Below Mum reflected in the Jeff Koons exhibition, and late May scene on the freezing beach.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Beer at last

Far more peppy and managed a full and productive day's work.  Lorraine working at home this afternoon too which was lovely, to my surprise she got me a hardback copy of W.B. Yeats's poems which I had once treasured but lent to someone who never returned it. A really lovely thing to do. I also had an Amazon delivery today of a volume of Classical Literary Criticism, which I was consulting for the thing I am writing, and a documentary about Bob Marley. Pushed on with the book, finally working out my approach to the subject of 'wonder'.

L and I had a nice walk to the walled garden, past the big top where the circus is pitched with various musics drifting out. After admiring the plants and having a late wander, we were pleasantly ushered out by a park keeper as the garden should already have been closed, leaving the black tulips and bleeding hearts to the late slanting sun. Then to the climbing rock garden across the road, which has been somewhat redesigned although sadly was the cause of a fish massacre as some doofus loaded all the fish into a skip, and many of them simply died. A beautiful garden still, full of splashes of colour.

L and I then drifting off to the Shahi to celebrate what felt the first day of feeling almost normal after my procedure. Had my first taste of beer in many days, and it was a splendid. Home to drink sparkling water and mess about on facebook before an early night where my body struggled ineffectually with hot curry.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Quiet day

Brain functioning a little better this morning and was able to focus well on work for a few hours.

Also secured some more freelance work in a couple of weeks too, which is handy. Otherwise another nice note from Helen in Germany. More listening to the compelling Vernon God Little, and reading Sleights of Mind -- what the neuroscience of magic reveals about our brains which I am reading as research.

Nice phone chats with Bob and Matt. A walk around the park for lunch, but still feeling light headed. Black tulips among other flowers in the walled garden. Another quiet day. Rather keen on a noisy one soon.

Monday, May 20, 2013

A German note

Still sluggish, and my brain had all the incisiveness of a block of soft butter. Little written, listening instead to Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre, which is bleakly funny as the 15 year old protagonist makes one disastrous decision after another.

Delighted to receive an email from Helen in Biberach in Germany, who I learned was translating Root and Branch into German for a party who had attended the liberation day service from Biberach. It was only by googling did I learn that there had been a prison camp there where Channel Islanders were billeted held during WW2. I need to learn more about this.

Lorraine on one of her fasting days, and off singing with the choir this evening. I had a bit of a Frazier fest. Reading a bit of Rilke from the Duino Elegies aloud to Lorraine in bed tonight.  She likes me reading things to her as it sends her into an untroubled sleep, however deathless the poetry.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Simple pleasures

Steadily feeling livelier, although a trip to the shops and a few chores at home still enough to be tiring. An enjoyable day with Lorraine doing embroidery and continuing to cook delicious rib sticking comfort foods: turkey and mushroom pie, rhubarb crumble, and a roast dinner.

The knowledge that Lorraine is looking after me, makes me feel very lucky. I fiddled with aquariums, watched football (Chelsea triumphant) and happily read articles about how the conservative party is self destructing over the issue of Europe all over again.

I'm impatient to get on with work now and deriving pleasure from simple things like shopping. Happy with life.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

An enjoyable spell in hell

Despite post-anaesthetic trippiness, I was determined to see a production of No Exit (Huis Clos) by John-Paul Sartre  at the New Venture Theatre. Lorraine and I bussed there, a woman getting off the bus pressing her day pass ticket into my hand as I boarded.

Simon played the demonic Valet who introduced three antagonistic characters into the room where they have to endure each other for the rest of eternity where 'hell is other people'. Despite studying Sartre at university, I'd never seen a production of this play. It is a splendid idea for a theatre piece, although after I wondered how Becket would have handled it -- a good deal shorter I would have thought.

Simon charismatic as the Valet and Emmie Spencer's Inez the postal worker was excellent.

Lorraine and I hoofed it for a bus, home slightly spinny headed and was grateful for the sofa.

Friday, May 17, 2013


A day of recovery. Impatient to be springing about tiggerishly, except I kept needing sleep. Throat extremely sore but I am feeling happy, optimistic and relieved. Watching Fraziers and a moderately good movie Quartet. Lorraine looking after me. All good.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

An investigation

Up early to arrive at Victoria Hospital in Lewes for 7:30 to have an internal camera investigation of my bladder and prostate, and a prostatic massage -- i.e. send things up my penis and rectum like the worst kind of alien abduction. Beautiful green drive, the dew steaming in the morning sun helping me avoid picturing the day's events.

Before we set off I had a word with myself, and imagined seeing a tiny me in a black and white picture taken from an aircraft, just one thing in a billion things going on this morning. Curiously this really helped. Even better, Lorraine had taken a day's compassionate leave to come with me. She was in the best possible way a walking tranqilliser, and made me feel safe. Plus the hospital was clean, the staff were, to a person, calm, friendly and efficient. And at no point did I seriously think that my operation would end up on YouTube.

I couldn't help thinking of our friend John was to have a cataract operation yesterday, but was sent home as his blood pressure was too high. Thanks to L, my blood pressure was okay all through, and my only truly nervous moment was for the few seconds I felt the anaesthetic course into me. When I came around I felt a immense feeling of relief, and soon I was back in the ward with Lorraine, drinking sweet tea and eating biscuits, both of which tasted curiously delicious.

Before I was released back into the wild, the surgeon told me that the prostate and bladder looked fine, that they were doing some further checks, and I have a follow up appointment in three months.

The rest of the day dozing on the gold sofa, feeling wan but happy, getting up occasionally to pee pieces of needles and broken glass through my battered old chap. A bad throat too from the oxygen tube. I insisted on Lorraine being compassionate all day, and had many cups of tea and snacks from her. She is a simply wonderful person. Also watched some Frazier episodes and a pay for view movie called Perfect Pitch, which was an enjoyable feelgood movie about college a capella groups in the US -some excellent dialogue.

Really relieved to have got the day done with, for this had been brooding on the horizon for some time. Made me count my blessings and confirmed yet again that Lorraine is the best of women.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Finding it hard to concentrate today. Brooding hypochondriacally on the procedure tomorrow didn't help. Also a man came to discuss gutters, in a disappointingly non-guttural accent.  I got had couple of hours agency work on eye vitamins. Managed to lope off to the gym too, which helped to reduce the twitchiness.

Spoke to First Matie, whose day of poorliness meant I had the couple of hours work, and Sophie who is off to Andros' Godmother's funeral in Cyprus. When my lovely Lorraine got home, we watched the brave and noble Chelsea ride their luck to win the Europa cup. To bed early.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

An inconvenient widow

Up early and tidying up the house in a two hour frenzy before the photographer arrived. The house photographer seemed quite professional. I pestered him with questions to understand some of the tricks of his trade, saturating the shots and taking many of the same scene at different exposures to overlay them. Camera height is important too, low for gardens, high for kitchens. Pulling out one chair invitingly from a table.

He also left me with a good story about the son of a famous photographer who discovered that his recently deceased father had loads of property. The photographer was hired to photograph the properties and accompany the son going happily about town gloating over the huge fortune he had suddenly come into. The son went into the final property and after some time emerged white faced, saying he needed to see his solicitor. The final flat had contained a Thai lady the father had married two weeks before his death.

This all somewhat disruptive to my work schedule though, which is making me somewhat fed up. Also at tricky slow-going part of the book, which is not helping. Lorraine home late after a meeting. I cooked an excellent chicken curry, even if I say it myself.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Sex murderers and not much else

Fragmentary day. Monday and back to work on the book trying to define the concept of wonder, and have gradually reached a reasonable definition; also chasing a freelance payment. I drifted off to the gym for another mild mannered workout. Curiously it is only while exercising do I get consciously nervous about going into hospital this Thursday at other times I seem to have it in a good perspective. I struggle with not being in control, but there are times when you just have to surrender to their alien abduction.

Chatted to Mum who is coming down to Brighton for a day next week.

Then did some more bits about the house in preparation for the photographer's visit, and cooking starvation rations for Lorraine this evening. L watching Swedes be beastly to each other this evening, followed by something set in Nor'n Ireland with Gillian Anderson and a sexmurderer in it. Puts me in mind of the Neue Sachlichkeit sex murderer paintings such as this one by Heinrich Maria Davringhausen. The Neue Sachlichkeit is an amazing period in German Art and one I have loved ever since I saw an exhibition of it when I was at school.

Der lustmorder Heinrich Maria Davringhausen

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Supper in Steyning

Brighton binmen are striking, so we scabbed off to the dump with some of broken things and recycling. There Lorraine suddenly got a volcanic road rage when her parking space was stolen.

Soothingly to the garden centre to get plants and catfood. Home after shopping, and I gave the stair carpet a kind of hair cut of the trailing threads dangling from the worn bits with scissors, and spoke to the lovely First Matie on the phone.

To Steyning to visit Dawn in her new flat whose living room has lovely views of the Downs and treetops. It is so nice to be able to see rain pouring down on the hills from the sofa, and I watched two wood pigeons bumping nasties on a stump with a kind of David Attenborough enjoyment. We had planned a quick walk around the village and surrounding countryside but the weather had turned vile again.

Instead we assembled a dining table and talked for hours and ate roast chicken and helpings of yummy veg and roasties, plus the rhubarb crumble that Lorraine had prepared before we left. Telling them about my grandparent's spooky house in Guernsey, Dawn told us her idea for a history book, a rather a good one, and Lorraine relaxed and cheery.

Drove home for Match of the Day, and to squeeze Lorraine's aching feet on the sofa.  The weekend had gone in a twinkling.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The air guitar of happiness

A nice lazy start to the day. As traditional, Lorraine and I sat in bed gulping tea, reading the news sites on iPads and laptops with the cats hanging about.

Wandered into Brighton Lorraine as I expected Mindy to arrive, but she cancelled. Instead I sat about having nice cups of tea with Lorraine and Rosie in Trafalgar street in a sunny interlude. Then I made off to catch up with Anton. Young Oskar's now hosting a squadron of model airplanes hanging from his ceiling. Also introduced to Snappy the venus fly trap.

Then briefly to the child friendly Cow for a cheeky drink and chat. I was once called the Tin Drum, where I first met Lorraine. I don't like it being called the Cow.

Then home to sprawl briefly on the gold sofa (newly washed) and watch Wigan steal a late goal against Manchester City to win an improbable victory in the FA Cup. Football is fantastic at the moment. Chelsea's victory over Aston Villa this morning secured them a top four finish (winning them another shot at the Champion's league that they won last year) Frank Lampard became Chelsea's all time top goal scorer, with 203 goals and they are in the Europa cup final on Wednesday. Better though is the fact that all their chief opponents are in disarray and it looks like 'The Special One' Jose Mourinho is returning to manage Chelsea.

In the evening jumped into my omnipurpose suit and Lorraine and I went to Cuckfield where Jess and Andrew were celebrating their Wedding and sixtieth birthdays. We gave a lift to Karen and Sandra, two pleasantly chatty Irish friends of Jess. Arriving, the venue appeared completely closed and silent, as other guests arrived one said he'd just seen another Old School Hall on a map of Cuckfield. This turned out to be a nesting place of wild geese, and after driving around the village, and puzzling over smartphones, we returned to the original place and found the venue tucked around the corner facing the Church. Entered somewhat sheepishly.

A lovely place for a party, with loud music, tables groaning with food and lots of booze. Lorraine knew quite a few people there, but I really only knew Jess and Andrew, and rather difficult to talk to people I didn't know in the noise. Jess dancing lots in her wedding dress. Jess had been widowed over ten years ago, but her former mother in law Millie now in her late eighties, was there to celebrate too. I particularly enjoyed seeing Millie dancing with an inflatable air guitar.

Friday, May 10, 2013


Up early and writing. After a few hours caught a taxi to the hospital to drop off a sample. Lady taxi driver gave me the benefit of her opinions about heroin addiction at some length. She said people she'd grown up with had become addicts and that her aunt had died of it. There but for the grace of God etc. etc. Then to the hospital, and I found my way to the desk of the pathology dept, where the woman bellowed is it a semen sample? at me. No place for a delicate poet's finer feelings in the NHS.

Back into town and popped into the gym for another mild mannered workout. Fitness nowhere near what it was, but slowly improving. A surfeit of annoying narcissists, today. These gym bunnies are not my people, and the people who work there are even worse.

Home to do some more work before slipping off to see Matt in the Foundry, where we discussed our new opera, and many other important matters. Back to his place to listen to some brass band music, with Matt giving a running commentary about euphoniums, his knees clicking with enthusiasm, then to The Basketmakers for an absolute bloody final with Irish Tom before I lurched home to Lorraine (who had been out with teacher pals) eating a bag of chips en route. Classy.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

A big surprise for Liberation Day

Greatly cheering text this morning from Jane, saying: "Just turned on radio. Reading one of your poems in the town church for liberation service..." Guernsey was liberated on 9th May 1945, and to hear the liberation day service click through. It starts around 1:31 and my poem Root and Branch is read at 1.52 rather beautifully by Dr Jonathan Frost, Bishop of Southampton. Obviously actually being part of the sermon made me feel incredibly proud and slightly amazed as I had heard nothing about it beforehand.

Lengthy chat with Sonia about knee cartilage before heading up to London. Beautiful day in Brighton, so I stupidly set off in shirtsleeves. Pouring with rain when I arrived in London, so Pooterishly purchased a umbrella which I then did not need to use. Had a dental appointment at 2:30 (or tooth-hurty as I couldn't help but think of it) in my old Strand on the Green stomping ground. Had a walk across Kew Bridge and wandered about there for a bit past my old house and into Kew Village. It is a lovely area. Glanced in estate agent windows, most of the venerable old properties were on at well over a million.

From there (after tea and a bun in a cafe) back to the present, with a short hop to Kingston to meet Betty and have a chat with her in The Ram between shows. They were putting on a performance of three Pinter pieces Party Time, Mountain People and The New World Order. I like Pinter a good deal, and had actually seen Beth in these three pieces before when she was at BHASVIC college. Anyway the matinee had gone well, and she was cheery. Talking by a pub window and I kept seeing Policemen walk past, but there was no imminent trouble, simply that the worked there.

I did more work on my laptop in the pub, then went to the college theatre, had a beer and eventually Lorraine turned up straight from work. To the show. Pinter is a challenge for young actors but they gave it a really good shot, but I came away thinking that the pieces could have been better directed. Of course I am biased, but Beth shone as usual and brought a very Pinterish comedy and irony to her part, which she achieved despite having the full on role as stage manager too.

After a quick post show chat with Betty and her pals back in the Ram, L and I drove home in the rain and, not having eaten, I disgracefully ate half an Ace Pizza on return.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The ring hits the lava

Heavy rain on the Velux windows at 5:30. Up later, thanks to a cup of tea from Lorraine. She was also stretching out her trousers to show how much weight she has lost on her fasting diet. Working on the book thinking about what constitutes a sense of wonder. This interspersed with the distinctly unwondrous business of chasing an unpaid invoice, speaking to the estate agent, washing sofa covers and so on.

Somewhere a magical ring has been thrown into a volcano. Texts with Anton about the resignation of the Sauron of Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson. A splendid event that, hopefully, will herald that club's collapse into pastoral mediocrity. But I will miss his purple faced touchline rages and have to acknowledge that he was the best manager the English game has ever seen.

A peaceful evening, Lorraine not having her best time at work. I comforted her with noodles.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Cats and cobblers

Working on the book. I'm impatient to finish it, but for some reason it has set its own slow but steady pace. Something in me dies when I have to be methodical. Sloped off to the gym for a brief go on the cross trainer, not much gas in the tank, but it was better than nothing. A sudden nervousness about going into hospital next week, but this passed.

Afternoon spent washing my gold sofa covers and clothes, plus more writing. Saw an idea on the internet the other day which has proved an absolute boon. Put a box on your desk if you have a cat. Calliope is constantly interfering with me when I work, and trying to sit on my lap, keyboard etc. Now she just sits in the box.

One of  Lorraine's starving days so I readied my kid gloves for she gets tetchy when she is hungry. We ate salad and brown rice and some river cobbler. River cobbler is a kind of Vietnamese catfish suddenly going cheap in Sainsburys. It was smoked and tasted fairly nondescript although Lorraine had been reading dubious things about it on the internet at the weekend, which put us off a bit. 

Below dipping into a book of essays Matt lent me by Morton Feldman, an American composer and my latest music craze. Morton Feldman looked like this, and writes prose just like his face. Also a river cobbler.

Morton Feldman

River cobbler

Monday, May 06, 2013

A forest stroll

Awake early and had to get up. L dozed happily in the bed with the sun streaming through the Velux windows onto the bed. I did some work on the opera project Matt and I are talking about.  Eventually up and had a belly-busting brunch.

Off then to make the most of the sunshine. It is a passingly rare thing that we get a bank holiday in the UK when it isn't hosing down. L and I headed inland while the motorway was choked with people coming to Brighton. But even some of the narrow country lanes were jammed with traffic, so we abandoned our plan to head to a specific place and found ourselves stopping by a roadside and plunging into some woods.

As we walked on we discovered this was part of St Leonard's forest - the destination of the dragon walk that Anton and I had done for three days along the river Arun a few years ago. At one point we neared a golf tee. The crack of their shots loud in the trees we threaded through silent as chubby elves. A lovely walk accompanied by bright yellow butterflies and white wood anemones and bluebells which are a month late this year.

Then back in the car, via a garden centre, to get a few plants for our back garden and to buy water as we were both dehydrated. Home, and some fixing up to be done which we did sternly for a couple of hours.

Long chat with Sophie tonight, still naturally very sad about her dad.

Below highly unremarkable snaps from a lovely walk.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Wandering about in the sunshine

A slow full English breakfast with Sue and John this morning in the Old Church Hall.  I really enjoyed their company on this short visit. They went on to visit John's daughter after breakfast, and Lorraine and I had an amiable day wandering about in Brighton slightly aimlessly. Went up to see Janet's open house Diva 3. Janet's work in particular is coming on in leaps and bounds. L and I also met Jutka Fisher, who makes wonderful pots from multicoloured clay, of whom I am a fan. Huss, Ken's son in law also there, and we had a good chat. Ken enjoying a judicious afternoon nap.

Of then to wander about in town in the sunshine. We ended up calling in on Matt in his new home, and sat by an open window in the heart of the North Laine sipping tea and looking down at the people wandering through the little streets, and hearing the hubbub of voices. Felt strangely at comforted there, and was ambushed by one of those transcendental moments of happiness. Matt is in a nice place. We all popped into the Foundry for a quick drink but L and I soon went home to a much needed leisurely evening indoors. I am feeling happy.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Children's parade

L and I up early and I zoomed around the corner for a Saturday loaf of chewy brown, and we snarfed down Quorn sausage and fried onion sandwiches. Made off then into town to see the children's parade, the North Laine packed with children waiting in sidestreets. Down one was Dawn, with a W pinned to her teeshirt and a large Wallace from Wallace & Gromit towering over the children.

We shuffled along to New Road and watched the parade. After a while though spots of rain began and eventually there was a fine but soaking rain on the parade, which was a shame. Cold and wet, L and I returned home via the supermarket and L began cooking a spinach and potato and goats cheese quiche for the arrival of Sue and John.

Toby called this afternoon and we had a long chat. He is thinking of moving schools after nine years.

Then Sue and John arrived from the Cotswolds and we sat about shooting the breeze for a few hours before eating another of Lorraine's delicious tagines.

In the evening we went to see our first event in the Festival In and out of love a show that threaded together pieces from opera and light opera together with a dramatic thread about the lives of two singers. It starred Red Gray and Marcia Bellamy who did a wonderful job with the singing, although the acting needed tighter direction. A very enjoyable show however, featuring songs from Mozart, Weill to Lloyd Webber and the dramatic thread between them nicely written by Stephen Plaice. Glen played piano for the show and did his customary excellent job.

Then we repaired to the Basketmakers for a cheeky drink before heading back to watch Match of the Day which featured John's beloved Arsenal.

Below some snaps from the Children's Parade. Immediately below Dawn (front left) with Wallace.

Friday, May 03, 2013

A New Order

Working steadily on the book, having to consult Matt about musical matters. Quite handy to have an actual composer to consult. His advice led me to investigate more works by Morton Feldman and Frederic Rzewski on Youtube. Interesting stuff and worth dipping into. There is so much great music in the world that rarely gets heard -- and so much godawful gutless pap that gets heard too much.

Lorraine working at home this morning and having a technical sounding meeting with her pal Tracey about educational data. I investigated John Cage's 4' 33'' (the famous silent piece). I love that it is in three parts, each marked Tacet in the score.

I sloped off in the afternoon to have a rather good haircut, and to browse in Dave's Comics. I love the graphic novel format, but find Superheroes have a limited appeal. Home in the afternoon and more work on the book. Lorraine had an after hours meeting with the estate agent, and then we shopped efficiently then rounded the week off  with L and I strapping on the Indian nosebags enjoyably in the Shahi.

I have initiated a New Order of cleanliness and tidiness in the house, standards mainly targeted at myself as I was messy before the revolution. Contemplating getting post it notes with little swastikas on to attach to unauthorised items of mess.

And talking of fascists,  UKIP (the UK Independence Party) have been the beneficiary of a protest vote against mainstream parties and have won lots of seats in the local elections. UKIP seems to be the repository of the disaffected right wing who are against  immigration, gay marriage, foreigners in general, Europe, Eastern Europeans, intellectuals, people who can read, sentience etc. And even more pathetic is that they are lead by someone with an identical public schoolboy background to all the other party leaders.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Estate agents and romcoms

Spent the morning tidying up the newly-decluttered house like a fascist for several hours, then to the gym for a mild mannered workout feeling no ill-effects afterwards.

In the afternoon visited by an estate agent who I quite liked who came to size up the Old Church Hall. A novel experience: liking an estate agent. Lorraine and I are embarking on a new phase where we rationalise property, with the idea of selling both our homes and living mortgage-free in a place that we have chosen together in Brighton or somewhere slightly further afield if it ticks our boxes.

In the evening off to meet Dawn in town and we went to see the movie Love is all you need. An intelligent grown up Danish romcom starring Pierce Brosnan and Trine Dyrholm and set largely in Italy. Highly enjoyable and lovely performances. Mind you, I am a sucker for a good romcom.

From here we ducked into The Basketmakers for a post movie chat. Irish Tom there and greeting us, particularly Lorraine, warmly. Good fun before drifting home and wending bedwards. Dawn staying for a sleepover.

Below there was splendid chemistry between Brosnan and Dyrholm.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

A Greek Funeral

A beautiful sunny day. On with the suit and black tie and up to London to the funeral of Chris Toumazis, Sophie's father. Hideous journey. I had given myself an extra hour to get there just in case, but thanks to two train cancellations and a hefty delay on the third train I still contrived to be late. Got really stressed by this.

Eventually leaped out of a taxi outside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and St Michael buildings five minutes late, and a random man asked me if I wanted the church and pointed to an open door. I burst through this only to discover I was by the side of the the altar and looking at the scene of a crowded church, clouds of incense, and the singing of priests presided over by Archbishop Gregorios of Thyateria and Great Britain, who knew Sophie's dad well.  Slunk self-consciously to the back feeling like an idiot.

A Greek Orthodox service, with some beautiful singing from one of the priests, and presided over by the Archbishop. Almost all of it in Greek, very atmospheric although on at least three occasions moments of pathos in the service were interrupted by jauntily Hellenic ringtones. For me the best part of the service was when some of the grandchildren read parts of Chris's account of his life that he had written for his children. We had three episodes, about how his parents had died when he was eleven, his arrival in England and meeting Melia, Sophie's mum, and finally getting the restaurant of his dreams just down the road from the church in Golder's Green. Young Christof read this last bit, and choked up halfway through, but then soldiered on manfully.

Then we all had to slowly file past the coffin, some kissing it enthusiastically. Then the Toumazis family had lined up and greeted everyone, a lengthy process with lots of hugging and kissing. I kissed Sophie's formidable mum Melia, who is heartbroken. Met Sophie's brother Tom and sister Tia for the first time in decades, talked with Andros, Christof and Electra, and met some of Christof and Electra's cousins.

Then outside meeting Sarah Saunders, a nice pal of Sophie's who had been kind enough to offer me a berth after a party of Sophie's some time ago. She is just finishing reading The Mind in the Cave, which has blown her away, as it had me. We managed to cadge a lift from Sophie's old friend Sue to the cemetery in Hendon. More prayers and so on, the priest at one point breaking into slightly approximate English saying that 'we Christians are the undead' which I am ashamed to say made me think of Zombies. Sarah and I stuck together and flung earth on the coffin with everyone else. After there was a little stand set up nearby which gave everyone a little bread, cheese and olives, plus a welcome glug of sherry.

From there to a hotel, where there was a buffet serving some Greek treats, coffee and orange juice. Here I talked a lot to Sarah, and chatted to Sophie and Andros, and mingled somewhat before Sue drove Sarah and I to Golder's Green.

An interesting day, sad to see people I am very fond of upset, but also lovely to see some old friends. Sophie told me several times she was so happy that I had come, which made it all worthwhile. Fond farewells to all, and then I cunningly caught a bus to Cricklewood which painlessly took me home to Brighton.

Grateful to be home, slightly dehydrated and very pleased to see Lorraine.