Sunday, August 31, 2014

Seaside strollers

Instead of sprawling in bed drinking tea and reading the newspapers on our screens, Lorraine and I got up and drove to the sea this morning for a walk and a bite of breakfast by the sea in Hove. Spent quite a lot of time congratulating ourselves on how well we had done and strolled about looking at thin channel of cloud that passed overhead and lead out over the sea.

Beth back this afternoon for a couple of days, which was an excuse for cooking a roast pork supper. And generally hanging out. She is looking well and had a nice haircut. She and Lorraine had a vast sorting out of Beth's bedroom session. I worked instead for most of the afternoon on various parts of the Cloud of Things That Must Be Done, but these were relating to my upcoming The Nightwork pamphlet launch readings - and following up with Melody at Kogan Page about my book proposal and astonishingly got a reply back from her on Sunday afternoon. Spoke to Catherine who said that she and Tanya were going for an 'upgrade' their civil partnership to a marriage next year on Lorraine's birthday. Also heard from my old pal Mark Hartley again and we are going to meet up shortly, which I am greatly looking forward to.

In the evening, after consuming the delicious roast supper, popped around to meet Anton in the Shakey's Head, rather empty and echoing to ghastly Rockabilly tunes that stirred Anton's nostalgia for the Meteors and his Psychobilly period. Anton feeling bleak about his birthday next week, but as the bounder is five years younger than me sympathy was in short supply. Joined by Lorraine and Beth later. Betty working on the phone at the moment for a wine club talking to folks about boxes of wine. Anton and I had all worked in telemarketing, and talking about Toby who had done so too.

Below two emptyish looking Hove Actually snaps taken on my new iPhone this morning.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

A bag of beans

Off today to Ashford to see Maureen and Pat. Our visit was the day after Pat's birthday and the day before their 57th wedding anniversary. A pleasant day. Went off to Dobbies, which is a garden centre where they bought a two stemmed pink orchid to celebrate, and where we had a bite to eat.

They have recently been given a reconditioned iPad, Lorraine spent some hours showing Maureen how you can order your groceries online from Tescos and have them delivered. I wandered out into the back garden with Pat and picked beans from his bean row. I am newly interested in this as if we have a garden soon it would be good for Lorraine and I to have vegetable patch. Pat said beans are easy to grow, and that stringless ones are best. I love the idea of eating something I have grown. They are pretty too with their orange flowers and as Lorraine is constantly wanting green beans it seems mad not to. We went home with a bag of beans and some excellent cake that Maureen had made.

Lorraine also got to speak to her brother Kenny Peter. It's a weird mirror world.

We also all watched a new episode of Dr Who, which was rather good, the Doctor and some sidekicks being shrunk and then injected into a Dalek.

Home to a card showing an photo of Finland from the air from Laura, Derek and Claudia in Finland. Laura had seen our photos of Greece on this blog. Greece is where Laura and Derek met and fell in love in the eighties. The day ending with Match of the Day and Chelsea putting Everton to the sword 6-3. All well.

Friday, August 29, 2014

A spot of English culture

Started some freelance work, working for Germans on stuff for a new product launch all day.  More lined up for next week, which is good as there are some bare boards showing at the bottom of the Kenny coffers after the trips to Guernsey and Paxos. Lorraine working companionably next to me. Spoke to Pat Norrie, for whom I was doing this work, who called me from the airport on his way to Malaysia, and Hong Kong for a large holiday. Sounds exciting.

While I was waiting for final feedback on the copy watching bits of Stewart Lee, who is currently my favourite comedian. See this for example.

A plumber came to fix the boiler problem, which took him some hours. Otherwise little excitement till Lorraine started cooking and sent me out to find some turmeric. Weirdly this proved impossible to find but led me into several shops I don't normally go into, including one staffed by a slightly wild eyed man who after I asked him about turmeric, which he had none of, he came up to me and said, "can I ask you something, what is English culture? I have lived here 12 years and they seem to have none." A slightly bizarre conversation followed for some time, where the man, from Afghanistan, enlarged on a theory, while waving his arms around, that seemed to revolve around the idea that mankind was evil, and even his father and mother's people were at each other's throats. He said everyone else had a culture but the English didn't. I gave the standard line about it being a culture of tolerance, before backing gingerly out of the shop.

Returned home to find Dawn had arrived, and we were able to inflict some of our holiday snaps on her.  Lorraine cooked one of her excellent curries, and then we wandered off to a local bar restaurant on London Road, which was surprisingly good, and caught up on all the gossip - of which there was generous portions.

All a bit tired, however, so sloped home and off to bed. Dawn staying over night and she sloped off reading a book about the plague which made me smile a bit.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Calliope is a Jezebel

Woke up and Lorraine told me that the fuses had all gone downstairs. We got up and isolated the problem to the boiler, which is tripping the fuses. Another item added to The Cloud of Things That Must Be Done. Otherwise and unbelievably, doing more house related solicitor stuff, including more pleasantly taking a lunchtime stroll with Lorraine down to the solicitor's office at lunchtime to drop things off. Lorraine trying to get roofers to sort out the roof too, though nobody returns the phone calls.

Spoke to Mum. Her tooth had been pulled, but Mason's surgeon at the hospital said he just needed a filling instead -- which was lucky. Poor Janet and Ken have been going through an incredibly stressful time, with Ken's 16 granddaughter who is staying with them in Brighton, running away for days on end and being spotted with unsavoury characters about town.

In the evening off to see Matt, and have a quick drink in the Basketmakers, which we had not been to for months it seems. Great to see him. He is looking well and cheery too. Texted First Matie while we were there too, as Matt is off to his native Hull this weekend, which is where she is now living. In the Avenues apparently, rather interesting and lovely and equivalent to the Laines in Brighton. Meanwhile Matt delighted in showing me more photos of Calliope in flagrante with him, snuggled up in bed when he was cat sitting. Calliope is a Jezebel of the worst sort.

Pesky ears a post-snorkelling mess and being in busy environments is a challenge. Makes me feel great empathy with those who have real problems. Have work organised for tomorrow, luckily this can be done at home.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Under a cloud

His and hers mindmaps this morning to pin down The Cloud of Things That Must Be Done. Spent much of the day writing to solicitors, talking about stuff to neigbours. Felt disoriented and enervated this afternoon. Lorraine and I walked into town to upgrade my phone which was on its last iLegs, done by a charming man who told us that he had a photographic memory and Aspergers.

Home and fiddling with new phone, and trying to sort out a more general mail forwarding problem from one of my accounts, which ended with me deleting the account completely by mistake and having to have it reinstated. This made me somewhat sweary and proved a miserable way to spend Lorraine's last night of freedom.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

In England

Despite the comfy temperature and our own bed, back to our English grey skied rainy reality. Calliope woke me at a hideously early 4:20 and spent the day shadowing me, and occasionally nipping me in an unprovoked way for my absence.  Brian ghosts in from time to time seeming weirdly paranoid.

Lorraine with a bad griping stomach, and me with a touch of a sore throat and still-deaf ear howling with tinnitus. Both under The Cloud of Things That Must Be Done. Some legal stuff on the house weighing heavily. Some of this involves all denizens of the Old Church Hall, and luckily progress has been made while we were away.

Nevertheless we were comparatively gentle with ourselves. A quick drive into town for Sainsbury's and picking up a frame. Someone had broken the wing mirror off the car, so we had to hold it in place with a bungee rope.

Later, I flirted for a few hours with the 400 emails that have accumulated in my absence -- mostly rubbish of course, but my computer also kept freezing so sorting the sheep from the goats took much longer than it should.  Channelling my inner Romy, I fed Lorraine miso soup with added noodles and ginger to help calm her stomach.

I spoke to Mum, she and Mas are going to various dentists for extractions tomorrow, and Felix has a tumour on its paw. I replied to my old pal Mark Hartley, who had written a few days ago. Otherwise drew myself a large mind map with a dozen or so complex actions on it which will eat up the rest of the week at least. I also need to earn some money at some point.

Undeniably nice to be sat on the gold sofa though, and there is a psychological boost to be had from taking arms against The Cloud of Things.

While I was on holiday I read The Experience by Martin Amis, a rather random memoir,  but was readable and interesting, particularly on his relationship with his father. Something called The Rosie Project, which read as it was originally conceived: the script of a romcom, meringue light, enjoyable and read in less than a day. I also have been gripped, possibly because of exposure to Sam and Jade, by the desire to actually complete the university set reading I skipped through in favour of booze and ladies. So this holiday I read Swann's Way by Proust thoroughly this time. The sections I recalled well were around involuntary memory -- but I particularly enjoyed his descriptions of Combray, a fictional village based on Illiers, where he spent his childhood. Illiers has subsequently been renamed Illiers-Combray. And his writing made me think about what I have written about Guernsey. I am also guiltily completing Paradise Lost, by Milton -- to my shame I only read the first book of it with any attention. It is absolutely magnificent. Also magnificent is my Anvil edition of the selected poems of Odysseus Elyitis, which I read cover to cover this time -- and is so good I was also able to read it on the plane coming home.

To bed, strangely bushed. (As in tired, rather than anything to do with pubes.)

Monday, August 25, 2014

In Paxos

To Paxos then. A reasonable trip on a Germania plane, a small but reassuringly German airline. The familiar sensation of stepping from the plane into the Greek sun, walking across the concrete of Corfu airport like walking into an oven.

Then a short coach ride to Benitses harbour where we were put aboard the Vicky B, a small charter ferry. Sat on the top deck drinking a can or two of cold mythos beer as we travelled south down the channel between Corfu and the mountainous Greek mainland. The islands and headlands like watercolour washes of blue.  Eventually we neared Paxos, looking mysterious in its heat haze.

August is of course the time of year when Italians also take their break, and Corfu being a short sail from Southern Italy. When we arrived at Gaios Harbour in Paxos, a huge Italian motor yacht was harboured where the ferry was to moor. The Captain of the ferry employed his loudspeaker and addressed the Italian as malaka (wanker). The affronted Italian (an arrogant cazzo of the worst kind) refused to budge and there was a stand off with the Italians refusing to move and the Greek captain revving the ferry towards him. Both crews deploying a fine array of Mediterranean gestures. After about half an hour the malaka moved, after the intervention of the harbour master to ironic cheers from the British passengers. We were later told that the incident had been filmed on people's phones and appeared on Greek TV news.

Like Corfu, Paxos is very lush and green for Greece, covered in tiers of ancient olive groves and other more natural woodland that we drove through on a short bus trip to Loggos. As we dropped off at our villa, a small boy shouted at us that our air conditioning didn't work. After several days this was fixed, but the first night was particularly hot, and being plunged into the Greek heat meant I lay in pools of sweat and barely slept, although Lorraine seemed to cope better. After several days it was fixed, although it never worked well.

The charms of Greece soon put this into perspective. Our rooms were fine, and we had a large patio with an absolutely stunning view down into the glassy waters of the harbour and across to the green hills. We spent lots of time there sipping cold drinks, reading, sewing and writing poetry (according to our personal tastes) or simply taking in the view. At night we sat outside looking at the stars, picking out a few constellations using the app on Lorraine's phone, and seeing Mars and Jupiter close together in Libra. Able to see the vast swathe of the milky way and occasional shooting stars and satellites.

Cicadas were everywhere as a resonant background during the day, and crickets took up the music at night. Also there were several roosters around town, so there was proper morning cockadoodledoos to contend with, as well as the cooing of collared doves. There were lizards in the courtyard too, and a day or so before we left we startled one outside our gate, we watched it skitter under a nearby water tank, to apparent safety, only for it to run into the jaws of a snake and endure a bout of twisty writhing before it died.

Loggos turned out to be the best place to stay on the island. It is a little village harbour, with a disused and roofless soap factory on the waterline, and a handful of tavernas and restaurants plus a couple of bars. There was a bakery, where you could buy good bread, pies and so on, and two food stores. A couple of times we cooked at home.

Nearby were two small pebbly beaches, with gorgeous, warm and transparent water.  Lorraine and I spent hours snorkelling around. At times it was like swimming in an aquarium. Many species of fish, including garfish (called 'longnose' in Guernsey and was like meeting an old friend). Lorraine and I saw one suddenly strike down at something below it like the miniature swordfish it is. We also saw colourful spider crabs, fireworms like flamboyant ragworms with red and white legs, Lorraine spotted an octopus which peered out at us from under a stone with its barred eyes. And at one point snorkelling out from the harbour,  I came across the head and half the body of a European eel floating vertically dangling down from the surface of the water. It looked freshly bitten in half and its aft end eaten. It gave me a Jaws like moment, wondering what kind of predator was out there.

Best of all on the morning of our return on the ferry back to Corfu we were accompanied by a dolphin, muscular and sleek just under the surface, and popping up for the briefest of breaths. I didn't realise at the time, but this made Lorraine cry with joy behind her sunglasses.

Annoyingly, however after several days of snorkelling my left ear became completely blocked, and I have been deaf in it ever since.

We had a couple of meals and lots of ouzo with Sean and Fiona, a cheerful and friendly couple we kept bumping into. On the return journey sat about drinking coffee with them in a shaded taverna near the harbour for an hour or so before our coach arrived, and we swapped emails at the airport.

Lorraine and I took one boat trip completely around Paxos and it visited Voutoumi bay on Antipaxos, which had white sand and the most transparent water imaginable. It was however crammed with people, and lots of little yachts in the bay, but we had a snack in a Taverna, and swam about happily.

My favourite part of the journey was the breathtaking east coast of Paxos where there were caves that we, along with the others on the boat jumped off the boat and snorkelled into.  We also passed, in the morning, Exolitharo, some prominent rocks which in the words of the boat leaflet is "a ship-shaped rock that according to mythology is considered to be Odysseus ship it was stoned because of a curse".

We also took the island bus to Lakka, which we found very busy, and decided not to spend too much time there.  But bcause we caught the island bus at the wrong time we had a nice 3km walk down a road with hairpin turns surrounded by trees and olive groves back to Loggos. On another day we took the little paths out of town and followed some thorny goat track down to a shelving rocky beach, and then up through a butterfly haunted village. Feeling very adventurous made our way home again by a different route, down flights of stairs to the harbour. Also noticed strange spiders that collected their prey in bead like strings hanging down from the centre of their webs.

All in all a lovely holiday, which we both really enjoyed. Best of all was spending lots of time with my adorable wife.

Home then, after a gorgeous cloudless morning on a boat on the Ionian accompanied by the dolphin, and arriving at Gatwick, which was raining, wet, cold and grey. To the Shahi as there was nothing in the house to eat, and we needed a cheering. The diet, of dire necessity, starts again tomorrow.

Below Lorraine and my selfie on our patio, and a few snaps in Loggos.

Boat trip around Paxos

Below Odysseus's boat turned to stone, the rocky caves of the west coast of Paxos, and Voutoumi beach on Antipaxos.

Photos in and around Loggos

Photos from Paxos

More views from Paxos, the final three taken from our patio.

More photos of our Paxos holiday